J. V. Stalin

Reply to Olekhnovich and Aristov

With Reference to the Letter "Some Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism" Addressed to the Editorial Board of the Magazine "Proletarskaya Revolutsia"
January 15, 1932

Source: Works, Vol. 13, 1930 - January 1934
Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/HTML Markup: Salil Sen for MIA, 2008
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.

To Comrade Olekhnovich

I received your letter. I am late in replying owing to pressure of work.

I cannot possibly agree with you, Comrade Olekhnovich, and the reason is as follows.

1. It is not true that "Trotskyism was never a faction of communism." Since the Trotskyists broke organisationally — even if temporarily—with Menshevism, put aside —even if temporarily — their anti-Bolshevik views, were admitted to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) and the Comintern and submitted to the decisions of these bodies, Trotskyism was undoubtedly a part, a faction, of communism.

Trotskyism was a faction of communism both in the broad sense of the word, i.e., as a part of the world communist movement while retaining its individuality as a group, and in the narrow sense of the word, i.e., as a more or less organised faction within the C.P.S.U.(B.), fighting for influence in the Party. It would be ridiculous to deny the generally known facts about the Trots-kyists as a faction of the C.P.S.U.(B.) that are recorded in resolutions of C.P.S.U.(B.) congresses and conferences.

The C.P.S.U.(B.) does not tolerate factions and cannot agree to legalise them? Yes, that is so; it does not tolerate them and cannot agree to legalise them. But this does not mean that the Trotskyists did not really constitute a faction. Precisely because the Trotskyists actually did have a faction of their own, which they fought to have legalised, precisely for this reason— among others—they were later on thrown out of the Party.

You are trying to score a point in reply by an attempt to draw a distinction between Trotskyism and the Trotskyists, on the supposition that what applies to Trotskyism cannot apply to the Trotskyists. In other words, you mean to say that Trotskyism was never a faction of communism, but that Trotsky and the Trots-kyists were a faction of communism. That is scholasticism and self-deception, Comrade Olekhnovich! There can be no Trotskyism without exponents of it, i.e., without Trotskyists, just as there can be no Trotskyists without Trotskyism—maybe veiled and put aside, but nevertheless Trotskyism—otherwise they would cease to be Trotskyists.

What was the characteristic feature of the Trotsky-ists when they were a faction of communism? It was that they "permanently" wavered between Bolshevism and Menshevism, these vacillations reaching a climax at each turn made by the Party and the Comintern and finding vent in a factional struggle against the Party. What does this mean? It means that the Trotskyists were not real Bolsheviks, although they were in the

Party and submitted to its decisions, that they could not be called real Mensheviks either, although they frequently wavered to the side of Menshevism. It was this wavering that formed the basis of the inner-Party struggle between the Leninists and the Trotskyists during the period when the latter were in our Party (1917-27). And the basis of this wavering of the Trotskyists lay in the fact that although they put aside their anti-Bolshevik views and thus entered the Party, they nevertheless did not renounce these views. As a result these views made themselves felt with particular strength at each turn made by the Party and the Comintern.

You evidently do not agree with this interpretation of the question of Trotskyism. But in that event you are bound to arrive at one of two incorrect conclusions. Either you must conclude that when they entered the Party Trotsky and the Trotskyists made a clean sweep of their views and turned into real Bolsheviks, which is incorrect, for on that assumption it becomes impossible to understand and explain the continuous inner-Party struggle of the Trotskyists against the Party which fills the entire period of their stay in the Party. Or you must conclude that Trotskyism (the Trotskyists) "was all the time a faction of Menshevism," which again is incorrect, as Lenin and Lenin’s Party would have committed a mistake in principle had they admitted Mensheviks into the Communist Party even for one minute.

2. It is not true that Trotskyism "was all the time a faction of Menshevism, one variety of bourgeois agency in the working-class movement," just as it is incorrect on your part to attempt to draw distinction between "the attitude of the Party to Trotskyism as the theory and practice of a bourgeois agency in the working-class movement" and the "attitude of the Party at a definite historical period to Trotsky and the Trotskyists."

In the first place, as I stated above, you are making a mistake, a scholastic mistake, by artificially separating Trotskyism from the Trotskyists and, conversely, the Trotskyists from Trotskyism. The history of our Party tells us that such a separation, in so far as some section or other of the Party did make it, was always and entirely to the advantage of Trotskyism, making it easier for the latter to cover up its traces when launching attacks against the Party. I may tell you confidentially that you are performing a very great service to Trotsky and the Trotskyist smugglers by introducing into our general political practice the method of artificially separating the question of Trotskyism from the question of the Trotskyists.

In the second place, having made this mistake you are compelled to make another that follows from the first, namely the assumption that "at a definite historical period" the Party regarded Trotsky and the Trotskyists as real Bolsheviks. But this assumption is quite wrong and altogether incompatible with the historical facts of the inner-Party struggle between the Trotskyists and the Leninists. How are we to explain in that case the unceasing struggle between the Party and the Trotsky-ists throughout the period in which they were in the Party? Are you not supposing that it was a squabble and not a fight based on principle?

So you see that your "correction" to my "letter to the editorial board of Proletarskaya Revolutsia" leads to an absurdity

As a matter of fact Trotskyism was a faction of Menshevism until the Trotskyists entered our Party; it became temporarily a faction of communism after the Trotskyists entered our Party, and it became once more a faction of Menshevism after the Trotskyists were driven out of our Party. "The dog returned to his vomit."

Hence :

a) it cannot be asserted that "at a definite historical period" the Party considered Trotsky and the Trotskyists real Bolsheviks, for such a supposition would flatly contradict the facts of the history of our Party during the period 1917-27;

b) it cannot be considered that Trotskyism (the Trotskyists) "was all the time a faction of Menshevism," for such a supposition would lead to the conclusion that in 1917-27 our Party was a bloc between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and not a monolithic Bolshevik party, which is quite wrong and at variance with the fundamentals of Bolshevism;

c) the question of Trotskyism cannot be artificially separated from the question of the Trotskyists without one running the risk of becoming involuntarily an instrument of Trotskyist machinations.

What conclusion then remains? This one thing: to agree that "at a definite historical period" Trotskyism was a faction of communism, a faction which wavered between Bolshevism and Menshevism.

J. Stalin
January 15, 1932

To Comrade Aristov

You are under a misapprehension, Comrade Aristov.

There is no contradiction between the article "The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists" 1 (1924) and the "Letter to the Editorial Board of Proletarskaya Revolutsia" (1931). These two documents concern different aspects of the question, and this has seemed to you to be a "contradiction." But there is no "contradiction" here.

The article "The October Revolution" states that in 1905 it was not Rosa Luxemburg, but Parvus and Trotsky who advanced the theory of "permanent" revolution against Lenin. This fully corresponds to historical fact. It was Parvus who in 1905 came to Russia and edited a special newspaper in which he actively came out in favour of "permanent" revolution against Lenin’s "conception," it was Parvus and then, after and together with him, Trotsky—it was this pair that at the time bombarded Lenin’s plan of revolution, counterposing to it the theory of "permanent" revolution. As for Rosa Luxemburg, she kept behind the scenes in those days, abstained from active struggle against Lenin in this matter, evidently preferring not to become involved as yet in the struggle.

In the polemic against Radek contained in the article "The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists," I focussed attention on Parvus because when Radek spoke about the year 1905 and "permanent" revolution, he purposely kept silent about Parvus. He kept silent about Parvus because after 1905 Parvus had become an odious figure. He became a millionaire and turned into a direct agent of the German imperialists. Radek was averse to having the theory of "permanent" revolution linked up with the obnoxious name of Parvus; he wanted to dodge the facts of history. But I stepped in and frustrated Radek’s manoeuvre by establishing the historical truth and giving Parvus his due.

That is how the matter stands with regard to the article "The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists."

As for the "Letter to the Editorial Board of Proletarskaya Revolutsia," that treats of another aspect of the question, namely, the fact that the theory of "permanent" revolution was invented by Rosa Luxemburg and Parvus. This, too, corresponds to historical fact. It was not Trotsky but Rosa Luxemburg and Parvus who invented the theory of "permanent" revolution. It was not Rosa Luxemburg but Parvus and Trotsky who in 1905 advanced the theory of "permanent" revolution and actively fought for it against Lenin.

Subsequently Rosa Luxemburg, too, began to fight actively against the Leninist plan of revolution. But that was after 1905.

J. Stalin
January 25, 1932

Bolshevik, No. 16 August 30, 1932


1. See J. V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 6, pp. 374-420.