Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain
Volume 2

The Anglo-Russian Committee

The Chinese Revolution and
the Theses of Comrade Stalin

In the direction of the Chinese revolution we are confronted not by tactical errors, but by a radically false line. This follows clearly from everything that has been presented above. It becomes still clearer when the policy in China is compared with our policy towards the Anglo-Russian Committee. In the latter case the inconsistency of the opportunistic line did not express itself so tragically as in China, but no less completely and convincingly.

In Britain, as in China, the line was directed towards a rapprochement with the “solid” leaders, based on personal relations, on diplomatic combinations, while renouncing in practice the deepening of the abyss between the revolutionary or leftward-developing masses and the traitorous leaders. We ran after Chiang Kai-shek [1] and thereby drove the Chinese Communists to accept the dictatorial conditions put by Chiang Kai-shek to the Communist Party. In so far as the representatives of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions ran after Purcell [2], Hicks [3], Citrine [4] and Co. and adopted in principle the position of neutrality in the trade union movement, they recognised the General Council as the only representative of the British proletariat and obligated themselves not to interfere in the affairs of the British labour movement.

The decisions of the Berlin Conference of the Anglo-Russian Committee mean our renunciation of support in the future to strikers against the will of avowed strike-breakers. They are tantamount to a condemnation and a flat betrayal of the trade union minority, all of whose activity is directed against the traitors whom we have recognised as the sole representatives of the British working class. Finally, the solemn proclamation of “non-interference” signifies our capitulation in principle to the national narrowness of the labour movement in its most backward and most conservative form.

Chiang Kai-shek accuses us of interfering in the internal affairs of China just as Citrine accuses us of interfering in the internal affairs of the trade unions. Both accusations are only transcriptions of the accusation of world imperialism against a workers” state which dares to interest itself in the fate of the oppressed masses of the whole world. In this case as in others, Chiang Kai-shek, like Citrine, under different conditions and at different posts, remain the agents of imperialism despite temporary conflicts with it. If we chase after collaboration with such “leaders”, we are forced ever more to restrict, to limit and to emasculate our methods of revolutionary mobilisation.

Through our false policy we not only helped the General Council to maintain its tottering positions after the strike betrayal, but, what is more, we furnished it with all the necessary weapons for putting impudent demands to us which we meekly accepted. Under the tinkling of phrases about “hegemony”, we acted in the Chinese revolution and the British labour movement as if we were morally vanquished, and by that we prepared our material defeat. An opportunist deviation is always accompanied by a loss of faith in one’s own line.

The businessmen of the General Council, having received a guarantee of non-interference from the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, are undoubtedly persuading Chamberlain that their method of struggle against Bolshevik propaganda is far more effective than ultimatums and threats. Chamberlain [5], however, prefers the combined method and combines the diplomacy of the General Council with the violence of British imperialism.

If it is alleged against the Opposition that Baldwin [6] or Chamberlain “also” wants the dissolution of the Anglo-Russian Committee, then one understands nothing at all of the political mechanics of the bourgeoisie. Baldwin justly feared and still fears the harmful influence of the Soviet trade unions upon the leftward-developing labour movement of Britain. The British bourgeoisie set its pressure upon the General Council against the pressure of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions upon the treacherous leaders of the trade unions, and on this field the bourgeoisie triumphed all along the line. The General Council refused to accept money from the Soviet trade unions and to confer with them on the question of aid for the mineworkers. In exercising its pressure upon the General Council, the British bourgeoisie, through it, exerted pressure upon the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions and at the Berlin Conference obtained from the latter’s representatives an unprecedented capitulation on the fundamental questions of the class struggle. An Anglo-Russian Committee of this kind only serves the British bourgeoisie (cf. the declaration of The Times). This will not hinder it from continuing its pressure in the future upon the General Council, and demanding of it a break with the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, for by such a policy of pressure and blackmail the British bourgeoisie wins everything we lose by our senseless and unprincipled conduct.

The insinuations that Chiang Kai-shek is “in solidarity’ with the Opposition, because he wants to drive the Communists out of the Kuomintang, have the same value. A remark by Chiang Kai-shek is being circulated in which he is supposed to have said to another general that he agrees with the Opposition in the All-Union Communist Party on this point. In the text of the document from which this “quotation” was picked out, the words of Chiang Kai-shek are not adduced as an expression of his views, but as a manifestation of his readiness and aptitude to deceit, to falsehood, and even to disguise himself for a few days as a “Left Communist” in order to be better able to stab us in the back. Still more, the document in question is one long indictment against the line and the work of the Comintern’s representatives in China. Instead of picking quotations out of the document and giving them a sense contrary to that contained in the text, it would be better to make the document itself known to the Comintern. Leave aside, however, the misuse of alleged “quotations” and there remains the “coincidence” that Chiang Kai-shek has always been against a bloc with the Communists, while we are against a bloc with Chiang Kai-shek. The school of Martynov [7] draws from this the conclusion that the policy of the Opposition “generally” serves the reaction. This accusation is not new either. The whole development of Bolshevism in Russia proceeded under the accompaniment of Menshevik accusations that the Bolsheviks were playing the game of the reaction, that they were aiding the monarchy against the Cadets [8], the Cadets against the SR’s and Mensheviks [9], and so on without end. Renaudel [10] accuses the French Communists of rendering aid to Poincaré [11]; when they attack the bloc of the radicals and the socialists. The German social-democrats have more than once pretended that our refusal to enter the League of Nations plays the game of the extreme imperialists, etc., etc.

The fact that the big bourgeoisie, represented by Chiang Kai-shek, needs to break with the proletariat, and the revolutionary proletariat on the other hand needs to break with the bourgeoisie, is not an evidence of their solidarity, but of the irreconcilable class antagonism between them. The hopeless compromisers stand between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and accuse both the “extreme” wings of disrupting the national front and rendering assistance to the reaction. To accuse the Opposition of playing the game of Chamberlain, Thomas [12] or Chiang Kai-shek is to show a narrow-minded opportunism, and at the same time to recognize involuntarily the proletarian and revolutionary character of our political line.

The Berlin Conference of the Anglo-Russian Committee which coincided with the beginning of British intervention in China, did not even dare to allude to the question of effective measures to take against the hangman’s work of British imperialism in the Far East. Could a more striking proof be found that the Anglo-Russian Committee is incapable of moving as much as a finger towards really preventing war? But it is not simply useless. It has brought immeasurable harm to the revolutionary movement, like every illusion and hypocrisy. By referring to its collaboration with the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions in the “struggle for peace”, the General Council is able to soothe and lull the consciousness of the British proletariat, stirred by the danger of war. The All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions now appears before the British working class and the working class of the whole world as a sort of guarantor for the international policy of the traitors of the General Council. The criticism directed by the revolutionary elements in Britain against the General Council thereby becomes weakened and blunted. Thanks to Purcell, Hicks and Company, the MacDonalds and Thomases get the possibility of keeping the working masses in a stupor up to the threshold of war itself, in order to call upon them then for the defence of the democratic fatherland. When comrade Tomsky [13], in his last interview (Pravda, May 8), criticized the Thomases, Havelock Wilsons [14] and the other hirelings of the Stock Exchange, he did not mention by a single word the subversive, disintegrating, lulling, and therefore much more pernicious work of Purcell, Hicks and Company. These “allies” are not mentioned by name in the interviews as though they do not even exist. Then why a bloc with them? But they do exist. Without them Thomas does not exist politically. Without Thomas there exists no Baldwin, that is, the capitalist regime in Britain. Contrary to our best intentions, our support of the bloc with Purcell is actually support of the whole British regime and the facilitation of its work in China. After all that has happened, this is clew to every revolutionary who has gone through the school of Lenin. In a like manner, our collaboration with Chiang Kai-shek blunted the class vigilance of the Chinese proletariat, and thereby facilitated the April coup d’état.

From The Chinese revolution and the theses of comrade Stalin
(dated 7th May, 1927), first published in Documents de l’Opposition
de Gauche de l’Internationale Communiste
, October 1927

Volume 2, Chapter 2 Index


1. Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), the generalissimo of the Chinese nationalist army that finally, with Communist support, overthrew the warlords in 1925 and then turned against the Communists and the working class, massacring the workers of Shanghai, Canton and other cities. Defeated in the civil war by Mao Tse-tung and retreated to Formosa in 1949, where until his death he ruled over a statelet of his own under the patronage of US imperialism.

2. Alfred Purcell, left-wing member of the General Council of the TUC; president of the TUC 1924.

3. George Hicks (1879-1954), British trade unionist; originally a lewft-winger, but moved to the right during the 1920s; member of General Council of the TUC 1921-1941. Labour MP 1931-1950.

4. Walter Citrine (1887-1983), British trade unionist; Acting General Secretary of the TUC 1925-26, General Secretary of the TUC 1926-46.

5. Austen Chamberlain (1863-1937), British Conservative politician; Foreign Secretary 1924-1929.

6. Stanley Baldwin (1867-1947), British Conservative politician; prime minister three times 1923-1924, 1924-1929 and 1935-1937; prime minister during the General Strike.

7. Alexander Martinov [or Martynov] (1865-1935) was a right-wing Menshevik who opposed the October Revolution and joined the Soviet Communist Party only in 1923. He then became a leading opponent of “Trotskyism”, using all his old arguments in favour of the two stages’ theory of revolutionary development. He was the main theorist of the “bloc of four classes”, Stalin’s justification for the betrayal of the Chinese Revolution of 1927. (See The Third International After Lenin, pp.249-252.)

8. The Cadets (Constitutional Democrats) were a Russian political party founded in October 1905. The name comes from the Russian initials. The cadets were a bourgeois reformist party which wanted to introduce parliamentary rule but also retain the Tsarist monarchy. After the February revolution the Cadets formed the largest bloc in the provisional Government, but the Cadet ministry way overthrown in april 1917 after it declared for the continuation of the war. After the October Revolution the Cadets supported the White armies and the Allied Intervention during the Civil War.

9. The SRs (Socialist Revolutionary Party) were founded in 1902. They saw themselves as the successors of the Narodniks and believed that Russia could pursue a separate path of development and avoid capitalism by springing straight to socialism on the basis of the peasant commune. They also inherited the political tactics of the narodniks, including the use of political terrorism, particularly the assassination of Tsarist officials. In 1917 many of the leaders entered the Provisional Government. The party split into the Left SRs, who initially joined the bolsheviks in the revolutionary government after the October revolution, and the nRicht SRs, who supported the White counter-revolutionary forces. – The Mensheviks were a faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. The name comes from the Russian word menshinstvo (minority). They were given this name because in the elections to the leadership bodies at the 1903 Party Congress, where the party split, they were a minority. During World War I many menshevik leaders were social chauvinists. With the SRs they joined the Provisional Government in April 1917. They opposed the October Revolution and many leading members joined various counter-revolutionary White governments during the Civil War.

10. Pierre Renaudel (1871-1935), French socialist leader, collaborator of Jean Jaurès before World war I and editor of l’Humanité, right-wing social patriot during War.

11. Raymond Poincaré (1860-1934), French Prime Minister from 1922 to 1924.

12. Jimmy Thomas (1874-1949), British trade unionist and Labour politician; General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen 1917-31; member of first (1924) and second (1929-31) Labour governments; supported MacDonald in the split in the Labour government over the reduction of unemployment benefit and went with MacDonald and Snowden into the National Government with the Conservatives; as a result he was expelled from the Labour Party and the NUR.

13. Mikhail Tomsky (1886-1936) was an old Bolshevik and a trade unionist. Always on the right wing of the Party, he opposed the 1917 insurrection and was closely involved in Stalin’s policies in the mid-20s, particularly on the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee. He opposed the left turn in 1928 along with Bukharin and Rykov and committed suicide after the first of the Moscow Trials.

14. Havelock Wilson (1858-1929), British trade unionist and Liberal politician; president of the National Sailors’ and Firemen’s Union 1887-1929; Liberal MP 1892-1900, 1906-10 and 1918-22; vociferous supporter of World War I; during the 1920s he had the reputation of being a “bosses’ man”.

Volume 2 Index

Trotsky’s Writings on Britain

return return return return return

Last updated on: 2.7.2007