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Since Lenin Died

Max Eastman

Since Lenin Died

Appendix V:

The Reply of the Politburo

THE members of the Politburo replied to Trotsky’s objective and conscientious letter with an abusive personal attack. To his patiently repeated exposition of the need for a thorough system of planning in the socialised industries, they replied in the following manner:

“We consider it necessary to say frankly to the party that at the basis of all the dissatisfaction of Comrade Trotsky, all his irritation, all his attacks against the Central Committee which have continued already for several years, his determination to disturb the party, lies the circumstance that Trotsky wants the Central Committee to place him and Comrade Kalegaev at the head of our industrial life ...”

It does not seem likely that if for several years Trotsky had been attacking the Central Committee and disturbing the party, through motives of personal ambition and irritation, Lenin would have endorsed Trotsky’s authority in the party when confronted with the possibility of his own death. The Politburo did not know about this act of Lenin’s when they wrote those words “for several years.”

The reply of the Politburo continued:

“Trotsky is a member of the Soviet of People’s Commissars, a member of the Soviet of Labour and Defence; Lenin offered him the post of vice-president of the Soviet of People’s Commissars. In all these positions Trotsky might, if he wished to, demonstrate in action, working before the eyes of the whole party, that the party might trust him with those practically unlimited powers in the sphere of industry and military affairs towards which he strives. But Trotsky preferred another method of action ... He never attended a meeting of the Soviet of People’s Commissars, neither under Lenin, nor after his withdrawal. He never attended a meeting of the Soviet of Labour and Defence, neither before nor after its reorganisation ...”

Again, it does not seem probable that if Trotsky had shown a disposition to shirk the work of the Government under Lenin as well as after his withdrawal, Lenin would have written a letter from his deathbed endorsing the authority of Trotsky in the party. The Politburo certainly made a misstep when they wrote the words “under Lenin as well as after his withdrawal.”

The punctuality and conscientiousness with which Trotsky meets and fulfils every engagement and every obligation he enters into is one of the natural wonders of Russian society. It is a thing that visitors go to see! And the fact is perfectly well known to everybody in Russia that Trotsky is the only man comparable to Lenin in the sustained intensity of his work, and that he organises his work to the highest possible degree.

There are three facts which explain the possibility of such a misrepresentation of Trotsky. The first is that there has been a gradual shifting of the location of the governing power in Soviet Russia – an organic evolution the significance of which it would be very interesting to trace. The details do not belong here, and I do not know them, but the real centre of executive action has steadily moved away from the Soviet of Peoples Commissars toward the Politburo of the party. There is often a difference, therefore, between the organ which formally takes an action and the organ which really decides upon it, even though the same individuals function in both cases. If to this fact you will add the fact that Trotsky, like all men of great executive mind and energy, is utterly impatient of time spent in formality and mere talk, you will understand what is the real fact under this incredible accusation – namely, that Trotsky has been entirely consecrated to the real business of getting the work done. Assuming the privileges of his genius, he has refused to attend meetings of a formal or conversational or educative nature. To people emotionally determined that he shall not be a genius, that there shall be no genius in the world but Lenin, this has been irritating. If anything further is needed to explain the possibility of this accusation against Trotsky, it is surely contained in that frank statement of the Secretary, Kuibeshev (quoted on p.26): “We consider it necessary to fight you, and we cannot declare you an enemy; that is why we resort to such methods.” There may have been meetings where it was futile for Trotsky to appear, with the cards thus stacked against him.

The reply of the Politburo continues:

“Trotsky categorically declined the position of substitute for Lenin. That evidently he considers beneath his dignity. He conductshimself according to the formula, ‘All or nothing.’”

If anything could prove that Trotsky is not acting from motives of personal ambition, and is interested solely in getting the work done, it is just this declining the position of acting head of the Government.

Trotsky’s whole life is an answer to this abuse.

Since Lenin Died

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Last updated on: 12 October 2009