The Spanish Civil War and the Popular Front Part two

By Ann Talbot
27 January 2009

The Popular Front government took no steps to resist the launching of the fascist military coup in July 1936 and refused all demands to arm the workers. But in Barcelona, which was one of the most industrialised cities of Spain, the working class resisted.

The largest working class organisation in Catalonia was the Anarchist union federation of the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo—National Confederation of Labour). The influence of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party was small compared to that of the POUM. Workers commandeered arms, explosives and motor vehicles. They called on the soldiers to refuse their officers’ orders.

Inspired by their example, workers in Madrid and Valencia did the same. The Asturian miners sent a column of 5,000 dynamiters to Madrid to assist. In Malaga, the workers had no access to arms at first and used petrol to set fire to barricades around the military barracks. The sailors took control of their vessels. The Popular Front government was left without an army, without a police force, without border guards or any means of imposing its authority. At national, regional and local municipal levels, the machinery of the state had collapsed in the face of the fascist uprising.

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Francisco Franco

The entire apparatus of the state had disintegrated, and its role was assumed by improvised committees as workers took control of the factories and began to organise the towns and cities, while in the countryside peasants began to occupy the land and set up collectives. The continued military campaign against the fascists was in the hands of workers’ militias, which went on the offensive and extended the revolution into the territory they recaptured.
Writing about this experience later, Trotsky said, “The Spanish proletariat displayed first rate military qualities. In its specific gravity in the country’s economic life, in its political and cultural level, the Spanish proletariat stood on the first day of the revolution not below but above the Russian proletariat at the beginning of 1917.”

In Russia, the Bolsheviks had not been able to address the question of collectivising the land immediately, but in Spain, the peasants themselves, who had been highly proletarianised by the development of capitalism, began to collectivise the land. Franco had precipitated the revolution he had hoped to avert.

The Republicans and the Socialists were perfectly well aware of where real power lay. President Luis Companys told a group of anarchists on July 20: “Today you are masters of the city and of Catalonia…. You have conquered and everything is in your power. If you do not need me or do not want me as president of Catalonia, tell me now and I shall become just another soldier in the struggle against fascism.” Companys had been a union lawyer and knew his business. He was prepared to accept the workers’ committees as the de facto power in Catalonia until he could undermine them and restore the bourgeois state.

But the Spanish workers’ state remained embryonic. What had emerged in Spain was a situation of dual power. Felix Morrow, the author of Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain, writes of the Revolution of July 19, but it was an incomplete revolution that remained balanced on a knife-edge. None of the parties, certainly not the POUM, called for the workers’ committees to be centralised in nationwide soldiers’ and workers’ councils. Instead, the committees remained localised and scattered. The government was able to use its control of the national bank and gold reserves to exercise financial control. The POUM and CNT never attempted to take over the banks.

Over the course of the next seven weeks, the workers’ organisations drifted closer to the Republic because, in not building soviets, the POUM had tacitly recognised the right of Azaña, Companys and the rest to rule. On September 7, Nin himself had called for the bourgeois ministers to be overthrown, but by September 18, the POUM position had changed. Its newspaper declared that the left republican movement was “of a profoundly popular nature.” It now claimed that the Popular Front government could ensure socialism.

Nin drew the logical conclusion and joined the Catalan government. This was a violation of a century of accumulated revolutionary experience. Marx had recognised at the time of the Paris Commune that the working class could not simply lay hold of the existing state institutions, but had to replace them with a new form of state that reflected its own class interests. The Bolsheviks had not entered the Kerensky government even when it was menaced by Kornilov.

One of the first actions of the new government in Catalonia was to dissolve the revolutionary committees that the workers had set up on July 19. This was the first great advance of the counter-revolution. It was followed by a decree disarming the workers.

In the course of the next 8 months, the Madrid and Barcelona governments whittled away the gains that the workers had made in July. Nin’s presence gave it the authority to take these steps. The process of counter-revolution moved most slowly in Catalonia, but the direction was the same as in the rest of Republican Spain.

By December, when it was no longer needed, the POUM was expelled from the government at the insistence of the Soviet consul, Antonov-Ovseyenko. But Nin had learnt nothing and was still saying that Spain did not need soviets. His criticisms of the government were really advice to it, and while he called for workers’ control of the army, he respectfully asked the government to achieve this. Weeks before the state turned its guns on the workers of Catalonia, Nin was still arguing that the workers would take power peacefully. He remained committed to the perspective of the Popular Front.
In March 1937, Trotsky warned: “If this policy [of the POUM] continues, the Catalan proletariat will be the victim of a terrible catastrophe comparable to that of the Paris Commune of 1871.” His words proved all too prophetic.

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Barcelona, March 1938

In May, the government and the Stalinists launched a military assault on the Barcelona telephone exchange, which had been occupied by the workers since July 1936. Not only was it the visible symbol of dual power, but it was also a strategic building, control of which allowed workers to monitor the telephone conversations of government ministers. The Republican government would never be in control of Barcelona if it did not regain control of the telephone exchange.

The attempt took the leaders of the POUM and the CNT by surprise, but it provoked massive resistance from the working class, which spontaneously rose up in defence of the gains of the revolution. All the evidence now available confirms that it would have been possible for the workers to take power, but instead the leaders of the POUM and the Anarchists consistently called for a ceasefire during the week of street fighting that followed. Only the small group of Bolshevik-Leninists affiliated with the Left Opposition, some rank-and-file members of the POUM and the Anarchist Friends of Durruti called for the workers to take power and denounced the call for a ceasefire.

On May 3-4, the city of Barcelona was in the hands of the workers. That night, the executives of the POUM and the CNT, FAI (Federación Anarquista Ibérica—Iberian Anarchist Federation) and Libertarian Youth met in joint session. Julián Gorkin later recalled, “We stated the problem in these precise terms: ‘Neither of us has urged the masses of Barcelona to take this action. This is a spontaneous response to a Stalinist provocation. This is a decisive moment for the Revolution. Either we place ourselves at the head of the movement in order to destroy the internal enemy or else the movement will collapse and the enemy will destroy us. We must make our choice revolution or counterrevolution.’ ”

One could not put it more clearly and they did indeed make their choice.
“We did not feel ourselves spiritually or physically strong enough to take the lead in organising the masses for resistance,” a member of the POUM executive said afterwards. The POUM executive admitted, “It would have been possible to take power, but our party, a minority force within the working class movement, could not assume the responsibility of issuing that slogan.”
Had they called for the workers to take power, small party or not, the workers of the CNT who were far to the left of their leaders would certainly have listened to them. The POUM itself had perhaps 40,000 members and a militia column of 10,000.

But if the workers of Barcelona had taken power, as both the POUM and the CNT leaders admit they could have done, wouldn’t they have been isolated? Not at all.

If a workers’ republic had been declared in Barcelona, it would have had a galvanising effect on the French working class. It would have been very difficult for the Popular Front government in France to maintain an arms embargo with its own working class aroused. Workers and peasants in the rest of Spain, in both the Republican and the Nationalist areas, would have responded if the Barcelona workers had undertaken socialist measures that put the factories in the hands of the workers and the land in the hands of the peasants. Franco’s army would have crumbled, especially if a workers’ republic had declared its support for colonial self-determination. Such a slogan would have had an impact not only on Spain’s colonies but on those of Britain and France as well.

A civil war is not fought by military means alone. It needs a political strategy. History has many examples of this. Lincoln’s abolition of slavery was described by one European politician as “the maddest and most infamous revolution in history.” Yet it proved to be the means of winning support behind enemy lines among the slaves as well as internationally. The cotton workers of the English mill towns demonstrated in their thousands in support of the abolition of slavery and the victory of the North. The British government did not dare intervene on behalf of the Southern slave owners. In Barcelona, the POUM had no such revolutionary strategy.

When a ceasefire was eventually agreed, it proved to be the prelude to a bloody purge of all opposition elements in Barcelona and elsewhere in Spain. The POUM was accused of having organised a putsch in collusion with the German, Italian and Francoist secret police. Its press was banned, Nin was arrested and the organisation outlawed. The leaders of the POUM were taken to a Stalinist prison in Madrid—a former church in Calle Atocha.

Nin himself was separated from the others and taken to Alcalá de Henares, where he was interrogated for three days. When he refused to confess to being a fascist agent, he was tortured to death. His body was buried on the outskirts of the town. The GPU then ordered German International Brigade volunteers to storm the prison where Nin had been held. To give the impression that the Gestapo had come to release him, they left Nationalist bank notes, Falangist badges and false documents behind them.

After Nin’s death, Trotsky described him as “an old and incorruptible revolutionary.” The members of the POUM, Trotsky said, “fought heroically on all fronts against the Fascists in Spain.” But in joining the Popular Front, participating in the Popular Front government of Catalonia and refusing to call for the workers to take power in Catalonia in May 1937, Nin had committed a betrayal that proved fatal not only to himself but to the Spanish revolution.

In the ensuing weeks, the Stalinist secret police rounded up all opposition elements in Catalonia, imprisoned and tortured them, and executed many thousands. A Special Tribunal for Espionage and High Treason was established to try the POUMists and Anarchists accused for their part in the insurrection. Almost all of those sent for trial in this tribunal were found guilty. Others disappeared like Nin into the secret prisons of the GPU—the so-called Preventoriums. Some 20,000 prisoners were sent to labour camps. Survivors reported sleep deprivation, denial of food, fake executions, isolation, confinement in cramped spaces, mutilation, denial of medical attention, total darkness, blinding lights, near drowning and, of course, beatings.

The repression had begun long before the May Days. Alexander Orlov, the head of the GPU in Spain, sent a number of agents into Barcelona with orders to fraternise with the POUM and identify targets for kidnapping or assassination. Erwin Wolf, Trotsky’s former secretary, was assassinated in Spain. An English volunteer, David Crook, later recalled how he was recruited from the International Brigade for special work. His account of his life gives us a good impression of how the GPU’s operations in Spain fitted into the wider counter-revolutionary campaign that had its most public face in the Moscow Trials.

Crook was sent to the officer training school at Albacete where he was taught Spanish by Ramon Mercader, who was later to assassinate Trotsky in Mexico. From there he went on to Barcelona to spy on the POUM and its British supporters from the Independent Labour Party (ILP). Crook ingratiated himself with Eileen Blair, George Orwell’s wife, which gave him the opportunity to steal documents from the ILP offices. When the POUM leaders were arrested, he was planted in the same prison cell to gather information. He also played a part in the kidnapping of the Austrian socialist Kurt Landau.

From Spain, Crook went on to Shanghai, where he spied on suspected Trotskyists. We can see from Crook’s account of his life that the May Days were not a one-off, isolated event, but were part of a much wider and long-prepared campaign that was to have global ramifications. Spain became a training ground for Stalinist spies, provocateurs and assassins. When Ignace Reiss, the Soviet secret service agent who broke with Stalin, was assassinated in Switzerland, his assassins left behind a Spanish-made overcoat when they fled. Eric Hobsbawm describes his youthful experience of the Popular Front in Paris in carnival-like terms, but in reality the Popular Front was inseparable from the repression of the Moscow Trials and Spain.

Some historians claim that there were never more than 20 or 40 GPU operatives in the whole of Spain. That figure seems at variance with the evidence, and in any case ignores the Stalinists who, while not members of the secret police, were nonetheless engaged in wiping out oppositionists. The Communist Party of Spain was small in 1936, but within a year it had become the most powerful party in the Popular Front. It had grown partly by absorbing the Socialist Party’s youth movement, but also by recruiting peasants who were dissatisfied with collectivisation and even caciques in the rural areas, in addition to civil servants, magistrates and army officers in the towns. In these social layers, the GPU found the human material for its work: among them were gangsters, racketeers and former fascists, all of whom found a natural home in the Stalinist apparatus of terror.

Nor was the repressive activity of the Stalinists confined to Catalonia. José Cazorla and Santiago Carillo, both central committee members of the PCE (Partido Comunista de España—Communist Party of Spain), illegally seized workers who had been acquitted by the popular tribunals in Madrid and sent them to the front line to serve as human “fortifications.” The CNT newspaper Solidaridad Obrera identified a network of private prisons “operating under a unified leadership and on a preconceived plan of national scope.”

As military defeats followed one upon another, an air of panic began to pervade the Stalinist military command, which became pervasive after the crushing of the Catalonian working class. Soviet intelligence reports speak of a “disease-carrying bacillus” among the International Brigades. One near-hysterical report described how an entire company was disarmed and arrested and their officers shot. A supposedly large-scale “Trotskyist spy and terrorist organisation” was exposed in the 14th brigade, and a man died under interrogation. André Marty, the French Comintern leader who was responsible for organising the International Brigades, admitted to having shot 500 International Brigadiers. This is one tenth of the total death toll among the International Brigades.

All of these crimes were carried out under the auspices of the liberal, “democratic” Socialist and Republican politicians of the Popular Front. Their defenders claim that they were ignorant of what the GPU did, but the historical record refutes this claim. An interesting document that records a conversation between a Soviet adviser and President Juan Negrìn in December 1938 throws some light on the attitude of the Popular Front government toward democracy.

In this conversation, Negrin seems to have mapped out a post-war political strategy that involved a one-party state—”It might be called the national front or the Spanish front or union,” said Negrin. His projected regime would have been under the leadership of a military figure. For Negrin and the other leaders of the Republic, democracy might be desirable, but the real question was order and the suppression of the revolt from below. For that, an alliance with the Kremlin was essential and they were willing to give the repressive apparatus it had created in the struggle against Trotskyism the free run of Spain if that was the only way private property could be defended. The GPU merely acted as the most resolute arm of the Popular Front.

At the end of 1937, Trotsky wrote in “The Lesssons of Spain: A Last Warning,” “When the workers and peasants enter on the path of their revolution—when they seize factories and estates, drive out the old owners, conquer power in the provinces—then the bourgeois counterrevolution—democratic, Stalinist, or fascist alike—has no other means of checking this movement except through bloody coercion, supplemented by lies and deceit. The superiority of the Stalinist clique on this road consisted in its ability to apply instantly measures that were beyond the capacity of Azaña, Companys, Negrin and their left allies.”

In Spain, Trotsky wrote, two irreconcilable programmes confronted one another. There was the programme that consisted of “saving at any cost private property from the proletariat, and saving as far as possible, democracy from Franco; and on the other hand, the programme of abolishing private property through the conquest of power by the proletariat. The first programme expressed the interests of capitalism through the medium of the labour aristocracy, the top petty-bourgeois circles, and especially the Soviet bureaucracy. The second programme translated into the language of Marxism the tendencies of the revolutionary mass movement, not fully conscious but powerful. Unfortunately for the revolution, between the handful of Bolsheviks and the proletariat stood the counter-revolutionary wall of the Popular Front.”

The heroism of the Spanish workers and peasants, and of the international volunteers who flocked to Spain, is all too often used as a means of covering up the real character of Popular Front politics, and anyone who criticises the Republic and its supporters is accused of besmirching the reputation of these selfless fighters. In reality, the reputation of those heroic figures is better served by an objective examination of the history and particularly of the Popular Front.

In this lecture, I have attempted to show that a successful proletarian revolution was possible in Spain and that the reason it failed was not that the Spanish proletariat was immature or the economy too backward or the international conditions unfavourable, which are the reasons so frequently given, but because of the existence of the Popular Front. The Spanish masses remained enmeshed in the Popular Front until it was too late because no genuinely revolutionary leadership was built.

The party that was in the best position to do so was the POUM, but it proved to be the chief obstacle to the building of a revolutionary party. Had it adopted an intransigently revolutionary policy, the POUM would have found itself at the head of the working class in May if not before. An enormous responsibility for the defeat in Spain falls on the POUM and its centrist politics. The masses, as Trotsky said in one of his last writings, sought to blast their way to the correct road, but they found it impossible to build a revolutionary leadership in the heat of revolution. Had the Spanish revolution succeeded, the history of the twentieth century would have been immeasurably different.

Concluded

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/01/spa2-j27.html

The Spanish Civil War and the Popular Front Part one

By Ann Talbot
26 January 2009

In 2006 the World Socialist Web Site was invited to submit a paper to a major conference in Madrid that was held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. The invitation was a recognition of the extent to which the WSWS has established itself as the authoritative voice of Trotskyism and that it was the natural place to turn for a distinctively Trotskyist perspective on the Spanish Civil War. It was also indicative of the extremely tense state of class relations in Spain and the emergence of a genuine hunger for historical knowledge about this seminal period.

Shortly before the conference the Spanish bishops had issued a statement condemning the Socialist Party government for reopening “the old wounds of the Civil War.” The government has enacted a “Law of Historic Memory” which seeks to contain the demand for knowledge about the crimes of the Franco regime but has nonetheless enraged the right wing.

The conference was well attended and in addition to the academic seminars, public sessions were held every evening that filled a large theatre in the centre of Madrid.

The opening address to the conference was given by the writer and former minister of culture Jorge Semprun, who denounced what he called “the thesis of Trotsky that the civil war would have been won if the revolution had not been betrayed.” Stalin and the Spanish Communist Party, he declared, were correct, although he deplored their methods. With few exceptions, the historians who spoke at the conference concurred and were uncritical of the policies of the Popular Front Republican government and dismissed the idea that a revolution was occurring in Spain during the 1930s.

The paper I gave on behalf of the WSWS provoked a sustained attack from one of Spain’s leading historians, Professor Angel Viñas. Viñas went so far as to claim that the May Days, the working class uprising that took place in Barcelona in May 1937, was provoked by Italian fascist agent provocateurs. As a member of the audience said at the time, it is astonishing that anyone could attempt to dismiss the Stalinist bureaucracy’s responsibility for the repression in Barcelona since it is so well documented. Viñas has since attempted to substantiate this allegation in a book in which he recycles the old Stalinist lies.

This is not a purely Spanish phenomenon. Earlier this year, the historian Eric Hobsbawm published a defence of the Spanish Popular Front in the Guardian in which he launched a savage tirade against anyone who has attempted to give an objective view of the Spanish Civil War. “The only choice” he wrote, “was between two sides, and liberal-democratic opinion overwhelmingly chose anti-fascism.” The only people who cannot see that, and who could not see it at the time, he claimed, are those who look at the Spanish Civil War from “a Trotskyist sectarian angle.” What Hobsbawm is defending and what Viñas and Semprun defend is the Popular Front.

Spain is the most complete expression of the Popular Front policy that was initiated by Stalin after Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. It was imposed on all the Stalinist parties at the seventh and last congress of the Comintern in 1935. It meant that Communist Parties renounced the objective of proletarian revolution and instead engaged in cross-class collaboration with liberal, republican or social democratic parties in a supposedly common struggle against fascism, and committed themselves to the defence of their own nation-states.

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Aftermath of the bombing of Guernica, April 1937

While the Stalinists had, as other speakers have shown, pursued mistaken policies that had led to the betrayal and bloody defeat of revolutions in the past, with the Popular Front they became for the first time a consciously antirevolutionary force because it was impossible for them to maintain an alliance with capitalist parties and at the same time encourage revolution even in a purely verbal, platonic way. Previously they could be characterised as bureaucratic centrists who vacillated and hesitated where revolution was concerned, but now they were a definitely counter-revolutionary tendency. Revolution had to be stamped out with the utmost ruthlessness.

The Soviet intervention in Spain can best be understood as an attempt to strangle a developing revolution, to physically liquidate its leading representatives, terrorize wider layers of workers and peasants and prevent their spontaneous revolutionary strivings from acquiring a more politically conscious form.

The electoral agreement which became the Popular Front in Spain was signed in January 1936, but its origins go back much earlier than that—to 1931 and the beginning of the Spanish revolution. By the time the Popular Front agreement was signed, Spain had been undergoing, with many ebbs and flows, a revolution for four years, since the monarchy was overthrown in 1931. That might seem a long time, but the tempo of revolutions is not always and everywhere the same. The French revolution had been in progress for nearly four years before it reached its climax when the Jacobins came to power. In the case of Russia, the tempo was much faster, partly because the Bolshevik Party already existed on the eve of the revolution and because of the First World War. In Spain there was no revolutionary party and no war. The tempo of the revolution was correspondingly slow.

In 1931 a republic was established that abolished the monarchy, separated church and state, dissolved the religious orders, secularised education and granted autonomy to the nationalities. These were democratic measures comparable to those introduced by all previous bourgeois revolutions, but this was not the 18th century. Even these most modest democratic measures threatened the existence of capitalist private property.

Land reform and religious reform challenged not just the wealth of the Church and the landowners, but of the financial and business elite to which they were connected by indissoluble class ties. The democratic programme of the republic foundered on the rooted opposition of these privileged layers.

Almost as soon as it came to power the republic showed itself to be incapable of carrying out democratic measures. The workers and peasants who had brought it to power became increasingly alienated from it. Within weeks it had imposed martial law to clamp down on street demonstrations. The liberal republican government struggled on for two years before it was replaced by a right-wing government which reversed the reform programme and suppressed the working class and peasants in the most brutal fashion.

But from the outset the republic had shown itself to be incapable of resolving any of the issues that faced Spanish society in a progressive manner. The liberal bourgeoisie in the Popular Front were no more than the shadow of the bourgeoisie. Most of the bourgeoisie, the Church and the military were already in the process of going over to fascism. That was why the Popular Front in Spain came to be so thoroughly dominated by the Stalinists. The republicans and the Socialists were political phantoms who were able to act only because of the political support they had from the Stalinists.

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Workers and peasants brigade

The only class that was capable of resolving the great questions facing Spanish society was the working class because it had no vested interest in private property. Already in May 1931, Trotsky was anticipating a second revolution which would be a revolution of the proletariat leading the poor peasants behind it.

For that reason Stalin’s turn to the Popular Front threw a lifeline to the liberal bourgeoisie of the republican and social-democratic parties in Spain. The Popular Front offered them the means to contain the revolutionary movement of the working class and peasants within a parliamentary framework and ultimately to suppress it.

While the Popular Front’s defenders may deplore the methods of the Stalinists and attempt to claim that the leaders of the Republic were ignorant of them, there is a necessary connection, both in logic and historical causation, between the Popular Front and the crimes of Stalinism. Both the leaders of the Spanish Republic and the Stalinists had a shared interest in suppressing revolution and defending private property in Spain.

Stalin was determined to make his peace with the Western democracies—Britain, France and America—who he hoped would defend the Soviet Union against attack from Nazi Germany. In pursuit of that alliance he was prepared to butcher the Spanish revolution so as to prove that he was a reliable ally for the imperialist powers. The Republican and Socialist politicians, who were equally determined to defend private property and prevent revolution, found in Stalin, as Trotsky put it, “an experienced executioner with the authority of a revolutionist.”

The Spanish Popular Front cannot be understood in a purely national context. The Popular Front in France provided the model for all other Popular Fronts. Hitler’s rise to power caused panic among the French bourgeoisie. Edouard Herriot, the leader of the Radical Party, went to Moscow straightaway in 1933, where he was warmly welcomed by Stalin.

The signing of the Franco-Soviet pact in 1934 paved the way for the creation of the French Popular Front. When the French foreign minister Laval insisted that Stalin reinforce this pact of mutual assistance by ordering the French Communist Party to approve the measures which the French government had taken for national defence, Stalin said, “I agree.” Stalin and Laval issued a joint communiqué which stated, “M. Stalin understands and fully approves of the policy of national defence carried out by France in order to maintain her armed strength at the level required for her security.”

We’ve already spoken about August 4, 1914. This was an event of the same character. Stalin was solidarizing himself politically with the French government and insisting that the French Communist Party do the same.
In Spain, the impetus for the Popular Front came from the left Republican Manuel Azaña. With the example of France before him, Azaña had every reason to believe that Moscow would provide a reliable international ally and give him a lever to use against the Spanish working class.

For the republicans and the Socialists the attractions of the Popular Front are evident, but what about the POUM? The POUM was formed in 1935 with the fusion of Andrés Nin’s party, the Left Communists, and Joaquín Maurín’s Workers and Peasants Bloc. As Trotsky wrote at the time, “The former Spanish ‘Left Communists’ have turned into a mere tail of the ‘left’ bourgeoisie. It is hard to conceive of a more ignominious downfall.” The POUM was the prime example of a left-centrist party in this period.

After corresponding with Nin for a number of months, Trotsky came to the conclusion that “Nin, honest and devoted to the cause, was not a Marxist but a centrist.” The POUM was incapable of drawing courageous tactical and organizational conclusions from its general conceptions. It played a vital role in giving the Popular Front a left cover.

Nin was an internationally known revolutionary. His presence alone would have been an assurance to the most class-conscious workers that the Popular Front was a revolutionary alliance. He had attended the founding conference of the Red International of Labour Unions in 1921 and became its assistant secretary. He joined the Communist Party and was elected to the Moscow Soviet. His opposition to Stalinism was long established. He was expelled from the party and sacked from his job for his support for Trotsky in 1928. Unable to return to Spain because of his political activities, he stayed in Moscow and was saved from prison only by his international reputation. Forced to return to Spain in 1930, Nin was imprisoned. His reputation was unimpeachable.

Trotsky and Nin corresponded for almost three years after Nin’s return to Spain. Their correspondence was expressed in the friendliest terms, but, in reality, it was a constant polemic. It has been claimed that Trotsky was too harsh in his judgement of Nin. But the most striking characteristic about the letters that Trotsky wrote to Nin is the extremely patient way in which he sought to explain his analysis of the Spanish situation and what it was necessary for Nin to do.

As late as June 1936, that is, six months after the POUM joined the Popular Front, Trotsky did not rule out reconciliation with Nin if he was prepared to raise the banner of the Fourth International unambiguously in Spain. Even two weeks after Franco’s coup, Trotsky told Victor Serge, “If Nin today were to pull himself together and realize how discredited he is in the eyes of the workers, if he should draw all the necessary conclusions, then we would help him as a comrade.”

Throughout the correspondence, Nin expressed his agreement with the programme of the Opposition but consistently refused to draw the necessary conclusions from it. The crucial question to which Trotsky returned again and again was internationalism and the need for a revolutionary party to work in the closest collaboration with its international co-thinkers and under the discipline of an international organisation. In March 1932 Trotsky wrote a letter to the Left Opposition in Spain welcoming the fact that they had been able to convene their first conference, in which he stated:
“Another question to which I would like to call your attention touches upon the international character of our work. Opportunists like Maurín and his Madrid imitators built up their entire policy on their national peculiarities. Not to know these peculiarities would of course be the greatest idiocy. But underneath them we must know how to discover the motivating forces of international developments and grasp the dependence of national peculiarities upon the world combination of forces. The tremendous advantage of Marxism and hence of the Left Opposition consists precisely in this international manner of solving national problems and national peculiarities.

“For your young organization a particular task is carefully following the work of the other sections of the International Left Opposition in order always to do your work in conformity with the interests of the whole. Without international criteria, without regular international links, without control over the work of a national section, the formation of a true proletarian revolutionary organization is impossible in our epoch.”

In another letter from the same period Trotsky makes a similar point more briefly. “Undoubtedly you agree,” he writes, “that as socialism cannot be built in one country a Marxist policy cannot be pursued in one country alone.”

As early as 1931 Trotsky was aware that there was a danger of the Spanish comrades adapting to Maurín. Maurín, Trotsky warned, was attempting to disguise national separatism as communism and adopting left-wing slogans in order to get close to the anarcho-syndicalists of the CNT. By December 1932, Trotsky was criticizing Nin much more directly for the national isolation of his group and his adaptation to Maurín. The International Left Opposition had just held an impromptu conference in Copenhagen where Trotsky had gone to give a lecture. Other European sections had sent delegates, but not the Spanish comrades.

“I take the liberty,” Trotsky wrote, “of expressing my certainty that the leading Spanish comrades if they had locked themselves less into their environment and had shown more interest in their international organization would have found their way to the Copenhagen consultation without difficulty.”

“But that is precisely the chief misfortune of the Spanish Opposition,” he went on, “that its leaders have persistently kept their organization away from the internal life and the internal struggles of the other sections, and thereby have shut it off from an irreplaceable international experience. But in so far as the Spanish section through its official position was after all compelled to mix into international questions, its leaders, influenced neither by the experience of the other sections nor by the public opinion of their own organization, let themselves be guided by personal connections, sympathies or antipathies. For a Marxist analysis of the situation and of the differences of opinion, they substituted all too often—we must say it openly—a petty bourgeois psychologizing and sentimentalising. So it was in the case of the Catalan Federation (Maurín) where several Barcelona comrades’ confidence in ‘friendly personal relations’ for a long time took the place of a principled struggle against petty-bourgeois nationalism and thereby put a brake on the development of the Left Opposition in the most decisive period.”

Setting out the tasks of the Left Opposition in Spain, Trotsky warned, “In Catalonia, where the proletariat offers a natural milieu for the rapid growth of Bolshevik-Leninist influence, the leading comrades lost time in an inexcusable manner. Instead of coming out openly under their own banner even as a small nucleus, they played hide-and-seek with principles during the most critical months of the revolution, first engaging in diplomacy with the petty-bourgeois nationalist and provincial phrasemaker Maurín and then hanging on to his tail.”

This long period of adaptation to the national milieu and Nin’s resistance to Trotsky’s attempts to develop a more international orientation among the Spanish Left Oppositionists led in 1935 to fusion with Maurín’s Workers and Peasants Bloc and then within a year to them joining the Popular Front.

The Popular Front made vague promises about cheap credit for the peasants and higher agricultural prices, neither of which could be kept even if the government was prepared to resist the pressure from the landlords and banks; and it explicitly rejected the nationalization of the land, which was the only way in which the land question could have been solved. It also rejected the nationalization of the banks.

The banking system was to be brought under control, the programme of the Popular Front declared, but not the control of the workers. This was to be government control—that is to say, the political representatives of finance capital were supposed to exercise control over their own banks.The foreign policy of the Popular Front was to be conducted in accord with the precepts of the League of Nations.

In every respect it was a programme that aimed to defend the interests of capital and was identical to that of the French Popular Front. When the French Popular Front was elected in May 1936, its capitalist orientation was immediately expressed by the way in which the Communist Party brought to an end a general strike which had revolutionary implications.

Trotsky hailed the strike as the beginning of the French revolution. The conservative French paper Le Temps agreed with him and warned that the mass strikes and occupations represented “practice manoeuvres of the revolution.”
The French Communist Party brought the strikes to an end, telling the workers that they had won a decisive victory when they gained a limited range of reforms. The behaviour of the Stalinists in France was a forewarning of what their role would be in Spain. It also meant that when the Spanish working class turned to France for help, it received none. When they betrayed the revolutionary movement of the French workers in 1936, the Stalinists deprived the Spanish workers and peasants of an ally in a neighbouring revolutionary state.

The election of the Popular Front government in Spain was followed by a renewed revolutionary upsurge. The POUM could have been at the head of the revolutionary movement in Spain by now, but instead it had let an exceptional revolutionary situation slip away and pursued a false and criminal line in joining the Popular Front.

Trotsky warned that the government would use the forces of the state to repress the workers and peasants. He wrote “The workers’ organizations, however, remain completely enmeshed in the nets of the Popular Front. The convulsions of the revolutionary masses (without a programme, without a leadership worthy of confidence) thus threaten to throw the gates wide open to the counterrevolutionary dictatorship.”

As Trotsky explained: “The question of questions at the moment is the Popular Front. The left centrists seek to present this question as a tactical or even as a technical manoeuvre, so as to be able to peddle their wares in the shadow of the Popular Front. In reality, the Popular Front is the main question of proletarian class strategy for this epoch. It also offers the best criterion for the difference between Bolshevism and Menshevism. For it is often forgotten that the greatest historical example of the Popular Front is the February 1917 revolution. From February to October the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries, who represent a very good parallel to the ‘Communists’ [i.e., Stalinists] and the Social Democrats, were in the closest alliance and were in a permanent coalition with the bourgeois party of the Cadets, together with whom they formed a series of coalition governments. Under the sign of this Popular Front stood the whole mass of the people, including the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ councils. To be sure, the Bolsheviks participated in the councils. But they did not make the slightest concession to the Popular Front. Their demand was to break this Popular Front, to destroy the alliance with the Cadets, and to create a genuine workers’ and peasants’ government.”

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Francisco Franco, center

This was written on July 16 and the next day Franco launched his military coup. The Popular Front government which the POUM had helped to put in power had left the army and the officer corps intact. This was not an accidental oversight, but reflected the fact that when it was forced to make an alliance with the left and workers’ organizations, the ruling class needed the military more than ever if it was to protect private property. This had been part of the perspective of Popular Frontism from the very beginning, when Stalin had assured Laval that the French Communist Party would accept all the measures he felt it was necessary to take for national defence. Stalin hoped that he could rely on the French army to defend the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany and was prepared to leave it intact whatever the cost to the French working class. In Spain, the POUM had participated in the Popular Front which had, Trotsky wrote, “maintained the military caste with the people’s money, furnished them with authority, power and arms, and given them command over young workers and peasants, thereby facilitating the preparations for a crushing attack on the workers and peasants.”
Part Two https://articlesfactsstats.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/the-spanish-civil-war-and-the-popular-front-part-two/

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/01/sple-j26.html

War and the Fourth International

by Leon Trotsky June 10, 1934

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The catastrophic commercial, industrial, agrarian and financial crisis, the break in international economic ties, the decline of the productive forces of humanity, the unbearable sharpening of class and international contradictions mark the twilight of capitalism and fully confirm the Leninist characterization of our epoch as one of wars and revolutions.

The war of 1914-18 officially ushered in a new epoch. Its most important political events up to now have been: the conquest of power by the Russian proletariat in 1917 and the smashing of the German proletariat in the year 1933. The terrible calamities of the peoples in all parts of the world and even the more terrible dangers that tomorrow holds in store result from the fact that the revolution of 1917 did not find victorious development on the European and world arena.

Inside the individual countries, the historic blind alley of capitalism expresses itself in chronic unemployment, in the lowering of the living standards of the workers, in the ruination of the peasantry and the town petty bourgeoisie, in the decomposition and decay of the parliamentary state, in the monstrous poisoning of the people by “social” and “national” demagogy in face of an actual liquidation of social reforms, of the pushing aside and replacement of old ruling parties by a naked military-police apparatus (Bonapartism, of capitalist decline), in the growth of fascism, in its conquering power and smashing of each and every proletarian organization.

On the world arena, the same processes are washing away the last remnants of stability in international relations, driving every conflict between the states to the very edge of the knife, laying bare the futility of pacifist attempts, giving rise to the growth of armaments on a new and higher technical basis and thus leading to a new imperialist war. Fascism is its most consistent artificer and organizer.

On the other hand, the exposure of the thoroughly reactionary, putrified and robber nature of modern capitalism, the destruction of democracy, reformism and pacifism, the urgent and burning need of the proletariat to find a safe path away from imminent disaster put the international revolution on the agenda with renewed force. Only the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the insurgent proletariat can save humanity from a new, devastating slaughter of the peoples.

Preparation for a New War
1. The same causes, inseparable from modern capitalism, that brought about the last imperialist war have now reached infinitely greater tension than in the middle of 1914. The fear of the consequences of a new war is the only factor that fetters the will of imperialism. But the efficacy of this brake is limited. The stress of inner contradictions pushes one country after another on the road to fascism, which, in its turn, cannot maintain power except by preparing international explosions. All governments fear war. But none of the governments has any freedom of choice. Without a proletarian revolution, a new world war is inevitable.

2. Europe, the recent arena of the greatest of wars, continually heads toward decline, pushed by victors and vanquished alike. The League of Nations, which according to its official program was to be the “organizer of peace” and which was really intended to perpetuate the Versailles system, to neutralize the hegemony of the United States and to create a bulwark against the Red East, could not withstand the impact of imperialist contradictions. Only the most cynical of the social patriots (Henderson, Vandervelde, Jouhaux and other) still try to connect the perspectives of disarmament and pacifism with the League. In reality, the League of Nations became a secondary figure on the chessboard of imperialist combinations. The main work of diplomacy, now carried on behind the back of Geneva, consists in the search for military allies, that is, in a feverish preparation for a new slaughter. Parallel with it goes the constant growth of armaments to which fascist Germany has lent a new and gigantic impulsion.

3. The collapse of the League of Nations is indissolubly bound up with the beginning of the collapse of French hegemony on the European continent. The demographic and economic power of France proved to be, as was to be expected, too narrow a base for the Versailles system. French imperialism, armed to the teeth and having an apparently “defensive” character, insofar as it is forced to defend by legalized agreements the fruits of its plunder and spoliation, remains essentially one of the most important factors of a new war.

Driven by its unbearable contradictions and the consequences of defeat, German capitalism has been forced to tear off the straitjacket of democratic pacifism and now comes forward as the chief threat to the Versailles system. State combinations on the European continent still follow, in the main, the line of victors and vanquished. Italy occupies the place of a treacherous go-between, ready to sell its friendship at the decisive moment to the stronger side, as she did during the last war. England is attempting to retain its “independence” – a mere shadow of its former “splendid isolation” – in the hope of utilizing the antagonisms in Europe, the contradictions between Europe and America, the approaching conflicts in the Far East. But ruling England is ever less successful in its scheming designs. Terrified by the disintegration of its empire, by the revolutionary movement in India, by the instability of its positions in China, the British bourgeoisie covers up with the revolting hypocrisy of MacDonald and Henderson its greedy and cowardly policy of waiting and manoeuvring, which, in turn, is one of the main sources of today’s general instability and tomorrow’s catastrophes.

4. The war and the post-war period wrought the greatest changes in the internal and international position of the United States. The gigantic economic superiority of the United States over Europe and, consequently, over the world allowed the bourgeoisie of the United States to appear in the first post-war period as a dispassionate “conciliator,” defender of the “freedom of the seas” and the “open door.” The industrial and business crisis revealed, however, with terrific force the disturbance of the old economic equilibrium, which had found sufficient support on the internal market. This road is completely exhausted.

Of course, the economic superiority of the United States has not disappeared; on the contrary, it has even grown potentially, due to the further disintegration of Europe. But the old forms in which this superiority manifested itself (industrial technique, trade balance, stable dollar, European indebtedness) have lost their actuality: the advanced technique is no longer put to use; the trade balance is unfavourable; the dollar is in decline; debts are not paid. The superiority of the United States must find its expression in new forms, the way to which can be opened only by war.

The slogan of the “open door” in China is proving powerless before a few Japanese divisions. Washington carries on its Far Eastern policy in such a way as to be able to provoke at the most propitious moment a military clash between the USSR and Japan, so as to weaken both Japan and the USSR and outline its further strategic plan depending upon the outcome of war. Continuing by inertia the discussion on the liberation of the Philippines, the American imperialists are in reality preparing to establish for themselves a territorial base in China, so as to raise at the following stage, in case of conflict with Great Britain, the question of the “liberation” of India. US capitalism is up against the same problems that pushed Germany in 1914 on the path of war. The world is divided? It must be redivided. For Germany it was a question of “organizing Europe.” The United States must “organize” the world. History is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American imperialism.

5. Belated Japanese capitalism, feeding on the juices of backwardness, poverty and barbarism, is being driven by unbearable internal ulcers and abscesses on the road of unceasing piratical plunder. The absence of an industrial base of its own and the extreme precariousness of the whole social system makes Japanese capitalism the most aggressive and unbridled. However, the future will show that behind this greedy aggressiveness there are but few real forces. Japan may be the first to give the signal to war; but from semi-feudal Japan, torn by all the contradictions that beset tsarist Russia, sooner than from other countries, the call to revolution may sound.

6. It would be too venturesome, however, to predict precisely where and when the first shot will be fired. Under the influence of the Soviet-American agreement, as well as of internal difficulties, Japan may temporarily retreat. But the same circumstances may, on the contrary, force the Japanese military camarilla to hasten the blow while there is yet time. Will the French government make up its mind to a “preventive” war, and will this war not turn, with the aid of Italy, into a free-for-all? Or, on the contrary, while waiting and manoeuvring, will not France under the pressure of England take the road of agreement with Hitler, thereby opening up to him the road of attack to the east?

Will not the Balkan Peninsula be once more the instigator of war? Or will the initiative, perhaps, be seized this time by Danubian countries? The multitude of factors and the intertwining of conflicting forces exclude the possibility of a concrete prognosis. But the general tendency of development is absolutely clear: the post-war period has simply been transformed into an interval between two wars, and this interval is vanishing before our very eyes. Planned, corporative or state capitalism, which goes hand in hand with the authoritarian, Bonapartist or fascist state, remains a utopia, and a lie insofar as it sets itself the official task of a harmonious national economy on the basis of private property. But it is a menacing reality insofar as it is a question of concentrating all the economic forces of the nation for the preparation of a new war. This work is proceeding now with full steam. A new great war is knocking at the gates. It will be crueller, more destructive than its predecessor. This very fact makes the attitude towards the oncoming war the pivotal question of proletarian policy.

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The USSR and Imperialist War
7. Taken on a historic scale, the antagonism between world imperialism and the Soviet Union is infinitely deeper than the antagonisms that set individual capitalist countries in opposition to each other. But the class contradiction between the workers’ state and the capitalist states varies in acuteness depending upon the evolution of the workers’ state and upon the changes in the world situation. The monstrous development of Soviet bureaucratism and the difficult conditions of existence of the toiling masses have drastically decreased the attractive power of the USSR with regard to the working class of the world. The heavy defeats of the Comintern and the national-pacifist foreign policy of the Soviet government in their turn could not but diminish the apprehensions of the world bourgeoisie. Finally, the new sharpening of internal contradictions of the capitalist world forces the governments of Europe and America to approach the USSR at this stage not from the point of view of the principal question, capitalism or socialism, but from the point of view of the conjunctural role of the Soviet state in the struggle of the imperialist powers. Non-aggression pacts, the recognition of the USSR by the Washington government, etc., are manifestations of this international situation. Hitler’s persistent efforts to legalize the rearming of Germany by pointing to the “Eastern danger” find no response as yet, especially on the part of France and its satellites, precisely because the revolutionary danger of communism, despite the terrible crisis, has lost its acuteness. The diplomatic successes of the Soviet Union are, therefore, to be attributed, at least in a large measure, to the extreme weakening of the international revolution.

8. It would be a fatal mistake, however, to consider the armed intervention against the Soviet Union as entirely off the agenda. If the conjunctural relations have become less sharp, there remain in full force the contradictions of social Systems. The continual decline of capitalism will drive the bourgeois governments to radical decisions. Every big war, irrespective of its initial motives, must pose squarely the question of military intervention against the USSR in order to transfuse fresh blood into the sclerotic veins of capitalism.

The indubitable and deep-going bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet state as well as the national-conservative character of its foreign policy do not change the social nature of the Soviet Union as that of the first workers’ state. All kinds of democratic, idealistic, ultra-left and anarchistic theories, ignoring the character of Soviet property relations, which is socialistic in its tendencies, and denying or glossing over the class contradiction between the USSR and the bourgeois state, must lead inevitably, and especially in case of war, to counter-revolutionary political conclusions.

Defence of the Soviet Union from the blows of the capitalist enemies, irrespective of the circumstances and immediate causes of the conflict, is the elementary and imperative duty of every honest labor organization.

“National Defence”
9. The national state created by capitalism in the struggle with the sectionalism of the Middle Ages became the classical arena of capitalism. But no sooner did it take shape than it became a brake upon economic and cultural development. The contradiction between the productive forces and the framework of the national state, in conjunction with the principal contradiction – between the productive forces and the private ownership of the means of production – make the crisis of capitalism that of the world social system.

10. If state borders could be swept away with one stroke, productive forces, even under capitalism, could continue to rise for a certain length of time – at the price of innumerable sacrifices, it is true – to a higher level. With the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, the productive forces may, as the experience of the USSR shows, reach a higher development even within the framework of one state. But only the abolition of private property as well as of state barriers between nations can create the conditions for a new economic system: the socialist society.

11. The defence of the national state, first of all in Balkanised Europe – the cradle of the national state – is in the full sense of the word a reactionary task. The national state with its borders, passports, monetary system, customs and the army for the protection of customs has become a frightful impediment to the economic and cultural development of humanity. The task of the proletariat is not the defence of the national state but its complete and final liquidation.

12. Were the present national state to represent a progressive factor, it would have to be defended irrespective of its political form and, of course, regardless of who “started” the war first. It is absurd to confuse the question of the historic function of the national state with the question of the “guilt” of a given government. Can one refuse to save a house suited for habitation just because the fire started through carelessness or through evil intent of the owner? But here it is precisely a case of the given house being fit not for living but merely for dying. To enable the peoples to live, the structure of the national state must be razed to its foundations.

13. A “socialist” who preaches national defence is a petty-bourgeois reactionary at the service of decaying capitalism. Not to bind itself to the national state in time of war, to follow not the war map but the map of the class struggle, is possible only for that party that has already declared irreconcilable war on the national state in time of peace. Only by realizing fully the objectively reactionary role of the imperialist state can the proletarian vanguard become invulnerable to all types of social patriotism. This means that a real break with the ideology and policy of “national defence” is possible only from the standpoint of the international proletarian revolution.

The National Question and Imperialist War
14. The working class is not indifferent to its nation. On the contrary, it is just because history places the fate of the nation into its hands that the working class refuses to entrust the work of national freedom and independence to imperialism, which “saves” the nation only to subject it on the morrow to new mortal dangers for the sake of the interests of an insignificant minority of exploiters.

15. Having used the nation for its development, capitalism has nowhere, in no single corner of the world, solved fully the national problem. The borders of the Europe of Versailles are carved out of the living body of the nations. The idea of recarving capitalist Europe to make state boundaries coincide with national boundaries is the sheerest kind of utopia. No government will cede an inch of its ground by peaceful means. A new war would carve Europe anew in accordance with the war map and not in correspondence to the boundaries of nations. The task of complete national determination and peaceful co-operation of all peoples of Europe can be solved Only on the basis of the economic unification of Europe, purged of bourgeois rule. The slogan of the United States of Europe is a slogan not only for the salvation of the Balkan and Danubian peoples but for the salvation of the peoples of Germany and France as well.

16. A special and important place is occupied by the question of colonial and semi-colonial countries of the East, which are even now fighting for the independent national state. Their struggle is doubly progressive: tearing the backward peoples from Asiatism, sectionalism and foreign bondage, they strike powerful blows at the imperialist states. But it must be clearly understood beforehand that the belated revolutions in Asia and Africa are incapable of opening up a new epoch of renaissance for the national state. The liberation of the colonies will be merely a gigantic episode in the world socialist revolution, just as the belated democratic overturn in Russia, which was also a semi-colonial country, was only the introduction to the socialist revolution.

17. In South America, where belated and already decaying capitalism is supporting the conditions of semi-feudal, that is, semi-slavish existence, world antagonisms create a sharp struggle of comprador cliques, continual overturns within the states and protracted armed conflicts between the states. The American bourgeoisie, which was able during its historic rise to unite into one federation the northern half of the American continent, now uses all its power, which grew out of this, to disunite, weaken and enslave the southern half. South and Central America will be able to tear themselves out of backwardness and enslavement only by uniting all their states into one powerful federation. But it is not the belated South American bourgeoisie, a thoroughly venal agency of foreign imperialism, who will be called upon to solve this task, but the young South American proletariat, the chosen leader of the oppressed masses. The slogan in the struggle against violence and intrigues of world imperialism and against the bloody work of native comprador cliques is therefore: the Soviet United States of South and Central America.

The national problem merges everywhere with the social. Only the conquest of power by the world proletariat can assure a real and lasting freedom of development for all nations of our planet.

The Defence of Democracy
18. The sham of national defence is covered up wherever possible by the additional sham of the defence of democracy. If even now, in the imperialist epoch, Marxists do not identify democracy with fascism and are ready at any moment to repel fascism’s encroachment upon democracy, must not the proletariat in case of war support the democratic governments against the fascist governments?

Flagrant sophism! We defend democracy against fascism by means of the organizations and methods of the proletariat. Contrary to the Social Democracy, we do not entrust this defence to the bourgeois state (Staat, greif zu! [ State, intervene!]). And if we remain in irreconcilable opposition to the most “democratic” government in time of peace, how can we take upon ourselves even a shadow of responsibility for it in time of war when all the infamies and crimes of capitalism take on a most brutal and bloody form?

19. A modern war between the great powers does not signify a conflict between democracy and fascism but a struggle of two imperialisms for the redivision of the world. Moreover, the war must inevitably assume an international character and in both camps will be found fascist (semi-fascist, Bonapartist, etc.) as well as “democratic” states. The republican form of French imperialism did not prevent it from basing itself in peacetime on the military-bourgeois dictatorship in Poland, Yugoslavia and Romania, as it will not prevent it, in case of necessity, from restoring the Austro-Hungarian monarchy as a barrier against the unification of Austria with Germany. Finally, in France itself, parliamentary democracy, already sufficiently weakened today, would undoubtedly be one of the first victims of war if it is not upset before its start

20. The bourgeoisie of a number of civilized countries has already shown and is continuing to show how, in case of internal danger, it changes without much ado the parliamentary form of its rule for an authoritarian, dictatorial, Bonapartist or fascist form. It will make the change that much faster and more decisively in time of war when both internal and external dangers will threaten its basic class interests with tenfold force. Under these conditions, the support by a workers’ party of “its” national imperialism for the sake of a fragile democratic shell means the renunciation of an independent policy and the chauvinistic demoralization of the workers, that is, the destruction of the only factor that can save humanity from disaster.

21. “The struggle for democracy” in time of war would signify, above all, the struggle for the preservation of the workers’ press and of workers’ organizations against unbridled military censorship and military authority. On the basis of these tasks, the revolutionary vanguard will seek a united front with other working-class organizations – against its own “democratic” government – but in no case unity with its own government against the hostile country.

22. An imperialist war stands above the question of the state form of capitalist rule. It places before each national bourgeoisie the question of the fate of national capitalism and before the bourgeoisie of all countries the question of the fate of capitalism in general. Only thus must the proletariat too pose the question: capitalism or socialism, the triumph of one of the imperialist camps or the proletarian revolution.

Defence of Small and Neutral States
23. The concept of national defence, especially when it coincides with the idea of the defence of democracy, can most easily delude the workers of small and neutral countries (Switzerland, partly Belgium, Scandinavian countries …), which, being incapable of engaging in an independent policy of conquest, impart to the defence of their national borders the character of an irrefutable and absolute dogma. But precisely by the example of Belgium, we see how naturally formal neutrality is replaced by a system of imperialist pacts and how inevitably war for “national defence” leads to an annexationist peace. The character of war is determined not by the initial episode taken by itself (“violation of neutrality,” “enemy invasion,” etc.) but by the main moving forces of war, by its whole development and by the consequences to which it finally leads.

24. It can be readily accepted that the Swiss bourgeoisie will not take upon itself the initiative of war. In this sense, it has far more formal right than any other bourgeoisie to speak of its defensive position. But from the moment that Switzerland may find itself drawn into the war by the course of events, it would enter the struggle of the world powers in the pursuit of equally imperialist aims. Should neutrality be violated, the Swiss bourgeoisie will unite with the stronger of the two attacking sides, regardless of which one bears the greater responsibility for the violation of neutrality and in which camp there is more “democracy.” Thus, during the last war, Belgium, the ally of tsarism, by no means left the camp of the Allies when in the course of the war they in turn found it advantageous to violate the neutrality of Greece.

Only a hopelessly dull bourgeois from a godforsaken Swiss village (like Robert Grimm) can seriously think that the world war into which he is drawn is waged for the defence of Swiss independence. Just as the preceding war swept away the neutrality of Belgium, so the new war will leave no trace of Swiss independence. Whether after the war Switzerland will retain its entity as a state, even though without its independence, or whether it will be divided among Germany, France and Italy depends on a number of European and world factors among which the “national defence” of Switzerland will occupy an insignificant place.

We see, therefore, that for neutral, democratic Switzerland also, a state possessing no colonies and where the idea of national defence appears before us in its purest form, the laws of imperialism make no exception. To the demand of the bourgeoisie: “Join the policy of national defence,” the Swiss proletariat must retort by a policy of class defence so as to go over next to a revolutionary advance.

The Second International and War
25. The commandment of national defence follows from the dogma that the national solidarity of classes stands above the class struggle. In reality, no possessing class ever recognized the defence of the fatherland as such, that is, under any and all conditions, but rather covered up by this formula the protection of its privileged position in the fatherland. Overthrown ruling classes always become “defeatists,” that is, are ready to restore their privileged position with the aid of foreign arms.

The oppressed classes, not conscious of their own interests and accustomed to sacrifices, accept the slogan “national defence” at face value, that is, as an absolute duty that stands above the classes. The basic historic crime of the parties of the Second International consists in their fostering and strengthening the slavish habits and traditions of the oppressed, in neutralizing their revolutionary indignation and falsifying their class consciousness with the aid of patriotic ideas.

If the European proletariat did not overthrow the bourgeoisie at the end of the great war; if humanity writhes now in the agonies of the crisis; if a new war threatens to transform cities and villages into heaps of ruins – the chief responsibility for these crimes and calamities falls on the Second International.

26. The policy of social patriotism rendered the masses helpless before fascism. If in time of war it is necessary to reject the class struggle for the sake of national interests, it is also necessary to renounce “Marxism” in the epoch of a great economic crisis that endangers “the nation” no less than war. Back in April 1915, Rosa Luxemburg exhausted this question with the following words: “Either the class struggle is the imperative law of proletarian existence also during war … or the class struggle is a crime against national interests and the safety of the fatherland also in time of peace.” The idea of “national interests” and the “safety of the fatherland” has been transformed by fascism into chains and fetters for the proletariat.

27. The German Social Democracy supported Hitler’s foreign Policy up to the very moment that he drove it out. The final replacement of democracy by fascism revealed that the Social Democracy remains patriotic just so long as the political régime assures it its profits and privileges. Finding themselves in emigration, the former Hohenzollern patriots turn about-face and are ready to welcome a preventive war of the French bourgeoisie against Hitler. Without any difficulty, the Second International amnestied Wels and Co. who would on the morrow be reconverted into ardent patriots if only the German bourgeoisie should beckon them back with one little finger.

28. The French, Belgian and other socialists responded to the German events by an open alliance with their own bourgeoisie on the question of “national defence.” While official France was carrying on a “small,” “insignificant” but exceptionally atrocious war against Morocco, the French Social Democracy and reformist trade unions discussed at their congresses the inhumanity of war in general, having in mind thereby chiefly the war of revenge on the part of Germany. Parties that support the brutalities of colonial robberies, where it is merely a question of new profits, will support with eyes shut any national government in a great war where the fate of the bourgeois republic itself will be involved.

29. The incompatibility of Social Democratic policy with the historic interests of the proletariat is incomparably deeper and sharper now than on the eve of the imperialist war. The struggle with the patriotic prejudices of the masses means, above all, an irreconcilable struggle against the Second International as an organization, as a party, as a program, as a banner.

Centrism and War
30. The first imperialist war completely dissolved the Second International as a revolutionary party and thereby created the necessity and possibility of creating the Third International. But the republican “revolution” in Germany and Austro-Hungary, the democratization of suffrage in a number of countries, concessions by the frightened European bourgeoisie in the sphere of social legislation in the first years after the war – all this, in conjunction with the disastrous policy of the epigones of Leninism, gave the Second International a considerable respite, no longer as a revolutionary but as a conservative-liberal workers’ party of pacific reform. However, very soon – finally with the coming of the last world crisis – all the possibilities on the road of reforms proved exhausted. The bourgeoisie passed over to counter-attack. The Social Democracy treacherously gave up one gain after another. All species of reformism-parliamentarian, trade-union, municipal, co-operative “socialism” – have suffered irreparable bankruptcies and catastrophes in recent years. As a result of this, the preparation for a new war finds the Second International with a broken spine. The Social Democratic parties are undergoing an intensive process of discoloration. Consistent reformism takes on new colour; it becomes silent or splits off. Its place is being taken by various shadings of centrism, either in the form of numerous factions within the old parties or as independent organizations.

31. On the question of the defence of the fatherland, masked reformists and right centrists (Léon Blum, Hendrik de Man, Robert Grimm, Martin Tranmael, Otto Bauer and others) resort increasingly to diplomatic, confused, conditional formulations calculated at one and the same time to pacify the bourgeoisie and to fool the workers. They put forward economic “plans” or a series of social demands, promising to defend the fatherland from external “fascism” to the extent that the national bourgeoisie will support their program. The purpose in thus posing the question consists in glossing over the question of the class character of the state, evading the problem of the conquest of power and, under the cover of a “socialist” plan, in dragging in the defence of the capitalist fatherland.

32. The left centrists, who are in turn distinguished by a great number of shadings (SAP in Germany, OSP in Holland, ILP in England, the Zyromsky and Marceau Pivert groups in France and others) arrive in words at the renunciation of the defence of the fatherland. But from this bare renunciation they do not draw the necessary practical conclusions. The greater half of their internationalism, if not nine-tenths of it, bears a platonic character. They fear to break away from the right centrists; in the name of the struggle with “sectarianism,” they carry on a struggle against Marxism, refuse to fight for a revolutionary International and continue to remain in the Second International, at the head of which stands the king’s footman, Vandervelde. Expressing at certain moments the leftward shift of the masses, in the final analysis the centrists put a brake upon the revolutionary regrouping within the proletariat and consequently also upon the struggle against war.

33. In its very essence, centrism means half-heartedness and vacillation. But the problem of war is least of all favourable for the policy of vacillation. For the masses, centrism is always only a short transition stage. The growing danger of war will make for ever-sharper differentiation within the centrist groupings that now dominate the workers’ movement. The proletarian vanguard will be the better armed for the struggle against war the sooner and more fully it will free its mind from the web of centrism. A necessary condition for success on this road is to pose clearly and irreconcilably all questions connected with war.

Soviet Diplomacy and the International Re
volution

34. After the conquest of power, the proletariat itself goes over to the position of the “defence of the fatherland.” But this formula thenceforward acquires an entirely new historic content. The isolated workers’ state is not a self-sufficing entity but only a drill ground for the world revolution. Defending the USSR, the proletariat defends not national boundaries but a socialist dictatorship temporarily hemmed in by national borders. Only a deep understanding of the fact that the proletarian revolution cannot find completion within the national framework; that without the victory of the proletariat in the leading countries all the successes of socialist construction in the USSR are doomed to failure; that other than through the international revolution there is no salvation for any country in the world; that the socialist society can be built only on the basis of international co-operation – only these firm convictions, penetrating into the very blood and marrow, can create a safe basis for revolutionary proletarian policy in time of war.

35. The foreign policy of the Soviets flowing from the theory of socialism in one country, that is, the actual ignoring of the problems of the international revolution, is based on two ideas: general disarmament and mutual rejection of aggression. That in search of diplomatic guarantees the Soviet government has to resort to a purely formalistic presentation of the problems of war and peace follows from the conditions of capitalist encirclement. But these methods of adaptation to the enemy, forced upon it by the feebleness of the international revolution and to a great extent by the previous mistakes of the Soviet government itself, can by no means be raised into a universal system. But the acts and speeches of Soviet diplomacy, which have long transgressed the limit of unavoidable, admissible, practical compromises, have been laid down as the sacred and inviolable basis for the international policy of the Third International and have become the source of the most flagrant pacifist illusions and social-patriotic blunders.

36. Disarmament is not a means against war, since, as the experience of Germany itself shows, episodic disarmament is only a stage on the road to new rearmament. The possibility of new and very rapid rearmament is inherent in modern industrial technique. “General” disarmament, even if it could be realized, would only mean the strengthening of the military superiority of the more powerful industrial countries. “Fifty percent disarmament” is the road not to complete disarmament but to absolute 100 percent rearmament. To present disarmament as “the only real means to prevent war” is to mislead the workers for the sake of a common front with petty-bourgeois pacifists.

37. We cannot for one moment dispute the right of the Soviet government to define with the greatest precision the term aggression in any given agreement with the imperialists. But to attempt to transform this conditional legalistic formula into a supreme regulator of international relations is to substitute conservative criteria for revolutionary criteria, reducing the international policy of the proletariat to the defence of the existing annexations and borders set up by force.

38. We are not pacifists. We consider a revolutionary war just as much a means of proletarian policy as an uprising. Our attitude to war is determined not by the legalistic formula of “aggression” but by the question of which class carries on the war and for what aims. In the conflict of states, just as in the class struggle, “defence” and “aggression” are questions only of practical expediency and not of a juridical or ethical norm. The bare criterion of aggression creates a base of support for the social-patriotic policy of Messrs. Léon Blum, Vandervelde and others, who, thanks to Versailles, are given the possibility of defending imperialist booty under the guise of defending peace.

39. Stalin’s famous formula, “We do not want an inch of foreign soil but will not give up an inch of ours,” represents a conservative program for the preservation of the status quo in radical contradiction to the aggressive nature of the proletarian revolution. The ideology of socialism in one country leads inevitably to the blurring of the reactionary role of the national state, to conciliation with it, to its idealization, to reducing the importance of revolutionary internationalism.

40. The leaders of the Third International justify the policy of Soviet diplomacy on the ground that the workers’ state must utilize the contradictions in the camp of imperialism. This statement, indisputable in itself, needs concretization, however.

The foreign policy of each class is the continuation and development of its internal policy. If the proletariat in power must discern and utilize the contradictions in the camp of its external enemies, the proletariat that is still fighting for power must know how to discern and utilize the contradictions in the camp of its internal enemies. The fact that the Third International proved absolutely incapable of understanding and utilizing the contradictions between reformist democracy and fascism led directly to the greatest defeat of the proletariat and brought it face to face with the danger of a new war.

On the other hand, the contradictions between the imperialist governments must be utilized in no other way than from the point of view of the international revolution. The defence of the USSR is conceivable only if the international proletarian vanguard is independent of the policy of Soviet diplomacy, if there is complete freedom to show up its nationalist conservative methods, which are directed against the interests of the international revolution and thus also against the interests of the Soviet Union.

The USSR and Imperialist Comb
inations

41. The Soviet government is now in the process of changing its course with regard to the League of Nations. The Third International, as usual, repeats slavishly the words and gestures of Soviet diplomacy. All sorts of “ultralefts” take advantage of this turn to relegate the Soviet Union once again among the bourgeois states. The Social Democracy, depending on its particular national considerations, interprets the “reconciliation” of the USSR with the League of Nations as proof of the bourgeois-nationalistic character of the policy of Moscow or, on the contrary, as the rehabilitation of the League of Nations and, in general, the whole ideology of pacifism. In this question, too, the Marxist point of view has nothing in common with any one of these petty-bourgeois evaluations.

Our attitude in principle to the League of Nations does not differ from our attitude to each and every individual imperialist state, whether in or out of the League of Nations. The manoeuvring of the Soviet state between the antagonistic groupings of imperialism presupposes a policy of manoeuvre with regard to the League of Nations as well. So long as Japan and Germany were in the League, the latter threatened to become an arena for agreement of the most important imperialist robbers at the expense of the USSR. After Japan and Germany, the most immediate and chief enemies of the Soviet Union, quit the League of Nations, it changed partly into a bloc of allies and vassals of French imperialism, partly into an arena of struggle among France, England and Italy. This or that combination with the League of Nations may be forced upon the Soviet state, which is steering between imperialist camps equally hostile to it in essence.

42. Giving oneself a fully realistic account of the existing situation, the proletarian vanguard must, at the same time, place in the foreground the following considerations:

The necessity for the USSR, sixteen and more years after the October overturn, to seek a rapprochement with the League and to cover up this rapprochement with abstract pacifist formulas is the result of the extreme weakening of the international proletarian revolution and by that of the international position of the USSR.
Abstract pacifist formulations of Soviet diplomacy and its compliments directed to the League of Nations have nothing in common with the policy of the international proletarian party, which refuses to bear any responsibility for them but on the contrary, exposes their hollowness and hypocrisy, the better to mobilize the proletariat on the basis of a clear understanding of actual forces and real antagonisms.
43. In the existing situation, an alliance of the USSR with an imperialist state or with one imperialist combination against another, in case of war, cannot at all be considered as excluded. Under the pressure of circumstances, a temporary alliance of this kind may become an iron necessity, without ceasing, however, because of it, to be of the greatest danger both to the USSR and to the world revolution.

The international proletariat will not decline to defend the USSR even if the latter should find itself forced into a military alliance with some imperialists against others. But in this case, even more than in any other, the international proletariat must safeguard its complete political independence from Soviet diplomacy and, thereby, also from the bureaucracy of the Third International.

44. Remaining the determined and devoted defender of the workers’ state in the struggle with imperialism, the international proletariat will not, however, become an ally of the imperialist allies of the USSR. The proletariat of a capitalist country that finds itself in an alliance with the USSR must retain fully and completely its irreconcilable hostility to the imperialist government of its own country. In this sense, its policy will not differ from that of the proletariat in a country fighting against the USSR. But in the nature of practical actions, considerable differences may arise depending on the concrete war situation. For instance, it would be absurd and criminal in case of war between the USSR and Japan for the American proletariat to sabotage the sending of American munition to the USSR. But the proletariat of a country fighting against the USSR would be absolutely obliged to resort to actions of this sort – strikes, sabotage, etc.

45. Intransigent proletarian opposition to the imperialist ally Of the USSR must develop, on the one hand, on the basis of international class policy, on the other, on the basis of the imperialist aims of the given government, the treacherous character of this “alliance,” its speculation on capitalist overturn in the USSR, etc. The policy of a proletarian party in an “allied” as well as an enemy imperialist country should therefore be directed towards the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the seizure of power. Only in this way can a real alliance with the USSR be created and the first workers’ state be saved from disaster.

46. Within the USSR, war against imperialist intervention will undoubtedly provoke a veritable outburst of genuine fighting enthusiasm. All the contradictions and antagonisms will seem overcome or at any rate relegated to the background. The young generations of workers and peasants that emerged from the revolution will reveal on the field of battle a colossal dynamic power. Centralized industry, despite all its lacks and shortcomings, will reveal great superiority in serving war needs. The government of the USSR has undoubtedly created great stores of food supplies sufficient for the first period of war. The general staffs of the imperialist states clearly realize, of course, that in the Red Army they will meet a powerful adversary, the struggle with whom will require long intervals of time and a terrific straining of forces.

47. But precisely the protracted nature of the war will inevitably reveal the contradictions of the transitional economy of the USSR with its bureaucratic planning. The gigantic new enterprises may, in many cases, prove to be just so much dead capital. Under the influence of the government’s acute need of supplies of prime necessity, the individualistic tendencies of peasant economy will receive considerable strengthening, and the centrifugal forces within the kolkhozes will grow with each month of war. The rule of the uncontrolled bureaucracy will be transformed into a war dictatorship. The absence of a living party as a political controller and regulator will lead to an extreme accumulation and sharpening of contradictions. In the heated atmosphere of war, one can expect sharp turns toward individualistic principles in agriculture and in handicraft industry, toward the attraction of foreign and “allied” capital, breaks in the monopoly of foreign trade, the weakening of governmental control over trusts, the sharpening of competition between the trusts, their conflicts with workers, etc. In the political sphere, these processes may mean the completion of Bonapartism with the corresponding change or a number of changes in property relations. In other words, in case of a protracted war accompanied by the passivity of the world proletariat, the internal social contradictions in the USSR not only might lead but also would have to lead to a bourgeois-Bonapartist counter-revolution.

The political conclusions following from this are:
Only the proletarian revolution in the West can save the USSR as the workers’ state in case of a long protracted war;
The preparation for a proletarian revolution in “friendly,” “allied” as well as enemy countries is conceivable only with the complete independence of the world proletarian vanguard from the Soviet bureaucracy.
The unconditional support of the USSR against the imperialist armies must go hand in hand with revolutionary Marxist criticism of the war and the diplomatic policy of the Soviet government, and with the formation inside the USSR of a real revolutionary party of Bolshevik-Leninists.
Logo_of_the_International_Workers_League_-_Fourth_International
The Third International and War
49. Having abandoned a principled line on the war question, the Third International vacillates between defeatism and social patriotism. In Germany the struggle against fascism was transformed into a market competition on a nationalistic basis. The slogan of “national liberation,” advanced side by side with the slogan of “social liberation,” grossly distorts the revolutionary perspective and leaves no place whatever for defeatism. On the Saar question, the Communist Party began by a cringing subservience to the ideology of National Socialism and moved away from this only through inner splits.

What slogan will the German section of the Third International advance in time of war: “the defeat of Hitler is the lesser evil”? But if the slogan of national liberation was correct under the “fascists” Müller and Brüning, how could it lose its efficacy under Hitler? Or are nationalist slogans good only for time of peace and not of war? Truly, the epigones of Leninism did everything to confuse themselves and the working class to the very end.

50. The impotent revolutionism of the Third International is a direct result of its fatal policy. After the German catastrophe, the political insignificance of the so-called Communist Parties was revealed in all countries where they were subjected to any test at all. The French section, which showed itself absolutely incapable of rousing even a few tens of thousands of workers against the colonial robbery in Africa, will undoubtedly prove even more its bankruptcy in the moment of so-called national danger.

51. The struggle against war, unthinkable without the revolutionary mobilization of the wide working masses of the city and village, demands at the same time direct influence on the army and navy, on the one hand, and on transport, on the other. But it is impossible to influence soldiers without influencing the worker and peasant youth. Influence in the sphere of transport presupposes a strong foothold in the trade unions.

Whereas, meanwhile, with the aid of the Profintern, the Third International has lost all positions in the trade-union movement and has cut itself off from all access to the working youth. Under these conditions, to talk of a struggle against war is like blowing soap bubbles. There must be no room for illusions: in case of an imperialist attack on the USSR, the Third International will show itself a complete zero.

“Revolutionary” Pacifism and War
52. As an independent current, petty-bourgeois “left” pacifism starts from the premise that it is possible to insure peace by some particular, special means, outside of the class struggle of the proletariat, outside of the socialist revolution. By articles and speeches, the pacifists inculcate “aversion to war,” support the conscientious objectors, preach boycott and the general strike (or rather the myth of the general strike) against war. The more “revolutionary” pacifists are not averse even to talking at times of insurrection against war. But all and severally, they have no conception of the indissoluble bond connecting the insurrection with the class struggle and the policy of a revolutionary party. For them insurrection is just a literary threat directed at the ruling class, and not a matter of long and persistent effort.

Exploiting the masses’ natural love for peace and diverting it from its proper channels, the petty-bourgeois pacifists turn finally into unconscious supporters of imperialism. In case of war, the overwhelming majority of the pacifist “allies” will be found in the camp of the bourgeoisie and will use the authority with which the Third International has clothed them by its ballyhoo for the patriotic disorienting of the proletarian vanguard.

53. The Amsterdam congress against war, as well as the Paris congress against fascism, organized by the Third International are classic examples of the replacement of revolutionary class struggle by the petty-bourgeois policy of ostentatious demonstrations, showy parades, Potemkin villages. On the morrow of the blatant protests against war in general, the heterogeneous elements artificially brought together by backstage manipulation will scatter in all directions and will not lift even a little finger against the particular war.

54. The replacement of the united proletarian front, that is, of the fighting agreement of working-class organizations, by a bloc of the Communist bureaucracy and the petty-bourgeois pacifists – in which for every honest confusionist there are dozens of careerists – leads to complete eclecticism in questions of tactics. The Barbusse-Münzenberg congresses consider it their special merit that they combine all types of “struggle” against war: humanitarian protests, individual refusal to serve in the army, education of “public opinion,” the general strike and even insurrection. Methods that in life are in irreconcilable contradiction and that in practice can only be in conflict with each other are presented as elements of a harmonious whole. The Russian Social Revolutionaries who preached a “synthetic tactic” in the struggle against tsarism – alliance with liberals, individual terror and mass struggle – were an earnest lot compared with the inspirers of the Amsterdam bloc. But the workers must remember that Bolshevism was reared in the struggle against populist eclecticism!

The Petty Bourgeoisie and War

55. Peasants and the lower strata of the city population, for whom war is no less disastrous than for the proletariat, can be drawn most closely to the proletariat in the struggle against war. Generally speaking, only in this way can war be prevented by insurrection. But even much less than workers will peasants let themselves be drawn to the revolutionary road by abstractions, ready-made patterns and bare command. The epigones of Leninism, who brought about an overturn in the Comintern in the years 1923-24 under the slogan “face to the peasantry,” revealed a complete inability to attract to the banner of communism not only peasants but even agricultural workers. The Krestintern (Peasants’ International) expired quietly without even a funeral oration. The “conquest” of the peasantry of different countries, proclaimed so boastfully, proved in every case ephemeral, if not simply fanciful. Precisely in the sphere of peasant policy, the bankruptcy of the Third International acquired an especially graphic character, although it really came as an inevitable consequence of the break between the Comintern and the proletariat.

The peasantry will take the road of revolutionary struggle against war only upon convincing itself in practice of the ability of the workers to lead this struggle. The key to victory rests, therefore, in the shops and factories. The revolutionary proletariat must become a real force before the peasantry, and the small city folk will close ranks with it.

56. The petty bourgeoisie of the city and village is not homogeneous. The proletariat can attract to its side only its lowest strata: the poorest peasants, semi-proletarians, lower civil servants, peddlers, the oppressed and scattered folk who are deprived by all the conditions of their existence of the possibility of carrying on an independent struggle. Over this wide layer Of the petty bourgeoisie, the leaders arise, gravitating to the middle and big bourgeoisie and developing political careerists of the democratic and pacifist or fascist type. While they remain in opposition, these gentlemen resort to most unbridled demagogy as the surest means of later boosting their price in the eyes of the big bourgeoisie.

The crime of the Third International consists in substituting for the struggle for revolutionary influence on the real petty bourgeoisie, that is, on its plebeian masses, theatrical blocs with its false pacifist leaders. Instead of discrediting the latter, it strengthens them by the prestige of the October Revolution and makes the oppressed lower strata of the petty bourgeoisie political victims of the treacherous leaders.

57. The revolutionary road to the peasantry lies through the working class. To gain the confidence of the village, it is necessary that the advanced workers themselves regain confidence in the banner of the proletarian revolution. This can be achieved only by a correct policy in general, by a correct anti-war policy in particular.

“Defeatism” and Imperialist War
58. In those cases where it is a question of conflict between capitalist countries, the proletariat of any one of them refuses categorically to sacrifice its historic interests, which in the final analysis coincide with the interests of the nation and humanity, for the sake of the military victory of the bourgeoisie. Lenin’s formula, “defeat is the lesser evil,” means not defeat of one’s country is the lesser evil as compared with the defeat of the enemy country but that a military defeat resulting from the growth of the revolutionary movement is infinitely more beneficial to the proletariat and to the whole people than military victory assured by “civil peace.” Karl Liebknecht gave an unsurpassed formula of proletarian policy in time of war: “The chief enemy of the people is in its own country.” The victorious proletarian revolution not only will rectify the evils caused by defeat but also will create the final guarantee against future wars and defeats. This dialectical attitude toward war is the most important element of revolutionary training and therefore also of the struggle against war.

59. The transformation of imperialist war into civil war is that general strategic task to which the whole work of a proletarian party during war should be subordinated. The consequences of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 as well as of the imperialist slaughter of 1914-18 (Paris Commune, the February and October revolutions in Russia, revolutions in Germany and Austria-Hungary, insurrections in a number of warring countries) testify irrefutably that a modern war between capitalist nations carries with it a war of classes within each of the nations, and that the task of a revolutionary party consists in preparing in this latter war the victory of the proletariat.

60. The experience of the years 1914-18 demonstrates, at the same time, that the slogan of peace is in no way contradictory to the strategic formula of “defeatism”; on the contrary, it develops a tremendous revolutionary force, especially in a case of a protracted war. The slogan of peace has a pacifist, that is, lying, stupefying, enfeebling character only when democratic and other politicians juggle with it; when priests offer up prayers for the speediest cessation of the slaughter; when “lovers of humanity,” among them also social patriots, tearfully urge the governments to make peace quickly on “the basis of justice.” But the slogan of peace has nothing in common with pacifism when it emanates from working-class quarters and trenches, intertwining itself with the slogan of fraternization of the soldiers of the hostile armies and uniting the oppressed against the oppressors. The revolutionary struggle for peace, which takes on ever-wider and bolder forms, is the surest means of “turning the imperialist war into a civil war.”


War, Fascism and the Arming of the Proletariat

61. War demands “civil peace.” Under the present conditions, the bourgeoisie can achieve it only by means of fascism. Thus fascism has become the main political factor of war. The struggle against war presupposes the struggle against fascism. All sorts of revolutionary programs of struggle against war (“defeatism,” “transformation of imperialist war into civil war,” etc.) turn into empty sounds if the proletarian vanguard finds itself incapable of victoriously repelling fascism.

To demand of the bourgeois state the disarming of fascist bands, as the Stalinists do, is to take the road of the German Social Democracy and Austro-Marxism. Precisely Wels and Otto Bauer “demanded” of the state that it disarm the Nazis and assure internal peace. “Democratic” government can, it is true – when it is to its advantage – disarm individual fascist groups but only in order with all the greater ferocity to disarm the workers and prevent them from arming themselves. The very next day the bourgeois state will accord the fascists, only yesterday “disarmed,” the possibility of arming themselves doubly and of bringing down with twofold strength their weapons on the unarmed proletariat. To turn to the state, that is, to capital, with the demand to disarm the fascists means to sow the worst democratic illusions, to lull the vigilance of the proletariat, to demoralize its will.

62. Proceeding from the fact of the arming of fascist bands, correct revolutionary policy consists in creating armed workers’ detachments for the purposes of self-defence, and in tirelessly calling the workers to arm themselves. Here is the centre of gravity of the whole present political situation. The Social Democrats, even the most left ones, that is, those who are ready to repeat general phrases of revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, carefully avoid the question of arming the workers, or openly declare this task “chimerical,” adventurous, “romantic,” etc. They propose, instead (!) of arming the workers, propaganda among soldiers, which they do not carry on in reality and which they are incapable of carrying on. Bare reference to work in the army is needed by the opportunists only in order to bury the question of the arming of the workers.

63. The struggle for the army is incontestably the greatest part of the struggle for power. Persistent and self-sacrificing work among the soldiers is the revolutionary duty of every truly proletarian party. This work can be carried on with the assurance of success under the condition of the correctness of the general policy of the party in particular and especially among the youth. The agrarian program of the party and in general the system of transitional demands, touching the basic interests of the petty-bourgeois masses and opening up before them a perspective of salvation, has a tremendous importance for the success of the work in the army in those countries with a considerable peasant population.

64. It would be puerile, however, to believe that by propaganda alone the whole army can be won over to the side of the proletariat and thus in general make revolution unnecessary. The army is heterogeneous and its heterogeneous elements are chained by the iron hoops of discipline. Propaganda can create revolutionary cells in the army and prepare a sympathetic attitude among the most progressive soldiers. More than this propaganda and agitation cannot do. To depend upon the army defending the workers’ organizations from fascism by its own initiative and even guaranteeing the transfer of power into the hands of the proletariat is to substitute sugary illusions for the harsh lessons of history. The army in its decisive section can go over to the side of the proletariat in the epoch of revolution only in the event that the proletariat itself will have revealed to the army in action a readiness and ability to fight for power to the last drop of blood. Such struggle necessarily presupposes the arming of the proletariat

65. The task of the bourgeoisie consists in preventing the proletariat from winning over the army. Fascism solves this task not without success by means of armed detachments. The immediate, urgent, present-day task of the proletariat consists not in seizing power but in the defence of its organizations from fascist bands, at a certain distance behind which stands the capitalist state. Whoever asserts that the workers have no possibility of arming themselves proclaims by that that the workers are defenceless before fascism. Then there is no need to speak of socialism, of proletarian revolution, of struggle against war. Then the communist program should be scrapped and a cross marked over Marxism.

66. Not a revolutionary but an impotent pacifist, tomorrow’s capitulator to fascism and to war, can pass up the task of arming the workers. In itself the task of arming is entirely solvable, as history testifies. If the workers will really understand that it is a question of life and death, they will obtain weapons. To explain to them the political situation, hiding or minimizing nothing and chasing out every consolatory lie, is the first duty of a revolutionary party. Indeed, how can one defend himself against the mortal enemy if not by having two knives for every fascist knife and two revolvers for every revolver? There is and there can be no other answer.

67. Where should the weapons be gotten? First of all, from the fascists. The disarming of fascists is a shameful slogan when it is addressed to the bourgeois police. The disarming of fascists is an excellent slogan when it is addressed to revolutionary workers. But fascist arsenals are not the only source. The proletariat has hundreds and thousands of channels for self-defence. We must not forget that it is precisely the workers and only they who with their own hands make all sorts of weapons. It is only necessary for the proletarian vanguard to understand clearly that we cannot evade the task of self-defence. A revolutionary party must take upon itself the initiative in arming fighting workers’ detachments. And for this it must first of all cleanse itself of all sorts of scepticism, indecision and pacifist reasoning in the question of arming the workers.

68. The slogan of a workers’ militia, or of detachments of self-defence, has a revolutionary meaning insofar as it is a question of an armed militia; otherwise the militia is reduced to a theatrical display, to a parade and, consequently, to self-delusion. Of course, the arming will be primitive at the beginning. The first workers’ detachments will have neither howitzers nor tanks nor aeroplanes. But on February 6 in Paris, in the centre of a powerful militarist country, bands armed with revolvers and razors on sticks were not far from taking the Bourbon palace and brought about the fall of the government. Tomorrow similar bands can sack the offices of proletarian newspapers or trade-union headquarters. The strength of the proletariat lies in its numbers. Even the most primitive weapon in the hands of the masses can perform miracles. Under favourable conditions, it may open a road to more-perfected weapons.

69. The slogan of a united front degenerates into a centrist phrase if it is not supplemented under the present conditions by propaganda and practical application of definite methods of struggle against fascism. The united front is needed, first of all, for the creation of local committees of defence. The committees of defence are needed for the building and uniting of detachments of workers’ militia. These detachments must at the very start look for and find weapons. Detachments for self-defence are only a stage in the matter of arming the proletariat. In general, revolution knows no other roads.

Revolutionary Policy Against War
70. The first prerequisite for success is the training of party cadres in the correct understanding of all the conditions of imperialist war and of all the political processes that accompany it. Woe to that party that confines itself in this burning question to general phrases and abstract slogans! The bloody events will crash over its head and smash it.

It is necessary to set up special circles for the study of the political experiences of the war of 1914-18 (ideological preparations for war by the imperialists, misleading of public opinion by military headquarters through the patriotic press, the role of the antithesis defence-attack; groupings in the proletarian camp, the isolation of the Marxist elements, etc., etc.).

71. For a revolutionary party, the moment of declaration of war is especially critical. The bourgeois and social-patriotic press in an alliance with the radio and movies will pour out upon the toiling masses torrents of chauvinistic poison. Even the most revolutionary and tempered party cannot as a whole resist this. The present thoroughly falsified history of the Bolshevik Party does not serve in the realistic preparation of the advanced workers for the test, but lulls them into passive impotence by an invented ideal form.

Despite the fact that tsarist Russia could by no stretch of imagination have been considered either as a democracy or as the bearer of culture, nor, finally, as belonging to the defensive side, the Bolshevik fraction of the Duma together with the Menshevik fraction issued at the beginning a social-patriotic declaration diluted with pink pacifist internationalism. The Bolshevik fraction soon took a more revolutionary position, but at the trial of the fraction all the accused deputies and their theoretic guide Kamenev, with the exception of Muranov, categorically differentiated themselves from the defeatist theory of Lenin. The illegal work of the party almost died down at the beginning. Only gradually did the revolutionary leaflets begin to appear that rallied the workers under the banner of internationalism, without, however, advancing defeatist slogans.

The first two years of the war greatly undermined the patriotism of the masses and moved the party to the left. But the February Revolution, having transformed Russia into a “democracy,” gave rise to a new powerful wave of “revolutionary” patriotism. The overwhelming majority of the leaders of the Bolshevik Party did not withstand it even then. In March 1917, Stalin and Kamenev imparted to the central party organ a social-patriotic direction. On this basis a rapprochement, and in the majority of cities even a direct fusion, of Bolshevik and Menshevik organizations occurred. Protests by the firmest revolutionists, chiefly in the advanced districts of Petrograd, were needed; the arrival of Lenin in Russia and his irreconcilable struggle against social patriotism were needed to straighten out the party’s internationalist front. Such was the case with the best, most revolutionary and tempered party.

72. The study of the historic experience of Bolshevism has an invaluable educational importance for the advanced workers: it shows them the terrific force of the pressure of bourgeois public opinion that they will have to withstand and teaches them, at the same time, not to despair, not to sheath weapons, not to lose courage despite complete isolation at the beginning of war.

It is necessary to study no less carefully the political alignments within the proletariat of other countries, both those that participated in the war and those that remained neutral. Of special significance is the experience of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Germany, where events took a different course than in Russia but in the final analysis led to the same conclusion: that it is necessary to learn to swim against the current.

73. It is necessary to follow closely the patriotic preparation of cannon fodder now proceeding: the diplomatic fencing that has as its aim the laying of responsibility on the other side; the treacherous formulas of open and hidden social patriots preparing for themselves a bridge from pacifism to militarism; the hollow slogans of the “Communist” leaders who will be just as bewildered on the first day of war as the German “leaders” on the night of the Reichstag fire.

74. it is necessary to gather carefully the most characteristic clippings from official government and opposition articles and speeches, comparing them with the experience of the previous war; to foretell what direction the further work of fooling the people will take; to strengthen these predictions later by the array of facts; to teach the proletarian vanguard to orient itself independently in events so as not to be taken unawares.

75. Reinforced agitation against imperialism and militarism must proceed not from abstract formulas but from concrete facts that strike the masses. It is necessary painstakingly to expose not only the open military budget but also all the masked forms of militarism, not leaving without a protest war manoeuvres, military furnishings, orders, etc.

Through well-trained workers, it is necessary to raise the question of the war danger and of struggle against it in all organizations of the proletariat without exception and in the labor press, demanding from the leaders clear and definite answers to the question: what to do?

76. To gain the confidence of the youth, it is necessary not only to declare a fight to the finish upon the morally corrupting Social Democracy and upon the dull bureaucratism of the Third International but also to actually create an international organization basing itself on the critical thought and revolutionary initiative of the young generation.

It is necessary to arouse the working youth against all kinds and forms of its militarization by the bourgeois state. Simultaneously, it must be mobilized and militarized in the interests of the revolution (committees of defence against fascism, Red fighting detachments, workers’ militia, struggle for the arming of the proletariat).

77. To conquer revolutionary positions in the trade unions and other working-class mass organizations, it is necessary to break pitilessly with bureaucratic ultimatism, to take the workers where they are and as they are, and to lead them forward from partial tasks to general ones, from defence to attack, from patriotic prejudices to the overthrow of the bourgeois state.

Since the leaderships of trade-union bureaucracy in the majority of countries represent essentially an unofficial part of the capitalist police, a revolutionist must know how to fight irreconcilably against it, combining legal activity with illegal, fighting courage with conspirative prudence.

Only by these combined methods can we succeed in rallying the working class, and in the first place the youth, to the revolutionary banner, blaze a trail to the capitalist barracks and arouse all the oppressed.

78. The struggle against war can acquire a genuinely wide, mass character only if the working women and peasant women take part in it. The bourgeois degeneration of the Social Democracy as well as the bureaucratic deterioration of the Third International have delivered the hardest blow to the most oppressed and disfranchised strata of the proletariat, that is, first of all to the working women. To awaken them, gain their confidence, show them the true road, means to mobilize against imperialism the revolutionary passions of the most downtrodden part of humanity.

Anti-militarist work among women must in particular safeguard the replacement of mobilized men by revolutionary working women to whom, in case of war, a great part of party and trade-union work must inevitably pass.

79. If the proletariat should find it beyond its power to prevent war by means of revolution – and this is the only means of preventing war – the workers, together with the whole people, will be forced to participate in the army and in war. Individualistic and anarchistic slogans of refusal to undergo military service, passive resistance, desertion, sabotage are in basic contradiction to the methods of the proletarian revolution. But just as in the factory the advanced worker feels himself a slave of capital, preparing for his liberation, so in the capitalist army too he feels himself a slave of imperialism. Compelled today to give his muscles and even his life, he does not surrender his revolutionary consciousness. He remains a fighter, learns how to use arms, explains even in the trenches the class meaning of war, groups around himself the discontented, connects them into cells, transmits the ideas and slogans of the party, watches closely the changes in the mood of the masses, the subsiding of the patriotic wave, the growth of indignation, and summons the soldiers to the aid of the workers at the critical moment.

The Fourth International and War

80. The struggle against war presupposes a revolutionary instrument of struggle, that is, a party. There is none now either on a national or on an international scale. A revolutionary party must be built on the basis of the entire experience of the past, including the experiences of the Second and Third Internationals. The renunciation of open and direct struggle for the new International means conscious or unconscious support of the two existing Internationals, of which one will actively support the war, the other being capable only of disorganizing and weakening the proletarian vanguard.

81. It is true, not a few honest revolutionary workers remain in the ranks of the so-called Communist Parties. The persistence with which they hold on to the Third International is, in many cases, to be explained by misdirected revolutionary devotion. They can be attracted to the banner of the new International not by concessions, not by adaptation to prejudices inculcated in them but, on the contrary, by a systematic unmasking of the fatal international role of Stalinism (bureaucratic centrism). Thereby the questions of war must be posed with particular clarity and intransigence.

82. At the same time, it is necessary to follow attentively the inner struggle in the reformist camp and attract in time the left socialist groupings developing towards revolution to a struggle against war. The best criterion of the tendencies of a given organization is its attitude in practice, in action, toward national defence and toward colonies, especially in those cases in which the bourgeoisie of a given country owns colonial slaves. Only a complete and real break with official public opinion on the most burning question of the “defence of the fatherland” signifies a turn, or at least the beginning of a turn from bourgeois positions to proletarian positions. The approach to left organizations of this type should be accompanied by friendly criticism of all indecision in their policy and by a joint elaboration of all theoretical and practical questions of war.

83. There are not a few politicians in the working-class movement who recognize, at least in words, the failure of the Second and Third Internationals but consider, at the same time, that “this is not the time” to start building a new International. Such a position is characteristic not of a revolutionary Marxist but of a disillusioned Stalinist or disappointed reformist. The revolutionary struggle does not suffer interruption. The conditions for it may not be favourable today; but a revolutionary who cannot swim against the current is not a revolutionary. To say that the building of the new International is “untimely” is the same as to declare that the class struggle, and in particular the struggle against war, is untimely. In the present epoch, proletarian policy cannot but place before itself international tasks. International tasks cannot but demand the welding together of international cadres. This work cannot be deferred even for one day without capitulation to imperialism.

84. Of course, no one can predict just when the war will break out and at what stage it will find the building of new parties and of the Fourth International. We must do everything possible to make the preparation for the proletarian revolution move faster than the preparation for a new war. It is very possible, however, that this time also imperialism will overtake the revolution. But even this road, portending great sacrifices and calamities, in no case relieves us of the duty of building the new International immediately. The transformation of the imperialist war into proletarian revolution will proceed all the faster the further advanced our preparatory work will be, the firmer the revolutionary cadres at the very beginning of war, the more systematically they carry on work in all warring countries and the more firmly their work is based on correct strategic tactical and organizational principles.

85. At its first blow the imperialist war will smash the decrepit spine of the Second International and will split its national sections into bits. It will reveal to the bottom the hollowness and impotence of the Third International. But then neither will it spare all those indecisive centrist groupings that evade the problem of the International, seek purely national roots, do not carry any one question to its conclusion, are devoid of perspective and temporarily feed on the ferment and confusion of the working class.

Even if at the beginning of a new war the true revolutionists should again find themselves in a small minority, we cannot doubt for a single moment that this time the shift of the masses to the road of revolution will occur much faster, more decisively and relentlessly than during the first imperialist war. A new wave of insurrections can and must become victorious in the whole capitalist world.

It is indisputable at any rate that in our epoch only that organization that bases itself on international principles and enters into the ranks of the world party of the proletariat can root itself in the national soil. The struggle against war means now the struggle for the Fourth International!

176457

Anarchy (1891)

Errico Malatesta

Pamphlet first published in 1891.

Anarchy is a word that comes from the Greek, and signifies, strictly speaking, “without government”: the state of a people without any constituted authority.

Before such an organization had begun to be considered possible and desirable by a whole class of thinkers, so as to be taken as the aim of a movement (which has now become one of the most important factors in modern social warfare), the word “anarchy” was used universally in the sense of disorder and confusion, and it is still adopted in that sense by the ignorant and by adversaries interested in distorting the truth.

We shall not enter into philological discussions, for the question is not philological but historical. The common interpretation of the word does not misconceive its true etymological signification, but is derived from it, owing to the prejudice that government must be a necessity of the organization of social life, and that consequently a society without government must be given up to disorder, and oscillate between the unbridled dominion of some and the blind vengeance of others.

The existence of this prejudice and its influence on the meaning that the public has given to the word is easily explained.

Man, like all living beings, adapts himself to the conditions in which he lives, and transmits by inheritance his acquired habits. Thus, being born and having lived in bondage, being the descendant of a long line of slaves, man, when he began to think, believed that slavery was an essential condition of life, and liberty seemed to him impossible. In like manner, the workman, forced for centuries to depend upon the goodwill of his employer for work, that is, for bread, and accustomed to see his own life at the disposal of those who possess the land and capital, has ended in believing that it is his master who gives him food, and asks ingenuously how it would be possible to live, if there were no master over him?

In the same way, a man whose limbs had been bound from birth, but who had nevertheless found out how to hobble about, might attribute to the very bands that bound him his ability to move, while, on the contrary, they would diminish and paralyze the muscular energy of his limbs.

If then we add to the natural effect of habit the education given to him by his master, the parson, the teacher, etc., who are all interested in teaching that the employer and the government are necessary, if we add the judge and the policeman to force those who think differently – and might try to propagate their opinion – to keep silence, we shall understand how the prejudice as to the utility and necessity of masters and governments has become established. Suppose a doctor brought forward a complete theory, with a thousand ably invented illustrations, to persuade the man with bound limbs that, if his limbs were freed, he could not walk, or even live. The man would defend his bands furiously and consider anyone his enemy who tried to tear them off.

Thus, if it is believed that government is necessary and that without government there must be disorder and confusion, it is natural and logical to suppose that anarchy, which signifies absence of government, must also mean absence of order.

Nor is this fact without parallel in the history of words. In those epochs and countries where people have considered government by one man (monarchy) necessary, the word “republic” (that is, the government of many) has been used precisely like “anarchy,” to imply disorder and confusion. Traces of this meaning of the word are still to be found in the popular languages of almost all countries.

When this opinion is changed, and the public are convinced that government is not necessary, but extremely harmful, the word “anarchy,” precisely because it signifies “without government,” will become equal to saying “natural order, harmony of needs and interests of all, complete liberty with complete solidarity.”

Therefore, those are wrong who say that anarchists have chosen their name badly, because it is erroneously understood by the masses and leads to a false interpretation. The error does not come from the word, but from the thing. The difficulty which anarchists meet in spreading their views does not depend upon the name they have given themselves, but upon the fact that their conceptions strike as all the inveterate prejudices which people have about the function of government, or “the state,” as it is called.

Before proceeding further, it will be well to explain this last word (the “State”) which, in our opinion, is the real cause of much misunderstanding.

Anarchists generally make use if the word “State” to mean all the collection of institutions, political, legislative, judicial, military, financial, etc., by means of which management of their own affairs, the guidance of their personal conduct, and the care of ensuring their own safety are taken from the people and confided to certain individuals, and these, whether by usurpation or delegation, are invested with the right to make laws over and for all, and to constrain the public to respect them, making use of the collective force of the community to this end.

In this case the word “State” means “government,” or, if you like, it is the abstract expression of which government is the personification. Then such expressions as “Abolition of the State,” or “Society without the State,” agree perfectly with the conception which anarchists wish to express of the destruction of every political institution based on authority, and of the constitution of a free and equal society, based upon harmony of interests, and the voluntary contribution of all to the satisfaction of social needs.

However, the word “State” has many other meanings, and among these some that lend themselves to misconstruction, particularly when used among men whose sad social position has not afforded them leisure to become accustomed to the subtle distinction of scientific language, or, still worse, when adopted treacherously by adversaries, who are interested in confounding the sense, or do not wish to comprehend it. Thus the word “State” is often used to indicate any given society, or collection of human beings, united on a given territory and constituting what is called a “social unit,” independently of the way in which the members of the said body are grouped, or of the relations existing between them. “State” is used also simply as a synonym for “society.” Owning to these meanings of the word, our adversaries believe, or rather profess to believe, that anarchists wish to abolish every social relation and all collective work, and to reduce man to a condition of isolation, that is, to a state worse than savagery.

By “State” again is meant only the supreme administration of a country, the central power, as distinct from provincial or communal power, and therefore others think that anarchists wish merely for a territorial decentralization, leaving the principle of government intact, and thus confounding anarchy with cantonical or communal government.

Finally, “State” signifies “condition, mode of living, the order of social life,” etc., and therefore we say, for example, that it is necessary to change the economic state of the working classes, or that the anarchical State is the only State founded on the principles of solidarity, and other similar phrases. So that if we say also in another sense that we wish to abolish the State, we may at once appear absurd or contradictory.

For these reasons, we believe that it would be better to use the expression “abolition of the State” as little as possible, and to substitute for it another, clearer, and more concrete – “abolition of government.”

The latter will be the expression used in the course of this essay.

We have said that anarchy is society without government. But is the suppression of government possible, desirable, or wise? Let us see.

What is the government? There is a disease of the human mind, called the metaphysical tendency, that causes man, after he has by a logical process abstracted the quality from an object, to be subject to a kind of hallucination that makes him take the abstraction for the real thing. This metaphysical tendency, in spite of the blows of positive science, has still strong root in the minds of the majority of our contemporary fellowmen. It has such influence that many consider government an actual entity, with certain given attributes of reason, justice, equity, independent of the people who compose the government.

For those who think in this way, government, or the State, is the abstract social power, and it represents, always in the abstract, the general interest. It is the expression of the rights of all and is considered as limited by the rights of each. This way of understanding government is supported by those interested, to whom it is an urgent necessity that the principle of authority should be maintained and should always survive the faults and errors of the persons who exercise power.

For us, the government is the aggregate of the governors, and the governors – kings, presidents, ministers, members of parliament, and what not – are those who have the power to make laws regulating the relations between men, and to force obedience to these laws. They are those who decide upon and claim the taxes, enforce military service, judge and punish transgressors of the laws. They subject men to regulations, and supervise and sanction private contracts. They monopolize certain branches of production and public services, or, if they wish, all production and public service. They promote or hinder the exchange of goods. They make war or peace with governments of other countries. They concede or withhold free trade and many things else. In short, the governors are those who have the power, in a greater or lesser degree, to make use of the collective force of society, that is, of the physical, intellectual, and economic force of all, to oblige each to their (the governors’) wish. And this power constitutes, in our opinion, the very principle of government and authority.

But what reason is there for the existence of government?

Why abdicate one’s own liberty, one’s own initiative in favor of other individuals? Why give them the power to be the masters, with or against the wish of each, to dispose of the forces of all in their own way? Are the governors such exceptionally gifted men as to enable them, with some show of reason, to represent the masses and act in the interests of all men better than all men would be able to act for themselves? Are they so infallible and incorruptible that one can confide to them, with any semblance of prudence, the fate of each and all, trusting to their knowledge and goodness?

And even if there existed men of infinite goodness and knowledge, even if we assume what has never happened in history and what we believe could never happen, namely, that the government might devolve upon the ablest and best, would the possession of government power add anything to their beneficent influence? Would it not rather paralyze or destroy it? For those who govern find it necessary to occupy themselves with things which they do not understand, and, above all, to waste the greater part of their energy in keeping themselves in power, striving to satisfy their friends, holding the discontented in check, and mastering the rebellious.

Again, be the governors good or bad, wise or ignorant, how do they gain power? Do they impose themselves by right of war, conquest, or revolution? If so, what guarantees have the public that their rules have the general good at heart? In this case it is simply a question of usurpation, and if the subjects are discontented, nothing is left to them but to throw off the yoke by an appeal to arms. Are the governors chosen from a certain class or party? Then inevitably the ideas and interests of that class or party will triumph, and the wishes and interests of the others will be sacrificed. Are they elected by universal suffrage? Now numbers are the sole criteria, and numbers are clearly no proof of reason, justice, or capacity. Under universal suffrage the elected are those who know best how to take in the masses. The minority, which may happen to be the half minus one, is sacrificed. Moreover, experience has shown it is impossible to hit upon an electoral system that really ensures election by the actual majority.

Many and various are the theories by which men have sought to justify the existence of government. All, however, are founded, confessedly or not, on the assumption that the individuals of a society have contrary interests, and that an external superior power is necessary to oblige some to respect the interests of others, by prescribing and imposing a rule of conduct, according to which each may obtain the maximum of satisfaction with the minimum of sacrifice. If, say the theorists of the authoritarian school, the interests, tendencies, and desires of an individual are in opposition to those of another individual, or perhaps all society, who will have the right and the power to oblige the one to respect the interests of the other or others? Who will be able to prevent the individual citizen from offending the general will? The liberty of each, they say, has for its limit the liberty of others: but who will establish those limits, and who will cause them to be respected? The natural antagonism of interests and passions creates the necessity for government, and justifies authority. Authority intervenes as moderator of the social strife and defines the limits of the rights and duties of each.

This is the theory; but to be sound the theory should be based upon an explanation of facts. We know well how in social economy theories are too often invented to justify facts, that is, to defend privilege and cause it to be accepted tranquilly by those who are its victims. Let us here look at the facts themselves.

In all the course of history, as in the present epoch, government is either brutal, violent, arbitrary domination of the few over the many, or it is an instrument devised to secure domination and privilege to those who, by force, or cunning, or inheritance, have taken to themselves all the means of life, first and foremost the soil, whereby they hold the people in servitude, making them work for their advantage.

Governments oppress mankind in two ways, either directly, by brute force, that is physical violence, or indirectly, by depriving them of the means of subsistence and thus reducing them to helplessness. Political power originated in the first method; economic privilege arose from the second. Governments can also oppress man by acting on his emotional nature, and in this way constitute religious authority. There is no reason for the propagation of religious superstitions but that they defend and consolidate political and economic privileges.

In primitive society, when the world was not so densely populated as now and social relations were less complicated, if any circumstance prevented the formation of habits and customs of solidarity, or destroyed those which already existed and established the domination of man over man, the two powers, political and economic, were united in the same hands – often in those of a single individual. Those who by force had conquered and impoverished the others, constrained them to become their servants and to perform all things according to their caprice. The victors were at once proprietors, legislators, kings, judges, and executioners.

But with the increase of population, with the growth of needs, with the complication of social relationships, the prolonged continuance of such despotism became impossible. For their own security the rulers, often much against their will, were obliged to depend upon a privileged class, that is, a certain number of co-interested individuals, and were also obliged to let each of these individuals provide for his own sustenance. Nevertheless they reserved to themselves the supreme or ultimate control. In other words, the rulers reserved to themselves the right to exploit all at their own convenience, and so to satisfy their kingly vanity. Thus private wealth was developed under the shadow of the ruling power, for its protection and – often unconsciously – as its accomplice. The class of proprietors arose, and, concentrated little by little into their hands all the means of production, the very fountain of life – agriculture, industry, and exchange – ended by becoming a power in themselves. This power, by the superiority of its means of action and the great mass of interests it embraces, always ends by subjugating more or less openly the political power, that is, the government, which it makes its policeman.

This phenomenon has been repeated often in history. Every time that, by military enterprise, physical brute force has taken the upper hand in society, the conquerors have shown the tendency to concentrate government and property in their own hands. In every case, however, because the government cannot attend to the production of wealth and overlook and direct everything, it finds it necessary to conciliate a powerful class, and private property is again established. With it comes the division of the two sorts of society, and that of the persons who control the collective force of society, and that of the proprietors, upon whom these governors become essentially dependent, because the proprietors command the sources of the said collective force.

Never has this state of affairs been so accentuated as in modern times. The development of production, the immense extension of commerce, the extensive power that money has acquired, and all the economic results flowing from the discovery of America, the invention of machinery, etc., have secured the supremacy to the capitalist class that it is no longer content to trust to the support of the government and has come to wish that the government composed of members from its own class, continually under its control and specially organized to defend it against the possible revenge of the disinherited. Hence the origin of the modern parliamentary system.

Today the government is composed of proprietors, or people of their class so entirely under their influence that the richest do not find it necessary to take an active part themselves. Rothschild, for instance, does not need to be either M.P. or minister, it is enough for him to keep M.P.’s and ministers dependent upon him.

In many countries, the proletariat participates nominally in the election of the government. This is a concession which the bourgeois (i.e., proprietory) class have made, either to avail themselves of popular support in the strife against royal or aristocratic power, or to divert the attention of the people from their own emancipation by giving them an apparent share in political power. However, whether the bourgeoisie foresaw it or not, when first they conceded to the people the right to vote, the fact is that the right has proved in reality a mockery, serving only to consolidate the power of the bourgeoisie, while giving to the most energetic only of the proletariat the illusory hope of arriving at power.

So also with universal suffrage – we might say, especially with universal suffrage – the government has remained the servant and police of the bourgeois class. How could it be otherwise? If the government should reach the point of becoming hostile, if the hope of democracy should ever be more than a delusion deceiving the people, the proprietory class, menaced in its interests would at once rebel and would use all the force and influence that come from the possession of wealth, to reduce the government to the simple function of acting as policeman.

In all times and in all places, whatever may be the name of that the government takes, whatever has been its origin, or its organization, its essential function is always that of oppressing and exploiting the masses, and of defending the oppressors and exploiters. Its principal characteristic and indispensable instruments are the policeman and the tax collector, the soldier and the prison. And to these are necessarily added the time serving priest or teacher, as the case may be, supported and protected by the government, to render the spirit of the people servile and make them docile under the yoke.

Certainly, in addition to this primary business, to this essential department of governmental action other departments have been added in the course of time. We even admit that never, or hardly ever, has a government been able to exist in a country that was civilized without adding to its oppressing and exploiting functions others useful and indispensable to social life. But this fact makes it nonetheless true that government is in its nature a means of exploitation, and that its position doom it to be the defense of a dominant class, thus confirming and increasing the evils of domination.

The government assumes the business of protecting, more or less vigilantly, the life of citizens against direct or brutal attacks; acknowledges and legalizes a certain number of rights and primitive usages and customs, without which it is impossible to live in society. It organizes and directs certain public services, such as the post, preservation of the public health, benevolent institutions, workhouses, etc., and poses as the protector and benefactor of the poor and weak. But to prove our point it is sufficient to notice how and why it fulfills these functions. The fact is that everything the government undertakes is always inspired with the spirit of domination and intended to defend, enlarge, and perpetuate the privileges of property and of those classes of which the government is representative and defender.

A government cannot rule for any length of time without hiding its true nature behind the pretense of general utility. It cannot respect the lives of the privileged without assuming the air of wishing to respect the lives of all. It cannot cause the privileges of some to be tolerated without appearing as the custodian of the rights of everyone. “The law” (and, of course, those who have made the law, i.e., the government) “has utilized,” says Kropotkin, “the social sentiments of man, working into them those precepts of morality, which man has accepted, together with arrangements useful to the minority – the exploiters – and opposed to the interests of those who might have rebelled, had it not been for this show of a moral ground.”

A government cannot wish the destruction of the community, for then it and the dominant class could not claim their wealth from exploitation; nor could the government leave the community to manage its own affairs, for then the people would soon discover that it (the government) was necessary for no other end than to defend the proprietory class who impoverish them, and would hasten to rid themselves of both government and proprietory class.

Today, in the face of the persistent and menacing demands of the proletariat, governments show a tendency to interfere in the relations between employers and work people. Thus they try to arrest the labor movement and to impede with delusive reforms the attempts of the poor to take to themselves what is due to them, namely, an equal share of the good things of life that others enjoy.

We must also remember that on one hand the bourgeoisie, that is, the proprietory class, make war among themselves and destroy one another continually, and that, on the other hand, the government, although composed of the bourgeoisie and, acting as their servants and protector, is still, like every servant or protector, continually striving to emancipate itself and to domineer over its charge. Thus, this seesaw game, this swaying between conceding and withdrawing, this seeking allies among the people and against the classes, and among classes against the masses, forms the science of the governors and blinds the ingenuous and phlegmatic, who are always expecting that salvation is coming to them from on high.

With all this, the government does not change its nature. If it acts as regulator or guarantor of the rights and duties of each, it perverts the sentiments of justice. It justifies wrong and punishes every act that offends or menaces the privileges of the governors and proprietors. It declares just and legal the most atrocious exploitation of the miserable, which means a slow and continuous material and moral murder, perpetrated by those who have on those who have not. Again, if it administers public services, it always considers the interests of the governors and proprietors, not occupying itself with the interests of the working masses, except insofar as is necessary to make the masses willing to endure their share of taxation. If it instructs, it fetters and curtails the truth, and tends to prepare the minds and hearts of the young to become either implacable tyrants or docile slaves, according to the class to which they belong. In the hands of the government everything becomes a means of exploitation, everything serves as a police measure, useful to hold the people in check. And it must be thus. If the life of mankind consists in strife between man and man, naturally there must be conquerors and conquered, and the government, which is the means of securing to the victors the results of their victory and perpetuating those results, will certainly never fall to those who have lost, whether the battle be on the grounds of physical or intellectual strength, or in the field of economics. And those who have fought to secure to themselves better conditions than others can have, to win privilege and add domination to power, and have attained the victory, will certainly not use it to defend the rights of the vanquished, and to place limits to their own power and to that of their friends and partisans.

The government – or the State, if you will – as judge, moderator of social strife, impartial administrator of the public interests, is a lie, an illusion, a Utopia, never realized and never realizable. If, in fact, the interests of men must always be contrary to one another, if, indeed, the strife between mankind has made laws necessary to human society, and the liberty of the individual must be limited by the liberty of other individuals, then each one would always seek to make his interests triumph over those of others. Each would strive to enlarge his own liberty at the cost of the liberty of others, and there would be government. Not simply because it was more or less useful to the totality of the members of society to have a government, but because the conquerors would wish to secure themselves the fruits of victory. They would wish effectually to subject the vanquished and relieve themselves of the trouble of being always on the defensive, and they would appoint men, specially adapted to the business, to act as police. Were this indeed actually the case, then humanity would be destined to perish amid periodical contests between the tyranny of the dominators and the rebellion of the conquered.

But fortunately the future of humanity is a happier one, because the law that governs it is milder.

Thus, in the contest of centuries between liberty and authority, or, in other words, between social equality and social castes, the question at issue has not really been the relations between society and the individual, or the increase of individual independence at the cost of social control, or vice versa. Rather it has had to do with preventing any one individual from oppressing the others; with giving to everyone the same rights and the same means of action. It has had to do with substituting the initiative of all, which must naturally result in the advantage of all, for the initiative of the few, which necessarily results in the suppression of all the others. It is always, in short, the question of putting an end to the domination and exploitation of man by man in such a way that all are interested in the common welfare, and that the individual force of each, instead of oppressing, combating, or suppressing others, will find the possibility of complete development, and everyone will seek to associate with others for the greater advantage of all.

From what we have said, it follows that the existence of a government, even upon the hypothesis that the ideal government of authoritarian socialists were possible, far from producing an increase of productive force, would immensely diminish it, because the government would restrict initiative to the few. It would give these few the right to do all things, without being able, of course, to endow them with the knowledge or understanding of all things.

In fact, if you divest legislation and all the operations of government of what is intended to protect the privileged, and what represents the wishes of the privileged classes alone, nothing remains but the aggregate of individual governors. “The State,” says Sismondi, “is always a conservative power which authorizes, regulates, and organizes the conquests of progress (and history testifies that it applies them to the profit of its own and the other privileged classes) but never does it inaugurate them. New ideas always originate from beneath, are conceived in the foundations of society, and then, when divulged, they become opinion and grow. But they must always meet on their path, and combat the constituted powers of tradition, custom, privilege and error.”

In order to understand how society could exist without a government, it is sufficient to turn our attention for a short space to what actually goes on in our present society. We shall see that in reality the most important functions are fulfilled even nowadays outside the intervention of government. Also that government only interferes to exploit the masses, or defend the privileged, or, lastly, to sanction, most unnecessarily, all that has been done without its aid, often in spite of and opposition to it. Men work, exchange, study, travel, follow as they choose the current rules of morality or hygiene; they profit by the progress of science and art, have numberless mutual interests without ever feeling the need of any one to direct them how to conduct themselves in regard to these matters. On the contrary, it is just those things in which no governmental interference that prosper best and give rise to the least contention, being unconsciously adapted to the wish of all in the way found most useful and agreeable.

Nor is government more necessary for large undertakings, or for those public services which require the constant cooperation of many people of different conditions and countries. Thousands of these undertakings are even now the work of voluntarily formed associations. And these are, by the acknowledgment of everyone, the undertakings that succeed the best. We do not refer to the associations of capitalists, organized by means of exploitation, although even they show capabilities and powers of free association, which may extended until it embraces all the people of all lands and includes the widest and most varying interests. We speak rather of those associations inspired by the love of humanity, or by the passion for knowledge, or even simply by the desire for amusement and love of applause, as these represent better such groupings as will exist in a society where, private property and internal strife between men being abolished, each will find his interests compatible with the interest of everyone else and his greatest satisfaction in doing good and pleasing others. Scientific societies and congresses, international lifeboat and Red Cross associations, laborers’ unions, peace societies, volunteers who hasten to the rescue at times of great public calamity, are all examples, among thousands, of that power of the spirit of association which always shows itself when a need arises or an enthusiasm takes hold, and the means do not fail. That voluntary associations do not cover the world and do not embrace every branch of material and moral activity is the fault of the obstacles placed in their way by governments, of the antagonisms create by the possession of private property, and of the impotence and degradation to which the monopolizing of wealth on the part of the few reduces the majority of mankind.

The government takes charge, for instance, of the postal and telegraph services. But in what way does it really assist them? When the people are in such a condition as to be able to enjoy and feel the need of such services they will think about organizing them, and the man with the necessary technical knowledge will not require a certificate from a government to enable him to set to work. The more general and urgent the need, the more volunteers will offer to satisfy it. Would the people have the ability necessary to provide and distribute provisions? Never fear, they will not die of hunger waiting for government to pass a law on the subject. Wherever a government exists, it must wait until the people have first organized everything, and then come with its laws to sanction and exploit what has already been done. It is evident that private interest is the great motive for all activity. That being so, when the interest of every one becomes the interest of each (and it necessarily will become so as soon as private property is abolished), then all will be active. If they work now in the interest of the few, so much more and so much better will they work to satisfy the interests of all. It is hard to understand how anyone can believe that public services indispensable to social life can be better secured by order of a government than through the workers themselves who by their own choice or by agreement with others carry them out under the immediate control of all those interested.

Certainly in every collective undertaking on a large scale there is need for division of labor, for technical direction, administration, etc. But the authoritarians are merely playing with words, when they deduce a reason for the existence of government, from the very real necessity for organization of labor. The government, we must repeat, is the aggregate of the individuals who have received or have taken the right or the mean to make laws, and force the people to obey them. The administrators, engineers, etc., on the other hand, are men who receive or assume the charge of doing a certain work. Government signifies delegation of power, that is, abdication of the initiative and sovereignty of everyone into the hand of the few. Administration signifies delegation of work, that is, the free exchange of services founded on free agreement.

THE AHISTORICAL FRAUD OF JEWISH BOLSHEVISM

The unfortunate habit of uncritically repeating vile slanders is commonplace and Jewish Bolshevism, particularly in relation to Zionism, is not only a claim that could not be further at odds with history rendering it utterly absurd, and that a race of people have a genetic predisposition to behave in a particular way is not possible in today’s world as the genetic difference that exists between races is no greater than that that exists within each race.

A cursory study of the Russian Revolution that is claimed to be have been funded by the Rothschild reveals just how ludicrous this claim is, as what distinguished the Bolsheviks from all other parties was their hostility to any compromise with the capitalists, the abolishing of capitalist property rights and the socialization of land and pulling out of the imperialist war.

These were all carried out upon the seizure of power. The pulling out of the war, is what forced America to commit troops, as a loss would have cost them a fortune, which the implementation of socialist property rights did, as semi-feudal Russia represented a enormous potential for capital expansion of this huge resource rich nation, that had commenced with US dollars being poured into Russian industry for manufacturing the weapons of war. The moment the Bolsheviks won power Lenin made his famous “land decree” effectively shutting out the west from the entire country. This is something capitalist bankers saw as an opportunity to invest in???

The reason for this piece of propaganda is that capitalist private property is central to control of world finances and the populations, not the banking system…money is useless without resources. America can print money, but need s resources and that is what she attempting to get through military means now. The west wish to bury the fact that the Bolsheviks banned capitalist private property lest people realize it significance.

The fed cannot just print money. Debt is a call on future labor, and any large debts have collateral to secure them. Debt cannot be expanded beyond the capacity for future labor to meet repayments, other wise the currency collapses or at best is heavily devalued to bring debt back within the necessary parameters.

Summing up with regard to the 1917 Land Decree, Lenin’s inclusion of the clause, “Private ownership of land shall be abolished for ever…and become the property of the whole people…” (full quote above) must be seen as laying a basis for the future, when the development of industry could provide the necessary tools, tractors, etc., and the organizing of a conscious rural proletariat would enable the working class to fully introduce the socialist system to the countryside, not by force, but through patient explanation and example. So then, how is Lenin’s view of this goal for the peasantry different from that of the SRs, who authored the decree’s specifics in 242 resolutions of peasant soviets, and whose aim was more in line with securing the petty-bourgeois peasantry on the land?

(Lenin). When asked after the passage of the Land Decree why he had applied the agrarian program of the SRs instead of his own, he said:
“Voices are being raised here that the decree itself and the Mandate were drawn up by the Socialist-Revolutionaries. What of it? Does it matter who drew them up? As a democratic government, we cannot ignore the decision of the masses of the people…. Let the peasants solve this problem from one end and we shall solve it from the other. Experience will allow us to draw together in the general stream of revolutionary creative work, in the elaboration of new state farms. We must be guided by experience; we must allow complete freedom to the creative faculties of the masses.”

While the old, Tsarist government had only “fought the peasants,” Lenin continued:

“The peasants have learned something during the eight months of our revolution; they want to settle all land problems themselves. We are therefore opposed to all amendments to this draft law. We want no details in it, for we are writing a decree, not a programme of action…. The point is that the peasants should be firmly assured that there are no more landowners in the countryside, that they themselves must decide all questions, and that they themselves must arrange their own lives.”
http://www.bolshevik.org/statements
/kinder_20150311_land_russian_revolution.html

The Bolsheviks opposed the formation of the Zionist state in 1948, and are still a vocal critic opposing Zionism

The economic, social and political disaster produced by the Zionist project https://articlesfactsstats.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/the-economic-social-and-political-disaster-produced-by-the-zionist-project-2/

This is all first hand primary evidence that is entirely consistent with historical events and the orientation of the Bolshevik party, whose member ship of Jews as a percentage never exceeded 7.1%
q
Jewish Bolshevism is DE-bunked.

War and the Fourth International

Leon Trotsky
(June 10, 1934)

Originally published as a pamphlet by Pioneer Publishers, July 1934.
Signed “International Secretariat, International Communist League.” [1]
Translated by Sara Weber.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.

The catastrophic commercial, industrial, agrarian and financial crisis, the break in international economic ties, the decline of the productive forces of humanity, the unbearable sharpening of class and international contradictions mark the twilight of capitalism and fully confirm the Leninist characterization of our epoch as one of wars and revolutions.

The war of 1914-18 officially ushered in a new epoch. Its most important political events up to now have been: the conquest of power by the Russian proletariat in 1917 and the smashing of the German proletariat in the year 1933. The terrible calamities of the peoples in all parts of the world and even the more terrible dangers that tomorrow holds in store result from the fact that the revolution of 1917 did not find victorious development on the European and world arena.

Inside the individual countries, the historic blind alley of capitalism expresses itself in chronic unemployment, in the lowering of the living standards of the workers, in the ruination of the peasantry and the town petty bourgeoisie, in the decomposition and decay of the parliamentary state, in the monstrous poisoning of the people by “social” and “national” demagogy in face of an actual liquidation of social reforms, of the pushing aside and replacement of old ruling parties by a naked military-police apparatus (Bonapartism, of capitalist decline), in the growth of fascism, in its conquering power and smashing of each and every proletarian organization.

On the world arena, the same processes are washing away the last remnants of stability in international relations, driving every conflict between the states to the very edge of the knife, laying bare the futility of pacifist attempts, giving rise to the growth of armaments on a new and higher technical basis and thus leading to a new imperialist war. Fascism is its most consistent artificer and organizer.

On the other hand, the exposure of the thoroughly reactionary, putrified and robber nature of modern capitalism, the destruction of democracy, reformism and pacifism, the urgent and burning need of the proletariat to find a safe path away from imminent disaster put the international revolution on the agenda with renewed force. Only the overthrow of the bourgeoisie by the insurgent proletariat can save humanity from a new, devastating slaughter of the peoples.

Preparation for a New War

1. The same causes, inseparable from modern capitalism, that brought about the last imperialist war have now reached infinitely greater tension than in the middle of 1914. The fear of the consequences of a new war is the only factor that fetters the will of imperialism. But the efficacy of this brake is limited. The stress of inner contradictions pushes one country after another on the road to fascism, which, in its turn, cannot maintain power except by preparing international explosions. All governments fear war. But none of the governments has any freedom of choice. Without a proletarian revolution, a new world war is inevitable.

2. Europe, the recent arena of the greatest of wars, continually heads toward decline, pushed by victors and vanquished alike. The League of Nations, which according to its official program was to be the “organizer of peace” and which was really intended to perpetuate the Versailles system, to neutralize the hegemony of the United States and to create a bulwark against the Red East, could not withstand the impact of imperialist contradictions. Only the most cynical of the social patriots (Henderson, Vandervelde, Jouhaux and other) still try to connect the perspectives of disarmament and pacifism with the League. In reality, the League of Nations became a secondary figure on the chessboard of imperialist combinations. The main work of diplomacy, now carried on behind the back of Geneva, consists in the search for military allies, that is, in a feverish preparation for a new slaughter. Parallel with it goes the constant growth of armaments to which fascist Germany has lent a new and gigantic impulsion.

3. The collapse of the League of Nations is indissolubly bound up with the beginning of the collapse of French hegemony on the European continent. The demographic and economic power of France proved to be, as was to be expected, too narrow a base for the Versailles system. French imperialism, armed to the teeth and having an apparently “defensive” character, insofar as it is forced to defend by legalized agreements the fruits of its plunder and spoliation, remains essentially one of the most important factors of a new war.

Driven by its unbearable contradictions and the consequences of defeat, German capitalism has been forced to tear off the straitjacket of democratic pacifism and now comes forward as the chief threat to the Versailles system. State combinations on the European continent still follow, in the main, the line of victors and vanquished. Italy occupies the place of a treacherous go-between, ready to sell its friendship at the decisive moment to the stronger side, as she did during the last war. England is attempting to retain its “independence” – a mere shadow of its former “splendid isolation” – in the hope of utilizing the antagonisms in Europe, the contradictions between Europe and America, the approaching conflicts in the Far East. But ruling England is ever less successful in its scheming designs. Terrified by the disintegration of its empire, by the revolutionary movement in India, by the instability of its positions in China, the British bourgeoisie covers up with the revolting hypocrisy of MacDonald and Henderson its greedy and cowardly policy of waiting and manoeuvring, which, in turn, is one of the main sources of today’s general instability and tomorrow’s catastrophes.

4. The war and the post-war period wrought the greatest changes in the internal and international position of the United States. The gigantic economic superiority of the United States over Europe and, consequently, over the world allowed the bourgeoisie of the United States to appear in the first post-war period as a dispassionate “conciliator,” defender of the “freedom of the seas” and the “open door.” The industrial and business crisis revealed, however, with terrific force the disturbance of the old economic equilibrium, which had found sufficient support on the internal market. This road is completely exhausted.

Of course, the economic superiority of the United States has not disappeared; on the contrary, it has even grown potentially, due to the further disintegration of Europe. But the old forms in which this superiority manifested itself (industrial technique, trade balance, stable dollar, European indebtedness) have lost their actuality: the advanced technique is no longer put to use; the trade balance is unfavourable; the dollar is in decline; debts are not paid. The superiority of the United States must find its expression in new forms, the way to which can be opened only by war.

The slogan of the “open door” in China is proving powerless before a few Japanese divisions. Washington carries on its Far Eastern policy in such a way as to be able to provoke at the most propitious moment a military clash between the USSR and Japan, so as to weaken both Japan and the USSR and outline its further strategic plan depending upon the outcome of war. Continuing by inertia the discussion on the liberation of the Philippines, the American imperialists are in reality preparing to establish for themselves a territorial base in China, so as to raise at the following stage, in case of conflict with Great Britain, the question of the “liberation” of India. US capitalism is up against the same problems that pushed Germany in 1914 on the path of war. The world is divided? It must be redivided. For Germany it was a question of “organizing Europe.” The United States must “organize” the world. History is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American imperialism.

5. Belated Japanese capitalism, feeding on the juices of backwardness, poverty and barbarism, is being driven by unbearable internal ulcers and abscesses on the road of unceasing piratical plunder. The absence of an industrial base of its own and the extreme precariousness of the whole social system makes Japanese capitalism the most aggressive and unbridled. However, the future will show that behind this greedy aggressiveness there are but few real forces. Japan may be the first to give the signal to war; but from semi-feudal Japan, torn by all the contradictions that beset tsarist Russia, sooner than from other countries, the call to revolution may sound.

6. It would be too venturesome, however, to predict precisely where and when the first shot will be fired. Under the influence of the Soviet-American agreement, as well as of internal difficulties, Japan may temporarily retreat. But the same circumstances may, on the contrary, force the Japanese military camarilla to hasten the blow while there is yet time. Will the French government make up its mind to a “preventive” war, and will this war not turn, with the aid of Italy, into a free-for-all? Or, on the contrary, while waiting and manoeuvring, will not France under the pressure of England take the road of agreement with Hitler, thereby opening up to him the road of attack to the east?

Will not the Balkan Peninsula be once more the instigator of war? Or will the initiative, perhaps, be seized this time by Danubian countries? The multitude of factors and the intertwining of conflicting forces exclude the possibility of a concrete prognosis. But the general tendency of development is absolutely clear: the post-war period has simply been transformed into an interval between two wars, and this interval is vanishing before our very eyes. Planned, corporative or state capitalism, which goes hand in hand with the authoritarian, Bonapartist or fascist state, remains a utopia, and a lie insofar as it sets itself the official task of a harmonious national economy on the basis of private property. But it is a menacing reality insofar as it is a question of concentrating all the economic forces of the nation for the preparation of a new war. This work is proceeding now with full steam. A new great war is knocking at the gates. It will be crueller, more destructive than its predecessor. This very fact makes the attitude towards the oncoming war the pivotal question of proletarian policy.

The USSR and Imperialist War

7. Taken on a historic scale, the antagonism between world imperialism and the Soviet Union is infinitely deeper than the antagonisms that set individual capitalist countries in opposition to each other. But the class contradiction between the workers’ state and the capitalist states varies in acuteness depending upon the evolution of the workers’ state and upon the changes in the world situation. The monstrous development of Soviet bureaucratism and the difficult conditions of existence of the toiling masses have drastically decreased the attractive power of the USSR with regard to the working class of the world. The heavy defeats of the Comintern and the national-pacifist foreign policy of the Soviet government in their turn could not but diminish the apprehensions of the world bourgeoisie. Finally, the new sharpening of internal contradictions of the capitalist world forces the governments of Europe and America to approach the USSR at this stage not from the point of view of the principal question, capitalism or socialism, but from the point of view of the conjunctural role of the Soviet state in the struggle of the imperialist powers. Non-aggression pacts, the recognition of the USSR by the Washington government, etc., are manifestations of this international situation. Hitler’s persistent efforts to legalize the rearming of Germany by pointing to the “Eastern danger” find no response as yet, especially on the part of France and its satellites, precisely because the revolutionary danger of communism, despite the terrible crisis, has lost its acuteness. The diplomatic successes of the Soviet Union are, therefore, to be attributed, at least in a large measure, to the extreme weakening of the international revolution.

8. It would be a fatal mistake, however, to consider the armed intervention against the Soviet Union as entirely off the agenda. If the conjunctural relations have become less sharp, there remain in full force the contradictions of social Systems. The continual decline of capitalism will drive the bourgeois governments to radical decisions. Every big war, irrespective of its initial motives, must pose squarely the question of military intervention against the USSR in order to transfuse fresh blood into the sclerotic veins of capitalism.

The indubitable and deep-going bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet state as well as the national-conservative character of its foreign policy do not change the social nature of the Soviet Union as that of the first workers’ state. All kinds of democratic, idealistic, ultra-left and anarchistic theories, ignoring the character of Soviet property relations, which is socialistic in its tendencies, and denying or glossing over the class contradiction between the USSR and the bourgeois state, must lead inevitably, and especially in case of war, to counter-revolutionary political conclusions.

Defence of the Soviet Union from the blows of the capitalist enemies, irrespective of the circumstances and immediate causes of the conflict, is the elementary and imperative duty of every honest labor organization.

“National Defence”

9. The national state created by capitalism in the struggle with the sectionalism of the Middle Ages became the classical arena of capitalism. But no sooner did it take shape than it became a brake upon economic and cultural development. The contradiction between the productive forces and the framework of the national state, in conjunction with the principal contradiction – between the productive forces and the private ownership of the means of production – make the crisis of capitalism that of the world social system.

10. If state borders could be swept away with one stroke, productive forces, even under capitalism, could continue to rise for a certain length of time – at the price of innumerable sacrifices, it is true – to a higher level. With the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, the productive forces may, as the experience of the USSR shows, reach a higher development even within the framework of one state. But only the abolition of private property as well as of state barriers between nations can create the conditions for a new economic system: the socialist society.

11. The defence of the national state, first of all in Balkanised Europe – the cradle of the national state – is in the full sense of the word a reactionary task. The national state with its borders, passports, monetary system, customs and the army for the protection of customs has become a frightful impediment to the economic and cultural development of humanity. The task of the proletariat is not the defence of the national state but its complete and final liquidation.

12. Were the present national state to represent a progressive factor, it would have to be defended irrespective of its political form and, of course, regardless of who “started” the war first. It is absurd to confuse the question of the historic function of the national state with the question of the “guilt” of a given government. Can one refuse to save a house suited for habitation just because the fire started through carelessness or through evil intent of the owner? But here it is precisely a case of the given house being fit not for living but merely for dying. To enable the peoples to live, the structure of the national state must be razed to its foundations.

13. A “socialist” who preaches national defence is a petty-bourgeois reactionary at the service of decaying capitalism. Not to bind itself to the national state in time of war, to follow not the war map but the map of the class struggle, is possible only for that party that has already declared irreconcilable war on the national state in time of peace. Only by realizing fully the objectively reactionary role of the imperialist state can the proletarian vanguard become invulnerable to all types of social patriotism. This means that a real break with the ideology and policy of “national defence” is possible only from the standpoint of the international proletarian revolution.

The National Question and Imperialist War

14. The working class is not indifferent to its nation. On the contrary, it is just because history places the fate of the nation into its hands that the working class refuses to entrust the work of national freedom and independence to imperialism, which “saves” the nation only to subject it on the morrow to new mortal dangers for the sake of the interests of an insignificant minority of exploiters.

15. Having used the nation for its development, capitalism has nowhere, in no single corner of the world, solved fully the national problem. The borders of the Europe of Versailles are carved out of the living body of the nations. The idea of recarving capitalist Europe to make state boundaries coincide with national boundaries is the sheerest kind of utopia. No government will cede an inch of its ground by peaceful means. A new war would carve Europe anew in accordance with the war map and not in correspondence to the boundaries of nations. The task of complete national determination and peaceful co-operation of all peoples of Europe can be solved Only on the basis of the economic unification of Europe, purged of bourgeois rule. The slogan of the United States of Europe is a slogan not only for the salvation of the Balkan and Danubian peoples but for the salvation of the peoples of Germany and France as well.

16. A special and important place is occupied by the question of colonial and semi-colonial countries of the East, which are even now fighting for the independent national state. Their struggle is doubly progressive: tearing the backward peoples from Asiatism, sectionalism and foreign bondage, they strike powerful blows at the imperialist states. But it must be clearly understood beforehand that the belated revolutions in Asia and Africa are incapable of opening up a new epoch of renaissance for the national state. The liberation of the colonies will be merely a gigantic episode in the world socialist revolution, just as the belated democratic overturn in Russia, which was also a semi-colonial country, was only the introduction to the socialist revolution.

17. In South America, where belated and already decaying capitalism is supporting the conditions of semi-feudal, that is, semi-slavish existence, world antagonisms create a sharp struggle of comprador cliques, continual overturns within the states and protracted armed conflicts between the states. The American bourgeoisie, which was able during its historic rise to unite into one federation the northern half of the American continent, now uses all its power, which grew out of this, to disunite, weaken and enslave the southern half. South and Central America will be able to tear themselves out of backwardness and enslavement only by uniting all their states into one powerful federation. But it is not the belated South American bourgeoisie, a thoroughly venal agency of foreign imperialism, who will be called upon to solve this task, but the young South American proletariat, the chosen leader of the oppressed masses. The slogan in the struggle against violence and intrigues of world imperialism and against the bloody work of native comprador cliques is therefore: the Soviet United States of South and Central America.

The national problem merges everywhere with the social. Only the conquest of power by the world proletariat can assure a real and lasting freedom of development for all nations of our planet.

The Defence of Democracy

18. The sham of national defence is covered up wherever possible by the additional sham of the defence of democracy. If even now, in the imperialist epoch, Marxists do not identify democracy with fascism and are ready at any moment to repel fascism’s encroachment upon democracy, must not the proletariat in case of war support the democratic governments against the fascist governments?

Flagrant sophism! We defend democracy against fascism by means of the organizations and methods of the proletariat. Contrary to the Social Democracy, we do not entrust this defence to the bourgeois state (Staat, greif zu! [ State, intervene!]). And if we remain in irreconcilable opposition to the most “democratic” government in time of peace, how can we take upon ourselves even a shadow of responsibility for it in time of war when all the infamies and crimes of capitalism take on a most brutal and bloody form?

19. A modern war between the great powers does not signify a conflict between democracy and fascism but a struggle of two imperialisms for the redivision of the world. Moreover, the war must inevitably assume an international character and in both camps will be found fascist (semi-fascist, Bonapartist, etc.) as well as “democratic” states. The republican form of French imperialism did not prevent it from basing itself in peacetime on the military-bourgeois dictatorship in Poland, Yugoslavia and Romania, as it will not prevent it, in case of necessity, from restoring the Austro-Hungarian monarchy as a barrier against the unification of Austria with Germany. Finally, in France itself, parliamentary democracy, already sufficiently weakened today, would undoubtedly be one of the first victims of war if it is not upset before its start

20. The bourgeoisie of a number of civilized countries has already shown and is continuing to show how, in case of internal danger, it changes without much ado the parliamentary form of its rule for an authoritarian, dictatorial, Bonapartist or fascist form. It will make the change that much faster and more decisively in time of war when both internal and external dangers will threaten its basic class interests with tenfold force. Under these conditions, the support by a workers’ party of “its” national imperialism for the sake of a fragile democratic shell means the renunciation of an independent policy and the chauvinistic demoralization of the workers, that is, the destruction of the only factor that can save humanity from disaster.

21. “The struggle for democracy” in time of war would signify, above all, the struggle for the preservation of the workers’ press and of workers’ organizations against unbridled military censorship and military authority. On the basis of these tasks, the revolutionary vanguard will seek a united front with other working-class organizations – against its own “democratic” government – but in no case unity with its own government against the hostile country.

22. An imperialist war stands above the question of the state form of capitalist rule. It places before each national bourgeoisie the question of the fate of national capitalism and before the bourgeoisie of all countries the question of the fate of capitalism in general. Only thus must the proletariat too pose the question: capitalism or socialism, the triumph of one of the imperialist camps or the proletarian revolution.

Defence of Small and Neutral States

23. The concept of national defence, especially when it coincides with the idea of the defence of democracy, can most easily delude the workers of small and neutral countries (Switzerland, partly Belgium, Scandinavian countries …), which, being incapable of engaging in an independent policy of conquest, impart to the defence of their national borders the character of an irrefutable and absolute dogma. But precisely by the example of Belgium, we see how naturally formal neutrality is replaced by a system of imperialist pacts and how inevitably war for “national defence” leads to an annexationist peace. The character of war is determined not by the initial episode taken by itself (“violation of neutrality,” “enemy invasion,” etc.) but by the main moving forces of war, by its whole development and by the consequences to which it finally leads.

24. It can be readily accepted that the Swiss bourgeoisie will not take upon itself the initiative of war. In this sense, it has far more formal right than any other bourgeoisie to speak of its defensive position. But from the moment that Switzerland may find itself drawn into the war by the course of events, it would enter the struggle of the world powers in the pursuit of equally imperialist aims. Should neutrality be violated, the Swiss bourgeoisie will unite with the stronger of the two attacking sides, regardless of which one bears the greater responsibility for the violation of neutrality and in which camp there is more “democracy.” Thus, during the last war, Belgium, the ally of tsarism, by no means left the camp of the Allies when in the course of the war they in turn found it advantageous to violate the neutrality of Greece.

Only a hopelessly dull bourgeois from a godforsaken Swiss village (like Robert Grimm) can seriously think that the world war into which he is drawn is waged for the defence of Swiss independence. Just as the preceding war swept away the neutrality of Belgium, so the new war will leave no trace of Swiss independence. Whether after the war Switzerland will retain its entity as a state, even though without its independence, or whether it will be divided among Germany, France and Italy depends on a number of European and world factors among which the “national defence” of Switzerland will occupy an insignificant place.

We see, therefore, that for neutral, democratic Switzerland also, a state possessing no colonies and where the idea of national defence appears before us in its purest form, the laws of imperialism make no exception. To the demand of the bourgeoisie: “Join the policy of national defence,” the Swiss proletariat must retort by a policy of class defence so as to go over next to a revolutionary advance.

The Second International and War

25. The commandment of national defence follows from the dogma that the national solidarity of classes stands above the class struggle. In reality, no possessing class ever recognized the defence of the fatherland as such, that is, under any and all conditions, but rather covered up by this formula the protection of its privileged position in the fatherland. Overthrown ruling classes always become “defeatists,” that is, are ready to restore their privileged position with the aid of foreign arms.

The oppressed classes, not conscious of their own interests and accustomed to sacrifices, accept the slogan “national defence” at face value, that is, as an absolute duty that stands above the classes. The basic historic crime of the parties of the Second International consists in their fostering and strengthening the slavish habits and traditions of the oppressed, in neutralizing their revolutionary indignation and falsifying their class consciousness with the aid of patriotic ideas.

If the European proletariat did not overthrow the bourgeoisie at the end of the great war; if humanity writhes now in the agonies of the crisis; if a new war threatens to transform cities and villages into heaps of ruins – the chief responsibility for these crimes and calamities falls on the Second International.

26. The policy of social patriotism rendered the masses helpless before fascism. If in time of war it is necessary to reject the class struggle for the sake of national interests, it is also necessary to renounce “Marxism” in the epoch of a great economic crisis that endangers “the nation” no less than war. Back in April 1915, Rosa Luxemburg exhausted this question with the following words: “Either the class struggle is the imperative law of proletarian existence also during war … or the class struggle is a crime against national interests and the safety of the fatherland also in time of peace.” The idea of “national interests” and the “safety of the fatherland” has been transformed by fascism into chains and fetters for the proletariat.

27. The German Social Democracy supported Hitler’s foreign Policy up to the very moment that he drove it out. The final replacement of democracy by fascism revealed that the Social Democracy remains patriotic just so long as the political régime assures it its profits and privileges. Finding themselves in emigration, the former Hohenzollern patriots turn about-face and are ready to welcome a preventive war of the French bourgeoisie against Hitler. Without any difficulty, the Second International amnestied Wels and Co. who would on the morrow be reconverted into ardent patriots if only the German bourgeoisie should beckon them back with one little finger.

28. The French, Belgian and other socialists responded to the German events by an open alliance with their own bourgeoisie on the question of “national defence.” While official France was carrying on a “small,” “insignificant” but exceptionally atrocious war against Morocco, the French Social Democracy and reformist trade unions discussed at their congresses the inhumanity of war in general, having in mind thereby chiefly the war of revenge on the part of Germany. Parties that support the brutalities of colonial robberies, where it is merely a question of new profits, will support with eyes shut any national government in a great war where the fate of the bourgeois republic itself will be involved.

29. The incompatibility of Social Democratic policy with the historic interests of the proletariat is incomparably deeper and sharper now than on the eve of the imperialist war. The struggle with the patriotic prejudices of the masses means, above all, an irreconcilable struggle against the Second International as an organization, as a party, as a program, as a banner.

Centrism and War

30. The first imperialist war completely dissolved the Second International as a revolutionary party and thereby created the necessity and possibility of creating the Third International. But the republican “revolution” in Germany and Austro-Hungary, the democratization of suffrage in a number of countries, concessions by the frightened European bourgeoisie in the sphere of social legislation in the first years after the war – all this, in conjunction with the disastrous policy of the epigones of Leninism, gave the Second International a considerable respite, no longer as a revolutionary but as a conservative-liberal workers’ party of pacific reform. However, very soon – finally with the coming of the last world crisis – all the possibilities on the road of reforms proved exhausted. The bourgeoisie passed over to counter-attack. The Social Democracy treacherously gave up one gain after another. All species of reformism-parliamentarian, trade-union, municipal, co-operative “socialism” – have suffered irreparable bankruptcies and catastrophes in recent years. As a result of this, the preparation for a new war finds the Second International with a broken spine. The Social Democratic parties are undergoing an intensive process of discoloration. Consistent reformism takes on new colour; it becomes silent or splits off. Its place is being taken by various shadings of centrism, either in the form of numerous factions within the old parties or as independent organizations.

31. On the question of the defence of the fatherland, masked reformists and right centrists (Léon Blum, Hendrik de Man, Robert Grimm, Martin Tranmael, Otto Bauer and others) resort increasingly to diplomatic, confused, conditional formulations calculated at one and the same time to pacify the bourgeoisie and to fool the workers. They put forward economic “plans” or a series of social demands, promising to defend the fatherland from external “fascism” to the extent that the national bourgeoisie will support their program. The purpose in thus posing the question consists in glossing over the question of the class character of the state, evading the problem of the conquest of power and, under the cover of a “socialist” plan, in dragging in the defence of the capitalist fatherland.

32. The left centrists, who are in turn distinguished by a great number of shadings (SAP in Germany, OSP in Holland, ILP in England, the Zyromsky and Marceau Pivert groups in France and others) arrive in words at the renunciation of the defence of the fatherland. But from this bare renunciation they do not draw the necessary practical conclusions. The greater half of their internationalism, if not nine-tenths of it, bears a platonic character. They fear to break away from the right centrists; in the name of the struggle with “sectarianism,” they carry on a struggle against Marxism, refuse to fight for a revolutionary International and continue to remain in the Second International, at the head of which stands the king’s footman, Vandervelde. Expressing at certain moments the leftward shift of the masses, in the final analysis the centrists put a brake upon the revolutionary regrouping within the proletariat and consequently also upon the struggle against war.

33. In its very essence, centrism means half-heartedness and vacillation. But the problem of war is least of all favourable for the policy of vacillation. For the masses, centrism is always only a short transition stage. The growing danger of war will make for ever-sharper differentiation within the centrist groupings that now dominate the workers’ movement. The proletarian vanguard will be the better armed for the struggle against war the sooner and more fully it will free its mind from the web of centrism. A necessary condition for success on this road is to pose clearly and irreconcilably all questions connected with war.

Soviet Diplomacy and the International Revolution

34. After the conquest of power, the proletariat itself goes over to the position of the “defence of the fatherland.” But this formula thenceforward acquires an entirely new historic content. The isolated workers’ state is not a self-sufficing entity but only a drill ground for the world revolution. Defending the USSR, the proletariat defends not national boundaries but a socialist dictatorship temporarily hemmed in by national borders. Only a deep understanding of the fact that the proletarian revolution cannot find completion within the national framework; that without the victory of the proletariat in the leading countries all the successes of socialist construction in the USSR are doomed to failure; that other than through the international revolution there is no salvation for any country in the world; that the socialist society can be built only on the basis of international co-operation – only these firm convictions, penetrating into the very blood and marrow, can create a safe basis for revolutionary proletarian policy in time of war.

35. The foreign policy of the Soviets flowing from the theory of socialism in one country, that is, the actual ignoring of the problems of the international revolution, is based on two ideas: general disarmament and mutual rejection of aggression. That in search of diplomatic guarantees the Soviet government has to resort to a purely formalistic presentation of the problems of war and peace follows from the conditions of capitalist encirclement. But these methods of adaptation to the enemy, forced upon it by the feebleness of the international revolution and to a great extent by the previous mistakes of the Soviet government itself, can by no means be raised into a universal system. But the acts and speeches of Soviet diplomacy, which have long transgressed the limit of unavoidable, admissible, practical compromises, have been laid down as the sacred and inviolable basis for the international policy of the Third International and have become the source of the most flagrant pacifist illusions and social-patriotic blunders.

36. Disarmament is not a means against war, since, as the experience of Germany itself shows, episodic disarmament is only a stage on the road to new rearmament. The possibility of new and very rapid rearmament is inherent in modern industrial technique. “General” disarmament, even if it could be realized, would only mean the strengthening of the military superiority of the more powerful industrial countries. “Fifty percent disarmament” is the road not to complete disarmament but to absolute 100 percent rearmament. To present disarmament as “the only real means to prevent war” is to mislead the workers for the sake of a common front with petty-bourgeois pacifists.

37. We cannot for one moment dispute the right of the Soviet government to define with the greatest precision the term aggression in any given agreement with the imperialists. But to attempt to transform this conditional legalistic formula into a supreme regulator of international relations is to substitute conservative criteria for revolutionary criteria, reducing the international policy of the proletariat to the defence of the existing annexations and borders set up by force.

38. We are not pacifists. We consider a revolutionary war just as much a means of proletarian policy as an uprising. Our attitude to war is determined not by the legalistic formula of “aggression” but by the question of which class carries on the war and for what aims. In the conflict of states, just as in the class struggle, “defence” and “aggression” are questions only of practical expediency and not of a juridical or ethical norm. The bare criterion of aggression creates a base of support for the social-patriotic policy of Messrs. Léon Blum, Vandervelde and others, who, thanks to Versailles, are given the possibility of defending imperialist booty under the guise of defending peace.

39. Stalin’s famous formula, “We do not want an inch of foreign soil but will not give up an inch of ours,” represents a conservative program for the preservation of the status quo in radical contradiction to the aggressive nature of the proletarian revolution. The ideology of socialism in one country leads inevitably to the blurring of the reactionary role of the national state, to conciliation with it, to its idealization, to reducing the importance of revolutionary internationalism.

40. The leaders of the Third International justify the policy of Soviet diplomacy on the ground that the workers’ state must utilize the contradictions in the camp of imperialism. This statement, indisputable in itself, needs concretization, however.

The foreign policy of each class is the continuation and development of its internal policy. If the proletariat in power must discern and utilize the contradictions in the camp of its external enemies, the proletariat that is still fighting for power must know how to discern and utilize the contradictions in the camp of its internal enemies. The fact that the Third International proved absolutely incapable of understanding and utilizing the contradictions between reformist democracy and fascism led directly to the greatest defeat of the proletariat and brought it face to face with the danger of a new war.

On the other hand, the contradictions between the imperialist governments must be utilized in no other way than from the point of view of the international revolution. The defence of the USSR is conceivable only if the international proletarian vanguard is independent of the policy of Soviet diplomacy, if there is complete freedom to show up its nationalist conservative methods, which are directed against the interests of the international revolution and thus also against the interests of the Soviet Union.

The USSR and Imperialist Combinations

41. The Soviet government is now in the process of changing its course with regard to the League of Nations. The Third International, as usual, repeats slavishly the words and gestures of Soviet diplomacy. All sorts of “ultralefts” take advantage of this turn to relegate the Soviet Union once again among the bourgeois states. The Social Democracy, depending on its particular national considerations, interprets the “reconciliation” of the USSR with the League of Nations as proof of the bourgeois-nationalistic character of the policy of Moscow or, on the contrary, as the rehabilitation of the League of Nations and, in general, the whole ideology of pacifism. In this question, too, the Marxist point of view has nothing in common with any one of these petty-bourgeois evaluations.

Our attitude in principle to the League of Nations does not differ from our attitude to each and every individual imperialist state, whether in or out of the League of Nations. The manoeuvring of the Soviet state between the antagonistic groupings of imperialism presupposes a policy of manoeuvre with regard to the League of Nations as well. So long as Japan and Germany were in the League, the latter threatened to become an arena for agreement of the most important imperialist robbers at the expense of the USSR. After Japan and Germany, the most immediate and chief enemies of the Soviet Union, quit the League of Nations, it changed partly into a bloc of allies and vassals of French imperialism, partly into an arena of struggle among France, England and Italy. This or that combination with the League of Nations may be forced upon the Soviet state, which is steering between imperialist camps equally hostile to it in essence.

42. Giving oneself a fully realistic account of the existing situation, the proletarian vanguard must, at the same time, place in the foreground the following considerations:

The necessity for the USSR, sixteen and more years after the October overturn, to seek a rapprochement with the League and to cover up this rapprochement with abstract pacifist formulas is the result of the extreme weakening of the international proletarian revolution and by that of the international position of the USSR.
Abstract pacifist formulations of Soviet diplomacy and its compliments directed to the League of Nations have nothing in common with the policy of the international proletarian party, which refuses to bear any responsibility for them but on the contrary, exposes their hollowness and hypocrisy, the better to mobilize the proletariat on the basis of a clear understanding of actual forces and real antagonisms.

43. In the existing situation, an alliance of the USSR with an imperialist state or with one imperialist combination against another, in case of war, cannot at all be considered as excluded. Under the pressure of circumstances, a temporary alliance of this kind may become an iron necessity, without ceasing, however, because of it, to be of the greatest danger both to the USSR and to the world revolution.

The international proletariat will not decline to defend the USSR even if the latter should find itself forced into a military alliance with some imperialists against others. But in this case, even more than in any other, the international proletariat must safeguard its complete political independence from Soviet diplomacy and, thereby, also from the bureaucracy of the Third International.

44. Remaining the determined and devoted defender of the workers’ state in the struggle with imperialism, the international proletariat will not, however, become an ally of the imperialist allies of the USSR. The proletariat of a capitalist country that finds itself in an alliance with the USSR must retain fully and completely its irreconcilable hostility to the imperialist government of its own country. In this sense, its policy will not differ from that of the proletariat in a country fighting against the USSR. But in the nature of practical actions, considerable differences may arise depending on the concrete war situation. For instance, it would be absurd and criminal in case of war between the USSR and Japan for the American proletariat to sabotage the sending of American munition to the USSR. But the proletariat of a country fighting against the USSR would be absolutely obliged to resort to actions of this sort – strikes, sabotage, etc.

45. Intransigent proletarian opposition to the imperialist ally Of the USSR must develop, on the one hand, on the basis of international class policy, on the other, on the basis of the imperialist aims of the given government, the treacherous character of this “alliance,” its speculation on capitalist overturn in the USSR, etc. The policy of a proletarian party in an “allied” as well as an enemy imperialist country should therefore be directed towards the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the seizure of power. Only in this way can a real alliance with the USSR be created and the first workers’ state be saved from disaster.

46. Within the USSR, war against imperialist intervention will undoubtedly provoke a veritable outburst of genuine fighting enthusiasm. All the contradictions and antagonisms will seem overcome or at any rate relegated to the background. The young generations of workers and peasants that emerged from the revolution will reveal on the field of battle a colossal dynamic power. Centralized industry, despite all its lacks and shortcomings, will reveal great superiority in serving war needs. The government of the USSR has undoubtedly created great stores of food supplies sufficient for the first period of war. The general staffs of the imperialist states clearly realize, of course, that in the Red Army they will meet a powerful adversary, the struggle with whom will require long intervals of time and a terrific straining of forces.

47. But precisely the protracted nature of the war will inevitably reveal the contradictions of the transitional economy of the USSR with its bureaucratic planning. The gigantic new enterprises may, in many cases, prove to be just so much dead capital. Under the influence of the government’s acute need of supplies of prime necessity, the individualistic tendencies of peasant economy will receive considerable strengthening, and the centrifugal forces within the kolkhozes will grow with each month of war. The rule of the uncontrolled bureaucracy will be transformed into a war dictatorship. The absence of a living party as a political controller and regulator will lead to an extreme accumulation and sharpening of contradictions. In the heated atmosphere of war, one can expect sharp turns toward individualistic principles in agriculture and in handicraft industry, toward the attraction of foreign and “allied” capital, breaks in the monopoly of foreign trade, the weakening of governmental control over trusts, the sharpening of competition between the trusts, their conflicts with workers, etc. In the political sphere, these processes may mean the completion of Bonapartism with the corresponding change or a number of changes in property relations. In other words, in case of a protracted war accompanied by the passivity of the world proletariat, the internal social contradictions in the USSR not only might lead but also would have to lead to a bourgeois-Bonapartist counter-revolution.

48. The political conclusions flowing from this are obvious:

Only the proletarian revolution in the West can save the USSR as the workers’ state in case of a long protracted war;
The preparation for a proletarian revolution in “friendly,” “allied” as well as enemy countries is conceivable only with the complete independence of the world proletarian vanguard from the Soviet bureaucracy.
The unconditional support of the USSR against the imperialist armies must go hand in hand with revolutionary Marxist criticism of the war and the diplomatic policy of the Soviet government, and with the formation inside the USSR of a real revolutionary party of Bolshevik-Leninists.

The Third International and War

49. Having abandoned a principled line on the war question, the Third International vacillates between defeatism and social patriotism. In Germany the struggle against fascism was transformed into a market competition on a nationalistic basis. The slogan of “national liberation,” advanced side by side with the slogan of “social liberation,” grossly distorts the revolutionary perspective and leaves no place whatever for defeatism. On the Saar question, the Communist Party began by a cringing subservience to the ideology of National Socialism and moved away from this only through inner splits.

What slogan will the German section of the Third International advance in time of war: “the defeat of Hitler is the lesser evil”? But if the slogan of national liberation was correct under the “fascists” Müller and Brüning, how could it lose its efficacy under Hitler? Or are nationalist slogans good only for time of peace and not of war? Truly, the epigones of Leninism did everything to confuse themselves and the working class to the very end.

50. The impotent revolutionism of the Third International is a direct result of its fatal policy. After the German catastrophe, the political insignificance of the so-called Communist Parties was revealed in all countries where they were subjected to any test at all. The French section, which showed itself absolutely incapable of rousing even a few tens of thousands of workers against the colonial robbery in Africa, will undoubtedly prove even more its bankruptcy in the moment of so-called national danger.

51. The struggle against war, unthinkable without the revolutionary mobilization of the wide working masses of the city and village, demands at the same time direct influence on the army and navy, on the one hand, and on transport, on the other. But it is impossible to influence soldiers without influencing the worker and peasant youth. Influence in the sphere of transport presupposes a strong foothold in the trade unions.

Whereas, meanwhile, with the aid of the Profintern, the Third International has lost all positions in the trade-union movement and has cut itself off from all access to the working youth. Under these conditions, to talk of a struggle against war is like blowing soap bubbles. There must be no room for illusions: in case of an imperialist attack on the USSR, the Third International will show itself a complete zero.

“Revolutionary” Pacifism and War

52. As an independent current, petty-bourgeois “left” pacifism starts from the premise that it is possible to insure peace by some particular, special means, outside of the class struggle of the proletariat, outside of the socialist revolution. By articles and speeches, the pacifists inculcate “aversion to war,” support the conscientious objectors, preach boycott and the general strike (or rather the myth of the general strike) against war. The more “revolutionary” pacifists are not averse even to talking at times of insurrection against war. But all and severally, they have no conception of the indissoluble bond connecting the insurrection with the class struggle and the policy of a revolutionary party. For them insurrection is just a literary threat directed at the ruling class, and not a matter of long and persistent effort.

Exploiting the masses’ natural love for peace and diverting it from its proper channels, the petty-bourgeois pacifists turn finally into unconscious supporters of imperialism. In case of war, the overwhelming majority of the pacifist “allies” will be found in the camp of the bourgeoisie and will use the authority with which the Third International has clothed them by its ballyhoo for the patriotic disorienting of the proletarian vanguard.

53. The Amsterdam congress against war, as well as the Paris congress against fascism, organized by the Third International are classic examples of the replacement of revolutionary class struggle by the petty-bourgeois policy of ostentatious demonstrations, showy parades, Potemkin villages. On the morrow of the blatant protests against war in general, the heterogeneous elements artificially brought together by backstage manipulation will scatter in all directions and will not lift even a little finger against the particular war.

54. The replacement of the united proletarian front, that is, of the fighting agreement of working-class organizations, by a bloc of the Communist bureaucracy and the petty-bourgeois pacifists – in which for every honest confusionist there are dozens of careerists – leads to complete eclecticism in questions of tactics. The Barbusse-Münzenberg congresses consider it their special merit that they combine all types of “struggle” against war: humanitarian protests, individual refusal to serve in the army, education of “public opinion,” the general strike and even insurrection. Methods that in life are in irreconcilable contradiction and that in practice can only be in conflict with each other are presented as elements of a harmonious whole. The Russian Social Revolutionaries who preached a “synthetic tactic” in the struggle against tsarism – alliance with liberals, individual terror and mass struggle – were an earnest lot compared with the inspirers of the Amsterdam bloc. But the workers must remember that Bolshevism was reared in the struggle against populist eclecticism!

The Petty Bourgeoisie and War

55. Peasants and the lower strata of the city population, for whom war is no less disastrous than for the proletariat, can be drawn most closely to the proletariat in the struggle against war. Generally speaking, only in this way can war be prevented by insurrection. But even much less than workers will peasants let themselves be drawn to the revolutionary road by abstractions, ready-made patterns and bare command. The epigones of Leninism, who brought about an overturn in the Comintern in the years 1923-24 under the slogan “face to the peasantry,” revealed a complete inability to attract to the banner of communism not only peasants but even agricultural workers. The Krestintern (Peasants’ International) expired quietly without even a funeral oration. The “conquest” of the peasantry of different countries, proclaimed so boastfully, proved in every case ephemeral, if not simply fanciful. Precisely in the sphere of peasant policy, the bankruptcy of the Third International acquired an especially graphic character, although it really came as an inevitable consequence of the break between the Comintern and the proletariat.

The peasantry will take the road of revolutionary struggle against war only upon convincing itself in practice of the ability of the workers to lead this struggle. The key to victory rests, therefore, in the shops and factories. The revolutionary proletariat must become a real force before the peasantry, and the small city folk will close ranks with it.

56. The petty bourgeoisie of the city and village is not homogeneous. The proletariat can attract to its side only its lowest strata: the poorest peasants, semi-proletarians, lower civil servants, peddlers, the oppressed and scattered folk who are deprived by all the conditions of their existence of the possibility of carrying on an independent struggle. Over this wide layer Of the petty bourgeoisie, the leaders arise, gravitating to the middle and big bourgeoisie and developing political careerists of the democratic and pacifist or fascist type. While they remain in opposition, these gentlemen resort to most unbridled demagogy as the surest means of later boosting their price in the eyes of the big bourgeoisie.

The crime of the Third International consists in substituting for the struggle for revolutionary influence on the real petty bourgeoisie, that is, on its plebeian masses, theatrical blocs with its false pacifist leaders. Instead of discrediting the latter, it strengthens them by the prestige of the October Revolution and makes the oppressed lower strata of the petty bourgeoisie political victims of the treacherous leaders.

57. The revolutionary road to the peasantry lies through the working class. To gain the confidence of the village, it is necessary that the advanced workers themselves regain confidence in the banner of the proletarian revolution. This can be achieved only by a correct policy in general, by a correct anti-war policy in particular.

“Defeatism” and Imperialist War

58. In those cases where it is a question of conflict between capitalist countries, the proletariat of any one of them refuses categorically to sacrifice its historic interests, which in the final analysis coincide with the interests of the nation and humanity, for the sake of the military victory of the bourgeoisie. Lenin’s formula, “defeat is the lesser evil,” means not defeat of one’s country is the lesser evil as compared with the defeat of the enemy country but that a military defeat resulting from the growth of the revolutionary movement is infinitely more beneficial to the proletariat and to the whole people than military victory assured by “civil peace.” Karl Liebknecht gave an unsurpassed formula of proletarian policy in time of war: “The chief enemy of the people is in its own country.” The victorious proletarian revolution not only will rectify the evils caused by defeat but also will create the final guarantee against future wars and defeats. This dialectical attitude toward war is the most important element of revolutionary training and therefore also of the struggle against war.

59. The transformation of imperialist war into civil war is that general strategic task to which the whole work of a proletarian party during war should be subordinated. The consequences of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 as well as of the imperialist slaughter of 1914-18 (Paris Commune, the February and October revolutions in Russia, revolutions in Germany and Austria-Hungary, insurrections in a number of warring countries) testify irrefutably that a modern war between capitalist nations carries with it a war of classes within each of the nations, and that the task of a revolutionary party consists in preparing in this latter war the victory of the proletariat.

60. The experience of the years 1914-18 demonstrates, at the same time, that the slogan of peace is in no way contradictory to the strategic formula of “defeatism”; on the contrary, it develops a tremendous revolutionary force, especially in a case of a protracted war. The slogan of peace has a pacifist, that is, lying, stupefying, enfeebling character only when democratic and other politicians juggle with it; when priests offer up prayers for the speediest cessation of the slaughter; when “lovers of humanity,” among them also social patriots, tearfully urge the governments to make peace quickly on “the basis of justice.” But the slogan of peace has nothing in common with pacifism when it emanates from working-class quarters and trenches, intertwining itself with the slogan of fraternization of the soldiers of the hostile armies and uniting the oppressed against the oppressors. The revolutionary struggle for peace, which takes on ever-wider and bolder forms, is the surest means of “turning the imperialist war into a civil war.”

War, Fascism and the Arming of the Proletariat

61. War demands “civil peace.” Under the present conditions, the bourgeoisie can achieve it only by means of fascism. Thus fascism has become the main political factor of war. The struggle against war presupposes the struggle against fascism. All sorts of revolutionary programs of struggle against war (“defeatism,” “transformation of imperialist war into civil war,” etc.) turn into empty sounds if the proletarian vanguard finds itself incapable of victoriously repelling fascism.

To demand of the bourgeois state the disarming of fascist bands, as the Stalinists do, is to take the road of the German Social Democracy and Austro-Marxism. Precisely Wels and Otto Bauer “demanded” of the state that it disarm the Nazis and assure internal peace. “Democratic” government can, it is true – when it is to its advantage – disarm individual fascist groups but only in order with all the greater ferocity to disarm the workers and prevent them from arming themselves. The very next day the bourgeois state will accord the fascists, only yesterday “disarmed,” the possibility of arming themselves doubly and of bringing down with twofold strength their weapons on the unarmed proletariat. To turn to the state, that is, to capital, with the demand to disarm the fascists means to sow the worst democratic illusions, to lull the vigilance of the proletariat, to demoralize its will.

62. Proceeding from the fact of the arming of fascist bands, correct revolutionary policy consists in creating armed workers’ detachments for the purposes of self-defence, and in tirelessly calling the workers to arm themselves. Here is the centre of gravity of the whole present political situation. The Social Democrats, even the most left ones, that is, those who are ready to repeat general phrases of revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, carefully avoid the question of arming the workers, or openly declare this task “chimerical,” adventurous, “romantic,” etc. They propose, instead (!) of arming the workers, propaganda among soldiers, which they do not carry on in reality and which they are incapable of carrying on. Bare reference to work in the army is needed by the opportunists only in order to bury the question of the arming of the workers.

63. The struggle for the army is incontestably the greatest part of the struggle for power. Persistent and self-sacrificing work among the soldiers is the revolutionary duty of every truly proletarian party. This work can be carried on with the assurance of success under the condition of the correctness of the general policy of the party in particular and especially among the youth. The agrarian program of the party and in general the system of transitional demands, touching the basic interests of the petty-bourgeois masses and opening up before them a perspective of salvation, has a tremendous importance for the success of the work in the army in those countries with a considerable peasant population.

64. It would be puerile, however, to believe that by propaganda alone the whole army can be won over to the side of the proletariat and thus in general make revolution unnecessary. The army is heterogeneous and its heterogeneous elements are chained by the iron hoops of discipline. Propaganda can create revolutionary cells in the army and prepare a sympathetic attitude among the most progressive soldiers. More than this propaganda and agitation cannot do. To depend upon the army defending the workers’ organizations from fascism by its own initiative and even guaranteeing the transfer of power into the hands of the proletariat is to substitute sugary illusions for the harsh lessons of history. The army in its decisive section can go over to the side of the proletariat in the epoch of revolution only in the event that the proletariat itself will have revealed to the army in action a readiness and ability to fight for power to the last drop of blood. Such struggle necessarily presupposes the arming of the proletariat

65. The task of the bourgeoisie consists in preventing the proletariat from winning over the army. Fascism solves this task not without success by means of armed detachments. The immediate, urgent, present-day task of the proletariat consists not in seizing power but in the defence of its organizations from fascist bands, at a certain distance behind which stands the capitalist state. Whoever asserts that the workers have no possibility of arming themselves proclaims by that that the workers are defenceless before fascism. Then there is no need to speak of socialism, of proletarian revolution, of struggle against war. Then the communist program should be scrapped and a cross marked over Marxism.

66. Not a revolutionary but an impotent pacifist, tomorrow’s capitulator to fascism and to war, can pass up the task of arming the workers. In itself the task of arming is entirely solvable, as history testifies. If the workers will really understand that it is a question of life and death, they will obtain weapons. To explain to them the political situation, hiding or minimizing nothing and chasing out every consolatory lie, is the first duty of a revolutionary party. Indeed, how can one defend himself against the mortal enemy if not by having two knives for every fascist knife and two revolvers for every revolver? There is and there can be no other answer.

67. Where should the weapons be gotten? First of all, from the fascists. The disarming of fascists is a shameful slogan when it is addressed to the bourgeois police. The disarming of fascists is an excellent slogan when it is addressed to revolutionary workers. But fascist arsenals are not the only source. The proletariat has hundreds and thousands of channels for self-defence. We must not forget that it is precisely the workers and only they who with their own hands make all sorts of weapons. It is only necessary for the proletarian vanguard to understand clearly that we cannot evade the task of self-defence. A revolutionary party must take upon itself the initiative in arming fighting workers’ detachments. And for this it must first of all cleanse itself of all sorts of scepticism, indecision and pacifist reasoning in the question of arming the workers.

68. The slogan of a workers’ militia, or of detachments of self-defence, has a revolutionary meaning insofar as it is a question of an armed militia; otherwise the militia is reduced to a theatrical display, to a parade and, consequently, to self-delusion. Of course, the arming will be primitive at the beginning. The first workers’ detachments will have neither howitzers nor tanks nor aeroplanes. But on February 6 in Paris, in the centre of a powerful militarist country, bands armed with revolvers and razors on sticks were not far from taking the Bourbon palace and brought about the fall of the government. Tomorrow similar bands can sack the offices of proletarian newspapers or trade-union headquarters. The strength of the proletariat lies in its numbers. Even the most primitive weapon in the hands of the masses can perform miracles. Under favourable conditions, it may open a road to more-perfected weapons.

69. The slogan of a united front degenerates into a centrist phrase if it is not supplemented under the present conditions by propaganda and practical application of definite methods of struggle against fascism. The united front is needed, first of all, for the creation of local committees of defence. The committees of defence are needed for the building and uniting of detachments of workers’ militia. These detachments must at the very start look for and find weapons. Detachments for self-defence are only a stage in the matter of arming the proletariat. In general, revolution knows no other roads.

Revolutionary Policy Against War

70. The first prerequisite for success is the training of party cadres in the correct understanding of all the conditions of imperialist war and of all the political processes that accompany it. Woe to that party that confines itself in this burning question to general phrases and abstract slogans! The bloody events will crash over its head and smash it.

It is necessary to set up special circles for the study of the political experiences of the war of 1914-18 (ideological preparations for war by the imperialists, misleading of public opinion by military headquarters through the patriotic press, the role of the antithesis defence-attack; groupings in the proletarian camp, the isolation of the Marxist elements, etc., etc.).

71. For a revolutionary party, the moment of declaration of war is especially critical. The bourgeois and social-patriotic press in an alliance with the radio and movies will pour out upon the toiling masses torrents of chauvinistic poison. Even the most revolutionary and tempered party cannot as a whole resist this. The present thoroughly falsified history of the Bolshevik Party does not serve in the realistic preparation of the advanced workers for the test, but lulls them into passive impotence by an invented ideal form.

Despite the fact that tsarist Russia could by no stretch of imagination have been considered either as a democracy or as the bearer of culture, nor, finally, as belonging to the defensive side, the Bolshevik fraction of the Duma together with the Menshevik fraction issued at the beginning a social-patriotic declaration diluted with pink pacifist internationalism. The Bolshevik fraction soon took a more revolutionary position, but at the trial of the fraction all the accused deputies and their theoretic guide Kamenev, with the exception of Muranov, categorically differentiated themselves from the defeatist theory of Lenin. The illegal work of the party almost died down at the beginning. Only gradually did the revolutionary leaflets begin to appear that rallied the workers under the banner of internationalism, without, however, advancing defeatist slogans.

The first two years of the war greatly undermined the patriotism of the masses and moved the party to the left. But the February Revolution, having transformed Russia into a “democracy,” gave rise to a new powerful wave of “revolutionary” patriotism. The overwhelming majority of the leaders of the Bolshevik Party did not withstand it even then. In March 1917, Stalin and Kamenev imparted to the central party organ a social-patriotic direction. On this basis a rapprochement, and in the majority of cities even a direct fusion, of Bolshevik and Menshevik organizations occurred. Protests by the firmest revolutionists, chiefly in the advanced districts of Petrograd, were needed; the arrival of Lenin in Russia and his irreconcilable struggle against social patriotism were needed to straighten out the party’s internationalist front. Such was the case with the best, most revolutionary and tempered party.

72. The study of the historic experience of Bolshevism has an invaluable educational importance for the advanced workers: it shows them the terrific force of the pressure of bourgeois public opinion that they will have to withstand and teaches them, at the same time, not to despair, not to sheath weapons, not to lose courage despite complete isolation at the beginning of war.

It is necessary to study no less carefully the political alignments within the proletariat of other countries, both those that participated in the war and those that remained neutral. Of special significance is the experience of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Germany, where events took a different course than in Russia but in the final analysis led to the same conclusion: that it is necessary to learn to swim against the current.

73. It is necessary to follow closely the patriotic preparation of cannon fodder now proceeding: the diplomatic fencing that has as its aim the laying of responsibility on the other side; the treacherous formulas of open and hidden social patriots preparing for themselves a bridge from pacifism to militarism; the hollow slogans of the “Communist” leaders who will be just as bewildered on the first day of war as the German “leaders” on the night of the Reichstag fire.

74. it is necessary to gather carefully the most characteristic clippings from official government and opposition articles and speeches, comparing them with the experience of the previous war; to foretell what direction the further work of fooling the people will take; to strengthen these predictions later by the array of facts; to teach the proletarian vanguard to orient itself independently in events so as not to be taken unawares.

75. Reinforced agitation against imperialism and militarism must proceed not from abstract formulas but from concrete facts that strike the masses. It is necessary painstakingly to expose not only the open military budget but also all the masked forms of militarism, not leaving without a protest war manoeuvres, military furnishings, orders, etc.

Through well-trained workers, it is necessary to raise the question of the war danger and of struggle against it in all organizations of the proletariat without exception and in the labor press, demanding from the leaders clear and definite answers to the question: what to do?

76. To gain the confidence of the youth, it is necessary not only to declare a fight to the finish upon the morally corrupting Social Democracy and upon the dull bureaucratism of the Third International but also to actually create an international organization basing itself on the critical thought and revolutionary initiative of the young generation.

It is necessary to arouse the working youth against all kinds and forms of its militarization by the bourgeois state. Simultaneously, it must be mobilized and militarized in the interests of the revolution (committees of defence against fascism, Red fighting detachments, workers’ militia, struggle for the arming of the proletariat).

77. To conquer revolutionary positions in the trade unions and other working-class mass organizations, it is necessary to break pitilessly with bureaucratic ultimatism, to take the workers where they are and as they are, and to lead them forward from partial tasks to general ones, from defence to attack, from patriotic prejudices to the overthrow of the bourgeois state.

Since the leaderships of trade-union bureaucracy in the majority of countries represent essentially an unofficial part of the capitalist police, a revolutionist must know how to fight irreconcilably against it, combining legal activity with illegal, fighting courage with conspirative prudence.

Only by these combined methods can we succeed in rallying the working class, and in the first place the youth, to the revolutionary banner, blaze a trail to the capitalist barracks and arouse all the oppressed.

78. The struggle against war can acquire a genuinely wide, mass character only if the working women and peasant women take part in it. The bourgeois degeneration of the Social Democracy as well as the bureaucratic deterioration of the Third International have delivered the hardest blow to the most oppressed and disfranchised strata of the proletariat, that is, first of all to the working women. To awaken them, gain their confidence, show them the true road, means to mobilize against imperialism the revolutionary passions of the most downtrodden part of humanity.

Anti-militarist work among women must in particular safeguard the replacement of mobilized men by revolutionary working women to whom, in case of war, a great part of party and trade-union work must inevitably pass.

79. If the proletariat should find it beyond its power to prevent war by means of revolution – and this is the only means of preventing war – the workers, together with the whole people, will be forced to participate in the army and in war. Individualistic and anarchistic slogans of refusal to undergo military service, passive resistance, desertion, sabotage are in basic contradiction to the methods of the proletarian revolution. But just as in the factory the advanced worker feels himself a slave of capital, preparing for his liberation, so in the capitalist army too he feels himself a slave of imperialism. Compelled today to give his muscles and even his life, he does not surrender his revolutionary consciousness. He remains a fighter, learns how to use arms, explains even in the trenches the class meaning of war, groups around himself the discontented, connects them into cells, transmits the ideas and slogans of the party, watches closely the changes in the mood of the masses, the subsiding of the patriotic wave, the growth of indignation, and summons the soldiers to the aid of the workers at the critical moment.

The Fourth International and War

80. The struggle against war presupposes a revolutionary instrument of struggle, that is, a party. There is none now either on a national or on an international scale. A revolutionary party must be built on the basis of the entire experience of the past, including the experiences of the Second and Third Internationals. The renunciation of open and direct struggle for the new International means conscious or unconscious support of the two existing Internationals, of which one will actively support the war, the other being capable only of disorganizing and weakening the proletarian vanguard.

81. It is true, not a few honest revolutionary workers remain in the ranks of the so-called Communist Parties. The persistence with which they hold on to the Third International is, in many cases, to be explained by misdirected revolutionary devotion. They can be attracted to the banner of the new International not by concessions, not by adaptation to prejudices inculcated in them but, on the contrary, by a systematic unmasking of the fatal international role of Stalinism (bureaucratic centrism). Thereby the questions of war must be posed with particular clarity and intransigence.

82. At the same time, it is necessary to follow attentively the inner struggle in the reformist camp and attract in time the left socialist groupings developing towards revolution to a struggle against war. The best criterion of the tendencies of a given organization is its attitude in practice, in action, toward national defence and toward colonies, especially in those cases in which the bourgeoisie of a given country owns colonial slaves. Only a complete and real break with official public opinion on the most burning question of the “defence of the fatherland” signifies a turn, or at least the beginning of a turn from bourgeois positions to proletarian positions. The approach to left organizations of this type should be accompanied by friendly criticism of all indecision in their policy and by a joint elaboration of all theoretical and practical questions of war.

83. There are not a few politicians in the working-class movement who recognize, at least in words, the failure of the Second and Third Internationals but consider, at the same time, that “this is not the time” to start building a new International. Such a position is characteristic not of a revolutionary Marxist but of a disillusioned Stalinist or disappointed reformist. The revolutionary struggle does not suffer interruption. The conditions for it may not be favourable today; but a revolutionary who cannot swim against the current is not a revolutionary. To say that the building of the new International is “untimely” is the same as to declare that the class struggle, and in particular the struggle against war, is untimely. In the present epoch, proletarian policy cannot but place before itself international tasks. International tasks cannot but demand the welding together of international cadres. This work cannot be deferred even for one day without capitulation to imperialism.

84. Of course, no one can predict just when the war will break out and at what stage it will find the building of new parties and of the Fourth International. We must do everything possible to make the preparation for the proletarian revolution move faster than the preparation for a new war. It is very possible, however, that this time also imperialism will overtake the revolution. But even this road, portending great sacrifices and calamities, in no case relieves us of the duty of building the new International immediately. The transformation of the imperialist war into proletarian revolution will proceed all the faster the further advanced our preparatory work will be, the firmer the revolutionary cadres at the very beginning of war, the more systematically they carry on work in all warring countries and the more firmly their work is based on correct strategic tactical and organizational principles.

85. At its first blow the imperialist war will smash the decrepit spine of the Second International and will split its national sections into bits. It will reveal to the bottom the hollowness and impotence of the Third International. But then neither will it spare all those indecisive centrist groupings that evade the problem of the International, seek purely national roots, do not carry any one question to its conclusion, are devoid of perspective and temporarily feed on the ferment and confusion of the working class.

Even if at the beginning of a new war the true revolutionists should again find themselves in a small minority, we cannot doubt for a single moment that this time the shift of the masses to the road of revolution will occur much faster, more decisively and relentlessly than during the first imperialist war. A new wave of insurrections can and must become victorious in the whole capitalist world.

It is indisputable at any rate that in our epoch only that organization that bases itself on international principles and enters into the ranks of the world party of the proletariat can root itself in the national soil. The struggle against war means now the struggle for the Fourth International!

Footnote

1. An introduction by the International Secretariat, which had adopted these theses, said that a first draft in French had been printed in January 1934 for discussion purposes.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1934/06/warfi.htm

The 2000 election and Bush’s attack on democratic rights

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By Barry Grey
14 November 2001

In the weeks since the September 11 terror attacks, the media have devoted their efforts to supporting the Bush administration’s war in Afghanistan and its assault on democratic rights, uncritically repeating the government’s propaganda and tamely acceding to its clampdown on all independent information.

As in the wars of the 1990s—the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Kosovo—the public is being inundated with reportage that excludes any serious consideration of historical background or political context, without which it is impossible to make an intelligent assessment of current events. The mind-numbing barrage of patriotic images and martial slogans, the demonization of enemies and the reduction of world politics to a struggle between the forces of good (the US) and evil (the latest target of American bombs) is intended to induce a form of historical amnesia, in which the events of today are detached from the chain of development that preceded and produced them.

Such a shallow and demagogic approach is an essential element of propaganda that seeks not to inform or educate, but rather to disorient the masses and stampede them into supporting policies that are aimed against their interests.

As part of this propaganda campaign, a myth of September 11 has been created that is summed up in the phrase “Everything changed.” This is meant to suggest that none of the sweeping changes in American political life that have occurred after that date have any relation to events that preceded it. All of the far-reaching institutional innovations that have expanded the government’s police powers and curtailed civil liberties have, supposedly, been carried out in response to the unforeseen and unforeseeable events of September 11. They are to be explained entirely by the exigencies of a “war on two fronts” against global terrorism—a war that was forced on the Bush administration.

No one has sought to demonstrate—least of all the Bush administration—why the hijack-bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon necessitated a war against Afghanistan, or why it dictated major steps toward the establishment of a police state in the US. The “everything changed” mantra is based on a cynical and self-serving lie. In reality, the assault on democratic rights since September 11 is a continuation and acceleration of processes well under way prior to the terror attacks.
The 2000 election

One year ago the American ruling elite broke in a fundamental and irrevocable manner with democratic norms and procedures. For the first time in US history, it decided the result of a national election by suppressing votes and overriding the will of the electorate.

The Democratic candidate, Al Gore, won the popular vote nationally by some 600,000 votes, but Election Day ended with neither candidate holding a majority of the electoral votes, and the result in the pivotal state of Florida in dispute. (Under the archaic system established by America’s founding fathers, the presidential race is not decided by the popular vote. The president is actually chosen by electors from the various states. The number of a state’s electors is equal to the number of its representatives in the House of Representatives plus two—the number of senators from each state.)

Had the votes in Florida been counted in a fair and impartial manner, Gore would have won that state and its 25 electoral votes, and been declared the next president. That, however, is not what happened. Instead, the votes of thousands of Floridians were suppressed and, by means of fraud and conspiracy, the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, was installed in the White House.

Future generations will look back on the election of 2000 as the definitive point at which the American ruling class embarked on the road to dictatorship. All of the authoritarian impulses that have assumed such ominous and concrete forms since September 11 were already revealed in the methods employed by the Bush campaign and the Republican Party to effect an electoral coup d’état.

Nine days before the US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, stopped the counting of disputed votes in the pivotal state of Florida, thereby handing the election to Bush, the chairman of the World Socialist Web Site editorial board, David North, summed up the basic issues in the election crisis in a report to a public meeting in Sydney, Australia. [Lessons from history: the 2000 elections and the new “irrepressible conflict”] North said:

“What the decision of this court will reveal is how far the American ruling class is prepared to go in breaking with traditional bourgeois-democratic and constitutional norms. Is it prepared to sanction ballot fraud and the suppression of votes and install in the White House a candidate who has attained that office through blatantly illegal and anti-democratic methods?”

On December 12, 2000 the US Supreme Court did precisely that. Five right-wing Republican justices, unelected and unanswerable to the American people, handed down a decision reeking with contempt for democratic rights and devoid of any legal or constitutional scruples. This was a court whose majority had employed the mantras of “states’ rights” and “judicial restraint” to curtail the power of the federal government to enforce laws protecting the rights of workers and minorities. But when the issue was posed: what considerations would guide the resolution of the contested election in Florida—the need to determine the will of the electorate, or the desire of the most right-wing sections of the ruling elite to install its man in the White House—the Supreme Court inserted itself into the internal affairs of Florida and took the extraordinary action of overriding the state’s highest court.

The Florida Supreme Court had overruled the attempt of the state’s Republican administration, headed by Governor Jeb Bush, to certify George W. Bush, the governor’s brother, as the winner of the presidential race on the basis of a margin of a few hundred votes. Republican election officials had secured Bush’s margin by blocking or disregarding hand counts of thousands of ballots that had not registered a presidential preference in the machine tabulations. (Such hand counts are stipulated in the law of Florida and most other states as the means for resolving contested elections.) The Florida high court demanded that the uncounted ballots be counted.

In taking this action, the Florida justices invoked the basic democratic principles of popular sovereignty and the right to vote. They asserted, “The right of suffrage is the pre-eminent right contained in the [Florida] Declaration of Rights, for without this basic freedom all others would be diminished.”

Antonin Scalia, the ideological spokesman for the extreme right-wing faction on the US Supreme Court, excoriated the Florida court for raising these democratic principles. On the basis of a reactionary interpretation of the US Constitution, one that flies in the face of constitutional jurisprudence since the Civil War, he declared that American citizens had no constitutional right to vote for the president of the United States. This explicit repudiation of the right to vote became the anchor for the December 12 decision that installed George W. Bush in the White House by discarding the votes of thousands of Floridians.

The following day, Democratic candidate Al Gore delivered a craven concession speech, equating the court’s attack on the right to vote with “the rule of law” and calling on all Americans to rally behind the “president-elect.”

Two months later, in a report to an international school in Sydney, WSWS editorial board member Barry Grey drew the following balance sheet on the 2000 election: [“The world historical implications of the political crisis in the United States”]

“The 2000 election in the United States is a historical watershed. It marks an irrevocable break with the forms and traditions of American democracy…. Notwithstanding the attempts of the media and the political establishment—liberal no less than conservative—to pass over the events of November and December 2000 and ‘move on,’ as though nothing of great significance had occurred, America has been changed in a fundamental way, and nothing will ever be the same in the United States, or, for that matter, the world.”

Grey went on to say: “The United States has not been transformed into a dictatorship. But its ruling elite has embarked on a course that must lead either to authoritarian rule of a fascist type, or social revolution.”
The political wars of the 1990s

The 2000 election crisis brought to a head a bitter conflict over policy and strategy that had been raging within the US ruling elite for the previous decade. A substantial section of the corporate and political establishment never accepted the legitimacy of the Clinton-Gore administration. Despite Clinton’s efforts to conciliate the Republican right and adapt to its social agenda, powerful forces within financial and corporate circles saw his administration as a retreat from the aggressive anti-labor and pro-business policies of Reagan and the elder George Bush. They bitterly resented Clinton’s token gestures toward social reform.

The agenda of this faction of the ruling class is now being revealed in the unfettered militarism of the Bush administration and its frontal assault on democratic rights. In essence it consists in the removal of all restrictions—legal, political and moral—on the accumulation of private wealth and the amassing of profit.

These forces sought to remove Clinton from office, backing the series of scandals and provocations that culminated in the impeachment and Senate trial of the Democratic president. The methods they employed—conspiracy, provocation, character assassination—already signaled a break with bourgeois legality and traditional democratic norms.

Such “dirty tricks” were the modus operandi of fascistic tendencies that had gained dominant influence over the Republican Party. What was once the staid party of corporate conservatism, with a popular base in rural and small-town America, had come under the political wing of the Christian right, the gun lobby, anti-abortion zealots and militia elements.

In the 1994 elections the Republican right, led by Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich, gained control of both houses of Congress. Gingrich and company sought to impose their reactionary social program by shutting down the federal government at the end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996. Clinton was able to capitalize on the resulting popular anger and win reelection in 1996.

This experience convinced influential sections of the ruling elite that they could not overcome popular opposition to their policies by traditional parliamentary and democratic means. They set out to oust a twice-elected president by means of a quasi-legal coup. The network of Christian fundamentalist groups, right-wing talk show hosts, Republican lawyers and judges and their allies in the highest echelons of the mass media mobilized behind the Republican Congress and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to humiliate Clinton, destabilize his government and ultimately bring it down. Such were the origins of the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The Republican right moved with reckless defiance of popular sentiment, which was overwhelmingly opposed to the attempt to leverage a sex scandal into the removal of an elected president. The 1998 congressional election was a political debacle for the Republicans, whose majority in the House of Representatives was slashed. Gingrich himself was forced to step down as Speaker of the House and quickly resigned his seat, but the popular verdict on impeachment reflected in the election only reinforced the conviction of the right wing that it had to employ extra-parliamentary and pseudo-legal means to achieve its ends. The Republicans proceeded with their coup attempt, and the following month the House, in a strictly partisan vote, impeached Clinton—the first-ever impeachment of an elected president.

Ultimately, the growing anger in the population at large convinced the ruling elite to back down, and the Senate acquitted Clinton. But this new defeat only fueled the desperation and ruthlessness of the Republican right. Backed by the most powerful sections of the corporate oligarchy, it was determined to gain control of all of the levers of political power by capturing the White House in 2000. It chose as its standard-bearer a political and intellectual cipher with ties to big oil, who had the advantage of name recognition, held generally right-wing views, and could be counted on to carry out the dictates of his sponsors on Wall Street and in US industry.

For the Republicans, the 2000 election was the last best chance to achieve their goals. They saw it as a window of opportunity in a social and political situation that was moving against them. The 1990s had demonstrated that there existed no mass support for their social agenda. As Election Day approached, it was already clear that the stock market boom of the previous two decades, which had played an immense role in building a Republican constituency of nouveau riche layers, was unraveling. The social and political implications of a recession, under conditions of a staggering growth of social inequality and the shredding of the social safety net, were incalculable.

The Republicans saw a country, demographically and socially, that was moving, in objective terms, against them. These forces were determined to use any means to gain the White House and utilize their control of the judiciary and Congress to beat back what they perceived as the growing threat of the masses.

In the course of the five-week struggle over the Florida vote that ended with the intervention of the US Supreme Court, the Republican Party organized a mob attack on election officials in Miami-Dade County that had the intended effect of convincing them to shut down their recount of disputed ballots. It made direct appeals to the US military to oppose the recounts that were requested by the Democrats and sanctioned by the Florida Supreme Court. It sought to whip up a pogromist frenzy within the fascist right, employing the technique of the “big lie” to accuse the Democrats of doing precisely what it was doing—stealing the election.

The Republican administration in Florida intervened repeatedly to disrupt manual recounts in three heavily Democratic southern counties, and the Republican-dominated state legislature, with the encouragement of Bush campaign officials and Supreme Court Justice Scalia, prepared to select its own pro-Bush slate of presidential electors, in the event that Republican efforts to halt the counting of votes failed and Gore was declared the winner.
Social polarization and class antagonisms

Underlying the election crisis and the break with democratic norms was the most salient feature of contemporary American life—a phenomenon that holds such immense and revolutionary significance, it is generally excluded by the powers-that-be from what passes for political discourse. That feature is the staggering growth of social inequality, which has made the US the most socially polarized of all the advanced capitalist countries.

The growth of social inequality over the past 20 years has been accompanied by other far-reaching changes in the social structure of America. These have been fueled, at the most basic level, by the vast transformations in world economy—denoted by the term “globalization”—that are bound up with the revolutionary developments in computer and communications technology in the concluding decades of the twentieth century.

The United States has undergone a process of proletarianization, as large sections of what was traditionally considered the middle class—white-collar employees, professionals, small farmers, shopkeepers—found themselves propelled into the ranks of America’s wage earners. As the numerical strength of the working class has grown, the social weight of the middle class has declined. Objectively speaking, the United States is today, more than at any other time in the postwar period, polarized between the working class and the bourgeoisie, with far less of a middle class to serve as a bastion of parliamentary democracy and political stability.

At the same time, the growing weight of world economy and the world market has fostered the growth of centrifugal tendencies throughout society, including within the ruling class, where the old established “Sixty Families” have been at least partially supplanted by upstart moguls who have grown fabulously rich in an environment of rapid technological change and rampant financial speculation.

These shifts at the base of society have found their reflection in the political superstructure, where political consensus has given way to ferocious warfare within the establishment, and the entire political system has grown increasingly distant and alienated from the popular masses. As the axis of bourgeois politics has lurched to the right, the social base of both parties has shriveled, and the political apparatus has come to resemble an inverted pyramid—corrupt, ossified, and deeply unstable.

As David North put it in his December 3, 2000 lecture in Sydney: “The relationship between political forms and the class structure of society is of a complex, dialectical character. But in the long run, there comes a point at which the social tensions produced by rampant social inequality cannot be contained within traditional democratic forms. American society has reached that point.”
The character of the Bush administration

As horrific and tragic as the events of September 11 were, they were not the cause of the sweeping assault on democratic rights that has since ensued. Indeed, the murky circumstances surrounding the hijack-bombings remain unexplained—how, above all, a group of suspected Arab terrorists could organize and execute such a complex assault on strategic centers of US economic and military power without being detected or blocked by American intelligence agencies.

What is clear, however, is that the Bush administration seized on the events of September 11 to implement repressive measures that had long been centerpieces of the reactionary agenda of the Republican right. The most that can be said is that the atmosphere of anxiety and anger produced by the terror attacks enabled the administration to proceed more swiftly than it could have previously anticipated. But the attack on democratic rights of the past two months was already foreshadowed in the anti-democratic methods by which Bush came to power.

A government that seizes power by means of fraud and usurpation must rule by the same means. It is, in objective terms, a government of provocation and coercion, with no democratic mandate and no constitutional legitimacy. Lacking a serious base of public support, and facing a deepening economic and social crisis, it was inevitable that the Bush administration would turn to repression and violence to defend itself against the threat of resistance from below.

It is necessary to speak bluntly: the people who are running the US government are the same gangster elements who stole the 2000 election. Why should anyone doubt that given the chance, they would jump at the opportunity to dismantle constitutional safeguards and destroy civil liberties?

A survey of the leading personnel of the Bush administration confirms this assessment. They are a combination of military men and veterans of the Reagan and Bush (the elder) administrations, most of whom became multimillionaires by parlaying their political connections into lucrative posts in industries such as big oil and pharmaceuticals. One prominent figure, Solicitor General Theodore Olson, was intimately involved in the anti-Clinton conspiracies of the 1990s, and another, United Nations Ambassador John Negroponte, worked closely with death squad leaders and military assassins in Central America as US ambassador to Honduras during Washington’s covert wars of the 1980s.

A few days before the Supreme Court intervened to halt the counting of votes in Florida, Al Gore made a nationally televised speech. It was one of the rare occasions when the Democratic candidate directly broached the principled issues of democratic rights at stake in the election crisis. Gore raised the entirely legitimate question: “If we ignore the votes of thousands in Florida in this election, how can you or any American have confidence that your vote will not be ignored in a future election?”

In light of recent events, the question should be rephrased as follows: how can any American be sure that there will be a future election? Those who might be inclined to dismiss such a question as far-fetched should recall that only last month the mayor of New York suggested that, in the interests of prosecuting the “war against terrorism,” the city’s municipal election be postponed and he be allowed to remain in office after the expiration of his term. This flagrantly unconstitutional proposal received considerable support from within the financial and political establishment and from sections of the national and local media.
The working class and the defense of democratic rights

It is necessary to issue a clear warning: the American working class is being stripped of it basic democratic rights. This attack is largely being carried out behind the backs of the American people. Its source is not simply the right-wing cabal that stole the 2000 election and presently controls the reins of government. Rather it is rooted in the contradictions of the capitalist system, a social order that is incapable of addressing the most basic needs of the broad mass of the people. That the attack on democratic rights is an organic outgrowth of the economic system is demonstrated by the refusal of any of the political forces that defend the system—the bourgeois parties, the trade union bureaucracy, the courts, the mass media—to oppose it.

The 2000 election demonstrated that there is no longer any significant constituency within the American corporate and political establishment for the defense of democratic rights. Powerful, and politically dominant, sections of the American ruling elite have broken with democratic procedures. Within the liberal sections of the establishment, which long ago abandoned any commitment to social reform or a lessening of economic inequality, the prevailing attitude is a combination of cowardice and indifference. The Democrats’ half-hearted and conciliatory response to the theft of the election demonstrated conclusively that they fear a movement of the masses far more than they fear the fascistic methods and aims of the Republican right.

The only social force that has a vested interest in upholding democratic rights, and remains genuinely committed to their defense, is the working class. But it can prepare and carry out the necessary struggle only by freeing itself from the political domination of the parties and representatives of the capitalist ruling elite.

The 2000 election opened up a new chapter in US history, in which the class contradictions that suffuse all aspects of social life, but have been expunged from official politics and debate, are inexorably coming to the fore.

Great social struggles are on the agenda. The most critical question is the assimilation by the most conscious and courageous sections of the workers, students and intellectuals of the political lessons of the strategic experiences of the previous century. Among these is the 2000 election.

The Socialist Equality Party and its political organ, the World Socialist Web Site, are committed to providing the historical and political analysis that will enable these layers to draw the appropriate conclusions from generations of struggle for democratic rights and social equality, and build an independent mass party of the working class based on the program of international socialism.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2001/11/elec-n14.html

 

The economic, social and political disaster produced by the Zionist project

Part One

The Fourth International and Palestine 1948

I think it is pertinent to recall what the Fourth International said about Palestine in 1947-48. One cannot but be struck when reading its statement, Against the Stream, written nearly 60 years, how extraordinarily prescient its warning was. It insisted that Zionism was both utopian and reactionary and denounced the 1947 UN decision to partition Palestine into two tiny states.

“By partition a wedge is driven between the Arab and Jewish worker. The Zionist state with its provocative lines of demarcation will bring about the blossoming forth of irredentist (revenge) movements on either side. There will be fighting for an ‘Arab Palestine’ and for a ‘Jewish state’ within the historic frontiers of Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel). As a result, the chauvinistic atmosphere thus created will poison the Arab world in the Middle East and throttle the anti-imperialist fight of the masses, while Zionists and Arab feudalists will vie for imperialist favours.”

The Fourth International said: “The Jewish state, this gift of Truman’s and Bevin’s, gives the capitalist economy of the Zionists a respite. This economy rests on very flimsy foundations. Its products cannot compete on the world market. Its only hope is the inner market from which the Arab goods are debarred…. The continuous flow of Jewish immigrants, who would come with the remnants of their possessions, is apt to increase the circulation of goods. It will allow the bourgeois producers to dispose of their expensive wares. Mass immigration would also be a very useful means of forcing down wages which ‘weigh so heavily’ on Jewish industry. A state engaged in inevitable military conflicts would mean orders from the Hebrew Army, a source of Hebrew profits not to be underrated at all. A state would mean thousands of snug berths for Zionist veteran functionaries.”

Jewish workers would have to bear the cost in the form of high prices and heavy taxes. Separated from their Arab brothers and sisters and prevented from fighting as a united class, they would be at the mercy of their class enemies, imperialism and the Zionist bourgeoisie. As Chaim Weitzmann, who was to become the first president of the new state, said, “The Jewish state will stem the communist influence.”

In answer to the question, “And what promises does the Jewish state hold out? Does it really mean a step forward towards the solution of the Jewish problem?” the Fourth International warned, “The partition was not meant to solve Jewish misery nor is it ever likely to do so. This dwarf of a state, which is too small to absorb the Jewish masses, cannot even solve the problems of its citizens. The Hebrew state can only infest the Arab East with anti-Semitism and may well turn out—as Trotsky said—a bloody trap for hundreds of thousands of Jews.”

For the Arab feudal leaders, the UN vote for a Zionist state was a godsend, enabling them to divert the attention of the masses away from a united class struggle and any possibility of international class solidarity, with a declaration of war on the newly formed Zionist state. The military conflict and ensuing bloodshed—all in the name of anti-imperialism—also served to break up the workers’ movements in both camps, thereby weakening the working class and strengthening imperialism.

The Fourth International stressed that Zionism was a reactionary and utopian movement. It was utopian to believe that:

1. A harmonious development within an isolated and closed economy in the midst of a capitalist world is possible. Without the expansion of the economy, millions of Jewish immigrants could not be absorbed.

2. A Jewish state could exist amid the open hostility of tens of millions of Arabs, and in the face of an Arab population growing at least as fast as Jewish immigration.

3. That Israel could manoeuvre successfully between the rival imperialist powers, all of which were using Israel to further their own strategic interests in the region.

4. That anti-Semitism could be eradicated simply by granting nationality to the Jews, ignoring its social, historical and ideological roots.

It was reactionary because Zionism:

1. Serves as a support for imperialist domination by giving it the fig leaf of acting as arbiter between the Jews and the Arabs.

2. Produces a nationalist reaction on the part of the Arab masses thereby creating a racial division of the international working class, and strengthening the national “unity” of both the Jews and the Arabs.

3. As a nationalist force, acts as a break on the participation of Jewish workers in the class struggle in the rest of the world, separates them from the world proletariat, gives them their own and different goals to strive for, and above all creates illusions in the possibility of improving their lot within the framework of capitalism.

The Fourth International warned that war on neither side in the Arab-Zionist conflict bore a progressive character: it served only to obscure the class antagonisms and open the gates for nationalist excesses, weakening the proletariat and strengthening imperialism in both camps. It called on the workers of the two peoples to unite in a common front against imperialism and its agents. It warned Jewish workers that they would not be free and safe as long as they had not done away with national discrimination, isolationalism and imperialist loyalty.
What are the conditions within the Zionist state today?

Read more, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2006/03/jea1-m28.html

PART 2 http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2009/01/isra-j22.html

In Memory of Leon Trotsky

by Alan Woods

Introduction

Lev Davidovich Trotsky was, alongside Lenin, one of the two greatest Marxists of the twentieth century. His whole life was entirely devoted to the cause of the working class and international socialism. And what a life! From his earliest youth, when he worked through the night producing illegal strike leaflets which earned him his first spell in prison and Siberian exile, until he was finally struck down by one of Stalin’s agents in August 1940, he toiled ceaselessly for the revolutionary movement. In the first Russian Revolution of 1905, he was the chairman of the Petersburg Soviet. Sentenced once again to Siberian exile, he again escaped and continued his revolutionary activity from exile. During the First World War, Trotsky adopted a consistent internationalist position. He was the author of the Zimmerwald Manifesto which attempted to unite the revolutionary opponents of the War. In 1917, he played a leading role as the organiser of the insurrection in Petrograd.

After the October Revolution Trotsky was the first Commissar for Foreign Affairs and was in charge of the negotiations with the Germans at Brest Litovsk. During the bloody Civil War when Soviet Russia was invaded by 21 foreign armies of intervention, and when the survival of the Revolution was in the balance, Trotsky organised the Red Army and personally led the fight against the counterrevolutionary White armies, travelling thousands of kilometres in the famous armoured train. Trotsky remained Commissar for War until 1925. “Show me another man”, he (Lenin) said, thumping the table “capable of organising in a year an almost exemplary army and moreover of winning the esteem of the military specialists.” These lines reproduced in Gorky’s memoirs accurately show the attitude of Lenin to Trotsky at this time.

Trotsky’s role in consolidating the first Workers’ State in the world was not confined to the Red Army. He also played the leading role, together with Lenin, in the building of the Third International, for the first four congresses of which Trotsky wrote the Manifestos and many of the most important policy statements; the period of economic reconstruction in which Trotsky reorganised the shattered railway systems of the USSR. In addition, Trotsky, always a prolific writer, found time to write penetrating studies, not just on political questions but on art and literature (Literature and Revolution) and even on the problems faced by people in everyday life in the transitional period (Problems of Everyday Life).

After Lenin’s death in 1924, Trotsky led the struggle against the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet State—a fight that Lenin had already begun from his death-bed. In the process of the struggle, Trotsky was the first to advocate the idea of five-year plans, which was opposed by Stalin and his followers. Thereafter, Trotsky alone continued to defend the revolutionary, democratic and international traditions of October. He alone provided a scientific Marxist analysis of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Revolution in works like The Revolution Betrayed, In Defence of Marxism and Stalin. His writings of the period 1930-40 provide us with a veritable treasure-house of Marxist theory, dealing not only with the immediate problems of the international labour movement (the Chinese revolution, the rise of Hitler in Germany, the Spanish Civil War), but of all manner of artistic, philosophical and cultural questions.

This is more than enough for several lifetimes! Yet, if one were to examine the life of Trotsky objectively, one would be compelled to agree with the appraisal which he himself made of it. That is to say, despite all the extraordinary achievements of Trotsky, the most important period of his life was its last ten years. Here one can say with absolute certainty that he fulfilled a task which nobody else could have fulfilled—namely, the fight to defend the ideas of Bolshevism and the spotless tradition of October in the teeth of the Stalinist counterrevolution. Here was Trotsky’s greatest and most indispensable contribution to Marxism and the world working class movement. It is an achievement upon which we are building to this day. The present article does not pretend to be an exhaustive account of Trotsky’s life and work. For that, not an article but several volumes would be needed. But if this very insufficient outline serves to encourage the new generation to read Trotsky’s writings for themselves, my purpose will have been achieved.

The Early Beginnings

On 26th August 1879, just a few months before the birth of Trotsky, a small group of revolutionaries, members of the underground terrorist organisation Narodnaya Volya, announced the death sentence for the Russian Tsar, Alexander II. Thus began a period of heroic struggles of a handful of youths against the whole of the state apparatus which was to culminate on 1st March 1881 with the assassination of the Tsar. These students and young intellectuals hated tyranny and were prepared to give their lives for the emancipation of the working class, but they believed that all that was needed to “provoke” mass mobilisations was the “propaganda of the accomplished fact”. In reality, they attempted to substitute the bomb and the machine gun for the conscious movement of the working class.

The Russian terrorists actually succeeded in assassinating the tsar. In spite of all this, all the efforts of the terrorists led to nothing. Far from strengthening the mass movement, the acts of terrorism had the opposite effect of strengthening the repressive apparatus of the state, isolating and demoralising the revolutionary cadres and, in the end, leading to the complete destruction of the Narodnaya Volya organisation. The mistake of the “Populists” lay in a lack of understanding of the fundamental processes of the Russian revolution. In the absence of a strong proletariat, the terrorists looked for another social layer on which to base the socialist revolution. They imagined that they had found this in the peasantry. Marx and Engels explained that the only class which can carry out the socialist transformation of society is the proletariat. In a backward semi-feudal society like tsarist Russia the peasantry will play an important role as an auxiliary of the working class, but cannot substitute itself for it.

To begin with, the majority of youth in Russia in the 1880s were not attracted to the ideas of Marxism. They had no time for “theory”: they demanded action. With no understanding of the need to win over the working class by patiently explaining, they took up arms to destroy Tsarism through individual struggle. Lenin’s elder brother was a terrorist. Trotsky started his political life in a populist group and probably Lenin also got involved in the same way. However, populism was already in a process of decline. By the 1890s what had been an atmosphere permeated with heroism had become one of depression, discontent and pessimism among the circles of intellectuals. And in the meantime, the labour movement had entered the scene of history with the impressive strike wave of the 1890s. Within a few years, the superiority of the Marxist “theoreticians” compared to the “practical” individual terrorists had been proved by experience itself with the spectacular growth in the influence of Marxism in the working class.

Beginning first with small Marxist circles and discussion groups, the new movement became more and more popular among the workers. Among the young activists of the new generation of revolutionaries, was the young Lev Davidovich Bronstein, who began his revolutionary career in March 1897, in Nikolaev, where he organised the first illegal workers’ organisation, the South Russian Workers’ Union. Lev Davidovich was arrested for the first time when he was only 19 years old and spent two and a half years in prison, after which he was exiled to Siberia. But he soon escaped and, using a false passport, succeeded in getting out of Russia and joining Lenin in London. In one of those ironies in which history is so rich, the name on the passport was Trotsky, the name of one of the gaolers which Lev Davidovich has chosen at random and was later to gain world-wide fame.

Trotsky and Iskra

The young Social Democratic movement was still scattered and almost without any organisation. The task of organising and uniting the numerous local Social Democratic groups inside Russia was taken up by Lenin together with Plekhanov’s exiled “Emancipation of Labour Group”. With Plekhanov’s backing Lenin launched a new paper, the Iskra, which played the key role in organising and uniting the genuine Marxist tendency. All the work of producing and distributing the paper and maintaining a voluminous correspondence with Russia was carried out by Lenin and his indefatigable companion Nadyezhda Krupskaya. Despite all the obstacles, they managed to smuggle Iskra into Russia clandestinely, where it made an enormous impact. Very quickly the genuine Marxists united around the Iskra, which by 1903 had already become the majority tendency in the Russian Social Democracy.

In 1902 Trotsky turned up on Lenin’s doorstep in London, where he joined the staff at Iskra, working closely with Lenin. Although the young revolutionary, who had just arrived from Russia, was not aware of it, relations on the Editorial Board were already tense. There were constant clashes between Lenin and Plekhanov over a series of political and organisational questions. The truth of the matter was that the old activists of the “Emancipation of Labour Group” had been seriously affected by the long period of exile, when their work had been limited to that of propaganda on the fringes of the Russian labour movement. It was a small group of intellectuals, who were undoubtedly sincere in their revolutionary ideas, but who suffered from all the vices of exile and small circles of intellectuals. At times, their methods of work were more those of a discussion club, or of a circle of personal friends, than those of a revolutionary party whose aim was that of taking power.

Lenin, who practically did the most important part of this work, with the help of Krupskaya, struggled against these tendencies, but with very little results. He had placed all his hopes in the calling of a Party Congress, in which the working class rank and file would have put order “in their own house”. He placed a lot of hope on Trotsky whose writing skills had earned him the nickname “Pero”—the Pen. In the earliest edition of her Memoirs of Lenin, Krupskaya underlines the high opinion Lenin had of the “Young Eagle”

Lenin was desperately looking for a capable young comrade from Russia to co-opt onto the Editorial Board in order to break the deadlock with the old editors. The appearance of Trotsky, recently escaped from Siberia, was eagerly seized upon by Lenin in order to make the change. Trotsky, then only 22 years old, had already made a name for himself as a Marxist writer, hence his party name Pero (the Pen). In the earliest editions of her memoirs of Lenin, Krupskaya gives an honest description of Lenin’s enthusiastic attitude to Trotsky. Since these lines have been cut out of all subsequent editions, we quote them here in full:

“Both the hearty recommendations of the ‘young eagle’ and this first conversation made Vladimir Ilyich pay particular attention to the new-comer. He talked with him a great deal and went on walks with him.

“Vladimir Ilyich questioned him as to his visit to the Yuzhny Rabochii [the Southern Worker, which adopted a vacillating position between Iskra and its opponents]. He was well pleased with the definite manner in which Trotsky formulated the position. He liked the way Trotsky was able immediately to grasp the very substance of the differences and to perceive through the layers of well-meaning statements their desire, under the guise of a popular paper, to preserve the autonomy of their own little group.

“Meanwhile, the call came from Russia with increased insistence for Trotsky to be sent back. Vladimir Ilyich wanted him to remain abroad and to help in the work of Iskra.

“Plekhanov immediately looked on Trotsky with suspicion: he saw in him a supporter of the younger section of the Iskra editorial board (Lenin, Martov, Potresov), and a pupil of Lenin. When Vladimir Ilyich sent Plekhanov an article of Trotsky’s, he replied: ‘I don’t like the pen of your Pen.’ ‘The style is merely a matter of acquisition,’ replied Vladimir Ilyich, ‘but the man is capable of learning and will be very useful’.”

In March 1903, Lenin formally requested the inclusion of Trotsky as a seventh member of the Editorial Board. In a letter to Plekhanov, he wrote: “I am submitting to all members of the Editorial Board a proposal to co-opt

“Pero” as a full member of the Board. (I believe that for co-option not a majority but a unanimous decision is needed.)

“We are very much in need of a seventh member both because it would simplify voting (six being an even number) and reinforce the Board.

“‘Pero’ has been writing in every issue for several months now. In general he is working for Iskra most energetically, delivering lectures (and with tremendous success) etc. For our department of topical articles and items he will be not only very useful but quite indispensable. He is unquestionably a man of more than average ability, convinced, energetic, and promising. And he could do a good deal in the sphere of translation and popular literature.

“We must draw in young forces: this will encourage them and prompt them to regard themselves as professional writers. And that we have too few of such is clear-witness 1) the difficulty of finding editors of translations; 2) the shortage of articles reviewing the internal situation, and 3) the shortage of popular literature. It is in the sphere of popular literature that ‘Pero’ would like to try his hand.

“Possible arguments against: 1) his youth; 2) his early (perhaps) return to Russia; 3) a pen (without quotation marks) with traces of feuilleton style, too pretentious, etc.

“Ad 1) ‘Pero’ is suggested not for an independent post, but for the Board. In it he will gain experience. He undoubtedly has the ‘intuition’ of a Party man, a man of our trend; as for knowledge and experience these can be acquired. That he is hardworking is likewise unquestionable. It is necessary to co-opt him so as finally to draw him in and encourage him…”

However, Plekhanov, guessing that Trotsky would support Lenin, placing him in a minority, angrily vetoed the proposal.

“Soon after,” adds Krupskaya, “Trotsky went to Paris, where he began to advance with remarkable success.”

These lines by Lenin’s lifelong companion are all the more remarkable for having been written in 1930, when Trotsky was expelled from the Party, living in exile in Turkey and under a total ban inside the Soviet Union. Only the fact that Krupskaya was Lenin’s widow saved her from Stalin’s wrath, at least for the time being. Later on she was forced by intolerable pressure to bow her head and accept, passively, the distortion of the historical record, though to the end she steadfastly refused to join in the chorus of glorification of Stalin, who, in the pages of her biography, plays a minimal role-which, in truth, reflects the real situation. Unfortunately, this early collaboration between Lenin and Trotskywas brought to an abrupt halt by the split at the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

The Second Congress

A lot of nonsense has been written about the famous Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) without any of it explaining the reasons for the split. Every revolutionary party has to go through a fairly long stage of propaganda work and cadre building. This period, inevitably brings about a series of habits and ways of thinking which, over a period of time, can become an obstacle to transforming the party into a mass party. If the party proves incapable of changing these methods, when the objective situation changes, then it becomes an ossified sect.

At the Second Congress the struggle between the two wings of the Iskra group, which caught everyone by surprise, including those who were directly involved, was due to the incompatibility between Lenin’s position, which was that of consolidating a revolutionary mass party with some degree of discipline and efficiency, and that of the members of the old “Emancipation of Labour Group”, who felt comfortable in their routine, saw no need for any changes and who put down Lenin’s position to questions of personality, a desire to be in the limelight, “bonapartist tendencies”, “ultra-centralism” and all the rest of it.

Generally speaking it is a law of history that petit-bourgeois tendencies are organically incapable of separating political questions from personal questions. Thus, when Lenin, for entirely justified reasons, proposed removing Axelrod, Zasulich and Potresov from the Editorial Board of Iskra, they took it as a personal insult and caused a scandal. Unfortunately, the “old” activists managed to impress Trotsky, who, being young and impressionable, did not understand the situation and accepted at face value the accusations that were being made by Zasulich, Axelrod and the others. The so-called “soft” tendency represented by Martov emerged as a minority and after the Conference refused to abide by its decisions or to take part in the Central Committee or the Editorial Board. All Lenin’s efforts to find a compromise solution after the Congress failed because of the opposition of the minority. Plekhanov, who at the Congress had supported Lenin, proved incapable of standing up to the pressures of his old comrades and friends. In the end, in early 1904, Lenin found that he had to organise “majority Committees” (Bolsheviks) to salvage something from the wreckage of the Congress. The split in the party had become an accomplished fact.

Initially Trotsky had supported the minority against Lenin. This has led to the false account that Trotsky was a “Menshevik”. However, at the Second Congress, Bolshevism and Menshevism had not yet emerged as clearly defined political tendencies. Only a year later, in 1904, did political differences begin to emerge between the two tendencies, and these differences had nothing whatsoever to do with the question of “centralism” or “no centralism”. They were about the key question facing the Revolution: collaboration with the liberal bourgeoisie or class independence. As soon as the political differences emerged, Trotsky broke with the Mensheviks and remained formally independent from both factions until 1917.

Trotsky in 1905

On the eve of the Russo-Japanese war, the whole country was in a pre-revolutionary ferment. A strike wave was followed by student demonstrations. The ferment affected the bourgeois liberals who launched a campaign of banquets, based on the “Zemstvos”, local committees in the countryside which served as a platform for the liberals. The question arose as to what should be the position of the Marxists towards the liberals’ campaign. The Mensheviks were in favour of total support for the liberals. The Bolsheviks were radically opposed to any kind of support for the liberals and came out with strong criticism of their press exposing them in the eyes of the working class. Trotsky had the same position as the Bolsheviks, which led him to break with the Mensheviks. As of that moment, up to 1917, Trotsky remained organisationally separate from both tendencies, although on all political questions he was always much closer to the Bolsheviks than to the Mensheviks.

The revolutionary situation was maturing rapidly. The military defeats of the Tsarist army added to the growing discontent which erupted during the 9th January 1905 demonstration in St. Petersburg, which was brutally put down. Thus began the 1905 revolution in which Trotsky played an outstanding role. What role did Trotsky play in the 1905 Revolution, and in what relation did he stand to Lenin, and the Bolsheviks? Lunacharsky, who at that time was one of Lenin’s right hand men, writes in his memoirs: “I must say that of all the Social-Democratic leaders of 1905-06 Trotsky undoubtedly showed himself, despite his youth, to be the best prepared. Less than any of them did he bear the stamp of a certain kind of ÈmigrÈ narrowness of outlook. Trotsky understood better than all the others what it meant to conduct the political struggle on a broad national scale. He emerged from the revolution having acquired an enormous degree of popularity, whereas neither Lenin nor Martov had effectively gained any at all. Plekhanov had lost a great deal, thanks to his display of quasi-Cadet [i.e. liberal] tendencies. Trotsky stood then in the very front rank.” (Lunacharsky, Revolutionary Silhouettes, p. 61.)

This is not the place to analyse the 1905 revolution in detail. One of the best books on this question is Trotsky’s 1905, a classical work of Marxism, the value of which is enhanced by the fact that it was written by one of the most outstanding leaders of that revolution. (Also see Alan Woods’ recent publication, Bolshevism—the Road to Revolution )

Still only 26 years of age, Trotsky was the chairman of the Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, the foremost of those bodies which Lenin described as “embryonic organs of revolutionary power”. Most of the manifestos and resolutions of the Soviet were the work of Trotsky, who also edited its journal Izvestia. On major occasions he spoke both for the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks and for the Soviet as a whole. The Bolsheviks, in Petersburg, had failed to appreciate the importance of the Soviet, and were weakly represented in it. Lenin, from exile in Sweden, wrote to the Bolshevik journal Novaya Zhizn, urging the Bolsheviks to take a more positive attitude to the Soviet, but the letter was not printed, and only saw the light of day, thirty-four years later. This situation was to be reproduced at every major juncture in the history of the Russian revolution; the confusion and vacillation of the Party leaders inside Russia, when faced with the need for a bold initiative, without the guiding hand of Lenin.

In 1905, Trotsky took over the journal Russkaya Gazeta and transformed it into the popular revolutionary paper Nachalo, which had a mass circulation, to put over his views on the revolution, which were close to those of the Bolsheviks and in direct opposition to Menshevism. It was natural that, in spite of the acrimonious dispute at the Second Congress, the work of the Bolsheviks and Trotsky in the revolution should coincide. Thus, Trotsky’s Nachalo and the Bolshevik Novaya Zhizn, edited by Lenin, worked in solidarity, supporting each other against the attacks of the reaction, without waging polemics against each other. The Bolshevik journal greeted the first number of Nachalo thus:

“The first number of the Nachalo has come out. We welcome a comrade in the struggle. The first issue is notable for the brilliant description of the October strike written by Comrade Trotsky.”

Lunacharsky recalls that when someone told Lenin about Trotsky’s success in the Soviet, Lenin’s face darkened for a moment. Then he said: “Well, Comrade Trotsky has earned it by his tireless and impressive work.” In later years, Lenin more than once wrote positively about Trotsky’s Nachalo in 1905.

As Chairman of the famous St. Petersburg soviet, Trotsky was arrested together with the other members of the soviet and exiled once more to Siberia after the defeat of the revolution. From the accused bench, Trotsky delivered a rousing speech from the dock which turned into an indictment of the tsarist regime. He was finally sentenced to “perpetual deportation” but in fact remained in Siberia for only eight days before escaping. In 1906 he again went into exile, this time to Austria, where he continued his revolutionary activity, launching a paper from Vienna called Pravda. With its simple and attractive style, Trotsky’s Pravda soon achieved a popularity which no other Social Democratic publication could match at the time.

The years of reaction following the defeat, were probably the most difficult period in the history of the Russian labour movement. The masses were exhausted after the struggle. The intellectuals were demoralised. There was a generalised mood of discouragement, pessimism and even of desperation. There were many cases of suicide. On the other hand, in this generalised reactionary situation, mystical and religious ideas spread like a black cloud over the intellectual circles, finding an echo inside the labour movement in a series of attempts to revise the philosophical ideas of Marxism. In these difficult years, Lenin dedicated himself to an implacable struggle against revisionism, for the defence of Marxist theory and principles. But it was Trotsky who provided the necessary theoretical basis upon which the Russian revolution could resurrect itself from the defeat of 1905 and go on to victory.

The Permanent Revolution

The experience of the 1905 Revolution brought out sharply the differences between Bolshevism and Menshevism—that is, the difference between reformism and revolution, between class collaboration and Marxism. The crux of the matter was the attitude of the revolutionary movement to the bourgeoisie and the so-called “liberal” parties. It was on this issue that Trotsky broke with the Mensheviks in 1904. Like Lenin, Trotsky poured scorn on the class collaborationism of Dan, Plekhanov and others, and pointed to the proletariat and peasantry as the only forces capable of carrying through the revolution to the end.

Even before 1905, during the discussions on the question of class alliances, Trotsky had developed the general lines of the Theory of the Permanent Revolution, one of the most brilliant contributions to Marxist theory. What did this theory consist of? The Mensheviks argued that the Russian revolution would be of a bourgeois-democratic nature and thus the working class could not aspire to taking power, but would have to support the liberal bourgeoisie. With this mechanical way of thinking, the Mensheviks were making a parody of the ideas of Marx on the development of society. The Menshevik theory of “stages” put off the socialist revolution to the distant future. In the meantime the working class was to behave as an appendix to the “liberal” bourgeoisie. This is the same reformist theory which many years later was to lead to the defeat of the working class in China in 1927, in Spain in 1936-39, in Indonesia in 1965 and in Chile in 1973.

Already in 1848, Marx noted that the German bourgeois “revolutionary democracy” was unable to play a revolutionary role in the struggle against feudalism, with which it preferred to do a deal out of fear of the revolutionary movement of the workers. It was at this point that Marx himself first advanced the slogan of “Permanent Revolution”. Following in the footsteps of Marx, who had described the bourgeois “democratic party” as “far more dangerous to the workers than the previous liberals”, Lenin explained that the Russian bourgeoisie, far from being an ally of the workers, would inevitably side with the counterrevolution.

“The bourgeoisie in the mass,” he wrote in 1905, “will inevitably turn towards the counter-revolution, towards the autocracy, against the revolution, and against the people, as soon as its narrow, selfish interests are met, as soon as it ‘recoils’ from consistent democracy (and it is already recoiling from it!).” (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 9, p. 98.)

What class, in Lenin’s view, could lead the bourgeois-democratic revolution?

“There remains ‘the people’, that is the proletariat and the peasantry. The proletariat alone can be relied on to march on to the end, for it goes far beyond the democratic revolution. That is why the proletariat fights in the forefront for a republic and contemptuously rejects stupid and unworthy advice to take into account the possibility of the bourgeoisie recoiling.” (Ibid.)

Whom are these words directed against? Trotsky and the Permanent Revolution? Let us see what Trotsky was writing at the same time as Lenin: “This results in the fact that the struggle for the interests of all Russia has fallen to the lot of the only now existing strong class in the country, the industrial proletariat. For this reason the industrial proletariat has tremendous political importance, and for this reason the struggle for the emancipation of Russia from the incubus of absolutism which is stifling it has become converted into a single combat between absolutism and the industrial proletariat a single combat in which the peasants may render considerable support but cannot play a leading role.” (Trotsky, Results and Prospects, p. 198.)

Again: “Arming the revolution, in Russia, means first and foremost arming the workers. Knowing this, and fearing this, the liberals altogether eschew a militia. They even surrender their position to absolutism without a fight just as the bourgeois Thiers surrendered Paris and France to Bismarck simply to avoid arming the workers.” (Ibid., p. 193.)

On the question of the attitude to the bourgeois parties the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky were in complete solidarity as against the Mensheviks who hid behind the bourgeois nature of the revolution as a cloak for the subordination of the workers’ party to the bourgeoisie. Arguing against class collaboration, both Lenin and Trotsky explained that only the working class, in alliance with the peasant masses, could carry out the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.

But how was it possible for the workers to come to power in a backward, semi-feudal country like tsarist Russia? Trotsky answered this argument in the following manner: “It is possible [wrote Trotsky in 1905] for the workers to come to power in an economically backward country sooner than in an advanced country…In our view, the Russian revolution will create conditions in which power can pass into the hands of the workers…and in the event of the victory of the revolution it must do so…before the politicians of bourgeois liberalism get the chance to display to the full their talents for governing.” (Trotsky, Results and Prospects, p. 195.)

Did this mean, as the Stalinists later claimed, that Trotsky denied the bourgeois nature of the revolution? Trotsky himself explains: “In the revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century, the direct objective tasks of which are also bourgeois, there emerges as a near prospect the inevitable, or at least the probable, political domination of the proletariat. The proletariat itself will see to it that this domination does not become a mere passing ‘episode’, as some realist philistines hope. But we can even now ask ourselves: is it inevitable that the proletarian dictatorship should be shattered against the barriers of the bourgeois revolution? Or is it possible in the given world-historical conditions, that it may discover before it the prospect of breaking through these barriers? Here we are confronted by questions of tactics: should we consciously work towards a working-class government in proportion as the development of the revolution brings this stage nearer, or must we at that moment regard political power as a misfortune which the bourgeois revolution is ready to thrust upon the workers, and which it would be better to avoid?” (Trotsky, Results and Prospects, pp. 199-200, our emphasis.)

In 1905 Trotsky alone was prepared to defend the idea that it was possible that the socialist revolution would triumph in Russia before it did in Western Europe. Lenin still had an unclear position. In general, Trotsky’s position was very close to that of the Bolsheviks, as Lenin himself was later to admit. However, in 1905 only Trotsky was prepared to pose the need for the socialist revolution in Russia in such a clear and bold manner. Twelve years later history was to prove him right.

Reunification

In the period of revolutionary upswing, the two wings of the movement had united once again. But unity had been more formal than real. But with the new lull in the movement, the tendency of the Mensheviks towards opportunism re-emerged once more, finding a clear echo in Plekhanov’s famous statement: “The workers should not have taken up arms.” The differences between the two tendencies once more emerged sharply. And again Trotsky found himself in a political position very similar to that of the Bolsheviks.

The real difference between Lenin and Trotsky in this period was not over politics but over Trotsky’s “conciliationist” tendency. To use an unkind expression, Trotsky was a “unity-monger”. However, he was by no means alone in this. Trotsky had consistently advocated reunification in his journal Nachalo, and had attempted to remain apart from the factional struggle, but was arrested and imprisoned for his role in the Soviet before the Fourth (Unity) Congress took place in Stockholm. The progress of the revolution had given a tremendous impulse to the movement for the reunification of the forces of Russian Marxism. Bolshevik and Menshevik workers fought shoulder to shoulder under the same slogans; rival Party committees merged spontaneously. The revolution pushed the workers of both factions together.

Throughout the latter half of 1905 there had been a continuous and spontaneous process of unity from below. Without waiting for a lead from the top, Bolshevik and Menshevik Party organisations simply merged. This fact partly expressed the workers’ natural instinct for unity, but also the fact, as we have already seen, that the Menshevik leaders had been pushed to the left by pressure from their own rank and file. Finally, at the suggestion of the Bolshevik Central Committee, including Lenin, moves were set afoot to bring about reunification. By December 1905 the two leaderships had effectively re-united. There was now one united Central Committee.

The Unity Congress was convened in May 1906 in Stockholm, but already by this time the revolutionary wave was ebbing, and with it, the fighting spirit and “Left” speeches of the Mensheviks. A conflict was inevitable between the consistent revolutionaries and those who were already abandoning the masses and accommodating themselves to the reaction. The defeat of the Moscow insurrection in December marked the beginning of the end of the 1905 Revolution. The December events also marked a decisive shift in the attitude of the so-called “liberals”. The bourgeoisie to a man (and woman) united in opposition to December “madness”. In point of fact, the Liberals had already passed over to reaction in October, after the tsar had conceded a new constitution. But now they emerged in their true colours. It was, of course, not the first time in history that we have seen such a phenomenon. Exactly the same thing occurred in the 1848 revolution, as Marx and Engels explained.

In effect, the Mensheviks stood for capitulation to the Liberal bourgeoisie which in practice had gone overt to constitutional Monarchism and surrendered to the autocracy. The essence of Lenin’s difference with the Mensheviks was precisely this: “The right wing of our party does not believe in the complete victory of the present, i.e. bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia; it dreads such a victory; it does not emphatically and definitely put the slogan of such a victory before the people. It is consistently being misled by the essentially erroneous idea which is really a vulgarisation of Marxism, that only the bourgeoisie can independently “make” the bourgeois revolution, or that only the bourgeoisie should lead the bourgeois revolution. The role of the proletariat as the vanguard in the struggle for the complete and decisive victory of the bourgeois revolution is not clear to the Right Social Democrats.” (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 10, pp. 377-8.)

Like Trotsky, Lenin was in favour of organisational unity, but did not for a moment abandon the ideological struggle, maintaining a firm position on all on basic questions of tactics and perspectives. In practice, while the Party was formally united, from the outset it was divided into two opposing tendencies—the revolutionary and the opportunist wings. Reformism or revolution, class collaboration or an independent proletarian policy. These were the basic questions which separated Bolshevism from Menshevism. The basic differences immediately emerged over the attitude to the Duma and to the bourgeois parties. On these fundamental questions, the position of Lenin and Trotsky was identical—as Lenin himself pointed out at the Fifth (London) Congress of the RSDLP (1907). In the course of the debate on the attitude to the bourgeois parties, Lenin commented:

“Trotsky expressed, in print [his agreement with the view] about the economic community of interests between the proletariat and the peasantry in the present revolution in Russia. Trotsky acknowledged the permissibility and usefulness of a Left bloc against the liberal bourgeoisie. These facts are sufficient for me to acknowledge that Trotsky has come closer to our views… [thus] we have here solidarity on fundamental points in the question of the attitude towards bourgeois parties.” (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 12, p. 470, Lawrence and Wishart 1962 edition.)

Proceeding from a different standpoint, Trotsky was fighting for the same thing as Lenin. His paper Pravda based in Vienna enjoyed a great deal of popularity. A number of Bolshevik leaders favoured using Pravda for the purpose of bringing about a fusion of Bolsheviks and Pro-Party Mensheviks. In this Paris meeting, Kamenev and Zinoviev, now Lenin’s closest collaborators proposed the closing down of Proletary and moved that Pravda should be accepted as the official organ of the Central Committee of the RSDLP. This position was also supported by others like Tomsky. The proposal was, in effect, passed against the opposition of Lenin, who counter-proposed the setting up of a popular Bolshevik paper and monthly theoretical journal. In the end, a compromise was reached whereby Proletary would still come out, but not more than one a month. Meanwhile it was agreed to enter into negotiations with Trotsky with a view to making the Vienna Pravda the official organ of the RSDLP CC. This incident shows the strength of the conciliationist tendencies in the ranks of the Bolsheviks, and also tells us quite a lot about the attitude of the Bolsheviks towards Trotsky in this period.

Trotsky’s fundamental error in this period, as we have pointed out, lay in his “conciliationism”—the idea of the possibility of unity between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. This was what was called “Trotskyism”. Trotsky used his paper, the popular Viennese Pravda for this purpose and for a time appeared to be on the point of succeeding. Many Bolshevik leaders were in agreement with him on this question. On the CC, the Bolsheviks N.A. Rozhkov and V.P. Nogin were conciliators, as also were the members of the editorial board of Sotsial Demokrat, Kamenev and Zinoviev.

Lenin’s heated denunciation of “Trotskyism” (i.e. conciliation) at this time were aimed at those Bolsheviks who were inclined to this position. See letter to Zinoviev 11 (24) August 1909. In these and other writings of this period, Lenin refers to Trotsky in very harsh terms.

It is not generally realised that the main reason for the sharpness of Lenin’s tone when polemicising against Trotsky during this period and right up to the February Revolution was precisely the persistence of such tendencies inside the Bolshevik Party. In reality, what was known as “Trotskyism” was precisely conciliationism. This was the charge which Lenin, not unjustly, directed against Trotsky at this time. The sharpness of Lenin’s language in these polemics was dictated by the fact that, under the guise of “Trotskyism”, he was really attacking conciliationist tendencies in the leadership of his own faction.

Trotsky had irritated Lenin by his refusal to join the Bolshevik tendency, although there were no real political differences separating them. He clung to the opinion that, sooner or later, a new revolutionary wave would push the better elements in both tendencies to join forces. By holding on to this “conciliationist” position Trotsky made the most serious mistake of his life, as he himself admitted much later. However, we should not forget that things were not so clear at the time. Lenin himself, on more than one occasion, tried to reach a rapprochement with certain layers within the Mensheviks. In 1908 he reached an agreement with Plekhanov and, according to Lunacharsky, he “dreamed of an alliance with Martov”. But experience was to prove this impossible. The two tendencies—the revolutionary and the reformist—were evolving in two opposite directions. Sooner or later a total break was inevitable.

On Trotsky’s initiative the move towards unity gave rise to a special Plenum to kick out the right wing liquidators and the ultra-left otzovists and establish unity between the Bolsheviks and left Mensheviks. Lenin opposed this. He opposed the participation in a Plenum of elements who, de facto, had placed themselves outside the party. In the end, Lenin’s scepticism was shown to be well-founded. The Mensheviks’ rightward drift had gone too far. The left wing Mensheviks (Martov) refused to break with the right wing and the attempt at unity soon broke down as a result of irreconcilable differences. Trotsky later honestly admitted his mistake on this question. Lenin drew the necessary conclusions and decisively broke with the Mensheviks in 1912—the true date of the establishment of the Bolshevik Party.

In 1911 a new period of struggles had opened up that continued until the outbreak of the First World War. The newly awakened working class rapidly gravitated to the left wing. Under these circumstances, the link with the Mensheviks was a hindrance to the development of the Party. Lenin’s decision to break with the Mensheviks and organise a separate party was entirely justified by events. Very soon the Bolsheviks represented the decisive majority of the working class: in the period 1912-14, four fifths of the organised workers of St. Petersburg supported the Bolsheviks. A central role was played by the launching of a Bolshevik daily paper, which took the name of Pravda, a move which further embittered relations with Trotsky. But all his protests were in vain. As far as the majority of active workers were concerned, the Mensheviks had been discredited by their policy of collaboration with the bourgeoisie.

Trotsky once again came out against the split, attempting, without success, to work for unity. It was this mistake that separated him from Lenin. However, it was an honest mistake, the mistake of a genuine revolutionary with the interests of the movement at heart. Many years later, Trotsky frankly dealt with his mistake. In 1924, Trotsky wrote to the Bureau of Party History :

“As I have many times stated, in my disagreements with Bolshevism upon a series of fundamental questions, the error was on my side. In order to outline, approximately in a few words, the nature and extent of those former disagreements of mine with Bolshevism, I will say this: During the time when I stood outside the Bolshevik party, during that period when my differences with Bolshevism reached their highest point, the distance separating me from the views of Lenin was never as great as the distance which separates the present position of Stalin-Bukharin from the very foundations of Marxism and Leninism.”

Thus, straightforwardly, honestly, Trotsky reveals, and explains his own mistakes and points out that on the question of conciliationism, Lenin had been right all along. However, far bigger developments were soon to render the old differences between Lenin and Trotsky irrelevant. The split in Russia was only an anticipation of another bigger split which was to take place two years later on an international level. And on this decisive question, Lenin and Trotsky were once again on the same side.

The First World War

The decision of the leaders of the parties of the Socialist International to support “their” bourgeoisie in 1914 was the biggest betrayal in the history of the world workers’ movement. It came like a thunderbolt, profoundly shocking and disorienting the ranks of the International. The position of the leaders of the Second International towards the First World War signified the de facto collapse of the International. From August 1914 onwards the war question concentrated the attention of socialists in all countries.

Very few people succeeded in keeping their bearings at this time. Lenin in Russia and Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Germany, the leaders of the Serbian Social Democrats, James Connolly in Ireland and John Maclane in Scotland were exceptions to the rule. From the very beginning Trotsky adopted a clear revolutionary position against the war, as expressed in his book The War and the International. At the Zimmerwald Conference in 1915, which brought together all the socialists who opposed the war, Trotsky was put in charge of drafting the Manifesto, which was adopted by all the delegates, in spite of the differences between them.

In Paris, Trotsky published a Russian journal that defended the principles of revolutionary internationalism, Nashe Slovo. They had only a handful of collaborators and even less money, but with enormous sacrifices they managed to publish the journal on a daily basis, a unique achievement, unequalled by any other tendency in the Russian movement, including the Bolsheviks at the time. For two and a half years, under the watchful eye of the censor, Nashe Slovo led a precarious existence until the French authorities, under pressure from the Russian government, closed down the journal. During a mutiny in the Russian fleet at Toulon, copies of Trotsky’s paper were found in the possession of some of the sailors, and using this as an excuse, the French authorities deported Trotsky at the end of 1916. After a short period spent in Spain, where Trotsky got to know the inside of Spanish prisons, he was again deported to New York, where he collaborated with Bukharin and other Russian revolutionaries in the publication of the paper Novy Mir. He was still working on this paper when the first confused reports came through of an uprising in Petrograd. The second Russian revolution had begun.

Lenin and Trotsky in 1917

Revolutionary politics is a science. The study of past revolutions is a method by which we prepare ourselves for the future. Theory is not an optional extra but a vital guide to action. When, prior to the First World War, Trotsky defended the idea of the possibility of a proletarian revolution in Russia before the revolution in Western Europe, nobody took him seriously. Only in October 1917 was the superiority of Trotsky’s Marxist method demonstrated. At the outbreak of the February revolution Lenin was in Switzerland and Trotsky was in New York. Although they were very far from the revolution, and from each other, they drew the same conclusions. Trotsky’s articles in Novy Mir and Lenin’s “Letters from afar” are practically identical as far as the fundamental questions concerning the revolution are concerned: the attitude towards the peasantry and the liberal bourgeoisie, the provisional government and the world revolution.

Despite all the attempts of the Stalinists to falsify the real situation by building a Chinese wall between Lenin and Trotsky, the facts speak for themselves: At the decisive moment of the revolution itself “Trotskyism” and Leninism were one and the same thing. For Lenin, as for Trotsky, the year 1917 marked the decisive turning-point, which rendered all the old polemics with Trotsky irrelevant. That is why Lenin never had occasion to refer to them after 1917. Lenin, in his last word to the Russian Communist Party (the famous Suppressed Testament, which was hidden for decades by the Stalinists)warned that Trotsky’s non-Bolshevik past should not be held against him. This was Lenin’s last word on Trotsky and his relation to the Bolshevik Party, before 1917.

With the sole exception of Lenin, the other Bolshevik leaders had not understood the situation and they were overwhelmed by the events. It is a historical law that during a revolutionary situation the party, and above all its leadership, always comes under the enormous pressure of the class enemy, of bourgeois “public opinion”, and even of the prejudices of the working masses. None of the Bolshevik leaders in Petrograd were capable of resisting these pressures. None of them posed the need that the proletariat should take power as the only way of taking the revolution forward. All of them had abandoned a class outlook and had adopted a vulgar democratic position. Stalin was in favour of “critically” supporting the Provisional Government and fusing with the Mensheviks. Kamenev, Rykov, Molotov and the others held the same position.

Only after the arrival of Lenin did the Bolshevik Party change its position, after an internal struggle around Lenin’s “April Theses” published in Pravda under his signature. No one was prepared to identify themselves with this position. The truth of the matter is that they had not understood the method of Lenin and they had transformed the slogans of 1905 into a fetish. Trotsky’s “crime” consisted in the fact that he had foreseen all of this long before the events unfolded. In 1917 the theory of the Permanent Revolution was proved to be correct by the events themselves.

From this moment onwards there was nothing that separated Trotsky from Lenin politically. All the differences of the past ceased to exist. When Trotsky arrived back in Petrograd in May 1917, Lenin and Zinoviev attended the welcoming ceremony organised by the Mezhrayontsy (Inter-District Committee). At this meeting Trotsky declared that he no longer stood for the unity of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Only those who had broken with social patriotism should now unite under the banner of a new International. In fact, from the moment of Trotsky’s arrival, he spoke and acted in solidarity with the Bolsheviks. Commenting on this, the Bolshevik Raskolnikov recalled that:

“Leon Davidovich [Trotsky] was not at that time formally a member of our party, but as a matter of fact he worked within it continually from the day of his arrival from America. At any rate, immediately after his first speech in the Soviet, we all looked upon him as one of our party leaders.” (Proletarskaya Revolutsia, 1923, p. 71.)

On the controversies of the past, the same writer remarked: “The echoes of the past disagreements during the pre-war period had completely disappeared. No differences existed between the tactical line of Lenin and Trotsky. That fusion, already observable during the war, was completely and definitely achieved from the moment of Trotsky’s return to Russia. From his first public speech all of us old Leninists felt that he was ours.” (Ibid., p. 150.)

If Trotsky did not immediately formally join the Bolshevik Party, it was not out of any political disagreements (he had announced his willingness to join immediately in discussion with Lenin and his colleagues), but because Trotsky wished to win over the organisation of the Mezhrayontsi (“Inter-District group”) which comprised about 4,000 Petrograd workers and many prominent Left figures such as Uritsky, Joffe, Lunacharsky, Ryazanov, Volodarsky and others who later played prominent roles in the Bolshevik Party leadership. As he explained in his testimony to the Dewey Commission:

“I was working together with the Bolshevik Party. There was a group in Petrograd which was the same programmatically as the Bolshevik Party, but organisationally independent. I consulted Lenin about whether it would be good that I enter the Bolshevik Party immediately, or whether it would be better that I enter with this good workers’ organisation which had three or four thousand revolutionary members.” (The Case of Leon Trotsky, p. 21.)

On the all-Russian Congress of Soviets held in the beginning of June, which was still dominated by Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries, E. H. Carr, referring to Trotsky and the Mezhrayontsy, observes that: “Trotsky and Lunacharsky were among the ten delegates of the ‘united social-democrats’ who solidly supported the Bolsheviks throughout the three weeks of the congress.” (Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, vol. 1, p. 89.)

In order to speed up the accession of the Mezhrayontsi to the Bolsheviks, which was being opposed by some of the leadership, Trotsky wrote in Pravda the following statement: “There are in my opinion at the present time [i.e. July] no differences either in principle or in tactics between the Inter-District and the Bolshevik organisations. Accordingly there are no motives which justify the separate existence of these organisations.” (our emphasis)

In May 1917, even before Trotsky had formally joined the Bolshevik Party, Lenin proposed that he be made editor-in-chief of Pravda, and in passing recalled the first-rate quality of the Russkaya Gazeta (the paper that Trotsky had taken over and transformed into Nachalo in 1905). This fact was made known in 1923 in Krasnaya Letopis No. 3 (14). Although the proposal was not accepted by Pravda’s editorial committee, it accurately shows Lenin’s attitude to Trotsky at this time. He was so anxious that Trotsky and his supporters should join the Bolsheviks that he was prepared to offer them leading positions in the Party and put no conditions on them.

When the “Mezhrayontsi” fused with the Bolshevik Party their membership of the Bolshevik Party was backdated to when they had first joined the “Mezhrayontsi”, which was a public admission that there had not been important differences between the two groups. A note to the works of Lenin published in Russia after the revolution states: “On the war question the Mezhrayontsi occupied an internationalist position, and in their tactics were close to the Bolsheviks.” (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 14, p. 448.)

After the July Days, the initiative passed to the forces of reaction for a time. In the most difficult days, when the Party was driven underground, when Lenin and Zinoviev were forced to leave for Finland, when Kamenev was in jail and the Bolsheviks subjected to shameless calumnies as “German agents”, Trotsky spoke out publicly in their defence, and identified his position with theirs. At this difficult and dangerous time, Trotsky wrote a letter to the Provisional Government, which it is worth quoting in full, in view of the light it sheds on the relations between Trotsky and the Bolsheviks in 1917. The letter is dated 23rd July, 1917:

“Citizen Ministers:

“I have learned that in connection with the events of July 16-17 (old calendar), a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, but not for me. I should like, therefore, to call your attention to the following:

(1) I agree with the main thesis of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, and have advocated it in the journal Vpered and in my public speeches.

(2) My attitude toward the events of July 16-17 was the same as theirs.

(a) Kamenev, Zinoviev, and I first learned of the proposed plans of the Machine-Gun and other regiments at the joint meeting of the Bureau’s [Executive Committees] on July 16th. We took immediate steps to stop the soldiers from coming out. Zinoviev and Kamenev put themselves in touch with the Bolsheviks, and I with the ‘interward’ organisation [i.e. Mezhrayontsi] to which I belong.

(b) When however, notwithstanding our efforts, the demonstration did take place, my comrade Bolsheviks and I made numerous speeches in front of the Tauride Palace, in which we came out in favour of the main slogan of the crowd: “All Power to the Soviets”, but we, at the same time, called on those demonstrating, both the soldiers and civilians to return to their homes and barracks in a peaceful and orderly manner.

(c) At a conference which took place at the Tauride Palace late in the night of July 16-17 between some Bolsheviks and ward organisations, I supported the motion of Kamenev that everything should be done to prevent a recurrence of the demonstration on July 17th. When, however, it was learned from the agitators, who arrived from the different wards, that the regiments and factory workers had already decided to come out, and that it was impossible to hold back the crowd until the government crisis was over, all those present agreed that the best thing to do was to direct the demonstration along peaceful lines and to ask the masses to leave their guns at home.

(d) In the course of the day of July 17, which I spent in the Tauride Palace, I and the Bolshevik comrades more than once urged this course on the crowd.

(3) The fact that I am not connected with Pravda and am not a member of the Bolshevik Party is not due to political differences, but to certain circumstances in our party history which have now lost all significance.

(4) The attempt of the newspapers to convey the impression that I have ‘nothing to do’ with the Bolsheviks has about as much truth in it as the report that I have asked the authorities to protect me from the ‘violence of the mob’, of the hundreds of other false rumours of that same press.

“From all that I have said, it is clear that you cannot logically exclude me from the warrant of arrest which you have made out for Lenin, Kamenev, and Zinoviev. There can also be no doubt in your minds that I am just as uncompromising a political opponent as the above-named comrades. Leaving me out merely emphasises the counter-revolutionary highhandedness that lies behind the attack on Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev.” (From The Age of the Permanent Revolution, pp. 98-9, our emphasis.)

Throughout this whole period, Trotsky, on dozens of occasions, expressed his agreement with the position of the Bolsheviks. As a result, he was once again imprisoned.

Trotsky and the October Revolution

It is not possible here to do justice to Trotsky’s role during the October Revolution. Today his role is universally recognised. However what we can say is that the experience of the Russian revolution demonstrates the enormous importance of the subjective factor (i.e. the leadership) and of the role of the individual in history. Marxism is determinist, but not fatalist. The old Russian populists and terrorists were “voluntarists” and utopian. They imagined that the whole of history depended on the will of the individuals, “great men” and heroes, independent of the objective situation and of the laws of history. Plekhanov and the Russian Marxists carried out an implacable struggle against this idealistic interpretation of history.

Having said this, there are, however, moments in the history of society, when all the objective factors necessary for the revolution have developed and thus the subjective factor, the leadership, becomes the decisive factor. In these moments the whole historical process depends on the activities of a small group of individuals and, even of one single person. Engels explained that there are historical periods in which 20 years are as one day, during which seemingly nothing happens and, however much activity there is, the situation does not change. But he also pointed out that there are other periods in which the history of 20 years can be concentrated in the space of a few weeks or even days. If there is no revolutionary party with a revolutionary leadership that can take advantage of the situation, this moment can be lost and it may take 10 or 20 years before another opportunity presents itself.

In the short space of nine months, between February and October 1917, the importance of the question of the class, the party and the leadership emerged clearly. The Bolshevik Party was the most revolutionary party ever seen in history. However, in spite of its enormous experience and the accumulated strength of the leadership, at the decisive moment the Petrograd leaders wavered and entered into a crisis. In the last analysis, the fate of the Revolution fell on the shoulders of two men: Lenin and Trotsky. Without them the October revolution would never have taken place.

At first sight, this statement seems to refute the Marxist understanding of the role of the individual in history. But that is not so. In the situation that ensued, without the party, Lenin and Trotsky would have been totally powerless. It had taken nearly two decades of work, of building and perfecting this instrument, gaining authority within the working class and laying deep roots among the masses, in the factories, in the army barracks and in the working class districts. A single individual, however great he may have been, could never have taken the place of this instrument, which can never be created through improvisation.

The working class needs a party to change society. If there is no revolutionary party, capable of giving a conscious leadership to the revolutionary energy of the class, this energy can be wasted, in the same way that steam is lost if there is no machine that can use its power. On the other hand, each party has its conservative side. In fact, sometimes revolutionaries can be the most conservative of people. This conservatism develops as a consequence of years of routinist work, which is absolutely necessary, but can lead to certain habits and traditions that, in a revolutionary situation, can act like a brake, if they are not overcome by the leadership. At the decisive moment, when the situation demands a sharp change in the orientation of the party, from routine work to the seizing of power, the old habits can come into conflict with the needs of the new situation. It is precisely in such a context that the role of the leadership is vital.

A party, as an organ of struggle of one class against another, bears some comparison to an army. Thus the party also has its generals, its lieutenants, its corporals and its soldiers. In a revolution, as in warfare, timing is a question of life or death. Without Lenin and Trotsky, the Bolsheviks would undoubtedly have corrected their mistakes. But at what cost? The revolution cannot wait years for the party to correct its mistakes and the price of wavering and delays is defeat. This was clearly demonstrated in Germany in 1923.

To understand the key role played by Trotsky in 1917 it is sufficient to read any newspaper of the period, or read any contemporary memoir or history, whether friendly or hostile. Take for example the following lines, written just twelve months after the Bolsheviks came to power:

“All practical work in connection with the organisation of the uprising was done under the immediate direction of Comrade Trotsky, the President of the Petrograd Soviet. It can be stated with certainty that the Party is indebted primarily and principally to Comrade Trotsky for the rapid going over of the garrison to the side of the Soviet and the efficient manner in which the work of the Military Revolutionary Committee was organised.”

The above passage was written by Stalin on the occasion of the first anniversary of the October Revolution. Later the same Stalin could write: “Comrade Trotsky played no particular role either in the party or the October insurrection, and could not do so being a man comparatively new to our party in the October period.” (Stalin’s Works, Moscow, 1953 edition.)

Later still, not only Trotsky but all of Lenin’s general staff were accused of being agents of Hitler, bent on restoring capitalism in the USSR. In the event, seventy four years after October, as predicted by Trotsky, it was the heirs of Stalin who carried out the liquidation of the USSR and all the gains of the Revolution.

As a matter of fact, even Stalin’s earlier appraisal does not do justice to the role played by Trotsky in the October Revolution. Since in the key period from September to October, Lenin was still mostly in hiding, the main burden of carrying out the political and organisational preparations for the uprising was in Trotsky’s shoulders. Most of Lenin’s old followers—Kamenev, Zinoviev, Stalin—were either opposed to taking power or at least had a vacillating and ambiguous position. In the case of Zinoviev and Kamenev, their opposition to the October insurrection went so far as publishing the plans for the uprising in the non-Party press. The most superficial reading of Lenin’s correspondence with the Central Committee is sufficient to see what a struggle he had to overcome the resistance of the Bolshevik leadership. At one point he even threatened to resign and appeal to the Party rank and file over the heads of the Central Committee. In this struggle, Trotsky and the Mezhrayontsy resolutely supported Lenin’s revolutionary line.

One of the most celebrated works on the Russian Revolution is John Reed’s Ten Days that Shook the World. Lenin, in his Introduction, described this book as “a most truthful and vivid exposition” and recommended that it be republished in “millions of copies and translated into all languages.” Yet under Stalin John Reed’s book disappeared from the publications of the Soviet and foreign Communist Parties. The reason is not difficult to see. A glance at the contents page shows that the author mentions Lenin 63 times, Trotsky 53 times, Kamenev eight times, Zinoviev seven times, Bukharin and Stalin, only twice. This more or less accurately reflects the real state of affairs.

The internal Party struggle lasted up till October and beyond. The main argument of the conciliators was that the Bolsheviks must not take power on their own, but must form a coalition with other “socialist” parties—meaning the Mensheviks and SRs. But this was tantamount to a policy of handing power back to the bourgeoisie, as happened in Germany after November 1918. John Reed describes the kind of heated arguments in which the so-called Old Bolsheviks clashed repeatedly with Lenin and Trotsky:

“The Congress was to meet at one o’ clock, and long since the great meeting-hall had filled, but by seven there was yet no sign of the presidium… The Bolshevik and Left Social Revolutionary factions were in session in their own rooms. All the livelong afternoon Lenin and Trotsky had fought against a compromise. A considerable part of the Bolsheviks were in favour of giving way so far as to create a joint all-socialist government. ‘We can’t hold on!’ they cried. ‘Too much is against us. We haven’t got the men. We will be isolated and the whole thing will fall.’ So Kamenev, Riazanov and others.

“But Lenin, with Trotsky beside him, stood firm as a rock. ‘Let the compromisers accept our programme and they can come in! We won’t give way an inch. If there are comrades here who haven’t the courage and the will to dare what we dare, let them leave with the rest of the cowards and conciliators! Backed by the workers and soldiers we shall go on’.” (Ten Days that Shook the World, pp. 168-9.)

Such was the degree of unity between Lenin and Trotsky, and the total identity between them in people’s minds, that the Bolshevik Party was frequently known as the Party of Lenin and Trotsky. At a meeting of the Petrograd Committee on November 14th, 1917, Lenin spoke on the danger of conciliationist tendencies in the Party leadership which constituted a threat even after the October Revolution. On November 14th, eleven days after the successful insurrection, three members of the Central Committee (Kamenev, Zinoviev, Nogin) resigned in protest against the policies of the Party, and issued an ultimatum demanding the formation of a coalition government including the Mensheviks and the SRs “otherwise the only course that remains is to maintain a purely Bolshevik Government by means of political terror.” They ended their statement with an appeal to the workers for “immediate conciliation” on the basis of their slogan “Long live the government of all Soviet parties!”

This crisis in the ranks seemed likely to destroy the whole of the gains made by October. In response to a dangerous situation, Lenin advocated the expulsion of the leading miscreants. It was in this situation that Lenin delivered the speech which ends with the words: “No compromise! A homogeneous Bolshevik government.” In the original text of Lenin’s speech the following words occur: “As for coalition, I cannot speak about that seriously. Trotsky long ago said that a union was impossible. Trotsky understood this, and from that time on there has been no better Bolshevik.”

After Lenin’s death, the ruling clique: Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev began a systematic campaign of falsification, designed to belittle Trotsky’s role in the revolution and to boost their own. To do this, they had to invent the legend of “Trotskyism”, to drive a wedge between the position of Trotsky and that of Lenin and the “Leninists” (i.e. themselves). The hack historians burrowed through the accumulated rubbish of old polemics which had long been forgotten by those who participated in them: forgotten, because all the questions which had been raised then were resolved by the experience of October and therefore could have nothing but an abstract, historical interest. But a serious obstacle in the path of the falsifiers was the October Revolution itself. This obstacle was removed by gradually deleting Trotsky’s name from the history books, by re-writing history, and finally by the outright suppression of all, even the most innocuous mention, of Trotsky’s role.

Trotsky and the Red Army

Neither Lenin nor Trotsky knew much about military tactics before the Revolution. Trotsky was asked to take control of military affairs at a time when the Revolution was in extreme danger. The old tsarist army had collapsed and there was nothing to put in its place. The young Soviet Republic had been invaded by 21 imperialist armies of intervention. At one stage, the Soviet state was reduced to the territory of the old Muscovy—the area surrounding Moscow and Petrograd. Yet the situation was turned round, and the workers’ state survived. This success was due in no small measure to Trotsky’s indefatigable work in creating the Red Army.

In September 1918, when the Soviet power, in Trotsky’s words, had reached its lowest point, the government passed a special decree declaring tat the socialist fatherland was in danger. At this difficult time, Trotsky was dispatched to the decisive eastern front, where the military situation was catastrophic. Simbirsk, and then Kazan, had fallen to the Whites. Trotsky’s armoured train could only get as far as Simbirsk, on the outskirts of Kazan. The enemy forces were superior both in numbers and organisation. Some White companies were composed exclusively of officers and proved more than a match for the poorly trained and ill-disciplined Red forces. Panic spread among the troops who were retreating in disorder before the triumphant Counter-revolution. “The soil itself seemed to be infected with panic,” Trotsky later recalled in his autobiography. “Fresh Red detachments, arriving in vigorous mood, were immediately engulfed by the inertia of retreat. A rumour began to spread among the local peasantry that the Soviets were doomed. Priests and tradesmen lifted their heads. The revolutionary elements in the village went into hiding. Everything was crumbling. There was nothing to hold onto. The situation seemed hopeless.”

That was the situation when Trotsky and his agitators arrived. Yet in one week, Trotsky was returning victorious from Kazan, after the first decisive military victory of the Revolution. In a speech to the Petrograd Soviet, appealing for volunteers for the Red Army, he describes the situation at the front:

“The picture just now came up before my eyes. It was one of the saddest and most tragic nights before Kazan, when raw young forces retired in a panic. That was in August, in the first half, when we suffered reverses. A detachment of Communists arrived: there were over fifty of them, fifty-six, I think. Among them were such as had never had a rifle in their hands before that day. There were men of forty or more, but the majority were boys of eighteen, nineteen, or twenty. I remember how one such smooth-faced, eighteen-year-old Petrograd Communist appeared at headquarters at night, rifle in hand, and told us how a regiment had deserted its position and they had taken its place, and he said: “We are Communards.” From this detachment of fifty men twelve returned, but, comrades, they created an army, these Petrograd and Moscow workmen, who went to abandoned positions in detachments of fifty or sixty men and returned twelve in number. They perished nameless, as the majority of heroes of the working class generally do. Our problem and duty is to endeavour to re-establish their names in the memory of the working class. Many perished there, and they are no longer known by name, but they made for us that Red Army which defends Soviet Russia and defends the conquests of the working class, that citadel, that fortress of the international revolution which our Soviet Russia now represents. From that time, comrades, our position became, as you know, incomparably better on the eastern front, where the danger was the greatest, for the Czechoslovaks and White Guards, moving forward from Simbirsk to Kazan, threatened us with a movement on Nijny in one direction, and, in another, with one toward Vologda, Yaroslavl, and Archangel, to join up with the Anglo-French expedition. That is why our chief efforts were directed to the eastern front, and these efforts gave good results.” (Leon Trotsky Speaks, p. 126.)

After the liberation of Kazan, Simbirsk, Khvalynsk and the other cities of the Volga region, Trotsky was given the task of co-ordinating and directing the war on many fronts in this vast country. He energetically re-organised the armed forces of the Revolution, and even composed the Red Army oath, in which every soldier swore allegiance to the world revolution. But his most remarkable achievement was to obtain the collaboration of a large number of officers from the old tsarist army. Without this, there could have been no question of finding the necessary military cadres to staff more than fifteen armies on different fronts. Some, of course, proved to be traitors. Others served grudgingly or out of routine. But a surprisingly large number were won over to the side of the Revolution and served loyally. Some, like Tukhachevsky—a military genius—became convinced Communists. Almost all of them were murdered by Stalin in the Purge of 1937.

The extent of Trotsky’s success with the old officers came as a surprise even to Lenin. When Lenin asked Trotsky during the Civil War whether it was best to replace the old Tsarist officers which were controlled by political commissars, with other Communists, Trotsky replied:

“But do you know how many of them we have in the army now?

“No.

“Not even approximately?

“I don’t know.

“Not less than thirty thousand.

“What?

“Not less than thirty thousand. For every traitor there are a hundred dependable; for every one who deserts there are two or three that get killed. How are we to replace them all?”

A few days later Lenin was making a speech on the problems of constructing the socialist commonwealth. This is what he said: “When comrade Trotsky recently informed me that in our military department the officers are numbered in tens of thousands, I gained a concrete conception of what constitutes the secret of making proper use of our enemy… of how to build communism out of the bricks that the capitalists had gathered to use against us.” (My Life, pp. 464-5.)

Trotsky’s achievements was recognised even by declared enemies of the Revolution, including German officers and diplomats. Max Bauer paid tribute to Trotsky as “a born military organiser and leader, and added: “How he set up a new army out of nothing in the midst of severe battles and then organised and trained his army is absolutely Napoleonic.” and General Hoffmann came to the same conclusion: “Even from a purely military standpoint one is astonished that it was possible for the newly recruited Red troops to crush the forces, at times still strong, of the White generals and to eliminate them entirely.” (Quoted in E.H. Carr in The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-23, Vol. 3, p. 326.)

Despite his hostility to Bolshevism, Dimitri Volkogonov is compelled to pay tribute to Trotsky’s role in the Civil War: “He was ubiquitous,” writes Volkogonov, “his train travelling from one front to another; he worked hard to secure supplies for the troops, and his personal involvement in the use of military commissars at the front brought positive results. The army chiefs, moreover, saw in him the ‘second man’ of the Soviet Republic, a major political and state official, a man with enormous personal authority. His role in the sphere of strategy was therefore political, rather than military.” (Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky—The Eternal Revolutionary, p. 140.)

Let us give the final word on Trotsky’s role in the Russian Revolution and Civil War to Lunacharsky, the veteran Bolshevik who became the first Soviet Commissar for Education and Culture: “It would be wrong to imagine,” he wrote, “that the second great leader of the Russian revolution is inferior to his colleague [i.e. Lenin] in everything: there are, for instance, aspects in which Trotsky incontestably surpasses him—he is more brilliant, he is clearer, he is more active. Lenin is fitted as no-one else to take the chair at the Council of People’s Commissars and to guide the world revolution with the touch of genius, but he could never have coped with the titanic mission which Trotsky took upon his own shoulders, with those lightening moves from place to place, those astounding speeches, those fanfares of on-the-spot orders, that role of being the unceasing electrifier of a weakening army, now at one spot, now at another. There is not a man on earth who could have replaced Trotsky in this respect.

“Whenever a truly great revolution occurs, a great people will always find the right actor to play every part and one of the signs of greatness in our revolution is the fact that the Communist Party has produced from its own ranks or has borrowed from other parties and incorporated into its own organism sufficient outstanding personalities who were suited as no others to fulfil whatever political function was called for.

“And two of the strongest of the strong, totally identified with their roles, are Lenin and Trotsky.” (A. Lunacharsky, Revolutionary Silhouettes, pp. 68-9.)

Trotsky’s fight against Bureaucracy

The October revolution was the most important event in human history. For the first time—if we exclude the short experience of the Paris Commune—the oppressed masses began to take their destiny into their own hands and took upon themselves the task of rebuilding society. The socialist revolution is totally different from all the other revolutions in history, because the subjective factor becomes, for the first time, the motor force of social development. The explanation for this is to be found in the different productive relations. Under capitalism the market forces function in an uncontrolled manner, without any planning or state intervention. The socialist revolution puts an end to the anarchy of production and imposes control and planning on the part of society. As a result, after the revolution, the subjective factor, the conscience of the class, is also the decisive factor. In the words of Engels, socialism is “the leap from the realm of necessity to that of freedom”.

But the consciousness of the masses is not something separate from the material living conditions, from the level of culture, from the working day… It was not for nothing that Marx and Engels insisted that the material prerequisites for socialism were dependent on the development of the productive forces. When the Mensheviks protested against the October revolution, arguing that the material conditions for socialism were absent in Russia, there was an element of truth in what they said. However, the objective conditions did exist on a world level.

Internationalism for the Bolsheviks was not a sentimental question. Lenin repeated hundreds of times that either the Russian revolution would spread to other countries or it would be smashed. In fact, after the Russian revolution there was a wave of revolutionary and pre-revolutionary situations in many countries (Germany, Hungary, Italy, France…) but without the presence of revolutionary mass parties they were defeated or, to be more precise, they were betrayed by the Social democratic leadership. Because of the betrayal on the part of the Social democratic leaders in Germany and in other countries, the Russian revolution was isolated in a backward country, where the living conditions of the masses were atrocious. In one year alone six million people died of hunger. At the end of the civil war the working class was exhausted.

In this situation reaction was inevitable. The results achieved did not correspond to the hopes of the masses. An important layer of the more conscious and militant workers had been killed during the civil war. Others, absorbed in the tasks of administering industry and the state, became gradually divorced from the rest of the class. In an atmosphere of growing tiredness, discouragement and disorientation of the masses, the state apparatus gradually raised itself above the working class. Each step backwards on the part of the working class further encouraged the bureaucrats and careerists. In this situation, a bureaucratic caste emerged that was satisfied with its own position and who disagreed with the “utopian” ideas of world revolution. These elements enthusiastically latched on to the idea—first put forward in 1923—of “socialism in one country”.

Marxism explains that ideas do not fall out of the sky. If an idea is put forward and manages to get mass support, this idea by necessity will reflect the interests of a class or social caste. Nowadays bourgeois historians try to present the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky as a “debate” over theoretical questions, in which, for obscure reasons, Stalin won and Trotsky lost. However, the determining factor in history is not the struggle between ideas, but between class interests and material forces. The victory of Stalin was not due to his intellectual superiority (in fact, of all the Bolshevik leaders, Stalin was the most mediocre in questions of theory), but to the fact that the ideas he defended represented the interests and privileges of the new bureaucratic caste which was in the process of being formed, whereas Trotsky and the Left Opposition defended the ideas of October and the interests of the working class which was being forced to retreat in the face of the offensive launched by the bureaucracy, the petit-bourgeoisie, the kulaks…

The ideas and actions of Stalin were also not developed and planned in advance. In the early stages he did not know where he was going, and, in fact, if he had known in 1923 where the process he himself was leading was to take him, the most likely thing is that he would never have started on that road. Lenin was aware of the danger and tried to warn against the danger of Bureaucracy. At the Eleventh Congress, Lenin placed before the Party a searing indictment of bureaucratisation of the state apparatus:

“If we take Moscow,” he said, “with its 4,700 Communists in responsible positions, and if we take the huge bureaucratic machine, that gigantic heap, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be truthfully said that the Communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth, they are not directing, they are being directed.” (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 33, p. 288, our emphasis.)

To carry out the work of weeding bureaucrats and careerists out of the state and party apparatus, Lenin initiated the setting up of RABKRIN (the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate) with Stalin in charge. Lenin saw the need for a strong organiser to see that this work was carried out thoroughly; Stalin’s record as a party organiser appeared to qualify him for the post. Within in a few years, Stalin occupied a number of organisational posts in the Party: head of RABKRIN, member of the Central Committee and Politburo, Orgburo and Secretariat. But his narrow, organisational outlook and personal ambition led Stalin to occupy the post, in a short space of time, as the chief spokesman of bureaucracy in the party leadership, not as its opponent.

As early as 1920, Trotsky criticised the working of RABKRIN, which from a tool in the struggle against bureaucracy was becoming itself a hotbed of bureaucracy. Initially, Lenin defended RABKRIN against Trotsky. His illness prevented him from realising what was going on behind his back in the state and party. Stalin used his position, which enabled him to select personnel to leading posts in the state and party to quietly gather round himself a bloc of allies and yes-men, political nonentities who were grateful to him for their advancement. In his hands, RABKRIN became an instrument for building up his own position and eliminating his political rivals.

Lenin only became aware of the terrible situation when he discovered the truth about Stalin’s handling of relations with Georgia. Without the knowledge of Lenin or the Politburo, Stalin, together with his henchmen Dzerzhinsky and Ordzhonikidze, had carried out a coup d’Ètat in Georgia. The finest cadres of Georgian Bolshevism were purged, and the party leaders denied access to Lenin, who was fed a string of lies by Stalin. When he finally found out what was happening, Lenin was furious. From his sick-bed late in 1922 he dictated a series of notes to his stenographer on “the notorious questions of autonomisation, which, it appears, is officially called the question of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”.

Lenin’s notes are a crushing indictment of the bureaucratic and chauvinist arrogance of Stalin and his clique. But Lenin does not treat this incident as an accidental phenomenon but the expression of the rotten, reactionary nationalism of the Soviet bureaucracy. It is worth quoting Lenin’s words on the state apparatus at length.

“It is said that a united state apparatus was needed. Where did that assurance come from? Did it not come from the same Russian apparatus, which, as I pointed out in one of the preceding sections of my diary, we took over from Tsarism and slightly anointed with Soviet oil?

“There is no doubt that that measure should have been delayed until we could say, that we vouched for our apparatus as our own. But now, we must, in all conscience, admit the contrary; the state apparatus we call ours is, in fact, still quite alien to us; it is a bourgeois and Tsarist hotchpotch and there has been no possibility of getting rid of it in the past five years without the help of other countries and because we have been ‘busy’ most of the time with military engagements and the fight against famine.

“It is quite natural that in such circumstances the ‘freedom to secede from the union’ by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no doubt that the infinitesimal percentage of Soviet and sovietised workers will drown in that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riff-raff like a fly in milk.” (Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 36, p. 605, our emphasis.)

After the Georgian affair, Lenin threw the whole weight of his authority behind the struggle to remove Stalin from the post of General Secretary of the party which he occupied in 1922, after the death of Sverdlov. However, Lenin’s main fear now more than ever was that an open split in the leadership, under prevailing conditions, might lead to the break-up of the party along class lines. He therefore attempted to keep the struggle confined to the leadership, and the notes and other material were not made public. Lenin wrote secretly to the Georgian Bolshevik-Leninists (sending copies to Trotsky and Kamenev) taking up their cause against Stalin “with all my heart”. As he was unable to pursue the affair in person, he wrote to Trotsky requesting him to undertake the defence of the Georgians in the Central Committee. During his last period of illness, to fight the process of bureaucratisation and even asked Trotsky to form a bloc with him to struggle against Stalin at the XXI Party Congress. But Lenin died before being able to act on his plans. His Letter to the Congress, in which he describes Trotsky as the most able member of the Central Committee and demands the removal of Stalin as Party General Secretary, was suppressed by the leading clique and remained unpublished for decades.

“Socialism in One Country”

Even with the participation of Lenin, the process could not have unfolded differently. The causes were not to be found in individuals, but in the objective situation of a backward and starving country, isolated by the delay of the socialist revolution in the West. After Lenin’s death, the leading group (“The Troika”), composed initially of Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin, ignored Lenin’s advice and instead began a campaign against so-called Trotskyism, which in practice signified the repudiation of the ideas of Lenin and the October revolution. Unconsciously, they were reflecting the pressure of the rising stratum of privileged officials who had done well out of the Revolution and wished to call a halt to the period of storm and stress and workers’ democracy. The petit-bourgeois reaction against October found its expression in the campaign against “Trotskyism” and above all in the anti-Leninist theory of “socialism in one country”.

The fact that Russia was a backward country would not have been a problem if such a revolution was a prelude to a successful world socialist revolution. That was the aim of the Bolshevik Party under Lenin and Trotsky. Internationalism was no sentimental gesture, but was rooted in the international character of capitalism and the class struggle. In the words of Trotsky: “Socialism is the organisation of a planned and harmonious social production for the satisfaction of human wants. Collective ownership of the means of production is not yet socialism, but only its legal premise. The problem of a socialist society cannot be abstracted from the problem of the productive forces, which at the present stage of human development are world-wide in their very essence.” (History of the Russian Revolution, p. 1237.) The October Revolution was regarded as the beginning of the new world socialist order.

The anti-Marxist theory of “Socialism in One Country,” expounded by Stalin in the autumn of 1924, went against everything the Bolsheviks and the Communist International, had preached. How was it possible to construct a national socialism in a single country, let alone an extremely backward country like Russia? Such a thought never entered the heads of any Bolshevik, including Stalin’s up until 1924. In April 1924 Stalin could still write in his book The Foundations of Leninism “For the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the efforts of one country are enough—to this the history of our own revolution testifies. For the final victory of socialism, for the organisation of socialist production, the efforts of one country, especially a peasant country like ours, are not enough—for this we must have the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries.” But within a few months, these lines were withdrawn and the exact opposite put in their place. “After consolidating its power and leading the peasantry in its wake the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build a socialist society.” (Stalin, The Foundations of Leninism, p. 39. Peking, 1975.)

Such a formulation, which flies in the face of everything Marx, Engels and Lenin ever wrote, would have been unthinkable while Lenin was still alive. It showed just how far the bureaucratic reaction against October had gone. This produced a crisis in the ruling triumvirate. Alarmed by this turn in events, Kamenev and Zinoviev broke with Stalin and formed an alliance with Trotsky, the United Left Opposition. In 1926, during a meeting of the Opposition, Lenin’s widow, Krupskaya, commented bitterly: “If Vladimir were here, he would be in prison”. The main reason for the defeat of Trotsky and the Opposition was to be found in the mood among the masses, who sympathised with the Opposition but were exhausted and worn down by long years of War and revolution.

The emergence of a new ruling caste had deep social roots. The isolation of the revolution was the main reason behind the rise of Stalin and the bureaucracy, but at the same time this became the cause of new defeats of the international revolution: Bulgaria and Germany (1923); the defeat of the General Strike in Britain (1926); China (1927) and the most terrible defeat of all, that of Germany (1933). Each defeat of the international revolution, deepened the discouragement of the working class and further encouraged the bureaucrats and careerists. After the terrible defeat in China in 1927—the blame for which can be placed directly on the shoulders of Stalin and Bukharin—began the expulsion of the Opposition. Even before that, supporters of the Opposition were systematically persecuted, sacked from their jobs, ostracised and, in some cases, driven to suicide.

The monstrous actions of the Stalinists were in complete contradiction to the democratic traditions of the Bolshevik Party. They consisted of the breaking-up of meetings by hooligans, a vicious campaign of lies and slander in the official press, the persecution of Trotsky’s friends and supporters which led to the deaths of numbers of prominent Bolsheviks such as Glazman (driven to suicide by blackmail) and Joffe, the famous Soviet diplomat who was denied access to necessary medical treatment and committed suicide. At Party meetings, Oppositionist speakers were subject to the systematic hooliganism of gangs of quasi-fascist thugs organised by the Stalinist apparatus to intimidate the opposition. The French Communist paper, Contre le Courant in the twenties reported the methods whereby the Stalinists conducted their “nation-wide Party discussion”:

“The bureaucrats of the Russian party have formed all over the country gangs of whistlers. Every time a party worker belonging to the Opposition is to take the floor, they post around the hall a veritable framework of men armed with police-whistles. With the first words of the Opposition speaker, the whistles begin. The charivari last until the Opposition speaker yields the floor to another.” (The Real Situation in Russia, p. 14, footnote.)

Given the isolation of the Revolution under conditions of terrible backwardness, the exhaustion of the working class and its vanguard, the victory of the Stalinist Bureaucracy was a foregone conclusion. This was not a result of Stalin’s cleverness or foresight. On the contrary. Stalin foresaw nothing and understood nothing, but proceeded empirically, as the constant zig-zags in his policy show. Stalin and his ally Bukharin steered a course to the right, attempting to base themselves on the “strong peasants” (i.e., the Kulaks). Trotsky and the Left Opposition insistently warned of the danger of such a policy. They advocated a policy of industrialisation, Five Year Plans and collectivisation by example. At a plenary session of the Central Committee in April 1927, Stalin poured scorn on this proposal. He actually compared the Opposition’s electrification plan (the Dnieperstroi scheme) to “offering a peasant a gramophone instead of a cow”.

The Opposition’s warnings were shown to be correct. The Kulak danger, manifested in a grain strike and sabotage, threatened to overthrow the Soviet power and place capitalist counterrevolution on the order of the day. In a panic reaction, Stalin was compelled to break with Bukharin and launch on an ultra-left adventure. Having contemptuously rejected Trotsky’s proposal of a Five Year Plan to develop the Soviet economy , he suddenly did a 180 degree somersault in 1927, and began to advocate the madness of a “Five Year Plan in four years” and the “liquidation of the kulaks as a class” through forced collectivisation.. This sudden turn disoriented many Oppositionists, who imagined that Stalin had adopted the policies of the Opposition. But Stalin’s policy was only a caricature of the Opposition’s policies. It ruled out any return to the norms of Leninist Soviet democracy and led to the consolidation of the Bureaucracy as a ruling caste.

Beginning with Zinoviev and Kamenev, one former Oppositionist after another capitulated to Stalin, in the hope of being accepted back into the Party. This was an illusion. Their recantation only paved the way for new demands and new capitulations, ending in the final humiliation of the Moscow Trials, where Kamenev, Zinoviev and other Old Bolsheviks pleaded guilty to the most monstrous crimes against the Revolution. Even this did not save them. They went to their deaths at the hands of Stalin’s executioners, having previously covered their own heads with filth.

Trotsky stood his ground, although he was under no illusion that he could win this fight, given the overwhelmingly unfavourable balance of forces. But he was fighting to leave behind a banner, a programme and a tradition for the new generation. As he explains in his biography:

“The leading group of the Opposition faced this finale with its eyes wide open. We realised only too clearly that we could make our ideas the common property of the new generation not by diplomacy and evasions but only by an open struggle which shirked none of the practical consequences. We went to meet the inevitable debacle, confident, however, that we were paving the way for the triumph of our ideas in a more distant future.” (Trotsky, My Life, p. 531.)

The International Left Opposition

In 1927, Trotsky was exiled to Turkey. Stalin had not sufficiently consolidated his position to be able to simply kill him. From his places in exile [first internal exile then deportation from the Soviet Union itself] between 1927 and 1933 Trotsky dedicated his energies to organising the International Left Opposition, with the aim of regenerating the USSR and the Communist International. Stalin’s ultra-left turn in the Soviet Union found its expression in the international field in the theory of the so-called Third Period and “social fascism”. This was supposed to usher in the “final crisis” of capitalism on a world scale. The Comintern, on instructions from Moscow, declared all parties except the Communist Parties to be fascist. This applied above all to the Social Democratic parties which were dubbed “Social Fascists.” This madness had particularly disastrous results in Germany, where it led directly to the victory of Hitler.

The catastrophic world slump of 1929-33 had its most disastrous effects in Germany. Unemployment soared to 8 million. Large sections of the middle class were ruined. But having been disappointed by the Social democrats in 1918 and by the Communists in 1923, the despairing middle class of Germany now looked to Hitler’s Nazi Party for a way out. In the elections of September 1930, the Nazis got nearly six and a half million votes. From his place of exile in Turkey, Trotsky insistently warned of the danger of fascism in Germany. He demanded that the German Communists should form a united front with the Social democrats to stop Hitler. This message was hammered home in a series of articles and documents such as The Turn in the Communist International and the German Situation. This was a call for a return to the Leninist policy of the united front. But it fell on deaf ears.

Although the German Labour Movement was the mightiest in the western world, it was paralysed in the moment of truth by the policies of its leaders. In particular, the leaders of the Stalinised German Communist Party played a pernicious role in splitting the workers’ movement in the face of the Nazi menace. They even launched the slogan “Beat the little Scheidemanns in the schoolyards!”—an incredible incitation of the children of Communists to beat up the children of Social Democrats. This madness reached its extreme point in the so-called Red Referendum. When in 1931 Hitler organised a referendum aimed at bringing down the Social Democratic government in Prussia, the Communist Party, under orders from Moscow, directed its followers to support the Nazis. As late as 1932, the British Stalinist paper, The Daily Worker, wrote:

“It is significant that Trotsky has come out in defence of a united front between the communist and social democratic parties against Fascism. No more disruptive and counterrevolutionary class lead could possibly have been given at a time like the present.”

In 1933, the German Communist Party had about six million supporters, while the Social Democrats numbered about eight million. Their combined militias had about one million members—a far bigger number than the Red Guard in Petrograd and Moscow in 1917. Yet Hitler could boast that “I have come to power without breaking a window pane”. This was a betrayal of the working class comparable to that of August 1914. Overnight, the mighty organisations of the German proletariat were reduced to rubble. The workers of the entire world—and above all the Soviet Union—paid a terrible price for that betrayal.

Trotsky hoped that a defeat on this scale would serve to shake the Communist International to its roots and open up a debate in the ranks of the Communist Parties which would regenerate them and exonerate the Opposition. However, things worked out differently. The Comintern and its Parties were so Stalinised that there was no debate, no self-criticism—only a reiteration of the same discredited policies. The line of the German Communist Party (and therefore of Stalin, the Great Leader and teacher) was solemnly ratified as the only correct one. Incredibly, the German Communist leaders launched the slogan: “After Hitler, Our Turn!”. Worse still, the following year, when the French fascists of the Croix de Feu and other groups attempted to overthrow the government of the Radical Deladier, the Stalinists actually instructed their members to demonstrate alongside the fascists against the “Radical-fascist” Deladier.

A party and an International which is incapable of learning from its mistakes is doomed. The terrible defeat of the German working class as a result of the policies both of the Stalinists and the Social Democrats, followed by the complete lack of any self-criticism or discussion on the question inside the parties of the Communist International, convinced Trotsky that the Comintern had irremediably degenerated. Whereas in the early years, the bureaucracy had not yet consolidated itself as a ruling caste, now it had become clear that it was no longer an historic aberration that could be corrected through criticism and discussion, but it represented a triumphant counter-revolution that had destroyed all the elements of workers’ democracy that had been established by the October Revolution. Trotsky therefore raised the slogan of a new International—the Fourth International.

The Moscow Trials

The clearest expression of the new situation were the notorious “Moscow Trials”, which Trotsky described as “a unilateral civil war against the Bolshevik Party.” Between 1936 and 1938, all the members of the Central Committee from the time of Lenin, who were alive in the USSR, were assassinated. “The trial of the 16” (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Smirnov, etc.); “The trial of the 17” (Radalev, Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, etc.); “The secret trial of the army officers” (Tukhachevsky, etc.); “The trial of the 21” (Bukharin, Rykov, Rakovsky, etc.). Lenin’s old comrades were accused of having committed the most grotesque crimes against the revolution. Usually they would be accused of being Hitler’s agents (in the same way that the Jacobins were accused of being agents of England in the period of Thermidorian reaction in France).

The aims of the bureaucracy were simple: to completely destroy all those who could have become a rallying point for the discontent of the masses. They even went as far as arresting and murdering thousands of people, who had been totally loyal to Stalin, whose sole crime was their direct link to the experience of the October revolution. It was dangerous to be friend, neighbour, father or son of any of those arrested. In the concentration camps there were to be found whole families, including the children. General Yakir was assassinated in 1938. His son spent 14 years with his mother in the concentration camps. There were many such cases.

The main defendant was not present at the trials. Leon Trotsky, after having been denied the right to asylum by all the countries of Europe, was in Mexico where he organised an international protest campaign against the Moscow trials. Why was the Stalinist bureaucracy so afraid of one man? The October revolution had established a regime of workers’ democracy which gave the workers the greatest freedom. On the other hand, the usurping bureaucracy could only govern by destroying workers’ democracy and by installing a totalitarian and deformed regime. It could not tolerate the least amount of freedom of expression or criticism, whether in politics, art, science or literature.

On the surface, Stalin’s regime was similar to those of Hitler, Franco or Mussolini. But there was one fundamental difference: the new ruling caste in the USSR based itself on the new property relations, established by the October revolution. Thus, it found itself in a contradictory situation. In order to defend its own power and privileges, this parasitic caste had to defend, at the same time, the new forms of the nationalised planned economy, that embodied great historical gains for the working class. The privileged bureaucrats who had destroyed the political gains of October and annihilated the Bolshevik Party, were forced to maintain the fiction of a “Communist Party”, “Soviets”, etc. They also had to develop the productive forces, basing themselves on the nationalised planned economy. Thus they played a relatively progressive role, by developing industry, although at a price ten time higher than that of the bourgeoisie in other countries in the past.

Marxists do not defend democracy for sentimental reasons. As Trotsky explained, a planned economy needs democracy in the same way that the human body needs oxygen. The asphyxiating control of an all-powerful bureaucracy is incompatible with the development of a planned economy. The existence of the bureaucracy inevitably generates all kinds of corruption, mismanagement and swindles at all levels. This is the reason why a bureaucracy, as opposed to the bourgeoisie, could not tolerate any independent criticism or thought, not only in politics but in literature, music, art or philosophy. Trotsky was a threat to the Bureaucracy because he remained as a witness and a reminder of the genuine democratic and internationalist traditions of Bolshevism.

In the 1930s Trotsky analysed this new phenomenon of the Stalinist bureaucracy in his classical work The Revolution Betrayed and explained the need for a new revolution, a political revolution, in order to regenerate the USSR. In the same way as all ruling classes or castes of history, the Russian bureaucracy was not going to “disappear” of its own accord. As early as 1936, Trotsky warned that the ruling Stalinist Bureaucracy represented a mortal threat to the survival of the USSR. He predicted, with uncanny accuracy, that, unless the Bureaucracy was removed by the working class, it would inevitably end up in a capitalist counterrevolution. With a delay of some fifty years, Trotsky’s prediction has now been borne out. Not satisfied with their bloated privileges derived from the plunder of the nationalised planned economy, the children and grandchildren of the Stalinist officials are now striving to turn themselves into the private owners of the means of production in Russia and thereby plunging the land of October into a new Dark Age of barbarism and collapse—as Trotsky also warned.

Stalin and the privileged caste he represented could never forgive Trotsky for exposing them as usurpers and the gravediggers of October. The work of Trotsky and his collaborators, represented a mortal danger for the bureaucracy, that responded with a massive campaign of assassinations, persecutions and slander. One would search in vain in the annals of modern history to find a parallel for the persecution suffered by the Trotskyists at the hands of Stalin and his monstrous murder-machine. It would be necessary to go back to the persecution of the early Christians or the infamous work of the Spanish Inquisition to find such a parallel. One by one Trotsky’s supporters in the Soviet Union were silenced by Stalin’s executioners. Comrades, friends and family all ended up in that infernal meat-grinding machine that was Stalin’s Gulag.

Even in these hell-holes, the Trotskyists remained firm. They alone maintained their organisation and discipline. They contrived to follow international affairs, organised meetings and Marxist discussion groups and fought to defend their rights. They even organised demonstrations and hunger strikes, such as the strike in the Pechora camps in 1936 which lasted 136 days. “The strikers protested against their transfer from previous places of deportation and their penalisation without open trial. They demanded an eight hour day, the same food for all inmates (regardless of whether they fulfilled production norms or not), separation of political and criminal prisoners, and the removal of invalids, women, and old people from sub-Polar regions to areas with a milder climate. The decision to strike was taken at an open meeting. Sick and old age prisoners were exempted; ‘but the latter categorically rejected the exemption’. In almost every barrack non-Trotskyists responded to the call, but only ‘in the shanties of the Trotskyists was the strike complete’.

“The administration, afraid that the action might spread, transferred the Trotskyists to some half-ruined and deserted huts twenty-five miles away from the camp. Of a total of 1,000 strikers, several died and only two broke down; but these two were not Trotskyists. In March 1937, on orders from Moscow, the camp administration yielded on all points; and the strike came to an end.” (I. Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, p. 416.)

But the prisoners’ triumph was short-lived. Yezhov’s Terror soon reached new heights of frenzy. The prisoners’ already meagre rations were reduced to just 400 grams of bread a day, and the GPU armed common prisoners with clubs and incited them to beat Oppositionists. The number of arbitrary shootings increased. Stalin had decided on the “Final Solution”. Towards the end of March 1938, the Trotskyists were marched out of the Vorkuta camp in groups of twenty five into the frozen wasteland—to their death. For months the shootings continued. The GPU butchers did their work, murdering men, women and children above the age of twelve. No-one was spared. One eye-witness relates how the wife of an Oppositionist walked on her crutches to the place of execution. “‘Throughout April and part of May”, the eye-witness reports,” the executions went on. Every day or every other day thirty or forty people would be called out…’ CommuniquÈs were broadcast over loudspeakers: ‘For counterrevolutionary agitation, sabotage, banditry, refusal to work, and attempts to escape, the following have been executed…’ ‘Once a large group, about a hundred people, mostly Trotskyists, were taken out …As they marched away, they sang the Internationale; and hundreds of voices in the shanties joined in the singing’.” (Ibid., p. 418.)

One Man against the World

For the leader of October there was no refuge and no safe resting place on earth. One after another the door was slammed firmly shut. Those states that called themselves democracies and liked to compare themselves favourably with the Bolshevik “dictators” showed no more tolerance than all the others. Britain, which had earlier given refuge to Marx, Lenin and Trotsky himself, now under a Labour government, refused him entry. France and Norway behaved, in essence, no differently, placing such restrictions on Trotsky’s movements and activities that “sanctuary” became indistinguishable from imprisonment. Finally, Trotsky and his faithful companion Natalia Sedova found refuge in Mexico under the government of the progressive bourgeois Lazar Cardenas.

Even in Mexico, Trotsky was not safe. The arm of the GPU was long. By raising his voice against the Kremlin clique, Trotsky remained a mortal danger to Stalin, who, it has now been demonstrated, ordered all Trotsky’s writings to be placed on his desk each morning. He extracted a terrible revenge on his opponent. As long ago as the 1920s, Zinoviev and Kamenev had warned Trotsky: “You think Stalin will answer your ideas. But Stalin will strike at your head!”

In the years prior to his assassination, Trotsky had witnessed the assassination of one of his sons and the disappearance of the other; the suicide of his daughter, the massacre of his friends and collaborators inside and outside the USSR, and the destruction of the political gains of the October revolution. Trotsky’s daughter Zinaida committed suicide as a result of Stalin’s persecution. After the suicide of his daughter, his first wife, Alexandra Sokolovskaya, an extraordinary woman who perished in Stalin’s camps, wrote a despairing letter to Trotsky: “Our children were doomed. I do not believe in life any more. I do not believe that they will grow up. All the time I am expecting some new disaster.’ And she concludes: “It has been difficult for me to write and mail this letter. Excuse my cruelty towards you, but you should know everything about our kith and kin.” (Quoted by Deutscher, op. cit. p. 198.)

Leon Sedov, Trotsky’s eldest son, who played a key role in the International Left Opposition, was murdered while recovering from an operation in a Paris clinic in February 1938. Two of his European secretaries, Rudolf Klement and Erwin Wolff, were also killed. Ignace Reiss, an officer of the GPU who publicly broke with Stalin and declared in favour of Trotsky, was yet another victim of Stalin’s murder machine, gunned down by a GPU agent in Switzerland.

The most painful blow came with the arrest of Trotsky’s younger son Sergei, who had stayed behind in Russia, believing that, as he was not politically active, he would be safe. Vain hope! Unable to take his revenge on the father, Stalin resorted to that most refined torture—applying pressure on parents through their children. No-one can imagine what torments were suffered at this time by Trotsky and Nataliya Sedova. Only in recent years did it emerge that Trotsky even contemplated suicide, as a possible way of saving his son. But he realised that such an act would not save Sergei and would give Stalin just what he wanted. Trotsky was not wrong. Sergei was already dead, shot it seems in secret in 1938, having steadfastly refused to denounce his father.

One by one, Trotsky’s old collaborators had fallen victim to Stalin’s Terror. Those who refused to recant were physically liquidated. But even capitulation did not save the lives of those who surrendered. They were executed anyway. The last of the leading figures of the Opposition inside the USSR who had held out was the great Balkan Marxist and veteran revolutionary Christian Rakovsky. When Trotsky heard of Rakovsky’s capitulations he wrote the following passage in his diary:

“Rakovsky was virtually my last contact with the old revolutionary generation. After his capitulation there is nobody left. Even though my correspondence with Rakovsky stopped, for reasons of censorship, at the time of my deportation, nevertheless the image of Rakovsky has remained a symbolic link with my old comrades-in-arms. Now nobody remains. For a long time now I have not been able to satisfy my need to exchange ideas and discuss problems with someone else. I am reduced to carrying on a dialogue with the newspapers, or rather through the newspapers with facts and opinions.

“And still I think that the work in which I am engaged now, despite its extremely insufficient and fragmentary nature, is the most important work of my life—more important than 1917, more important than the period of the Civil War or any other.

“For the sake of clarity I would put it this way. Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October Revolution would still have taken place—on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no October Revolution: the leadership of the Bolshevik Party would have prevented it from occurring—of this I have not the slightest doubt! If Lenin had not been in Petersburg, I doubt whether I could have managed to conquer the resistance of the Bolshevik leaders. The struggle with ‘Trotskyism’ (i.e., with the proletarian revolution) would have commenced in May, 1917, and the outcome of the revolution would have been in question. But I repeat, granted the presence of Lenin the October Revolution would have been victorious anyway. The same could by and large be said of the Civil War, although in its first period, especially at the time of the fall of Simbirsk and Kazan, Lenin wavered and was beset by doubts. But this was undoubtedly a passing mood which he probably never even admitted to anyone but me.

“Thus I cannot speak of the ‘indispensability’ of my work, even about the period from 1917 to 1921. But now my work is ‘indispensable’ in the full sense of the word. There is no arrogance in this claim at all. The collapse of the two Internationals has posed a problem which none of the leaders of these Internationals is at all equipped to solve. The vicissitudes of my personal fate have confronted me with this problem and armed me with important experience in dealing with it. There is now no one except me to carry out the mission of arming a new generation with the revolutionary method over the heads of the leaders of the Second and Third International. And I am in a complete agreement with Lenin (or rather Turgenev) that the worst vice is to be more than 55 years old! I need at least about five more years of uninterrupted work to ensure the succession.” (Trotsky, Diary In Exile, pp. 53-4.)

But Trotsky was not to be granted his wish. After various attempts, the GPU finally managed to put an end to Trotsky’s life on 20th August 1940.

In spite of everything, right up to the end, Trotsky remained absolutely firm in his revolutionary ideas. His testament reveals enormous optimism in the socialist future of humanity. But his real testament is to be found in his books and other writings, which continue to be a treasure-house of Marxist ideas for the new generation of revolutionaries. The fact that nowadays, the spectre of “Trotskyism” continues to haunt the bourgeois, reformist and Stalinist leaders is sufficient proof of the resilience of the ideas of Bolshevism-Leninism. For that, essentially, is what “Trotskyism” signifies.

Above all in Russia—the homeland of October—the relevance of Trotskyism retains its full force. Trotsky warned long ago that the Stalinist Bureaucracy, that cancerous tumour on the body of the workers’ state, would end up by destroying all the gains of October. In 1936 Leon Trotsky predicted that “the fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it were not replaced by a new socialist power, would thus mean a return to capitalist relations with a catastrophic decline of industry and culture.” (The Revolution Betrayed, p. 251.) Now that prediction has been entirely vindicated. The last five or six years have provided ample proof of it. The same leaders of the so-called Communist Party of the Soviet Union who yesterday swore loyalty to Lenin and Socialism are today engaged in a disgusting scramble to enrich themselves through the systematic plunder of the property of the Soviet Union. Compared to this monstrous betrayal, the actions of the Social Democratic leaders in August 1914 seems like mere child’s play.

However, despite the predictions of Francis Fukuyama, history has not ended. The nascent bourgeoisie in Russia has shown its complete inability to carry society forward and develop the productive forces. The history of the last ten years in Russia has been one of unprecedented collapse of the productive forces and culture. Only the lack of a serious Marxist leadership has prevented the overthrow of a regime which is clearly rotten and reactionary. The ex-Stalinist leaders of the CPRF have consistently acted as a break on the working class. They have nothing in common with the traditions of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party.

Lenin was very fond of a Russian proverb: “Life teaches”. To the degree that the working people of Russia realise the impasse that capitalism means (and they are realising this fact more clearly with every day that passes), they will come to see the need to return to the old traditions. They will rediscover in action the heritage of 1905 and 1917. They will rediscover the ideas and programme of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and also of that great leader and martyr of the working class, Leon Trotsky. After decades of the most terrible repression, the ideas of Bolshevism-Leninism remain alive and vibrant—the genuine ideas of October, which cannot be destroyed either with slander or with the bullets of the assassins. In the words of Lenin: “Marxism is all-powerful—because it is true.”

London, 24th January 2000.

Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium

Introduction to
Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium

Written: 1965;
Source: The Autodidact Project;
First Published: Erich Fromm (ed.), Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965, pp. vii-xiii.
Transcribed: Ralph Dumain.

One of the most remarkable phenomena of the past decade has been the renascence of Humanism in various ideological systems. Humanism—in simplest terms, the belief in the unity of the human race and man’s potential to perfect himself by his own efforts—has had a long and varied history stretching back to the Hebrew prophets and the Greek philosophers. Terentius’ statement, “I believe that nothing human is alien to me,” was an expression of the Humanist spirit, echoed centuries later by Goethe’s “Man carries within himself not only his individuality but all of humanity, with all its potentialities, although he can realize these potentialities in only a limited way because of the external limitations of his individual existence.”

Over the ages some Humanists have believed in the innate goodness of man or the existence of God, while others have not. Some Humanist thinkers—among them Leibniz, Goethe, Kierkegaard, and Marx—particularly stressed the need to develop individuality to the greatest possible extent in order to achieve the highest harmony and universality. But all Humanists have shared a belief in the possibility of man’s perfectibility, which, whether they believed in the need for God’s grace or not, they saw as dependent upon man’s own efforts (which is why Luther was not a Humanist). Nonreligious Humanists like Gianbattista Vico and Karl Marx carried this further to say that man makes his own history and is his own creator.

Because Humanists believe in the unity of humanity and have faith in the future of man, they have never been fanatics. After the Reformation they saw the limitations of both the Catholic and the Protestant positions, because they judged not from the narrow angle of one particular organization or power group, but from the vantage point of humanity. Humanism has always emerged as a reaction to a threat to mankind: in the Renaissance, to the threat of religious fanaticism; in the Enlightenment, to extreme nationalism and the enslavement of man by the machine and economic interests. The revival of Humanism today is a new reaction to this latter threat in a more intensified form—the fear that man may become the slave of things, the prisoner of circumstances he himself has created—and the wholly new threat to mankind’s physical existence posed by nuclear weapons.

This reaction is being felt in all camps—Catholic, Protestant, Marxist, liberal. This does not mean, however, that contemporary Humanists are willing to forego their specific philosophical or religious convictions for the sake of “better understanding,” but rather that, as Humanists, they believe they can reach the clearest understanding of different points of view from the most precise expression of each, always bearing in mind that what matters most is the human reality behind the concepts.

This volume is an attempt to present the ideas of one branch of contemporary Humanism. Socialist Humanism differs in an important respect from other branches. Renaissance and Enlightenment Humanism believed that the task of transforming man into a fully human being could be achieved exclusively or largely by education. Although Renaissance Utopians touched upon the need for social changes, the socialist Humanism of Karl Marx was the first to declare that theory cannot be separated from practice, knowledge from action, spiritual aims from the social system. Marx held that free and independent man could exist only in a social and economic system that, by its rationality and abundance, brought to an end the epoch of “prehistory” and opened the epoch of “human history,” which would make the full development of the individual the condition for the full development of society, and vice versa. Hence he devoted the greater part of his life to the study of capitalist economics and the organization of the working class in the hopes of instituting a socialist society that would be the basis for the development of a new Humanism.

Marx believed that the working class would lead in the transformation of society because it was at once the most dehumanized and alienated class, and potentially the most powerful, since the functioning of society depended upon it. He did not foresee the development of capitalism to the point where the working class would prosper materially and share in the capitalist spirit while all of society would become alienated to an extreme degree. He never became aware of that affluent alienation which can be as dehumanizing as impoverished alienation.

Stressing the need for a change in the economic organization and for transferring control of the means of production from private (or corporate) bands into the bands of organized producers, Marx was misinterpreted both by those who felt threatened by his program, and by many socialists. The former accused him of caring only for the physical, not the spiritual, needs of man. The latter believed that his goal was exclusively material affluence for all, and that Marxism differed from capitalism only in its methods, which were economically more efficient and could be initiated by the working class. In actuality, Marx’s ideal was a man productively related to other men and to nature, who would respond to the world in an alive manner, and who would be rich not because he had much but because he was much.

Marx was seeking an answer to the meaning of life, but could not accept the traditional religious answer that this can be found only through belief in the existence of God. In this he belongs to the same tradition as the Enlightenment thinkers, from Spinoza to Goethe, who rejected the old theological concepts and were searching for a new spiritual frame of orientation. But, unlike such socialists as Jean Jaurés, Lunacharsky, Gorki, and Rosa Luxemburg, who permitted themselves to deal more explicitly with the question of the spiritual, Marx shied away from a direct discussion of the problem because he wanted to avoid any compromise with religious or idealistic ideologies, which he considered harmful.

Authentic Marxism was perhaps the strongest spiritual movement of a broad, nontheistic nature in nineteenth-century Europe. But after 1914—or even before—most of this spirit disappeared. Many different factors were involved, but the most important were the new affluence and ethics of consumption that began to dominate capitalist societies in the period between the wars and immediately following the second and the seesawing pattern of destructiveness and suffering caused by two world wars. Today, the questions of the meaning of life and man’s goal in living have emerged again as questions of primary importance.

One must realize that, by necessity, the spiritual problem has been camouflaged to a large extent until our present moment in history. As long as productive forces were not highly developed, the necessity to work, and to keep alive, gave sufficient meaning to life. This still holds true for the vast majority of the human race, even those living in industrially developed countries where the mixture of work and leisure, and the dream of ever increasing consumption, keeps man from realizing his true human potential, of being what he could be. But we are moving rapidly toward a fully industrialized, automated world in which the ten or twenty hour work week will be standard, and where the many material satisfactions provided for everyone will be taken for granted. In this totally affluent society (which will be a planned if not a socialist one), man’s spiritual problem will become much more acute and urgent than it has ever been in the past.

This volume has a dual purpose. It seeks to clarify the problems of Humanist socialism in its various theoretical aspects, and to demonstrate that socialist Humanism is no longer the concern of a few dispersed intellectuals, but a movement to be found throughout the world, developing independently in different countries. In this volume many Humanist socialists from the East and the West meet for the first time. Reading the volume, contributors as well as readers may become fully aware for the first time of the common response of many socialists to what the history of the past decades and the present threat to the physical and spiritual survival of mankind has taught them.

With five exceptions, all of the contributions were written specifically for this volume, but in no case did I suggest the topic of a specific essay to the author. I preferred to ask each of them to write on any topic that appeared most important to him within the general frame of reference of socialist Humanism. I hoped that in this way the volume would represent the main interests of Humanist socialists. It did not seem to me a disadvantage if some topics were dealt with several times by different authors. On the contrary, I thought it would be an interesting and even impressive phenomenon to see the fundamental agreement among most authors represented in this volume and the extent to which a new school of thinking has arisen in various parts of the world, in particular among the scholars of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, whose writings have so far been little known in the English speaking world.

Despite the authors’ common bond, there are important disagreements among them and with the editor. The authors belong to different political parties. Most of them are socialists, but some are not. Most of them are Marxists, but some—including Catholics, independent liberals, and non Marxist labor party members—are not. No one whose contribution is published here can be held responsible for the views expressed by any other author or by the editor.

As Humanists, all of the contributors have a common concern with man and the full unfolding of his potentialities, and a critical attitude toward political reality, especially toward ideologies. This latter is of the utmost importance. Today, more than ever, we find concepts like freedom, socialism, humanism, and God used in an alienated, purely ideological way, regardless of who uses them. What is real in them is the word, the sound, not a genuine experience of what the word is supposed to indicate. The contributors are concerned with the reality of human existence, and hence are critical of ideology; they constantly question whether an idea expresses the reality or hides it.

There is one other factor common to all the contributors: their conviction that the most urgent task for mankind today is the establishment of peace. No one represented in this volume in any way supports the cold war.

Inevitably there are omissions, which the editor regrets. Most of the authors are either European or North American, even though Asia, Africa, and Australia are represented. There is also a rather one sided emphasis on the philosophical aspect of socialist Humanism as compared to the practical and empirical problems of Humanist socialist organization, which are dealt with only in the last chapter, On the Practice of Socialist Humanism. Indeed, a great number of important problems of socialist organization are not only not represented here, but have been little discussed in socialist literature in general. (Such problems are, for instance, the distinction between real human needs and artificially produced needs, the possibility of a revival of handicrafts as a luxury industry, new forms of democratic participation based on small face to face groups, etc.)

To sum up: it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that never in the past hundred years have there been such widespread and intensive studies of the problem of Humanist socialism as today. To demonstrate this phenomenon and show some of the results of these studies are the purposes of this volume. In this concern for man and opposition to dehumanization we feel a deep sense of solidarity with all Humanists, many of whom do not share all of our views, but all of whom share our concern for the full development of man.

I wish to thank all those who have helped me in my editorial task. I have often turned to Thomas B. Bottomore of the London School of Economics and Gajo Petrović of the University of Zagreb for advice, and they have always been most generous in their response. I am grateful to the contributors for responding so cooperatively to my suggestions about space and organization, and to the translators for taking on the difficult job of putting complicated manuscripts in French, German, Italian, Polish, and Serbo Croat into English. Finally my sincere thanks to Anne Freedgood of Doubleday for her ever present interest in this book and for her extraordinary effort in preparing the manuscript.

Erich Fromm

https://www.marxists.org/archive/fromm/works/1965/introduction.htm

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