Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain
Volume 2

The Anglo-Russian Committee

From a Speech to a Session of
the Central Control Commission
(June 1927)

Trotsky: Is it possible to pose seriously the question of a revolutionary struggle against war and of the genuine defence 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 [1], Hicks [2] and other traitors? I ask: Will our defencism 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 List year. Everything centres 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 r61e in the struggle against all types of intervention directed at the USSR. It [the Anglo-Russian Committee!] will become the organizing centre for the international forces of the proletariat in the struggle against all attempts of the international bourgeoisie to start a new war”.

Molotov [3] 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 [4]: 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 be said, however, that the scandalous directive I just read expresses much more fully, clearly and honestly the actual standpoint of those who favoured 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 be 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 [5], Tomsky’s [6] 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 [7]; I mean to say Purcell and Hicks, and then you pinned your hopes on “loyal” Wang Ching-wei [8], 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 [9] bound hand and foot to the gentlemen of the General Council. And in the Minority Movement itself you likewise refuse to counterpose and are incapable of counterposing 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 [10], Tang Cheng-chih [11], 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.’

From a speech to the Central Committee and Central Control Commission joint plenum, lst August, 1927

Volume 2, Chapter 2 Index


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

2. 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.

3. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (1890-1986) Bolshevik from 1909 and editor of Pravda in 1917 until Kamenev and Stalin returned from Siberia in February and attacked him for his opposition to the Provisional Government. Under Stalin he became a Politburo member in 1924 and president of the Comintern in 1929. In 1939 he became foreign minister negotiating the pact with Hitler. Under Khrushchev he was expelled as one of the “anti-party” group of old Stalinists.

4. Nikolai Alexeivich Skrypnik (1872-1933), Bolshevik activist and leader of the factoiry councils’ movement in 1917; laterparty and state functionary in Ukraine; First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party; encouraged Ukrainian cultural projects; committed suicide after being accused of leading a “Ukrainian counter-revolutionary organisation”.

5. A.J. Cook (1883-1931), British coal miner and militant trade union leader; General Secretary of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain 1924-31.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Wang Ching-wei (1883-1944), a close collaborator of the nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen. Later formed the 1927 Hankow government. Led various attempts to form a “left Kuomintang” nationalist alternative to Chiang but joined in Chiang’s government in 1932 and later became a Japanese puppet.

9. A body of trade unionists was organized under the leadership of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1924 from the militant rank and file in many industries. It built up support and its conferences secured increasing representation up to the 1926 General Strike. However, it never really broke from its syndicalist antecedents and came under the control of Stalinist policies, collapsing under the suicidal dual unionist policies of the Comintern in the late 1920s.

10. Feng Yu-hsiang (1881-1948), warlord of northern China known as the “Christian General” who drove Wu Pei-fu from Peking in 1924. He later allied himself with Chiang Kai-shek and was regarded by Stalin as the leader of the struggle for the “democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants”. From then on he gave varying degrees of support to Chiang Kai-shek.

11. Tang Cheng-chih, Kuomintang general with close connections with the Hankow bourgeoisie who backed the bloody suppression of the peasants of Changsha in May 1927. Represented the effective power in Wuhan behind the front of the so-called “left Kuomintang” supported by Stalin.

Volume 2 Index

Trotsky’s Writings on Britain

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Last updated on: 2.7.2007