Source: The Errors of Trotskyism, May 1925
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
To replace Leninism by Trotskyism, that is the task which Comrade Trotsky has set out to accomplish. In this respect he had already in 1922, in his book “1905,” attempted to “attain something by allusions.” So long as Comrade Lenin held the threads in his hands, Comrade Trotsky decided not to undertake a direct attack. Comrade Trotsky has now obviously decided that “the moment has arrived.” According to all the rules of strategy, before one strikes the decisive blow, one must prepare the way by artillery fire. The attack upon the so-called right-wing of Bolshevism is intended as a smoke-screen, particularly regarding the October failures of the writer of these lines.
It is an actual fact that at the beginning of November, 1917, I committed a great error. This error was freely admitted by me, and made good in the course of a few days. As, however, these days were not ordinary days, but very fateful days, as this was a time of extremest tension, the error was highly dangerous.
In any event, I will not minimise the extent of this error.
It was precisely because of the extraordinary tension of these times that Vladimir Ilyitch so energetically opposed our error. All these extremely draconic punitive measures which he at that time proposed against us, all the passionate chastising which he inflicted, were, of course, thoroughly justified. In the shortest time after these events, some weeks afterwards, at the commencement of the disputes over the Brest Peace, Vladimir Ilyitch, as the whole C.C. and all the leading circles of the Party are aware, regarded these differences of opinion as completely liquidated.
In his speech on “Trotskyism or Leninism,” Comrade Stalin very rightly remarks that in the September-October period as a result of a number of circumstances, the revolution endeavoured to carry out every step tender the form of defence. This was to be understood after all the shilly-shallying connected with the Kornilov period. I, who at that time was living illegally, fell a victim to my failure precisely owing to this peculiarity of that phase of October.
When Comrade Lenin reverted to our error, three years after it had been committed, he wrote as follows:
“Immediately before the October revolution, and soon afterwards, a number of excellent Communists in Russia committed errors, of which one does not like to be reminded. Why not? Because it is not right, except on a special occasion, to refer to such errors, which have been completely made good. They showed hesitations in the period in question in that they feared that the Bolsheviki would isolate themselves and undertake too great a risk in holding aloof too much from a certain section of the Mensheviki and of the social revolutionaries. The conflict went so far that the comrades in question, as a demonstration, resigned from all responsible posts, both in the Party and in the Soviet, to the greatest joy of the enemies of the social revolution. The matter led to the most bitter polemics in the press on the part of the C.C. of our Party against those who had resigned. And after some weeks, at the most after some months, all these comrades perceived their errors and returned to their responsible posts in the Party and the Soviets.”
Comrade Lenin makes no reference whatever to a “right” wing.
For myself, I endeavoured more than once before the Party and before the whole Comintern, to deal with my error. I spoke of it, for example, at the opening of the Fourth World Congress of the Comintern, which took place on the Fifth Anniversary of October, as follows:
“Allow me to say a word regarding a personal matter. It seems to me that I, particularly now on the Fifth Anniversary of the Revolution, am called upon to say that which I am about to say. You are aware, comrades, that five years ago, I, along with some other comrades, made a great mistake, which, as I believe, was the greatest mistake I have ever made in my life. At that time I failed to estimate correctly the whole counter-revolutionary nature of the Mensheviki. Therein lies the nature of our mistake before October, 1917. Although we had fought against the Mensheviki for over ten years, nevertheless, I, as well as many other comrades, could not at the decisive moment get rid of the idea that the Mensheviki and S.R., although they were only the right fraction and the right wing, nevertheless formed a portion of the working class. As a matter of fact, they were and are the ‘left’ extremely skilful, pliable and, therefore, especially dangerous wing of the international bourgeoisie. I, therefore, believe, comrades, that it is our duty to remind all our comrades. . . .etc.”
I spoke of our error in the most widely circulated book from my pen, in the “History of the R.C.P.” and on numerous earlier occasions.
To consider the writer of these lines as belonging to the “right-wing” of the Bolsheviki, is simply absurd. The whole of the Bolshevik Party is aware that I, working hand in hand with Comrade Lenin in the course of nearly 20 years, never once had even a sharp difference of opinion with him, except in the one case mentioned. The epoch of the years 1914-1917, from the commencement of the imperialist war up to the commencement of the proletarian revolution in our country, was a not unimportant epoch. Precisely in these years there took place the decisive re-groupings in the camp of the international labour movement. The books “Socialism and War,” (1915), and “Against the Stream,” are sufficient witness that during that time I in no way came forward as representative of a right-wing of Bolshevism.
At the April Conference of 1917, the importance of which Comrade Trotsky misrepresents, I had not the smallest difference of opinion with Comrade Lenin. In the dispute between Comrade Trotsky on the one side, and Comrades Kamenev, Nogin and Rykov on the other side, I was wholly on the side of Comrade Lenin, as was to be seen from a number of my reports and speeches at the April Conference. The whole dispute was naturally confined within the limits of Bolshevism—as Comrade Lenin and the Party regarded it—and only under the pen of Comrade Trotsky does it assume the form of a struggle of a “right-wing” against the Party.
Not the least differences of opinion occurred between myself and Comrade Lenin during and after the July days. We had the opportunity to test this at our leisure in the course of several weeks as long as I lived together with Vladimir Ilyitch in hiding. The first difference of opinion was noticed by me at the beginning of October, after the liquidation of the Kornilov period, after the article of Comrade Lenin “On Compromises” (in this article Lenin proposed, under certain conditions, an agreement with the Mensheviki and the S.R.). My error consisted in the fact that I endeavoured to continue the line of the article “On Compromises” some days later. In all only a few days, but the days at that time counted as months.
In the famous sitting of the Central Committee of the 10th of October, at which the revolt was decided on, and at which for the first time differences of opinion regarding the time to be fixed for the revolt, and as to judging the prospects in the Constitutional Assembly, arose between me and Kamenev on the one side, and the rest of the members of the C.C. on the other side, the first political Bureau of the C.C. for the leadership of the revolt was created. The seven following comrades were elected to this Politbureau: Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky, Stalin, Sokolnikov, and Bubnov. In the no less important joint meeting of the Central Committee and a number of Petrograd functionaries on the 16th of October, after the debates between Comrade Lenin and ourselves, 19 votes were cast for the motion of Comrade Lenin in its final form; 2 votes were against, and 4 neutral; while my motion was introduced by Comrade Volodarsky as an amendment to the motion of Comrade Lenin. My amendment read that “in the next five days before meeting our comrades and before discussion we must not arrange any revolt.” My written motion, which was submitted to the vote at this meeting, read: “Without postponing the measures for investigation and preparation, it be decided that no action be permitted before consultation with the Bolshevist section of the Soviet Congress.”
It was at this time that Comrade Lenin wrote his famous articles against us. I continued to work diligently for the Pravda. When the action was finally decided on, in order to silence the exaggerated rumours which had appeared in the press regarding our differences I wrote a short letter to the editor which was published by the Central organ with a comment of the editor that the dispute was ended and that in essentials we were and remained of one mind. (Pravda, 21st November, 1917.)
The unsigned leading article which appeared in our Central organ Rabotshi Putj (The Path of the Workers), which appeared in place of Pravda on the day of the revolt, 25th of October, was written by me. The second article was likewise written by me and was signed by me. In this last article we read:
“It is a great task which confronts the second Soviet Congress. The events of history are following each other with breathless speed. The final hour is approaching. The least further hesitation brings the danger of immediate collapse. . . .
“The last hopes for a peaceful solution of the crisis are past. The last peaceful hopes which—I must confess—up to the last days were cherished by the writer of these lines, have been dispelled by facts.
“All Power to the Soviets.—It is here that everything is being concentrated at the present historical moment.”
In the number of our Central organ Rabotshi Putj which appeared on 26th October, a short report was published of my first speech after the period of illegality in the sitting of the Petrograd Soviet of 25th October, the day of the revolt. Here we read as follows:
“Comrades, we are now in the period of revolt. I believe however, that no doubt can exist regarding the outcome of the revolt—we shall be victorious!
“I am convinced that the overwhelming portion of the peasantry will come over to our side as soon as they become acquainted with our proposals regarding the land question.
“Long live the social revolution which is now beginning. Long live the Petrograd working class who will achieve the final victory!
“To-day we have paid our debt to the international proletariat and delivered a terrible blow to the war, a blow at the breast of all imperialists, the greatest blow at the breast of the hangman Wilhelm.
“Down with the war: Long live International Peace!”
Sharp differences arose in our circle again in the first days of November (according to old calender) at the moment when the right S.R. and Mensheviki were already shattered and when it was the question whether we would not succeed in bringing over the left S.R. and the best section of the Mensheviki to the side of the Soviet power. In these days I had to take part with other comrades in the famous negotiations with the then existing organisation of the railwaymen. These negotiations led to a complete agreement of the C.C. of our Party with the then Central Executive Committee of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Councils. These differences lasted actually from two to three days, but during this time they were exceedingly heated.
On the 2nd of November, 1917, the C.C. of our Party, in the presence of Comrade Lenin, adopted a resolution which, among other things, stated:
“The C.C. confirms that, without having excluded anybody from the Second Soviet Congress, it is even now fully prepared to note the return of the Soviet members who have resigned (as is known the right S.R. and the Mensheviki withdrew from the Second Soviet Congress) and to recognise the coalition with those who have withdrawn from the Soviets, that, therefore, the assertions that the Bolsheviki will not share power with anybody are absolutely devoid of all foundation.”
“The C.C. confirms that on the day of the formation of the present government, a few hours before its formation, it invited to its session three representatives of the left S.R. and formally invited them to participate in the government. The refusal of the left S.R. even though it was only limited to a certain time and subject to certain conditions, places on them the full responsibility for the agreement not being arrived at.”—(Pravda, No. 180 v. 4/17th November, 1917.)
This paragraph of the, resolution, which was doubtless written by Comrade Lenin, must be specially noted by the reader in order the better to understand that which follows:
In the Pravda (the central organ of our Party was on the 30th of October again named the Pravda) we read in No. 180 of 4th of November, the following extract from my speech which I delivered at the session of the Central Executive Committee of the S.R., and of the Social-Democrats on the 2nd of November, 1917:
“In the name of the C. C. of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (at that time our Party was not yet a Communist Party), I declare that the comrades of the S.R. (it was the question of the left S.R. whom the C.C. of Our Party, with Comrade Lenin at the head, tried at that time to induce to participate in the first Soviet government) should not have started to criticise us Bolsheviki while events were taking place in the streets of Moscow regarding which our Moscow delegates have reported to-day. (At this time the struggle for the Soviet power was still going on in Moscow.) On this occasion we remind the comrades of the S.R. that before we published the composition of our government we called upon them to take part in the government, but they declared that they would take part in the work of the government, but for the time being would not enter the government.”
At the session of the Petrograd Soviet of 3rd November, 1917, the writer stated:
“Comrades. There are among us comrades from the Red Army, soldiers and sailors, who in a few hours will hasten to the aid of our Moscow comrades and brothers. (Loud and prolonged applause.) The revolutionary military committee wished two days ago to send help, but met with obstacles precisely from those quarters from which one could. only have expected support. I speak here of some leading circles of the. leaders of the railway employees, who in these hours so fateful for the revolution have adopted a “neutral” attitude. In these terrible hours, however, one cannot be “neither hot nor cold”—I do not wish to speak too sharply, but you yourselves will understand, comrades, how the future will judge these facts.
“Just recently a transport of troops to Moscow was held up. When the leaders of the railway workers’ union were asked how they could act in this manner, they replied: We have also held up transports from the other side.
“We Must appeal to the lower sections of the railwaymen and explain to them what “neutrality” means under present conditions. I do not doubt that 99 per cent. of the lower sections of the railway employees and workers will side with the fighting soldiers and workers. A whole number of central committees are sitting on the fence. Unfortunately, among these is the central committee of the railway workers. No one could have foreseen that the leading organ of the railway workers would preserve “neutrality” whilst workers and soldiers were fighting on the barricades. This state of affairs must be ended. The railway proletariat Must stand like one man on the side of the fighting workers and soldiers, they must help them to break the resistance of the bourgeoisie and of the landowners. . . .
“Greetings to the comrades who are hastening to the help of the revolutionaries in Moscow (long and stormy applause). Now we are giving back to Moscow what it gave the revolution in 1905. At that time the Moscow proletariat began the revolt, and delivered the first blow against despotism. We are happy that we are now able to help, that we now have the possibility of throwing our victorious troops on the Moscow front.
“Long live the comrades proceeding to Moscow all Russia is watching them.”
On the evening of the 3rd of November, and on the morning of the 4th, our negotiations with the left S.R. and with that conference which had invited the leaders. of the railways workers’ union, arrived at the most critical stage. At this moment, we committed the greatest errors. The famous declaration of some comrades, among them myself, in the C.C. of the Bolsheviki and the Council of the People’s Commissaires (regarding the resignation of our responsible posts owing to the obstinacy of our C.C.) was signed on the 4th November, 1917, and on the 7th November, 1917 my “Letter to the Comrades” was published in the Pravda (No. 183). In this letter we said: (I quote the most important part):
“The Central Committee of the All-Russian Soviet Congress placed in the foreground a definite plan of agreement (the resolution of 3rd November), which I fully agree with, as it demands the immediate recognition of the decrees regarding the land, peace, worker’s control, and the recognition of the Soviet power.
“In reply to the resolution of the C.E.C. the Mensheviki submitted a number of pre-conditions. The C.E.C., as it did not wish to place any difficulties in the way adopted a resolution proposed by us which removed the hindrances in the way of these negotiations.
“In spite of this the other side would not make any concessions to the C.E.C. The conditions submitted by the latter were rejected by the Mensheviki and the S.R. The attempt to arrive at an agreement was consistently carried out in spite of all obstacles; it led, however, to no result. It is now evident that the Mensheviki and the S.R. did not want an understanding and only sought for a pretext to wreck it.
“Now all the workers and soldiers will know who bears the responsibility for the wrecking of the agreement. Now—I am convinced—also the left S.R. will throw the blame for the wrecking of the understanding upon the Mensheviki and into our government.
“In the present state of affairs I adhere to the proposition of the comrades and withdraw my declaration regarding resignation from the C.C.
“I appeal to my immediate comrades. Comrades, we made a great sacrifice when we openly raised a protest against the majority of our C.C. and demanded the agreement. This agreement, however, was rejected by the other side. We are living in a serious, responsible time. It is our duty to warn the Party of errors. But we remain with the Party, we prefer to commit errors along with the millions of workers and soldiers and to die with them than to stand aside from them at this decisive historical moment.
“There will and shall be no split in our Party.”
Since the 8th November, I participated as previously in the work of our C.C. On the 9th November, I spoke in its name at the All-Russian Peasants Congress, and on the 10th of November at the session of the Petrograd Soviet. Here I said that we would recognise the Constituent Assembly, “if the Constituent Assembly would give expression to the actual will of the workers, soldiers and peasants.”
Naturally, now after seven years, it seems monstrous to every member of our Party how one could deceive himself with regard to the real forces of the leaders of the railwaymen and those alleged Internationalists from the camp of the S.R. and Mensheviki grouped round the railway leaders. Of course, in order to understand the situation one must place oneself in the position obtaining at the time. It was not until six months after the October revolt that it became evident that the left S.R. had also become a counter-revolutionary force. In October, 1917, however, they were expressly invited by Comrade Lenin and our C.C. to participate in our first Soviet Government, as they were then connected with a large section of the peasants and with a portion of the workers. In fact, even the negotiations with the leaders of the railwaymen’s union were, as the reader has seen, conducted with the approval of the C.C.
The result of the exposure of the Mensheviki and of the S.R. on the occasion of the railway workers’ Conference was, that the left S.R., whom Comrade Lenin had formerly in vain called upon to participate in the Soviet government, now entered into it; although some days before the left S.R. had the intention even to resign from the C.E.C., which under the conditions then existing would have meant a severe blow for the Bolsheviki and would have hindered the winning of the peasantry.
In the Pravda of 4th November, we read:
“The fraction of the left S.R. in the C.E.C. submitted an ultimative declaration regarding the necessity of drawing up a platform in the name of the C.E.C. The C.E.C. agreed to this demand, and in the name of the C.E.C. a platform was drawn up.”
It was just the rejection of this platform by the Mensheviki and the S.R. at the conference by the railway leaders which led to the change in the tactics of the left S.R. in favour of the Soviet power.
At this time there was published in the Pravda a number of resolutions from the most important factories in which we find the following:
“Whilst we regard the agreement of the Socialist Parties as desirable, we workers declare that the agreement can only be reached on the basis of the following conditions. . . (These conditions were practically the same as our representatives had submitted to the railway men’s conference.)
In our attitude during these days there was again reflected the hesitation of these workers—in this respect our error was not a personal, not an accidental error.
Now, seven years afterwards, do not the words in the resolution of our Central Committee that “the assertion that the Bolsheviki would not share power with anybody is devoid of all foundation,” sound monstrous from our present standpoint? And yet these words were written down by Comrade Lenin on the 3rd November, 1917, and approved by our C.C. Everyone who reflects over these facts, everyone who remembers that the left S.R. at that time represented an important section of the peasants, everyone who reflects at all over the conditions at that time, will understand the extent and the character of our error. It was a great, but nevertheless not a “social democratic” error.
We, of course, do not say that in order to prove that our error was a small one. We stood outside of the C.C. of the Party only for three days—from the 4th to 7th November. In spite of this error, as we already said at the Opening Session of the Fourth World Congress of the Comintern, was the greatest error we made in our life. The only thing we wish to prove here is that it is not correct to draw from this error the conclusion that there existed a “right-wing” in Bolshevism.
Everyone who experienced those historical days knows that these differences, how much they strained the relations of such near comrades and friends, left no bitter feeling behind. Everybody adopted a sincere attitude towards the errors of the others, without attempting to “make use of” these errors for “diplomatic” fractionist purposes. Everybody understood that only the exceptional moment led to exceptional means of solving differences, which arose like a whirlwind but which, like a whirlwind soon calmed down without causing great damage.
These differences were swept away by the avalanche of fresh events—they remained isolated with the leading circles of the Party. A few days passed and the error was admitted by those who had committed it and the general staff of the Party and the whole Party could proceed to the solution of actual tasks. These differences have left behind such little traces in the Party that at the first Party Conference (Seventh) which took place after the October revolt (which dealt already with the question of the Brest Peace), nobody mentioned a single word regarding these differences.
Nobody reproached us regarding this error, although it so happened that I, on behalf of the C.C. had to fight energetically against Comrade Trotsky and the “left,” and it is clear that the Party, under the fresh impression of the differences, would have attacked the guilty ones if they had estimated this guilt as Comrade Trotsky does now.
Comrade Trotsky now says in the “Lessons of October,” seven years after these events, “that our attitude to the question of the Brest Peace was one of capitulation.” What did Trotsky himself say on this Seventh Party Congress some weeks after the October differences
“Before the last journey to Brest-Litovsk, we discussed during the whole time the question of our further tactics. And there was only one vote in the C.C. in favour of immediately signing the peace: that of Zinoviev. (We assert that there was not only one vote, but also Lenin, Stalin and Sverdlov said the same thing: Comrade Kamenev was arrested in Finland.—G.Z.) What he said was, from his standpoint, quite correct: I was fully in agreement with him. He said, that hesitation would only render worse the peace conditions, and that they must be signed at once.” (Minutes of the Seventh Party Conference, p. 79.)
If the proposal to sign the Brest Peace was a “capitulation” then Comrade Lenin was a “capitulator.” (As a matter of fact, the tactics of Trotsky at that time would have led to the downfall of the revolution, i.e., to an actual capitulation.) If Comrade Trotsky himself spoke in the above-mentioned way, as to this affair, who can give credit to his present ultrapolemic remarks? Ts it not evident that all this has been discovered afterwards?
At the Seventh Party Congress the debates turned upon quite other questions. It was Comrade Trotsky this time who submitted a declaration regarding his resignation from all responsible posts. (Minutes, pp. 147/148). Against Trotsky and against the “left" Communists, there was directed the resolution of Lenin and Zinoviev (Minutes, p. 3), and as regards resignation from the C.C. in general, Comrade Lenin said the following words:
“I also found myself in a similar situation in the C.C. when the proposal was adopted not to sign the Peace, and I kept silent without closing my eyes to the fact that I could not take over responsibility for this. Every member of the C.C. is free to repudiate responsibility without resigning from the C.C., and without creating a scandal. It is, of course, permissable under certain conditions, and is sometimes even unavoidable; but whether that was necessary just now, with this organisation of the Soviet power which enables us to control in so far as we do not lose contact with the masses, there can only exist one opinion.”
At the Seventh Party Congress, Comrade Trotsky, who at that time had only been six months in our Party, provoked the first Trotsky crisis. Since that time, unfortunately, these crises occur periodically.
The last attack of Comrade Trotsky (the “Lessons of October”) is nothing else than a fairly open attempt to revise—or even directly to liquidate—the foundation of Leninism. It will only require a short time and this will be plain to the whole of our Party and to the whole International. The “novelty” in this attempt consists in the fact that, out of “strategical” considerations, it is attempted to carry out this revision in the name of Lenin.
We experienced something similar at the beginning of the campaign of Bernstein and his followers, when they began the “revision” of the foundation of Marxism. The ideas of Marx were already so generally recognised in the international labour movement, that even their revision, at least at the beginning, had to be undertaken in the name of Marx. A quarter of a century was necessary before the revisionists could finally throw aside their mask and openly pronounce that, in the field of theory, they had entirely broken away from Marx. This took place in a most open manner, in literature, only in the year 1924 in the recently published collection of articles devoted to the 70th birthday of Kautsky.
The ideas of Leninism at present predominate to such an extent In the international revolutionary movement—and particularly in our country—that the “critics” of Leninism consider it necessary to have recourse to similar methods. They undertake the revision of Leninism “in the name of Lenin,” citing Lenin, emphasising their fidelity to the principles of Leninism. This “strategy” however does not help. It is already seen through by the Leninist Party. It only needs a few weeks, and all the sparrows on the house-tops will be twittering over the collapse of this remarkable strategy. Comrade Trotsky has overlooked one trifle: that our Party is so Leninist and so mature that it is capable of distinguishing Leninism from Trotskyism.
The attack of Comrade Trotsky is an attack with inadequate means. Nobody will succeed in liquidating the foundations of Leninism, or carrying out even a partial revision of the principles of Leninism, or even succeed in getting Trotskyism recognised as a “justifiable tendency” within Leninism. Nobody will succeed in convincing the Party that we now need some sort of synthesis of Leninism and Trotskyism. Trotskyism is as fit to be a constituent part of Leninism as a spoonful of tar can be a constituent part of a vat of honey.
What is Leninism? Leninism is the Marxism of the epoch of the imperialist wars in the world revolution, which began in a country where the peasantry preponderate. Lenin was from head to foot a proletarian revolutionary. But he knew at the same time that he had to work in a country in which the, peasantry predominated, and in which the proletariat therefore can only be victorious when it adopts a correct attitude towards the peasantry. After Lenin already in the revolution of 1905 had issued the slogan of “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and of the peasantry,” he did not cease for a single moment to be a proletarian revolutionary; he made no concession to bourgeois democracy (the Mensheviki, among them Comrade Trotsky, accused Comrade Lenin at that time that he, who, called himself a Marxist, was an ideologist of bourgeois democracy), but he was the only one who, not with mere words, but by deeds, prepared the way for the Socialist revolution in a situation when bourgeois democracy was still a force and was capable of shattering Tsarist despotism.
Lenin felt himself at that time to be the recognised leader of the proletarian revolution—and this he was in fact. He knew and believed that the Bolshevik Party, that is, the genuine advance-guard of the proletariat, would help the working class as far as possible on the road to the realisation of its class aims, that is to proceed on the road to the victory of the proletarian revolution. He knew that he and his Party, in every country, would do everything possible to extract from this situation the maximum for the final aim of the proletarian revolution. He so understood the connection between the bourgeois-democratic and the proletarian-Socialist revolution, that the first precedes the second, that the second solves in passing the questions of the first, that the second confirms the work of the first.
And as Lenin knew this, he manuvred with the mastership of a genius in three revolutions, always at the head of the working class, always concretising his tactics so that every suitable historical situation is used to its fullest limits in the interest of his class. Lenin was, on the 24th October, 1917, not the same man that he became on the 26th October, 1917. “Who laughs last, laughs the longest,” wrote Lenin some days before the October revolt in an article on the Party programme.
Therefore, Lenin defended at that time among other things the necessity of retaining the minimum programme. But on the morrow, after the victory of the October insurrection, the ingenious commander of the working class was not the same as he was one day before this victory. My class has become stronger, the enemies of my class have become weaker, the forces of the workers’ revolution have increased, hence therefore, more pressure, more boldly forwards! That is the real Lenin! He knows that it is a very difficult way along which one has to lead millions of workers, behind whom, if we wish to be victorious, there must follow the millions and millions of peasants of our country.
From the great slogan “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and of the peasantry” (1905/1907) via the “ dictatorship of the proletariat and the poorest peasants” (1917) to the actual “dictatorship of the proletariat” which will be realised on the basis of “alliance with the peasantry”—that is the road of Leninism.
From Menshevism of the Axelrod type (1903/1905) via the “permanent” (1905/1907) variation of Menshevism, to the complete abandonment of the revolution and its substitution by the Menshevik free coalition (1909/1919), to the policy of vacillations (block with Tzeidse and fight against the Ziminerwald Left) during the war (1914/1917)—that is the road of old Trotskyism.
If one considers the literary history of Bolshevism one can say that it is essentially contained in the following works of Lenin: From “The Friends of the People,” along with “Development of Capitalism” to “What is to be Done?” along “Two Kinds of Tactics,” to the “State and Revolution” with “The Renegade Kautsky.” These are the most important literary signposts of Leninism.
Let us consider what these signposts indicate? “The Friends of the People” and “The Development of Capitalism,” constitute a penetrating analysis of the theory of Marxism and the most concrete, profound study of economics and of the social structure of that country in which Bolshevism commences to come into action. “What is to be Done?” along with “Two Kinds of Tactics,” is the incomparable criticism of Social-Democratic optimism, the unsurpassed elucidation of the role of the workers’ party in the revolution together with the laying down of the tactics of the proletariat in a peasant country on the eve of the bourgeois-democratic revolution which one must endeavour so to carry through that it begins as soon as possible to develop into the Socialist revolution. The “State and Revolution” and the “Renegade Kautsky” are the application of Leninism to the world arena, are along with the book “Imperialism, the Latest Phase of Capitalism” the most profound analysis of the latest imperialism and laying down of the tactics of the already beginning Socialist revolution, which grows out from the first, i.e., the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
Compare all this with Trotskyism!
If Lenin is the classical type of the proletarian revolutionary, Trotsky is the “classical” type of the intellectual revolutionary. The latter has, of course, certain strong features, he succeeds sometimes in combining with the proletariat mass, but that which forms the nature of his political activity is the intellectual revolutionarism.
We give below a compressed political description of the life of Trotskyism which possesses the authority of coming from the pen of Lenin:
“He, Trotsky, was in the year 1903 a Menshevik, left this Party in 1904, returned to the Mensheviki in 1905 and paraded round with ultra-revolutionary phrases. In 1906 he again abandoned this Party; at the end of 1906 he again defended the election alliance with the cadets and i1i the spring of 1907 he stated at the London Conference that the difference between him and Rosa Luxemburg rather constituted a difference of individual shades of opinion than a difference of political tendency. To-day Trotsky borrows some ideas from the one fraction and to-morrow from the other, and, therefore, considers himself as a man standing above both fractions.” (Lenin’s Collected Works, vol. xi, part 2, pp. 308/309.)
“Never in a single serious question of Marxism has Trotsky had a firm opinion, he always squeezes himself in a division between this or that difference of opinion and always runs from one side to the other. At present he is in the company of the ‘Bund’ and of the liquidators.
Thus wrote Lenin in an article in the revue “Enlightenment,” published in 1914.
“However well meant the intentions of Martov and Trotsky may be subjectively, objectively they support by their tolerance Russian imperialism.”
Thus wrote Lenin in the “Socialdemokrat” No. 1, October, 1916.
Let us compare the literary signposts of Bolshevism with those indicating the road of development of Trotskyism( These are the following books of Comrade Trotsky: “Our Political tasks” (1903), “Our Revolution” (1905/1906), then his collaboration with the liquidatory journal “Nasha Sarja” (Our Dawn), then a bright moment—the book over Kautsky (1919)—which was followed by the “New Course” and “The Lessons of October” (1923/1924). The retrograde development of Comrade Trotsky finds particular sharp expression in the two last-named works.
What was the book: “Our Political Tasks”? This book which appeared with a dedication of the Menshevist patriarch P. A. Axelrod, was the most vulgar Menshevist book which the history of Menshevist literature has ever known. In this book Comrade Trotsky came to the conclusion of a liberal-labour policy.
And what was the book, “Our Revolution,” the most left of the books of Trotsky in the first epoch? In this book (see also his book “1905”) there was laid down the notorious theory of the “permanent revolution” which Comrade Trotsky is now attempting to impose upon Bolshevism. This “theory” was regarded by Comrade Lenin and all the Bolsheviki as a variety of Menshevism. Not everybody will remember that in this “left” book in which Comrade Trotsky to a certain extent defended the “workers” revolution against the Bolshevik idea of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. Trotsky wrote:
“But how far can the Socialist policy of the working class go under the economic conditions of Russia? One can say one thing with certainty: it will much rather encounter political hindrances than be supported by the technical backwardness of the country. Without direct state support of the European proletariat the working class of Russia will not be able to maintain power and transform their temporary rule into a long enduring Socialist dictatorship. One cannot doubt this for a moment.” (Trotsky: “Our Revolution,” 1904. Russian edition, pp. 277/288.)
What is the meaning of the state support of the European proletariat? In order to possess the possibility of affording state support to the Russian revolution, the European proletariat would first have to capture power in Europe. In the year 1905 and in general up to the war 1914/18 there could be no talk of this. But Trotsky preached the “permanent” revolution in the year 1905.
What is to be inferred from this? Only this that Trotsky in the year 1905 either did not seriously believe in any permanent revolution, or that he preached the permanent revolution in 1905 only under the condition that the European proletariat afforded us “state support,” which meant that Trotsky “postponed” the workers’ revolution in Russia until the victory of the proletarian revolution in Europe. In the latter case Trotsky appears as the representative of the most stereotyped social democratic standpoint: let “them” first make the revolution and then “we” will “immediately” make the workers’ revolution.
Trotsky wrote in those times a great deal as to a victorious Russian revolution being only possible as a part of a victorious international revolution, for Western European capital supported Tsarism with loans, etc. There was a grain of truth in this and here Trotsky only repeated that which the Bolsheviki said. But Trotsky as usual conceived this connection of the Russian revolution with the international revolution too mechanically.
Comrade Trotsky did not grasp the concrete way of the revolution in our country. He does not even yet grasp the actual importance of the peasantry in our revolution. If any proof were necessary for this, Trotsky has provided this in his last work, “The Lesson of October.” We quote the following:
“It was precisely the unripeness of the revolution under the thoroughly unique conditions created by the war which delivered the leadership or at least the appearance of leadership over to the petty bourgeois revolutionaries which consisted in the fact that they defended the historical claim of the bourgeoisie to power. This, however, does not mean that the revolution could only follow that road which it followed from February to October, 1917. This last road resulted not merely from the class relations but from those temporary conditions created by the war.
“As a result of the war the peasantry appeared in the organised and armed form of the army comprising many millions. Before the proletariat could organise itself under its own flag in order to draw the masses of the village behind it, the petty bourgeois revolutionaries found a natural support in the peasant army exasperated by the war. With the weight of this army of millions from which everything immediately depended, the petty bourgeois revolutionaries exercised pressure upon the proletariat, and at first drew it after them. That the course of the revolution could have been different with the same class bases is best proved by the events which preceded the war.” (“Lessons of October,” pp. 18/19.)
The road from February till October, 1917 resulted, as you can see, not only from the class relations, but also from those temporary (!) conditions created by the war. What is the meaning of this brain wave? It assumes that the war did not arise from the class relations, that is to say it was a mere chance event. Now, the Russo-Japanese War, out of which grew 1905, the general rehearsal for 1917—was it also a chance? Was that not also created by the temporary conditions? What profundity of thought!
If there had been no imperialist war—and Leninism teaches that the imperialist war is the inevitable outcome of imperialism, as the latest stage of capitalism, therefore, of the course of the class war; if Russia had not been a peasant country and, therefore its vast army had not been a peasant army of a dozen millions: if this peasant army had not been rendered desperate by the imperialist war which the bourgeoisie had to conduct; if the weight of more than hundred millions of peasants had not exercised pressure upon the whole course of the social political life of the country—then the development of the revolution would have proceeded according to Trotsky and the astonished humanity would have experienced the apotheosis of Trotskyism.
It apparently has never occurred to our author that “if ifs and ands were pots and pans,” if there had not been an imperialist war with all its inevitable consequences, there would probably never had been the revolution of 1917, and no such relatively easy victory. Our author is also obviously unaware that precisely the development of the revolution from February to October, 1917, confirmed “in passing” the already obvious truth that the whole of Trotskyism with its theory of “permanent” revolution was nothing else than a cleverly thought-out intellectual scheme which was cut according to the requirements of Menshevism.
Let us refer once more to Comrade Lenin:
“Hence their (the Mensheviki) monstrous, idiotic, renegade idea that the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the peasantry contradicts every course of economic development. With us there appears at every crisis of our epoch (1905/1909) a general democratic movement of the muzhik and to ignore this would be a profound error which, in fact, would lead to Menshevism.” Thus wrote Lenin in December, 1909.
But Comrade Trotsky even in the year 1924 does not understand that the role of the muzhik in such a crisis as 1917 was not by chance not removed from the course of the class struggle.
It is obvious that it has also never occurred to our author that the course of the great revolution between February and October, 1917, wonderfully confirmed Leninism, among other things in that section in which Lenin with the theoretical ruthlessness peculiar to him, deals with the Trotskyist variety of Menshevism.
A collaborator of Comrade Trotsky and the “editor” of his book “1917,” Comrade Lenzner, asserts in all seriousness that already in the articles written by Trotsky at the beginning of March, 1917, in America in the paper Nove Mir (“New World”) he anticipated the attitude to the questions taken by Comrade Lenin in his famous “Letters from Abroad.” Comrade Trotsky did not even know what the question was whilst Comrade Lenin in his truly famous “Letters from Abroad” already submitted to the Russian working class the scheme of the real October worked out in almost all details.
But this is only half the trouble. The present trouble is that Comrade Trotsky can say nothing better than if there had been no imperialist war and if the peasantry had not predominated in our country, then Trotskyism would have been right as opposed to Leninism.
Is any further proof necessary that Comrade Trotsky understood the Bolshevist attitude to the question of the peasantry as little as he understands it now?
The “Lessons of October” have clearly shown one thing: that even now in the eighth year of the proletarian revolution Comrade Trotsky has not grasped the true nature of Leninism, and that he now as previously is revolving round in the same circle—in the question of the peasantry—in the question which is the chief source of the false conclusions of Comrade Trotsky beginning from his error of Brest to his error in the question of the trade unions in 1921, ending with his errors at the present time.
In the “Lessons of October” there are almost as many erroneous assertions as there are assertions at all. Therefore, the Communist Youth had little difficulty in detecting that Comrade Trotsky confounded Lenin with Hilferding (in the question of the Constituent Assembly and the so-called combined type of the Constituent Assembly and the Soviets). Hence it comes that Comrade Sokolnikov demonstrated to Comrade Trotsky that the “left” errors of Comrade Bogdatiev were ascribed by the esteemed author of the “Lessons of October” to Comrade Lenin (the history of the demonstration of April, 1917). Hence it comes that Comrade Kuusinnen can easily prove by means of documents that Comrade Trotsky in the question of the German revolution) said the exact contrary in January, 1924 to what he now says in the “Lessons of October.”
Hence it comes that such important episodes of the revolution as the question of the July demonstration, as the fight for Kronstadt and even the question of the July days are destribed by Comrade Trotsky after the manner of Suchanov and the paper Denj (The “Day” bourgeois) and not as they actually occurred. Hence it comes that the question of the tactics of the Bolsheviki with regard to the Preliminary Parliament and the Democratic Conference are dealt with in an equally incorrect and biassed manner.
These “small” errors have been sufficiently refuted by authoritative witnesses of the events. Perhaps we shall be able on another occasion to give an exact description of some of the very important episodes of the revolution.
We must give a clear answer to this question. Everybody who is familiar with the real history of Bolshevism will, without hesitation, give the following answer: there was none and there could be none.
There could be no right wing because the Leninist fundamental principles of the structure of the Bolshevist Party excluded every possibility of a right and of a left wing.
There could be no right wing because the first split between Bolsheviki and Mensheviki had already taken place in 1903 on the eve of the first revolution of 1905.
Comrade Lenin wrote regarding the Italian Socialist Party that even its first splitting from the extreme Chauvinists which took place some years before the world war—that even this superficial split which was far from being complete, helped it in the first period of the imperialist war, in the year 1914 to adopt a more commendable standpoint than the standpoint of those Social-Democratic Parties who up to the year, 1917 and even later remained united. Every one who has read the articles of Comrade Lenin from the years 1914/15 on German Social-Democracy (“ Against the Stream”) will remember how passionately Lenin advocates the splitting of the German Social Democracy, what great hopes he placed on this split, how he explained the complete collapse of German social democracy among other things as being due to the belated split between the left and right wings.
“The type of the Socialist parties of the epoch of the Second International was the Party which tolerated opportunism in its midst, which during the ten years of the period of peace continually grew in numbers but which hid itself and adapted itself to the revolutionary workers from whom it took over its Marxist terminology and avoided every clear definition of principle. This type outlived its time.
“In Italy the Party was an exception for the epoch of the Second International: the opportunists with Bissolati at the head were expelled from the Party. The result of this crisis was excellent. . . We, in no way, idealise the Italian Socialist Party and do not guarantee that it will prove to remain firm in the event of Italy coming into the war. We are not speaking of the future of this Party, we are speaking now only of the present. We affirm the indisputable fact that the workers of the majority of the European countries were deceived by the ficticious unity of the opportunists with the revolutionaries and that Italy is a happy exception—a country where, at the present moment there is no such deception. That which for the Second International was a fortunate exception, must and will be a rule. for the Third International. The proletariat will always—so long as capitalism exists—be in contact with the petty bourgeoisie. It is unwise, sometimes to reject a temporary alliance with them, but to unite with them, to be united with the opportunists can at present only be defended by the enemies of the proletariat in the present epoch.” (“Against the Stream”, p. 36.)
Whoever thinks over these words will understand why in a party which was formed by Comrade Lenin in the fight against the Mensheviki and against Trotsky there could exist no right wing.
“Our Russian Party has long since broken with the opportunist groups and elements. . . The dead weight of opportunism was not able to drag down our Party into the deep. And this circumstance rendered it possible—as the split of the Italian Party—to fulfil its revolutionary duty.”
So wrote Lenin in “Socialism and War,” (2nd chapter).
Comrade Trotsky must understand all this and then he will understand why one cannot speak of a ring wing of the Bolshevist Party which was created by Lenin in a “fierce” struggle against all non-Bolshevist fractions, groups and tendencies.
Whoever understands anything of the theory, of the tactics and of the organisationary principles of Leninism cannot claim that a right wing existed in the Bolshevik Party. Bolshevism differed fundamentally in that it could not permit and did not permit the Party to be organised as a block of all possible tendencies, as a block of a right, of a left wing, of a centre, etc.
Think over what Comrade Lenin has written for example regarding the period of the emigration time of the Party. He said: the great variety of political tendencies in emigration—Mensheviki, S.R., anarchists, maximalists, which were again divided into sub-sections, had the effect that all non-Bolshevist elements were withdrawn, as by a plaster from the body of the Party. The same was the case in the period of legal and illegal existence of our Party between February and October, 1917. At that time we saw the same variety and multiplicity of political parties, fractions and, minor fractions, which inevitably absorbed everything that was not thoroughly Bolshevik. In this manner the Bolshevik Party became a crystallisation point only for Bolsheviki. Hence our Party was one indivisible whole.
It involves a complete ignorance of Lenin, and of Leninism to admit the possibility that Lenin, even if only for a short time, had tolerated the existence of a right wing in the Bolshevik Party. And what is still more important is, that Leninism is irreconcilable with the existence of a right wing in the Bolshevist Party.
It could be argued that there were Bolshevik “reconciliators” who greatly resembled a rightwing of Bolshevism.
Yes, that is a fact. The Bolshevik “reconciliators” played an episodal role at the commencement of the split between the Bolsheviki and the Mensheviki (1903/04, and then also in the years of the counter-revolution (1910/11). But at the moment of this hesitating attitude of the Bolshevik “reconciliators” it came essentially to a direct split between us and them. The Bolshevik Party, under Lenin’s leadership, was ready to amputate this small fragment from its body, and this it did in order to remain a homogeneous Bolshevik Party.
The overwhelming majority of these reconcilors are at present in our ranks and nobody thinks of asserting to-day that they recollect there being in any way a sort of right tendency in the Party. Their most prominent leader was I. F. Dubrovinsky, and nobody who knew him would pretend that he represented in any way a right wing. Prom one prison to another, from one banishment to an other went such comrades Dubrovinsky and Nogin; and in the period between the one prison and the other, they made many passing errors regarding questions of organisation. Of course, these comrades could have fallen victims to opportunism if their errors had undergone a. logical development. This, however, did not happen. Lenin put the question bluntly; either expulsion or submission to the decisions of the Bolshevik leadership.
That does not mean that in the long years of the history of Bolshevism there were never any differences and various tendencies between the most prominent functionaries of the Party. There were, of course, such differences. In 1906 Kamenev advocated the boycott of the Duma (a “left” attitude), while Comrade Lenin recommended participation in the Duma. In the plenum of the C.C. in 1910 (the last joint Plenum with the Mensheviki) a section of the Bolsheviki attempted. unity with Trotsky, whilst Comrade Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders (among them the present writer) were emphatically against this attempt. These, however, were only episodal differences of opinion.
But the differences which we had with the people grouped round the paper Vperjod (“Forward”) in 1908, and which lasted for some years, could not be regarded as episodal. These alleged “left” people, as a matter of fact, defended opportunist tactics, that is, they abandoned the fundamental basis of Bolshevism. The group was expelled from our organisation and only those have returned who have thoroughly recovered from the Vperjod sickness.
Also those differences cannot be characterised as being episodal which arose in connection with the war, and which extended only to a few prominent Bolsheviki at the beginning of the imperialist war. Bolshevism as a whole adopted a thoroughly correct attitude towards the imperialist war and was conscious of the world-historical slogan: “Conversion of the imperialist war into civil war.” A few important Bolshevist functionaries, for example, I. Goldenberg, vacillated regarding the question of the character of the war, and it came to an organisatory break with these comrades. Goldenberg was not able to return to the Party until 1921, after he had thoroughly recognised his fault.
What is the explanation of some of the errors committed in the first days of the February Revolution? The General Staff of the Bolsheviki, after years of imperialist war and white terror, came together from various parts of the earth, after the central functionaries of the Bolsheviki had lived separated from their best friends. All were overwhelmed by the world historical events. Many things turned out differently from what had been expected. In the first days of the revolution the Bolsheviki themselves were in the minority among the Petrograd workers. The mood of the soldiers, whom Lenin later called “honest defenders of their country,” created great tactical difficulties for us. We asked ourselves how we could approach these masses, how we could at least get them to listen to us. All this led to those difficulties which were responsible for the errors of the Pravda in the first days after the February revolution, before the arrival of Comrade Lenin.
Can one from this infer the existence of a right wing in the Bolshevist Party, which Comrade Trotsky attempts to represent as a “Social-Democratic,” “semi-Menshevist” wing? Only he who does not know the Bolshevist Party can say such a thing, who judges the Party from the outside, who, for fifteen years has fought against this Party, and who in 1924 again declares war against the Party.
There were serious differences among the Bolsheviki in the period from April to September, 1917. Groups could have been formed out of these differences if the comrades who had erred had not confessed their errors, if events had not quickly liquidated these errors, if the Party had not unanimously repudiated these errors, if the Party had not had a Lenin. Then a split would have occurred, but in no event would a right wing have been formed.
There were sharp differences among the Bolsheviki in October and November, 1917. During this time, the present writer was among those comrades who erred. If the errors had not been immediately recognised as such, if the Party had not unanimously corrected these errors, and again, if the Party had had no Lenin, then these sharp differences could have led to serious results. But as a matter of fact, the contrary of all this occurred.
The first split between the Bolsheviki and the Mensheviki began in 1903. Since about 1910, the Bolshevist Party has had a completely independent organisatory life. Between 1903 and 1910, Bolshevism experienced a period of insufficient organisatory growth. From 1910 to 1917 this could longer be the case. There was and could be right wing in the Bolshevist Party.
A really serious question. Our reply to this is: Yes, an attempt is now being made to create such a right-wing in the R.C.P. and in the Comintern. The leading figure in these efforts is Comrade Trotsky. The real problem is whether we can tolerate the formation of such a wing, and if not, how we can avoid it. From whence can a right wing, a right fraction, a right tendency arise? It would be absurd to explain this by the personal responsibility of this or that comrade. No, there exist indisputable objective pre-conditions therefor.
What constitute the essential differences between the present state of affairs in our Party and the position of our Party before the October revolution.
First: The Mensheviki, the S.R. the anarchists and the remaining groups have disappeared from the open political life of our country. In the interest of the successful carrying out of the proletarian dictatorship, the victorious working class, under the lead of our Party, had to render illegal the S.R., the Mensheviki, the anti-Soviet section of the Anarchists, and other groups opposed to the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Only the Russian C.P. is legally active. To-day it cannot be otherwise. With such a state of affairs it is unavoidable that many elements enter our Party, who, in the event of the existence of other legal Parties, would not be with us.
Secondly: We have ideologically shattered two important Parties which, during two decades, were our rivals: the S.R. and the Mensheviki. Some ten thousand members of these Parties have come over to our Party, among them many very active members, as for instance, Comrade Trotsky. A considerable portion of these comrades have been completely assimilated by our party, and now are good Bolsheviki. But we must not disguise the fact that the annihilation of the S.R. and the Mensheviki as legal Parties does not serve to promote the homogeneous composition of our Party.
Thirdly: Our country is passing through a transition period. Up to October, 1917, the situation was in many respects more difficult, but clearer. The Party was confronted with an immediate task: the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. The present situation is more complicated. The Nep, the bourgeois environment, all these factors render our situation extremely complicated. Never in the history of the struggle of the international working class was a workers’ Party in such complicated transition period.
Fourthly: The social composition of the Party has become heterogeneous. Up to October, 1917, our Party was almost entirely a Party of Workers. After 1917, the situation has changed. We have at present over a hundred thousand peasant members, some thousands of members from the higher educational institutions, and many thousands Soviet employees.
What is the meaning of all our efforts to purge our Party, the Lenin recruitment? The aim of all these efforts is to render the composition of the Party as homogeneous as possible, to prevent a dilution of its social composition.
All these together create the pre-requisites under which the formation of a right wing is possible in the Party created by Lenin —and now without Lenin.
When we deal with the attacks of Comrade Trotsky upon the Bolshevist C.C. with the greatest objectivity, then we see that their content is the following: during these years Comrade Trotsky gave expression to everything which is not strictly Bolshevist, and which feels itself cramped within the frame of the old Leninist tactics. Trotsky is sincerely convinced that the old methods of Leninism can no longer to-day fulfil their task, when the Party is acting in such a vast arena. According to his opinion, the Party must become a block of various tendencies and fractions.
We all know that all those social processes which are developing in our country are reflected in our Party, which is in possession of power and which has suppressed all the other, anti-Soviet, Parties. We Leninists draw from this the conclusion that it is all the more necessary to preserve the greatest possible homogeneity of the Party, the greatest firmness of leadership, and the greatest possible devotion to Leninism. To man uvre, sometimes even to make concessions, is unavoidable. But it is necessary that the Party shall always remain Bolshevist. Trotsky, on the other hand, draws different conclusions from the complexity of our present situation. It seems to him that the earlier “sectarianism,” steel-firmness, is leading the country to the edge of the abyss. According to his view, the Party must become a combination of various tendencies and fractions, and that it shall not immediately conduct the state and economic apparatus, but leave more scope for bourgeois specialists, etc.
This idea of Comrade Trotsky would, in the present international and inner-political situation, logically lead in the best case to the substitution of the Bolshevik Party by a “broad Labour Party,” after the model of the English MacDonald Labour Party in a “Soviet edition.” It is quite possible that Comrade Trotsky has not thought out his idea to its logical conclusion, but he is steering in this direction, unless he returns to Bolshevism.
A Party which has to work under such conditions needs a number of transmission belts to secure its influence upon the peasantry, upon the employees, upon the intelligentsia, etc. The system of levers which secures the dictatorship of the proletariat is complicated (Soviets, trade unions, etc.). But it does not follow from this that the Party can become a block of tendencies, a sort of “parliament of opinions.”
It is a matter of course that the Bolshevik Party
in the year 1924 cannot simply copy the Bolshevik Party of, say, 1914, or even of 1917. We cannot limit ourselves merely to admitting workers into our Party as members. By means of the Lenin recruitment we did everything possible in order to increase the number of industrial workers in our Party. For some years we held back the influx of peasants into our Party. But we have now come to the conclusion that we must again admit a considerable number of peasants. A workers’ party which governs the state in a peasant country, must have among its members a certain perrcentage of peasants.
The regulation of the composition of our Party is a complicated and difficult task. It is closely connected with the most difficult and sometimes the most delicate political problems. The Party must manuvre in this connection. At the present epoch the Party cannot be so homogeneous as it was before the seizure of power.
Therefore, the policy, and also the leadership of the Party, must be as Bolshevik as it has been hitherto, as Lenin has taught us. The working class realises its hegemony in the revolution, and the Party is the leading advance-guard of the class possessing this hegemony.
From this there arises the question of the inner orientation of the Party. The Bolshevist Party of 1924 must base itself upon tile picked troops of its members, upon the workers. No other section outside the workers can serve as the barometer for the policy of our Party.
Must we, therefore, permit the existence or the formation of a right wing in our Party?
We must not!
It does not in the least follow that because we have to be content with a non-sufficiently homogeneous social composition of our Party, that because we have to attract a certain number of non-workers into our Party, we can water down the policy of the Party, that the leadership of the Party must also be heterogeneous. On the contrary! Precisely because the Party, under the present conditions, cannot be so homogeneous in its composition as it was before the seizure of power, the policy of the Party must, more strictly than ever, base itself upon the workers: and precisely, therefore, the leadership of the Party must be specially firm and Leninist.
The objective conditions under which our Party must work at present are such that there exists the danger of the formation of a right wing. He who wishes to remain true to the spirit of Leninism must exert all his forces in order to help the Party to withstand these tendencies. With a skilful and correct application of the principles of Leninism to the present situation, we will succeed in preventing the formation of a right wing in our Party.
Those comrades, however, who, like Comrade Trotsky, not only do not resist these tendencies, but become their representatives, those comrades who oppose the Leninist Central Committee which clearly perceives the danger and has to manuvre in a complicated situation, thereby become the enemies of Leninism.
Whether this is their intention or not it is all the same. Whether they clearly recognise this or not it is also all the same.
Let us take, for example, two prominent comrades (let us say, Comrades A. and B.). Both comrades are the most disciplined and excellent comrades. Comrade A. however, came over to Bolshevism at another time and by other ways than Comrade B. Comrade A. came from the peasant movement. Comrade B. came from the workers’ movement, he has been a Bolshevik for twenty years. Our Party needs both. When, however, Comrade A. begins to develop within the Party in a certain manner, as so often happens, and begins to demand that the policy of the Party shall be based not upon the workers, but upon the peasants, or when he begins to demand that the General Staff of the Party should be transformed into a block of various groups—what would our Party say to this Comrade A. in this event?
Something similar, but in a more serious form, is now being done by Comrade Trotsky. He is giving expression to everything in the Party which is not Bolshevik.
Can the Party tolerate this? Is it to be wondered if the Party administers such a severe rebuke to Comrade Trotsky?
Comrade Trotsky, as an obvious individualist, has, of course, many features of character which are only characteristic for him personally. Comrade Trotsky often sets up such a political platform that only one person can stand on it. It would be a mistake, however, to see in this standpoint of Trotsky only the individual. There is no doubt that he represents a fairly broad section of the factors of our situation.
Since 1922, but even more since 1923, there has been an indisputable increase in the prosperity of the country, an indisputable improvement in the material situation and the mood of the workers. At the same time we see from all the expressions of Comrade Trotsky that precisely during these years his political mood has become worse. The curve of the political mood of the broad masses of the workers of our country is in an upward direction, the political mood of Comrade Trotsky is in a downward direction.
Comrade Trotsky is beginning to see things is ever darker colours. He prophesies the decline of the country on the eve of an indisputable improvement in the economic situation, he makes false diagnoses and proposes wrong remedies, he loses more and more of his followers, etc. Let us call to mind that Comrade Trotsky, at the time of his first encounter with Comrade Lenin and the Leninist C.C. at the time of the dispute over the Brest Peace, still had a considerable portion of the Party on his side. At the time of the second encounter with Lenin, in 1921 (trade union discussion), Comrade Trotsky still had about a fifth of the delegates to the Party Conference on his side, and this in the presence of Lenin. During last year’s discussion Trotsky’s following was already much smaller, but nevertheless, there were still hundreds of comrades who were prepared consistently to defend his platform. In the present attack of Comrade Trotsky against the C.C. the comrades defending the platform of Comrade Trotsky can be counted on the fingers. And this is not a mere chance.
This fact alone shows that Comrade Trotsky in recent years, of course, without wishing it himself, has given expression, not to the mood of the proletarian masses, but often involuntarily to the mood of other sections of the population.
If we pursue the line of development of Comrade Trotsky, if we test his latest political evolution in all its details during the last two or three years, it is not difficult to encounter apparent contradictions: and sometimes it may seem as if Comrade Trotsky were criticising the C.C., not from the right but from the left. Was it not Comrade Trotsky who accused the C.C. and its representatives in the Comintern that they had “missed” the German revolution? Is that then not a “left” criticism? But when we bear in mind that along with the “left” phrases of Comrade Trotsky there stands the fact that Trotsky, during the whole of 1923, supported by the right wing of the C.P. of Germany, and on the other hand the fact that the right elements of all sections of the Comintern during last year’s discussion supported the standpoint of Trotsky, then the question is seen in quite another light. When we remember that even in January, 1924, the draft resolution of Comrade Trotsky, Radek and Piatakov contained passages, according to which if the C.P. of Germany in October, 1923, had entered upon a revolt it would to-day be a heap of ruins, then it becomes clear that Comrade Trotsky here, as in all the other questions which he deals with in the “Lessons of October,” has not been in any way consistent.
In the activity of Comrade Trotsky there is much that is individual, much that is the mere reflection of passing moods, much that is brilliant. His platform is not yet finally settled. His political standpoint shimmers in all the colours of the rainbow. Our task consists in understanding what substance there is in all this, what is the basis of all this; and we maintain that the basis consists of something which is not Bolshevist and not Leninist.
From whence comes this variety of form? It has its basis in the fact that Comrade Trotsky’s political development is not yet ended, and that it is taking place in a time of transition, in the period of the new Economic Policy.
Through all the variety, through all the improvisations of Comrade Trotsky, there comes to light one definite tendency.
Let us imagine for a moment what would be the state of our country if our Party, instead of energetically resisting the proposals of Comrade Trotsky had accepted his most important proposals since 1921. This would have meant:
1. The trade unions would have become state institutions, there would have taken place the notorious “fusion” of the trade unions with the official state and economic organs. The trade unions, which to-day constitute our broadest basis and embrace six million workers and employees, would have been converted into a bureaucratic appendage of the official machine. In other words, we would have created a basis for Menshevism and undermined with our own hands the dictatorship of the proletariat.
2. The Party would have become excluded from the immediate leadership of the economic and state organs. The Soviet apparatus would have become more independent. “The emancipation of the Soviets from the Party” would not merely have remained on paper, in the writings of the emigrants, but would have been partly realised. It is hardly necessary to point out to a Bolshevik that such a tendency would have had innumerable fatal consequences.
3. The bourgeois specialists would have won a far greater influence in all branches of our work, and not only on the military field. It is almost superfluous to point out that that was one of the most important features of the political platform of Comrade Trotsky, and one of the most import. ant points of his differences with our Party.
Of course it is absolutely necessary that we attract honest specialists into our work, and that we create such an atmosphere as will enable them to render useful service for our cause. If, however, the question of specialists had been solved, not according to Lenin, but according to Trotsky, it would have meant the greatest political concession to the new bourgeoisie.
4. In the questions of the inner life of the Party we would have had to recognise that, not the workers at the benches but the youths in the high schools constitute the barometer of the Party; the youths in the high schools, among whom there are excellent proletarian elements, but among whom there are not a few people who are connected by a thousand social ties to the petty bourgeoisie and, through them, to the Nep and the new bourgeoisie.
5. We should not have carried out the currency reform because, according to Trotsky, “first” industry had to be restored, and then the currency reform was to be taken in hand. It is not necessary to mention that if we had accepted this “ingenious” proposal, the weight of the Socialist element upon the economy of our country would only have been reduced and the new bourgeoisie would have thereby become stronger.
6. As regards the question of our relation to the peasantry, we should have committed the greatest errors. Instead of the beginning of an alliance with the peasantry, we should be altogether estranged from them. The peasantry, alienated by our errors, would have sought another political leader, and, of course, would have found it in the new bourgeoisie.
No comrade will be able to say that we have invented the above six points. Every serious Bolshevik will have to admit that the struggle between the Leninist C.C. and Comrade Trotsky turns precisely upon these points, and not upon the question of “personal prestige,” as the philistines think.
What would be the state of affairs in our country, if in these six questions, we had followed the road urged by Trotsky? It would have become a Russia of the Nep, in the sense and to the extent which the ideology of the new bourgeoisie reckoned upon. And the prospects of the transformation of Russia of the new economic policy into a Socialist Russia would have been very remote, and would even have entirely vanished.
If we add to all this the opportunist errors of Comrade Trotsky in the questions of international politics (over-estimation of the democratic-pacifist era, over-estimation of the miraculous peace-making quality of American super-imperialism, underestimation of the counter revolutionary nature of social democracy, under-estimation of the duration of fascism) and the fact that he supported all right, semi-social democratic elements in the various sections of the Comintern, then it is clear in what direction Comrade Trotsky is drawing our Party.
In this heaping up of one error upon another, Comrade Trotsky has his own “system.” As a whole that system is, right deviation.
The new bourgeoisie of our country is precisely a new and not the old bourgeoisie. It has seen a variety of things and has also learnt something from the “Lessons of October.” It saw the masses in action. It saw the ruthless handing of the bourgeoisie by the Bolsheviki in the first period of the October Revolution, and the concessions of the Bolsheviki to the bourgeoisie in 1921, when these same ruthless Bolsheviki were compelled to introduce the new economic policy. It now knows the value of the real relation of forces which, among others consists in the international bourgeois environment of the first Soviet country. It has its new intelligentsia, educated for the most part in our educational establishments. It has learnt to penetrate into the struggle of tendencies within our own Party, it has learnt to take advantage of Soviet legality.
It is a bourgeoisie which has passed through the fire of the greatest revolution; a bourgeoisie which understands how to bring about its alliance with the leaders of the international bourgeoisie. In one word, it is a bourgeoisie with a keen class-consciousness; an adaptable bourgeoisie, which has become more clever through the experiences of the revolution and better understands the importance of the Workers’ Party and the currents within this Party.
We must not disguise the fact; the social composition of our state apparatus is such, that an important part of the personnel of this apparatus must be considered as an agency of this new bourgeoisie. The same must be said regarding a certain section of the students and of the intelligentsia in general.
To demand from the Bolshevist Party in the years 1921 to 1924, in the period of transition, the before-mentioned six points, means nothing less than to help, even if unwillingly, the new bourgeoisie.
Comrade Trotsky has taken a wrong turning. He wants to fight against the exaggerated “sectarianism” of the old Bolsheviki, which appears to him as “narrow-mindedness” and in reality he is fighting against the bases of Bolshevism. As a matter of fact, of course, without wishing it, he is rendering the class enemy an invaluable service.
We ask the former and present followers of Comrade Trotsky, whether they are aware that every attack of Comrade Trotsky against the Bolshevik C.C. since 1921 has been hailed throughout the whole of the non-Bolshevik camp with ever-increasing joy?
Marx has already said that one can express the feeling of the petty bourgeoisie without oneself being a small shopkeeper. Of course, Comrade Trotsky has the best intentions. But the way to Hell is paved with good intentions. Comrade Trotsky must once and for all give up “saving” our Party from alleged errors. He must understand and admit his own political errors, which for the greater part arise from the remnants of his political ideology of the time from 1903 to 1917, when Comrade Trotsky was an open opponent of Bolshevism. He must cease from stirring up periodical “crises,” with the regularity and the punctuality of a calendar, every year, and recently every six months. He must understand that nobody will succeed in crushing Leninism by force under Trotskyism. In one word, it must be understood that Bolshevism remains Bolshevism.
What is to be Done? Split? Nonsense! There can be no talk of such a thing! Our Party is more united than it ever was.
Disciplinary measures? That is also absurd! Nobody needs this; something else is necesary at present.
It is necessary that the Party secure itself against a repetition of the “attacks” upon Leninism. Serious Party guarantees are necessary that the decisions of the Party shall be binding for Comrade Trotsky. The Party is not a debating society, but a Party, which, moreover, is in a very complicated situation. The slogan of the present day is:
Bolshevising of all strata of the Party! Ideological struggle against Trotskyism!
And before all: enlightenment, enlightenment and again enlightenment!
Our Party consists for the greater part of relatively new members. It is necessary that the Party study the question of Leninism and Trotskyism. It is necessary that the Party clearly see that here it is a question of two fundamentally different system of tactics.
It is not merely a question of the past history of the Party. It is here a question of two methods of dealing with present-day politics, which are closely connected with such cardinal questions as the question of the relation between the working class and the peasantry. And we cannot avoid thanking Comrade Trotsky that he has at any rate provided the Party with a good opportunity of analysing a deviation from Leninism and thinking more deeply into the fundamentals of Leninism.
Of course, the Party must insist that Party discipline is also binding for Comrade Trotsky; and we are convinced that the Party will be able to insist on this. The more clearness there is in the Party regarding the question of Leninism and of Trotskyism, the less ground there will be for such an attempt as Comrade Trotsky has undertaken. The less response there is in the Party to this attempt, the less desire he will have to repeat it. And the response this time is very small. Comrade Trotsky has so changed the form of his “platform” that there is only room for one man upon it—Comrade Trotsky himself.
During the last discussion Comrade Trotsky declared the student youth to be the reliable “barometer.” We did not agree with him then and we do not agree with him now. But it must be stated that even this, not entirely ideal, barometer, has not responded this time as in recent years, which proves that the student youth do not wish to replace Leninism by Trotskyism.
The best means to hold Comrade Trotsky back from further errors, which will estrange him still further from Bolshevism, is for the whole Party as one man to repudiate his deviation, and then we hope he will soon retrieve his errors.
It is to be hoped that Comrade Trotsky, when he perceives the harmfulness of this tendency and the unanimity of the Party against his enormous errors, will turn back from his wrong path.
Comrade Lenin more than once formulated the “law” of the political evolution of Comrade Trotsky. If things are going well, Comrade Trotsky approaches the Bolshevist line; when things are going bad, then Comrade Trotsky inclines to the right. In order to keep him back from turning to the right, the ideological defence of the whole Party is necessary.
The Party will say its final word, and once again the premature hopes of the enemy will be disappointed. The Bolshevist Party will receive a new and more powerful steeling, and true Leninism will become the ideological equipment of the whole Party down to the last member.
1. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. xvii., p. 373.
2. It is interesting to mention the result of the election of the new C.C. at this Party Conference. The writer of these lines received only one vote less than Comrade Lenin.
3. “The Party Conference, the highest authority of the Party, has indirectly repudiated the policy which I, with other comrades from our Brest-Litovsk delegation followed, and which from two sides had a certain international repercussion: both among the working class and among the ruling class. This policy rendered the name of the members of this delegation the most hated by the bourgeoisie of Germany and Austria. To-day the whole German and Austro-Hungarian press is full of accusations against the Brest-Litovsk delegation, and particularly against me personally; they declare that we are responsible for the collapse of the peace and for all the further unfortunate results. Whether this is the view of the Party Conference or not, it has by its last vote confirmed this assertion and I, therefore, resign every responsible post with which the Party has hitherto entrusted me.” (Speech of Comrade Trotsky at the Seventh Party Conference, March, 1918.)
4. For the rest we learn from the second part of “1917” that as late as 29th October, 1917, Comrade Trotsky himself on behalf of the Council of People’s Commissariats wrote in an appeal: “The only thing which can save the country is the Constitutional Assembly which consists of representatives of the working and exploited classes of the people.” It is permitted to ask in which respect this is better than the “combined type?” (“1917” 2nd part, p. 133.)
5. One example suffices: “We have seen there (in Germany) in the second half of the past year a classical demonstration of the fact that a most extraordinary favourable revolutionary situation of world historical importance can be missed,” thus wrote Comrade Trotsky in September, 1924 in the “Lessons of October.”
“If the Party (the C.P. of Germany) had declared the revolt in October (last year) as the Berlin comrades have proposed, it would now have been lying with a broken neck.” We read these words in the draft thesis of Comrades Radek and Trotsky in January, 1924.
In such a question one cannot have two opinions, one in January, 1924, and another in September, 1924. If, however, one has two opinions regarding such a question, one must not so attack the E.C.C.I. as Comrade Trotsky has done.
Last updated: 06.12.2007