From Socialist Appeal, Vol.3 No.02, February 1937, pp.26-27.
Transcribed and Marked up by Damon Maxwell for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
AMIDST the jeering laughter of the reactionaries who with great satisfaction point to the “trial” in Moscow as conclusive evidence that Russia is a mad house; amidst the shrieks of the Stalinist bureaucrats wallowing in a filthy ocean of lies; amidst the shocked bewilderment of millions of workers and thousands of liberals; amidst the valiant struggle of the revolutionary workers and independent intellectuals to bring out the true character of the greatest frame-up in history, the frightful and sickening spectacle staged by Stalin is about to conclude its second cycle, as this is written. The second batch of miserable human beings who once were Bolsheviks, leaders in the greatest uprising of history, will slink off the stage, beaten and transformed into degraded wretches by a monstrous usurper who designates himself as a “disciple of Lenin.”
There will in all probability be an article on the “trial” of Radek and the others in the next issue of the APPEAL, analyzing the evidence and “confessions.” In the meantime it is necessary to point out:
1. The “trials” are serious blows to the revolutionary movement. How many thousands of sympathizers of the revolutionary movement, if not participants in it, have been estranged from it because of these trials, is impossible to estimate. What kind of a movement is it that has brought into being men so unscrupulous as to plot with the Gestapo for the overthrow of the Soviet government, the government which they themselves did so much to create? Or, if the charges are not true, what kind of a movement is it that places at the head of the first working-class state a tyrant who stops at nothing to get rid of opposition? It would be folly for us to expect that the sympathizers of the Marxist movement are all Marxists. Our own small revolutionary movement has no doubt gained converts as a result of the frame-up. But Stalin’s attack on us is an attack on the revolutionary movement and it will take some time for the revolutionary socialist movement to recover from the blow.
2. Stalin is achieving one of his objectives. His aim to discredit revolutionary Marxism by discrediting the greatest living exponent of Marxist ideas could not possibly succeed. In that he has failed and of course with the passing of time it will become clear even to some of Stalin’s followers that the charges against Trotsky were meant only to confuse and betray the working class. One of Stalin’s objectives however, is to assure the leaders of the capitalist states, with whom he wants a military alliance, that there is no danger that the “Old Bolsheviks” with their ideas of world revolution have the slightest chance to get back to power and upset the apple cart. In that he has certainly succeeded. If the capitalist politicians had any doubts about Stalin’s sincerity and determination to defend the status quo, those doubts have disappeared.
3. The necessity for an international commission of inquiry to take the testimony of Trotsky and his son and to demand that Stalin produce his evidence before an impartial tribunal is a political question of the greatest importance. It is a means to defend the integrity of the revolutionary idea and not simply to defend a great personality. The revolutionary movement must be guarded against usurpers and hypocrites who are undermining the morale of the whole movement.
TWO purposes must be kept in mind in formulating a resolution on an important theoretical or tactical problem. In the first place it must serve as a guide for the party in its important activities; it must orient the party in a certain direction. In the second place it should educate the membership of the party and the advanced workers to see clearly the problem tackled by the resolution and the solution that it proposes.
Frequently one hears the complaint that a resolution is too long or written in Marxian language; the workers will not read or if they do will not understand it. That shows a complete misconception of the nature and purpose of a resolution. It is not a document which is to be spread widely amongst the masses. It is not a propaganda document but it is material for correct propaganda. It is to serve as a key for the members of the party in the sense that it should furnish them with the basic ideas for correct revolutionary agitation. It must include everything of importance with reference to the subject it deals with and while brevity is to be preferred it should not be achieved at the expense of clarity. Wonderful indeed would it be if our theoreticians were literary masters. It would increase its effectiveness a thousand times if a correct theoretical resolution were brilliantly written. But first of all we must aspire for correctness.
When a resolution deals with a current problem it invariably arises out of a previous controversy with reference to some tactic followed by some political or economic group in the working class. In such a case, to be effective both from the point of view of its serving as a guide for the party and of its educational value for the membership it is essential that it mention names and deal with specific instances where the theory of the resolution has been violated. Stated merely in an abstract form, even though correctly, it loses most of its value.
The difference between a resolution that is formally correct and a resolution that, aside from stating a correct theoretical position, also points out how that position was violated in specific instances and the effects of that violation is well illustrated by a comparison of the resolution on the People’s Front published in the Jan. 2nd edition of the SOCIALIST CALL and the one published in this issue of the APPEAL.
For our party as well as for every working-class party throughout the world the question of the people’s front surpasses in importance all other questions. It is actually the main problem confronting the revolutionary movement because every other problem is solved in the light of the position taken on this key question. Whether it be the struggle against war and fascism or the question of a Farmer-Labor party our attitude will depend on what position we take on the people’s front; If for no other reason than the fact that the Communist and Socialist parties of France and Spain have become champions of the people’s front idea, is it necessary that every grouping in the party be compelled to take a position on that question.
The resolution in the CALL correctly opposes the class struggle against the People’s Front. By its insistence on the class struggle it places itself in the category of a left wing resolution. But it is not enough simply to state that we stand for the class struggle. At a time when the Communists are all howling for the People’s Front; at a time when Socialists, so-called, are heading Popular Front Governments, it is impermissible simply to state a correct general proposition. Not a word in the CALL resolution on Blum, on Caballero. on the effects of actual People’s Fronts in practice. Point fingers, name names, comrades. How else can you make sure that our members will understand exactly what you mean; how else assure that not mere lip service be given to a vague idea? Every main idea of the resolution is correct but taken altogether the resolution is not correct for the simple reason that our theories must be dragged down to earth so to speak.
No one reading the APPEAL resolution on the People’s Front, published in this issue, can fail to understand what is meant by the People’s Front. It is only a draft of course and I do not think that it is perfect. In my opinion it should contain a paragraph making clear that we are in favor of a struggle for the democratic rights of the workers under capitalism; and what is more important, based on the proposition I stated above, it should contain an analysis of the situation in the Wisconsin section of our party. If Wisconsin is following the tactic of the People’s Front we must say so in our resolution.
It would appear to me that no difficulty at all should be encountered in the attempt to formulate a common resolution on the People’s Front. That should be the central resolution of the convention; at least the left wingers should attempt to make it so. The left wing must smoke out the People’s Fronters and a serious ideological struggle must be initiated against them.
In my judgment whatever ideas are found in the CALL resolution which the APPEAL resolution does not contain should be embodied in the latter and the left wing unite on one resolution.
Last updated: 12.30.2008