Book Review: “Trotskyism or Leninism?” by Harpal Brar

trotskyismorleninism

BOOK REVIEW

“TROTSKYISM OR LENINISM?” by Harpal Brar, London, 1993

INTRODUCTION

“Lenin’s methods lead to this: the party organisation first substitutes itself for the party as a whole; then the Central Committee substitutes itself for the organisation; and finally a single ‘dictator’ substitutes himself for the Central Committee……

“This evil-minded and morally repugnant suspicion of Lenin, this shallow caricature of the tragic intolerance of Jacobinism, … must be liquidated at the present time at all costs, otherwise the party is threatened by complete political, moral and theoretical decay’.

(L.D. Trotsky: ‘Nos Tâches Politiques’; Paris; 1970; p192)

“Trotsky behaves like a despicable careerist and factionalist….He pays lip service to the Party and behaves worse than any other of the factionalists”.

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Grigory Zinoviev, in: ‘collected Works’, volume 34; Moscow; 1966; p399-400)

Despite these and many similar quotations, a central feature of Trotskyite historiography is that during Lenin’s leadership of the Russian Communist Party, Trotsky’s relations with Lenin were those of ‘mutual confidence’, and that Trotsky’s conflict with the Party only began following Stalin’s accession to the Party leadership.

This issue of Compass is devoted to a review of a new book which clearly shows that the theory and practice of Trotskyism stand, and have always stood, irreconcilably opposed to the precepts of Leninism.

The author opens by correctly stating that for many years (and not without a little help from the imperialist bourgeoisie), Trotskyites have successfully promoted the fallacious view that Trotskyism and Leninism are synonymous, and that only the cunning machinations of the ‘despot’ Stalin prevented Trotsky from assuming his rightful place as a worthy successor to Lenin and the true inheritor of Leninism.

The aim of this book is to expose this re-writing of history and to lay bare the truly reactionary and counter-revolutionary essence of the petty-bourgeois ideology of Trotskyism, notwithstanding its sheep’s clothing of pseudo-Marxist and pseudo-leftist phraseology. The author is to be congratulated on comprehensively and persuasively fulfilling these aims, setting the historical record straight, and providing an invaluable text for those wishing knowledge of the true nature of Trotskyism.

He quotes Stalin’s remark that:

“….systematic reiteration and patient explanation of the so-called ‘generally-known’ truths is one of the best methods of educating…. comrades in Marxism.”

(Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR; Foreign Languages Press, Peking 1972; p.9)

Harpal Brar can be assured that he has succeeded in his desire to set out those ‘generally known’ (and many less generally known) truths about Trotskyism. This, however, is too modest an assessment of the worth of this book, which focuses on those essential features of Trotskyism bringing it into sharp contradiction with Leninism. These include the theory of permanent revolution, distrust of Leninism in matters of organisation, and its discrediting and defaming of the leaders of Bolshevism.

Separate sections deal with Lenin’s theory of revolution compared with the theory of ‘permanent revolution’; socialism in one country; the Moscow trials; the Chinese revolution; the Spanish civil war; collectivisation; and class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Helpful referenced quotations are included throughout, as is a useful bibliography.

A great deal of the text is based upon a series of pamphlets first published in the early 1970’s. Although the preface provides a good updating of the material, it is, perhaps, a pity that some of the chapters seem rooted firmly in the past, since as the author points out, many of the persons and organisations originally the target of these polemics are no longer readily identifiable. This is a very minor criticism, not least because in the face of continuous recycling of the old myths by today’s Trotskyites the author’s arguments still hold true.

The terrorist nature of Trotskyism in the Soviet Union, and its subsequent rout culminating in the Moscow Trials, is dealt with in chilling detail. The author highlights the fact that Trotskyism was only able to make something of a comeback due to the need of the Soviet revisionists to discredit the gains of socialist construction in the years before the 20th Party Congress, at the same time discrediting Stalin, the man under whose leadership these gains had been achieved.

By way of contrast, an example is given of a quote from Mao Tse-tung on the occasion of Stalin’s 60th birthday (1939):

“Stalin is the leader of the world revolution. This is of paramount importance. It is a great event that mankind is blessed with Stalin. Since we have him, things can go well. As you all know, Marx is dead and so are Engels and Lenin. Had there been no Stalin, who would there be to give directions? But having him – this is really a blessing. Now there exists in the world a Soviet Union, a Communist Party and also a Stalin. Thus the affairs of the world can go well” (p79)

There is, however, more than a hint of hyperbole in this declaration which, in its effusiveness, is redolent of the ‘praise’ lavished on Stalin by Khrushchev. It should be remembered that the ‘cult of the individual’ was built up around Stalin and against his wishes in order to disguise the fact that the Party and the Communist International were at times dominated by concealed revisionists, and, at a later date was used as a pretext for attacking Stalin under the guise of carrying out a programme of ‘democratisation’.

Is it any wonder that in September 1956, seventeen years later, in his opening address to the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of China we find Mao Tse-tung referring in glowing terms to the infamous 20th Congress of the communist Party of the soviet Union which had been held in February of that year:

‘At its 20th Congress held not long ago, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union formulated many correct policies and criticised shortcomings which were found in the Party. It can be confidently asserted that very great developments will follow this in its work”.

(Mao Tse-tung: Opening Address, in: ‘Eighth National Congress of the Communist Party of China”, Volume 1; Peking; 1956)

Furthermore, on the basis of discussions at enlarged meetings of the Political Bureau of the central Committee of the Communist Party of China, two widely publicised articles were published in “Renmin Ribao” (People’s Daily) which put forward the modern revisionist viewpoint on the 20th Congress:

“The 20th Congress of the Soviet Union.. .took a series of momentous decisions… on the criticisms of shortcomings within the Party…

The Congress very sharply exposed the prevalence of the cult of the individual which, for a long time in Soviet life, had given rise to many errors in work and had led to ill consequences.. The Communist Party of the soviet Union.. made appalling mistakes, and, what is more, it was Stalin himself, that widely renowned and honoured leader, who made them! …

“Stalin took more and more pleasure in the cult of the individual, and violated the Party’s system of democratic centralism and the principle of combining collective leadership with individual responsibility. As a result, he made some serious mistakes such as the following: he broadened the scope of the suppression of the counterrevolution; he lacked the necessary vigilance on the eve of the anti-fascist war; he failed to pay proper attention to the further development of agriculture and the material welfare of the peasantry; he gave certain wrong advice on the international communist movement, and, in particular, made a wrong decision on the question of Yugoslavia. on these issues, Stalin fell victim to subjectivism and one-sidedness, and divorced himself from objective reality and from the masses.”

(“On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the proletariat”. Peking, 1956; p3,4,9-10)

Bent, as always, on sowing confusion, the Trotskyites have consistently characterised these same revisionists (whether ‘right’ Soviet or ‘left’ Chinese), dedicated to the overthrow of Marxism-Leninism, as ‘Stalinists’. It is hardly surprising that other aspects of their political analysis fails to convince, an example being the interpretation of Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost offered by Gerry Healy of the Socialist Labour League as:

“the political revolution for restoring Bolshevik world revolutionary perspectives”!

(‘Trotskyism or Leninism?’ Harpal Brar, London 1993)

Of course the Trotskyites were not completely wrong in discerning a progressive and popular element in the mass movements which have taken place in Eastern Europe. They were incorrect to characterise these as ‘anti-Stalin’ since revisionism had already led to the dismantling of socialism and the reintroduction of capitalist economies in these countries.

In Poland, for example, following the imposition as party leader of Wladyslaw Gomulka by the Kruschevites in 1956, the communist party became dominated by revisionists. With every step taken by the revisionist leaders of the Eastern European countries to restore capitalism, the law of antagonism between workers and management, between exploiters and exploited, operated with ever increasing intensity. Continuing claims about the ‘socialist’ nature of these states were no more than demagogic propaganda to hold back the rising tide of class struggle.

As if commenting on a self-evident error, Harpal Brar states that:

“… all the Trotskyites everywhere supported the counterrevolutionary … Solidarnosc in Poland”. (p57)

However, Solidarnosc called for the formation of independent self-administering trade unions outside and in opposition to the existing trade unions in Poland, together with the right to strike, freedom of speech and the press.

Commenting on the development of Solidarnosc, the Party of Labour of Albania correctly characterised Poland as a revisionist country in which the essentials of capitalism had been restored, and described the official trade unions as

“….transmission belts, of the policy of the revisionist party”. (‘Only the revolutionary road can take the Polish working class to victory’, in; Zeri i Popullit”, September 7th, 1980)

Under these circumstances, (even though the leaders of Solidarnosc may well have been in league with the CIA), the demands of solidarnosc oh behalf of its millions of members such as the right to strike, could hardly be considered reactionary. In fact, as far as Marxist-Leninists within Poland were concerned, the struggle to raise revolutionary consciousness of the workers could surely best be carried out in organisations not dominated by the revisionist-fascist state, and once a degree of freedom of speech for the workers could be achieved.

It is also difficult to join with the author in lamenting developments in Romania:

“.. in regard to the counter revolutionary movement in Timisoara, which resulted in the overthrow and foul murder of Ceaucescu and his wife. “(p55)

for, as Enver Hoxha pointed out:

“Regardless of what the Romanian leaders claimed, the dictatorship of the proletariat was not operating in Romania and the Romanian Worker’s Party was not in a strong position. They declared that they were in power, but it was very evident that, in fact, the bourgeoisie was in power. It had industry, agriculture and trade in its hands and continued to fleece the Romanian people and to live in luxurious villas and palaces.”

(Enver Hoxha, “The Khrushchevites. Memoirs”, Tirana 1989; p156-7)

CONCLUSIONS

Trotsky’s attacks on the Soviet Union became increasingly rabid up until his death in August 1940. His assassination and an earlier assault on his house in Nay that year, have formed the basis for the final great myth of Trotskyism.

It is now known that the raid on Trotsky’s house in May was stage managed, no doubt to raise Trotsky’s status as a persecuted exile. The investigating authorities, however, were satisfied that:

“… the raid could not have been carried out without the co-operation of someone in Trotsky’s entourage”.

(Isaac Deutscher: ‘The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky: 1929-1940’; Oxford; 1989; p491)

The Mexican authorities preferred to drop proceedings against the perpetrators of the May raid on Trotsky’s house rather than risk the exposure in court of the fact that the ‘assault’ had been a spurious one organised by, or in collusion with, Trotsky. This can be explained as a consequence of Mexico’s dependence on United states imperialism, and the certainty that Trotsky, a leading disrupter of the international communist movement, was by this time an agent of US imperialism, a fact uncovered by the American historian Professor William Chase, of Pittsburgh University:

“I can tell you we have concrete information that Leon Trotsky too (as well as Diego Rivera – Ed.) was an informant of the US government”.

(‘Independent’, 25 November 1993; p24)

Despite such evidence, and that the assassin was a Spanish anarchist who had no links to the Soviet government, supporters of Trotsky insist on continuing to present him as a victim of Stalin’s spleen! If Trotskyism were not such an important asset to the imperialist bourgeoisie, this, and the many other myths concerning Trotsky should be laid firmly to rest by Harpal Brar’s excellent book.

There is much that can be learned from this volume which should be read by all interested in history and politics, and all who wish to understand the true counter-revolutionary nature of Trotskyism.

Compass is published by:

THE COMMUNIST LEAGUE

The aim of the Communist League is to establish in Britain a Marxist-Leninist Party of the working class free of all revisionist trends.

‘Trotskyism or Leninism?'(ISBN 1-875613-02-8) is available from E. J. Rule, 14 Featherstone Road, Southall, Middx 0B2 BAA; price £10.00.

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