Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain
Volume 2

The Anglo-Russian Committee

What We Gave and What We Got

In his report at the general membership meeting of the Moscow railwaymen, Comrade Andreev [1] made the first – and still the only – attempt to put two and two together in the question of the Anglo. Russian Committee. Comrade Andreev did not succeed in putting two and two together, but instead – despite his own intentions – he did make a serious contribution toward explaining just where lies the difference between opportunist and Bolshevik policies.

1. Comrade Andreev begins by very plaintively relating how the British busted up the ARC just at the time when it should have gone on living for many, many years. Imperialism has passed over to the offensive, strangling China, preparing a war against the USSR: “That is why the existence and activities of the ARC and similar organizations are most urgently needed right now.” Again, further on: “It is precisely right now, at the time of this offensive of capital against the working class, that the urgent need for the existence of the ARC becomes especially clear.” And so on, in the same vein.

Concurrently, Comrade Andreev supplies a lot of direct information about the measures that were taken to preserve the ARC (in enumerating these measures, however, he religiously avoids the Berlin conference of the ARC in April of this year). But all these exertions availed nothing: the ARC broke up just at the moment when the need for it became most acute.

As a matter of fact, this presentation as it stands is of itself a merciless condemnation of the very policy that Andreev is defending. One may suffer defeat at the hands of an enemy despite the most correct policy ... because the enemy is stronger. But when, in the course of many months, one forges a weapon against the enemy and then complains that this weapon went to pieces in one’s hands on the eve of the battle – that is tantamount to self-condemnation: either the blacksmith is bad, or he forged out of worthless material.

2. After the General Council had broken the general strike in May 1926, the defenders of the official line said to us: “But didn’t we know all along that the General Council is composed of reformist traitors?” Let us allow that we knew. But did we foresee that the General Council would collapse precisely when the need for it would be most urgent? Obviously this was not foreseen. Because not even the worst blacksmith would begin forging a weapon that he knew beforehand would fall apart on the eve of the battle.

Yet the controversy between the Opposition and the majority revolved precisely around this question. The Opposition said:

The members of the General Council are liberal Labour politicians of diverse shades. As is always the case with liberals, they have been plunged to the left by the first and still formless revolutionary wave. The General Strike swept them to the right. They can have no independent policy; swept to the right, they become transformed into the active agency of the bourgeoisie. Their role will be counter-revolutionary. Since they have betrayed the general strike of their own workers, and the strike of their own miners, only a pathetic philistine can pin any hope on the possibility that these people would protect the Chinese revolution or the Soviet Union from the blows of British imperialism. Quite the contrary. In the critical moment they will come to the aid of imperialism against the revolution.

Such was our prognosis in this question. But after the British had broken the ARC, Comrade Andreev comes before the Soviet workers ii with his pathetic lamentations: the ARC left this world just at the time when its activity was “most urgently needed.’

In politics, Comrade Andreev, this is called bankruptcy!

3. We said above: let us allow that the representatives of the official line did actually know whom they were dealing with – in which case their responsibility would be all the greater. As a matter of fact, they are vilifying themselves after the event. Their appraisal of the General Council was false, they did not understand the internal processes in the British working class, and they sowed illusions because they shared them themselves.

a) There is no need of going into the period prior to the strike: during that period Purcell [2], Hicks [3], and the others were pictured as our most trustworthy friends, almost our adherents. A veritable cloud of proof can be produced. We shall confine ourselves to a single instance. In his pamphlet, The Practical Questions of the Trade Union Movement, published in 1925, Comrade Tomsky [4] said:

Those [trade unionists] who have entered into the agreement with us are maintaining themselves staunchly both against bourgeois lies and slanders, and against the former [?] leaders of the British movement: Thomas [5], Clynes [6] and MacDonald. [7] The leaders of the British trade unions, the section that is farthest to the left – one can say with assurance, the majority – are working harmoniously with us. This gives us the assurance of and the occasion for hoping that the British who are averse to striking quick agreements, who take a long time to think, weigh, discuss, and hesitate prior to coming to this or another decision, will strictly fulfil the agreement; and that we shall not have to put to ourselves the question: What will the unity of the world trade union movement give the Russian worker? [p.48)

(b) In the nature of things, matters did not improve very much after the strike was broken, either. Even after the Opposition came out with utmost decisiveness for a break with the Anglo-Russian Committee as an institution which was false and rotten to the core and which served only to befuddle the workers by its existence, the Moscow Committee lectured the party as follows in the special theses issued against the Opposition:

The Anglo-Russian Committee can, must, and undoubtedly will play a tremendous role in the struggle against all types of intervention directed against the USSR. It will become the organizing centre for the international forces of the proletariat in the struggle against all attempts of the international bourgeoisie to start up a new war. (Materials Toward the Summary of the July [1926] Plenum of the CC of the AUCP(B), Agitprop Department of the Moscow Committee)

As a matter of fact, in the agitation among the rank and file, that is, in the really important agitation embracing the masses, the fundamental, chief and pertinent argument against the Opposition was the following: We are threatened by the war danger and the General Council will help us to ward it off, but the Opposition, pursuing its “factional Aims,” demands that we break with the General Council. And from this sprang the stupid and base accusation of semi-defencism, defeatism, etc.

On the other hand, the Opposition maintained that the General Council would dilly-dally so long as no serious danger threatened its masters, the bourgeoisie, and then later on it would break with us at the moment when it best serves the bourgeoisie, i.e., when most dangerous to us.

Now Comrade Andreev comes forward and tearfully laments that the General Council broke with us, you see, just at a time when the activity of the ARC was “most urgently needed”. Needed by whom – us or the British bourgeoisie? For the General Council is the agency of the British bourgeoisie in the workers’ movement. It is clear that it broke the bloc with us when this break happened to be “most urgently needed” by Chamberlain.

In politics, Comrade Andreev, this is precisely what is meant by bankruptcy.

c) As for the famous argument of Comrade Rykov [8] to the effect that since Baldwin [9] was demanding the dissolution of the ARC, therefore the Opposition was aiding Baldwin – didn’t this argument in its entirety flow from the false appraisal of the General Council, from the misunderstanding of its class nature and its social role?

The General Council is the agency of the British bourgeoisie. A good master must watch his agency like a hawk. Agents have their own personal interests. The agent in his operations may go further than is profitable to the master. Baldwin watches sharply after his agency, he exerts pressure on it, frightens it and presents it with demands for an accounting. Baldwin had to see to it that the General Council makes no extra promises, and that it will be able to make a timely break with us. The closer the approach of great problems the more inevitable the rupture. Among us, those who made a false appraisal of the General Council, painted it up, cherished illusions on this score and hoped that in a major and serious question the ARC would carry out a policy directed against Chamberlain [10] – they failed to understand this. The Opposition took its point of departure from the fact that a break was inevitable and that this break must occur over such questions as would be most clear and comprehensible to the British working masses.

4. But even during the very last period, even after the Berlin conference, Comrade Tomsky continued to paint up the General Council. He rejected indignantly all references to the fact that the ARC had become a reactionary impediment in the way of the workers’ movement. He asserted that the ARC is playing and can play a progressive role, even in the case of war. True, in April 1927 he expressed himself much more cautiously: 99 per cent in favour of the General Council’s betraying us in case of war, as against one chance in a hundred that it might not betray. Can we – demanded Tomsky – reject even one chance against ninety-nine in so great a cause?

To reason in such a manner is to turn politics into a lottery. But guaranteeing the defence of the USSR by lottery methods is a pitiful policy indeed, all the more so since the odds to lose are 100 per cent. And when the loss became patent, Comrade Andreev, with many sighs, told the assembled railwaymen how fine it would have been had the opportunists turned out to be not as they are in reality but as Comrade Andreev had imagined them to be.

All this, Comrade Andreev, is precisely what is called the opportunistic policy of illusions.

5. Today, after the event, there is no lack of volunteers anxious to renounce the wretched crib of Comrade Uglanov [11] upon the subject that the Anglo-Russian Committee “will become the organizing centre of the international forces of the proletariat in the struggle against all attempts of the international bourgeoisie to start up a new war.”

But precisely in this hope lay the crux of our entire official policy. It was precisely in this that the party was fooled. It was precisely by this that the Opposition was “beaten”.

In the July 1926 joint plenum, Comrade Stalin lectured to us complacently:

The aim of this bloc [the ARC] consists in organizing a wide working-class movement against new imperialist wars in general, and against intervention into our country on the part [especially so!] of the most powerful of the imperialist powers of Europe – on the part of Britain in particular. [Minutes, first issue, p.71]

Instructing us Oppositionists that it is necessary to “be concerned about the defence of the first workers’ republic in the world from intervention,” Stalin added for good measure:

If the trade unions of our country in this cause, meet with the support on the part of the British, even if reformist, trade unions, then this should be hailed. Voices: Correct! [Idem., p.71]

We may be quite sure that among those shouting “correct” was also the voice of Comrade Andreev. Yet these were the voices of blind men who were exposing the defence of the USSR to the danger of a sudden blow. It is not enough for one to “be concerned about the defence of the USSR,” one must also be concerned about the Marxist line of the policies; one must know the basic forces of the world struggle, understand class relations and the mechanics of parties; and one must be a Marxist-Leninist and not a philistine.

Stalin keeps chewing his ideas with the smugness of a provincial wiseacre. Each vulgarity is numbered: first, second, third, and fourth. First, pinning hope on Chiang Kai-shek [12]; second, pinning hope on Wang Ching-wei [13]; third, on Purcell; fourth on Hicks. Today’s hope is being pinned on the French Radicals, who, if you please, will “repel the French imperialists,” [14] but this falls under fifth ... It is not enough for one to “be concerned about the defence”; one must have some inkling as to what’s what. In the same speech Stalin goes on to sermonize:

If the reactionary British trade unions are willing to enter into a bloc with the revolutionary trade unions of our country against the counter-revolutionary imperialists of their own country – then why not hail this bloc? [p.71]

Stalin cannot understand that were the “reactionary trade unions” capable of waging a struggle against their own imperialists, they would not be reactionary trade unions. Falling into middle-class superficiality, Stalin loses all sight of the line of demarcation between the concepts reactionary and revolutionary. Out of sheer habit he refers to the British trade unions (i.e., obviously their leadership) as reactionary, but he really cherishes entirely Menshevik illusions about them.

Stalin sums up his philosophy as follows:

And so, the ARC is the bloc between our trade unions and the reactionary trade unions of Britain ... for the purpose of struggle against imperialist wars in general, and against intervention in particular. [p.71]

That’s just it: both in general and in particular. In general, and in particular – middle class narrowness (suggested topic for the “red” professors of the Stalinist school).

With the smugness of a provincial wiseacre, Stalin concludes his sermonizing with an attempt at irony: “Comrades Trotsky and Zinoviev [15] should remember this, and remember it well.” [p.72]

That’s just it! We have remembered everything very firmly indeed. We have remembered that our criticisms of the Stalinist hopes in Purcell as the guardian angel of the workers’ state were called by Stalin a deviation from “Leninism to Trotskyism.’

Voroshilov [16]: Correct!

A Voice: Voroshilov has affixed the seal!

Trotsky: Fortunately all this will appear in the minutes. [p.71]

Yes, this is all to be found in the minutes of that very same July plenum which removed Zinoviev from the Politburo, which thundered against “Trotskyism”, which assumed the defence of the Uglanov-Mandelstamm [17] crib.

We now propose that the speeches of Stalin together with our speeches on the question of the ARC be published for the congress. This would provide an excellent examination as to whose views stand the test of events and of time: the views of Stalin or the views of the Opposition?

6. We shall pass over the scholastic constructions of Bukharin. [18] Upon this question he observed seven theoretical Fridays a week. Here is the sophism that the ARC is a trade union organization and not a political bloc. Here is also the sophism that the ARC is not the union of leaders but the union of the masses. Here, too, is the defence of the April capitulation in Berlin by an argumentation of a state and diplomatic character. And many, many other things besides.

We evaluated these theories in their own time for what they were worth. It would be a fruitless waste of time to unwind, after the event, Bukharin’s talmudic knots. The course of events has swept away Bukharin’s scholasticism, as so much rubbish, out of which only one fact emerges clearly: the ideological and political bankruptcy. And just to think that all this put together is being served up as the general line of the Comintern]

From the moment the General Strike was broken [relates Andreev] there was begun the preparation of a plan how best to destroy the ARC, or to reduce the ARC completely to a cipher, to such a position as would keep it from being a hindrance to the General Council ... This is what the plan of the present leaders of the General Council amounted to. And what happened at the last congress was the fulfilment of this plan.

All of which is entirely correct. The General Council did have its own plan, and it did execute this plan methodically. “The break is the fulfilment of a carefully thought-out plan which the General Council had prepared and which it executed during the last congress.” It is absolutely correct. The General Council knew what it wanted. Or rather, the masters of the General Council knew where it had to be led. But did Comrade Andreev know where he was going? He did not. Because not only did he fail to hinder but he also assisted the General Council to fulfil its perfidious plan to the greatest benefit of the General Council itself and its actual political principals i.e., the British bourgeoisie.

8. If the General Council did have a plan and if it was able to execute this plan methodically, then couldn’t this plan have been understood, deciphered and foreseen? The Opposition did foresee. As early as June 2, 1926, two weeks after the General Strike was broken, we wrote to the Politburo:

But may not the General Council itself take the initiative to break away? This is more than probable. It will issue a statement that the CEC of the Russian trade unions is striving not toward the unity of the world working class but to fan discord among trade unions, and that it, the General Council, cannot travel along the same road with the CEC of the Russian unions. Then once more we shall call after them: Traitors! – which will express all the realism there is in the policy that consists of supporting rotten fictions. [Minutes of the Politburo, June 8, 1926, p.71]

Hasn’t this been confirmed literally, almost letter for letter? We did not break with the General Council after it had betrayed the General Strike and had aroused against itself the extreme exasperation of millions of English workers. We did not break with it under conditions already less favourable to us, after it had broken the miners’ strike, together with the priests of the bourgeoisie. Nor did we break with it under still less favourable conditions – on the question of British intervention in China. And now the British have broken with us over the question of our interfering in their internal affairs, our striving to “give orders” to the British working class, or to turn the English trade unions into instruments of our state policies. They broke on those questions which are most favourable to them, and which are most apt to fool the British workers. Which is precisely what we had been forecasting. Whose policy, then, turns out to be correct, sober and revolutionary? The one that penetrates the machinations of the enemy and foresees the morrow? – or the policy that blindly assists the enemy to carry its perfidious plan to completion?

9. During the July 1926 plenum, a cable was received from the General Council with its gracious consent to meet with the representatives of the CEC of the Russian unions. At that time, this cable was played up as a victory not over the General Council but over the Opposition, What an effect there was when Comrade Lozovsky brought up this telegram! [19]

What will you do [he demanded from the Opposition] if they [the General Council] do consent; more than that, what will you do if they have already consented? We have received such a cable today.

Trotsky: They have consented that we shield them temporarily by our prestige, now when they are preparing a new betrayal. [Disorder, laughter] [p.53]

All this is recorded in the minutes. At that time our forecasts were the subject for taunts, disorder, and laughter. Comrade Tomsky did indeed crow over the receipt of the cable.

Tomsky: Our little corpse is peering out of one eye ... [Loud laughter] [p.58]

Yes, the laughter was loud. Whom were you laughing at then, Comrade Andreev? You were laughing at yourselves.

And how Comrade Lozovsky did taunt the Opposition with the fact that its expectations had not materialized.

What makes you so certain [he inquired] that your second supposition will materialize? Wait ... [p.53]

To which we answered.

Trotsky: This means that for the moment the wiser and the more astute among them have gained the day, and that is why they have not broken as yet. [Disorder] [p.53]

Again “disorder”. To Andreev, Lozovsky, and others it was absolutely clear that the Opposition was motivated by “gross factional considerations”, and not by the concern for how we should distinguish correctly friends from enemies, and allies from traitors. Hence, the laughter and the disorder in the production of which Comrade Andreev by no means took the last place. “What makes you so certain that your second supposition will materialize?” inquired Comrade Lozovsky. “Wait ...’The majority was with Andreev and Lozovsky. We had to wait. We waited more than a year. And it so happened that the Anglo-Russian Committee, which according to Rykov should have tumbled bourgeois strongholds – assisted instead its own bourgeoisie to deal us a blow, and then screened Chamberlain’s blow by dealing its own supplementary blow.

When the test of great events comes, Comrade Andreev, one must always pay heavily for the policy of opportunistic illusions.

10. We have already recalled that Andreev in his report skipped completely over the Berlin conference of the ARC, April 1927, as if no such conference had ever been. Yet this conference marks the most important stage in the history of the ARC after the General Strike was broken. At the Berlin conference, the delegation of the CEC of the Russian unions renewed its mandate of faith in the General Council. The delegation behaved as if there had been neither the betrayal of the General Strike, nor the betrayal of the coal miners’ strike, nor the betrayal of the Chinese revolution, nor the betrayal of the USSR. All the notes of credit were renewed and Comrade Tomsky boasted that this was done in the spirit of perfect “mutual understanding” and “heart-to-heart relations”.

It is impossible to give traitors aid. What did we get for it? The disruption of the ARC within four months, at the time when our international position became worse. In the name of what did we capitulate in Berlin? Precisely upon this question, Comrade Andreev didn’t have a word to say to the membership meeting of the railwaymen.

Yet in Berlin capitulation was no accident. It flowed in its entirety from the policy of “preserving” the ARC at all costs. From the end of May 1926, the Opposition hammered away that it was impermissible to maintain a bloc with people we call traitors. Or the converse: we cannot call traitors people with whom we maintain a bloc.

We must break with the traitors at the moment of their greatest betrayal, in the eyes of loyal and indignant masses, aiding the masses to invest their indignation with the clearest possible political and organizational expression. This is what the Opposition demanded. And it also forewarned that if the bloc was not broken, the criticism of the General Council would necessarily have to be adapted to the bloc, i.e., reduced to nothing. This forecast was likewise completely verified.

The manifesto of the CEC of the Red International of Labour Unions [20] on June 8, 1926, contained a rather sharp, although inadequate, criticism of the General Council. Subsequent manifestos and resolutions became paler and more diffuse. And on April 1, 1927, the Russian delegation capitulated completely to the General Council.

At no time was the position of the British trade union leaders so difficult as in May, June and July 1926. The fissure between the leaders and the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat stood revealed during that period as never before.

We had two courses open to us: to deepen this fissure or to assist the General Council to plug it up. Thanks to the assistance we gave the strikers, our prestige was very high. Our breaking relations with the General Council would have been a powerful supplementary blow to its authority and position. On the contrary, the preservation of the political and organizational bloc assisted the General Council to negotiate with least losses the frontier most dangerous to it. “Thank you,” it said to those who helped keep it in the saddle. “I can go on from here myself.” Incidentally, there was no gratitude expressed; the CEC of the Russian trade unions merely received, a kick.

On one point Andreev is correct: this break is the fulfilment of a carefully thought-out plan.

11. But did Andreev have a plan himself? We have already stated that he had none whatever. Perhaps the most severe indictment of Andreev lies in his silence about the Berlin conference of April 1927. Yet at the April plenum of the CEC, Comrade Andreev spoke very decisively in defence of this conference. Here is what he said then:

What did we set as our task? At this Anglo-Russian Committee [in Berlin] we set as our task to force the British to give us a direct and clear [!] answer to what their views were about continuing the existence of the Anglo-Russian Committee. And in my opinion, we did force them to do this [?!] jointly with us, they said that they were for continuing the existence of the Anglo-Russian Committee, for activizing it, and so forth. At this Anglo-Russian Committee we were to force through a definite decision upon the question of unity and to a certain degree the condemnation of the Amsterdam International for its evasion of unity proposals ... We forced such a decision. [?!] We forced through a resolution on this question. We had to force an answer from them on the question of the war danger, and imperialist mobilization. In my opinion, in this sphere also, we forced through, of course not a 100 per cent Bolshevik decision [?!], but a maximum possible decision that could have been forced through under the given conditions. [p.32]

Such were the victories gained by Comrade Andreev at the Berlin conference: the British expressed themselves “directly and clearly” in favour of continuing the existence of the ARC; more than that, in favour of “activizing it”. It is no laughing matter indeed! Andreev forced a clear answer from the British on the question of trade union unity, and finally – hear! hear! – on the question of war. Small wonder that in that very same speech of his, Comrade Andreev – poor fellow! – spoke of how the Opposition “has hopelessly sunk in the mire of its mistakes”.

But what to do now? In April “we forced the General Council to give us clear and direct answers.” The Opposition, sunk in the mire of its mistakes, alone failed to understand these successes. But in September, the Trades Union Congress arranged by the General Council broke with the Anglo-Russian Committee. Whence comes this contradiction between April and September? Right now, Andreev admits that the collapse of the ARC is the fulfilment of a plan conceived back at the time of the General Strike, that is, in May 1926. What then was the import of the “clear and direct” answers of the British in April 1927? Hence, it follows that these answers were neither clear nor direct, but swindles. The job of the General Council consisted in hoodwinking, gaining time, causing a delay, preparing the congress, and using it as a shield.

The Opposition issued timely warning on this score as well. Open the minutes of the April 1926 plenum to page 31. We said at that time:

“A particular danger to world peace is lodged in. the policy of the imperialists in China.”

This is what they have countersigned. How come their tongues didn’t turn inside out, or why didn’t we pull them by the tongue and compel them to speak out precisely who the imperialists were? It is no mere coincidence that all this was signed on the first day of April, this date is symbolic ... [Laughter]

Kaganovich [21]: You mean to say we fooled them!

As may be observed, Comrade Kaganovich hit the bull’s eye. Now it has become quite clear as to who fooled whom. Andreev has some cause to be plaintive over the fact that after all his victories in April 1927 the British liquidated the ARC at that very moment when it was most urgently needed.

This, Comrade Andreev, is what one would call having hopelessly sunk in a mire.

12. But this wasn’t enough; Comrade Andreev expressed himself even more harshly about the Opposition at the April plenum:

Our Opposition comes out with the demand that we break with the British unions. Such a position is a position to isolate us at the most difficult moment, when imperialism is mobilizing its forces against us. You maintain that your position is presumably revolutionary, but you are giving objective aid to the Chamberlains because the Chamberlains want no connections whatever between our trade union movement and the English trade union movement, and they want no Anglo-Russian Committees to hinder them. [p.33]

The Opposition proposed that we do not seize hold of a rotten twig while passing over a precipice. But the policies defended by Comrade Andreev did bring us into isolation “at the most difficult moment, when imperialism is mobilizing its forces against us.” That is the job which was literally fulfilled by the official policies. By supporting the General Council, we weakened the Minority Movement. [22]

Within the minority itself, by our conciliationist line, we supported the right elements against the left. By this policy we put a brake on the revolutionary education of the proletarian vanguard, including the Communist Party among the number. We assisted the General Council to hold its position without losses, to prepare a reactionary congress of trade union bureaucrats in Edinburgh, and to break with us against the resistance only of a small minority. We assisted the General Council to isolate us in our most difficult moment and thus to realize the plan conceived by the General Council far back during the time of the General Strike.

This, Comrade Andreev, implies giving objective aid to the Chamberlains!

13. But now, defending the policies of bankruptcy before a non-party meeting, Comrade Andreev says:

A few hotheads from the Opposition in our Communist Party proposed to us during the entire period the following tactic: “Break with the English traitors, break with the General Council.”

This utterly cheap, philistine phrase about “hotheads” is taken from the dictionary of middle-class reformism and opportunism, which are incapable of a long-range policy, that is to say, the policy of Marxist prescience and Bolshevik resolution. In April 1927, Andreev reckoned that he had forced serious commitments from the British. To this we replied:

Political swindlers in the staff of the Amsterdam agency of capitalism [23] commonly sow pacifist bargains of this type in order to lull the workers and thus keep their own hands free for betrayal at the critical moment [p.38]

Who proved to be correct? Policies are tested by facts. We saw above what Andreev expected in April of this year, and what he received in September. Wretched niggardliness, shameful near sightedness! That is the name for your policy, Comrade Andreev!

14. Andreev has one remaining solace: “The responsibility (!) for the breaking up of this organization [the ARC] falls entirely and squarely (!!) upon the leaders of the British trade union movement.” This statement proves that Andreev has learned nothing. The “responsibility” for the breaking of the ARC! One might think that this was the most frightful of crimes against the working class. The General Council broke the General Strike, assisted the coal barons to enslave the miners, screened the destruction of Nanking [24], supported the policies of Chamberlain against the workers’ state, and will support Chamberlain in case of war. And Andreev seeks to scare these people by “responsibility” for breaking the ARC.

What did the British workers see of the ARC, particularly from the time of the General Strike: banquets, hollow resolutions, hypocritical and diplomatic speeches.

And on the other hand, since when have we become afraid of assuming the responsibility for breaking with traitors and betrayers? What sort of a pathetic, wishy-washy, rotten liberal way is this of putting the question, anyway! To prolong the life of the ARC for four months we paid by the most disgraceful capitulation it Berlin. But in return, don’t you see, we have rid ourselves of the most horrendous “responsibility” – the responsibility of having broken with the betrayers of the working class. But the entire history of Bolshevism is impregnated with the determination to assume responsibility of this sort!

Comrade Andreev, you axe also one of those who babble about Trotskyism but who have yet to grasp the main thing in Bolshevism.

15. The perplexed reporter says: “Now every proletarian must give himself a clear accounting, weigh the documents, and compare our policy with theirs” (Andreev, Report at the Meeting of Railwaymen).

This is, of course, a praiseworthy manner of putting the question. One shouldn’t accept anyone’s say so. On this score Lenin had the following to say: “He who accepts somebody’s word is a hopeless idiot.” This Leninist aphorism applies to all countries, the Soviet Union among them. It is essential that our workers gain a clear conception of the policies of Comrade Andreev, i.e., the entire official policy in the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee. To this end, all the documents must be published and made available to every worker.

We trust that Comrade Andreev will support this proposal of ours. Otherwise he’ll be in the position of one who maintains that what is good for the British is death for Russians. But this is the viewpoint of chauvinists and not internationalist revolutionists.

16. But what to do now, after the rotten stage decoration has collapsed completely? Comrade Andreev replies: “The leaders refuse to make agreements with us – we will carry on this policy of the united front over the heads of the leaders and against their wishes, we shall carry it on from below, by means of our ties with the masses, their rank-and-fide organization, and so forth.”

Fine. But didn’t Manuilsky [25] say more than a year ago, at the July plenum:

Comrade Zinoviev appears here to console us that after breaking with the Anglo-Russian Committee we shall have to build new bridges to the workers’ movement. But I want to ask – have you seen these bridges? Did Comrade Zinoviev outline new ways for realizing the idea of trade union unity? What is worst in the entire Opposition of Comrades Zinoviev and Trotsky is this state of helplessness (!!!). [p.24]

Thus a year ago the proclamation read that the liquidation of the Anglo-Russian Committee must create a state of helplessness: there being no other bridges in sight. He was considered a true revolutionary optimist who believed in the Purcellian bridge. And now this bridge has collapsed. Cannot one draw the conclusion that precisely Manuilsky’s position is the position of helplessness and occlusion? It may be objected that no one would take Manuilsky seriously. Agreed. But didn’t all the other defenders of the official line declare that the ARC is the “incarnation” of the brotherhood between the Russian and British proletariat, the bridge to the masses, the instrument of the defence of the USSR, and so forth and so on ...?!

To the Opposition – such was the objection of the representatives of the official line – the Anglo-Russian Committee is the bloc between leaders, but for us it is the bloc of toiling masses, the incarnation of their union. Now, permit us to ask: Is the breaking of the ARC the breaking of the union of the toiling masses? Comrade Andreev seems to say – no. But this very same answer goes to prove that the ARC did not represent the union of toiling masses, for it is impossible to make a union with strikers through the strike-breakers.

17. It is incontestable that we must find ways other than the General Council. Moreover, after this reactionary partition has been eliminated, only then do we obtain the possibility of seeking genuine connections with the genuine masses. lle first condition for success on this road is the merciless condemnation of the official line toward the Anglo-Russian Committee for the entire recent period, i.e., from the beginning of the General Strike.

18. The tremendous movements of the English proletariat have naturally not passed without leaving a trace. The Communist Party has become stronger – both in numbers and in influence – as a result of its participation in the mass struggles. The processes of differentiation within the many-millioned masses continue to take place. As is always the case after major defeats, certain and rather wide circles of the working class suffer a temporary drop in activity. The reactionary bureaucracy entrenches itself, surmounting internal shadings. At the left pole a selection of revolutionary elements and the strengthening of the Communist Party takes place at a rate more rapid than prior to the strike.

All these phenomena flow with iron inevitability from the gigantic revolutionary wave which broke against the resistance not only of the bourgeoisie but also of its own official leadership. One can and must continue building on this foundation. However, the thoroughly false policy restricted to the extreme the sweep of the offensive and weakened its revolutionary consequences. With a correct policy, the Communist Party could have garnered immeasurably more abundant revolutionary fruits. By the continuation of the incorrect policies it risks losing what it has gained.

19. Comrade Andreev points to the workers’ delegations as one of the ways toward establishing connections with the British masses. Naturally, workers’ delegations, well-picked and well-instructed, can also bring benefit to the cause of workers’ unity. But it would be a rock-bottom mistake to push this method to the foreground. The import of workers’ delegations is purely auxiliary. Our fundamental connection with the British working class is through the Communist Party.

It is possible to find the road to the toiling masses organized into trade unions not through combinations, nor through false deals at the top but through the correct revolutionary policy of the British Communist Party, the Comintern, Profintern and the Russian unions. The masses can be won over only by a sustained revolutionary line. Once again this stands revealed in all its certainty, after the collapse of the ARC. As a matter of fact, the point of departure for the erroneous line in the question of the ARC was the straining to supplant growth of the influence of the Communist Party by skilled diplomacy in relation to the leaders of the trade unions.

If any one tried to leap over actual and necessary and inevitable stages, it was Stalin and Bukharin. It seemed to them that they would be able through cunning manoeuvres and combinations to promote the British working class to the highest class without the Communist Party, or rather with some co-operation from it. This was also the initial error of Comrade Tomsky. Again, however, there is nothing original in this mistake. That is how opportunism always begins. The development of the class appears to it to be much too slow and it seeks to reap what it has not sown, or what has not ripened as yet. Such, for example, was the source of the opportunistic mistakes of Ferdinand Lassalle. [26]

But after the methods of diplomacy and combination have described a complete circle, opportunism then returns, like the fishwife in the fable, to its broken trough. Had we from the very beginning correctly understood that the ARC is a temporary bloc with reformists which can be maintained only up to their first shift to the right; had we generally understood that a united front with the “leaders” can have only an ephemeral, episodic, and subordinate significance; had we, in correspondence with all this, broken with the Anglo-Russian Committee on that very day when it refused to accept the assistance of the Russian workers to the British strikers – this entire tactical experiment would have been justified. We would have given impetus to the movement of the left minority and the British Communist Party would have received a lesson in the correct application of the tactic of the united front.

Instead of this we shifted the tactical axis over to the side of the bloc with the reformist leaders. We attempted to transform a temporary and an entirely legitimate agreement into a permanent institution. This institution was proclaimed by us to be the core of the struggle for the unity of the world proletariat, the centre of the revolutionary struggle against war, and so forth and so on. Thus we created political fictions, and we preached to the workers to have faith in these fictions, i.e., we were performing work which is profoundly harmful and inimical to the revolution.

To the extent that the treacherous character of our allies became revealed – to which we tried to shut our eyes as long as possible – we proclaimed that the crux of the matter lay not in them, not in the General Council: that the ARC is not a bloc between leaders but a union of masses, that the ARC is only the “incarnation,” only a “symbol,” and so forth and so on. This was already the direct policy of lies, falsehoods, and rotten masquerades. This web of falseness was crumpled by great events. Instead of lisping, “the responsibility for this does not fall on us,” we must say, “to our shame – we deserve no credit for it.”

Andreev says that the whole truth must be told to every British worker. Of course, everything possible must be done. But this is not at all easy. When Andreev says: “Now no one will believe the members of the General Council any longer,” that is simply a cheap phrase. As the Edinburgh congress shows, our policy strengthened the General Council. The Berlin conference alone – disregarding all the rest – did not pass scot-free for us. We shall have not only to scrub but to scrape away the ideological confusion we have spread. This primarily refers to the British Communist Party, and in the second place to the left-wing Minority Movement.

As far back as the time of the General Strike, as well as the miners’ strike, the leadership of the British Communist Party was far from always able to display initiative and resolution. One must not forget that the CEC of the British Communist Party long refused to print the July 8 manifesto of the Russian unions as too sharp toward the General Council.

For him who is able to judge symptoms, this episode must appear as extremely alarming. A young Communist Party, whose entire strength lies in criticism and irreconcilability, reveals at the decisive moment a surplus of qualities of the opposite order. At bottom of it is the false understanding and the false application of the policy of the united front.

Day in and day out the British Communist Party, was taught that the union with Purcell and Hicks would aid the cause of the defence of the USSR and that the Russian Opposition, which does not believe this, was guilty of defeatism. Everything was stood on its head. This could not pass without leaving its traces upon the consciousness of the British Communist Party ...

This could not and it did not pass scot-free. The right-wing tendencies have become extremely strengthened among the leading circles of the British Communist Party: enough to recall the dissatisfaction of a number of the members of the British Central Committee with the Comintern theses on war as being too far “left”; enough to recall Pollitt’s [27] speech in Edinburgh, the speeches and articles of Murphy [28], and so on.

All these symptoms indicate one and the same thing: for a young Party, still lacking real Bolshevik tempering, the policies of the Anglo-Russian Committee inevitably implied the opportunistic dislocation of its entire line.

This applies even to a larger measure to the left-wing Minority Movement. The evil caused here is not so easily remedied. It is pregnant with party crises in the future. Of course these words will supply pathetic functionaries with the pretext to speak of our hostility toward the British Communist Party and so forth. We have witnessed this in the past more than once, particularly in the case of China. Up to the last moment the Chinese Communist Party was proclaimed as the exemplar of Bolshevik policies, and after the collapse – as the progeny of Menshevism. We have nothing in common with such repulsive political sliminess. It has already brought the greatest harm both to our party and to the Comintern. But this will not cause us to pause on the road of fulfilling our revolutionary duty.

Andreev’s report aims to smear over one of the greatest tactical lessons of the recent period. In this lies the most serious harmfulness of the report and of similar speeches and documents. It is possible to move forward only on the basis of an all-sided examination of the experience with the Anglo-Russian Committee. To this end all the basic documents that shed light on this question must be made available to all Communists. In order to move forward it is necessary to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, both to the Russian and British workers.

Dated 23rd September, 1927; first published
in The New International, September-October 1934

Volume 2, Chapter 2 Index


1. Andrei Andreevich Andreev (1895-1970) joined the Russian Bolsheviks in 1914 and after the October Revolution occupied leading positions in the Soviet trade unions. Elected to the Central Committee in 1922 and became a member of the Organization Bureau. One of Stalin’s most loyal supporters, he was elected to the Politburo in 1934 but was demoted to minor posts following criticism of his views on agriculture in 1950.

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. 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.

5. 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.

6. J.R. Clynes (1869-1949), British trade unionist and Labour politician; supporter of British involvement in World War I; became leader of the Labour Party 1921-22; served as Home Secretary in the second Labour government (1929-31), but split with Ramsay MacDonald in 1931 over the proposed austerity measures.

7. Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937), Scottish Labour politician, member of Independent Labour Party (ILP), adopted pacifist position during World War I, prime minister in the first (1924) and second (1929-1931) Labour governments, defected in 1931 with Philip Snowden and Jimmy Thomas to form National Government with the Conservatives after the Labour government split on the question of cutting unemployment benefits, served as prime minister until 1935.

8. Alexei Ivanovich Rykov (1881-1938), a Bolshevik from 1903, occupied a number of economic posts after the October Revolution. Succeeded Lenin as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. Supported Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev against Trotsky in 1923. Broke with Stalin in 1929 forming the “Right Opposition” with Bukharin and Tomsky. Executed in 1938.

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

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

11. Uglanov, N.A. (d. circa 1937) was a supporter of Stalin within the Soviet Communist Party. In 1921 became secretary of the Petrograd party and replaced Kamenev as secretary of the Moscow party in 1924. Became a candidate member of the Politburo in the following year. He supported Bukharin and the “Right Opposition’ and was dismissed from his posts in 1929 and from the Central Committee in 1930. Despite repudiations of his views and protestations of loyalty to Stalinism he disappeared in the purges in about 1937.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. One of the main parties of the bourgeoisie during the Third Republic of 1871 to 1940. It was characterized by anti-clericalism and gained support from lower sections of the middle class. It participated in many governments of the period, including the Popular Front in 1936.

15. Grigory Zinoviev (1883-1936), Russian Bolshevik; joined RSDLP in 1901 and supported the Bolshevik faction in the split in 1903; on of Lenin’s closest collaborators between 1903 and 1917; opposed the seizure of power in october 1917 along with Kamenev but nevertheless remained in the Central Committee of the party; Chairman of the Comintern 1919-26; allied with Stalin againhst Trotsky after Lenin’s death, but the alliance collapsed in 1925; gradually removed from all positions of influence Zinoviev joined forces with Trotsky to form the Joint Opposition; expelled from the party after their defeat at the 15th Party Congress in December 1927; capitulated to Stalin in early 1928 and eventually readmitted into the party; arrested in December 1934 after the Kirov assassination and put on trial in January 1935; admitted “moral complicity” in the assassination and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment; put on trial with Kamenev and 14 other Old Bolsheviks in August 1936, the First Moscow Show Trial, and sentenced to death; executed immediately after the trial.

16. Kliment Voroshilov (1881-1969), Bolshevik since 1903, formed close alliance with Stqalin during the Civil war – often against Trotsky’s policies; member of Central Committee 1922-19612; People’s commissar for Military and navy affairs 1925-34; member of politburo 1926-1960; his career benefitted from the downfall of Tukachevsky, commander of the Red Army untilo his execution in 1937; although he was placed in command of various armies during World War II he proved to be a poor planner and an incompetent commander, but nevertheless he survived as a leading member of the party until the de-Stalinisation under Khruchchev.

17. Martin Mandelstamm [Lyadov] (1872-1947), “Old” Bolshevik; began revolutionary activities in 1891; supported Bolsheviks after the split in the party; took an active part in the revolution of 1905-07; supported the “ultra-left” around Bogdanov during the years of reaction; supported the Mensheviks in 1917; rejoined the party in 1920; appointed to Sverdlov University and president of the Commission to Study the History of the Revolution.

18. N.I. Bukharin (1888-1938), Bolshevik who joined the Party in 1906, was at this time still working with Stalin against the opposition as he had been doing since 1923. It was late in 1928, in launching his ultra-left turn, that Stalin broke with Bukharin removing him in the following year from his posts as editor of Pravda and chairman of the Comintern. On capitulating to Stalin he was assigned to “educational work”. Framed and murdered by Stalin in the last of the Moscow Trials, 1938.

19. Solomon Abramovich Lozovsky (1878-1952), originally a Menshevik, joined the Bolsheviks in 1917 and became Secretary of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions. Because of disagreements over the questions of trade union independence and exclusively Bolshevik government, he set up an organization of his own for a time, but rejoined the Communist Party in December 1919. Thereafter he was a leading official of the Red International of Labour Unions and a consistent supporter of Stalinist policies. Later he became a Deputy Commissar for Foreign Affairs and head of the Soviet Information Office. One of the few major figures of the 1920s to survive the purges of the 1930s, Lozovaky was seized and shot on Stalin’s orders at the age of 74 during an anti-semitic campaign.

20. Red International of Labour Unions (RILU – Profintern): international bodyset up in 1921 to coordinate Comintern activities in the trade unions. It was intended to serve as a conterweight to Social Democratic International Federation of Trade Unions – the so-called “amsterdam International”. The full-time secretariat consisted of Andres Nin, Mikhail Tomsky and Alexandr Lozovsky.

21. Lazar Kaganovitch (1893-1991), Soviet politician and close associate of Stalin; joined the bolsheviks in 1911; participated in the October Revolution in Belarus; brought into the Organisation Bureau (Orgbureau) of the Secretariat by Stalin in 1922; from then on a loyal acolyte of Stalin.

22. 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.

23. The Amsterdam International (International Federation of Trade Unions): founded in 1913, it became a focus for the reformist trade unions after the October Revolution.

24. We have been unable to trace this reference as the event usually described as the “Rape of Nanking”, occurred in 1937, i.e. 10 years after this text was written and 3 years after it was published. – Note by TIA

25. Dmitri Manuilsky (1883-1952) was a Ukrainian and a member of the independent Marxist organization Mezhrayontzi along with Trotsky. Manuilsky joined the Bolsheviks in 1917 and in 1919 was one of the leaders of the Ukrainian government. After this he was a consistent supporter of Stalin and secretary of the Comintern from 1931 when he supported the ultra-left policies with gusto until his replacement by Dimitrov in 1935.

26. Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864), German petty bourgeois writer, and lawyer. In 1848-9 he took part in the democratic movement in the Rhenish province and early in the 1860s joined the German working class movement, becoming one of the founders of the General Association of German Workers (ADAV) in 1863. He stood for the unification of Germany from above under Prussian hegemony, and laid the foundations for the opportunist trend in the leadership of the German working class movement.

27. Harry Pollitt (1890-1960), British Communist; General Secretary of the National Minority Movement 1924-29; General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1929-39 and 1941-56; fervent defender of the Moscow Trials.

28. J.T. Murphy (1885-1965), English trade union militant; active in the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE), he became one of the leaders of the Sheffield wing of the Shop Stewards’ Movement that emerged during world War I; joined the Socialist Labour party in 1916; participated in the unity discussions taht led to the foundation of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920; active in the National Minority Movement from its inception in 1924; head of the british bureau nof the profintern and member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI); member of the Central Committee of the CPGB until he was expelled in 1932 for “Trotskyism”. This was rather ironic as he had been given the honour of proposing Trotsky’s expulsion from the ECCI in 1927.

Volume 2 Index

Trotsky’s Writings on Britain

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