Read part two here.
“Among the Russian comrades, there was not one from whom I could learn anything…The errors which I have committed . . always referred to questions that were not fundamental or strategic. . . In all conscientiousness I cannot, in the appreciation of the political situation and of its revolutionary perspectives, accuse myself of any serious errors of judgement.
Looking back, two years after the revolution, Lenin said:
‘At the moment when it seized the power and created the Soviet republic, Bolshevism drew to itself all the best elements in the currents of Socialist thought that were nearest to it’.
Can there be even a shadow of doubt that when he spoke so deliberately of the best representatives of the currents closest to Bolshevism, Lenin had foremost in mind what is now called ‘historical Trotskyism’? . . Whom else could he have had in mind?”
(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970; p. 184, 185, 353).
“Trotsky is very fond of explaining historical events . . in pompous and sonorous phrases, in a manner flattering to Trotsky.”
(V.I. Lenin: “Violation Of Unity under Cover Of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 194).
“What a swine this Trotsky is — Left phrases and a bloc with the Right . . ! He ought to be exposed.”
(V.I. Lenin: Letter to Alexandra Kollontai, February 17th., 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 285).
Originally Printed and published by: B.C., (Secretary) 26, Cambridge Road, Ilford Esssex. for the COMMUNIST LEAGUE (CL).
Revisionism is the perversion of Marxism-Leninism to suit the needs of the exploiting classes, to the elimination of which Marxism-Leninism is directed.
A study of revisionism in Russia is of particular importance to Marxist-Leninists, since it was through revisionism that the socialist society constructed there came to be replaced by an essentially capitalist society.
One of the myths of Trotskyism is that in the years before 1917 Trotsky fought side by side with Lenin from revolutionary positions, and that only after Stalin became General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party in 1922 did a political rift develop between Trotsky and his supporters on the one hand and the leadership of the Party on the other.
The facts documented in this report demonstrate that this theory could hardly be further from the truth. From 1903 to 1917, year after year, Trotsky fought Lenin on almost every political issue that arose, along with other figures whom we shall meet again in connection with the revisionist struggle to prevent the construction of socialism after the revolution and to destroy it when it had been built — such figures -as Lev Kamenev (Trotsky’s brother-in-law), Grigori Zinoviev, Yuri Piatakov, Grigori Sokolnikov, Nikolai Bukharin, Aleksei Rykov, Khristian Rakovsky, Adolf Warski, David Ryazanov, Evgenii Preobrazhensky, Solomon Lozovsky and Dmitri Manuilsky.
The first part of this report covers the period up to the outbreak of the first imperialist war in 1914; the second covers the period from 1914 to the “October Revolution” of 1917. Later reports will cover the period from 1917 onwards.
1879 – 1895: Childhood
Lev Davidovich Bronstein, who later became Leon Trotsky was born on November 7th, 1879.
His father, David Leontievich Bronstein, was a well-to-do farmer, of Jewish origin but. Indifferent to religion, who worked with the help of wage-labour a large farm called Yanovka, near the small town of Bobrinetz in the province of Kherson in the southern Ukraine.
His mother, Anna Bronstein, was an educated, petty bourgeois, city-bred woman, of Jewish descent and orthodox in religion.
Lev was the Bronsteins’ fifth child, and by the time of his birth they were affluent enough to afford a nursemaid for him.
At the age of seven his parents sent him to a “kheder” a private Jewish religious school, at Gromokla, a German-Jewish colony about two miles away. There he stayed with relatives. But the tuition was in Yiddish, and the boy learned little there except to read and write a little Russian. After a few months his parents withdrew him from the school and he returned home.
In the autumn of 1888, when Lev was nearly nine, he was sent to stay with other relatives in Odessa in order to attend school there. These relatives –Moissei Filipovich Spentzer, a liberal publisher, and his wife, the headmistress of a secular school for Jewish girls – gave the boy his first introduction to the great literature of the world. They arranged for him to attend St. Paul’s “Realschule” a progressive, cosmopolitan school which taught in Russian.
In the course of his seven years at the “Realschule” he excelled in his studies, became fastidious about his appearance and dress, and acquired, as he says, a feeling of superiority towards his fellow students.
In 1896, at the age of seventeen, he completed his course in Odossa and moved to Nicolayev to attend a similar school for the purpose of matriculating.
Here he lodged with a family whose sons had already been touched by socialist ideas and who argued against Trotsky’s conservative outlook. Six months later he had embraced socialism and had been introduced into radical discussion circle held in a gardener’s hut on the outskirts of the town. Most of the members of this group were Narodniks, adherents of an intellectual, individualistic, vaguely socialist trend, which based itself, not on the working class, but on the peasantry, and which at first appealed strongly to Trotsky… One member of the group, however –Aleksandra Sokolovskaya, a girl some few years older than Trotsky who later became his first wife was a Marxist and strongly influenced the development of his views.
When his father objected to his association with this radical circle, Trotsky gave up the allowance he had been receiving from home, took up private tutoring and moved from his lodgings to live in the gardener’s hut, as a member of the Narodnik “commune.”
In the spring of 1897 he took a leading part in the formation of an underground trade union, the South Russian Workers’ Union, which had grown to about 200 members before the end of the year and published its own duplicated paper “Nashe Delo” (Our Cause).
In the summer of 1897 Trotsky graduated with first-class honours, and at the end of that year was arrested, together with some other leading members of the union. He was kept in a small cell in the prison at Kerson for several months, being transferred to the prison at Odessa in the middle of 1898. He occupied himself here in writing a treatise on freemasonry, and in reading Marxist books smuggled in from outside.
Towards the end of 1899, Trosky received his sentence (without trial) of deportation to Siberia for four years. He was first moved to a transfer prison in Moscow, where he met older and more experienced revolutionaries from all over Russia and made his first acquaintance with the writings of Lenin. In the spring or summer of 1900 he married in the Moscow prison Aleksandra Sokolovskaya, and shortly afterwards he and his wife began their journey into exile.
1900 – 1902: Exile
They reached their place of exile — the settlement of Verkholensk in the mountains overlooking Lake Baikal — in the late autumn of 1900. Having come to accept Marxism in the preceding years, Trotsky now identified himself with the labour movement, becoming a leading member of the Siberian Social Democratic Workers’ Union.
In December 1900 he began to write for the “Vostochnoye Obozrenie” (Eastern Review), a progressive newspaper published in Irkutsk, under the pseudonym of “Antid Oto.” His contributions consisted, mainly of reportage on the conditions of the Siberian peasants, together with literary criticism.
In the summer of 1902 Trotsky made his escape from Siberia, abandoning his wife, and two children. In Samara he received a message from Lenin asking him to report to the headquarters of ‘Iskra’- (The Spark) in London as soon as possible.
1902 – 1903: Trotsky Becomes an Iskra-ist
Trotsky arrived in London in October 1902 and Lenin found him lodgings. He began to contribute to “Iskra” in November 1902 and soon became known as a brilliant writer and orator.
From time to time he visited Prance, Switzerland and Belgium, and it was on a visit to Paris that he met his second “wife” (he was never formally divorced from Aleksandra Sokolovskaya), a Russian revolutionary of noble birth, Natalya Sedova, who was studying the history of art at the Sorbonne.
1903: The Struggle at the Second Congress
The Second congress Of the Russian Social-Democratic Party attended by 43 delegates, was held in July/August 1903, first in Brussels, and then in London. The main business on its’ agenda was to adopt a programme and rules. Trotsky attended as a delegate from the Siberian Social-Democratic Workers’ Union.
The sharpest controversy at the congress arose around the first clause of the rules, defining what was meant by the term “member of the party.” In accordance with the principles he had been putting forward for some time in “Iskra,” Lenin proposed the following wording for Clause 1:
“A member of the R.S.D.L.P. is one who recognises its programme and supports the Party materially as well as by personal participation in one of the organisations of the Party.”
Yuli Martov moved to substitute for the words underlined:
“Working under the control and guidance of one of the organisations of the Party.”
Lenin’s case against Martov’s formulation was that:
1) It would in practice be impossible to maintain effective “control and guidance” over Party members who did not personally participate in one of the organisations of the Party;
2) It reflected the outlook, not of the working class, which is not shy of organisation and discipline, but of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia, who tend to be individualistic and shy of organisation and discipline;
3) It would widen Party membership to include supporters of the Party, and so would abolish the essential dividing line between the working class and its organised, disciplined vanguard; it would, therefore, have the effect of dissolving the vanguard in the working class as a whole and so would serve the interests of the class enemies of the working class.
Trotsky sided with Martov, whose formulation was adopted by 28 votes to 22 with 1 abstention.
Later, the withdrawal of seven opponents of Lenin from the congress altered the balance of forces in favour of Lenin and his supporters, Lenin then proposed that the editorial board of “Iskra” (which consisted of six members) should be replaced by one of three members. Trotsky countered this manoeuvre with a motion confirming the old editorial board in office, but this was defeated by a majority of 2 votes; thereupon the anti-Leninists abstained from further voting. In the elections which followed three anti-Leninists (Axelrod, Potresov and Vera Zasulich) were dropped from the board, leaving Lenin, Plekhanov and Martov. Furthermore, three supporters of Lenin were elected to form the Central Committee.
Thus, at its Second Congress the Party showed itself to be divided into two factions. From that time those Party members who supported Lenin’s political line were known as Bolsheviks (from ‘bolshinstvo”, majority) while those who opposed Lenin’s political line were known as Mensheviks (from “menshinstvo” minority).
The Bolshevik trend was a Marxist trend, representing the interests of the working class within the labour movement;
TheMenshevik trend was a revisionist trend representing the interests of the capitalist class within the labour movement.
The “Report of the Siberian Delegation”
Later Trotsky admitted his error in having opposed Lenin at the 2nd. Congress on the question of Party organisation. Speaking of Lenin’s attitude at the Congress, Trotsky says in his autobiography:
“His behaviour seemed unpardonable to me, both horrible and outrageous. And yet, politically, it was right and necessary, from the point of view of organisation.
My break with Lenin occurred on what might be considered “moral” or even personal grounds. But this was merely on the surface. At bottom, the separation was of a political nature and merely expressed itself in the realm of organisational methods.
I thought of myself as a centralist. But there is no doubt that at that at that time I did not fully realise what an intense and imperious centralism the revolutionary party would need to lead millions of people in a war against the old order . . At the time of the London Congress in 1903, revolution was still largely a theoretical abstraction to me.
Independently I still could not see Lenin’s centralism as the logical conclusion of a clear revolutionary concept.”
(L.Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1971; p. 162)
His immediate reaction to the congress, however, was to write “Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Report of the Siberian Delegation” which was published in Geneva in 1903.
In this he defended his, and his delegation’s opposition to Lenin and his supporters at the congress:
“Behind Lenin stood the new compact majority of the ‘hard’ ‘Iskra’ men, opposed to the ‘soft’ ‘Iskra’ men. We, the delegates of the Siberian Union, joined the ‘soft’ ones, and . . we do not think that we have thereby blotted our revolutionary record.”
(L.Trotsky: “Vtoroi Syezd R.S.D.R.P. (Otchet Sibirskoi Delegatskii)” (Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Report of the Siberian Delegation); Geneva: 1903; p.21.)
At the Congress, declared Trotsky, Lenin had:
“…With the energy and talent peculiar to him, assumed the role of the party’s disorganiser.”
(L.Trotsky: ibid.;. p.11).
and, like a new Robespierre, was trying to:
“…transform the modest Council of the Party into an omnipotent Committee of Public Safety.”
(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p.21).
so preparing the ground for the:
“Thermidorians of Socialist opportunism.”
(L. Trotsky: ibid; p.30).
He added in a postscript that Lenin resembled Robespierre, however, only as
“a vulgar farce resembles historic tragedy…”
(L.Trotsky: ibid.; p.33).
The 1903 Menshevik Conference
After the Congress, the Mensheviks — including Trotsky boycotted “Iskra” and refused to contribute to it.
In September 1903 they held a factional conference in Geneva to decide on future action. A shadow “central committee” was set up, consisting of Pavel Axelrod, Pedor Dan, Yuli Martov, Aleksandr Potresov and Trotsky, to direct the struggle against the Bolsheviks.
In Trotsky’s view the immediate aim of the campaign should be to force the Bolsheviks to restore the ousted Mensheviks to their former positions of influence, both in the Central Committee and the editorial board. A resolution, drafted by Martov and Trotsky, was adopted by the conference:
“We consider it our moral and political duty to conduct . . the struggle by all means, without placing ourselves outside the Party and without bringing discredit upon the party and the idea of its central institutions, to bring about a change in the composition of the leading bodies, which will secure to the Party the possibility of working freely towards its own enlightenment.”
(P.B. Axelrod &. Y. 0. Martov: “Pisma P.B. Axelroda i.Yu Martova” (Letters of P.B. Axelrod and Y.0.Martv); Berlin; l924; p.94).
The “New” Iskra
Soon after the Second Congress of the Party, Plekhanov gave way to the attacks of the Mensheviks. In violation of the decisions taken at the Party congress, he claimed and exercised the right as joint editor to coopt to the editorial board of “Iskra” the Menshevik former editors. Lenin strongly objected to this step, and resigned from the board.
The new editorial board transformed “Iskra” into a Menshevik organ, which waged unremitting struggle against Lenin and his supporters and against the Bolshevik Central Committee of the Party. Thus, from its 52nd. issue “Iskra” became known in the Party as the “new” “Iskra,” in contrast to the “old” Leninist “Iskra.” It continued publication until October 1905.
Trotsky became a prominent contributor to the “new Iskra” and issued a pamphlet setting forth the Menshevik political line. Lenin commented:
“A new pamphlet by Trotsky came out recently, under the editorship of ‘Iskra’, as was announced. This makes it the ‘Credo’, as it were, of the new ‘Iskra’. The pamphlet is a pack of brazen lies, a distortion of the facts. . . The Second Congress was, in his words, a reactionary attenpt to consolidate sectarian methods of organisation, etc.”
(V.I. Lenin: Letter to Yelena Stasova, F.V. Lengnik, and 0thers, October 1904, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 43; Moscow; 1969; p. 129).
1904: The Russo – Japanese War
In February 1904 the Russo-Japanese War began with a Japanese attack on the Russian fortress of Port Arthur. The Russian Army suffered defeat and almost the entire Russian Navy was destroyed in the Straits of Tsushima, forcing the Tsarist government to conclude an ignominious peace treaty in September 1905.
1904: “Our Political Tasks”
Between February and May 1904, Lenin was engaged on writing the book “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.” In this he expounded at length the principles of party organisation he had put forward at the Second Congress and analysed the character of the Menshevik opposition.
In August 1904 Trotsky’s reply to Lenin’s book was published in Geneva under the title “Our Political Tasks.” It was dedicated to “My dear teacher Pavel B.Axelrod.”
In “Our Political Tasks” – Trotsky developed his attack upon “Maximillien Lenin”; whom he described as:
“…an adroit statistician and a slovenly attorney”
(L. Trotsky: ‘ashi Politicheskie Zadachi’(Our Political Tasks) Geneva; 1904; p. 95)
“…hideous, dissolute and demagogical”
(L.Trotsky : ibid. ; p. 75)
“Evil-minded and morally repulsive suspiciousness, a shallow caricature of tragic Jacobinist intolerance, must be liquidated now at all costs, otherwise the Party is threatened with moral and theoretical decay”;
(L. Trotsky: ibid. ; p. 95).
He developed his attack upon Lenin’s principles of Party organisation, claiming that they would lead to the establishment, not of the dictatorship of the working class but of a dictatorship over the working class (a dictatorship that would eventually be one of a single individual), which the working class would find intolerable:
“Lenin’s methods lead to this: the Party organisation at 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…. A proletariat capable of exercising its dictatorship over society will not tolerate any dictatorship over itself.”
(L. Trotsky. Ibid.; p. 54, 105)
and declaring that Lenin’s organisational principles would, in any case, be unworkable since any serious faction would defy Party discipline:
“Is it so difficult to see that any group of serious size and importance, if faced with the alternative of silently destroying itself or of fighting for its survival regardless of all discipline, would undoubtedly choose the latter course?”
(L. Trotsky: ibid; p. 72).
Meanwhile, readers of the “new” “Iskra” in Russia had been complaining strongly about Trotsky’s virulent attacks on Lenin in the columns of the paper, and in April 1904, on the demand of Plekhanov, he was forced to resign from it.
The Campaign for The Holding Of a Party Congress
In July 1904, two members of the Central Committee of the Party, Krassin and Noskov, broke with the Bolsheviks, giving the Mensheviks a majority on the committee. The Bolsheviks then began a campaign within the Party for the holding of a new congress.
In August l904 Lenin guided the conference of twenty-two prominent Bolsheviks which took place in Switzerland and which issued an appeal to the Party calling for the convocation of the Third Congress. At the same time a number of conference of Bolsheviks took place in Russia, out of which in December l904 came the Bureau of the Majority Committees which became the organising centre for the campaign for a new congress.
During the autumn of 1904, the Bolsheviks organised their own publishing house and at the end of the year established their own newspaper “Vperyod” (Forward), the first issue of which appeared on January 1904.
1904-1905: Parvus Lays the Basis for Trotsky’s “Theory of Permanent Revolution”
In November and December 1904 Trotsky wrote a brochure on the necessity for the working class to play the leading role in the capitalist revolution in Russia which, the following year, he entitled “Before the 9th January” (this being the date, under the old Russian calendar, in 1905 when the first Russian revolution began with the shooting down by the tsar’s troops of an unarmed workers’ demonstration).
When in Munich, Trotsky was accustomed to stay at the home of Aleksandr Helfand, a Russian Jew who then claimed to be a Marxist. Helfand published his own political review “Aus der Weltpolitik” (‘World Politics’) and wrote articles for other magazines especially Kautsky’s “Neue Zeit” (New Life) and the new “Iskra” — under the pen-name “Parvus.”
When Trotsky visited Munich in January 1905, he had the proofs of the brochure with him. Parvus was impressed with its contents and decided to put the weight of his authority behind Trotsky by writing a preface to it. In this preface he stated a conclusion which Trotsky still hesitated to draw:
“In Russia only the workers can accomplish a revolutionary insurrection. . . The revolutionary provisional government will be a government of workers’ democracy.”
(Parvus: Preface to: L.Trotsky: “Do 9 Yanvara”; Geneva; 1905)
In April 1905 Lenin commented on Parvus’s theory that the capitalist revolution in Russia could result in a government of the working class, as it had been put forward in the brochure written by
“the windbag Trotsky.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government”; in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 35)
“This cannot be . . This cannot be, because only a revolutionary dictatorship relying on the overwhelming majority of the people can be at all durable.. . The Russian proletariat, however, at present constitutes a minority of the population in Russia. It can become the great overwhelming majority only if it combines with the mass of semi-proletarians, semi-small proprietors, i.e. with the mass of the petty-bourgeois urban and rural poor. And such a composition of the social basis of the possible and desirable revolutionary-democratic dictatorship will of course, find its reflection in the composition of the revolutionary government. With such a composition the participation or even the predominance of the most diversified representatives of revolutionary democracy in such a government will be inevitable.”
(V. I. Lenin; ibid.; p. 35).
1905: The Beginning of the 1905 Revolution
On January 22nd, 1905 a peaceful demonstration of unarmed workers, led by a police agent, a priest by the name of Georgi Gapon, was fired on by troops while on its way to present a petition to the tsar at his Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Over a thousand workers were killed, more than two thousand injured.
The massacre taught tens of thousands of workers that they could win their rights only by struggle. During the weeks and months that followed, economic strikes began to pass into political strikes, into demonstrations and in places into clashes with tsarist troops.
In a letter written in Geneva three days after “Bloody Sunday,” Lenin wrote:
“The Russian proletariat will not forget this lesson. Even the most uneducated, the most backward strata of the working class, who naively trusted the tsar and sincerely wished to put peacefully before ‘the tsar himself’ the requests of a tormented nation, were all taught a lesson by the troops led by the tsar and the tsar’s uncle, the Grand Duke Vladimir… The arming of the people is becoming one of the immediate tasks of the revolutionary movement… The immediate arming of the workers and of all citizens in general, the preparation and organising of the revolutionary forces for overthrowing the government authorities and institutions — this is the practical basis on which all revolutionaries can and must unite to strike a common blow…
Long live the Revolution!
Long live the proletariat in revolt.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Beginning of the Revolution in Russia””, In: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; -London; l946;p. 289, 291, 292).
“No Tsar, but a Workers’ Government”
In February 1905 Trotsky returned to Russia, settling first in Kiev. Here he made contact with a member of the Party’s Central Committee who had the previous July played a treacherous role in assisting the Mensheviks to capture the Central Committee — Leonid Krassin. Krassin was in charge of a clandestine printing plant, which he now placed at Trotsky’s disposal.
A few weeks later Trotsky moved to St. Petersburg, where he became leader of the city’s Menshevik group.
He now adopted the view put forward in Parvus’s preface to his brochure “Before the 9th. January,” namely that the capitalist revolution in Russia should result in a workers’ government:
“The composition of the Provisional Government will in the main depend on the proletariat. If the insurrection ends in a decisive victory, those who have led the working class in the rising will gain power.”
(L. Trotsky: “Article in Iskra” (The Spark), No. 93; March 17th., 1905).
“Trotskyism: ‘No Tsar, but a workers’ government’. This surely, is wrong. There is a petty bourgeoisie, it cannot be ignored”.
(V. I. Lenin: Report on the Political Situation, Petrograd City Conference RSDLP, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 207).
Trotsky however, declared that this formulation of his political line was sloganised by Parvus and not by himself:
“At no time and in no place did I ever write or utter or propose such a slogan as “No Tsar — but a workers’ government.” The fact of the matter is that a proclamation entitled: ‘No Tsar — but a workers’ government’ was written and published abroad in the summer of 1905 by Parvus.”
(L. Trotsky. “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p.222)
The Third Party Congress
Early in 1905, the Central Committee acceded to the pressure within the Party and agreed to collaborate with the Bureau of Majority Committees in convening the Third Congress of the Party.
The congress took place in London in April/May 1905, that is, during the rising tide of the 1905 Revolution. It was boycotted by the Mensheviks, and attended by 24 delegates.
The congress adopted a resolution calling on the Party urgently to make all political and technical preparations for an armed uprising, and to organise armed resistance to the violence of the government-sponsored reactionary organisations. It also amended the formulation of point 1 of the Party rules adopted at the 2nd. Congress in order to bring this into line with Lenin’s principles of Party organisation and, abolishing the dual leading bodies (Central Committee and editorial board) established.at the 2nd. Congress, to make the Central Committee the leading body of the Party.
The congress set up a new central organ of the Party “Proletary” (The Proletarian). Lenin, who chaired the congress, was elected to the Central Committee, which at its first meeting, appointed him editor of the paper. This appeared in May 1905 and was published regularly in Geneva until Lenin returned to Russia in November 1905.
The 1905-Menshevik Conference
The Mensheviks, who boycotted the Third Congress of the Party, held their own conference simultaneously in Geneva. The conference endorsed the Menshevik line on the capitalist revolution (see next section) and refrained from discussing resolutions that had been submitted on the arming of the masses and work among the troops.
Lenin’s “The Two Tactics of Social-Democracy”
In July 1905 Lenin published a long work, “The Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution” in which he analysed the resolution of the Third Party Congress on the question of the capitalist revolution alongside that adopted at the Menshevik conference.
Lenin’s conception of the capitalist revolution was as follows:
1. The capitalist revolution is advantageous to the working class:
“The bourgeois revolution is in the highest degree advantageous to the proletariat. The bourgeois revolution is absolutely necessary in the interests of the proletariat. The more complete, determined and consistent the bourgeois revolution, the more secure will the proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie and for socialism become.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, in: “Selected Works ” Volume 3; London; 1946; p.75).
2. The working class is in fact,- objectively more interested in a full capitalist revolution than is the capitalist class:
“In a certain sense the bourgeois revolution is more advantageous to the proletariat than it is to the bourgeoisie. This postulate is undoubtedly correct in the following sense: it is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie to rely on certain remnants of the past as against the proletariat, for instance, on a monarchy, a standing army, etc. It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie if the bourgeois revolution does not too resolutely sweep away the remnants of the past, but leaves some. . . It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie if the necessary bourgeois-democratic changes take place more slowly, more gradually, more cautiously, with less determination, by means of reforms and not by means of revolution; if these changes spare the ‘venerable’ institutions of feudalism (such as the monarchy); if these reforms develop as little as possible the revolutionary initiative of the common people, i.e., the peasantry, and especially the workers, for otherwise it will be easier for the workers, as the French say, ‘to pass the rifle from one shoulder to the other’, i.e., to turn the guns which the bourgeois revolution will place in their hands; the democratic institutions which will spring up on the ground that will be cleared of feudalism, against the bourgeoisie.
On the other hand, it is more advantageous for the working class if the necessary bourgeois democratic changes take place in the form of revolution and not reform.
The very position the proletariat as a class occupies, compels it to be consistently democratic.
The bourgeoisie looks behind, is afraid of democratic progress which threatens to strengthen the proletariat. The proletariat has nothing to lose but its chains, but by means of democracy it has the whole world to win”.
(V.1. Lenin: ibid.; p. 75-77).
3. Therefore, ‘the working class must strive to make itself the leading force in the capitalist revolution, with the peasantry as its allies:
“Only the proletariat can be a consistent fighter for democracy. It may become a victorious fighter for democracy only if the peasant masses join it in its revolutionary struggle. If the proletariat is not strong enough for this, the bourgeoisie will put itself at the head of the democratic revolution and will impart to it the character of inconsistency and selfishness. The proletariat must carry out to the end the democratic revolution, and in this unite to itself the mass of the peasantry in order to crush by force resistance of the autocracy and to paralyse the instability of the bourgeoisie. At the head of the whole of the people, and particularly of the peasantry — for complete freedom for a consistent democratic revolution, for a republic!”
(V.I. Lenin: ibid; p. 86, 110-11, 14).
4. The provisional government which will be set up as a result of a democratic revolution carried out under the leadership of the working class will be the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”:
“’A decisive victory of the revolution over tsarism’ is the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry…. It will be a democratic, not a socialist dictatorship.”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p,. 82).,
5. The working class must endeavour to continue the capitalist revolution so as to transform it uninterruptedly into a working class revolution, a socialist revolution, which will make the working class the ruling class:
“From the democratic revolution we shall at once, according to the degree of our strength, the strength of the class conscious and organised proletariat, begin to pass over to the socialist revolution. We stand for continuous revolution. We shall not stop half way.”
(V. I. Lenin; “The Attitude of Social-Democracy toward the Peasant Movement”, in: ibid; p 145) .
6. The working class will be the leading force in the socialist revolution, with the poorer strata of the peasantry and urban petty-bourgeoisie as its allies:
“The proletariat must accomplish the socialist revolution and in this unite to itself the mass of the semi-proletarian elements of the population in order to crush by force the resistance of the bourgeoisie and to paralyse the instability of the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie. . At the head of all the toilers and the exploited – for socialism!”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Two Tactics Of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 111, 124).
The Menshevik conception of the capitalist revolution, on the other hand, was, on the other hand as follows:
1. As in previous capitalist revolutions in history, the capitalist revolution in Russia will make the capitalists the ruling class:
“It is evident that the forthcoming revolution cannot assume any political forms against the will of the whole – of the bourgeoisie, for the latter will be the master of tomorrow.”
(M. Martynov: “Two Dictatorships”, Cited by: V. I. Lenin: “Social-Democracy, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government”, in: ibid.; p. 26).
2. Therefore the role of the working class in the capitalist revolution must be to exert pressure upon the capitalist class to bring the revolution to a successful conclusion:
“The hegemony of the proletariat is a harmful utopia. The proletariat must follow the extreme bourgeois opposition.”
(M. Martynov: “Two Dictatorships”, cited in: J. V. Stalin: Preface to The Georgian Edition of K. Kautsky: “The Driving Forces and Prospects, of the Russian Revolution”, in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 2-3).
“The struggle to influence the course and outcome of the bourgeois revolution can express itself only in the fact that the proletariat will exert revolutionary pressure on the will of the liberal and radical bourgeoisie, and that the more democratic ‘lower stratum’ of society will force its’ ‘upper stratum’ to agree to lead the bourgeois revolution to its logical conclusion.”
(M. Martynov: ibid., cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 28).
3. There will be a relatively long interval of time between the capitalist revolution and the subsequent socialist revolution:
“The triumph of socialism cannot coincide with the fall of absolutism. These two movements necessarily will be separated from one another by a significant interval of time.”
(G. Plekhanov: “Chto zhe dal “she?”in: “Zarya”; No. 2-3; December 1901).
4. The capitalist revolution may be decisively victorious over the tsarist autocracy without the revolutionary overthrow of this autocracy:
“A decisive victory of the revolution over tsarism may be marked either by the setting up of a provisional government, which emerges from a victorious people’s uprising, ‘or by the revolutionary initiative of this or that representative institution’ which, under the immediate pressure of the revolutionary people, decides to set up a “national constituent assembly.”
(Resolution of 1905 Menshevik Conference, cited by: V. I. Lenin: “The Two Tactics of social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 57).
5. Social-Democrats must not participate in the provisional government, if one is set up in place of the autocracy since:
a) this will be a capitalist government, and participation by Social-Democrats in a capitalist government is contrary to socialist principles;
b) an attempt to do so would frighten the capitalist class and lead to the restoration of autocracy:
“Social-Democrats must, during the whole course of the revolution, strive to maintain a position which would best of all …preserve it from being merged with bourgeois democracy…. Therefore, Social-Democracy must not strive to seize or share power in the provisional government, but must remain the party of the extreme revolutionary opposition.”
(Ibid., p. 69).
“The Conference believes that the formation of a Social Democratic provisional government, or entry into the government would lead, on the one hand, to the masses of the proletariat becoming disappointed in the Social-Democratic Party and abandoning it …. because the Social-Democrats, in spite of the fact that they had seized power, would not-be able to satisfy the pressing needs of the working class, including the establishment of socialism, and, on the other hand, would induce the bourgeois classes to desert the cause of the revolution and in that way diminish its sweep.”
(Ibid.; p. l04).
“By simply frightening the majority of the bourgeois elements, the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat can lead to but one result — the restoration of absolutism in its original form.”
(M. Martynov: “Two Dictatorships”, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government'”; in: ibid.; p. 27).
6. Only in the event of working class revolution in Western Europe should the Social-Democratic Party depart from this principle and participate in the provisional government, for only then would it be possible to go forward in Russia to the working class, socialist revolution:
“Only in one event should social-Democracy, on its own initiative, direct its efforts towards seizing power and retaining it as long as possible, namely, in the event of the revolution spreading to the advanced countries of Western Europe where conditions for the achievement of socialism have already reached a certain state of maturity. In that event, the restricted historical scope of the Russian revolution can be considerably extended and the possibility of striking the path of socialist reforms will arise.”
(Resolution of 1905 Menshevik Conference, cited in: -V.I. Lenin:”The Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, in: ibid.; p. 96).
The St. Petersburg Soviet in the 1905 Revolution
In May 1905 Trotsky went to Finland. When he returned to St. Petersburg in October, a general strike had broken out in the city.
The striking workers elected delegates to a strike committee, which quickly developed into the first important “Soviet of Workers’ Deputies” and began to publish its own organ: “Izvestia” (News). The Mensheviks supported the Soviet from its inception, regarding it as an organ of democratic local government. The St. Petersburg Bolsheviks, led by Bogdan Knunyantz, were, however, at first hesitant in their approach to it, regarding it as a rival to the Party and demanding that it affiliate to the Party before they could support it.
Meanwhile Lenin, after making arrangements for the publication in St. Petersburg of a legal Bolshevik newspaper “Novaya Zizn” (New Life), had left-Geneva in October for Russia. Held up in Stockholm, he wrote from there:
“Comrade Radin (i.e., Knunyantz — -Ed.) is wrong in raising the question in No. 5 of the ‘Novaya Zhizn’, …the Soviet of Workers? Deputies or the Party? I think that it is wrong to put the question in this way, and that the decision must certainly be: both the Soviet of Deputies and the Party . . .
The Soviet of Deputies, as an organ representing all occupations, should strive to include deputies from all industrial, professional and office workers, domestic servants, farm labourers, etc., from all who want and are able to fight in common for a better life for the whole working people.
I think it inadvisable to demand that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies should accept the Social-Democratic Programme and join the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party….
I believe (On the strength of the incomplete and only ‘paper’ information at my disposal) that politically the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies should be regarded as the embryo of a provisional revolutionary Government.”
(V.I. Lenin “Our Tasks and the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies”; in “Collected Works”; Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p. 19, 20, 21).
Later, after his arrival in St. Petersburg, Lenin made a clear analysis of the Soviet. It could not be an organ of government until the power of the central tsarist state had been smashed, at least locally; in the existing circumstances its role must be to conduct this revolutionary struggle to smash the central state machine.
“The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is not a parliament of labour and not an organ of proletarian self-government. It is not an organ of government at all, but a fighting organisation for the achievement of definite aims. . .
The Soviet of Workers Deputies represents an undefined, broad fighting alliance of socialists and revolutionary democrats.”
(V. I.Lenin: “Socialism and Anarchism”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; l943; p. 343) .
“The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, etc., were in fact the embryo of a provisional government; power would inevitably have passed to them had the uprising been victorious.”
(V.I. Lenin; “The Dissolution of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat”, in: Ibid.; p. 383).
Although the St. Petersburg Bolsheviks corrected their attitude to the Soviet within a few days, their hesitancy in supporting it contributed in considerable measure to the fact that the majority of the deputies were from the outset Mensheviks or supporters of the Mensheviks. On October 30th, the Soviet elected its Executive; this consisted of three Mensheviks, three Bolsheviks, and three Socialist-Revolutionaries.
After a few days under the chairmanship of the Menshevik S. Zborovski, the Soviet elected as its chairman the lawyer Georgi Nosar (better known under his pseudonym “Khrustalev”); who was then independent of any party but later joined the Mensheviks.
Trotsky, who had allied himself with the St. Petersburg Mensheviks on his arrival in the city, was elected to the Soviet and soon came to play a leading role in its activities – which following the Menshevik political line of damping down the revolutionary enthusiasm and activity of the workers.
On November 2nd,
“Trotsky urged the Soviet to call off the general strike.”
(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p. 132).
and it duly came to an end on November 3rd.
On November 13th, the workers themselves began to introduce an eight-hour working day in the factories, and on the 15th, widespread public indignation at the state of siege which the tsarist government had just imposed on Poland, forced the Soviet to call a second general strike in St. Petersburg.
On November 18th, three days later,
“Trotsky.. . proposed to call an end to the second general strike.”
(I. Deutscher; ibid ; p. 134),
on the pretext that :
“The government had just announced that the sailors of Kronstadt (who had participated in the first general strike — Ed.) would be tried by ordinary military courts, not courts martial. The Soviet could withdraw not with victory indeed, but with honour.”
(I. Deutscher; Ibid.; p. 134).
In his speech to the Soviet urging the calling-off of the second general strike, Trotsky’s biographer declares that:
“While he tried to dam up the raging element of revolt, he stood before the Soviet like defiance itself, passionate and sombre.”
(I. Deutscher: ibid; p. 134),
“Events work for us and we have no need to force the pace. We must drag out the period of preparation for decisive action as much as we can, perhaps for a month or two, until we can come out as an army as cohesive and organised as possible. . .
When the liberal bourgeoisie, as if boasting of its treachery, tells us: ‘You are alone. Do you think you can go on fighting without us? Have you signed a pact with victory?’, we throw our answer in their face: ‘No, we have signed a pact with death.'”
(L.Trotsky; Speech to St. Petersburg Soviet, November 16th., l905, in: No. 7, November 20th., 1905).
Having succeeded in inducing the Soviet to call off the second general strike,
“A few days later he had again to impress upon the Soviet its own weakness and urge it to stop enforcing the eight-hour day. . . The Soviet was divided, a minority demanding a general strike; but Trotsky prevailed.”
(I. Deutscher: ibid; p. 135).
“We have not won the eight-hour day for the working class, but we have succeeded in winning the working class for the eight-hour day.”
(L.Trotsky: Speech to St. Petersburg Soviet, cited in: I. Deutscher: ibid.; p. 140).
In addition to his activities in the Soviet, Trotsky had contrived to gain control, jointly with Parvus (who had followed him to St. Pctersburg and had become a deputy in the Soviet) of a daily newspaper, “Russkaya Gazeta” (The Russian Newspaper), and later in the year, alongside it, he founded with Parvus and Yuli Martov a second daily “Nachalo” (The Beginning),which became the organ of Menshevisim from October to December 1905.
By the beginning of December, the government felt strong enough to take the offensive again. Press censorship was reimposed, and on December 5th. Khrustalev, the Chairman of the Soviet, was arrested together with a few other leading members. Trotsky replied to this by proposing that:
“The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies temporarily elect a new chairman and continue to prepare for an armed uprising.”
(L. Trotsky: Resolution to St. Petersburg Soviet, cited in: I. Deutscher: Ibid.; p. 140)
The Soviet accepted the proposal and elected a three-man Presidium, headed by Trotsky.
But the preparations for the “armed uprising” of Trotsky’s were virtually non-existent.
“The preparations for the rising which Trotsky had mentioned had so far been less than rudimentary: two delegates had been sent to establish contact with the provincial Soviets. The sinews of insurrection were lacking.”
(I. Deutscher: ibid.; p. 140).
Trotsky’s last gesture in the 1905 Revolution was then to put forward a “Financial Manifesto” written by Parvus. This called upon the people to withhold payment of taxes, declaring:
“There is only one way to overthrow the government –to deny it . . its revenue.”
(Financial Manifesto of St. Petersburg Soviet, cited in: I.Deutscher: ibid.; p.141).
On December 16th., Trotsky presided over a meeting of the Executive of the St. Petersburg Soviet, when a detachment of soldiers and police burst in to the meeting room and the members of the executive were arrested. A number of charges were brought against them, the principle charge being that of plotting insurrection.
The role of the Mensheviks in the St. Petersburg Soviet was summed up later by J.V. Stalin:
“The St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, being the Soviet of the most important industrial and revolutionary centre of Russia, the capital of the tsarist empire, ought to have played a decisive role in the Revolution of 1905. However, it did not perform this task, owing to its bad, Menshevik leadership. As we know Lenin had not yet arrived in St. Petersburg; he was still abroad. The Mensheviks took advantage of Lenin’s absence to make their way into the St.Petersburg Soviet and to seize hold of its leadership. It was not surprising under such circumstances that the Mensheviks Khrustalev, Trotsky, Parvus and others managed to turn the St. Petersburg Soviet against the policy of an uprising. Instead of bringing the soldiers into close contact with the Soviet and linking them up with the common struggle, they demanded that the soldiers be withdrawn from St. Petersburg. The Soviet, instead of arming the workers and preparing them for an uprising, just marked time and was against preparations for an uprising.”
(J.V. Stalin: “History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”(Bolsheviks; Moscow; 1941; p.79-80).
The Moscow Uprising
On December 19th., 1905 the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, which was led by the Bolsheviks, resolved to:
“Strive to transform the strike into an armed uprising.”
(V.I. Lenin: “The Lessons of the Moscow Uprising; in: “Selected Works, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 346)
and by December 22nd, the first barricades were being set up in the streets.
“The 23rd: artillery fire is opened on the barricades and on the crowds in the streets. Barricades are set up more deliberately, and no longer singly but on a really mass scale. The whole population is in the streets; all the principal centres of the city are covered by a network of. barricades. For several days stubborn guerrilla fighting proceeds between the insurgent detachments and the troops. The troops become exhausted and Dubasov is obliged to beg for reinforcements. Only on December 28 did the government forces acquire complete superiority and on December 30 the Semenov regiment stormed the Prosnya distrect, the last stronghold of the uprising.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Lessons of the Moscow Uprising”, in: ibid; p. 347).
In fact, the attitude of the Menshevik leadership of the St. Petersburg Soviet, led by Trotsky enabled the tsar to transfer troops from the capital to Moscow and this was a significant factor in the crushing of the uprising in the latter city.
“The climax of the Revolution of 1905 was reached in the December uprising in Moscow. A small crowd of rebels, namely, of organised and armed workers — they numbered not more than eight thousand –resisted the tsar’s government for nine days. The government dared not trust the Moscow garrison; on the contrary, it had to keep it behind locked doors, and only on the arrival of the Semenovsky Regiment from St. Petersburg was it able to quell the rebellion.”
(V.I. Lenin: Lecture on the 1905 Revolution, in: ibid.; p. 16).
Soviets of Workers’ Deputies were organised in other towns as well as in St. Petersburg and Moscow. In addition, Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies and Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies were established in some places.
Isolated strikes, riots and mutinies continued into 1906, leading to a lack of clarity for some months as to whether the revolutionary tide was ebbing or merely temporarily at rest before a subsequent rise. In fact December 1905 proved to be the peak of the revolutionary tide.
1906 -1907: The Trial of the Leaders of the St. Petersburg Soviet
The trial of the leaders of the St. Petersburg Soviet, the main charge against whom was that of plotting insurrection, began almost a year after the Revolution had been crushed, on October 2nd, 1906.
The defendants denied having engaged in technical preparation for a rising. On October 4th, Trotsky told the court:
“A rising of the masses is not made, gentlemen the judges. It makes itself of its own accord. It is the result of social relations and conditions, and not of a schema drawn up on paper. A popular insurrection cannot be staged. It can only be foreseen. For reasons that were as little dependent on us as on Tsardom, an open conflict had become inevitable. It came nearer with every day. To prepare for it meant for us to do everything possible to reduce to a minimum the number of victims of this unavoidable conflict.”
(L. Trotsky: Speech at Trial of Leaders of St. Petersburg Soviet, cited in: I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed- Trotsky: 1879-1921”-; London; 1970; p. 166).
On November 15th, the verdict was delivered. The defendants were found guilty on the main charge of plotting insurrection, but Trotsky and fourteen others were found guilty on minor charges and sentenced to deportation to Siberia for life and loss of all civil rights.
In February 1907 Trotsky escaped into Finland.
Trotsky’s “Results and Prospects”: The Theory of “Permanent Revolution”
While in prison, Trotsky wrote “Results and Prospects,” which was published in St. Petersburg in 1906 as the final chapter of his book “Our Revolution,” a collection of essays on the Russian Revolution of December 1905.
In this essay Trotsky gave a fundamental statement of his views on capitalist revolution, the “theory of permanent revolution”
The term “permanent revolution” was derived from an address by Marx and Engels written in 1850:
“While the democratic petty bourgeois wish to bring the revolution to a conclusion as quickly as possible and with the achievement at most of the above demand, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent, until all more or less possessing classes have been displaced from domination, until the proletariat has conquered state power…Their (i.e. the German workers’ –Ed.) battle-cry must be: the permanent revolution.”
(K. Marx and F. Engels: Address of the “Central Council to the Communist League”, in: K. Marx: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 2; London 1943; p. 161, 168)
Lenin accepted this conception of the permanent revolution, although after the publication of Trotsky’s work Marxists preferred to use the term “uninterrupted revolution” or “continuous revolution” in order to avoid confusion with Trotsky’s perversion of the term in connection with his anti-Leninist theory of the capitalist revolution. In September 1905, Lenin wrote:
“From the democratic revolution we shall at once, according to the degree of our strength, the strength of the class conscious and organised proletariat, begin to pass over to the socialist revolution. We stand for continuous revolution.”
(V.I. Lenin: “The Attitude of Social-Democracy towards the Peasant Movement”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 145).
Trotsky’s theory of the capitalist revolution, as put forward in “Results and Prospects” was as follows:
1. The working class will be the active force in the capitalist revolution, with the peasantry as supporters:
“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.
Many sections of the working masses, particularly in the countryside, will be drawn into the revolution and become politically organised only after the advance guard of the revolution, the urban proletariat, stands at the helm of the state.
The proletariat in power will stand before the peasants as the class which has emancipated it.
The Russian peasantry in the first and most difficult period of the revolution will be interested in the maintenance of a proletarian regime (workers’ democracy).”
(L. Trotsky: “Results and Prospects”, in: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 66, 70, 71-72).
2. Because the peasantry in the capitalist revolution is destined to play only an auxiliary role of supporters rather than allies of the working class, the democratic-revolution will place in power — not- an alliance of the working class and peasantry, democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry” — but the working class, establishing the dictatorship of the working class, a revolutionary workers’ government:
“The idea of a ‘proletarian and peasant dictatorship’ is unrealisable . . There can be no talk of any special form of proletarian dictatorship in the bourgeois revolution, of democratic proletarian dictatorship (or dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry). Victory in this struggle must transfer power to the class that has led the strife, i.e., the Social-democratic proletariat. The question, therefore, is not one of a “revolutionary provisional government” — an empty phrase . . . but of a revolutionary worker government, the conquest of power by the Russian proletariat.”
(Trotsky: ibid.; p. 73, 80, 121-22).
3. Once in power the working class will be compelled to proceed with the construction of a socialist society:
“The proletariat, once having taken power, will fight for it to the very end. . . Collectivism will become not only the inevitable way forward from the position in which the party in power will find itself, but will also be a means of preserving this position with the support of the proletariat. . . The political domination of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic enslavement. No matter under what political flag the proletariat has come to power, it. is obliged to take the path of socialist policy.”
(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 80, 101).
4. But the construction of socialism will inevitably bring the working class into hostile collision with the peasantry and urban petit bourgeoisie:
“Every passing day will deepen the policy of the proletariat in power, and more and more define its class character. Side by side with that, the revolutionary ties between the proletariat and the nation will be broken. . .
The primitiveness of the peasantry turns its hostile face towards the proletariat.
The cooling-off of the peasantry, its political passivity, and all the more the active opposition of its upper sections, cannot but have an influence on a section of the intellectual and the petty-bourgeoisie of the towns.
Thus, the more definite and determined the policy the proletariat in power becomes, the narrower and more shaky does the ground beneath its feet become.
The two main features of proletarian policy which will meet opposition from the allies of the proletariat are collectivism and internationalism.“
(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p.76-77).
5. Thus the working class in power — now isolated from and opposed by the masses of the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie – will inevitably be overthrown by the forces of reaction — unless the working classes in Western Europe establish proletarian dictatorships which render direct state aid to the working class of Russia:
“Left to it’s own resources, the working class of Russia will inevitably be crushed by the counterrevolution the moment the peasantry turns its back on it. It will have no alternative but to link the fate of its political rule and, hence, the fate of the whole Russian revolution, with the fate of the socialist revolution in Europe.”
(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 115).
“Without the direct State support of the European proletariat the working class of Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domination into a lasting socialistic dictatorship. Of this there cannot for one moment be any doubt.”
(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 105.)
6. The Russian working class government will, therefore, be forced to use its state power to actively to initiate socialist revolutions in Western Europe and beyond:
“This immediately gives the events now unfolding an international character. . . The political emancipation of Russia led by the working class. .will transfer to it colossal power and resources, and will make it the initiator of the liquidation of world capitalism. . .
If the Russian proletariat, having temporarily obtained power, does not on its own initiative carry the revolution on to European soil, it will be compelled to do so by the forces of European feudal-bourgeois reaction.
The colossal state-political power given it by a temporary conjuncture of circumstances in the Russian bourgeois revolution it will cast into the scales of the class struggles of the entire capitalist world.”
(L. Trotsky; ibid.; p. 108, 115).
Trotsky continued to put forward his theory of “permanent revolution” throughout his life.
In his book “The Permanent Revolution,” published in Berlin in Russian in 1930. he says:
“I came out against the formula ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’…. The theory of the permanent revolution, which originated in 1905. . . .pointed out that the democratic tasks of the backward bourgeois nations lead directly, in our epoch, to the dictatorship of the proletariat. . . The socialist revolution begins on national foundations – but it cannot be completed within these foundations. . . . The difference between the permanent and the Leninist standpoint expressed itself politically in the counterposing of the slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat relying on the peasantry to the slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. . . . The world division of labour, the dependence of Soviet industry upon foreign technology, the dependence of the productive forces of the advanced countries of Europe upon Asiatic raw materials, etc… make the construction of an independent socialist society in any single country impossible.”
(L. Trotsky: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 128,132, 133, 189, 280).
As we have seen, Lenin analysed the revolutionary process in tsarist Russia as essentially one of two successive stages — firstly, the stage of democratic revolution, secondly, the stage of socialist revolution, but with the possibility of uninterrupted transition from the first stage to the second if the working class were able to win the leading role in the first stage.
The Trotskyite theory of “permanent revolution” rejected Lenin’s concept of two stages in the revolutionary process in tsarist Russia, and postulated a single stage, that of the proletarian-socialist revolution leading directly to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Lenin saw the revolutionary process in colonial-type countries also as essentially one of two successive stages–firstly, the stage of national-democratic revolution, secondly, the stage of socialist revolution, but with the possibility of uninterrupted transition from the first stage to the second if the working class were able to win the leading role in the first stage.
Trotsky logically extended his theory of “permanent revolution” to colonial-type countries, here also postulating a single stage in the revolutionary process, that of proletarian-socialist revolution leading directly to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
“In order that the proletariat of the Eastern countries may open the road to victory, the pedantic reactionary theory of Stalin . . on ‘’stages’’ and ‘steps’’ must be eliminated at the very outset, must be cast aside, broken up and swept away with a broom. . . . With regard to . . . the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Comintern’s endeavour to foist upon the Eastern countries the slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, finally and long ago exhausted by history, can have only a reactionary effect.”
(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 48, 276, 278).
Lenin was, of course, strongly opposed to what he called Trotsky’s:
“absurdly ‘Left’ theory of ‘permanent revolution.’”
(V. I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 207).
Analysing Trotsky’s “Results and Prospects” in 1907, Lenin pointed out:
“Trotsky’s major mistake is that he ignores the bourgeois character of the revolution and has no clear conception of the transition from this revolution to the socialist revolution.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Aim of the Proletarian Struggle in Our Revolution”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 15; Moscow; 1962; p. 371).
At the end of 1910, we find Lenin saying:
“Trotsky distorts Bolshevim, because he has never been able to form any definite views on the role of the proletariat in the Russian bourgeois revolution.”
(V.1. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”; in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; l946; p. 505).
And in November 1915:
“Trotsky . . repeats his ‘original’ theory of 1905 and refuses to stop and think why, for ten whole years, life passed by this beautiful theory.
Trotsky’s original theory takes from the Bolsheviks their call for a decisive revolutionary struggle and for the conquest of political power by the proletariat, and from the Mensheviks it takes the ‘repudiation’ of the role of the peasantry. . . .
Trotsky is in fact helping the liberal labour politicians in Russia who by the ‘repudiation’ of the role of the peasantry mean refusal to arouse the peasants to revolution.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Two Lines of the Revolution”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 162, 163).
In November and December 1924 Stalin made a more comprehensive theoretical analysis of Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution”:
“Trotskyism is the theory of ‘permanent’ (uninterrupted) revolution. But what is permanent revolution in its Trotskyist interpretation? It is revolution that fails to take the poor peasantry into account as a revolutionary force. Trotsky’s ‘permanent’ revolution is, as Lenin said, ‘skipping’ the peasant movement, playing at the seizure of power;. Why is it dangerous? Because such a revolution, if an attempt had been made to bring it about, would inevitably have ended in failure, for it would have divorced from the Russian proletariat its ally, the poor peasantry. This explains the struggle that Leninism has been waging against Trotskyism ever since –1905.”
(J. V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism?”, in: “Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 364-65).
“What is the dictatorship of the proletariat according to Trotsky? The dictatorship of the proletariat is a power, which comes ‘into hostile collision’ with ‘the broad masses of the peasantry’ and seeks ‘the solution of its ‘contradictions’ only ‘’in the arena of the world proletarian revolution’.
What difference is there between this ‘theory of permanent revolution’ and the well-known theory of Menshevism which repudiates the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat?
Essentially, there is no difference.
‘Permanent revolution’ is not a mere underestimation of the revolutionary potentialities of the peasant movement. ‘Permanent revolution’ is an underestimation of the peasant movement, which leads to the repudiation of Lenin’s theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ is a variety of Menshevism. . . .
Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ means that the victory of socialism in one country, in this case Russia, is impossible without direct state support from the European proletariat’, i.e., before the European proletariat has conquered power.
What is there in common between this ‘theory’ and Lenin’s thesis on the possibility of the victory of socialism ‘in one capitalist-country taken separately’?
Clearly, there is nothing in common.
What does Trotsky’s assertion that a revolutionary Russia could not hold out in the face of a conservative Europe signify?
It can signify only this:
firstly, that Trotsky does not appreciate the inherent strength of our revolution;
secondly, that Trotsky does not understand the inestimable importance of the moral support which is given to our revolution by the workers of the West and the peasants of the East; thirdly, that Trotsky does not perceive the internal infirmity which is consuming imperialism today.
Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ is the repudiation of Lenin’s theory of proletarian revolution; and conversely, Lenin’s theory of the proletarian revolution is the repudiation of the theory of ‘permanent revolution’. . . .
Hitherto only one aspect of the theory of ‘permanent revolution’ has usually been noted — lack of faith in the revolutionary potentialities of the peasant movement. Now, in fairness, this must be supplemented by another aspect — lack of faith in the strength and capacity of the proletariat in Russia.
What difference is there between Trotsky’s theory and the ordinary Menshevik theory that the victory of socialism in one country, and in a backward country at that, is impossible without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in the principal countries of Western Europe?
Essentially, there is no difference.
There can be no doubt at all. Trotsky’s theory of ‘permanent revolution’ is a variety of Menshevism . . .
Honeyed speeches and rotten diplomacy cannot hide the yawning chasm which lies between the theory of ‘permanent revolution’ and Leninism.”
(J. V. Stalin: “The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists”, in: ‘Works’, ibid.; p. 385-6,389, 392, 395-96, 397).
The Campaign for Party Unity
In the revolutionary conditions, which prevailed in the autumn of 1905, Bolsheviks and Mensheviks of the rank and file worked closely together and by the end of the year most of the local organisations of the two “parties” had united. Accordingly the demand grew among the workers and the rank-and-file of the Party that the leaderships of the two sections should unite.
While fully supporting these moves for unity, Lenin and most of the Bolsheviks felt strongly that the political differences between the leaderships of the two factions should not be glossed over, since this would only confuse the workers. In this they were opposed by conciliationists among the Bolsheviks, such as Leonid Krassin and Aleksandr Bogdanov, who minimised these differences.
Lenin arrived back in Russia in November 1905, and in December attended the First Party (Bolshevik) Conference in Tammerfors (Finland), where he met J.V. Stalin for the first time.
The conference adopted a resolution to apply the elective principle within the Party in view of the freer political conditions brought about by the 1905 revolution, and another favouring the earliest possible restoration of unity with the Mensheviks and the immediate creation of a joint Central Commiittee.
Simultaneously with the Bolshevik conference, the Mensheviks held a conference in St. Petersburg where, under pressure from their- rank-and-file, they endorsed the Leninist formula of Party organisation in point 1 of the Party rules and adopted a resolution in favour of unity with the Bolsheviks
The joint Central Committee, consisting of three Bolsheviks and three Mensheviks, began to operate at the height of the December insurrection. When at the end of December, both the Bolshevik “Novaya Zhizn” (New Life) and the Menshevik “Nachalo”(Beginning) were suppressed, both leaderships combined to issue a joint newspaper — “Severny Golos” -(Voice of the North) — under a joint editorial Board.
1907, The Fourth (Unity) Congress of the Party
The Fourth Unity Congrcss of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour was held in Stockholm (Sweden) in-April/May 1906 was attended by 111 delegates from Party organisations, together with 3 each from the national parties which affiliated to the Party at the Congress (the “Bund”, the Polish Social-Democratic Party and the Social-Democratic Party 0f the Latvian Region).
As a result of the fact that many Bolshevik-led Party organisations had been broken up after the 1905 uprising, a number of these were not represented at the congress, so that the Mensheviks had a majority (62-49). This manifested itself in a number of the resolutions. As Lenin pointed out:
“The three most important resolutions of the Congress clearly reveal the erroneous views of the former ‘Menshevik’ faction, which numerically was predominant at the Congress.
“The Congress rejected the proposal to make it one of the tasks of the Party to combat. . Constitutional-illusions.
Nor in its resolutions on the armed uprising did the Congress give what was necessary, viz., direct criticism of the mistakes of the proletariat, a clear estimate of the experience of October-December 1905, or even an attempt to study the inter-relation between strikes and uprising. The Congress did not openly and clearly tell the working class that the December uprising was a mistake, but in a covert way it condemned the uprising.
We think that this is more likely to confuse the political class consciousness of the proletariat than to enlighten it..
We must and shall fight ideologically against those decisions of the Congress which we regard as erroneous.”
(V. I. Lenin: An Appeal to the Party by Delegates at the Unity Congress who belonged to the Late ‘Bolshevik’ Faction, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; l946; p. 469, 470-71.)
Nevertheless, the congress endorsed the basic principles of Party organisation put forward by Lenin.
The congress also endorsed the formal unity of the two factions and the principle of democratic centralism.
The Central Committee elected at the Fourth Congress consisted of 7 Mensheviks and 3 Bolsheviks.
Against Bolshevik opposition, a Menshevik resolution was carried which elected an editorial board for the central organ of the Party which was outside the control of the Central Committee and contained not a single Bolshevik; it consisted of Martov, Dan, Martynov, Potresov and Maslow. During its life this editorial board did not publish a single issue of the central organ.
Thus, the “unity” created at the Fourth Congress between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks was purely formal, and the two factions continued to exist within the framework of a single party.
The Stolypin Repression
The First State Duma met in May 1906, but did not prove docile enough for the ruling class. In July the tsarist government dissolved it, and Petr Stolypin (who had been Minister for Internal Affairs since May) was made Prime Minister. Under Stolypin a period of active repression of the revolutionary movement began. The new government suppressed the Bolshevik newspaper, which had been coming out since April under the successive names of “Volna” (The Wave), “Vperyod” (Forward) and “Ekho” (The Echo). In August 1906, regulations were issued providing for trial by courts martial and the death sentence for “revolutionary activity”, and mass arrests and executions followed. In the same month the Bolsheviks began to issue an illegal newspaper, “Proletary” (Proletarian), edited by Lenin, which continued to appear until December 1909.
In September 1906 Lenin proposed that, since the tide of revo1ution was now clearly on the ebb, the Party shou1d participate in the elections for the Second State Duma (due to be convoked in March 1907). As a result, left-wing representation in this Duma was considerably stronger than it had been in the first, namely:
157 Trudoviks (Group of Toil) and Socialist-Revolutionaries (expressing the outlook of the peasantry) (from 94 in the First State Duma);
165 Social-Democrats (from 18 in the First State Duma), while the representation of the Cadets (the Constitutional-Democratic Party, representing the interests of the bourgeoisie)
fell from 179 to 98. Most of the Social Democratic deputies were, however Mensheviks.
The Fifth Party Congress
The Fifth Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party was held in London in May/June 1907. It was attended by 336 delegates, representing a membership of some 150,000.
The congress consolidated the Russian, Polish and Latvian Parties (together with, for a time, the Bund) into a single Party based on (mainly) Leninist principles.
Trotsky participated in the congress, expounding at length his “theory of permanent revolution,” to which Rosa Luxemburg gave her support:
“At the London congress I renewed acquaintance with Rosa Luxemburg whom I had known since 1904. . .On the question of the so-called permanent revolution, Rosa took the same stand as I did.”
(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1971; p. 203).
In the resolutions the congress largely adopted the Bolshevik line. A Bolshevik resolution condemning the Menshevik proposal to transform the Party into a broad “Labour Party” of the British type was carried by 165 votes to 94; another Bolshevik resolution declaring that the Cadets were now a counter-revolutionary party which must be mercilessly exposed, and that it was essential to coordinate the Party’s own activity with that of the parties expressing the outlook of the peasantry (i.e., the Trudoviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries) was carried by 159 votes to 104.
However, a Bolshevik motion of censure on the Menshevik Central Committee elected at the Fourth Congress in 1906 was lost. This resolution was opposed not only by the Mensheviks, but by a centrist group headed by Trotsky:
“If, after all, the Bolshevik resolution, which noted the mistakes of the Central Committee was not carried, it was because the consideration “not to cause a split” strongly influenced the comrades.”
(J.V. Stalin: “The London Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Notes of a Delegate)”; in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 59)
“Trotsky… spoke on behalf of the ‘Centre’, and expressed the views of the Bund. He fulminated against us for introducing our ‘unacceptable’ resolution. He threatened an outright split. . . That is a position based not on principle, but on the Centre’s lack of principle.”
(V. I. Lenin: Fifth Congress of RSDLP, Speech on the Report of the Activities of the Duma Group, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 12; Moscow; 1962; p. 451-2)
Trotsky endeavored to justify his concilationist position by suggesting that there were no fundamental differences between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, saying:
“Here comes Martov . . and threatens to raise between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks a Marxist wall . . .’Comrade Martov, you are going to build your wall with paper only with -your polemical literature you have nothing else to build it with.”
(Pyatyi Syezd RSDRP (Fifth Congress RSDLP); Moscow; n.d.; p. 54-55).
In view of the decline of the revolutionary tide, the question of ‘armed insurrection’ was dropped from the agenda of the congress. However, a sharp controversy arose at the congress on the question of “expropriations,” i.e., the illegal acquisition of funds for the Party.
Lenin’s views on this question had been expressed in an article published in “Proletary,” in October 1906:
“Armed struggle pursues two different aims; which must be strictly distinguished; in the first place this struggle aims at assassinating individuals, chiefs and subordinates, in the army and police: in the second place, it aims at the confiscation of monetary funds both from the government and from private persons. The confiscated funds go partly into the treasury of the Party, partly for the special purpose of arming and preparing for an uprising, and partly for the maintenance of persons engaged in the struggle we are describing. . .
It is not guerilla actions which disorganise the movement, but the weakness of a party which is incapable of taking such actions under its control.”
(V. I. Lenin: ‘Guerilla Warfare, in: “Collected Works””, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216, 219).
The Fourth Congress of the Party in 1906 had adopted a Menshevik resolution banning Party members, from taking part in “expropriations” and at the Fifth Congress an attack was launched upon the Bolsheviks for allegedly continuing to take part in (or at least advise others on the organisation of “expropriations.” A Menshevik motion was adopted at the Fifth Congress banning the participation of Party members in all armed actions and acts of “expropriation” and- ordering the disbandment of the fighting squads connected with the, Party.
Trotsky, according to his biographer, sharply supported the Menshevik attacks on this issue:
“The records of the Congress say nothing about the course of this controversy, (i.e. on “expropriations” –Ed.); only fragmentary reminiscences, written many years after, are available. But there is no doubt that Trotsky was, with Martov, among those who sharply arraigned the Bolsheviks.”
(I. Deutscher; ‘The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921″; London; 1970; p. 179).
Shortly after the Congress, Lenin wrote to Maxim Gorky that :
“At the London Congress, too, he (i.e., Trotsky –Ed.) acted the ‘poseur.’”
(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Maxim Gorky, February 13th., 1908; in: ,”Collected Works”, Volume 34; Moscow; 1966; p. 386).
While Stalin, writing of Trotsky’s activities at the congress, declared
“Trotsky proved to be ‘pretty but useless.’”
(J.V. Stalin: “The London Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Notes of a Delegate)”, in: “Works”; Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 52).
After the congress Trotsky carried his attacks on the Bolsheviks on the question of “expropriations’ into the columns of “Vorwaerts” (Forward), the organ of the German Social-Democratic Party. He describes how Lenin reacted to this news:
“I told Lenin of my latest article in “Vorwaerts” about the Russian Social-Democracy. . . The most prickly question in the article was that of so-called ‘expropriations’. .. The London congress, by a majority of votes composed of Mensheviks, Poles and some Bolsheviks banned ‘expropriations’. When the delegates shouted from their seats: “What does Lenin say? We want to hear Lenin”, the latter only chuckled, with a somewhat cryptic expression. After the London congress, ‘expropriations’ continued. . . That was the point on which I had centred my attack in the “Vorwaerts.”
‘Did you really write like this?’, Lenin asked me reproachfully.
Lenin tried to induce the Russian delegation at the congress to condemn my article. This was the sharpest conflict with Lenin in my whole life.”
(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; Now York; 1971; p. 218).
The Stolypin Coup d’Etat
In June 1907 the tsarist government accused the Social-Democratic deputies in the Second-State Duma of conspiracy, and demanded that the Duma lift their parliamentary immunity. When the Duma hesitated, the government peremptorily dissolved it on June 16th, 1907 – the “Coup d’Etat of June 3rd 1907 as it was known under the old calendar. Most of the Social-Democratic deputies were then arrested.
In the same manifesto the government announced new electoral laws for the Third State Duma, the purpose of which was to increase the representation of the landlords and capitalists, and to reduce still further the representation of the workers and peasants.
“The government promulgated a ‘new law’ which reduces the number of peasant electors by half, doubles the number of landlord electors, . reduces the number of deputies also by nearly half. . . reserves for the government the right to distribute voters according to locality, various qualifications and nationality; destroys all possibility of conducting free election propaganda, etc., etc. And all this has been done in order to prevent revolutionary representatives of the workers and peasants from getting into the Third Duma, in order to fill the Duma with the liberal and reactionary representatives of the landlords and factory owners. This is the idea behind the dispersion of the Second State.”
(J.V. Stalin: “The Dispersion of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat”, in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; l9~3; p. 14).
The Third Party Conference
The Third Conference of the RSDLP was held in August 1907 in Vyborg (Finland), attended by 26 delegates of whom 15 were Bolsheviks and 11 Mensheviks.
The dissolution of the Second State Duma and the issue of the new reactionary electoral law had caused the Socialist-Revolutionary Party to revert to a policy of boycotting the elections to the Third State Duma, and had revived boycotting among the Bolsheviks. The leader of the boycottists at the conference was Aleksandr Bogdanov.
Lenin moved a resolution at the conference which declared that reaction prevailed in the country and would prevail for some years, although it would inevitably be followed by a new upsurge; in the meantime it was essential to take advantage of every legal opportunity and, in particular, of the tribune afforded by the Duma. The resolution was adopted by the conference.
The Third State Duma
Despite the decision of the Third Party Conference to participate in the elections to the Third State Duma, many Bolsheviks continued to oppose this. In the autumn of 1907 Lenin wrote a number of articles on this question, the most famous of which – “Against the Boycott” – — Was published as part of a pamphlet entitled “Boycott of the Third Duma,” the other part being written by Lev Kamenev and entitled “For the Boycott!”
“The state of affairs now, in the autumn of 1907, does not call for such a slogan and does not justify it. . . .
Without renouncing the application of the slogan of boycott in times of an upsurge, when the need for such a slogan may seriously arise, we must direct all our efforts towards the aim of transforming by direct influence every upsurge in the labour movement into a general, wide, revolutionary attack against reaction as a whole, against its very foundations.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Boycott: From the Notes of a Social-Democratic Publicist”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; l946; p.427).
The Third State Duma was convened in November 1907. By reason of the new reactionary electoral system, left–wing representation in the Duma was considerably reduced from what it had been in the second, namely:
13 Trudoviks (Group of Toil), from l57 Trudoviks and Social-Revolutionaries in the Second State Duma);
18 Social-Democrats (from 65 in the Second State Duma)
The Fourth Party Conference
The Fourth Conference of the RSDLP was held in November 1907 in Helsingfors (Finland), attended by 10 Bolsheviks, 4 Mensheviks, 5 representatives of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, 3 representatives of the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region, and representatives of the “Bund.”
The main business of the conference was to discuss the work of the Social-Democratic fraction in the newly elected Third State Duma. The Mensheviks to whose faction a majority of the Social-Democratic deputies belonged — were in favour of the independence of the deputies from Party control, while the Bolsheviks regarded it as essential that the fraction should be guided by the Party like any other section of Party members. The Bolshevik resolution to this effect was adopted. This resolution also demanded that the fraction should wage relentless war in the Duma on the pro-tsarist majority, that it should under no circumstances curtail its’ demands in concession to reaction, and that its efforts should be primarily devoted to using the Duma as a tribune for agitational purposes, in order to expose to the masses the reactionary policy of the pro-tsarist parties.
1907 – 1908: The Move Abroad
Owing to the increased repression of the Stolypin regime, which was extended to Finland despite the Finnish constitution, the Central Committee was compelled to move from Russia to Geneva towards the end of 1907. The publication of the illegal Bolshevik paper “Proletary” was also transferred to Geneva.
In December 1907 Lenin moved from Geneva to Paris.
In February 1908 the first issue of the central organ of the Party – “Sotsial-Demokrat” (The Social-Democrat) appeared in Russia. Following the arrest of its editors, publication of the paper was transferred abroad, first to Paris, then to Geneva. It continued to appear until January 1917.
The Menshevik leaders also moved abroad, and in February 1908 began to issue their organ “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata” (The Voice of the Social-Democrat) . The first editorial board consisted of Pavel Axelrod, Fedor Dan, Yuli Martov and Aleksandr Martynov. It continued to appear until December 1911.
The movement among the Mensheviks to transform the Party into a broad, legal Labour Party along British lines developed by the summer of 1908 into a trend which the Leninists called “liquidationism,” since it aimed at the liquidation of the Party as the revolutionary vanguard of the working class.
“Our Party organisations have all become reduced in membership. Some of them — namely, those whose membership was least proletarian — fell to pieces. The semi-legal institutions of the Party, created by the revolution, were raided time after time. Things reached such a state that some elements within the Party, which had succumbed to the influence of that disintegration, began to ask whether it was necessary to preserve the old Social-Democratic Party, whether it was necessary to continue its work, whether it was necessary to go ‘underground’ once more, and how this was to be done; and the extreme Right (the so-called liquidationist trend) answered this question in the sense that it was necessary to legalise ourselves at all costs, even at the price of an open renunciation of the Party programme, tactics and organisation. This was undoubtedly not only an organisational but also an ideological and political crisis.”
(V. I. Lenin: “On to the High Road”; in ‘Works’; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 3).
“Liquidationism is ideologically connected with renegacy, . with opportunism. . . But liquidationism is not only opportunism. . . Liquidationism is opportunism that goes to the length of renouncing the Party . . . The renunciation of the ‘underground’ under the existing conditions is the renunciation of the old Party.
Liquidationism is not only the ‘liquidation’ of the old party of the working class; it also means the destruction of the class independence of the proletariat, the corruption of its class-consciousness by bourgeois ideas.
The liquidators are petty-bourgeois intellectuals, sent by the bourgeoisie to sow the seeds of liberal corruption among the workers. The liquidators are traitors to Marxism.”
(V. I. Lenin: ‘Controversial Questions”; in: ibid.; p. 126-7, 131, 138).
The August 1908 Central Committee Meeting
In August 1908 a meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP was held and the liquidator Mensheviks opened their attack on the Party organisation by moving a resolution that the Central Committee should be abolished as the leading organ of the Party and converted into a mere information bureau. The motion was defeated, and a Bolshevik motion to convene a Party Conference was adopted.
At this meeting the Central Committee set up a Russian Bureau of the Central Committee, composed of one representative each of the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, the Polish Party, the Latvian Party and the ‘Bund’, responsible, under the Central Committee, for the direction of Party work within Russia. It also set up a Central Committee abroad, composed of members of the Central Committee residing outside Russia, responsible to the Russian Collegium.
“Otzovism” and “Ultimatumism”
From August 1908 the Leninist tactics of combining legal and illegal forms of struggle began to be attacked, riot only by the liquidationists on the right, but also by a group of ‘leftist’ Bolsheviks who demanded the renunciation of all legal forms of struggle.
Since the main demand of this group of Bolsheviks was the immediate recall of the Social-Democratic Deputies from the Duma, they were called “Otzovists” (from “otozvat,” to recall).
Another group of ostensibly “leftist” Bolsheviks did not demand the immediate recall of the Party’s deputies, but demanded that they should be presented with an ultimatum to correct their politicel errors or be recalled. Lenin described these “ultimatumists” as:
(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”, in: ibid.; p. 514) .
The leading figures among the otzovists and ultimatumists were Aleksandr Bogdanov, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Leonid Krassin and Grigori Alexinsky.
In arguing in favour of recall, as did both otzovism and ultimatumism, the adherents of these trends made great play with the errors committed by the Social-Democratic deputies in the Duma who were mainly Mensheviks. The Leninists replied that this was an argument for correcting the errors, not for recalling the deputies.
“The illegal Party must know how to use the legal Duma fraction . . The most regrettable deviation from consistent proletarian work would be to raise the question of recalling the fraction from the Duma. ….
We must at once establish team work in this field, so that every Social-Democratic deputy may really feel that the Party is backing him, that the Party is distressed over his mistakes and takes care to straighten his path –so that every Party worker may take part in the general Duma work of the Party. . . striving to subordinate the special work of the fraction to Party propaganda and agitational activity as a whole.”
(V. I. Lenin: “On to the High Road”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1943; p. 8, 9).
The Leninists strongly condemned both otzovism and ultimatumism as “liquidationism in reverse,” since, like liquidationism; its aim was to liquidate one side of the Party’s work:
“In the course of the bourgeois-democratic revolution our Party was joined by a number of elements that were not attracted by its purely proletarian programme, but mainly by its glorious and energetic fight for democracy.
In these troubled times such elements more and more display their lack of Social-Democratic consistency and, coming into ever sharper contradiction with the fundamentals of revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics, have been, during the past year, creating a tendency which is trying to give shape to the theory of otzovism and ultimatumism.
Politically, ultimatumism at the present time is indistinguishable from otzovism; it only introduces greater confusion and disintegration by the disguised – character of its otzovism. By their attempt to deduce from the specific application of the boycott of representative institutions at this or that moment of the revolution that the policy of boycotting is a distinguishing feature of Bolshevik tactics in the period of counter-revolution also — ultimatumism and otzovism demonstrate that these trends are in essence the reverse side of Menshevism, which preaches indiscriminate participation in all representative institutions- irrespective of the given stage of development of’ the revolution. . . .
0tzovist-ultimatumist agitation has already begun to cause definite harm to the labour movement and to Social-Democratic work.. .
Bolshevism as a definite tendency . . has nothing in common with otzovism and ultimatumism and . . the Bolshevik faction must more resolutely combat these deviations from the path of revolutionary Marxism”.
(V.I. Lenin: Resolution of the Meeting of’ the Enlarged Editorial Board of ‘Proletary’: “On Otzovism and Ultimatumism”, in: ibid.; p. 19, 20-21).
The Struggle on Two Fronts
From August 1908, therefore, the Leninists carried on a struggle on the question of Party organisations on two fronts:
Against liquidationism on the one hand, and against “leftist” otzovism and ultimatumism on the other hand.
“Three and a half years ago all the Marxists. . had unanimously to recognise two deviations from the Marxian tactics. Both deviations were recognised as dangerous. Both deviations were explained as being due, not to accident, not to the evil intention of individual persons but to the ‘historical situation of the labour movement in the given period. . .
The deviations from Marxism are generated by the “bourgeois influences over the proletariat.”
(V. I.Lenin: “Controversial Questions” in: Ibid; p.129, 130).
“The Bolsheviks have actually carried on, from August 1908 to January l910, a strugg1e on two fronts, i.e., a struggle against the liquidators and the otzovists.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: ibid.; p. 45).
The reaction following the defeat of the 1905 Revolution led to a revival of’ idealist philosophy among the Russian intelligentsia, including some Social-Democrats.
During 1908 a number of books were published which claimed to bring Marxism “up-to-date.” The most important of these was a symposium entitled “Studies in the Philosophy of Marxism,” published in St. Petersburg, the leading contributors to which were Aleksandr Bogdanov and Anatoly Lunacharsky. Following the lines of an earlier work by -Bogdanov – “Empirio-Criticism” (1904-06)– this attempted to combine Marxist philosophy with the idealist philosophy of Ernst Mach and Richard Avenarius to produce a “synthesis” which they called “empirio-criticism.”
“A number of writers, would-be Marxists, have this year undertaken a veritable campaign against the philosophy of Marxism. In the course of less than half a year four books devoted mainly and almost exclusively to attacks on dialectical materialism have made their appearance. These include first and foremost ‘Studies in (? — it would have been more proper to say ‘against’) the Philosophy of Marxism.’”
(V.1. Lenin: Preface to the First Edition of “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”; in: ‘Selected Works’; Volume 11; London; 1943; p. 89).
In September 1908 Lenin completed a long philosophical work, “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism,” published in May 1909, in which he attacked and exposed these works of Anti-Marxist philosophy:
“Behind the mass of new terminological devices, behind the litter of erudite scholasticism, we invariably discerned two principal alignments, two fundamental trends in the solution of philosophical problems, Whether nature, matter, the physical, the external world be taken as primary, and mind, spirit, sensation (experience – as the widespread terminology of our time has it) , the psychical, etc., be regarded as secondary — that is the root question which in fact continues to divide the philosophers into two great camps.
The theoretical foundations of this philosophy (i.e., empirio-criticism — Ed.) must be compared -with those of dialectical materialism. Such a comparison . . reveals, along the whole line of epistemological problems, the thoroughly reactionary character of empirio-criticism, which uses new artifices, terms and subtleties to disguise the old errors of idealism and agnosticism. Only utter ignorance of the nature of philosophical materialism generally and of the nature of Marx’s and Engels’ dialectical method can lead one to speak of a ‘union’ of empirio-criticism and Marxism. .
Behind the epistemological scholasticism of empirio-criticism it is impossible not to see the struggle of parties in philosophy, a struggle which in the last analysis reflects the tendencies and. ideology of the antagonistic classes in modern society. The contending parties essentially, although concealed by a pseudo-erudite quackery of new terms or by a feeble-minded non-partisanship, are materialism and idealism. The latter is merely a subtle, refined form of fideism, which stands fully armed, commands vast organisations and steadily continues to exercise influence on the masses, turning the slightest vacillation in philosophical thought to its own advantage. The objective, class role played by empirio-criticism entirely consists in rendering faithful service to the fideists in their struggle against materialism in general and historical materialism in particular“.
(V.I. Lenin: “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”, in: ibid: p.385-6, 405, 406).
Among some Social-Democrats the revival of idealist philosophy took the form of trying to reconcile Marxist philosophy and religion.
In 1908, Anatoly Lunacharsky published “Religion and Socialism” in which he described Marxism as a “Natural, earthly, anti-metaphysical, scientific and human-religion.”
Shortly afterwards Maxim Gorky wrote a novel entitled “A Confession,” in which a character prays to the people with the words:
“Thou art my God, O sovereign people, and creator of all the gods, which thou hast formed from the beauties of the spirit in the travail and torture of thy quest..
And the world shall have no other gods but thee, for thou art the only god that works miracles.
This . . .is my confession and belief.”
(M. Gorky: “A Confession”; London 1910; p. 320).
Gorky carried this idea forward in his articles and letters.
“One does not seek for Gods – one creates them!”
(M. Gorky: “The Karamazov Episode Again”, cited-by: V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. M. Gorky, November 14th,1913, in: ibid.; p. 675).
The Leninists strongly attacked the concept of “God Building.”
“I cannot -and will not have anything to do with people who have set out to propagate unity between scientific socialism and religion.”
(V.I.Lenin: Letter to A.M.Gorky, April , 1908; In: “Socheniya”; Volume 34; Moscow; 1950; p.343.)
“God seeking no more differs from god-building, or god-making, or god-creating or the like than a yellow devil differs from a blue devil . .
Every religious idea, every idea of god, even every flirtation with the idea of god, is unutterable vileness, vileness that is greeted very tolerantly (and often even favourably) by the democratic bourgeoisie — and for that very reason it is vileness of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion’ of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions are far more easily exposed by the crowd, and are therefore far less dangerous, than the subtle, spiritual ideas of a god decked out in the smartest ‘ideological’ costumes. The Catholic priest who seduces young-girls (of whom I happened to read in a German newspaper) is far less dangerous to democracy than a priest without a frock, a priest without a coarse religion, a democratic priest with ideas who preaches the making and creating of a god. For the first priest is easily exposed, condemned and ejected, whereas the second cannot be ejected so easily.”
(V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. N. Gorky, November l4th. 1913; in: “Selected Works”, Volume 11; London; l943; p. 675-6).
“You advocate the idea of god and god-building…This theory is obviously connected with the theory, or theories, of Bogdanov and Lunacharsky. . . . And it is obviously false and obviously reactionary.
You have gilded and sugar-coated the idea of the clericals, the Purishkeviches, Nicholas II and Messieurs the Struves, for, in practice, the idea of god helps THEM to keep the people in slavery. By gilding the idea of-god, you gilded the chains with which they fetter – the ignorant workers and muzhiks. . .
The idea, of god has always deadened and dulled ‘social- sentiments’, for it substitutes a dead thing for a living thing, and has always been an idea of slavery (the worst, hopeless kind of slavery). The idea of god has never ’bound the individual to society’ but has always bound the oppressed classes by belief in the divinity of the oppressors.”
(V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. N. Gorky, December 1913; in: ibid; p. 678-9).
The “Party Mensheviks”
The Leninists considered that a truly united Party could be brought about-only by a rapproachement between the Bolsheviks on the one hand and a section of the Mensheviks on the other hand, those representing the principal factions within the Party and the only ones with significant mass influence. They estimated that a section of the Mensheviks would move farther from reflecting the interests of the capitalist class and nearer to reflecting the interests of the working class, so coming to oppose liquidationism, to split off from the liquidator Mensheviks and to support genuine, practical unity with the Bolsheviks.
In fact, towards the end of 1908 various groups of Mensheviks in Moscow, and later in the Vyborg district of St. Petersburg, passed resolutions sharply condemning the liquidator Mensheviks and their anti-Party policy.
A leading role in the splitting of the Mensheviks was taken by Georgi Plekhanov, who publicly dissociated himself from liquidationism, retired from the editorial board of the organ of the liquidator Mensheviks, “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata” (The Voice of the Social-Democrat), and began to issue his own illegal journal “Dnevnik Sotsial-Demokrata” (The Diary of a Social-Democrat) . In this paper, Plekhanov vigorously attacked the liquidators and called upon all Mensheviks who recognised the necessity of illegal work to rally together. The Leninists called these anti-liquidationist Mensheviks “Party Mensheviks.”
“Factions are generated by the relations between the classes in the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks only formulated answers to the questions put to the proletariat by the objective realities of l905-97. Therefore, only the inner evolution of these factions, the ‘strong’ factions — strong because of their deep roots, strong because their ideas correspond to certain aspects of objective reality — only the inner evolution of precisely these factions is capable of securing a real fusion of the factions, i.e- the creation of a genuinely and completely united party of proletarian Marxian socialism in Russia. Hence the practical conclusion:
the rapprochement in practical work between these two strong factions alone – and only in so far as they are purged of the non-Social-Democratic tendencies of liquidationism and otzovism – really represents a Party policy, a policy that really brings about unity, not in an easy way, not smoothly, and by no means immediately, but in a real way as distinguished from the endless quack promises of easy, smooth, immediate fusion of “all” factions. . ..
In my discussions I suggested the slogan: ‘rapprochement between the two strong factions, and no whining over the dissolution of the factions’.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 93-4).
“The present split among the Mensheviks is not accidental but inevitable.
The stand taken by certain Mensheviks justifies their appellation ‘Party Mensheviks’. They took their stand upon the struggle for the Party against the independent legalists…
Plekhanov was never a Bolshevik. We do not and never will consider him a Bolshevik. But we do consider him a Party Menshevik, as we do any Menshevik capable of rebelling against the group of independent legalists and carrying on the struggle against them to the end. We regard it as the absolute duty of all Bolsheviks in these difficult times, when the task of the day is the struggle for Marxism in theory and for the Party in the practical work of the labour movement, to do everything possible to arrive at a rapprochement with such Social-Democrats”
(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 66, 67, 69).
“In my opinion, the line of the bloc (Lenin-Plekhanov) is the only correct one: 1) this line, and it alone, answers to the real interests of the work in Russia, which demand that all real Party elements should rally together; 2) this line, and it alone, will expedite the process of emancipation of the legal organisations from the yoke of the Liquidators, by digging a gulf between the Menshevik workers and the Liquidators, and dispersing and disposing of the latter. A fight for influence in the legal organisations is the burning question of the day, a necessary stage on the road towards the regeneration of the Party.; and a bloc is the only means by which these organisations can be cleansed of the garbage of Liquidationists.
The plan for a bloc reveals the hand of Lenin — he is a shrewd fellow and knows a thing or two. But this does not mean that any kind of bloc is good. A Trotsky bloc (he would have said ‘synthesis’) would be rank unprincipledness.
A Lenin-Plekhanov bloc is practical because it is thoroughly based on principle, on unity of views on the question of how to regenerate the Party.”
(J. V. Stalin:”Letter to the Central Committee of the Party from Exile in Solvychegodsk, December 1910, in “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; l952; p. 2l5, 216).
The Leninists maintained that unity was possible only with groups, which accepted the fundamental principles of Leninist strategy and tactics, and of Leninist organisation.
There were some, however, who stood for unity of the groups at any price, who minimised the differences of principle between Bolsheviks and others and who demanded, that for the sake of unity, the Leninists should make compromises in their principles. Those people the Leninists called “conciliationists.”
“Differences of opinion must be hushed up, their causes, their significance, their objective conditions should not be elucidated. The principal thing is to ‘reconcile’ persons and groups. If they do not agree upon the carrying out of common policy, that policy must be interpreted in such a way as to be acceptable to all. Live and let live. This is philistine ‘concilationism’, which inevitably loads to narrow-circle diplomacy. To ‘stop up’ the source of disagreement, to hush it up, to ‘adjust’ at all costs, to neutralise the conflicting trends –it is to this that the main attention of such ‘concilationism’ is directed.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist,” in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 41).
The Leninists regarded concilationism as the product of the same objective conditions which had produced the factions between which it strove for agreement.
“Concilationism is the sum total of moods, strivings and views which are indissolubly bound up with the very essence of the historical task set before the RDSLP during the period of the counter-revolution of 1908-11.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 93).
They recognised conciliationism as a partial and concealed deviation from Marxist principles, since its aim was to secure modifications by the Leninists of their Principles for the sake of unity.
“Conciliatioism . . really renders a most faithful -service to the liquidators and the otzovists, and therefore constitutes an evil all the more dangerous to the Party, the more cunningly, artfully and floridly it cloaks itself with professedly Party, professedly anti-factional declamations.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: ibid.; p. 40).
“The role of the conciliators during the period of counter-revolution may be characterised by the following picture. With immense efforts the Bolsheviks are pulling our Party wagon up a steep slope. The liquidators –‘Golos’-ites are trying with all their might to drag it downhill again. In the wagon sits a conciliator; he is a picture of tenderness. He has such a sweet face, like that of Jesus. He looks the very incarnation of virtue. And modestly dropping his eyes and raising his hands he exclaims: ‘I thank: thee, Lord, that I am not like one of these’ — a nod in the direction of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks – ‘vicious factionalists’ who hinder all progress’. But the wagon moves slowly forward and in the wagon sits the conciliator.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 110-11).
The Viennese “Pravda”
In the summer of 1907, following the Fifth Congress of the RSDLP, Trotsky had moved to Berlin. Here he became intimate with the right wing-leaders of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany. As his biographer, Isaac Deutscher, expresses it:
“Curiously enough, Trotsky’s closest ties were not with the radical wing of German socialism, led by Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebnicht and Franz Mehring, the future founders of the Communist Party, but with the men . . who maintained the appearances of Marxist orthodoxy, but were in fact leading the party to its surrender to the imperialist ambitions of the Hohenzollern empire.”
(I. Deutscher “The Prophet Armed Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London: 1970; p.162).
Trotsky contributed frequently to the SPG’s daily “Vorwarts” (Forward) and to its monthly ‘Neue Zeit’ (New Life), on which his influence was strong.
In those articles Trotsky reiterated his attacks on the “sectarianism” of the Bolsheviks, alleging that the:
“Boycottist tendency runs through the whole history of Bolshevism — the boycott of the trade unions, of the State Duma, of the local government bodies, etc.”
(L.. Trotsky: Article in “Neue Zeit”, No.50, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”, in: Selected Works’, Volume 3; London; 1946; p.505),
“. . result of the sectarian fear of being swamped by the masses”
(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 505).
To which Lenin replied:
“As regards the boycott of the trade unions and the local government bodies, what Trotsky says is positively untrue. It is equally untrue to say that boycottism runs through the whole history of Bolshevism; Bolshevism as a tendency took definite shape in the spring and summer of 1905, before the question of the boycott first came up. In August 1906 in the official organ of the faction, Bolshevism declared that the historical causes which called forth the necessity of the boycott had passed. Trotsky distorts Bolshevism.”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 505.)
Trotsky further declared that both the Bolshevik and the actions, and the Party itself were “falling to pieces.” To this Lenin replied:
“Failing to understand the historical-economic significance of this split in the epoch of the counter-revolution, of this falling away of non-Social-Democratic elements from the Social-Democratic Labour Party, Trotsky tells the German readers that both factions are ‘falling to pieces,’ that the Party is ‘falling to pieces’, that the Party is becoming ‘disintegrated’.
This is not true. And this untruth expresss.. first of all, Trotsky’s utter lack of theoretical understanding. Trotsky absolutely fails to understand ‘why the Plenum described both liquidationism and otzovism as the manifestation of bourgeois influence over the proletariat’. Just think: is the severance from the Party of trends which have been condemned by the Party and which express the bourgeois influence over the proletariat, the collapse of the Party, the disintegration of the Party, or is it the strengthening and purging of the Party?”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 515)
The German government refused to allow Trotsky to stay in Berlin, and he moved shortly to Vienna. However he maintained his influence in the press of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, the leaders of which continued to regard him as “the authority,” on the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.
“It is time to stop being naive about the Germans, Trotsky is now in full command there.. . It’s Trotsky and Co. who are writing, and the Germans believe them. Altogether, Trotsky is boss in ‘Vorwarts.’”
(V. I. Lenin: “Letter to the Bureau of the CC of the RSDLP”, April 16th. 1912, in: “Collected Works”Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 34, 35).
Trotsky remained in Vienna for seven years, and there he became intimate with the right-wing leaders of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party – Victor Adler, Rudolf Hilferding, Otto Bauer an& Karl Renner. He became Vienna correspondent of the daily newspaper “Kievskaya Mysl” (Kievan Thought), and contributed to a number of other papers.
In October 1908, Trotsky began to edit a small run-down paper called “Pravda” (Truth), started in 1905, by the pro-Menshevik Ukrainian Social-Democratic League (“Spilika”) At the end of 1908, the group abandoned the paper, and it became Trotsky’s own journal. Published in Vienna from November 1909, it continued to appear until December 1913.
The principal regular contributors to the Viennese “Pravda,” under Trotsky, were Aleksandr Skobolev (a student-who later became Minister of Labour in the Kerensky government) Adolf Yoffe (who committed suicide in 1927-in protest at Trotsky’s expulsion from the Party), David Ryazanov (later director of the Marx-Engels Institute) and Victor Kopp (later a Soviet diplomat).
As Lenin commented in October 1911:
“‘Pravda’ represents a tiny group, which has not given an independent and consistent answer to any important fundamental question of the revolution and counter-revolution.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Concilators or the Virtuous” in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 106).
Under Trotsky the Viennese “Pravda” became the principal organ of conciliationism, as Lenin repeatedly pointed out, describing Trotsky as a
(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 60).
“During the period of the counter-revolution of 1908-11 . . Trotsky provides us with an abundance of instances of unprincipled ‘unity’ scheming”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 93, 105.)
Trotsky himself admits:
“My inner party stand was a concilationist one. . The great historical significance of Lenin’s policy was still unclear to me at that time, his policy of irreconcilable ideological demarcation and, when necessary split, for the purpose of welding and tempering the core of the truly revolutionary party.
By striving for unity at all-costs, I involuntarily and unavoidably idealised centrist tendencies in Menshsvism.”
(L. Trotsky: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 173).
In fact, Trotsky elaborated in this period a “theory” of conciliationism, based on the erroneous concept that factions expressed, not the interests of different classes, but “the influence of the intelligentsia” upon the working class:
“Trotsky expressed conciliationism more consistently than anyone else. He was probably the only one who attempted to give this tendency a theoretical foundation. This is the foundation: factions and factionalism-expressed the struggle of the intelligentsia ‘for influence over the irmiature proletariat’. . . .
The opposite view (i.e. the Leninist view – Ed.) is that the factions are generated by the relations between the classes in the Russian revolution.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 93).
Trotsky attempted to give substance to his “non-factional” pose by articles in which he attacked as “anti-revolutionary” both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. In 1909, for example, he wrote in Rosa Luxemburg’s Polish paper “Przeglad Socjal-Demokratyczny” (Social-Democratic Review):
“While the Mensheviks, proceeding from the abstraction that ‘our revolution is bourgeois’, arrive at the idea of adapting the whole tactic of the proletariat to the conduct of the liberal bourgeoisie, right up to the capture of state power, the Bolsheviks, proceeding from the same bare abstraction: ‘democratic, not socialist dictatorship’, arrive at the idea of the bourgeois-democratic self-limitation of the proletariat with power in its hands. The difference between them on this question is certainly quite important: while the anti-revolutionary sides of Menshevism are already expressed in full force today, the anti-revolutionary features of Bolshevism threaten to become a great danger only in the event of the victory of the revolution.”
(L. Trotsky: Article in “‘Przeglad Socjal-Demokratyczny”, cited in: L. Trotsky: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 235-36).
However, Lenin pointed out that, under the guise of “non-factionalism,” Trotsky was, in fact, forming his own faction:
“That Trotsky’s venture is an attempt to create a faction is obvious to all now.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”, in: “Selected Works”; Volume 3; London; 1943; p.517).
“We were right in referring to Trotsky as the representative of the ‘worst remnants of factionalism’…Although Trotsky professes to be non-factional, he is known to all who are in the slightest degree acquainted with the labour movement in Russia as the representative of “Trotsky’s faction” — there is factionalism here, for both the essential characteristics of it are present: 1) the nominal recognition of unity, and 2) group segregation in reality. This is a remnant of factionalism, for it is impossible to discover in it anything serious in the way of contacts with the mass labour movement in Russia. Finally it is the worst kind of factionalism, for there is nothing ideologically and politically definite about it.”
(V.I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 191, 192).
Trotsky’s faction, declared Lenin, vacillated in theory from one of the major factions to the other:
“Trotsky completely lacks a definite ideology and policy, for having the patent, for ‘non-factionalism’, only means . . having a patent granting complete freedom to flit from one faction to another.”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 191-92).
“Trotsky, on the other hand; represents only his own personal vacillations and nothing more. In l903 he was a Menshevik; he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to the Mensheviks in 1905 and merely flaunted ultra-revolutionary phrases; in 1906 he left them again; at the end of 1906 he advocated elect-oral agreements with the Cadets (i.e., was virtually once more with the Mensheviks) ; and in the spring of 1907, at the London Congress, he said that he differed from Rosa Luxemburg on ‘individual shades of ideas rather than on political tendencies’. Trotsky one day plagiarises the ideological stock-in-trade of one faction; next day he plagiarises that of another, and therefore declares himself to be standing above both factions.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 517).
His “political line” asserted Lenin, is mere high flown demagogy, characterised by revolutionary phrases, designed to deceive the workers:
“The Trotskys decieve the workers. Whoever supports Trotsky’s puny group supports a policy of lying and deceiving the workers. . . by ‘revolutionary’ phrase-mongering.”
(V. I. Lenin: “From the Camp of the Stolypin ‘Labour’ Party”, in: “Collected Works”; Volume 17; Moscow; 1963; p. 243).
“Empty exclamations, high-flown words. . and impressively important assurances — that is Trotsky’s total stock-in-trade.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Question of Unity”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; Moscow; 1963; p. 553) .
“Trotsky is fond of sonorous and empty phrases. . . . Trotsky’s phrases are full of glitter and noise, but they lack content. . . . Trotsky is very fond of explaining historical events in pompous and sonorous phrases, in a manner flattering to Trotsky.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “”Selected Works”; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 189,192, 194).
This demagogy, asserted Lenin, is used to attempt to conceal the fact that in practice Trotsky’s faction supports, and has the confidence of the liquidator Mensheviks and the otzovists:
“People like Trotsky, with his inflated phrases about the RSDLP and his toadying to the liquidators, ‘who have nothing in common’ with the RSDLP, today represents ‘the prevalent disease’. At this time of confusion, disintegration and wavering it is easy for Trotsky to become the ‘hero of the hour’ and gather all the shabby elements around himself. Actually they preach surrender to the liquidators who are building a Stolypin Labour Party.”
(V. I. Lenin: Resolution Adopted By the Second Paris Group of the RSDLP on the State of Affairs in the party”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 17: Moscow; 1963; p. 216).
“Trotsky and the ‘Trotskyites and conciliators’ like him are more pernicious than any liquidators; the convinced liquidators state their views bluntly, and it is easy for the workers to detect where they are wrong, whereas the Trotskys deceive the workers, cover up the evil. . . Whoever supports Trotsky’s puny group supports a policy. . of shielding the liquidators. Full freedom of action for Potresov and Co. in Russia, and the sheltering of their deeds by ‘revolutionary’ phrase-mongering abroad – — there you have the essence of the policy of ‘Trotskyism.’”
(V. I. Lenin: “From the Camp of the Stolypin ‘Labour Party’”, in: ibid.; p. 243).
“Trotsky’s particular task is to conceal liquidationism by throwing dust in the eyes of the workers. It is impossible to argue with Trotsky on the merits of the issue, because Trotsky holds no views whatever. We can and should argue with confirmed liquidators and otzovists; but it is no use arguing with a man whose game is to hide the errors of both trends; in his case the thing is to expose him as a diplomat of the smallest calibre.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Trotsky’s Diplomacy and a Certain Party Platform”, in: ibid.; p. 362).
“Trotsky follows in the wake of the Mensheviks and camouflages himself with particularly sonorous phrases. . .
In theory Trotsky is in no respect in agreement with either the liquidators or the otzovists, but in actual practice he is in entire agreement with both the ‘Golos’-ites and the ‘Vperyod’-ists. . .
Trotsky . . enjoys a certain amount of confidence exclusively among the otzovists and the liquidators.”
(V. I. Lenin : “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle” in Russia, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 499, 517).
The Menshevik leader Yuli Martov endorsed Lenin’s estimate of Trotsky in a letter dated May 1912:
“The logic of things compels Trotsky to follow the Menshevik road, despite all his reasoned pleas for some ‘synthesis’ between Menshevism and Bolshevism. … He has not only found himself in the camp of the ‘liquidators’, but he is compelled to take up there the most ‘pugnacious’ attitude towards Lenin.”
(Y. Martov: Letter, May 1912, cited in: “Pisnia P. B. Axelroda i Y. 0. Martova”. (Letters of P. B.Axelrod and Y. 0. Martov); Berlin, 1924; p. 233).
1909: The Fifth Party Conference
The Fifth Conference of the RSDLP was held in Paris in January 1909, attended by 18 delegates (6 Bolsheviks, I Mensheviks, 5 representatives of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, and 3 representatives of the “Bund”).
The conference adopted a Bolshevik resolution which defined liquidationism as:
“…the attempts of a certain section of the Party intelligentsia to liquidate the existing organisation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and substitute for it an amorphous association within the limits of legality at all costs, even if this legality is to be attained at the price of an open renunciation of the programme, tactics and traditions of our Party.”
(Resolution on Organisation, 5th. Conference of RSDLP, cited by V. I. Lenin. “Excerpts from the Resolutions of the Prague Conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party”; in: “Selected Works”; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 151).
and instructed the Party to wage a determined struggle against this deviation:
“The All-Russian Conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party recognises that the following constitute the fundamental tasks of the Party at the present time: . . .
3) to strengthen the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in the shape it assumed during the revolutionary period; . . to fight against deviations from revolutionary Marxism, against the curtailment of the slogans of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, and against the attempts to dissolve the illegal organisations of the RSDLP that are observed among certain Party elements, which have yielded to the influence of disintegration.”
(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution on the Present Situation and the Tasks of the Party, in: ibid.; p. 15).
The “Proletary” Conference
In June 1909 the editorial board of the Bolshevik newspaper “Proletary” (The Proletarian) called a conference in Paris to which leading Bolsheviks were invited. Although called officially an “enlarged editorial conference” it was, in fact, a Bolshevik Conference.
The conference adopted a-resolution to the effect that otzovism, ultimatumism, Machism and god-building were all incompatible with membership of the Bolshevik faction, and the adherents of these trends were declared to have placed themselves outside the faction:
“At an official meeting of its representatives held as far back as the spring of 1909, the Bolshevik faction repudiated and expelled the otzovists.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 517).
The conference drew attention to the emergence of the “Party Mensheviks,” and declared:
“Under such circumstances, the task of the Bolsheviks, who will remain the solid vanguard of the Party, is not only to continue the struggle against liquidationism and all the varieties of revisionism, but also to establish closer contact with the Marxian and Party elements of the other factions.”
(V. I. Lenin: Resolution of the Meeting of the Enlarged Editorial Board of “Proletary” – on “The Tasks of the Bolsheviks in the Party”, in: ‘Selected Works,” Volume 4; London 1943; p. 23-24).
The “Vperyod” Group
From August to December 1909 a number of otzovists and god-builders who had been expelled from the Bolshevik faction at the enlarged meeting of the editorial board of in June, held a “school” on the island of Capri (Italy).
The leading figures in the school were Grigori Alexinsky, Aleksandr Bogdanov and Anatoly Lunacharsky, with the participation of Maxim Gorky.
In December 1909 a number of lecturers at the Capri school, together with a number of prominent Bolsheviks including Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Dmitri Manuilsky and Mikhail Pokrovsky formed themselves into a new faction which they named “Vperyod” (Forward.) The name was selected because it was that of the paper published by the Bolshevik “Bureau of the Committees of the Majority” in 1904, in order to lend support to the group’s claim that its members were “true Bolsheviks” and that the Leninists were now “betraying Bolshevism.”
As Lenin characterised the faction:
“’Vperyod’ represents a non-Socialist-Democratic tendency (otzovism and Machism)”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous.””,Lenin “Selected Works”., Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 106).
Analysing the programme put forward by the “Vperyod” group, Lenin criticised it for its deviations towards otzovism in the sphere of political tactics and towards reactionary idealism in the sphere of philosophy:
“The platform of the “Vperyod” is permeated through and through by views which are incompatible with Party decisions. . .
In actual fact otzovist tactical conclusions follow from the view adopted by the ‘vperyod’ platform.
By putting forward in its platform the task of elaborating a so-called ‘proletarian philosophy’, ‘proletarian culture’, etc., the ‘Vperyod’ group in fact comes to the defence of the group of literati who are putting forward anti-Marxist views in this field. . . .
By declaring otzovism a ‘legitimate shade of opinion’, the platform of the ‘Vperyod’ group shields and defends otzovism, which is doing great harm to the Party.”
(V. I. Lenin: ‘The ‘Vperyod’ Group”, in: “Collected Works”; Volume 16; Moscow; 1963; p.145-6).
“Everyone knows that it is precisely Machism that is really implied by the term ‘’proletarian philosophy’. In fact, the most influential literary nucleus of the group is Machian, and it regards non-Machian philosophy as non-‘proletarian’….In reality, all the phrases about ‘proletarian culture’ are intended precisely to cloak the struggle against Marxism.“
(V.I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 35-6).
In the winter of 1910-11 the ‘Vperyod’ group organised a second ‘school’ at Bologna (Italy), Here Trotsky acted as one of the lecturers, together with Yuli Martov and Aleksandra Kollontai.
1910: The January 1910 Central Committee Meeting
In January 1910, against the opposition of Lenin who considered the circumstances inopportune, a meeting of the Central Commiittee of the RSDLP was held in Paris, attended by representatives of the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, the “Party Mensheviks”, the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region, the “Vperyod” group, the Viennese group, and the “Bund’. Lenin’s opposition to the holding of the Central Committee at this time was due to his awareness that a number of Bolsheviks — including Alexel Rykov, Solomon Lozovsky, Lev Kamenev, and Grigori Sokolnikov, had adopted a concilationist position.
Despite this, the Leninists were able to secure the unanimous adoption of a resolution which condemned both otzovism and liquidationism, although without specifically naming them.
“The historical situation of the Social-Democratic movement in the period of the bourgeois counter-revolution inevitably gives rise, as a manifestation of the bourgeois influence over the proletariat, on the one hand to the renunciation of the illegal Social-Democratic Party, this debasement of its role and importance, the attempts to curtail the programme and tactical tasks and slogans of consistent Social-Democracy, etc.; on the other hand, it gives rise to the renunciation of the Duma work of Social-Democracy and of the utilisation of the legal possibilities, the failure to understand the importance of either, the inability to adapt the consistent Social-Democratic tactics to the peculiar historical conditions of the present moment, etc.
An integral part of the Social-Democratic tactics under such conditions is the overcoming of both deviations by broadening and deepening the Social-Democratic work in all spheres of the class struggle of the proletariat and by explaining the danger of such deviations.”
(Resolution of Plenum of Central Committee of the RSDLP, January 1910, cited by V. I. Lenin: “Controversial Questions”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 129).
Lenin’s draft resolution used the phrase “fight on two fronts,” but this was altered by the meeting, on Trotsky’s motion, to the phrase “overcoming … by broadening and deepening”:
“The draft of this resolution was submitted to the Central Committee by myself, and the clause in question was altered by the plenum itself . . on the motion of Trotsky, against whom I fought without success. . . . The words ‘overcoming by means of broadening and deepening’ were inserted on Trostsky’s motion. . . ‘
Nothing at the plenum aroused more furious – and often comical — indignation than the idea of a ‘struggle on two fronts’. . . .
Trotsky’s motion to substituite ‘overcoming by means of broadening and deepening’ for the struggle on two fronts’ meet with the hearty support of the Mensheviks and the ‘Vperyod’-ists. . . .
In reality this phrase expresses a vague desire, a pious innocent wish that there should be less internal strife among the Social-Democrats! . . it is a sigh of the so-called conciliators.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist’, in: ibid.; p. 45, 47)
Despite it’s dilution by the concilationists, Lenin considered this resolution as “especially important”:
“This decision is especially important because it was carried unanimously: all the Bolsheviks, without exception, all the so-called ‘Vperyod’-ists, and finally (this is most important of all) all the Mensheviks and the present liquidators without exception, and also all the ‘national’ (i.e., Jewish, Polish and Lettish) Marxists endorsed this decision.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Controversial Questions “, in: ibid.; p. 128-9).
However, the conciliationists managed to secure the adoption of a number of other resolutions at the Central Committee meeting:
1) to dissolve all factional groups;
2) to discontinue the Bolshevik paper “Proletary” and the Menshevik paper “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata”;
3) to grant Trotsky’s Viennese “Pravda”‘ a subsidy from Party funds and to delegate a representative of the Central Committee to sit as co-editor along with Trotsky;
4) to set up an editorial board for the Party’s central organ, “Sotsial-Demokrat” (The Social-Democrat) consisting of two Bolsheviks (Lenin and Zinoviev), two Mensheviks (Martov and Dan, and one representative of the Polish Party (Waraki);
5) to initiate a “Discussion Sheet” in conjunction with the central organ, open to representatives of trends which differed from the line of the Party;
6) to establish the seat of the Central Committee in Russia;
7) to transfer all funds in the possession of factional centres to the general Party treasury.
So far as the last point was concerned, the Bolsheviks transferred their funds to three trustees – the leaders of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, Karl Kautsky, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin — until it could be shown that the other factions had carried out the decisions adopted at the Central Committee meeting.
The Leninists characterised this series of decisions as a conciliationist error, since it secured the dissolution of the Bolshevik faction in return for a worthless verbal promise from the other factions.
“Both the ideological merit of the plenum and its conciliationist error become clear. Its merit lies in its rejection of the ideas of liquidationism and otzovism; its mistake lies in indiscriminately concluding an agreement with persons and groups whose deeds do not correspond to their promises ( ‘they signed the resolution’).”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 101).
“The conciliators recognised all and sundry tendencies on ‘their mere promise to purge themselves, instead of recognising only those tendencies which are purging themselves (and only in so far as they do purge themselves) of their “ulcers”. The ‘Vperyod’-ists, the ‘Golos’ ites and Trotsky all ‘signed’ the resolution against otzovism and liquidationism — that is, they promised to ‘purge themselves’ — and that was the end of it! The conciliators ‘believed’ the promise and entangled the Party with non-Party grouplets, ‘ulcerous’ as they themselves admitted.”
(V. I.. Lenin: ‘The Climax of the Party Crisis’ in. ibid; p. 115).
The Violation of the CC Decisions
The Bolsheviks dissolved their factional organisation and wound up their factional Paper ‘Proletary’ (The Proletarian), in accordance with the decisions of the January 1910 meeting of the Central Committee.
The Mensheviks, however, declined to dissolve their factional organisation, their factional paper “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata’ (The Voice of the Social-Democrat) or to break with liquidationism. In fact, they began to publish in St. Petersburg a new legal monthly magazine called “Nasha Zarya” (Our Dawn) (which continued to appear until 1914) and continued to publish in Moscow their legal journal “Vozrozhdeniye” (Regeneration). And in August 1910 the Mensheviks began to issue in Moscow the magazine “Zhizn”(Life) (which, appeared until September 1910), while in January 1911 they began to issue in St. Petersburg the legal magazine “Dyelo Zhizni” (Life’s Cause) (which appeared until October 1941).
In all these publications, as well as in “Golos Sotsial-Deniokrata”; which continued to appear regularly, the Mensheviks continued to put forward openly liquidationist views:
“A party in the form of a complete and organised hierarchy of institutions does not exist”
(P. Potresov: Article in “Nasha Zarys”, No. 2, February 1910, p. 61, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Notes Of a Publicist”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; l943; p. 53).
“There is nothing to wind up and — we on our part would add — the dream of re-establishing this hierarchy in its old underground form is simply a harmful reactionary utopia.”
(Editorial in “Vozrozhdeniye”, No. 5, April 12th., 1910, p. 51, cited in V.I.Lenin: ibid.; p. 53).
“The tactics which are to be observed in the activities of the so-called ‘liquidators’ are the ‘tactics’ which put the open labour movement in the centre, strive to extend it in every possible direction, and seek within this open labour movement and there only the elements for the revival of the party.”
(Y.Martov: “Article in “Zhizn”, No. 1, September 12th., 1910, p. 9-l0; cited in: V. I. Lenin: ‘The Social Structure of State Power, the Prospects and Liquidationism”; in:ibid.; p. 84).
“In the new historical period of Russian life that has set in, the working class must organise itself not ‘for revolution’, not ‘in expectation of a revolution’, but simply for the determined and systematic defence of its special interests in all spheres of life; for the gathering and training of its forces for this many-sided and complex activity; for the training and accumulation in this way of socialist consciousness in general; for acquiring the ability to find one’s bearings — to stand up for oneself.”
(Y. Larin: “Right Turn and About Turn!”, in: “Dyelo Zhizni”, No. 2, p..18, cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 90).
“Great political tasks make inevitable a relentless war against anti- liquidationism …. Anti-liquidationism is a constant brake, constant disruption.”
(F. Dan: “Article in “Nasha Zarya”, No. 6, 1911, cited by: J. V. Stalin: “The Situation in the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma “, in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 385).
In various articles from June 1910 onwards, Lenin drew attention to the fact that the liquidator Menshviks had failed to carry out the decisions of the January 1910 Central Committee meeting:
“During that year (1910), the ‘Golos’-ites, the ‘Vperyod’-ists, and Trotsky, all in fact, estranged themselves from the Party and moved precisely in the direction of liquidationism and otzovism-ultimatumism.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in: ibid; p. 116).
“Since that very plenum of 1910, the above-mentioned principal publications of the liquidators. . have turned decidedly and along the whole line towards liquidationism, not only by ‘belittling’ (in spite of the decisions of the plenum) ‘the importance of the illegal Party’; but directly renouncing the Party, calling it a ‘corpse’, declaring the Party to be already dissolved, describing the restoration of an illegal Party as a ‘reactionary Utopia’, heaping calumny and abuse on the illegal Party in the pages of the legal magazines.”
(V. I. Lenin: Resolution on Liquidationism and the Group of Liquidators, Sixth Conference of the RSDLP, in: Ibid.; p. 152)
“All the liquidationist newspapers and magazines….. after the most definite and even-unanimous decisions have been adopted by the Party, reiterate thoughts and arguments that contain obvious liquidationism…
The truth proved by the documents I have quoted, which cover a period of more than five years (1908-13), is that the liquidators, mocking all the Party decisions, continue to abuse and bait the Party, i.e., ‘illegal work.'”
(V.I. Lenin: “Controversial Questions”, in:. ibid.; p. 133-4).
The ‘Vperyod’-ists, on the other hand, continued to support toleration of otzovism within the Party:
“‘Vperyod’, No. 3 (May 1911) . . openly states that otzovism is a ‘completely legitimate tendency within our Party’ (p. 78).”
(V.I. Lenin: ‘The New Faction of Conciliators Or the Virtuous’, in; ibid.; p. 107).
In September 1910, Trotsky expelled Lev Kamenev, the officica representative of the Central Committee of the Party, from the editorial board of ‘Pravda’ denouncing:
“The conspiracy of the emigre clique (i.e., the Bolsheviks — Ed.) against the Russian Social-Democratic Labour party”;
(L. Trotsky: “Pravda’, No. 21, 1910),
and adding threateningly:
“Lenin’s circle, which wants to place itself above the Party, will find itself outside it’.
(L. Trotsky: ibid).
Lenin declared that Trotsky’s expulsion of the CC representative from the editorial board of “Pravda” confirmed the already expressed view of the Bolsheviks that, under the guise of “non-factionalism,” Trotsky was, in fact, endeavouring to form a faction:
“That Trotsky’s venture is an attempt to create a faction is obvious to all now, after obvious to all now, after Trotsky has removed the representative of the Central Committee from ‘Pravda.’”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”: In ‘Selected Works’; Volume 3; London; 19~6; p. 517).
The fact that Trotsky’s professed desire for unity of the factions concealed his support in practice for the Menshevik liquidators and otzovists is shown by his failure to condemn these factions for their repudiation of the conciliationist decisions to which all actions had agreed at the January 1910 meeting Central Committee.
As Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer Isaac Deutscher expresses it:
“This was the occasion on which Trotsky, the champion of unity, should have spared the offenders against unity no censure. Yet in ‘Pravda’ he ‘suspended judgement’ and only mildly hinted at his disapproval of the Mensheviks’ conduct.. . . Trotsky took his stand against the disciplinarians. Having done so, he involved himself in glaring inconsistencies. He, the fighter for unity, connived in the name of freedom of dissent at the new breach in the Party brought about by the Mensheviks. He, who glorified the underground with zeal worthy of a Bolshevik; joined hands with those who longed to rid themselves of the underground as a dangerous embarrassment. Finally, the sworn enemy of bourgeois liberalism allied himself with those who stood for an alliance with liberalism against those who were fanatically opposed to such an alliance. . . .
So self-contradictory an attitude brought him nothing but frustration. Once again to the Bolsheviks he appeared not just an opponent, but a treacherous enemy. . . Martov made him turn a blind eye more than once on Menshevik moves which were repugnant to him. His long and bitter quarrel with Lenin made him seize captiously on every vulnerable detail of Bolshevik policy. His disapproval of Leninism he expressed publicly with the usual wounding sarcasm. His annoyance with the Mensheviks he vented mostly in private arguments or in ‘querulous’ letters.”
(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p.. 195, 196).
Lenin expressed, himself more forthrightly on Trotsky’s attitude in an article entitled “Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame”:
“At the Plenary Meeting Judas Trotsky made a big show of fighting liquidationism and otzovism. He vowed and swore that he was true to the Party. He was given a subsidy. . .
Judas expelled the representative of the Central Committee from ‘Pravda’ and began to write liquidationist articles in ‘Vorwarts’. In defiance of the direct decision of the School Commission appointed by the Plenary Meeting to the effect that no Party lecturer may go to the ‘Vperyod’ factional school, Judas Trotsky did go and discussed a plan for a conference with the ‘Vperyod’ group. . . Such is Judas Trotsky’s blush of shame.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame”; in: “Collected Works”; Volume 17; Moscow; 1963; p.45) .
The liquidator Menshevik members of the Central Committee, now based in Russia by the decision of the January 1910 meeting of the Central Committee and so compelled to function illegally, refused to attend the CC on the grounds that all illegal organisations were “objectionable” and “harmful.” The conciliationist members of the Central Committee refused to agree to meetings of the Central Committee without the liquidator Mensheviks, on the grounds that such meetings would be “unrepresentative.”
“And what about the work in Russia? Not a single meeting of the Central Committee was held during the whole year! Why? Because the members of the Central Committee in Russia (conciliators who well deserved the kisses of ‘Golos Likvidatorov’) kept on ‘inviting’ the liquidators for a year and a quarter but never got them to ‘accept the invitation.’”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in: Ibid.; p.116).
The result was that for a considerable period after the January 1910 meeting of the Central Committee, all practical Party work was carried out by the Bolsheviks and the Party Mensheviks,” the latter led by Georgi Plekhanov.
“All Party work .. during the whole of that year (i.e., 1910 — Ed.) was done by the Bolsheviks and the Plekhanovists. . .
This Party work (in literature, which was accessible to all) was conducted by the Bolsheviks and the Plekhanovists in spite…of the ‘conciliatory’ resolutions and the collegiums formed by the plenum, and not in conjunction with the ‘Golos’-ites and the ‘Vperyod’-ists, but against them (because it was impossible to work in conjunction with the liquidators and otozovists-ultimatumists).”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 115, 116).
1910-1911: The Bolsheviks Re-form their Faction
Considering in September 1910 that the repudiation of the January 1910 Central Committee decisions had been sufficiently demonstrated; in this month the Bolsheviks funded their own factional newspaper “Rabochaya Gazeta”‘ (Worker’s Newspaper), published in Paris under the editorship of Lenin. The Sixth Party Conference in January 1912, transformed this paper into the official organ of the Party’s Central Committee, and it continued to appear until August 1912.
“The first factional step the Bolsheviks took was to found “Rabochaya Gazeta” in September 1910.”
(V. I. Lenin. “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in “Selected Works” Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 102).
In December 1910 the Bolsheviks announced formally that they considered themselves released from all the obligations imposed by the January 1910 Central Committee meeting since its decisions had been consistently flouted by the liquidator Mensheviks.
“By their ‘declaration’ of December 18, 1910, the Bolsheviks openly and formally declared that they cancelled the agreement with all the other factions. The violation of the ‘peace’ made at the plenum, its violation by ‘Golos’, ‘Vperyod’ and Trotsky, had become a fully recognised fact.”
(V.I. Lenin: “The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in ibid.; p.117.)
In the same month, December 1910, the Bolsheviks began publication in Russia of’ the legal newspaper “Zvezda” (The Star) – published at first weekly and then two or three times a week, in St. Petersburg until its suppression by the tsarist government in April 1912. “Zvedzda”, was succeeded by “Nevskaya Zvezda” (The Neva Star) , until this too was suppressed in October 1912. They also began to issue the legal magazine “Mysl” (Thought), published monthly in Moscow until April 1911.
In May 1911 the Bolsheviks broke off relations with the Central Corrinittee Bureau Abroad, which was dominated by liquidator Mensheviks.
“For a year and a half, from January 1910 to June 1911, when they had a majority in the Foreign Bureau of the Central Committee and faithful ‘friends’ in the persons of the conciliators in the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee, they did nothing, absolutely nothing to further the work in Russia!”
(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in: ibid.; p. 121).
“The rupture between the Bolsheviks . . . and the Foreign Bureau of the Central Committee is a correction of the conciliationist mistake of the plenum. The rapprochement of the factions which are actually fighting against liquidationism end otzovism will now proceed despite the forms decided on by the plenum, for these forms did not correspond to the content.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 101).
1911: The June 1911 Meeting of CC Members Living Abroad
In June 1911, on the initiative of Lenin, a meeting of Central Committee members living- abroad was held in Paris, attended by representatives of the Bolsheviks, the “Party Mensheviks” the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, and the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region.
The meeting set up an Organising Commission Abroad, charged with the calling of an All-Russian Conference. This, in turn, set up a Technical Comminion Abroad, to deal with technical questions such as publishing, transport, etc.
From its inception the Organising Commission Abroad had a majority of conciliationist members and, to avoid bringing about a break with the liquidator Mensheviks, it did not proceed with the work of calling a conference. In November 1911 therefore, the Bolshevik members withdrew from it.
The Russian Organising Commission
In July 1911 the Bolshevik member of the Central Committee in Paris sent Grigori Ordzhonikidze to Russia to work there for the calling of a Party Conference. As a result of Ordzhonikidze’s activity, a meeting of representatives of local Party organisations set up in November 1911 a ‘Russian Organising Commission” charged with making all arrangements for convening of a Party Conference.
This commission, composed of Bolsheviks and “Party Mensheviks,” made arrangements for the convening of the Sixth Party Conference in Prague in January 1912.
“By November l4, the Russian Organisation Committee was formed. In reality, it was created by the Bolsheviks and by the Party Mensheviks in Russia. ‘The alliance of the two strong factions’ (strong in their ideological solidarity and in their work of purging ‘ulcers’) became a fact.”
(V.I. Lenin: “The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943, p. 118)
In December 1911 the Bolsheviks began publication in St. Petersburg of a legal monthly magazine “Prosveshceniye” (Enlightenment) to succeed “Mysl,” suppressed by the Tsarist government. This in turn was suppressed by the tsarist government in June l914, but a double number appeared in the autumn of 1917.
In the same month, December 1911, a meeting of Bolshevik groups abroad took place in Paris, with the aim of unifying the Bolshevik groups abroad for the forthcoming Party conference. It was attended by 11 voting delegates, under the leadership of Lenin.
1912: The Sixth Conference of the RSDLP
To remedy the intolerable situation created by Menshevik domination of the Central Committee, which refused either to be active or to convoke a congress, a conference of the Party was convened in January 1912 on the initiative of the Bolsheviks – the Sixth Conference of the RSDLP.
More than twenty organisations of the Party were represented at the conference, including those of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Ekaterinoslav, Nicolayev, Saratov, Kazan, Vilna, Dvinsk, Tiflis and Baku. The Mensheviks refused to attend – except for a small group of “Party Mensheviks.”
The conference elected a Bolshevik Central Committee, headed by Lenin, and this in turn set up a new Russian Bureau of the Central Committee, headed by Stalin, to direct the practical work of the Party within Russia.
A resolution drafted by Lenin and adopted by the conference reviewed the anti-Party activities of the liquidator Mensheviks, who were grouped around the magazines “Nasha Zarya” (Cur Dawn) and “Dyelo Zhizni” (Life’s Cause), and declared them to be now “outside the Party”:
“The Conference declares that the group represented by ‘Nasha Zarya’ and ‘Dyelo Zhizni’ has by its behaviour, definitely placed itself outside the Party‘.
(V. I. Lenin: Resolution on Liquidationism and the Group of Liquidators, Sixth Conference RSDLP, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 152).
The Bolsheviks regarded the Sixth Party Conference as of great significance since, by the expulsion of the liquidator Mensheviks, it created for the first time a truly united Party based on Leninist principles:
“The conference was of the utmost importance in the history of our Party, for it drew a boundary line between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and amalgamated the Bolshevik organisations all over the country into a united Bolshevik Party.”
(J. V. Stalin: Report to the 15th. Congress of the CPSU (B.), cited in: “History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)”. Moscow; 1941; p. 142).
The Bolshevik “Pravda” (Truth)
The liquidator Mensheviks and the group around Trotsky’s “Pravda” (Truth) refused to recognise the Sixth Party Conference as “legitimate”:
“Neither the liquidators nor the numerous groups living abroad (those of…Trotsky and others)…recognised our January 1912 conference”.
(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and War”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 255).
Trotsky, in particular, denounced the Conference virulently in the pages of “Pravda” (e.g., “Pravda” No. 24, 1912) and anonymously in the pages of “Vorwarts”. His anger was intensified when, on May 5th., 1912, the Bolsheviks began publication in St. Petersburg of a daily newspaper under the name of “Pravda”, edited by Stalin; Trotsky thundered against the “theft” of “his” paper’s name by the:
“The circle whose interests are in conflict with vital needs of the Party, the circle which lives and thrives only through chaos and confusion”.
(“Pravda”, No. 25; 1912),
and demanded that the Bolshevik paper change its name, concluding threateningly:
“We wait quietly for an answer before we undertake further steps.'”
Lenin wrote to the editorial board of the Bolshevik “Pravda”:
“I advise you to reply to Trotsky through the post:
“To Trotsky (Vienna)…We shall not reply to disruptive and slanderous letters”; Trotsky’s dirty campaign against ‘Pravda’ is one mass of lies and slander..”
(V. I. Lenin: “Letter to the Editor of Pravda”, July 19th., 1912, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 41),
and Stalin commented dryly that Trotsky was merely:
“. . .a vociferous champion with fake muscles.”
(J. V. Stalin: “The Elections in St. Petersburg”, in: “works”; Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 288).
“The Organisation Committee”
From the autumn of 1910 Trotsky began preparations to try to unite all the anti-Bolshevik elements associated with the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party into a single bloc which, by calling a conference in the name of the Party, might usurp the name and machinery of the Party.
As Lenin put it:
“Trotsky groups all the enemies of Marxism. Trotsky unites all to whom ideological decay is dear; . . . all philistines who do not understand the reasons for the struggle and who do not wish to learn, think and discover the ideological roots of the divergence of views.”
(V. I Lenin: Letter to the Russian Collegium of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 17; 1963; p. 21).
In November 1910 Trotsky secured the passage through the Vienna Club of the Russian Social-Democratic Party of a resolution setting up a fund for the purpose of convening such a conference. Lenin commented:
“On the 26th November, 1910, Trotsky carried through a resolution in the so called Vienna Party Club (a circle of Trotskyites, exiles who are pawns in the hands of Trotsky) . . . . Trotsky’s attacks on the bloc of Bolsheviks and Plekhanov’s group are not new; what is new is the outcome of his resolution; the Vienna Club (read ‘Trotsky’) has organised a ‘general Party fund for the purpose of preparing and convening a conference of the RSDLP’.
This . . is a clear violation of Party legality and the start of an adventure in which Trotsky will come to grief.”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid; p. 19, 20)
“Trotsky’s resolution.. . expresses the very aim of the ‘Golos’ group — to destroy the central bodies so detested by the liquidators, and with them, the Party as an organisation. It is not enough to lay bare the anti-Party activities of ‘Golos’ and Trotsky; they must be fought.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The State of Affairs in the Party”, in: ibid.; p. 23).
In March 1912 Trotsky attempted to take advantage of the expulsion of the liquidator Mensheviks from the Party by calling a preliminary conference in Paris, attended by delegates of the various organisations (some purely fictitious) the leaderships of which were opposed to the Bolsheviks: the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region, the “Caucasian Regional Committee” of the RSDLP, the Bund, the Menshevik group around the newspaper “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata” (The Voice of the Social-Democrat), the “Vperyod” (Forward) Group, and the group around Trotsky’s Viennese “Pravda.”
The meeting denounced the Sixth Party Conference, and the Central Committee elected by it, as “illegitimate”:
“The conference declared that the conference (i.e., the Sixth Party Conference of the RSDLP — Ed) is an open attempt of a group of persons, who have quite deliberately led the Party to a split, to usurp the Party’s flag, and it expresses its profound regret that several Party organisations and comrades have fallen victims to this deception and have thereby facilitated the splitting and usurpatory policy of Lenin’s sect. The conference expresses its conviction that all the Party organisations in Russia and abroad will protest against the coup d’etat that has been brought about, will refuse to recognise the central bodies elected at that conference, and will by every means help to restore the unity of the Party by the convocation of a genuine all-Party conference.”
(Resolution of March 1912 Paris conference in: “Vorwarts”; (Forward), March 26th., 1912).
The conference set up an “Organisation Committee” with the official aim of convening a “legitimate Party Conference.”
Lenin pointed out that Trotsky’s role’ in the projected anti-Bolshevik bloc was to screen the liquidator Mensheviks with “left”demagogic phrases:
“The basis of this bloc is bloc is obvious: the liquidators enjoy full freedom to pursue their line . . ‘as before’, while Trotsky, operating abroad, screens them with r-r-revolutionary phrases, which cost him nothing and do not bind them in any way.”
(V. I. Lenin: “‘The Liquidators against the Party”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; Moscow; 1963; p. 24).
The Revolutionary Revival
During the first half of 1912 the revolutionary movement in Russia began to revive.
In April 1912; during a strike in the Lena goldfields in Siberia, more than 500 workers were killed or wounded by tsarist police. The workers replied with mass strikes and demonstrations, which reached their highest point on May Day.
The “August Bloc”
In August 1912 the anti-Bolshevik conference, to prepare which the “Organisation Committee” had been set up in March, took place in Vienna under the leadership of Trotsky, Martov and Dan.
The organisations represented at the conferences — organisations which together formed what the Party called the “August Bloc” were:
1) liquidator Mensheviks grouped around the paper -“Golos Sotsial-Demokrata”;
2) The liquidator Menshevik group around “Nevsky Golos”(The Voice of the Neva), a legal newspaper published in St. Petersburg from May to August 1912;
3) The “Caucasian Regional Committee of the Social-Democratic Labour Party.” (described by Lenin as a fictitious body), a group of Mensheviks from the Caucusus headed by Noah Jordania);
4) The Ukrainian social-democratic organisation ‘Spillka”;
5) The seven Menshevik Duma deputies;
6) The “Vperyod” group;
7) The Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region; and
8) The group around Trotsky’s Viennese “Pravda.”
Representatives of the Polish Socialist Party (not the Polish Social-Democratic Party) and of the Lithuanian Social-Democratic Party attended as observers.
The “Vperyod” group withdrew from the conference on its first day, and a “Bolshevik” who attended from Moscow was subsequently exposed as a police agent.
The conference adopted a resolution calling for the adaptation of the Party organisation to the “new forms and methods of the open Labour Movement’.
It adopted a new programme virtually in line with that of the liberal capitalists in order to make it acceptable to the tsarist government and enable the new party which was planned to emerge from the conference to function legally.
It also adopted a resolution on “national-cultural autonomy” in violation of the national programme of the RSDLP (to be discussed in the next section).
The “Organisation Committee” continued in existence.
Seventeen years later Trotsky commented critically on his role in initiating the formation of the “August Bloc”;
“In 1912, when the political curve in Russia took an unmistakable upward turn, I made an attempt to call a union conference of representatives of all the Social-Democratic factions. . . Lenin, however, came out with all his force against union. The entire course of events that followed proved conclusively that Lenin was right. The conference met in Vienna in August 1912, without the Bolsheviks, and I found myself formally in a ‘bloc’ with the Mensheviks and a few disparate groups of Bolshevik dissenters. This ‘bloc’ had no common political basis.”
(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970; p. 224-5).
The policy of “cultural-national autonomy” is based on the erroneous theory that nations are composed of individuals of a particular nationality, irrespective of the territory they inhabit. On the basis of this theory, the proponents of “cultural-national autonomy” propose that within a particular state there should be “separate bodies” with jurisdiction over the cultural affairs of each “nation,” bodies elected by individual persons of each nationality represented within the frontiers of the state concerned.
In 1899, under the influence of Otto Bauer and Karl Renner, “cultural-national autonomy” had been included in the programme of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party:
“What then is the national programme of the Austrian Social-Democrats? It is expressed in two words: cultural-national autonomy. This means, firstly, that -autonomy would be granted, let us say, not to Bohemia or Poland, which are inhabited mainly by Czechs and Poles, but to Czechs and Poles generally, . . no matter what part of Austria they inhabit. That is why this autonomy is called national and not territorial.
It means, secondly, that the Czechs, Poles, Germans, and so on, scattered over the various parts of Austria, taken personally, as individuals, are to be organised into integral nations, and are as such to form part of the Austrian state. In this way Austria would represent not a union of autonomous regions, but a union of autonomous nationalities, constituted irrespective of territory.
It means, thirdly, that the national institutions which are to be created for this purpose for the Poles, Czechs, and so forth, are to have jurisdiction only over ‘cultural’ not ‘political’ questions. Specifically political questions would be reserved for the Austrian parliament (the Reichsrat).
That is why this autonomy is also called cultural, cultural-national autonomy.”
(J. V. Stalin: “Marxism and the National Question”, in: “Works”; Volume 2; Moscow; 1953 p. 331-2).
Lenin and Stalin strongly opposed the definition of a “nation” put forward by the “cultural-national autonomists” as well as their political proposals:
“’Cultural-national autonomy implies precisely the most refined and, therefore, the most harmful nationalism, it implies the corruption of the workers by means of the slogan of national culture and the propaganda of the profoundly harmful and even ‘anti-democratic’ segregating of the schools according to nationality. In short, this programme undoubtedly contradicts the internationalism of the proletariat and is in accordance only with the ideals of the nationalist petty bourgeoisie.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The National Programme of the RSDLP”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 19; Moscow; 1963; p. 541).
“‘cultural-national autonomy’ . . aims at introducing the most refined, most absolute and most extreme nationalism. . Consolidating nationalism within a certain ‘justly’ delimited sphere, ‘constitutionalising’ nationalism, and securing the separation of all nations from one another by means of a special state institution — such is the ideological foundation and content of cultural-national autonomy. This idea is thoroughly bourgeois and thoroughly false. The proletariat cannot support any consecration of nationalism; on the contrary, it supports everything that helps to obliterate national distinctions and remove national barriers; it supports everything that makes the ties between nationalities closer and closer. . To act differently means siding with reactionary nationalism.'”
(V. I. Lenin: “Critical Notes on the National Question” in: “Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism”; Moscow; 1967; P. 26,. 28)
“The idea of national autonomy creates the psychological conditions for the division of the united workers’ party into separate parties built on national lines. The break-up of the party is followed by the breakup of the trade unions, and complete segregation is the result. In this way the united class movement is broken up into separate national rivulets.”
(J.V. Stalin: “Marxism and the National Question”; In: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 342-3).
At its Fourth Congress in 1901, the General Jewish Labour League of Lithuania, Poland and Russia (known as the “Bund”) had adopted a resolution declaring the Jewish people to be a “nation” and demanding “national autonomy” for the Jewish people within the Russian state. As Stalin pointed out, the autonomy demanded by the Bund could only be cultural-national autonomy:
“The Bund could seize upon any autonomy at all, it could only be … cultural-national autonomy; there could be no question of territorial–political autonomy for the Jews, since the Jews have no definite integral territory.”
(J. V. Stalin: “Marxism and the National Question”, in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 347).
At the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (to which the Bund was affiliated) in July/August 1903, the Bund had proposed that the Party’s Programme should include the demand for “cultural-national autonomy.” The proposal was rejected, only three votes being cast in its favour, and the Bund withdrew from the congress and (until 1906) from the Party.
The conference of the anti-Bolshevik “August Bloc” in August 1912 adopted a resolution on this question which declared:
“The Caucasian comrades expressed the opinion that it is necessary to demand national-cultural autonomy. This conference, while expressing no opinion on the merits of this demand, declares that such an interpretation . . . does not contradict the precise meaning of the programme.”
(Resolution on National-Cultural Autonomy, “August Conference”, cited in: J. V. Stalin: “Works,” Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 295).
Stalin commented on this resolution:
“It was not only the laws of logic that were violated by the conference of the Liquidators. By sanctioning cultural national autonomy it also violated its duty to Russian Social-Democracy. It most definitely did violate ‘the precise meaning’ of the programme, for it is well known that the Second Congress; which adopted the programme, emphatically repudiated cultural-national autonomy”.
(V. I. Lenin: “Marxism and the National Question,” in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953;- p. 370).
It was this controversy on cultural-national autonomy which stimulated Stalin to write, in Vienna in 1913, the classic Marxist work on the national question, “Marxism and the National Question,” published in March-May 1913.
Lenin approved heartily of Stalin’s work:
“As regards nationalism, . . we have a marvellous Georgian who has sat down to write a big article for ‘Prosveshcheniye’, for which he has collected all the Austrian and other material.”
(V.I. Lenin: Letter to Maxim Gorky, February 1913, in: “Collected Works”; Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 84).
“This situation and the fundamentals of a national programme for Social-Democracy have recently been dealt with in Marxist theoretical literature (the most prominent place being taken by Stalin’s article).”
(V. I. Lenin: “The National Programme of the RSDLP”, in:
“Collected Works”, Volume 19; Moscow; 1963; p. 539) .
The campaign of the liquidator Mensheviks for a legally tolerated “open labour party” was associated with the concept that the “backward” Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party should “Europeanised” i.e. transformed into a social-democratic party of the type existing in Western Europe, where capitalist “democracy” had long been established and, furthermore, where the domination of opportunist trends was already clearly discernible. Trotsky played an important role in this campaign for the “Europeanisation” of the Russian Party:
“The vaunted ‘Europeanisation’ . . .is being talked about in every possible tone by Dan and Martov and Trotsky and all the liquidators. It is one of the main points of their opportunism. . . The liquidators play at ‘European Social-Democracy’, although — in the country where they amuse themselves with their game — there is as yet no constitution, as yet no basis for ‘Europeanism’’, and a revolutionary struggle has yet to be waged for them . . The liquidators describe as ‘Europeanism’ the conditions in which the Social-Democrats have been active in the principal countries of Europe since 1871, i.e., precisely at the time when the whole historical period of bourgeois revolutions was over and when the foundations of political liberty had taken firm shape for a long time to come.
Opportunist intellectuals transplant the slogans of such ‘European’ campaigns to a soil lacking the most elementary foundations of European Constitutionalism, in an attempt to bypass the specific historical evolution which usually precedes the laying of these foundations.”
(V. I. Lenin: “How P. B. Axelrod Exposes the Liquidators”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; Moscow; 1963; p. l83-4; 185; 186).
1912-1913: Trotsky in the Balkans
Within a few weeks of the founding conference, it was clear to Trotsky that the “August Bloc” had already been proved abortive. He says in his autobiography, referring to September 1912:
“The August conference had already proved to be abortive”;
(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970; p. 226.)
In this month he was offered the post of Balkan correspondent to the newspaper “Kievskaya Mysl” (Kievan Thought), and he left Vienna in October, just as there began the First Balkan War (October-December 1912) between Turkey on the one hand and Serbia, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria on the other. This was continued as the Second Balkan War (January-May 1913). The Viennese “Pravda” ceased publication in December 1912.
Trotsky returned briefly to Vienna at the beginning of 1913, and then returned to the Balkans to cover the Third Balkan War (June-August 1913) between Serbia and Greece on the one hand and Bulgaria on the other.
The 1912 Duma Elections
In July 1912 the Third State Duma was formally dissolved, and the elections for the Fourth State Duma took place in the autumn.
The Bolsheviks and the Menshevik dominated “August Bloc” put forward rival candidates for the Duma. The Bolshevik candidates went to the working people on a revolutionary platform:
“The Social-Democratic Party needs a platform for the elections to the Fourth Duma in order once more to explain to the masses . . the need for, the urgency, the inevitability of the revolution…
The Social-Democratic Party wishes to utilise the elections in order, over and over again, to stimulate the masses to see the need for revolution; to see precisely the revolutionary revival which has begun. Therefore the Social-Democratic Party, in its platform, says briefly and plainly to the electors to the Fourth Duma: not constitutional reforms, but a republic, not reformism, but revolution.”
(V. I. Lenin: “The Platform of the Reformists and the Platform of the Revolutionary Social-Democrats”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 184-5).
The “August Bloc,” on the other hand, put forward a platform based on the demand for democratic reforms, falsely implying that these could be obtained without revolution through mass pressure of the working people upon the tsarist regime:
“Look at the platform of the liquidators. Its liquidationist essence is artfully concealed by Trotsky’s revolutionary phrases.
Our answer is – criticism of the utopia of constitutional reforms, explanation of the falsity of hopes placed in them, all possible assistance to the revolutionary upsurge, utilisation of the election campaign for that purpose. . .
They, the liquidators, need a platform ‘for’ the elections, i.e., in order politely to push back the consideration of’ a revolution as an indefinite contingency and to declare as ‘real’ the election campaign for a list of constitutional reforms. . .
The liquidators are using the elections to the Fourth Duma in order to preach constitutional reforms and to weaken the idea of revolution.”
(V.I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 180, 184, 185).
Of the nine deputies elected from the workers’ curiae, six were Bolsheviks; they were elected from the larger industrial centres, where four-fifths of the working class was concentrated. Seven liquidator Mensheviks were elected, the majority from non-working class curiae.
These deputies — the Bolshevik “Six” and the Menshevik “Seven” — at first formed a single “Social-Democratic” fraction in the Duma, which opened in November 1912. The fraction elected Nikolai Chkheidze, the Georgian Menshevik leader, as its Chairman.
The “Vperyod” Group Cooperate with the Bolsheviks
In November 1912 the “Vperyod” group severed their connection with the “August Bloc” and offered their cooperation to the Bolsheviks.
Lenin accepted the offer of cooperation gladly – but dubiously:
“I am ready to share with all my heart in your joy at the return of the ‘Vperyod’ group, if . . if your supposition is justified that ‘Machism, god-building and all that nonsense has been dumped for ever’, as you write. . . I underline -‘if’ because this, so far, is still a hope rather than a fact. . . .
I don’t know whether Bogdanov, Bazanov, Volsky (a semi-anarchist), Lunacharsky, Alexinsky, are capable of learning from the painful experience of 1908-11. Have they learned that Marxism is a more serious and more profound thing than it seemed to them, that one cannot scoff at it. . If they have understood this — a –thousand greetings to them. . . But if they haven’t understood it, then . against attempts to abuse Marxism or to confuse the policy of the workers’ party we shall fight without sparing our lives.”
(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Maxim Gorky, January 1913, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 70, 71).
1913: The January 1913 Conference
In January 1913 a conference of the Central Committee of the RSDLP with leading Party workers was held in Cracow (Poland).
One resolution adopted by the conference noted the revolutionary revival that had marked the year 1912 and declared that one of the immediate tasks of the Party was:
“The organisation of revolutionary street demonstrations, both in conjunction with political strikes and as independent manifestations.”
(Resolution of January 1913 Conference, cited in: N. Popov: “Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”; London; n.d: p. 282).
The conference once again condemned liquidationism, placing on record that, following the “August Bloc” conference, the liquidator Mensheviks were advocating with still greater energy:
“a) an open party;
b) their opposition to the illegal organisations;
c) their opposition to the Party programme (as expressed in their defence of national-cultural autonomy, the demand for the revision of the agrarian laws of the Third Duma, the slurring over of the demand for a republic, etc.;
d) their opposition to revolutionary mass strikes; and
e) their approval of reformist and exclusively legal tactics.
Accordingly, one of the tasks of the Party is, as formerly, to wage determined warfare against the liquidationist groups ‘Nasha Zarya’ and ‘Luch’, and to explain to the working class masses the sinister character of their teachings”.
(Resolution of January 1913 Conference, cited in N. P.Popov: ibid.; p. 282-3).
The conference advocated the unification from below of the existing illegal working class organisations, in contrast to the unity from above proposed by the conciliators.
Lenin, who attended the Conference, considered that it was:
“Very successful and will play its part.”
(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Maxim Gorky, January 1913, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 77).
Trotsky’s Letter to Chkheidze
In “April 1913 Trotsky wrote a letter to Nikolai Chkheidze, Chairman of the Duma Menshevik fraction, in which he said:
“And what a senseless obsession is the wretched squabbling systematically provoked by the master squabbler, Lenin . . , that professional exploiter of the backwardness of the Russian, working class movement. . . The whole edifice of Leninism at the present time is built up on lies and falsifications and bears within it the poisoned seed of its own disintegration.”
(L. Trotsky: Letter to Nikolai Chkheidze, April 1913, cited in: N.Popov,:, “Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”; Volume 1; London; n.d.; p. 289).
Sixteen years later Trotsky did not challenge the authenticity of the letter:
“My letter to Chkheidze against Lenin was published during this period (i.e., l924- Ed.). This episode, dating back to April 1913, grew out of the fact that the ‘official Bolshevik newspaper then published in St. Petersburg had appropriated the title of my Viennese publication, ‘The Pravda — a Labour Paper’. This led to one of those sharp conflicts so frequent in the lives of the foreign exiles. In a letter written to Chkheidze, I gave vent to my indignation at the Bolshevik centre and at Lenin. Two or three weeks later, I would undoubtedly have subjected my letter to a strict censor’s revision; a year or two later still, it would have seemed a curiosity in my own eyes. But that letter was to have a peculiar destiny. It was intercepted on its way by the Police Department. It rested in the police archives until the October revolution, when it went to the Institute of History of the Communist Party.”
(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970: p. 514-5).
but described its use by the leadership of the CPSU in the campaign to expose the role of Trotsky as “one of the ‘greatest frauds in the world’s history”:
“In 1924, the epigones disinterred the letter from archives and flung it at the party. . The people read Trotsky’s hostile remarks about Lenin and were stunned. . . The use “that the epigones made of my letter to Chkheidze is one of the greatest frauds in the world’s history. The forged documents of the French reactionaries in Dreyfus case are as nothing compared to the political forgery perpetrated by Stalin and his associates.”
(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 516).
The “Summer Conference” 1913
In October 1913 another conference of the Central Committee of the Party with leading Party workers, attended by 22 persons, was held at Poropino (Polarid) — a conference referred to in Party literature as the “Summer” Conference of 1913.
One of the principal resolutions adopted by the Conference dealt with the position of the Party’s Duma fraction. Since the seven Menshevik deputies had a majority in the fraction over the six Bolshevik deputies, the latter were constantly being pressed, in the name of “democracy,” to adopt the rightist viewpoints of the majority. The conference protested at the conduct of the seven Menshevik deputies and decided that the bloc of six Bolshevik deputies, who were following the political line of the Party’s Central Committee, should have equal rights with the bloc of Mensheviks.
The seven Menshevik deputies refused to accept this resolution, and the Bolshevik “six” formed an independent “Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction.”
Another important resolution dealt with the national question, and clarified the meaning of “the self-determination of nations,” as the right of an oppressed nation to secede and form an independent state:
“As regards the right of the nations oppressed by the tsarist monarchy to self-determination, i.e., the right to secede and form independent states, the Social-Democratic Party must unquestionably champion this right.”
(Resolution on the National Question, “Summer Conference”, 1913, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 19; Moscow; 1963; p. 428)
The delegation of the Social Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania at the “Summer Conference” refrained from voting on the question of the right of nations to self-determination,
“Declaring themselves opposed to any such right in general.”‘
(V. I. Lenin: “On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p.286).
The Polish delegation to the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1903 had similarly opposed recognition of this right in the Programme Commission of the congress, but, receiving no support, did not raise their objections in the full congress but withdrew from it.
The Polish Party based their attitude on the ideas put forward by Rosa Luxemburg in her article “The National Question and Autonomy”; published in “Przeglad Socjal-Demokratyczny” (Social-Democratic Review) in 1908-09).
Although the Polish Party rejoined the RSDLP in 1906, its leaders continued to oppose the principle of the right of nations to self-determination, and in March 1914, Trotsky used this opposition to attack the Bolsheviks:
“The Polish Marxists consider that ‘the right to national self-determination’ is entirely devoid of political content and should be deleted from the programme.”
(L. Trotsky: “Borba”, No. 2, 1914, p. 25).
Lenin replied to these attacks in his article “On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”:
“Unless we in our agitation advance and carry out the slogan of the right to secession we shall play into the hands, not only of the bourgeoisie, but also of the feudal landlords and of the absolutism of the oppressing nation. . . In her anxiety not to ‘assist’ nationalistic bourgeoisie of Poland, Rosa Luxemburg by her denial of the right to secession in the programme of the Russian Marxists, is in fact assisting the Great Russian Black Hundreds.”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 266).
And Lenin commented again on Trotsky’s role in such controversies:
“Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any serious question relating to Marxism; he always manages to creep into the chinks of this or that difference of opinion, and desert one sided for the other.”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 286).
1914: The Collapse of the “August Bloc”
In February 1914 the Fourth Congress of the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region held in Brussels and attended by Lenin, resolved to withdraw from the “August Bloc.”
With the withdrawal of the Latvian Party, described by Lenin as
“The only genuine organisation in the ‘August Bloc.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p.; 199),
The “August Bloc” collapsed.
“The August bloc turned out to be a fiction and collapsed.”
(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 199).
Shortly afterwards the “Caucasian Regional Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party” — in the shape of Noah Jordania — considered it expedient to dissociate itself from the liquidator Mensheviks on a number of questions.
With the collapse of the “August Bloc,” in February 1914, Trotsky withdrew from the editorial board of the Menshevik paper “Luch” (The Torch) and, together with some of his Viennese supporters, began to publish a legal journal called “Borba” (The Struggle), which continued to come out until July 1914. In this paper, as Lenin noted, he put forward liquidationist ideas in a disguised form.
“In his magazine Trotsky has tried to say as little as possible about the essence of his views, but “Pravda” (No . 37) has already pointed out that Trotsky has not uttered a word either on the question of illegal work, or on the slogan of the struggle for an open party, etc…
But although Trotsky has avoided expounding his views directly, a whole series of passages in his magazine indicate the ‘kind of ideas he is stealthily introducing and concealing.
Trotsky repeats the liquidationist libels upon the Party . . repeating . . what in essence are their pet ideas.”
(V. I. Lenin: ‘Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 203, 204, 208)
The appearance of “Borba” stimulated Lenin to write one of his fullest analyses of the disruptive role of Trotsky and his supporters, the article “Violation of Unity under Cover of’ Cries for Unity,” written in May 1914:
“Trotsky calls his new magazine ‘non-factional’. He puts this word in the forefront in his advertisements, he stresses it in every way in the editorials of ‘Borba’. . . Trotsky’s ‘workers’ magazine’ is Trotsky’s magazine for the workers, for it bears no trace either of workers’ initiative or of contact with the workers’ organisations.. . . . By this label of ‘non-factionalism’ the worst representatives of the worst remnants of factionalism mislead the young generation of workers….
Since 1912, for more than two years, there has been no factionalism in Russia among the organised Marxists. There is a complete break between the Party and the liquidators . . . The word ‘factionalism’ is a misnomer.
Trotsky talks to us about the ‘chaos of factional struggle’ …. Trotsky is fond of sonorous and empty phrases –this is known, but the catchword ‘chaos’ is not only a phrase; in addition to that it is . . .a vain attempt to transplant to Russian soil in the present epoch the émigré relationships of the epoch of yesterday.
It is impossible to describe as chaos a struggle against a tendency which has been recognised by the entire Party as a tendency, and has been condemned since 1908. . . . To treat the history of one’s own party as ‘chaos’ means that one is suffering from unpardonable empty-headedness ….
Apart from the ‘Pravda’-ists and the liquidators, there are no fewer than five Russian factions, i.e., separate groups, which claim to belong to the same Social-Democratic Party: Trotsky’s group, the two ‘Vperyod’ groups, the ‘Party Bolsheviks’, the ‘Party Mensheviks’.
And here Trotsky is to a certain extent correct! This is real factionalism, this is real chaos…
During the whole of those two years (i.e., 1912 and 1913– Ed.) not one, not a single one of those five factions abroad made the slightest impression on any of the manifestations of the mass labour movement in Russia….
This fact proves that we were right in referring to Trotsky as the representative of the ‘worst remnants of factionalism’…
Although Trotsky professes to be non-factional, he is known to all who are in the slightest degree acquainted with the labour movement in Russia as the representative of ‘Trotsky’s faction’. . . This is a remnant of factionalism for it is impossible to discover in it anything serious in the way of contacts with the mass labour movement of’ Russia.
Finally, it is the worst kind of factionalism, for there is nothing ideologically and politically definite about it….
It cannot be denied that sections of the factions which, like Trotsky’s faction, really exist only from the Vienna-Paris, and not at all from the Russian, point of view are definite.
But Trotsky completely lacks a definite ideology; and policy, for having the patent for ‘non-factionalism’ only means . . having a patent granting complete freedom to flit to and fro from one faction to another….
Under the flag of ‘non-factionalism’ Trotsky is upholding one of the factions abroad which is particularly devoid of ideas and has no basis in the labour movement in Russia….
Not all is gold that glitters. Trotsky’s phrases are full of glitter and noise, but they lack content….
Recently (between August 1912 and February 1914) he followed in the footsteps of F. Dan, who, as is known, threatened and called for the ‘killing’ of anti-liquidationism. Now Trotsky does not threaten to ‘kill’ our tendency (and our Party –); he only prophesies that it will kill itself . . ..
‘Suicide’ is merely a phrase, an empty phrase, it is just ‘Trotskyism’ . . .
If our attitude towards liquidationism is wrong in theory and principle then Trotsky should have said plainly . . . . wherein he found it to be wrong. Trotsky, however, has for years avoided that essential point.
If our attitude towards liquidationism is refuted in practice by the experience of the movement, this experience should be analysed, and this again Trotsky fails to do. He admits: ‘advanced workers become the active agents of ‘schism’ (read — active agents of the ‘Pravda’-ist line, tactics, system, organisation).
Why is this regrettable development taking place that. . . .the advanced workers, and numerous workers at that, are supporting; ‘Pravda’?
Trotsky answers — owing to the state of ‘utter political perplexity’ of these advanced workers.
This explanation is no doubt extremely flattering to Trotsky, to all the five factions abroad, and to the liquidators. Trotsky is very fond of explaining historical events ‘with the learned mien of an expert’ in pompous and sonorous phrases, in a manner flattering to Trotsky. If ‘numerous advanced workers’ become ‘active agents’ of the political and Party line, which does not harmonise with the line of Trotsky, then Trotsky settles the question unceremoniously, directly and immediately: these advanced workers are ‘in a state of utter political perplexity, and he, Trotsky, is obviously in a ‘state’ of political firmness, clarity and correctness regarding the line! And this very same Trotsky, beating his chest, thunders against factionalism, against narrow circles, and against the intelligentsia foisting their will on the workers! . . . .
Trotsky is trying to disrupt the movement and cause a split….Trotsky’s ‘non-factionalism’ is schism, in the sense that it is a most impudent violation of the will of the majority of the workers….You believe it is precisely the ‘Leninists’ who are the splitters? ….
But if you are right, why did not all the factions and groups prove that unity with the liquidators was possible without the ‘Leninists’ and against the ‘splitters’?
In August 1912 the conference of the ‘uniters’ met. Discord set in at once. The August Bloc turned out to be a fiction and collapsed. In concealing this collapse, from his readers, Trotsky is deceiving them. The experience of our opponents has proved we were right; it has proved that it is impossible to work with the liquidators. . .
In his magazine Trotsky has tried to say as little as possible about the essence of his views. Trotsky has not uttered a word either on the question of illegal work, or on the slogan of the struggle for an open party, etc. Incidentally, that is why we say in this case, in which a segregated organisation wants to set itself up without having an ideological-political complexion, that it is the worst sort of factionalism….
Trotsky has avoided expounding his views directly.
Trotsky avoids facts and concrete indications just because they mercilessly refute all his angry exclamations and pompous phrases. It is of course very easy to assume a proud pose and say: ‘coarse sectarian caricature’. It is equally easy to add more slashing and pompous catchwords about ‘emancipation from conservative factionalism’.
But is this not too cheap? Is this not a weapon taken from the arsenal of the period when Trotsky was dazzling the schoolboys?
The old participants in the Marxian movement in Russia know Trotsky’s personality very well, and it is not worth while talking to them about it. But the young generation of workers do not know him and we must speak of him, for he is typical of all the five grouplets abroad which in fact are also vacillating between the liquidators and the Party….
Trotsky was an ardent ‘Iskra’-ist in 1901-03. .
At the end of 1903 Trotsky was an ardent Menshevik, i.e., one who deserted the ‘Iskra’-ists for the ‘Economists’; he proclaimed that ‘there is a deep gulf between the old and the new “Iskra.” In l904-5, he left the Mensheviks and began to vacillate, at one moment collaborating with Martynov (the ‘Economist’), and at another proclaiming the absurdly ‘Left’ theory of ‘permanent revolution’. In 1906-07 he drew nearer to the Bolsheviks, and in the spring of 1907 he declared his solidarity with Rosa Luxemburg.
During the period of disintegration, after long ‘non-factional’ vacillations, he again shifted to the Right, and in August 1912 entered into a ‘bloc’ with the liquidators. How he is again abandoning them, repeating, however, what in essence are their pet ideas.
Such types are characteristic as fragments of the historical factions of yesterday, when the mass labour movement of Russia was still dormant and every grouplet was ‘free’ to represent itself as . . a ‘great power’ talking of uniting with others. The young generation of workers must know very well with whom it has to deal.”
(V. I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity Under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 187-88, 189, 190; 191, 194, l95, 197, 198, 203, 206-08).
The Brussels Conference, 1914
In July 1914 the Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau (ISB) took up Trotsky’s concilationist mantle by convening a conference in Brussels of all the groups connected with the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. Apart from representatives of the ISB (who included Karl Kautsky, and Emile Vandervelde), the conference was attended by delegates from:
1. the (Bolshevik) Central Committee of the RSDLP;
2. the (now Bolshevik) Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region;
3. the “Vperyod” Group;
4. the (now purely Menshevik) “Organisation Committee”;
5. the “Bund”;
6. Plekhanov’s “Yedinstvo”(Unity) Menshevik group;
7. the Social-Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania;
8. the Polish Socia1-Democratic Opposition;
9. the Polish Socialist Party; and
10. Trotsky’s “Borba” group.
The leader of the Central Committee delegation, Inessa Armand, delivered a statement, (drafted by Lenin) setting out fourteen conditions under which the Central Conmittee considered unification possible. These conditions included: the renunciation of views condemned by the Party, the recognition of the necessity of illegal as well as legal work, submission to the Central Committee and dissolution of factions.
Although, under the terms of reference under which it had been convened, the conference was for the purpose of an exchange of opinions only, Kautsky moved a resolution declaring that there were “no substantial disagreements” between the various groups to justify a continuation of “the split” in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. The resolution was adopted by a majority of the delegates present, with the delegates of the Central Committee of the RSDLP and the Latvian Party abstaining.
The question of actual unification was to have been taken up at the next congress of the Second International, due to be held in Vienna in August l9l4, but the outbreak of the First World War prevented this congress from taking place.
After the conference, the anti-Bolshevik groups continued to collaborate for a time in what came to be called the “Brussels Bloc.”
END OF PART ONE