Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain
Volume 2

The Anglo-Russian Committee

My Life

3. Stalin, Bukharin and, in the first period, Zinoviev [1] as well, considered as the crowning achievement of their policy, the policy of a diplomatic bloc between the top circles of the Soviet trade unions and the General Council of the British trade unions. In his provincial narrowness Stalin had imagined that Purcell [2] and the other trade union leaders were ready or capable of giving support to the Soviet republic against the British bourgeoisie in a difficult moment. As for the trade union leaders they, not without grounds, considered that in view of the crisis of British capitalism and the growing discontent of the masses it would be advantageous for them to have a cover from the left in the shape of an official friendship with the leaders of the Soviet trade unions that committed them to nothing. Both parties beat carefully about the bush most of all fearing above all to call things by their real names. A rotten policy has more than once before foundered on great events. The General Strike of May 1926 was a great event not only in the life of Britain but also in the internal life of our party.

Britain’s fate after the war presented exceptional interest. The abrupt change in her world position could not but produce an equally abrupt change in the internal balance of forces. It was absolutely clear that even if Europe, including Britain, was again to reach a certain social equilibrium for a more or less prolonged period Britain could not arrive at such an equilibrium other than through a series of the gravest conflicts and upheavals. I considered it probable that the conflict in the coal industry in Britain especially could lead to a general strike. From this I deduced that in the near future the deep contradiction between the old organisations of the working class and its new historical tasks would be inevitably revealed. In the winter and spring of 1925 in the Caucasus I wrote a book on this topic (Where is Britain Going?). The book was in essence directed against the Politburo’s official conception with its hopes for a leftward swing in the General Council and for a gradual and painless penetration of communism into the ranks of the Labour Party and the trade unions. Partly in order to avoid unnecessary complications and partly in order to test out my opponents I passed the manuscript of the book for scrutiny by the Politburo. As it was a question of a prognosis and not a criticism in retrospect none of the Politburo members decided to make observations. The book passed the censorship favourably and it was printed just as it was written without the slightest alternation. It quickly appeared in English too. The official leaders of British socialism treated it as the fantasy of a foreigner who did not know British conditions and dreamt of transplanting a “Russian” general strike onto the soil of the British Isles. Such reactions could be counted in dozens if not in hundreds beginning with MacDonald [3] himself to whom in the political banalities competition first place must unquestionably belong. Meanwhile hardly had several months passed when the miners’ strike turned into a general strike. I had not at all reckoned on such a speedy confirmation of the prognosis. If the General Strike demonstrated the correctness of a Marxist prognosis as opposed to the homespun estimations made by British reformism then the behaviour of the General Council during the General Strike signified the dashing of Stalin’s hopes in Purcell. In the clinic I gathered and brought together with great eagerness all the material characterizing the course of the General Strike and the inter-relations of the masses and the leaders in particular. I was above all exasperated by the nature of the articles in the Moscow Pravda. Its main task lay in covering up bankruptcy and saving face. This could not be achieved in any other way than by a cynical distortion of the facts. There can be no greater ideological decline for a revolutionary politician than deceiving the masses!

Upon my arrival in Moscow I demanded the immediate break of the bloc with the General Council. Zinoviev after the inevitable wavering supported me. Radek [4] was against. Stalin clung to the bloc and even to the semblance of one for all his worth. The British trade union leaders waited until the end of their sharp internal crisis and then shoved their generous if dull-witted ally out with an impolite movement of the foot.

From Chapter 42 of My Life (1930)

Volume 2, Chapter 2 Index


1. N.I. Bukharin (1888-1938), Bolshevik who joined the Party in 1906, had worked with Stalin against the oppositionsince 1923. In late 1928, in launching his ultra-left turn, 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. – 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.

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

3. 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.

4. Karl Radek (1885-1939?) was born into a Jewish family in Galicia and was active in both the Polish and German workers’ movements, He later joined the Bolsheviks and the Left Opposition, but capitulated to Stalin in 1929. After serving as Stalin’s secretary he was condemned and imprisoned at the Second Moscow Trial, the manner of his death remaining unknown.

Volume 2 Index

Trotsky’s Writings on Britain

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Last updated on: 2.7.2007