Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain
Volume III

Trotskyism versus Centrism in Britain

Stalinism and Centrism

Fenner Brockway – Pritt Number Two

The Secretary of the Independent Labour Party of Great Britain, Fenner Brockway, runs to the aid of Pritt, the King’s Counsellor [1], with a plan to save the Moscow falsifiers. Pritt Number One tried to resolve the task juridically. Pritt Number Two considers the task politically. An international inquiry into the Moscow trials, according to Fenner Brockway’s way of thinking, is impermissible because it might arouse “prejudice in Russia and in Communist circles.” Fenner Brockway thus recognizes beforehand that an impartial verification could not confirm the Moscow accusations and justify the executions. On the contrary, Brockway is convinced that an honest and open inquiry can only “prejudice” Stalin’s clique and “Communist circles.” That is precisely why Pritt Number Two proposes to organize an “inquiry into the role of Trotskyism in the Working Class Movement.” In other words: instead of establishing the objective truth regarding the monstrous, criminal accusations, Brockway proposes a partisan political trial against his ideological adversary. Furthermore, Brockway considers – and who can know Brockway better than himself – that he is marked in advance by the finger of fate to assume an initiative of this nature. He even points magnanimously to a future jury of “4 or 5 persons” who have “objective analytical minds.” As candidates Brockway names: the Austrian social-democrat Otto Bauer, the “Danish” (Swedish?) lawyer Branting [2], the head of the Socialist Party of the United States, Norman Thomas [3] and ... a “good Frenchman.” This commission, to which he hopes, according to his own words, to assure the indispensable finances, will pass a judgement on the “role of Trotskyism in the Working Class Movement.” It is difficult to imagine a more ridiculous and, at the same time, a more cunning project! My “attitude in respect to the Working Class Movement,” leaving aside my forty years of revolutionary activity, is expressed at present in the following formula:

The guiding apparatuses of the Second and Third Internationals have become obstacles on the road of the emancipation of the proletariat. If a new war is bearing down on humanity with implacable force, the responsibility for that circumstance falls on the leadership of the Second and Third Internationals. I believe that the creation of a new International is inevitable and necessary, on the basis of the programme which is explained and developed in my books and articles as well as in the works of my ideological friends. At the same time the so-called Trotskyites are always and everywhere ready to sustain every practical step of the Second and Third Internationals against fascism and reaction in general, when it is a question of real acts of struggle and not of cheap parades, deceitful shows of unification, or in general, of all those things which throw dust in one’s eyes.

With bureaucratic charlatanism and “democratic” verbiage we have nothing in common! For these ideas I fight entirely openly. My adversaries have the full right and the full possibility to submit me to the most severe criticism. Up to now they have made great use of this right. I have never complained on that score. The struggle goes on for the supreme ends of humanity. Only the ultimate advance of the historical process can resolve these implacable discords. I patiently await its Verdict. If, however, Brockway, together with Otto Bauer and the anonymous “good Frenchman”, wishes to anticipate the verdict of history, I can only wish them great successes. It is not the first time that such attempts have been made.

Messrs. Fenner Brockway and Otto Bauer have more than once judged Lenin, especially from 1914 to 1917, and also later, together with the Russian Mensheviks, as a sectarian, a splitter, a disorganizer and an auxiliary of counter-revolution. Such men, in alliance with “good Frenchmen” and also “good” Germans, in the middle of the 19th century, more than once judged and annihilated Marx and Engels. I am ready to submit to the same fate to which my great masters were very often subjected.

However, Brockway’s plan takes on a manifestly dishonest character at the point where he tries to replace a juridical inquiry into the criminal accusations and the trials, more exactly, into the greatest frame-ups in the world [4], with a factional political intrigue to avoid the “prejudice” of Stalin and his agents. Here the advanced workers will say: Stop! Brockway’s fears, whatever may be their source, will not hinder the truth from triumphing over the lie!

As to the candidates indicated by Brockway for his political intrigue, I can say the following: in the last years I wrote a dozen articles in which I attempted to explain in a friendly manner to Fenner Brockway himself and to his friends that their unprincipled politics, zig-zagging from right to left under the whip of the Stalintern, would inevitably destroy the Independent Labour Party. Now this prognosis, alas, is completely confirmed. I have known Otto Bauer for thirty years as a political invertebrate, who has always adapted himself to the class enemy: to the defunct Hapsburg monarchy, to the Austrian bourgeoisie, to Wilson, to the Entente [5], and who, precisely because of the fact, has become chiefly responsible for the crushing of the Austrian proletariat. Again, in 1922 Bauer thought that the Soviet dictatorship arrested “progress”, which, in his opinion, then demanded the return of Russia to the road of capitalism. Now Bauer bows low before the Soviet bureaucracy, which is arresting progress toward socialism. The analysis of Otto Bauer’s rotten politics is given in dozens of my writings. Bauer himself has never tried to reply to them. I cannot say anything about Branting, who is recommended as a “lawyer”, although it is not a question of juridical, but of theoretical and political, problems. As for Norman Thomas he has never hidden his disagreements with me, and on my part I have no reason to attenuate their profundity. But Norman Thomas thinks that however profound these differences may be, and however acute the struggle of tendencies and fractions, certain methods are inadmissible, criminal, corrupt, menacing equally all parts of the proletariat. Without purging the workers’ ranks of terror, sabotage, espionage, etc. – if they exist – or of frame-ups, falsifications, despicable juridical assassinations – and they certainly exist! – the working class movement as a whole is menaced by gangrene. Here there is common ground between myself and Norman Thomas and all those who seriously concern themselves with the internal morale of the working-class movement. With Brockway such a common ground does not and cannot exist. As a political man, Brockway can judge Trotskyism as he likes; that is his right. But as Pritt Number Two he must be met with a merciless counter-thrust.

Written on 6th March 1937 and published in the Information Bulletin of the British Committee for the Defence of Leon Trotsky, July 1937

Volume 3, Chapter 2 Index


1. Fenner Fenner Brockway (1888-1988), British socialist and leader of the Independent Labour Party; joined ILP in 1907; editor of Labour Leader, the ILP paper, 1912-16; a militant pacifist during World War I, he was jailed several times; Editor of New Leader, the renamed ILP paper; 1926-29 and 1931-46; Chairman of ILP 1931-33 and General Secretary of ILP (1933-39); member of parliament 1929-31 and 1950-1964. – D.N. Pritt (1887-1972), British lawyer and labour politician; an uncritical defender of Stalin, he justified the Moscow Trials.

2. Hjalmar Branting (1860-1925) was the right wing leader of Swedish social democracy, its first MP and head of a number of minority social democratic administrations in the early 1920s. It seems unlikely that even Brockway was unaware that he had been dead for ten years, but it is not clear who else he could be referring to.

3. Norman Thomas (1883-1968) was leader of the Socialist Party of the United States and eight times candidate for President. Considered a “left’ socialist in the early 1930s, he later became a defender of US foreign policy.

4. The assassination in December 1934 of Sergei Kirov (1886-1934), boss of the Leningrad party machine, which was believed to have been engineered by the GPU itself, was the signal for a succession of murderous attacks on former leaders of the Russian Bolshevik Party, including Lenin’s closest collaborators. This culminated in a series of show trials held in Moscow at which the leaders of all sections of the Russian Bolsheviks, including those who had at one time been the strongest supporters of Stalin himself, were forced to confess to crimes both fantastic and inconceivable. The first of these was held in August 1936 and the chief defendants were Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov. A second trial took place in January 1937, where the defendants included Radek and Pyatakov, and a third began at the end of February 1938, when Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky and Yagoda appeared in the dock. In nearly all cases the main defendants were executed, though it seems that Radek may have survived in prison for a number of years. (For more details see The Moscow Trials – An Anthology, New Park Publications, 1967 and M. Shachtman, Behind the Moscow Trials, New Park Publications 1971.)

5. i.e. Woodrow Wilson, President of the USA, and those European powers led by Britain and France with whom he had been in alliance in the First World War.

Volume 3 Index

Trotsky’s Writings on Britain

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Last updated on: 1.7.2007