From International Socialist Review, Vol.23 No.3, Summer 1962, p.92.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky
by Leon Trotsky
Ann Arbor Paperbacks for the Study of Communism and Marxism, The University of Michigan Press. 1961. 191 pages. $1.95.
“... it seems to me that this book is still not out of date – to my regret, if not as an author, at any rate as a Communist.”
The author’s words in June, 1920, when the Bolsheviks were concluding the civil war in Russia seem remarkably appropriate forty-two years later when the Cuban revolution is under similar stress.
Trotsky’s pamphlet was a defense of the policies of the besieged young Soviet republic which was being attacked by the theoretical leader of the Second International, Karl Kautsky.
Today, forty years later, Kautsky-like “democratic” detractors of the Cuban revolution point a critical finger at the use of “el paredón” [“the wall” i.e. the firing squad] against saboteurs and murderers.
Trotsky responded to similar vilification with:
“The question of the form of repression or its degree, of course, is not one of ‘principle.’ It is a question of expediency. In a revolutionary period the party which has been thrown from power, which does not reconcile itself with the stability of the ruling class, and which proves this by desperate struggle against the latter, cannot be terrorized by the threat of imprisonment, as it does not believe in its duration. It is just this simple but decisive fact that explains the widespread recourse to shooting in a civil war.”
On so-called suppression of the press, Trotsky wrote:
“The press is a weapon not of an abstract society, but of two irreconcilable, armed and contending sides. We are destroying the Press of the counter-revolution, just as we destroyed its fortified positions, its stores, its communications, and its intelligence service.”
Taking up Kautsky’s charge that the other socialist tendencies were being suppressed, the founder of the Red Army pointed out:
“The army of Kolchak was organized by Socialist Revolutionaries (how that name savors today of the charlatan!), and was supported by the Mensheviks. Both carried on – and carry on – against us, for a year and a half, a war on the Northern front. The Mensheviks who rule the Caucasus, formerly the allies of Hohenzollern, and today the allies of Lloyd George, arrested and shot Bolsheviks hand in hand with German and British officers. The Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries of the Kuban Rada organized the army of Denikin. The Esthonian Mensheviks who participate in their government were directly concerned in the last advance of Yudenich against Petrograd. Such are these ‘tendencies’ in the Socialist Movement.”
A few lines further Trotsky points out:
“If the dispute with the SR’s and the Mensheviks could be settled by means of persuasion and voting – that is, if there were not behind their backs the Russian and foreign imperialists – there would be no civil war.”
The translation is a bit stilted and loses some of Trotsky’s expert style. But this little mars the value of the reprint which is far more than historical.
Last updated on 21 May 2009