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Lovestone 10 Years Ago

(September 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 22, 5 September 1931, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

It is not customary or seemly to write anniversary articles about the living but we feel that under the circumstances our readers will understand; and to understand, says de Stael, is to forgive. It is September 1931 and in these lines we shall engage to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Jay Lovestone’s conversion from counter-revolutionary Trotskyism to Stalinism. The fact that Lovestone, ten years ago, was a “Trotskyist” – we hasten to explain to the wondering reader – is adequate justification for a memorial notice today.

The last few issues of Lovestone’s paper, the Revolutionary Age, have been publishing a series of articles on The Soviet Union and Its Bourgeois Critics: Building Socialism in U.S.S.R., in which Lovestone makes a moving attempt to appear as the defender of Stalin ... against Walter Duranty. The occasion for this ardent and touching defense was a series of articles by Duranty in the New York Times, in which he argued that Leninism had been replaced in the Soviet Union by Stalinism, which has subordinated or cast aside the perspective of international revolution in favor of the “practical reality” of national socialism. The Lovestone defense consists of an argument that Stalinism does not exist; if it does, it is merely a legitimate repetition and continuation of Leninism itself. It is not Stalin, you are given to understand, who invented the theory and practise of “socialism in one country”, but Lenin himself. The only opponent of this theory is Trotsky.

“The Russian workers have seized political power,” Lovestone announces “What shall they do with their power within the Soviet Union? This is no abstract question. To play with the state power is to play with fire. The question of constructing socialism in the Soviet Union should never be treated abstractly. What shall the Soviet proletariat do in the Soviet Union except build socialism?”

[Is this not a positively annihilating question? They might build a system of barbarism. And they might build up a feudal society. But they do neither. In spite of the Trotskyists, the Russian workers have decided to build socialism!]

“For what other purpose shall they use their state power in the Soviet Union except for constructing socialism there? Let the critics of the Soviet Union – bourgeois and otherwise [“otherwise” means ... Trotskyists] – tell us what should the Soviet workers build in the Soviet Union except socialism.” (Rev. Age, 8-22-1931.)

We assume this means that the Opposition is in favor of the Russian workers building capitalism, or feudalism, or nothing at all. If such unrefined idiocy were so, Lovestone has already won the first victory. But let us pass this by out of kindness, and read further:

“It was at the Fifteenth Party Congress in December 1927, that Bucharin speaking for the Congress, administered the most crushing ideological defeat to Trotskyism on this viewpoint. If the C.P.S.U. were not correct in concluding that the Soviet proletariat was capable of overcoming fully all bourgeois elements within its country, that is, of building a socialist society, then, it would really have no reason for maintaining power”. (Ibid.)

The line of division is clear: “Leninism” (à la Lovestone) declares that the Russian proletariat, by itself, is capable of the successful construction of a national socialist society. “Trotskyism” declares that this can be done only with the “state aid” of the revolutionary proletariat of a number of other countries. If this is the line of division, we are now in a position to look back at The Communist, official organ of the Communist Party of America (the underground C.P. of a decade ago) Vol. 1 No. 3, for September 1921, where we read an article by Roger B. Nelson, entitled Russia’s Hour of Need:

“Our speakers and agitators should utilize the movement for the relief of Soviet Russia for specific purposes. Bat at no time must we compromise the class character of our campaign for immediate results. Any other policy would in the end do more harm than good to the starving workers of Russia ... We must bring to light the fact that no successful revolution can be accomplished in ANY ONE COUNTRY without the assistance of the international proletariat.

Who is this counter-revolutionary Trotskyist who smuggled his anti-Leninist views into the official organ of the Communist Party of America under the guise of a famine relief article? As we have said, it was Roger B. Nelson. And who is Roger B. Nelson? He is, or was – it is not much of a secret today – Jay Lovestone, yes, the same Jay Lovestone whom we quoted above. And if the revolution could not be accomplished successfully in “any one country” by the forces of the proletariat of that country alone, why did not Lovestone, in September 1921, tell the Russian workers – in line with his arguments of September 1931 – that they “have no reason for maintaining power”?

But is it not possible that this was a momentary “Trotskyist” aberration of one individual? Let us look further in the same issue of The Communist, and on page five we find an article The Third Congress written by “James A. Marshall, Delegate Communist Party of America” who, after speaking of “Lenin, Trotsky and other irreproachable leaders” (he changed his mind about that later), writes:

“Soviet Russia cannot exist as an isolated state within a capitalist world.” [Name of a name! Trotsky was expelled for saying no more than that! ] “This is the problem. Two solutions are possible. One puts the burden of the action upon the revolutionary working class outside of Russia. The other must be carried out by the workers of Russia. The first is the overthrow of capitalism in the countries of Europe or America, and the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship there. The other is a method to break the deadly economic isolation of Russia. It waited until it could wait no longer.” [Why did it have to wait if Lenin “in 1915” said that they need fear no isolation because they could build socialism with their own forces?] “It now proposes to break the unbearable economic isolation. The concessions policy is one of the methods of doing it.”

And who is this Trotskyist No. 2? Is he Cannon or Swabeck? No. At the risk of producing the rupture of a blood vessel, we must point out that James A. Marshall was and is Lovestone’s bosom friend of yesterday – Max Bedacht, member of the Political Bureau of the party today and professional Trotsky killer.

But perhaps we have before us only two individual aberrations? Not at all. In The Communist, official organ of the United Communist Party of America (both Lovestone and Bedacht were members of its Central Committee), No. 5, for August 15, 1920, we read the following official pronouncement, presumably representing the standpoint of the whole party, unless Lovestone’s and Bedacht’s protests were concealed by the other “Trotskyists”:

“The Soviets will realize that the theoretical deduction from the facts of the struggle between capitalism and communism, that a proletarian state cannot exist in a capitalist world, must be followed in practise and that Soviet Russia can only preserve itself by developing the Russian revolution into the world revolution. Soviet Russia will stand or fall as the revolution in that country becomes, or does not become the world revolution.”

Cannot even exist! Can only preserve itself! But what about building up a complete national socialist society with their own forces, without “developing the Russian revolution into the world revolution”? Where was Stalin to put the quietus on such arrant Trotskyism? Where was Bucharin? Where was Bedacht? And Lovestone? The horrible truth is that they were all, all, “Trotskyists” in those days ...

* * * *

There is no exact record of when Lovestone was converted. He may tell us some day what caused him to see the light and when. But we doubt it. He appears to be too busy dividing his tongue between Stalin’s boots in Moscow and Muste’s in the United States.

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