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After the Death of Leon Trotsky

(23 August 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 34, 23 August 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Eight years ago on August 21, 1940, the greatest teacher and, leader of the international working class in our times, Leon Trotsky, died from a pick- axe driven into his brain by Stalin’s hired killer. The assassination of the co-organizer, with Lenin, of the Russian Revolution, builder of the Red Army and founder of the Fourth International, was a truly symbolic crime. Its very method – a blow at the brain. – befitted the intent of Cain-Stalin, as Trotsky had branded him, to wipe out in blood what the Kremlin despot feared most – Trotsky’s ideas.

Reaction through all ages has always used violence and murder in its vain effort to halt the march of ideas. When Socrates was handed the bowl of hemlock poison, when the Inquisition burned Bruno at the stake, when the slaveholders’ government hanged John Brown, these were desperate attempts to destroy ideas ... by physically destroying their creators and proponents. History records the ultimate futility of such attempts.

Great and correct ideas, derived from mankind’s needs and guiding its upward climb, have an immortal life of their own. Once born, they thrive and grow, acquire ever more power and vitality, sweep aside opposition and, in the end, conquer.

After Eight Years

Judged by the timetable of history, we can say that Trotsky’s ideas are steadily advancing. In eight brief years, those questions of theory and principle, which appeared so academic and abstract to most people when the exiled Trotsky died his martyr’s death in Mexico, have now become real and concrete for millions the world over.

We need but look at recent developments in Yugoslavia, at Tito’s break with Stalin and the issues involved, to realize the universality and import of the ideas for which Trotsky lived, fought and died. The problems confronting the Yugoslav workers and peasants are precisely those foreseen and analyzed by Trotsky and the movement he founded. Their solution has long since been illuminated in his brilliant writings.

Twenty years ago, in 1928, there was published in this country the program of the Trotskyist opposition, under the title, The Real Situation in Russia. It contained the platform of the Russian Left Opposition, drafted in 1926, dealing exhaustively with the question of the method by which the small-proprietor class of Russian peasants could be transformed into a sector of a classless, socialized economy.

It pointed out that the solution of this problem – so crucial to the survival of the Soviet Union – could net be achieved by bureaucratic violence and force. That it was first of all necessary to make a distinction between the poor peasant and rich kulak, and then to demonstrate the superiority of collective farming and the advantages of a nationalized economy. To do this, it was essential to industrialize the country according to plan and to provide the equipment so indispensable for the superior collective method in agriculture.

Stalin and his gang of bureaucratic usurpers brutally expelled Trotsky and the Left Oppositionists from the Russian Communist Party in 1927. Then, in 1928, the unfolding economic crisis in Russia forced Stalin to adopt – in highly distorted form – Trotsky’s program for industrialization. Bureaucratic planning, devoid of mass initiative and participation,

could tide Soviet economy over, but could not free it from crisis. In 1931 and 1932 came the great revolt of the peasants, the forced collectivization; the death of millions by famine.

Today, the issue about which the Russian Left Opposition fought in 1926 arid 1927 in Russia, the issue of collectivization that seemed so remote and obscure to the outside world, is among the most urgent questions for the Yugoslav people, as for the peoples of all Eastern Europe. The struggle of Trotsky in Russia more than 29 years ago is provirig no abstraction, but. of burning timeliness to the Yugoslavs.

The Key Question

Let us take another example, the question of “socialism in one country,” that bedrock deviation of Stalinism from the principles of Marxism and Leninism. That was the key question around which Trotsky fought the Kremlin bureaucracy from 1924 to his death.

Even leading members of the Russian Bolshevik Party, coworkers with Lenin, failed to perceive the tremendous implications of the slight phrase, “socialism in one country,” that Stalin had first slipped obscurely into a pamphlet in 1924. As for the press and commentators of the bourgeois world, they could not begin to grasp the issue at stake when news of the conflict between Trotsky and Stalin began to leak out. They treated this historic struggle of ideas as a personal feud, a clash of personalities – although their sure class instincts impelled them to nod favorably in the direction of Stalin as against Trotsky.

When Trotsky pointed out that the theory of “socialism in one country” marked a turn toward

reactionary nationalism and abandonment of the international revolutionary socialist program, Stalin’s henchmen howled him down. Few could then see the subsequent degeneration of the Soviet Union; the liquidation of the Old Bolsheviks; the tremendous expansion of the parasitic bureaucracy; the corruption and destruction of the international revolutionary party of Lenin; the counter-revolutionary betrayal by Stalin of the German, Spanish, Chinese, French and other revolutionary workers; the sellout of the world proletariat. Yet all these, as Trotsky predicted, were products of the false theory of “socialism in one country” – the theory that a single, backward country could achieve socialism by itself, in a world of hostile capitalism, without successful socialist revolutions in the more advanced capitalist countries.

Today the question of socialism in oiie country does not appear as a “sectarian quibble” to the Yugoslav peoples. It is an immediate life-and-death question for them. We read the declaration of Tito that he recognizes the limitations' of a small, backward peasant country, that he does not seek to achieve “socialism in one country” and appeals for economic and political cooperation of the other East-European countries, and above all, of the Soviet Union.

No Aid from Stalin

But the Soviet Union under Stalin – that prime example of “socialism in one country” – gives no aid. The Nationalistic Kremlin clique can only try to loot from the Yugoslav people the little they now have. Stalin – the author of the theory of “socialism in one country” – comes to the other peoples not as a socialist emancipator, but as a brigand trying to maintain his own “socialist” regime with the stolen goods of others.

We hear the cry from the cadres of the Stalinized Yugoslav Communist Party about the “degeneration of the Soviet Union.” What are they speaking of but the predictions of Trotsky in 1923 made real today?

For already in. 1923, Trotsky wrote his articles gathered together in the book, The New Course, in which he described the growing bureaucratism within the Soviet Union and the Russian Communist Party and warned of inevitable bureaucratic degeneration if the Soviet leaders did not return to the paths of party democracy.

Trotsky’s Program

As against reactionary nationalism, Trotsky represented revolutionary internationalism. As against bureaucratic repression, Trotsky stood for working-class democracy. As against political collaboration with the imperialists and Peoples Frontism, Trotsky called for international workers solidarity and unremitting class struggle against imperialism. As against Stalinism, in short, Trotsky upheld the program of Marxism-Leninism.

To destroy his implacable foe armed with, the power of a correct program, Stalin mobilized all the resources of a great state. He sought to expunge Trotsky’s name. from the Russian text books, to rewrite history. He unloosed a campaign of falsification, vilification and slander – not without encouragement and support from the camp of imperialism. – such as the world had never known. He murdered Trotsky’s co-thinkers in Russia by the tens of thousands. He staged monstrous frame-up trials in which the leading Old Bolsheviks were represented as “agents of Hitler.” He hounded Trotsky from country to country and thought to settle the issue once and for all by driving a pick-axe into Trotsky’s brain.

But Stalin has again proved what history has long taught. You can murder men; you cannot murder ideas. The ideas of Trotsky are today an indestructible force in the world – an organized force. They live on, more dynamic, more powerful, more widespread by far than on the day he died. For Trotsky left the inheritance not only of his program, but of his organization, the Fourth International, the World Party of Socialist Revolution.

Last April the Fourth International held its Second World Congress in France. Since Trotsky’s death and during the war, it had been forced to work without the living guidance of Trotsky’s genius. But armed with his program, it survived the cruelest blows ever dealt any revolutionary organization.

In some countries, whole sections of the Fourth International had been physically exterminated by war, disease and famine, by Hitler’s Gestapo or Stalin’s GPU. But the Fourth International endured, revived and emerged from the war stronger than ever.

Its Second World Congress was attended by delegates of sections in 19 countries, from all continents. Adhering to the program of the Fourth International today are groups and organizations in 32 countries.

The Second World Congress, of the Fourth International cemented together more firmly,the vanguard of the world revolutionary socialist movement. It drew up a program of action, worldwide in scope and objective; to rally s arid mobilize humanity for the triumphant struggle for international socialism.

The building of his world party, the continuation: and development of his struggle through this party, is the greatest monument to Trotsky’s memory. He would have wanted no other.

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