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Hugo Oehler

Lenin and Trotsky in 1905

On Some Stalinist Distortions of History

(March 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 10 (Whole No. 106), 5 March 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Russian Revolution of October 1917 can only be written adequately when the role of Lenin and Trotsky are properly placed. Written history at the time of this event elevated the role of Lenin and Trotsky to its proper height in relation to the 1917 prelude of the world revolution. The attempts of Stalintern to revamp this part of history, and to delete Trotsky’s role from the pages and replace instead – Stalin, is of no avail. The source of material within our party and throughout the world proletarian camp is so voluminous for this research that Stalin’s, attempt to erase Trotsky’s role only complicates matter for Centrism.

But the 1905 Revolution leaves us no such source of material, as to the position of Lenin and Trotsky. Therefore, the haters of Marxism and Internationalism fall back to this period and slur the position of Trotsky. Fortunately though we have the material and writings of Lenin and Trotsky of this period, and since the party leadership only lies about Trotsky’s position it is necessary to constantly bring this material forward, so that the revolutionist and Marxist can decide the facts for himself, as to the position of Lenin and Trotsky.

On the February Revolution

Stalinism not only endeavors to misrepresent Trotsky’s position in 1905 but also attempts to falsify the role of Lenin, for the purpose of covering up the blunders of the present epigones in the 1917 period. After Stalin “corrected” history, one of the lesser lights followed up in the Daily Worker with an article on The Historical Experiences of Bolshevism and the International Proletariat. One of the many blunders of the article reads as follows: “The Lessons of the year of 1905 enabled Lenin to draw up that strategic general plan which led the proletariat to victory first in February and afterwards in October 1917.” This thought conveys the idea that long before the arrival of Lenin in Russia and long before his famous April thesis, which amounts to the rearming of the party, Stalin and his like, who were in Russia, were carrying out a correct Bolshevik line. In other words, Lenin’s arrival and Lenin’s April thesis did not correct anything, “the proletariat” were led “to victory first in February” (?). In trying to bury Lenin’s April thesis to cover their blunders the February period the Stalinists create the source of additional blunders.

In the introduction to Lenin’s pamphlet of articles on the Revolution of 1905 the epigones rehash history again. In one place this introduction says,

“On the other hand, Trotsky, who had never had a definite conception of the nature of the bourgeois revolution of 1905, for this reason reached a point, in his theory of ‘permanent revolution’ when he denies the possibility of the revolutionary alliance between proletariat and peasantry and proclaimed a ‘workers’ government’ to be the immediate aim of the revolutionary uprising. And to this he ‘logically’ attached the conception that ‘without direct and governmental aid from the European proletariat the working class of Russia could not maintain it self in power’.” (Our Revolution, page 278 Russian)

Trotsky and the Peasantry

Can you say these “Communists” misquote Trotsky’s position in 1905 because they do not know of his position? No. They quote the above from his book, Our Revolution and in that book is sufficient evidence for any class-conscious worker to prove the correct position of Trotsky in 1905. These epigones are quoting Trotsky as the social democrats quoted Marx and Engels.

Trotsky in 1905 said the workers of Russia needed aid from Europe, otherwise they could not maintain themselves – and according to Stalinism this was wrong in 1905. But Lenin, not in 1905 but even ni 1918, said the following: “This is a lesson because the absolute truth is that without a revolution in Germany we will perish.” (Vol. 15, page 132, Russian edition) And, Lenin again, “Our backwardness has thrust us forward and we will perish if we will not be able to hold out until we meet with the mighty support of the insurrectionary workers of the other countries.” (Vol. 15, page 187) What Lenin laid down on this subject in 1918 was equally, if not more so, true in 1905.

Did Trotsky “deny the possibility” of the “revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and peasantry”, in the 1905 period, as is claimed? Trotsky, in 1905 said, “It is self-understood that the proletariat, as in its time the bourgeoisie fulfills its mission, supported upon the peasantry and petit-bourgeoisie. The proletariat leads the village, draws it into the movement, interests it in the success of its plans. The proletariat, however, absolutely remains the leader. This is not the dictatorship of the peasantry and proletariat, but the dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry.” (1905, page 281) Many more equally important passages can be quoted to prove that Trotsky’s understanding of the peasant problem in 1905 was equal to any and far superior to the epigones of today who lived at that time. Many such quotations can be had in Our Revolution, translated by Olgin, or in Trotsky’s pamphlet on the Permanent Revolution in which he quotes from his works of 1905.

The rank and file Communist members repeat these slanders against Trotsky because they do not know the truth and repeat what they are told. But for the bureaucrats, it is not a matter of ignorance – it is a matter of plain lies, of revisionism; just as the social democrats skillfully quoted Marx and Engels on the state, giving the rank and file a wrong picture. Let me quote just once more from 1905, page 267–68:

“Our revolution, which is a bourgeois revolution according to the immediate tasks it grew out of, knows, as a consequence of the extreme class differences of the industrial population, of no bourgeois class which could place itself at the head of the popular masses by combining its social weight and political experience with revolutionary energy. The suppressed worker and peasant masses, left to their own resources, must take it upon themselves to create, in the hard school of implacable conflict and cruel defeat, the necessary political and organizational preconditions for their triumph. No other road is open to them.”

Does this look as if Trotsky did not understand the relation of the proletariat and peasantry in 1905? Does this look as if Trotsky did not understand the nature of the bourgeois revolution of 1905? Let the revisionists talk. They have their day as the leaders of the Second International had theirs. We, the Marxists, are sure of victory. Material facts and Marxian truths are greater than all the lies of the epigones.

Lenin on Colonial Revolution

In the Daily Worker article, quoted above, they say, “The task of organizing the united front of all the exploited and oppressed under the leadership of the proletariat was raised by Lenin to the level of the world problem of the revolutionary alliance of proletariat of the advanced countries with the enslaved peoples of the colonies and semi-colonial countries.” This is a jumble and is not the position of Lenin. As Trotsky says, “Lenin thus raised the national liberation movement, the colonial insurrection and wars of the oppressed nations to the level of the bourgeois democratic revolutions, particularly in the period prior to the Russian revolution of 1905. But Lenin did not at all rank the national liberation wars above the bourgeois revolution as this is now done by Bukharin who has turned an angle of 180 degree.” (Criticism of the Draft Program) And to this day the revisionist rank this movement above the bourgeois democratic revolution.

All of this revamping of history in relation to the 1905 revolution is necessary on the revisionist part, first to smash the Marxian position of Trotsky and second, to enable them to build a case for the use of the slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, as it appears in the Sixth World Congress Program. In order to do this, they must not only throw overboard all the facts of Trotsky’s position but with it the position of Lenin on this subject. This hypothetical slogan raised in 1905 was discarded events concretized the perspective through the 1917 revolution. It was discarded by Lenin, but not by the epigones although he criticized them on this very point in April 1917.

The “Democratic Dictatorship”

The introduction to Lenin’s valuable book on 1905 also says, “Because of this circumstance, the 1905 revolution may be called the dress rehearsal not only of October 1917, but of the World October.” Because of the colonial conditions of China and India, etc. In other words, 1905 is the dress rehearsal for the backward countries in revolutions and 1917 is the dress rehearsal for the industrially developed countries.

In answer to this, we can show that 1917 has been the dress rehearsal not only for the revolutions of industrial Europe, but also for the Chinese revolution of 1925–27. But to this day the Stalinites and Right wingers have not recognized this historic fact. There can be no other than a dictatorship of the proletariat or a dictatorship of the capitalist in content. The form will vary but the form of the proletarian dictatorship in backward countries will not be a “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasants.” On the contrary, the more backward the country, the weaker the country is economically, the more open will our dictatorship with the peasant alliance have to be in order to hold power with a minority of the proletariat and here we have the revolution in countries with the majority of the proletariat, the more proletarian democracy can we have in the early years of our role.

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Last updated: 16.5.2013