J. V. Stalin
Source: Works, Vol. 9, December 1926-July 1927, pp. 288-318
First Published:Bolshevik, No. 10, May 31, 1927
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
Comrades, I must apologise for having arrived late at today’s sitting of the Executive Committee and so could not hear the whole of the speech that Trotsky read here in the Executive Committee.
I think, however, that in the last few days Trotsky has submitted to the Executive Committee such a mass of literature, theses and letters on the Chinese question that we cannot lack material for criticism of the opposition.
I shall therefore base my criticism of Trotsky’s errors on these documents, and I have no doubt that it will at the same time be a criticism of the fundamentals of the speech Trotsky delivered today.
I shall try, as far as possible, to keep the personal element out of the controversy. Trotsky’s and Zinoviev’s personal attacks on individual members of the Political Bureau of the C.C., C.P.S.U. (B.) and of the Presidium of the E.C.C.I. are not worth wasting time on.
Trotsky, evidently, would like to pose at the meetings of the Executive Committee of the Comintern as a sort of hero so as to turn its examination of the questions of the war danger, the Chinese revolution, etc., into an examination of the question of Trotsky. I think that Trotsky does not deserve so much consideration. (A voice from the audience: “Quite right!”) All the more so as the resembles an actor rather than a hero; and an actor should not be confused with a hero under any circumstances.
I say nothing of the fact that when people like Trotsky and Zinoviev, whom the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee found guilty of a Social-Democratic deviation, abuse the Bolsheviks for all they are worth, there is nothing offensive in this to Bukharin or to Stalin. On the contrary, I should be very deeply offended if semi-Mensheviks of the Trotsky and Zinoviev type did not abuse, but praised me.
Nor shall I dilate on the question of whether the opposition, by its present factional statements, has violated the undertakings it gave on October 16, 1926. Trotsky asserts that the opposition’s declaration of October 16, 1926, gives him the right to uphold his views. That, of course, is true. But if Trotsky means to assert that that is all the declaration stipulates, this can only be called sophistry.
The opposition’s declaration of October 16 speaks not only of the right of the opposition to uphold its views, but also of the fact that these views maybe upheld only within the limits permitted by the Party, that factionalism must be discarded and put an end to, that the opposition is obliged “to submit unreservedly” to the will of the Party and the decisions of the C.C., and that the opposition must not only submit to these decisions, but must conscientiously “carry them out.”
In view of all this, is any further proof needed that the opposition has most grossly violated and torn up its declaration of October 16, 1926.
Nor shall I dilate on the unseemly and grossly slanderous distortions of the position of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.) and the Comintern on the Chinese question contained in the numerous theses, articles and speeches of the opposition. Trotsky and Zinoviev never cease to allege that the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.) and the Comintern have upheld and continue to uphold a policy of “support” for the national bourgeoisie in China.
It scarcely needs proof that this allegation of Trotsky’s and Zinoviev’s is a fabrication, a slander, a deliberate distortion of the facts. As a matter of fact, the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.) and the Comintern upheld not the policy of supporting the national bourgeoisie, but a policy of utilising the national bourgeoisie so long as the revolution in China was the revolution of an all-national united front, and they later replaced that policy by a policy of armed struggle against the national bourgeoisie when the revolution in China became an agrarian revolution, and the national bourgeoisie began to desert the revolution.
To convince oneself of this, one has only to examine such documents as the resolution of the Seventh Enlarged Plenum, the appeal of the Executive Committee of the Comintern,2 Stalin’s theses for propagandists,* and, lastly, Bukharin’s theses submitted the other day to the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Comintern.
It is indeed the misfortune of the opposition that it cannot manage without tittle-tattle and distortions.
Let us pass to the matter in hand.
Trotsky’s fundamental error is that he does not understand the character and meaning of the Chinese revolution. The Comintern holds that survivals of feudalism are the predominating factor in the oppression in China at the present moment, a factor stimulating the agrarian revolution. The Comintern holds that the survivals of feudalism in the Chinese countryside and the entire militarist-bureaucratic superstructure resting on them, with all the tuchuns, governors, generals, Chang Tso-lins and so forth, constitute the basis on which the present agrarian revolution has arisen and is unfolding.
If in a number of provinces 70 per cent of the peasants’ earnings go to the landlords and the gentry, if the landlords, armed and unarmed, are not only the economic but also the administrative and judicial power, if medieval purchase and sale of women and children is still practised in a number of provinces—then it cannot but be admitted that feudal survivals are the principal form of oppression in the Chinese provinces.
And precisely because feudal survivals, with their entire militarist bureaucratic superstructure, are the principal form of oppression in China, China is now passing through an agrarian revolution of gigantic power and scope.
And what is the agrarian revolution? It is, indeed, the basis and content of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.
That is precisely why the Comintern says that China is now passing through a bourgeois-democratic revolution. But the bourgeois-democratic revolution in China is directed not only against feudal survivals; it is directed also against imperialism.
Because imperialism, with all its financial and military might, is the force in China that supports, inspires, fosters and preserves the feudal survivals, together with their entire bureaucratic-militarist superstructure.
Because it is impossible to abolish the feudal survivals in China without at the same time waging a revolutionary struggle against imperialism in China.
Because anyone who wants to abolish the feudal survivals in China must necessarily raise his hand against imperialism and the imperialist groups in China.
Because the feudal survivals in China cannot be smashed and abolished without waging a determined struggle against imperialism.
That is precisely why the Comintern says that the bourgeois-democratic revolution in China is at the same time an anti-imperialist revolution.
Thus, the present revolution in China is a combination of two streams of the revolutionary movement—the movement against feudal survivals and the movement against imperialism. The bourgeois-democratic revolution in China is a combination of the struggle against feudal survivals and the struggle against imperialism.
That is the starting point of the whole line of the Comintern (and hence of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.)) on the questions of the Chinese revolution.
And what is the starting point of Trotsky’s attitude on the Chinese question? It is the direct opposite of the Comintern’s standpoint, as just expounded. Trotsky either refuses altogether to recognise the existence of feudal survivals in China, or does not attach decisive importance to them. Trotsky (and hence the opposition), underestimating the strength and significance of feudal-bureaucratic oppression in China, supposes that the principal reason for the Chinese national revolution is China’s state-customs dependence on the imperialist countries.
Allow me to refer to the theses which Trotsky submitted to the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.) and the Executive Committee of the Comintern a few days ago. These theses of Trotsky’s are entitled “The Chinese Revolution and Stalin’s Theses.”
Here is what Trotsky says in these theses:
“Fundamentally untenable is Bukharin’s attempt to justify his opportunist compromising line by references to the alleged predominating role of ‘feudal survivals’ in China’s economy. Even if Bukharin’s estimate of Chinese economy were based upon an economic analysis, and not upon scholastic definitions, all the same ‘feudal survivals’ could not justify the policy which so manifestly facilitated the April coup. The Chinese revolution bears a national-bourgeois character for the basic reason that the development of the productive forces of Chinese capitalism is being blocked by China’s state-customs** dependence on the imperialist countries” (see Trotsky’s “The Chinese Revolution and Stalin’s Theses”).
A superficial perusal of this passage might lead one to think that it is not the Comintern line on the question of the character of the Chinese revolution that Trotsky is combating, but Bukharin’s “compromising policy.” That, of course, is not true. Actually, what we have in this quotation is a denial of the “predominating role” of the feudal survivals in China. Actually, what is asserted here is that the agrarian revolution now developing in China is a revolution of the top stratum, an anti-customs revolution, so to speak.
The talk about Bukharin’s “compromising policy” was needed here by Trotsky in order to cover up his departure from the line of the Comintern. It is, I will say bluntly, Trotsky’s usual fraudulent device.
It follows therefore, according to Trotsky, that the feudal survivals in China with their entire militarist-bureaucratic superstructure, are not the mainspring of the Chinese revolution at the present moment, but a secondary and insignificant factor, which only deserves to be mentioned in inverted commas.
It follows therefore, according to Trotsky, that the “basic reason” for the national revolution in China is China’s customs dependence on the imperialists, and that, owing to this, the revolution in China is primarily, so to speak, an anti-customs revolution.
Such is the starting point of Trotsky’s conception. Such is Trotsky’s viewpoint on the character of the Chinese revolution.
Permit me to observe that this viewpoint is that of a state counsellor of “His Highness” Chang Tso-lin.
If Trotsky’s viewpoint is correct, then it must be admitted that Chang Tso-lin and Chiang Kai-shek are right in not desiring either an agrarian or a workers’ revolution, and in striving only for the abolition of the unequal treaties and the establishment of customs autonomy for China.
Trotsky has slid over to the viewpoint of the officials of Chang Tso-lin and Chiang Kai-shek.
If the survivals of feudalism have to be put in inverted commas; if the Comintern is wrong in declaring that the feudal survivals are of predominant importance at the present stage of the revolution; if the basis for the Chinese revolution is customs dependence and not the struggle against feudal survivals and against imperialism, which supports them—what then remains of the agrarian revolution in China?
Where does the agrarian revolution in China, with its demand for the confiscation of the landlords’ land, come from? What grounds are there, in that case, for regarding the Chinese revolution as a bourgeois-democratic revolution? Is it not a fact that the agrarian revolution is the basis of the bourgeois-democratic revolution? Surely, the agrarian revolution cannot have dropped from the skies?
Is it not a fact that millions and tens of millions of peasants are involved in a gigantic agrarian revolution in such provinces as Hunan, Hupeh, Honan, etc., where the peasants are establishing their own rule, their own courts, their own self-defence bodies, driving out the landlords and settling accounts with them “in plebeian fashion”?
Where do we get such a powerful agrarian movement from, if feudal-militarist oppression is not the predominant form of oppression in China?
How could this mighty movement of tens of millions of peasants have assumed at the same time an anti-imperialist character, if we are not to admit that imperialism is the main ally of the feudal-militarist oppressors of the Chinese people?
Is it not a fact that the peasant association in Hunan alone has now over two and a half million members? And how many of them are there already in Hupeh and Honan, and how many will there be in the very near future in other Chinese provinces?
And what about the “Red Spears,” the “Tightened Belts’ Associations,” etc.—can they be a figment of the imagination, and not a reality?
Can it be seriously maintained that the agrarian revolution embracing tens of millions of peasants with the slogan of confiscation of the landlords’ land is directed not against real and undeniable feudal survivals, but against imaginary ones, in inverted commas?
Is it not obvious that Trotsky has slid over to the viewpoint of the officials of “His Highness” Chang Tso-lin? Thus we have two basic lines:
a) the line of the Comintern, which takes into account the existence of feudal survivals in China, as the predominant form of oppression, the decisive importance of the powerful agrarian movement, the connection of the feudal survivals with imperialism, and the bourgeois-democratic character of the Chinese revolution, with its struggle spearheaded against imperialism;
b) the line of Trotsky, which denies the predominant importance of feudal-militarist oppression, fails to appreciate the decisive importance of the agrarian revolutionary movement in China, and attributes the anti-imperialist character of the Chinese revolution solely to the interests of Chinese capitalism, which is demanding customs independence for China.
The basic error of Trotsky (and hence of the opposition) is that he underestimates the agrarian revolution in China, does not understand the bourgeois-democratic character of that revolution, denies the existence of the preconditions for an agrarian movement in China, embracing many millions, and underestimates the role of the peasantry in the Chinese revolution.
This error is not a new one with Trotsky. It has been the most characteristic feature of his whole line throughout the period of his struggle against Bolshevism.
Underestimation of the role of the peasantry in the bourgeois-democratic revolution is an error which has pursued Trotsky since 1905, an error which was particularly glaring prior to the February Revolution of 1917, and which clings to him to this day.
Permit me to refer to a few facts relating to Trotsky’s struggle against Leninism, on the eve of the February Revolution in 1917, for example, when we were advancing towards the victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia.
Trotsky asserted at that time that, since differentiation among the peasantry had increased, since imperialism was now predominant and the proletariat was pitting itself against the bourgeois nation, the role of the peasantry would decline and the agrarian revolution would not have the importance which had been ascribed to it in 1905.
What did Lenin say in reply to that? Let me quote a passage from an article written by Lenin in 1915 on the role of the peasantry in the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia;
“This original theory of Trotsky’s (referring to Trotsky’s “permanent revolution.”—J. St.) borrows from the Bolsheviks their call for a resolute revolutionary struggle by the proletariat and for the conquest of political power by the latter, and from the Mensheviks the ‘denial’ of the role of the peasantry. The peasantry, he says, has split up into strata, has become differentiated; its potential revolutionary role has steadily declined; a ‘national’ revolution is impossible in Russia; ‘we are living in the era of imperialism,’ and ‘imperialism pits, not the bourgeois nation against the old regime, but the proletariat against the bourgeois nation.’
“Here we have an amusing example of ‘word juggling’: imperialism! If, in Russia, the proletariat is already pitted against the ‘bourgeois nation,’ then that means that Russia is directly facing a socialist revolution!! Then the slogan ‘confiscation of the landlords’ land’ (which Trotsky, after the Conference of January 1912, put forward again in 1915) is untrue, and we must speak not of a ‘revolutionary workers ’ government, but of a ‘workers’ socialist’ government!! To what lengths Trotsky’s confusion goes may be seen from his phrase that the proletariat would, by its determination, carry along with it the ‘non-proletarian (!) popular masses’ (No. 217)!! Trotsky has not stopped to think that, if the proletariat carries along with it the non-proletarian masses of the countryside for confiscation of the landlords’ land and overthrows the monarchy, that will be the completion of the ‘national bourgeois revolution’ in Russia, that will be the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry **
“The whole decade—the great decade—1905-1915—has demonstrated that there are two, and only two, class lines for the Russian revolution. The differentiation of the peasantry has intensified the class struggle within it, has awakened very many politically dormant elements, has brought the rural proletariat closer to the urban proletariat (the Bolsheviks have been insisting on the separate organisation of the former since 1906, and introduced this demand in the resolution of the Stockholm, Menshevik Congress). But the antagonism between the ‘peasantry’ and the Markovs-Romanovs-Khvostovs has become stronger, more developed, more acute. This truth is so obvious that even thousands of phrases in scores of Trotsky’s Paris articles cannot ‘refute’ it. Trotsky is in fact helping the liberal labour politicians in Russia who understand ‘denial’ of the role of the peasantry to mean refusal to rouse the peasants to revolution! And that just now is the crux of the matter” (see Vol. XVIII, pp. 317-18).
It is this peculiarity of Trotsky’s scheme—the fact that he sees the bourgeoisie and sees the proletariat, but does not notice the peasantry and does not understand its role in the bourgeois-democratic revolution—it is precisely this peculiarity that constitutes the opposition’s principal error on the Chinese question.
It is just this that constitutes the “semi-Menshevism” of Trotsky and of the opposition in the question of the character of the Chinese revolution.
From this principal error stem all the other errors of the opposition, all the confusion in its theses on the Chinese question.
Take, for example, the question of Wuhan. The Comintern’s position on the revolutionary role of Wuhan is well known and clear. Since China is passing through an agrarian revolution, since the victory of the agrarian revolution will mean the victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the victory of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, and since Nanking is the centre of national counter-revolution and Wuhan the centre of the revolutionary movement in China, the Wuhan Kuomintang must be supported and the Communists must participate in this Kuomintang and in its revolutionary government, provided that the leading role of the proletariat and its party is ensured both inside and outside the Kuomintang.
Is the present Wuhan government the organ of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry? No, it is not such an organ as yet, and will not soon become one. But it has every chance of developing into such an organ, given the further development of the revolution and the success of this revolution.
Such is the position of the Comintern.
Quite different is the way Trotsky sees the matter. He considers that Wuhan is not the centre of the revolutionary movement, but a “fiction.” Asked what the Left Kuomintang is at this moment, Trotsky replies: “So far it is nothing, or practically nothing.”
Let us assume that Wuhan is a fiction. But if Wuhan is a fiction, why does Trotsky not insist on a determined struggle against this fiction? Since when have Communists been supporting fictions, participating in fictions, standing at the head of fictions, and so on? Is it not a fact that Communists are in duty bound to fight against fictions? Is it not a fact that if Communists refrained from fighting against fictions, it would mean deceiving the proletariat and the peasantry? Why, then, does Trotsky not propose that the Communists should fight this fiction, if only by immediate withdrawal from the Wuhan Kuomintang and the Wuhan government? Why does Trotsky propose that they should remain within this fiction, and not withdraw from it? Where is the logic in this?
Is not this “logical” incongruity to be explained by the fact that Trotsky took up a swaggering attitude towards Wuhan and called it a fiction, and then got cold feet and shrank from drawing the appropriate conclusion from his theses?
Or take Zinoviev, for example. In his theses, distributed at the plenum of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(13.) in April of this year, Zinoviev characterised the Kuomintang in Wuhan as a Kemalist government of the 1920 period. But a Kemalist government is a government which fights the workers and peasants, a government in which there is not, and cannot be, any place for Communists. It would seem that only one conclusion could be drawn from such a characterisation of Wuhan: a determined struggle against Wuhan, the overthrow of the Wuhan government.
But that is what ordinary people, with ordinary human logic, might think. That is not what Zinoviev thinks. Characterising the Wuhan government in Hankow as a Kemalist government, he at the same time proposes that this government should be given the most energetic support, that the Communists should not resign from it, should not, withdraw from the Kuomintang in Wuhan, and so on. He says outright:
“It is necessary to render the most, energetic and all-round assistance to Hankow and to organise resistance from there against the Cavaignacs. In the immediate future efforts should be concentrated precisely on facilitating organisation and consolidation in Hankow” (see Zinoviev’s theses).
Understand that if you can!
Trotsky says that Wuhan, i.e., Hankow, is a fiction. Zinoviev, on the contrary, asserts that Wuhan is a Kemalist government. The conclusion that should be drawn from this is that the fiction must be fought, or a fight undertaken to overthrow the Wuhan government. But both Trotsky and Zinoviev shrink from the conclusion that follows inevitably from their premises, and Zinoviev goes even further and recommends rendering “the most energetic and all-round assistance to Hankow.”
What does all this show? It shows that the opposition has got entangled in contradictions. It has lost the capacity to think logically, it has lost all sense of perspective.
Confusion of mind and loss of all sense of perspective on the Wuhan question—such is the position of Trotsky and the opposition, if confusion can be called a position at all.
Or take, as another example, the question of Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies in China.
On the question of organising Soviets, we have the three resolutions adopted by the Second Congress of the Comintern: Lenin’s theses on the formation of non-proletarian, peasants’ Soviets in backward countries, Roy’s theses on the formation of workers’ and peasants’ Soviets in such countries as China and India, and the special theses on “When and in What Circumstances Soviets of Workers’ Deputies May Be Formed.”
Lenin’s theses deal with the formation of “peasants’,” “people’s,” non-proletarian Soviets in countries like those of Central Asia, where there is no industrial proletariat, or practically none. Not a word is said in Lenin’s theses about the formation of Soviets of workers’ deputies in such countries. Furthermore, Lenin’s theses hold that one of the essential conditions for the development and formation of “peasants’,” “people’s,” Soviets in backward countries is the rendering of direct support to the revolution in such countries by the proletariat of the U.S.S.R. It is clear that these theses envisage not China or India—where there is a certain minimum of industrial proletariat, and where, under certain conditions, the creation of workers’ Soviets is a pre-condition for the formation of peasants’ Soviets—but other, more backward countries, such as Persia, etc.
Roy’s theses chiefly envisage China and India, where there is an industrial proletariat. These theses propose the formation, in certain circumstances—in the period of transition from the bourgeois to the proletarian revolution—of Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies. It is clear that these theses have a direct bearing on China.
The special theses of the Second Congress, entitled “When and in What Circumstances Soviets of Workers’ Deputies May Be Formed,” deal with the role of Soviets of workers’ deputies on the basis of the experience of the revolutions in Russia and Germany. These theses affirm that “without a proletarian revolution, Soviets inevitably turn into a travesty of Soviets.” It is clear that when considering the question of immediately forming Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies in China, we must take these latter theses also into account.
How do matters stand with the question of immediately forming Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies in China, if we take into account both the present situation in China, with the existence of the Wuhan Kuomintang as the centre of the revolutionary movement, and the directives in the last two theses of the Second Congress of the Comintern.
To form Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies at the present time in the area of activity, say, of the Wuhan government, would mean establishing a dual power and issuing the slogan of a struggle for the overthrow of the Left Kuomintang and the establishment of a new, Soviet power in China.
Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies are organs of struggle for the overthrow of the existing power, organs of struggle for a new power. The appearance of Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies cannot but create a dual power, and, given a dual power, the question whom all power should belong to cannot but become an acute issue.
How did matters stand in Russia in March-April-May-June 1917? There was at that time the Provisional Government, which possessed half the power—but the more real power, very likely, because it still had the support of the army. Side by side with this there were the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which also possessed something like half the power, although not such a real power as that of the Provisional Government. The slogan of the Bolsheviks at that time was to depose the Provisional Government and to transfer all power to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. None of the Bolsheviks thought of entering the Provisional Government, for you cannot enter a government that you are out to overthrow.
Can it be said that the situation in Russia in March-June 1917 was similar to the situation in China today? No, it cannot. It cannot be said, not only because Russia at that time was facing a proletarian revolution while China now is facing a bourgeois-democratic revolution, but also because at that time the Provisional Government in Russia was a counter-revolutionary and imperialist government, while the present Wuhan government is a government that is anti-imperialist and revolutionary, in the bourgeois-democratic meaning of the word.
What does the opposition propose in this connection?
It proposes the immediate creation in China of Soviets of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies, as centres of organisation of the revolutionary movement. But Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies are not only centres of organisation of the revolutionary movement. They are, first and foremost, organs of an uprising against the existing power, organs for the establishment of a new, revolutionary power. The opposition does not understand that only as organs of an uprising, only as organs of a new power, can Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies become centres of the revolutionary movement. Failing this, Soviets of workers’ deputies become a fiction, an appendage of the existing power, as was the case in Germany in 1918 and in Russia in July 1917.
Does the opposition understand that the formation of Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies in China at the present time would mean the establishment of dual power, shared by the Soviets and the Wuhan government, and would necessarily and inevitably lead to a call for the overthrow of the Wuhan government?
I doubt very much whether Zinoviev understands this simple matter. But Trotsky understands it perfectly well, for he plainly says in his theses: “The slogan of Soviets means a call for the setting up of effective organs of power, through a transitional regime of dual power” (see Trotsky’s theses, “The Chinese Revolution and Stalin’s Theses”).
It follows, therefore, that if we were to set up Soviets in China, we should at the same time be setting up a “regime of dual power,” overthrowing the Wuhan government and forming a new, revolutionary power. Trotsky is here obviously taking as a model the events in the history of the Russian revolution in the period prior to October 1917. At that time we really did have a dual power, and we really were working to overthrow the Provisional Government.
But I have already said that none of us at that time thought of entering the Provisional Government. Why, then, does Trotsky not propose now that the Communists should immediately withdraw from the Kuomintang and the Wuhan government? How can you set up Soviets, how can you set up a regime of dual power, and at the same time belong to that selfsame Wuhan government you intend to overthrow? Trotsky’s theses provide no answer to this question.
It is clear that Trotsky has got himself hopelessly entangled in the labyrinth of his own contradictions. He has confused a bourgeois-democratic revolution with a proletarian revolution. He has “forgotten” that, far from being completed, far from being victorious as yet, the bourgeois-democratic revolution in China is only in its initial stage of development. Trotsky does not understand that to withdraw support from the Wuhan government, to issue the slogan of a dual power and to proceed to overthrow the Wuhan government at the present time, through the immediate formation of Soviets, would mean rendering direct and indubitable support to Chiang Kai-shek and Chang Tso-lin.
How then, we are asked, is the formation of Soviets of workers’ deputies in Russia in 1905 to be understood? Were we not then passing through a bourgeois-democratic revolution?
Firstly, however, there were at that time only two Soviets—in St. Petersburg and in Moscow; and the existence of two Soviets did not yet mean the setting up of a system of Soviet power in Russia.
Secondly, the St. Petersburg and Moscow Soviets of that period were organs of an uprising against the old, tsarist power, which once more confirms that Soviets cannot be regarded solely as centres for organising the revolution, that they can be such centres only if they are organs of an uprising and organs of a new power.
Thirdly, the history of workers’ Soviets shows that such Soviets can exist and develop only if favourable conditions exist for a direct transition from bourgeois-democratic revolution to proletarian revolution, if, consequently, favourable conditions exist for a transition from bourgeois rule to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Was it not because these favourable conditions did not exist that the workers’ Soviets in St. Petersburg and Moscow perished in 1905, just as did the workers’ Soviets in Germany in 1918?
It is possible that there would have been no Soviets in Russia in 1905 if there had been at that time a broad revolutionary organisation in Russia similar to the Left Kuomintang in China today. But no such organisation could have existed in Russia at that time, because there were no elements of national oppression among the Russian workers and peasants; the Russians themselves oppressed other nationalities, and an organisation like the Left Kuomintang can arise only when there is national oppression by foreign imperialists, which draws the revolutionary elements of the country together into one broad organisation.
One must be blind to deny to the Left Kuomintang the role of an organ of revolutionary struggle, an organ of revolt against feudal survivals and imperialism in China.
But what follows from this?
From this it follows that the Left Kuomintang is performing approximately the same role in the present bourgeois-democratic revolution in China as the Soviets performed in the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia in 1905.
It would be a different matter if there was no popular and revolutionary-democratic organisation in China such as the Left Kuomintang. But since there is such a specific revolutionary organisation, one which is adapted to the specific features of Chinese conditions, and which has proved its suitability for the further development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in China, it would be foolish and unwise to destroy this organisation, built up in the course of years, now when the bourgeois-democratic revolution has only just begun, is not yet victorious and will not so soon be victorious.
From this consideration, certain comrades draw the conclusion that the Kuomintang may be utilised in the future as well, during the transition to the proletarian revolution, as the form of state organisation of the dictatorship of the proletariat; and they see in this the possibility of a peaceful transition from the bourgeois democratic revolution to the proletarian revolution.
Generally speaking, the possibility of a peaceful development of the revolution is not, of course, out of the question. With us in Russia, too, in the early part of 1917 there was talk of the possibility of a peaceful development of the revolution through the Soviets.
But, firstly, the Kuomintang is not the same thing as Soviets, and while it may be adapted for the work of developing the bourgeois-democratic revolution, that does not necessarily mean that it can be adapted for the work of developing the proletarian revolution; whereas Soviets of workers’ deputies are the form best adapted for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Secondly, even with Soviets, a peaceful transition to the proletarian revolution in Russia in 1917 proved in fact to be out of the question.
Thirdly, proletarian centres in China are so few, and the enemies of the Chinese revolution so strong and numerous, that every advance of the revolution and every assault of the imperialists will inevitably be accompanied by fresh secessions from the Kuomintang and a fresh strengthening of the Communist Party at the expense of the prestige of the Kuomintang.
I think that a peaceful development of the Chinese revolution must be regarded as out of the question.
I think that Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies will have to be set up in China during the period of transition from the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the proletarian revolution. For under present-day conditions such a transition is impossible without Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies.
It is necessary first to enable the agrarian movement to develop throughout China, it is necessary to strengthen Wuhan and support it in the struggle against the feudal bureaucratic regime, it is necessary to help Wuhan to achieve victory over the counter-revolution, it is necessary broadly and universally to develop peasant associations, workers’ trade unions and other revolutionary organisations as a basis for the setting up of Soviets in the future, it is necessary to enable the Chinese Communist Party to strengthen its influence among the peasantry and in the army—and only after this may Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies be set up as organs of struggle for a new power, as elements of a dual power, as elements in the preparation for the transition from the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the proletarian revolution.
The setting up of workers’ Soviets in China is not a matter of empty words, of empty “revolutionary” declamations. This question cannot be regarded so light-mindedly as Trotsky does.
The formation of workers’ and peasants’ Soviets means, first of all, withdrawing from the Kuomintang, because you cannot set up Soviets and promote a dual power, by calling upon the workers and peasants to establish a new power, and at the same time remain within the Kuomintang and its government.
The setting up of Soviets of workers’ deputies means, further, replacing the present bloc within the Kuomintang by a bloc outside the Kuomintang, a bloc similar to the one that the Bolsheviks had with the Left. Socialist-Revolutionaries in October 1917.
Because, whereas in the case of a bourgeois-democratic revolution it is a matter of establishing a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, and the policy of a bloc within the Kuomintang fully conforms to this, in the case of the formation of Soviets and the transition to the proletarian revolution it will be a matter of setting up the dictatorship of the proletariat, of setting up the power of the Soviets, and such a power can be prepared for and set up only under the leadership of one party, the Communist Party.
Further, Soviets of workers’ deputies entail obligations. The Chinese worker today earns 8-15 rubles a month, lives in intolerable conditions, and is heavily overworked. This state of affairs must be, and can be, ended immediately by raising wages, introducing an eight-hour day, improving the housing conditions of the working class, etc. But when there are Soviets of workers’ deputies, the workers will not be content with that. They will say to the Communists (and they will be right): Since we have Soviets, and Soviets are organs of power, why not encroach somewhat on the bourgeoisie and expropriate them “just a little”? The Communists would be empty wind-bags if they did not adopt the course of expropriating the bourgeoisie, given the existence of Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies.
But, the question arises, can and should this course be adopted now, in the present phase of the revolution?
No, it should not.
Can and should one refrain from expropriating the bourgeoisie in the future, when there are Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies? No. But whoever thinks that when that is the case the Communists can retain the bloc within the Kuomintang is labouring under a delusion and does not understand the working of the struggle of class forces in the period of transition from the bourgeois revolution to the proletarian revolution.
That is how matters stand with the question of setting up Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies in China.
As you see, it is not so simple as certain excessively light-minded people, like Trotsky and Zinoviev, make out.
In general, is it permissible in principle for Marxists to take part and co-operate with the revolutionary bourgeoisie in one common revolutionary-democratic party, or in one common revolutionary-democratic government?
Some of the oppositionists think that it is not permissible. But the history of Marxism tells us that under certain conditions and for a certain period it is quite permissible.
I might refer to such an example as that of Marx in Germany in 1848, at the time of the revolution against German absolutism, when Marx and his supporters joined the bourgeois-democratic league in the Rhineland, and when the organ of that revolutionary-democratic party, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, was edited by him.
While belonging to that bourgeois-democratic league and spurring on the revolutionary bourgeoisie, Marx and his supporters strenuously criticised the half–heartedness of their allies on the Right, just as the Communist Party in China, while belonging to the Kuomintang, must strenuously criticise the vacillation and half-heartedness of its Left Kuomintang allies.
We know that only in the spring of 1849 did Marx and his supporters quit that bourgeois-democratic league and proceed to form an independent organisation of the working class, with an absolutely independent class policy.
As you see, Marx went even further than the Chinese Communist Party, which belongs to the Kuomintang as the independent class party of the proletariat.
One may argue or not as to whether it was expedient for Marx and his supporters to join that bourgeois-democratic league in 1848. Rosa Luxemburg, for instance, thought that Marx should not have joined it. That is a question of tactics. But that in principle Marx and Engels granted the possibility and expediency of joining a bourgeois-revolutionary party in a period of bourgeois-democratic revolution, under certain conditions and for a definite period, is not open to doubt. As to whether Marxists may, under definite conditions and in a definite situation, take part and co-operate in a revolutionary-democratic government together with the revolutionary bourgeoisie, on this point we have the opinion of such Marxists as Engels and Lenin. We know that Engels, in his pamphlet, The Bakuninists at Work,3 pronounced in favour of such participation. We know that Lenin, in 1905, likewise said that such participation in a bourgeois-democratic revolutionary government was permissible.
And so, we have before us two entirely different lines on the Chinese question—the line of the Comintern and the line of Trotsky and Zinoviev.
The line of the Comintern. Feudal survivals, and the bureaucratic-militarist superstructure which rests upon them and which receives every support from the imperialists of all countries, are the basic fact of Chinese life today.
China at the present moment is passing through an agrarian revolution directed both against the feudal survivals and against imperialism.
The agrarian revolution constitutes the basis and content of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in China.
The Kuomintang in Wuhan and the Wuhan government are the centre of the bourgeois-democratic revolutionary movement.
Nanking and the Nanking government are the centre of national counter-revolution.
The policy of supporting Wuhan is at the same time a policy of developing the bourgeois-democratic revolution, with all the consequences resulting from that. Hence the participation of the Communists in the Wuhan Kuomintang and in the Wuhan revolutionary government, a participation which does not exclude, but rather presupposes strenuous criticism by the Communists of the half-heartedness and vacillation of their allies in the Kuomintang.
The Communists must utilise this participation to facilitate the proletariat’s role of hegemon in the Chinese bourgeois-democratic revolution, and to hasten the moment of transition to the proletarian revolution.
When the moment of the complete victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution approaches, and when in the course of the bourgeois revolution the paths of transition to the proletarian revolution become clear, the time will have arrived when it is necessary to set up Soviets of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies, as elements of a dual power, as organs of struggle for a new power, as organs of a new power, Soviet power.
When that time comes the Communists must replace the bloc within the Kuomintang by a bloc outside the Kuomintang, and the Communist Party must become the sole leader of the new revolution in China.
To propose now, as Trotsky and Zinoviev do, the immediate formation of Soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies and the immediate establishment of dual power now, when the bourgeois-democratic revolution is still in the initial phase of its development, and when the Kuomintang represents the form of organisation of the national-democratic revolution best adapted and most closely corresponding to the specific features of China, would be to disorganise the revolutionary movement, weaken Wuhan, facilitate its downfall, and render assistance to Chang Tso-lin and Chiang Kai-shek.
The line of Trotsky and Zinoviev. Feudal survivals in China are a figment of Bukharin’s imagination. They either do not exist at all in China, or are so insignificant that they cannot have any serious importance.
There does appear to be an agrarian revolution in China at this moment. But where it comes from, the devil only knows. (Laughter.)
But since there is this agrarian revolution, it must, of course, be supported somehow.
The chief thing just now is not the agrarian revolution, but a revolution for the customs independence of China, an anti-customs revolution, so to speak.
The Wuhan Kuomintang and the Wuhan government are either a “fiction” (Trotsky), or Kemalism (Zinoviev). On the one hand, dual power must be established for overthrowing the Wuhan government through the immediate formation of Soviets (Trotsky). On the other hand, the Wuhan government must be strengthened, it must be given energetic and all-round assistance, also, it appears, through the immediate formation of Soviets (Zinoviev).
By rights, the Communists ought to withdraw immediately from this “fiction”—the Wuhan government and the Wuhan Kuomintang. However, it would be better if they remained in this “fiction,” i.e., in the Wuhan government and the Wuhan Kuomintang. But why they should remain in Wuhan if Wuhan is a “fiction”—that, it seems, God alone knows. And whoever does not agree with this is a betrayer and traitor.
Such is the so-called line of Trotsky and Zinoviev. Anything more grotesque and confused than this so-called line it would be hard to imagine.
One gets the impression that one is dealing not with Marxists, but with some sort of bureaucrats who are completely divorced from real life—or, still more, with “revolutionary” tourists, who have been busy touring about Sukhum and Kislovodsk and such-like places, overlooked the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, which defined the basic attitude towards the Chinese revolution, and then, having learned from the newspapers that some sort of a revolution—whether agrarian or anti-customs, they were not quite clear—was really taking place in China, they decided that it was necessary to compile a whole heap of theses—one set in April, another in the early part of May, a third in the latter part of May—and having done so, they bombard the Executive Committee of the Comintern with them, apparently believing that a plethora of confused and contradictory theses is the best means of saving the Chinese revolution.
Such, comrades, are the two lines on the questions of the Chinese revolution.
You will have to choose between them.
I am concluding, comrades.
I should like, in closing, to say a few words on the political meaning and importance of Trotsky’s and Zinoviev’s factional pronouncements at this moment. They complain that they are not allowed sufficient freedom to indulge in unparalleled abuse and impermissible vilification of the C.C., C.P.S.U.(B.) and the E.C.C.I. They complain of a “regime” within the Comintern and the C.P.S.U.(B.). Essentially, what they want is freedom to disorganise the Comintern and the C.P.S.U.(B.). Essentially, what they want is to transplant to the Comintern and the C.P.S.U.(B.) the manners of Maslow & Co.
I must say, comrades, that Trotsky has chosen a very inappropriate moment for his attacks on the Party and the Comintern. I have just received information that the British Conservative government has decided to break off relations with the U.S.S.R. There is no need to prove that this will be followed by a universal campaign against the Communists. This campaign has already begun. Some are threatening the C.P.S.U.(B.) with war and intervention. Others threaten it with a split. Something like a united front from Chamberlain to Trotsky is being formed.
It is possible that they want to frighten us. But it scarcely needs proof that Bolsheviks are not the sort to be frightened. The history of Bolshevism knows plenty of such “fronts.” The history of Bolshevism shows that such “fronts” have invariably been smashed by the revolutionary determination and supreme courage of the Bolsheviks.
You need have no doubt that we shall succeed in smashing this new “front” too. (Applause.)
1 The Eighth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International was held in Moscow, May 18-30, 1927. It discussed the tasks of the Comintern in the struggle against war and the war danger, the tasks of the British Communist Party, questions of the Chinese revolution, and other items. J. V. Stalin delivered a speech on “The Revolution in China and the Tasks of the Comintern” at the tenth sitting of the plenum, on May 24. The plenum assessed the international situation, outlined a programme of struggle against the threat of war, and, in connection with Great Britain’s severance of diplomatic and trade relations with the U.S.S.R., adopted an appeal “To the Workers and Peasants of the World. To All Oppressed Peoples. To the Soldiers and Sailors.” The leaders of the anti-Party Trotsky-Zinoviev bloc took advantage of the sharpened international position of the U.S.S.R. to launch slanderous attacks at the plenum on the leadership of the Comintern and the C.P.S.U.(B.). In a special resolution, the plenum sharply condemned the splitting tactics of the opposition leaders and warned them that if they persisted in their factional struggle they would be expelled from the Executive Committee of the Comintern.
2 This refers to the appeal entitled “To the Proletarians and Peasants of the World. To All Oppressed Peoples,” adopted by the Executive Committee of the Communist International on April 14, 1927. The appeal was published in Pravda, No. 85, April 15, 1927.
* See this volume, pp. 224-34.—Ed.
** My italics.—J. St.
** My italics.—J. St.
3 See Friedrich Engels, Die Bakunisten an der Arbeit, in Der Volkstaat, Nr. 105, 106, 107, 1873.