From The Militant, Vol. III No. 17, 26 April 1930, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
[First paragraph illegible in source]
The compass by which the revolutionary vanguard steers through the w[hirl] of events, striking the necessary balance between enthusiasm and objectivity – is the analysis of class relations in dynamic development. This is the method of Marxism, and for decisive reasons – the rich experiences of three revolutions, ceaseless preoccupation with theoretical fundamentals, preeminence of its leadership – it finds its finest living expression today in the Russian Opposition. Because as against the Thermidorian Right and bureaucratic Centrist factions, its basic line is still that of the Party under Lenin – the Russian Opposition is the Left. The Russian Opposition is the contemporary embodiment of Bolshevism hardened for decades in the struggle against opportunism as the main danger inside the labor movement, but also against “otsovism” against every form of ultra-Left adventurism. The Russian Opposition represents the spiritual heritage of October and the first four congresses of the Third International. The three issues which L.D. Trotsky proposed as the touchstone of adherence to the Left – Anglo-Russian Committee, Chinese Revolution and Soviet Economy (national socialism) – are no more “merely” tactical differences than the divisions of Bolshevism and Menshevism over the character of the 1905 revolution. They go to the root of the Communist program. They involve questions of the estimate of the epoch, the character of the Russian revolution, the role of the vanguard, the significance of the Soviets, the national and agrarian problems.
It is clear that between the Marxist Left that is the Russian Opposition and the “Left” groupings in the Comintern before 1924, there is a yawning gulf. Conjointly with Lenin, in the period of the Second Congress, Trotsky demolished the sectarian abstractions of Gorter and Pannekoek, the theoreticians of the German Communist Labor Party (K.A.P.D.). Conjointly with Lenin, Trotsky at the Third Congress no less vigorously engaged the ultra-Left adventurism (the “Offensive Theory”) of the eminent “Leninists” Bela Kun, Maslow and Thalheimer. The severe correction proved such a shock to Thalheimer that he lost his balance and ultimately staggered into the camp of the extreme Right, while Maslow declared a permanent vendetta against the Third Congress as the work of the Mephlsto Trotsky who had seduced the Innocent Maslowite Lenin.
These reminiscences of the Second and particularly the Third Congresses, unfortunately possess more than purely historical interest. They have a direct bearing on the subsequent fate of the Leninbund. For years a whispering and press campaign was carried on among the Left-inclined workers of Hamburg, Berlin, the Ruhr and elsewhere to depict Trotsky as the Right Danger and Zinoviev and Bucharin as the patron-saints of the Left! This gross disorientation of the German Left, the obstinate Opposition to the Third Congress, the failure correctly to distinguish the tendencies in the Russian Party, were bound up with the ideological perversions of Maslow. The blunders of the Leninbund, the Urbahns theory of the so-called “hybrid” state, its fallacious analysis of the Thermidor, its bankruptcy in the Russo-Chinese issue, its oscillation between Brandler and Korsch, all show that the ghost of Maslow has not yet been laid and the evil of Zinoviev lives after him.
Maslow’s method of approach to the problems of the Russian and international revolution was essentially eclectic. It was the method of the editorial writer who upon being asked to compose an article on Chinese Metaphysics read up the Encyclopedia Britannica under China and Metaphysics and combined his information. Maslow learned that Lenin’s slogan in the revolution of 1905 was the democratic dictatorship (bourgeois democracy) and that there were two revolutions in 1917. He therefore instructed his associates that if the world revolution did not come to the assistance of Russia, the Bolsheviks would have “to retreat to the positions of 1905”, that is, the bourgeois revolution. This fundamentally Menshevik theory is the prop of Urbahn’s conception of “Thermidor”. If Kamenev and Zinoviev would have had their way in 1917, the Bolsheviks would never, of course, have advanced beyond “the postions of 1905” – and there would have been – an end to the revolution. The proletarian revolution is not followed by the bourgeois revolution, the proletarian dictatorship can be liquidated only by a Bonapartist or Fascist dictatorship. To conceive of a Thermidor as the threshold of bourgeois democracy in Russia in the epoch of imperialism, and civil war the epoch of the essential decay of bourgeois democracy is a grotesque misreading of history ... In conversation with the writer comrade Urbahns once confessed that he had learned “a great deal” from Maslow. In retrospect, it would have been better if he had learned less and forgotten more.
The concrete issue of the Defense of the Soviet Union brought with it more than just a settlement of accounts with the Leninbund leadership. It urgently raised the problem of the unification of the whole International Opposition, which was far from homogeneous in its origins, its traditions and ideology. Here the mature leadership of the Russian Opposition proved indispensable, and it exerted the pressure of its natural prestige in favor of ideological clarity and against a bloc of motley opposition tendencies. Already on his arrival in Constantinople, Trotsky uncompromisingly put an end to all speculations on an unprincipled bloc with the Brandler Right. In equally decisive fashion, he rejected the contraband of “neo-syndicalism” of the Revolution Proletarien (Monatte-Loriot) group. Concurrently, he sharply dissociated the Russian Opposition from fraternity with those for whom the Opposition entailed no obligations of mundane political activity, for whom Opposition had become stagnation, routine and a refuge from Party discipline.
But of supreme importance in the ideological fusion of the International Left to the question of the Permanent Revolution, which comrade Trotsky has placed on the order of the day for discussion. The Opposition must be absolutely clear on the significance of this question. Those who reject the epigone-manufactured legend of “Trotskyism” must realise that the Permanent Revolution is the concentrated antithesis of the revisionist program of national socialism, the bloc of four classes, the theory of stages (colonial revolution), Workers and Peasants Parties, the peaceful cohabitation of socialism and capitalism the kulak growth into socialism (Bucharin). Why is it necessary to bring the Permanent Revolution up now, laments Radek, justifying his capitulation. During the period of the first four Congresses of the International it was not necessary to discuss the theory of the Permanent Revolution because its substance was the strategy of the International. It is the revision of Leninism by the epigones that brings the Permanent Revolution into relief as the essence of Bolshevism. It is the attempt of the epigones who before Lenin’s April Theses had not advanced beyond the position of the bourgeois revolution, and who would now inflict the international working class with their reactionary theory – that has raised the question. It is the experiences of the Chinese Revolution that have raised the question.
The recently published theses on the Permanent Revolution are the re-affirmation in the present period of the April Theses of Lenin in all their implications. They link up the national with the international, the democratic with the socialist, the agrarian with the proletarian revolutions. They re-affirm that the emancipation of the peasantry can only come from the leadership of the proletariat. They repudiate the idea of two-class parties and maintain the necessity of the independent leadership of the Communist Party.
The misrepresentations and distortions of the theory of the Permanent Revolution – which is Marxist to the bone – was made possible by the domination of the Party and Comintern apparatus by the Right-Center Bloc under the pressure of alien class elements, the growing influence of the Kulak, Nepman and Bureaucrat.
The American Opposition sees in the establishment of an International Bureau of the Opposition, an International Bulletin and Conference – a tremendously significant step forward in the struggle for the revolutionary line and the winning of the Comintern from the opportunist-Blanquist zig-zag of the internationally organized Stalin faction.
The American Opposition was formed under conditions that permitted no illusions of swift victory – or capitulation. It was organized after the Sixth Congress, that is, after the rupture of the bloc with Zinoviev and the capitulation of the Zinovievists. Our group in America attracted militants who realized the consequences of the step they were taking – who saw the mainstream of the Russian Opposition in the Moscow Opposition of 1924, We are a “Trotsky” Opposition, if we may say so without misunderstanding. We repudiate all admixtures of Zinovievism and Maslowism, the theories of Souvarine and those of the Smirnov-Sapronovists. In our Platform we justly recognize L.D. Trotsky as the foremost living teacher and leader of Bolshevism, the foremost representative of the legacy of Marx and Lenin.
With the Russian Opposition we are in complete accord that the Rakovsky declaration was no gesture of capitulation but a necessary demonstration of the united front with the Party. In the same sense do we regard the declaration of October 16, 1926 of the Party loyalty of the Opposition – to which Urbahns takes so much exception.
The situation in the American Communist movement has been immensely clarified since the Sixth Congress, and the greatest contribution in this direction has been made by the militants who formed the Left Opposition. None of the former Party groupings are any longer what they once were. Never was the Lovestone group such an undisguised and outspoken Right wing. Never was the unprincipled swamp-like character of the Foster faction more apparent. Never was there the clear and outspoken conscious Left wing that the American Opposition constitutes today. The limits of the old unprincipled factionalism and intrigue had their rise in the Zinoviev-Bucharin and Stalin regimes. The American Opposition has in the short space of its existence achieved a great revolutionary educational work for the movement that will sooner or later bear its fruit. For this the American Opposition recognizes its historic debt to the Russian Opposition.
Last updated: 21.9.2012