From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 30 (Whole No. 89), 7 November 1931, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The 14th anniversary of the Bolshevik Russian Revolution is at hand; and the proletariat of the entire world cheers the first working class to achieve power over the capitalist class. The heritage of the October Revolution, precious to the toiling millions everywhere, must be preserved.
In 1848 Marx and Engels, in the immortal Communist Manifesto, exultantly cried: “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Communism”. With the Russian Revolution of November 1917, this spectre became a reality of the modern world, the first death-thrust of the unsheathed proletarian sword in the body of imperialism.
The major act of the Russian proletariat, in the program of revolution, was the seizure of political power as a class; it established State power; it set up the dictatorship of the proletariat which, as Marx proved in the Criticism of the Gotha Program, was the necessary transition measure employed by the working class in the long, hard road toward the establishment of a genuine Communist society – a society without the exploitation of man by man and thereby without classes. The Kautskys and the Mensheviks, et al., abandoning Marx’s ideas, lost their base, and since then have stood upon the ground of revisionism and reformism.
When the Russian masses, under the leadership of the Communist Party, of Lenin and Trotsky, assumed power, there began the first acts in carrying through the economic program of scientific socialism. The Russian Revolution proceeded with the social measures put forward by the early leaders of scientific socialism, Marx and Engels. The means of production and distribution were socialized and nationalized. For the first time in the modern imperialist epoch, by the act of the proletarian revolution, “Socialist production upon a predetermined plan became henceforth possible” (Engels). Not through the hazy dreams of the Utopian socialists, but scientifically, following the basic plans of Marx and Engels, socialist construction began.
There began that experiment in humanity-building when ultimately, “The government of persons (the State) is replaced by the administration of things; and by the conduct of the processes of production.” (Engels).
The Leninist estimation of the present imperialist epoch is that it is the “epoch of wars and revolutions.” With the advent of the Bolshevik Revolution, the establishment of proletarian Soviet power, the two phases of the Leninist view were realized. The World War, that enormous but inevitable disaster of civilization, which forever damned capitalism in the eyes and minds of the thinking and revolutionary workers and peoples of all lands, was first given a deadly blow by the uprising of the misery-ridden workers and peasants and soldiers of Czarist Russia. The epoch of capitalist war had met its complement and master – the Proletarian Revolution. The Kerensky socialists and mensheviks – the protectors of the interests of the Russian bourgeoisie – who tried to hold back the realization of the demands of the workers and peasants met defeat. The Bolsheviks, penetrating the Soviets with the slogans of Bread, Peace and Land, won the masses to their slogans and received the mandate of the Russian people to carry through the Bolshevik program.
It became possible then to initiate the work of carrying out successfully the principles of Communism – a task which, as Lenin pointed out in his brochure, The Soviets At Work, would comprise the physical and intellectual efforts of the masses for decades. Its consummation would witness the complete transformation of the means of production and distribution and the outlook of man upon the world – a transvaluation of values that would raise mankind to a historical level never before conceived by man. Though begun in Soviet Russia, this objective could only be achieved on an international scale through the instruments of Communist Parties and a Communist International as guides and leaders of the working class. To this end the Communist International, with the leading spirits then of Lenin, Trotsky, Rakovsky, Zinoviev and Platten was formed in 1919.
During the fourteen years of the Russian Revolution there have been also six congresses of the Communist International. During these 14 years of proletarian power in Soviet Russia, there have been mighty achievements despite the many and persistent efforts of the Russian bourgeoisie, White Guardists and the world imperialists led by America, England and France, to smash the Soviet Power. Military intervention, civil war, sabotage, famine, etc. failed. The power of the Red Army, the fundamental acts of the socialization and nationalization of the means of production (to the fullest extent possible under the given conditions) the power above all, of the ideas and ideal of Communism, that penetrated the consciousness of the masses ever more and more, held the Soviet Power and the Communist Party firmly together through all struggles and vicissitudes.
The death of Lenin, which came after four Congresses of the Communist International had guided the destinies of the Soviet Union and the international proletarian movement, gave rise, under the aegis of Stalin and Bucharin, to new formulations, new ideas, false interpretations and revisionist theories of Marxism. The tremendous damage which the epigones of Lenin – the Stalinist-Bucharin school of thought – have committed to the immediate and historical interests of the Russian and also the world proletarian revolution, is here briefly outlined.
Property – land and the means of production – remain socialized in the Soviet Union. The monopoly of foreign trade, a mighty pillar for the maintenance of the proletarian dictatorship, exists. The years in which Lenin and Trotsky led the destinies of Soviet Russia, the best period of Communist leadership, have instilled millions of workers with the understanding and need of Communism. Despite the Stalinist perversions of Marxist-Leninist theories and practice and the disfiguration of Revolution, there remains tremendous ideological strength in large sections of the Communist party and the proletariat, largely unexpressed because of the suppressive methods of the Stalinist regime against the worker-Communists and Left Opposition.
The revision of the doctrines of Marx and Lenin by the Stalinists has given aid and comfort to the theories of Menshevism. Menshevism insists that the zig-zags and revisions of Leninism by Stalin and Bucharin are historically inevitable, and that the present leadership of the Comintern is adapting itself accordingly. Menshevism denies that the assumption of power by the proletariat in a so-called backward country economically, as in Russia, can become the means whereby the proletariat can proceed to the introduction of socialist principles of production and distribution, and it maintains that if a working class attains political power under such conditions, the drift must be back to capitalism, in order not to “skip any stages” in the historical economic scale. But the years of the Russian Revolution under Lenin and Trotsky are a living refutation of the Mensheviks and made easier the defeat of the latter both in Soviet Russia and on a world scale. However, the official paraders of Communism, the Stalinist regime, have made simpler the tasks of the Menshevik slanderers. We cite here some factual material.
The Left Opposition has consistently discussed the issues dividing it from the Centrists and Right wing. In the 14th year of the Russian revolution, the Left Opposition finds that time has confirmed its criticism of the Stalinist Comintern and ratified the platform and perspectives of the Left Opposition both in regard to the situation in the Soviet Union and internationally.
In the year 1931 there took place the trials of the engineer specialists and Mensheviks on charges of sabotage and counter-revolutionary activity against the Soviet Government. The Opposition warned the Party against the Stalinist methods which made it so easy for Mensheviks and intellectuals of the old order to step into positions of significance, without any check, in the fields of economy and politics. The party and the Soviet Union paid the price of this “reconciliation” with window-jumping Bessedovsky, the Agebekovs, the Ramzins, the Mensheviks-Bolsheviks, and countless others.
Advances in socialist construction in the domain of industry and agriculture have been made – notable ones. The Left Opposition led the struggle, resisted for years by Stalin and Bucharin, for a vast increase in Soviet and collective farms and for a swifter industrialization policy. Under Opposition pressure the Stalinist “Left” swing began. We will not deal hear with the caricature the Stalinists have made of a sound collectivization and industrialization program, but concern ourselves with the main outlines. The Five Year Plan, the first of many to come, was first advanced by the Left Opposition under Trotsky’s leadership. In a fundamental, principle and programmatic sense, these and many other ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION BELONG TO THE LEFT OPPOSITION.
In respect to Soviet economy, the Left Opposition proposed the abandonment of the Stalinist policy of economic isolation, the theory of an isolated, self-sufficing Soviet economy able to build a “complete socialist society” (Stalin) with the existing economic perquisites of Russia. The Opposition insisted that the false theory of socialism in one country, the foundation of Stalin’s “theories”, be discarded. The Opposition proposed a foreign trade policy that would link the needs of the Russian Revolution with the requirements of the world’s workers affected by the world economic crisis. The monopoly of foreign trade by the Soviet Union would be the lever for a controlled economic collaboration with the capitalist world. Concretely, further, Trotsky proposed to this end that the Comintern initiate a worldwide campaign for the extension of large and long-term credits to the Soviet Union by the capitalist countries. Stalin and his stupid lackeys branded this living slogan as counter-revolutionary. It conflicted with the theory of “socialism in one country”.
It is axiomatic from a revolutionary standpoint and the aspect of the development of workers’ control, that for every increase in the productivity of labor in the Soviet Union, there must result an approximately corresponding increase in the standard of living of the workers – their wages, working conditions, etc. The industrial proletariat particularly, the carriers of the future hopes of humanity, must participate in every gain made by industry and agriculture.
But under Stalin, there has been by and large a policy of production for the sake of production, a false concept of socialist construction; productivity has increased at the expense of the working class; that is a damning indictment of Stalinist practices. The regime within the shops has deteriorated. More, not less, control, must be vested in the workers in their shops, their committees, their unions. Instead, managers, trade union officials and State and party bureaucrats increase their domination over the workers. Dissatisfaction naturally arises with this non-proletarian policy; workers shift from job to job. hoping for betterment; shop control and discipline become weakened, which the Stalinist bureaucracy thinks can be overcome by decree. A principle of Communist management and workers’ control is involved in these prevailing Stalinist methods in the Soviet Union.
In the field of foreign policy, there has been a wide departure from the early days of Lenin, Trotsky and Chicherin. It is indeed a long journey from that period to the “diplomacy” of Stalin and Litvinoff who finds it possible on behalf of the Soviet Union, to sign the Kellogg Pact of the imperialists and to justify this non-revolutionary action on the ground that the Kellogg Pact enforces “moral” (sic!) obligations on the capitalist powers who also signed it.
In the Communist Party of the Soviet Union there have been tremendous changes, which took on the speed of a locomotive with the expulsion of Leon Trotsky and the Left Opposition from the Party. The Party, in a fundamental sense, is non-existent: it is melted into the masses by the method of mass infiltration into the party by whole factories, etc. The actual role of the Party as the leader of the masses is vitiated by the bureaucratic control of the Stalinist apparatus which tolerates no criticism or program other than its own. Thus, the proletarian dictatorship still exists, but Stalinism is eating at its roots and its heart, the Party.
The Stalinist policy is the policy of isolation for the Soviet Union, an underestimation of the role of a Communist Party and the Communist International. With the acceptance and espousal of the anti-Marxian theory of socialism in one country, it was inevitable that not only in the Soviet Union, but throughout the C.I., social-democratic theories would in time take their hold.
Theory has no boundary lines. Even as the Left Opposition warned, national socialism developed among the Communist Parties in other countries (witness the German Party and the recent referendum). The theory of “socialism in one country” became “internationalized”. With it, to mention but this major cause, there followed the decline of the Communist parties. The War Danger and Defense of the Soviet Union became, without relation and analysis to the current situation and burning issues of the day, the central slogans of the Communist Parties. Lip service was given to the fact that the best defense of the Soviet Union and for the temporary staving off of another world war, was best carried through by a consistent struggle against one’s own capitalism on living issues. The Communist Parties have in the main become reduced to auxiliaries for the Soviet Union.
During the period of Lenin’s life four Congresses of the Communist International took place, as follows: First Congress – 1919; Second Congress – 1920; Third Congress – 1921: Fourth Congress – 1922. Lenin’s death followed iu January 1924 and the Fifth Congress was in 1924; four years elapsed between the Fifth and Sixth Congress of the C.I. in 1928; three years have since passed and there is not yet a word about a Seventh Congress. Thus loudly, but without words, shouts Stalin his contempt for the Comintern.
Here we will only mention that Stalinism, carried over into many other countries, as in Great Britain, hoped to jump over the inevitable step of the development of a British Communist Party, and thus helped to carry out the mangling of the British proletariat and Party through the “actions” of the now dead, but unlamented Anglo-Russian Committee. And the manner in which Stalinism aided by Mensheviks like Martynow, helped to strangle for years to come the Chinese Revolution. Need we mention how the Communist International ignored, and Pravda lamented, that the Spanish Revolution, still in mighty motion, might hurt the preservation of the peace of Europe; forgot the cause of revolution and clung instead to that pitiful reed of peace by agreement with capitalism, “of collaboration peacefully of the Soviet and capitalist world.” (Litvinoff).
Despite all, Soviet Russia remains the fortress of the world revolution, its prelude. The Russian Revolution still is powerful in its own right – despite Stalinism. The fundamentals remain – which the second party and fourth international advocates fail to see – : The prevailing property relations are the socialized and nationalized means of production and distribution; the monopoly of foreign trade by the State remains as a bulwark. The Proletarian Dictatorship stands; Soviet Russia is a WORKERS’ GOVERNMENT. The education of the masses, the militancy and achievements of the workers and Bolsheviks during all the years of the Russian Revoultion, have planted deep the roots of revolutionary practice and the doctrines of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky. On an international scale, in varying degrees, this is true also. Therefore, the International still lives and the Opposition calls for the policy of the regeneration and reform of the Communist Parties and the Communist International. The Opposition and its ideas live and will conquer. The HERITAGE OF THE RUSSJAN OCTOBER STILL REMAINS. It is for us to be dedicated to the task of preserving that heritage and increasing its wealth. Stalinism destroys, but Leninism rebuilds again and again on a higher plane.
With comrade Trotsky and the Russian Opposition, we say, even as it was said to the Stalinist Central Committee on October 23, 1927:
“We stand at the helm of Bolshevism. You will not tear us away from it. We are going to hold it true. You will not cut us off from the party. You will not cut us off from the working class. We are familiar with repressions. We are accustomed to blows. We will not surrender the October Revolution to the politics of Stalin – the entire essence of which is contained in these few words: Repression of the proletarian nucleus, fraternization with the compromisers of all countries, capitulation before the world bourgeoisie ...
“The platform of the Opposition is on the table of the Party. The proletariat thinks slowly, but it thinks strong ... The decision lies in the last account with the political course, and not with the bureaucrat’s fist ...
“Your persecutions, expulsions, arrests, will make our platform the most popular and the closest and dearest document of the international workers’.movement. Expel us. You will not stop the victory of the Opposition – the victory of the revolutionary unity of our party and the Communist International.”
Last updated: 12.2.2013