Leon Trotsky

China and the Russian Revolution

(July 1940)

Written: July 1940.
Source: Fourth International, [New York], Vol.2 No.3, March 1941, pp.75-76.
Online Version: Marxists’ Internet Archive, 2003.
Transcribed/HTML Markup: David Walters in 2003.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive www.marxists.org 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

(Note by Natalia Trotsky: The foregoing was written by Comrade Trotsky in the early part of July, 1940, as a first draft. Events prevented him from continuing the work and it was unfinished when Comrade Trotsky was murdered by a GPU assassin the following month. It was to have been the introduction to the Chinese translation of his History of the Russian Revolution.)

The day I learned that my, History of the Russian Revolution was to be published in the Chinese language was a holiday for me. Now I have received word that the work of translation has been speeded up and that the first volume will be issued next year.

Let me express the firm hope that the book will prove profitable to Chinese readers. Whatever may be the shortcomings of my work, one thing I can say with assurance: facts are there presented with complete conscientiousness, that is, on the basis of verification with original sources; and in any case, not a single fact is altered or distorted in the interests of this or that preconceived theory or, what is worse yet, in the interests of this or that personal reputation.

The misfortune of the present young generation in all countries, among them China, consists in this: that there has been created under the label of Marxism a gigantic factory of historical, theoretical and all other kinds of falsifications. This factory bears the name “Communist International.” The totalitarian regime, i.e., the regime of bureaucratic command in all spheres of life, inescapably seeks to extend its rule also over the past. History becomes transformed into raw material for whatever constructions are required by the ruling totalitarian clique. This fate was suffered by the October Revolution and by the History of the Bolshevik Party. The latest and to date most finished document of falsification and frameup is the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, issued some time ago under the personal direction of Stalin. In the entire library of mankind I do not know, and hardly anyone else knows, of a book in which facts, documents – and furthermore facts known to everybody – are so dishonestly altered, mangled, or simply deleted from the march of events in the interests of glorifying a single human being, namely Stalin.

Thanks to unlimited material resources at the disposal of the falsifiers, the rude and untalented falsification has been translated into all the languages of civilized mankind and circulated by compulsion in millions and tens of millions of copies.

We have at our disposal neither such financial resources nor such a colossal apparatus. But we do dispose of something greater: concern for historical truth and a correct scientific method. A falsification, even one compiled by a mighty state apparatus, cannot withstand the test of time and in the long run is blown up owing to the internal contradictions. On the contrary, historical truth, established through a scientific method, has its own internal persuasiveness and in the long run gains mastery over minds. The very necessity of reviewing, i.e., recasting and altering – still more precisely, falsifying – the history of the revolution, arose from this: that the bureaucracy found itself compelled to sever the umbilical cord binding it to the Bolshevik Party. To recast, i.e., to falsify the history of the revolution, became an urgent necessity for the bureaucracy which usurped the revolution and found itself compelled to cut short the tradition of Bolshevism.

The essence of Bolshevism was the class policy of the proletariat, which alone could bring about the conquest of power in October. In the course of its entire history, Bolshevism came out irreconcilably against the policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie. Precisely in this consisted the fundamental contradiction between Bolshevism and Menshevism. Still more, the struggle within the labor movement, which preceded the rise of Bolshevism and Menshevism, always in the last analysis revolved around the central question, the central alternative: either collaboration with the bourgeoisie or irreconcilable class struggle. The policy of “People’s Fronts” does not include an iota of novelty, if we discount the solemn and essentially charlatan name. The matter at issue in all cases concerns the political subordination of the proletariat to the left wing of the exploiters, regardless of whether this practice bears the name of coalition or left bloc (as in France) or “People’s Front” in the language of the Comintern.

The policy of the “People’s Front” bore especially malignant fruit because it was applied in the epoch of the imperialist decay of the bourgeoisie. Stalin succeeded in conducting to the end, in the Chinese revolution, the policy which the Mensheviks tried to realize in the revolution of 1917. The same thing was repeated in Spain. Two grandiose revolutions suffered catastrophe owing to this: that the methods of the leadership were the methods of Stalinism, i.e., the most malignant form of Menshevism.

In the course of five years, the policy of the “People’s Front,” by subjecting the proletariat to the bourgeoisie, made impossible the class struggle against war. If the defeat of the Chinese revolution, conditioned by the leadership of the Comintern, prepared the conditions for Japanese occupation, then the defeat of the Spanish revolution and the ignominious capitulation of the “People’s Front” in France prepared the conditions for the aggression and unprecedented military successes of Hitler.

The victories of Japan, like the victories of Hitler, are not the last word of history. War this time, too, will turn out to be the mother of revolutions. Revolution will once again pose and review all the questions of the history of mankind in advanced as well as in backward countries, and make a beginning for overcoming the very distinction between advanced and backward countries.

Reformists, opportunists, routine men will be flung aside by the course of events. Only revolutionists, tempered revolutionists enriched by the experience of the past, will be able to rise to the level of great events. The Chinese people are destined to occupy the first place in the future destinies of mankind. I shall be happy if the advanced Chinese revolutionists will assimilate from this history certain fundamental rules of class politics which will help them to avoid fatal mistakes in the future, mistakes which led to the shipwreck of the revolution of 1925-1927.

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Last updated on: 22.4.2007