Source: Labour Monthly Vol. XVI, June 1934, No. 6
Transcription/HTML: 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.
TRIALS, ill-success, and also many a defeat, lie on the proletariat’s path before its final victory. “Often,” so Marx has taught us, “defeats have a greater revolutionising effect than an easy victory.” Trotsky would like to profit from the inevitable failures and temporary defeats on the path to final victory. He is bestirring himself, he intends to found a new Communist Party in Germany. He would like to make political use of the passing victory of Hitler-Fascism in Germany, to cook his political soup on the flames of the Reichstag fire. He wants a new International—the Fourth “International.” He proclaims that the task of the proletariat in the West consists in the fight for bourgeois democracy. He proclaims that in the East the task of the proletariat consists in the fight for bourgeois democracy. Only in one country does he stand for an uprising, and that country is the Soviet Union. For us it is clear that Trotsky is no Bolshevik, is no Leninist. Trotsky is just a Trotskyist. To-day, however, Trotskyism plays quite another rôle than the Trotskyism of history. Present-day Trotskyism has, of course, its roots in historical Trotskyism. But Trotskyism also has gone through a considerable historical development.
Even in Lenin’s lifetime Trotsky openly carried on a struggle against Lenin’s policy. Since 1923 he openly opposed the policy of the Bolsheviks and tried to found a fraction inside Bolshevism. Since 1927 Trotskyism has ceased to be a fraction of Communism. It has tried to form its own groups in each country. It has not succeeded in these attempts nor will it succeed. These Trotskyist groups fall to pieces before they are formed. Nowhere, in no country has Trotsky succeeded in getting any workers’ group under his influence.
Trotskyism now hopes that Hitler’s victory in Germany will help it to set up a few Trotskyist groupings. Perhaps it will be successful in garnering a few spoils from the battlefield of the class struggle. Trotskyism has become the plunderer, the hyena of the battlefield of the class struggle.
What does historical Trotskyism consist of, in what way does it differ from Bolshevism? This question has so often been made clear that it is almost superfluous to do it again. But perhaps it would not be altogether useless to emphasise a few of the characteristic features of Trotskyism. Even before 1904-06 Trotskyism was distinguished from Leninism in its estimate of the character and driving force of the Revolution in Russia. The Mensheviks predicted that the Revolution in Russia would be a bourgeois revolution under the hegemony of bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks predicted that the revolution would indeed be a bourgeois-democratic revolution, but that it would only be victorious under the hegemony of the proletariat who would set up the revolution democratic dictatorship of the working class and the peasantry, and this revolution would grow into a proletarian revolution.
Trotsky put forward the opinion that the revolution would be a proletarian revolution. He developed the theory of the “permanent revolution.” Marx was also of the opinion that the Communists must explain the “permanence of the revolution,” and in the same way the Bolsheviks were for the permanent revolution; but not wishing to jump over the inevitable stages of the revolution the latter were of the opinion that the bourgeois-democratic revolution could be victorious only as an alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry under the leadership of the proletariat. Trotsky underestimated the revolutionary possibilities of the peasantry and considered the peasantry as a counter-revolutionary force which, after the victory of the revolution, must be bound to come into conflict with the proletariat.
Trotskyism differs from Leninism in its relation to opportunism. Trotskyism is a kind of Menshevism, a kind of opportunism. Therefore it considers opportunism as a justifiable current inside the working-class. For Trotskyism the Mensheviks were just “erring brothers” and not the agents of the class enemy in the camp of the proletariat. Bolshevism on the contrary recognised opportunism as an agent of the bourgeoisie in the camp of the working class, as the chief social support of imperialism. As regards organisational questions, as regards the vitally important questions connected with the building up of the Party, Trotskyism has never understood what is a Bolshevik Party. Trotsky is for the legalisation of groups, groupings and fractions inside the Party, and has really never understood that Bolshevism stands for a Party of a new type, the monolithic communist vanguard of the proletariat. Trotskyism looks on the Party as if it were a Noah’s Ark of currents, groups and groupings and not a monolithic Party democratically centralised iron discipline.
Trotskyism has really adopted Kautsky’s theory in its estimation of the characteristic features of imperialism. It stands for the theory of super-imperialism, for the theory which has led from “organised capitalism” to the theory of “economic democracy.” Trotskyism fought and continues to fight against the fundamental law of imperialism, the law of its unequal development; it denies that it is precisely the law of the equal development of imperialism that enables the proletariat to seize and to retain power in one country and with power in its hands to build and socialism in one country. The counter-revolutionary theory of Trotskyism consists in the fact that it condemns the Russian Revolution to failure and to defeat, if the world revolution does not come to its assistance in time. Trotskyism fights against the building of Socialism in one country by hiding behind pseudo-radical phrases about the world revolution. This signifies disbelief in the inner forces of the Russian Revolution, disbelief in the possibility of maintaining the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry, disbelief in the possibility of the proletariat leading the peasantry on the path to Socialism.
These are a few of the important features of Trotskyism, but thereby we have naturally by no means exhausted the whole character of Trotskyism. Trotsky has taken up a centrist attitude on the national question, and it was not for nothing that on the national question Lenin put him on the same level as Kautsky, Martov and the rest of the centrists of the period of the world war. Trotsky during the war put forward the wrong non-proletarian, semi-pacifist slogan of peace without annexations or indemnities, thereby finding himself rubbing shoulders with Wilsonism.
The Bolsheviks with Lenin at their head had given out the slogan of turn the imperialist war into a civil war. Trotsky fought against this slogan. The Bolsheviks with Lenin at their head during the war already stood for a Federation of Soviet Republics which would arise out of the revolution. Trotsky put forward the counter-revolutionary, reactionary slogan of the “United State of Europe.” At every great turning point of the class struggle Trotskyism was to be found in the camp of struggle against Leninism. Only with the October revolution did it become for a time a fraction of Communism.
But to-day we are not interested in Trotskyism in general, but only in those origins and characteristic features of historical Trotskyism which go to explain the Trotskyism of to-day. Before the war Trotsky held to the anti-marxist, anti-leninist theory of the so-called big cycles. The substance of this theory was that capitalism not only proceeds in industrial cycles such as that from depression to moderate activity, from moderate activity to prosperity and then from prosperity to crisis as Marx taught, but capitalist production according to Trotsky proceeds in big cycles of 20 or 30 years’ duration. According to this theory there occurs a long declining curve in the economic situation, during which a series of industrial cycles develop, and that then this is followed by a big upward curve. Trotsky means by this that the big declining curve began in 1914 and, according to his theory it follows that after this declining curve there must set in again a longer upward curve in the economic situation.
Thus theory signifies the denial of the general crisis of capitalism and from this theoretical position Trotskyism bases itself on a longer period of defeat for the proletariat. Without this bourgeois theory, which has been developed in the Soviet Union by the counter-revolutionary Professor Kondratiev, it would be difficult to understand the present attitude of Trotskyism. Trotsky does not believe in the sharpening of the general crisis of capitalism but in a long upward curve in the economic situation which he says must soon begin and which will mean prolonging the period of bourgeois rule. According to this theory there is no new turn of wars and revolutions approaching, but a long period of the stabilisation of capitalism! With all due deference that is the economico-theoretical position of Trotskyism. From this theory of Trotskyism follows the traitorous defeatist position, the position which is based defeats.
In the period of reaction which followed the defeat of the Russian Revolution of 1905-6 the Bolsheviks adopted the view that a new revolution was inevitable, and accordingly for that very reason put forward during the period of reaction the three Leninist slogans; a republic; confiscation of the lands of the big landlords and the eight-hours day. Trotsky fought against these slogans of the Bolsheviks and put forward the one slogan of freedom of combination. Freedom of combination a the sum-total of democracy.
To-day we are seeing the resurrection of this Trotskyist slogan under quite different historical conditions. The proletariat holds the reins of power in its hands in only one sixth of the earth. In the other countries the capitalist countries, the proletariat has not yet succeeded in gaining power. A wave of fascism is now appearing. In Germany Fascism has won a temporary victory. The Second International speaks of a “counter-revolutionary” situation, Trotskyism of the “period of blackest reaction”; the defeatists speak of “the epoch of fascism and reaction,” the Bolsheviks speak of the inevitable approach of a new wave of revolutions and wars. In this situation the Communists put forward Soviet power as the chief slogan. Trotskyism gives out the slogan of democracy, the struggle for bourgeois democracy.
Is not this the same struggle but under different historical conditions as the struggle between Trotskyism and Leninism in the period of reaction? Instead of freedom of combination Trotskyism now puts forward the slogan of democracy; instead of the slogans the republic, the agrarian revolution and the eight-hours day, Bolshevism to-day advances the slogan of Soviet power. The situation has changed and so also the revolutionary slogans of Bolshevism have changed. The situation has changed—so also the counter-revolutionary slogans of Trotskyism. Freedom of combination would be to-day too paltry a slogan. So Trotskyism comes on the scene for bourgeois “democracy.”
It was before the war that the Bolsheviks finally and once and for all effected their split with the Mensheviks. They expelled the liquidators from the Party and came out as the Party of the revolutionary proletariat. They fought both the Liquidators and the Otsovists. For this struggle Trotsky showered insults on Lenin and the Bolsheviks, calling them “splitters,” “fanatics,” “intellectual sectarians” and “enemies of the workers' movement.” In order the better to be able to carry on his struggle against the Bolsheviks, Trotsky set up the notorious August Bloc1 of the Liquidators. He collected around him all those opportunists, all those traitorous elements of Menshevism, formed from them a bloc and furiously carried on his struggle against the standpoint of the Bolsheviks.
To-day Trotskyism is repeating under quite different historical conditions its historical treachery to the working class. Trotskyism wants to form a new August Bloc by collecting all those elements who have been flung out of the camp of Communism. It wants to try to get these elements welded into a bloc in order to enable it to carry on its struggle against Bolshevism.
The historical roots of this attempt lie in the attitude of Trotskyism to Menshevism which has already been described. Trotskyism did not consistently consider Menshevism as an agent of the bourgeoisie precisely because Trotskyism was itself a kind of Menshevism. Trotskyism has always looked upon the Mensheviks as elder brothers who have “gone astray,” but who can be brought back on to the correct path of the class struggle by good advice. It is this attitude of Trotskyism to Menshevism that explains why Trotskyism carries on such a raging fight against the Bolsheviks for characterising present-day Social-Democracy as Social-Fascism. It is this attitude of historical Trotskyism towards historical opportunism that explains why Trotsky ventures to make the proposal of forming a united front from above with the worst of the Social-Fascists such as Wels, Loebe, Leipart and Severing, ostensibly in order the better to be able to fight against Fascism.
Trotskyism has once again assumed that the social-democratic leaders—the Severings, Zoergiebels, Grzesinskis, Noskes, Loebes, &c.—are capable of a revolutionary struggle against Fascism. The struggle of Trotskyism against the characterisation of Social-Democracy as Social-Fascism, Trotskyism’s proposal to form a bloc with the social-democratic leaders—this is only the logical conclusion of the historical policy of Trotskyism which led in its time to the formation of the August Bloc.
To-day Trotsky talks of “the formation of a Fourth International.” Trotsky’s “Fourth International” is precisely the repetition of the August Bloc on a new, higher plane of history.
Can one say, however, that present-day Trotskyism is identical with historical Trotskyism? Instead of the slogan of freedom of combination—to-day we have bourgeois democracy; instead of co-operation with the Liquidators—to-day we have the “United Front with the social-fascist leaders”; instead of the theory of permanent revolution in Russia—we have the theory of the permanent revolution in China and India; instead of the August Bloc—to-day the Fourth International. Nevertheless, it would be false to put the Trotskyism of to-day on the same level as historical Trotskyism. historical Trotskyism was a current inside the workers’ movement. Present-day Trotskyism has of necessity become transformed into a current of counter-revolution. One need only take the most important prophecies of Trotskyism in order to understand its true rôle.
Trotskyism having adopted the theory of super-imperialism prophesied that the United States would put Europe “on rations.” The inequality of the development of capitalism is precisely denied by this theory. Trotsky’s theory was a new edition of “organised capitalism.” It has been shown that the United States cannot organise capitalism, that American imperialism can neither, put Europe nor Japan “on rations.”
Trotskyism prophesied the victory of a Thermidor in the Soviet Union, and has accused the Bolshevik Party among other things of sacrificing the interests of the proletariat to the class interests of the kulaks. Instead of the victory of a Thermidor the Soviet Union is now entering on the victory of Socialism. The kulaks have been liquidated as a class on the basis of the fundamental collectivisation of agriculture.
Trotsky characterised the first Five Year Plan as an “adventure,” as a “bureaucratic phantasy.” The first Five Year Plan has been realised.
Trotsky fought the Communist International when it prophesied the beginning of a new, a third period in the development of post-war capitalism, the approach of the end of capitalist stabilisation. The end of the temporary stabilisation of capitalism has begun.
After the passing defeat of the Chinese Revolution Trotsky prophesied a long period of stabilisation for the rule of Chiang Kai-shek. The Kuomintang is falling to pieces, there is an all-national crisis in China. Trotsky comes out against the slogan of Soviet Power in China and proposes to the proletariat there that it should struggle for a national assembly. The slogan of the national assembly has been taken over by Chiang Kai-shek from Trotsky, but the Soviet Revolution is being victorious in China.
When Japanese imperialism began its robber attack on the Chinese people Chinese Communism put forward the slogan of a national-revolutionary war against Japanese imperialism. Trotsky fought against this slogan and thereby objectively served the interests of Japanese imperialism. Trotsky characterised the Red Army of the Chinese Soviets as an army of the pauperised peasants, as a bandit army. In this opinion he found himself on one and the same line as the chairman of the Second International, Vandervelde. Soviet power is, however, being victoriously carried forward by the Red Army.
Trotsky not only fights against the Five Year Plan, but also the collectivisation of agriculture; he prophesied the certain, failure of this world historical undertaking of the Bolsheviks. Collectivisation has been carried through. Trotsky “prophesied” that Stalin would be the gravedigger of the proletarian revolution. Stalin has led the proletariat to world historical victories.
After Hitler’s victory Trotsky announced the death of the Communist Party of Germany. The Communist Party of Germany is leading a heroic, unsparing struggle against Hitler-Fascism.
For the leading forces in the Communist International Trotsky invents the name of “Stalin-bureaucrats.” Dimitrov, and with him hundreds and thousands of others have already shown us that these “Stalin-bureaucrats” are the bearers of the proletarian revolution.
Trotsky has prophesied the overthrow of Soviet power in the Soviet Union. Soviet power stands firmer than ever and is achieving world historical victories.
Trotsky wants to found a Fourth International. The Communist International is stronger, more united, more ready for the fight than ever.
Trotsky prophesies that it is necessary to wrest the power in the Soviet Union from the hands of the Bolsheviks by force; he is for an armed uprising in the future as his ultimate policy. He announces his policy at the moment when Japanese imperialism, German fascism and British imperialism are preparing a counter-revolutionary war against the Soviet Union.
After all this one has no right to put the Trotskyism of to-day on an equal footing with historical Trotskyism. The Trotskyism of to-day is an accomplice of the Second International and thus a handy man of the bourgeoisie. It is the advance guard of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie in its struggle against Leninism. Therefore Trotskyism was swept out of the revolutionary workers’ movement.
The Mensheviks are praising Trotsky. They have already invited him to join them. The Menshevik Schiffrin writes that Trotsky is now on the right path as far as his criticism of communism is concerned, but he must restrain his attitude towards the Soviet Union. The Menshevik Schiffrin is teaching Trotsky that he should not pour insults over the Soviet Union so openly. Trotskyism now comes out as a group of plunderers and hyenas on the battlefield of the class struggle. It would like to profit from the temporary defeats of the proletariat. For that reason is Trotskyism condemned. Therefore it has never, and will never, be able to find any place amongst the revolutionary workers. Its place is on the dust heap of the history of the revolutionary workers movement.
1 In 1912 in Vienna a bloc was formed by Trotsky of all those groups and grouplets who were hostile to the Bolsheviks—as a “counter” to the Prague Conference of the Bolshevik Party.—Ed. Labour Monthly.