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Harry Strang

Troyanovsky – 1916 and 1934

(March 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 12, 24 March 1934, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In 1916, when Lenin and Trotsky were struggling to reorganize the collapsed international labor movement, Alexander Troyanovsky, now Soviet ambassador to the U.S.A., published in Zurich, Switzerland, a pamphlet entitled Do We Need An International? There he vigorously assailed Karl Radek and his “disciple,” Lenin, for their theory that only a socialist revolution could defeat imperialism, called them “extremists” and deserters of the class struggle, criticized the Zimmerwald and Kienthal Conferences for being insufficiently internationalist, and offered instead a program, formulated, according to Troyanovsky’s statement, by Kautsky.

There is no need to go into all that old dispute. History has refuted Troyanovsky if nothing else has, and now he takes off his hat every time Lenin’s name is mentioned. There is space, however, to quote a few important passages from Troyanovsky’s pamphlet. According to our author, Lenin’s theory of imperialism led to an attitude of offering “no resistance to imperialism, to the exploitation of one country by another, or even to the domestic reaction growing out of imperialism”. He continued thus:

Troyanorsky Accuses Lenin

“This abandonment of resistance to imperialism not only does away with the necessity of the international as an organization of international proletarian action. In principle, it leads to an estimate of socialism as a national task to be carried out within the confines of existing states by the working class forces of such states. The social revolution thus ceases to be an international matter, the result of a unified international struggle of the proletariat of the entire world’, and becomes a goal to be reached by the separate efforts of the proletariats of separate countries, independent of the nature of existing international conditions.” (p. 7)
“If the highest goal of all our work, socialism, can and must be achieved by the workers of each country independently then they can have no strong motives for standing by the workers of other countries in their socialist struggles. An international built on such principles must fall apart at the first transition from words about international solidarity to deeds.” (p. 8)
“If the workers of the various countries are to reach the socialist order through different doorways, without being forced into joint socialist struggles to break down barriers constituted by existing international conditions, then, strictly speaking, there can be no talk of workers’ solidarity and of a common goal of the workers’ movement in the various countries.” (p. 8)

“An International Scientific Society”

“Under such conditions, the international would inevitably be transformed into an international scientific society dealing with questions of the labor movement, maintaining information bureaus, and, finally, calling occasional congresses with solemn proclamations of the principles of socialism and ovations to veterans of the socialist parties of the various countries. Such an international cannot be the international of a unified will, a real common struggle, and a consolidation of the proletarians of all countries for joint intervention in international affairs. In a time of international conflicts no sign of life can be expected from such an international. Just where theory ends and practice begins, this international will be impotent. Should some energetic, decisive international action be needed, then the true nature of this scientific society will be shown ...” (p. 11)
“An international labor organization with such ideas will and cannot educate the workers in the spirit of international solidarity, and cultivate them into members of the future socialist society, which must be built on the basis of the fraternity and unity of nations ... The horizon of the worker who has accepted the dogma of the possibility of a social revolution limited to the arena of his own state, will be cramped by the interests of the labor movement of his own country, and he will lose all interest in the International and internationalism. (The italics are Troyanovsky’s.)
“International solidarity would then remain at best an ideal for the remote future. For the uniting of proletarians of all countries we would have to await the socialist revolution, after which there will be no more proletarians and the international itself will no longer be needed ...” (p. 12)

“Deny Necessity of International”

“If we visualize the social revolution as the individual task of individual national parties and regard as impossible a class struggle against imperialism waged in the spirit of international solidarity, then we must deny the necessity of an international and advocate the division of socialism into a series of national socialist movements disconnected from each other.” (p. 32)

Clearly Troyanovsky did some pretty lavish “interpreting” of Lenin. The national-reformist attitude Troyanovsky attacked – “socialism in one country”, perfunctory internationalism, separation of workers along national lines, etc., etc. – was, as has been plentifully demonstrated, not Lenin’s. Troyanovsky’s attack was beside the mark. Now all that is history. The USSR, having made terms with the U.S.A., sends as Ambassador Troyanovsky, the old “internationalist,” who, arm-in-arm with Kautsky, attacked Lenin “from the Left.”

* * * *

Well, Ambassador Troyanovsky, what about socialism in one country now? Are you still as bitter as ever against it? What about an international whose congresses are merely perfunctory – or never held at all? What about breaking up socialism into a series of national movements, limiting the horizon of the worker, postponing solidarity until after the revolution, and all the rest of it? And finally, your question of 1916, do we need an International?

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