Category Archives: Lies & Propaganda

The CIA Reads French Theory: On the Intellectual Labor of Dismantling the Cultural Left

Gabriel Rockhill, Ph.D.v

It is often presumed that intellectuals have little or no political power. Perched in a privileged ivory tower, disconnected from the real world, embroiled in meaningless academic debates over specialized minutia, or floating in the abstruse clouds of high-minded theory, intellectuals are frequently portrayed as not only cut off from political reality but as incapable of having any meaningful impact on it. The Central Intelligence Agency thinks otherwise.

As a matter of fact, the agency responsible for coups d’état, targeted assassinations and the clandestine manipulation of foreign governments not only believes in the power of theory, but it dedicated significant resources to having a group of secret agents pore over what some consider to be the most recondite and intricate theory ever produced. For in an intriguing research paper written in 1985, and recently released with minor redactions through the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA reveals that its operatives have been studying the complex, international trend-setting French theory affiliated with the names of Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Roland Barthes.

The ‘Apparat’ in Paris: CIA Agent and Head of the CCF Michael Josselson (center) in a Working Lunch with John Clinton Hunt and Melvin Lasky (right)

The image of American spies gathering in Parisian cafés to assiduously study and compare notes on the high priests of the French intelligentsia might shock those who presume this group of intellectuals to be luminaries whose otherworldly sophistication could never be caught in such a vulgar dragnet, or who assume them to be, on the contrary, charlatan peddlers of incomprehensible rhetoric with little or no impact on the real world. However, it should come as no surprise to those familiar with the CIA’s longstanding and ongoing investment in a global cultural war, including support for its most avant-garde forms, which has been well documented by researchers like Frances Stonor Saunders, Giles Scott-Smith, Hugh Wilford (and I have made my own contribution in Radical History & the Politics of Art).

Thomas W. Braden, the former supervisor of cultural activities at the CIA, explained the power of the Agency’s cultural assault in a frank insider’s account published in 1967: “I remember the enormous joy I got when the Boston Symphony Orchestra [which was supported by the CIA] won more acclaim for the U.S. in Paris than John Foster Dulles or Dwight D. Eisenhower could have bought with a hundred speeches.” This was by no means a small or liminal operation. In fact, as Wilford has aptly argued, the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), which was headquartered in Paris and later discovered to be a CIA front organization during the cultural Cold War, was among the most important patrons in world history, supporting an incredible range of artistic and intellectual activities. It had offices in 35 countries, published dozens of prestige magazines, was involved in the book industry, organized high-profile international conferences and art exhibits, coordinated performances and concerts, and contributed ample funding to various cultural awards and fellowships, as well as to front organizations like the Farfield Foundation.

The intelligence agency understands culture and theory to be crucial weapons in the overall arsenal it deploys to perpetuate US interests around the world. The recently released research paper from 1985, entitled “France: Defection of the Leftist Intellectuals, examines—undoubtedly in order to manipulate—the French intelligentsia and its fundamental role in shaping the trends that generate political policy. Suggesting that there has been a relative ideological balance between the left and the right in the history of the French intellectual world, the report highlights the monopoly of the left in the immediate postwar era—to which, we know, the Agency was rabidly opposed—due to the Communists’ key role in resisting fascism and ultimately winning the war against it. Although the right had been massively discredited because of its direct contribution to the Nazi death camps, as well as its overall xenophobic, anti-egalitarian and fascist agenda (according to the CIA’s own description), the unnamed secret agents who drafted the study outline with palpable delight the return of the right since approximately the early 1970s.

More specifically, the undercover cultural warriors applaud what they see as a double movement that has contributed to the intelligentsia shifting its critical focus away from the US and toward the USSR. On the left, there was a gradual intellectual disaffection with Stalinism and Marxism, a progressive withdrawal of radical intellectuals from public debate, and a theoretical move away from socialism and the socialist party. Further to the right, the ideological opportunists referred to as the New Philosophers and the New Right intellectuals launched a high-profile media smear campaign against Marxism.

While other tentacles of the worldwide spy organization were involved in overthrowing democratically elected leaders, providing intelligence and funding to fascist dictators, and supporting right-wing death squads, the Parisian central intelligentsia squadron was collecting data on how the theoretical world’s drift to the right directly benefitted US foreign policy. The left-leaning intellectuals of the immediate postwar era had been openly critical of US imperialism. Jean-Paul Sartre’s media clout as an outspoken Marxist critic, and his notable role—as the founder of Libération—in blowing the cover of the CIA station officer in Paris and dozens of undercover operatives, was closely monitored by the Agency and considered a very serious problem.

In contrast, the anti-Soviet and anti-Marxist atmosphere of the emerging neoliberal era diverted public scrutiny and provided excellent cover for the CIA’s dirty wars by making it “very difficult for anyone to mobilize significant opposition among intellectual elites to US policies in Central America, for example.” Greg Grandin, one of the leading historians of Latin America, perfectly summarized this situation in The Last Colonial Massacre: “Aside from making visibly disastrous and deadly interventions in Guatemala in 1954, the Dominican Republic in 1965, Chile in 1973, and El Salvador and Nicaragua during the 1980s, the United States has lent quiet and steady financial, material, and moral support for murderous counterinsurgent terror states. […] But the enormity of Stalin’s crimes ensures that such sordid histories, no matter how compelling, thorough, or damning, do not disturb the foundation of a worldview committed to the exemplary role of the United States in defending what we now know as democracy.”

It is in this context that the masked mandarins commend and support the relentless critique that a new generation of anti-Marxist thinkers like Bernard-Henri Levy, André Glucksmann and Jean-François Revel unleashed on “the last clique of Communist savants” (composed, according to the anonymous agents, of Sartre, Barthes, Lacan and Louis Althusser). Given the leftwing leanings of these anti-Marxists in their youth, they provide the perfect model for constructing deceptive narratives that amalgamate purported personal political growth with the progressive march of time, as if both individual life and history were simply a matter of “growing up” and recognizing that profound egalitarian social transformation is a thing of the—personal and historical—past. This patronizing, omniscient defeatism not only serves to discredit new movements, particularly those driven by the youth, but it also mischaracterizes the relative successes of counter-revolutionary repression as the natural progress of history. 

Anti-Marxist French Philosopher Raymond Aron (left) and His Wife Suzanne on Vacation with Undercover CIA Operative Michael Josselson and Denis de Rougemont (right)

Even theoreticians who were not as opposed to Marxism as these intellectual reactionaries have made a significant contribution to an environment of disillusionment with transformative egalitarianism, detachment from social mobilization and “critical inquiry” devoid of radical politics. This is extremely important for understanding the CIA’s overall strategy in its broad and profound attempts to dismantle the cultural left in Europe and elsewhere. In recognizing it was unlikely that it could abolish it entirely, the world’s most powerful spy organization has sought to move leftist culture away from resolute anti-capitalist and transformative politics toward center-left reformist positions that are less overtly critical of US foreign and domestic policies. In fact, as Saunders has demonstrated in detail, the Agency went behind the back of the McCarthy-driven Congress in the postwar era in order to directly support and promote leftist projects that steered cultural producers and consumers away from the resolutely egalitarian left. In severing and discrediting the latter, it also aspired to fragment the left in general, leaving what remained of the center left with only minimal power and public support (as well as being potentially discredited due to its complicity with right-wing power politics, an issue that continues to plague contemporary institutionalized parties on the left).

It is in this light that we must understand the intelligence agency’s fondness for conversion narratives and its deep appreciation for “reformed Marxists,” a leitmotif that traverses the research paper on French theory. “Even more effective in undermining Marxism,” the moles write, “were those intellectuals who set out as true believers to apply Marxist theory in the social sciences but ended by rethinking and rejecting the entire tradition.” They cite in particular the profound contribution made by the Annales School of historiography and structuralism—particularly Claude Lévi-Strauss and Foucault—to the “critical demolition of Marxist influence in the social sciences.” Foucault, who is referred to as “France’s most profound and influential thinker,” is specifically applauded for his praise of the New Right intellectuals for reminding philosophers that “‘bloody’ consequences” have “flowed from the rationalist social theory of the 18th-century Enlightenment and the Revolutionary era.” Although it would be a mistake to collapse anyone’s politics or political effect into a single position or result, Foucault’s anti-revolutionary leftism and his perpetuation of the blackmail of the Gulag—i.e. the claim that expansive radical movements aiming at profound social and cultural transformation only resuscitate the most dangerous of traditions—are perfectly in line with the espionage agency’s overall strategies of psychological warfare.

The CIA’s reading of French theory should give us pause, then, to reconsider the radical chic veneer that has accompanied much of its Anglophone reception. According to a stagist conception of progressive history (which is usually blind to its implicit teleology), the work of figures like Foucault, Derrida and other cutting-edge French theorists is often intuitively affiliated with a form of profound and sophisticated critique that presumably far surpasses anything found in the socialist, Marxist or anarchist traditions. It is certainly true and merits emphasis that the Anglophone reception of French theory, as John McCumber has aptly pointed out, had important political implications as a pole of resistance to the false political neutrality, the safe technicalities of logic and language, or the direct ideological conformism operative in the McCarthy-supported traditions of Anglo-American philosophy. However, the theoretical practices of figures who turned their back on what Cornelius Castoriadis called the tradition of radical critique—meaning anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist resistance—surely contributed to the ideological drift away from transformative politics. According to the spy agency itself, post-Marxist French theory directly contributed to the CIA’s cultural program of coaxing the left toward the right, while discrediting anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism, thereby creating an intellectual environment in which their imperial projects could be pursued unhindered by serious critical scrutiny from the intelligentsia.

As we know from the research on the CIA’s program of psychological warfare, the organization has not only tracked and sought to coerce individuals, but it has always been keen on understanding and transforming institutions of cultural production and distribution. Indeed, its study on French theory points to the structural role universities, publishing houses and the media play in the formation and consolidation of a collective political ethos. In descriptions that, like the rest of the document, should invite us to think critically about the current academic situation in the Anglophone world and beyond, the authors of the report foreground the ways in which the precarization of academic labor contributes to the demolition of radical leftism. If strong leftists cannot secure the material means necessary to carry out our work, or if we are more or less subtly forced to conform in order to find employment, publish our writings or have an audience, then the structural conditions for a resolute leftist community are weakened. The vocationalization of higher education is another tool used for this end since it aims at transforming people into techno-scientific cogs in the capitalist apparatus rather than autonomous citizens with reliable tools for social critique. The theory mandarins of the CIA therefore praise the efforts on the part of the French government to “push students into business and technical courses.” They also point to the contributions made by major publishing houses like Grasset, the mass media and the vogue of American culture in pushing forward their post-socialist and anti-egalitarian platform.

What lessons might we draw from this report, particularly in the current political environment with its ongoing assault on the critical intelligentsia? First of all, it should be a cogent reminder that if some presume that intellectuals are powerless, and that our political orientations do not matter, the organization that has been one of the most potent power brokers in contemporary world politics does not agree. The Central Intelligence Agency, as its name ironically suggests, believes in the power of intelligence and theory, and we should take this very seriously. In falsely presuming that intellectual work has little or no traction in the “real world,” we not only misrepresent the practical implications of theoretical labor, but we also run the risk of dangerously turning a blind eye to the political projects for which we can easily become the unwitting cultural ambassadors. Although it is certainly the case that the French nation-state and cultural apparatus provide a much more significant public platform for intellectuals than is to be found in many other countries, the CIA’s preoccupation with mapping and manipulating theoretical and cultural production elsewhere should serve as a wake-up call to us all.

Second, the power brokers of the present have a vested interest in cultivating an intelligentsia whose critical acumen has been dulled or destroyed by fostering institutions founded on business and techno-science interests, equating left-wing politics with anti-scientificity, correlating science with a purported—but false—political neutrality, promoting media that saturate the airwaves with conformist prattle, sequestering strong leftists outside of major academic institutions and the media spotlight, and discrediting any call for radical egalitarian and ecological transformation. Ideally, they seek to nurture an intellectual culture that, if on the left, is neutralized, immobilized, listless and content with defeatist hand wringing, or with the passive criticism of the radically mobilized left. This is one of the reasons why we might want to consider intellectual opposition to radical leftism, which preponderates in the U.S. academy, as a dangerous political position: isn’t it directly complicit with the CIA’s imperialist agenda around the world?

Third, to counter this institutional assault on a culture of resolute leftism, it is imperative to resist the precarization and vocationalization of education. It is equally important to create public spheres of truly critical debate, providing a broader platform for those who recognize that another world is not only possible, but is necessary. We also need to band together in order to contribute to or further develop alternative media, different models of education, counter-institutions and radical collectives. It is vital to foster precisely what the covert cultural combatants want to destroy: a culture of radical leftism with a broad institutional framework of support, extensive public backing, prevalent media clout and expansive power of mobilization.

Finally, intellectuals of the world should unite in recognizing our power and seizing upon it in order to do everything that we can to develop systemic and radical critique that is as egalitarian and ecological as it is anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. The positions that one defends in the classroom or publicly are important for setting the terms of debate and charting the field of political possibility. In direct opposition to the spy agency’s cultural strategy of fragment and polarize, by which it has sought to sever and isolate the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist left, while opposing it to reformist positions, we should federate and mobilize by recognizing the importance of working together—across the entire left, as Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has recently reminded usfor the cultivation of a truly critical intelligentsia. Rather than proclaiming or bemoaning the powerlessness of intellectuals, we should harness the ability to speak truth to power by working together and mobilizing our capacity to collectively create the institutions necessary for a world of cultural leftism. For it is only in such a world, and in the echo chambers of critical intelligence that it produces, that the truths spoken might actually be heard, and thereby change the very structures of power. 

Ludo Martens: Trotsky’s role on the eve of the Second World War

by Ludo Martens
 
During the thirties, Trotsky literally became the world’s expert on anti-Communism. Even today, right-wing ideologues peruse Trotsky’s works in search of weapons against the Soviet Union under Stalin.

In 1982, when Reagan was again preaching the anti-Communist crusade, Henri Bernard, Professor Emeritus at the Royal Military School of Belgium, published a book to spread the following urgent message:

`The Communists of 1982 are the Nazis of 1939. We are weaker in front of Moscow than we were in August 1939 in front of Hitler.’

Bernard, op. cit. , p. 9.

All of the standard clichés of Le Pen , the fascist French Front National leader, are there:

`Terrorism is not the act of a few crazies. The basis of everything is the Soviet Union and the clandestine network of international terrorism.’

Ibid. , p. 121.

`Christian leftism is a Western wound.
`The synchronicity of `pacifist’ demonstrations shows how they were inspired by Moscow.’

Ibid. , p. 123.

`The British commandos who went to die in the Falklands showed that there still exist moral values in the West.’

Ibid. , p. 11.

But the tactics used by such an avowed anti-Communist as Bernard are very interesting. Here is how a man who,despite despising a `leftist Christian’, will ally himself with Trotsky.

`The private Lenin was, like Trotsky, a human being …. His personal life was full of nuance ….`Trotsky should normally have succeeded Lenin … he was the main architect of the October Revolution, the victor of the Civil War, the creator of the Red Army ….

`Lenin had much respect for Trotsky. He thought of him as successor. He thought Stalin was too brutal ….

`Within the Soviet Union, Trotsky rose up against the imposing bureaucracy that was paralysing the Communist machine ….

`Artist, educated, non-conformist and often prophet, he could not get along with the main dogmatists in the Party ….

`Stalin was nationalist, a sentiment that did not exist either in Lenin or Trotsky …. With Trotsky, the foreign Communist Parties could consider themselves as a force whose sole purpose was to impose a social order. With Stalin, they worked for the Kremlin and to further its imperialist politics.’

Ibid. , pp. 48–50.

We present here a few of the main theses that Trotsky put forward during the years 1937–1940, and that illustrate the nature of his absolute anti-Communist struggle. They allow one to understand why people in the Western security services, such as Henri Bernard, use Trotsky to fight Communists. They also shed some light on the class struggle between Bolsheviks and opportunists and on some aspects of the Purge of 1937–1938.

The enemy is the new aristocracy, the new Bolshevik bourgeoisie

For Trotsky, the main enemy was at the head of the Soviet State: it was the `new Bolshevik aristocracy’, the most anti-Socialist and anti-democratic layer of the society, a social layer that lived like `the well-to-do bourgeois of the United States’! Here is how he phrased it.

`The privileged bureaucracy … now represents the most antisocialist and the most antidemocratic sector of Soviet society.’

Trotsky, Thermidor et l’antisémitisme (22 February 1937). La lutte, pp. 143–144.

`We accuse the ruling clique of having transformed itself into a new aristocracy, oppressing and robbing the masses …. The higher layer of the bureaucracy lives approximately the same kind of life as the well-to-do bourgeois of the United States and other capitalist countries.’

Trotsky, The World Situation and Perspectives (14 February 1940). Writings, vol. 12, pp. 148–149.

This language makes Trotsky indistinguishable from the Menshevik leaders when they were leading the counter-revolutionary armed struggle, alongside the White and interventionist armies. Also indistinguishable from the language of the classical Right of the imperialist countries.

Compare Trotsky with the main anti-Communist ideologue in the International Confederation of Christian Unions (CISC), P. J. S. Serrarens, writing in 1948:

`There are thanks to Stalin, once again `classes’ and rich people …. Just like in a capitalist society, the élite is rewarded with money and power. There is what `Force Ouvrière’ (France) calls a `Soviet aristocracy’. This weekly compares it to the aristocracy created by Napoleon.’

P. J. S. Serrarens, La Russie et l’Occident (Utrecht: Confédération Internationale des Syndicats Chrétiens, n.d.), pp. 33, 37.

After World War II, the French union Force Ouvrière to which Serrarens was referring was directly created and financed by the CIA. The `Lambertist’ Trotskyist group worked, and still works, inside it. At that time, the CISC, be it in Italy or Belgium, worked directly for the CIA for the defence of the capitalist system in Europe. To mobilize the workers against Communism, it used a revolting `anti-capitalist’ demagoguery that it borrowed from the social-democrats and the Trotskyists: in the Soviet Union, there was a `new class of rich people’, a `Soviet aristocracy’.

Confronting this `new aristocracy, oppressing and robbing the masses’,

Trotsky, The World Situation, p. 148.

there were, in Trotsky’s eyes, `one hundred and sixty millions who are profoundly discontented’.

Ibid. , p. 149.

These `people’ were protecting the collectivization of the means of production and the planned economy against the `ignorant and despotic Stalinist thieves’. In other words, apart from the `Stalinists’, the rest of the society was clean and led just struggles! Listen to Trotsky:

`Twelve to fifteen millions of the privileged — there are the “people” who organize the parades, demonstrations, and ovations …. But apart from this “pays légal” as was once said in France, there exist one hundred and sixty millions who are profoundly discontented ….

`Antagonism between the bureaucracy and the people is measured by the increasing severity of the totalitarian rule ….
`The bureaucracy can be crushed only by a new political revolution.’

Ibid. , p. 149.

`(T)he economy is planned on the basis of nationalization and collectivization of the means of production. This state economy has its own laws that are less and less tolerant of the despotism, ignorance and banditry of the Stalinist bureaucracy.’

Trotsky, La capitulation de Staline (11 March 1939). La lutte, p. 216.

Since the re-establishment of capitalism was impossible in Trotsky’s eyes, any opposition, be it social-democratic, revisionist, bourgeois or counter-revolutionary, became legitimate. It was the voice of `one hundred and sixty millions who were profoundly discontented’ and aimed to `protect’ the collectivization of the means of production against the `new aristocracy’. Trotsky became the spokesperson for all the retrograde forces, anti-socialist and fascist.

Bolshevism and fascism

Trotsky was one of the first to put forward the line that Bolshevism and fascism were twins. This thesis was quite popular, during the thirties, in the reactionary Catholic parties. The Communist Party was their sworn enemy, the fascist party their most important bourgeois opponent. Once again, here is Trotsky:

`Fascism is winning victory after victory and its best ally, the one that is clearing its path throughout the world, is Stalinism.’

Trotsky, Caïn Dugachvili va jusqu’au bout (April 1938). L’appareil, p. 238.

`In fact, nothing distinguishes Stalin’s political methods from Hitler’s. But the difference in results on the international scale is remarkable.’

Trotsky, La capitulation de Staline, p. 216.

`An important part, which becomes more and more important, of the Soviet apparatus is formed of fascists who have yet to recognize themselves as such. To equate the Soviet régime with fascism is a gross historic error …. But the symmetry of the political superstructures and the similarity of totalitarian methods and of psychological profiles are striking ….
`(T)he agony of Stalinism is the most horrible and most odious spectacle on Earth.’

Trotsky, Nouvelles défections (17 March 1938). La lutte, pp. 161–162.

Trotsky here presented one of the first versions of the essential theme of CIA and fascist propaganda during the fifties, that of `red fascism’. By using the word `fascism’, Trotsky tried to redirect the hatred that the masses felt towards the terrorist dictatorship of big capital, against socialism. After 1944–1945, all the German, Hungarian, Croatian and Ukrainian fascist leaders that fled to the West put on their `democratic’ mask; they praised U.S. `democracy’, the new hegemonic force and the main source of support for retrograde and fascist forces in the world. These `old’ fascists, faithful to their criminal past, all developed the same theme: `Bolshevism is fascism, but even worse’.

Note further that at the time that European fascism had already started its war (wars in Ethiopia and Spain, annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia), Trotsky was affirming that the `most horrible and most odious spectable’ on Earth was the `agony of socialism’!

Defeatism and capitulation in front of Nazi Germany

Trotsky became the main propagandist for defeatism and capitulationism in the Soviet Union. His demagogic `world revolution’ served to better stifle the Soviet revolution. Trotsky spread the idea that in case of fascist aggression against the Soviet Union, Stalin and the Bolsheviks would `betray’ and that under their leadership, the defeat of the Soviet Union was inevitable. Here are his ideas on this subject:

`The military … status of Soviet Russia, is contradictory. On one side we have a population of 170,000,000 awakened by the greatest revolution in history … with a more or less developed war industry. On the other side we have a political regime paralyzing all of the forces of the new society …. One thing I am sure: the political regime will not survive the war. The social regime, which is the nationalized property of production, is incomparably more powerful than the political regime, which has a despotic character …. The representatives of the political regime, or the bureaucracy, are afraid of the prospect of a war, because they know better than we that they will not survive the war as a regime.’

Trotsky, On the Eve of World War II (23 July 1939). Writings, vol. 12, p. 18.

Once again, there were, on one side, `the 170 million’, the `good’ citizens who were awoken by the Revolution. One might wonder by whom, if it was not by the Bolshevik Party and Stalin: the great peasant masses were certainly not `awoken’ during the years 1921–1928. These `170 million’ had a `developed war industry’. As if it was not Stalin’s collectivization and industrialization policies, implemented thanks to his strong will, that allowed the creation of an arms industry in record time! Thanks to his correct line, to his will, to his capacity to organize, the Bolshevik régime awoke the popular forces that had been kept in ignorance, superstition and primitive individual work. According to the provocateur Trotsky’s rantings, the Bolshevik régime paralyzed that society’s forces! And Trotsky made all sorts of absurd predictions: it was certain that the Bolshevik régime would not survive the war! Hence, two propaganda themes dear to the Nazis can be found in Trotsky’s writings: anti-Bolshevism and defeatism.

`Berlin knows to what extent the Kremlin clique has demoralized the country’s army and population through its struggle for self-preservation ….
`Stalin continues to sap the moral force and the general level of resistance of the country. Careerists with no honor, nor conscience, upon whom Stalin is forced to rely, will betray the country in difficult times.’

Trotsky, Staline et Hitler (12 March 1938). L’appareil, p. 234.

In his hatred of Communism, Trotsky incited the Nazis to wage war against the Soviet Union. He, the `eminent expert’ on the affairs of the Soviet Union, told the Nazis that they had every chance of winning the war against Stalin: the army and the population were demoralized (false!), Stalin was destroying the resistance (false!) and the Stalinists would capitulate at the beginning of the war (false!).

In the Soviet Union, this Trotskyist propaganda had two effects. It encouraged defeatism and capitulationism, through the idea that fascism was assured victory given that the USSR had such a rotten and incompetent leadership. It also encouraged `insurrections’ and assassination attempts to eliminate Bolshevik leaders `who would betray in difficult times’. A leadership that was categorically destined to fall during the war might well fall at the beginning of the war. Anti-Soviet and opportunistic groups could therefore make their attempts.

In both cases, Trotsky’s provocations directly helped the Nazis.

Revisionism in Russia: Trotsky Against the Bolsheviks – Part Two: 1914-1917

This is the second part of a study of the development of revisionism in Russia, and covers the period from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 to the victory of the socialist revolution in November 1917.

Read part one here.

The First Imperialist War

In August 1914, the First Imperialist War began.

Almost from the outset, three trends manifested themselves in the labour movements of the belligerent countries:

“In the course of the two and half years of war the international Socialist and labour movement in every country has evolved three tendencies.

The three tendencies are:

1) The social-chauvinists, i.e., Socialists in words and chauvinists in action, people who are in favour of ‘national defence’ in an imperialist war. . .These people are our class enemies. They have gone over to the bourgeoisie…

2) The second tendency is what is known as the ‘Centre’, consisting of people who vacillate between the social-chauvinists and the true internationalists.
All those who belong to the ‘Centre’ swear that they are Marxists and internationalists, that they are in favour of peace, of bringing every kind of ‘pressure’ to bear upon the governments, of ‘demanding’ that their own governments should ‘ascertain’ the will of the people for peace’, that they favour all sorts of peace campaigns, that they are for a peace without annexations, etc., etc. — and for peace with the social-chauvinists.
The ‘Centre’ is for ‘unity’, the ‘Centre’ is opposed to a split.
The ‘Centre’ is a realm of honeyed petty-bourgeois phrases of internationalism in word and cowardly opportunism and fawning on the social-chauvinists in deed.
The fact of the matter is that the ‘Centre’ does not preach revolution; it does not carry on a wholehearted revolutionary struggle; and in order to evade such a struggle it resorts to the tritest ultra-‘Marxist’ excuses….

3) The third tendency, the true internationalists, is most closely represented by the ‘Zimmerwald Left’….

It is characterised mainly by its complete break with both social-chauvinism and ‘Centrism’, and by its relentless war against its own imperialist government and against its own imperialist bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution” in: “Selected Works’, Volume 6; London; l946; p. 63, 64, 65-66).

Trotsky’s “The War and the International”

On the outbreak of war, Trotsky was forced to leave Vienna and for two months he settled in Zurich, where he wrote “The War and the International,” which was published in November in “Golos” (The Voice), a Menshevik paper published in Paris.

In this work Trotsky put forward the view that “the main obstacle to economic development’ was the existence the national state”:

“The old national state .. has outlived itself, and is now an intolerable hindrance to economic development. . . .The outlived and antiquated national ‘fatherland’ has become the main obstacle to economic development . . . .The national states have become a hindrance to the development of the forces of production.”

(L. Trotsky: Preface to “The War and the International”; London; 1971; p. vii, x, xii).

Thus, declared Trotsky, the aim of the working class should be the creation of a ‘republican United States of Europe”:

“The task of the proletariat is to create a far more powerful fatherland, with far greater power of resistance – the republican United States of Europe.”

Lenin at first (in one document only) accepted the slogan of a “United States of Europe”:

“The immediate political slogan of the Social-Democrats of Europe must be the formation of a republican United States of Europe.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The War and Russian Social-Democracy’ in: “Selected Works;’ Volume 5; Moscow; 1935; p. 129).

By August 1915, however, the Bolsheviks, on Lenin’s initiative had decisively rejected this slogan, firstly, because it could, under capitalist society, only be reactionary:

“From the point of view of the economic conditions of imperialism, . . the United States of Europe is either impossible or reactionary under capitalism. A United States of Europe under capitalism is equivalent to an agreement to divide up the colonies. Under capitalism, however, . . no other principle of division . . . . is possible except force. . . Division cannot take place except ‘in proportion to strength’, And strength changes in the course of economic development.
Of course, temporary agreements between capitalists and between the powers are possible. In this sense, the United States of Europe is possible as an agreement between the European capitalists. . but what for? Only for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe, of jointly protecting colonial booty against Japan and America. . . Under capitalism, the United States of Europe would mean the organisation of reaction to retard the more rapid development of America.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The United States of Europe Slogan’, in: “Selected Works,” Volume 5; London 1935; p. 139, 140, 141).

and secondly because if regarded as a socialist slogan, it suggests that the victory of socialism was possible only on an all European scale:

“Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of socialism is possible, first in a few or even in one single capitalist country.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p.141).

Lenin concludes:

“It is for those reasons and after repeated debates that the editors of the central organ have come to the conclusion that the United States of Europe slogan is incorrect.'”

(V.I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 141).

That Trotsky did, in fact, link the Slogan of “a United States of Europe” with the concept, inherent in his “theory of permanent revolution,” that proletarian revolution could only be successful an an international scale, is shown by his reply to Lenin’s article:

“The only more or less concrete historical argument advanced against the slogan of a United States of Europe was formulated in the Swiss ‘Sotsial-Demokrat’ in the following sentence:

‘Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism’.

From this the ‘Sotsial-Domokrat’ draws the conclusion that the victory of socialism is possible in one country, and that therefore there is no reason to make the dictatorship of the proletariat in each separate country contingent upon the establishment of a United States of Europe. That capitalist development in different countries is uneven is an absolutely incontrovertible argument. But this unevenness is itself extremely uneven. The capitalist level of Britain, Austria, Germany or France is not identical. But in comparison with Africa and Asia all these countries represent capitalist ‘Europe’, which has grown ripe for the social revolution. That no country in its struggle must ‘wait’ for others, is an elementary thought which it is useful and necessary to reiterate in order that he idea of concurrent international action may not be replaced by the idea of temporising international inaction.

Without waiting for the others, we begin and continue the struggle nationally, in the full confidence that our initiative will give an impetus to the struggle in other countries; but if this should not occur, it would be hopeless to think — as historical experience and theoretical considerations testify — that, for example, a revolutionary Russia could hold out in the face of a conservative Europe.”

(L. Trotsky: Article in “Nashe Slovo” (Our Word), No. 87; April 12th., 1916, cited in: J. V. Stalin: “The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists,” in: ‘Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 390-1).

In the autumn of 1916 Lenin reiterated his opposition to Trotsky’s slogan of a United States of Europe:

“As early as 1902, he (i.e., the British economist John Hobson — Ed.) had an excellent insight into the meaning and significance of a ‘United States of Europe” (be it said for the benefit of Trotsky the Kautskyian!) and of all that is now being glossed over by the hypocritical Kautskyians of various countries, namely, that the opportunists (social-chauvinists) are working hand in hand with the imperialist bourgeoisie precisely towards creating an imperialist Europe on the backs of Asia and Africa.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 11; London; 1943; p. 752).

Trotsky, however, continued — even after the Russian October Revolution of 1917 — to hold that the construction of socialism in Europe was possible only on an all-European basis. In the postscript to a collection of articles published in 1922 under the title of “A Peace Programme,” he wrote:

“The assertion reiterated several times in the ‘Peace Programme’ that a proletarian revolution cannot culminate victoriously within national bounds may perhaps seem to some readers to have been refuted by the nearly five years’ experience of our Soviet Republic. But such a conclusion would be unwarranted. . . We have not arrived, or even begun to arrive, at tho creation of a socialist society. . . Real progress of a socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the major European countries.”

(L. Trotsky: Postscript to ‘A Peace Programme , cited by: J. V. Stalin: “The Social-Democratic Deviation in our Party; in: “Works”, Volume 8; Moscow; 1954; p. 271-2).

“Our Word”

In November 1914, Trotsky left Switzerland for Paris to take up the post of war correspondent of the newspaper “Kievskaya Mysl” (Kievan Thought), which supported the war effort of the tsarist government.

Settled in Paris, he joined the editorial staff of “Golos” (The Voice) , a newspaper published by a group of Mensheviks headed by Yuli Martov who, unlike the official Menshevik leadership which supported the war effort of the tsarist government, had adopted an attitude of verbal opposition to the war without seeking to organise active revolutionary struggle against the tsarist regime. “Golos” had commenced publication in September l914, and, when it was suppressed by the French government in January l9l5, it was replaced by “Nashe Slovo” (Our Word), on the editorial staff of which Trotsky continued to serve.

The chief organiser of the paper was Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (a former tsarist officer who after the October Revolution became Director of the Political Administration of the Red Army) . Its Paris staff included, in addition to Trotsky, Anatoly Lunacharsky (who later became Commissar for Education), David Ryazanov (later director of the Marx-Engels Institute), Solomon Lozovsky (later head of the Red International of Labour Unions), Dmitri Manuilsky (later head of the Communist International) Grigori Sokolnikov (later Commissar for Finance), and the historian Mikhail Pokrovsky (later director of the Soviet State Archives). Its foreign correspondents included Grigori Chicherin (later Commissar for Foreign Affairs), Aleksandra Kollontai (later Commissar of Social Welfare), Karl Radek (later to hold a leading position in the Communist International), Moissei Uritsky, Khristian Rakovsky (the son of a Bulgarian landlord, later to become Prime Minister of the Soviet Ukraine), Ivan Maisky (later Soviet Ambassador to Britain), and the Anglo-Russian historian Theodore Rothstein (later Soviet Ambassador to Persia).

1915 – 1916: The Three Trends in the Russian Labour Movement

The three trends described in an earlier section were represented in the Russian labour movement as follows:

1) The social-chauvinist trend was represented by:

a) a group of Mensheviks headed by Aleksandr Potresov, around the journal “Nasha Zarya” (Our Dawn), published in St. Petersburg. “Nasha Zaraya” was suppressed by the tsarist government in October 1914, and its place was taken in January 1915 by “Nashe Dyolo” (Our Cause).

“In Russia the fundamental nucleus of opportunism, the Liquidationist ‘Nasha Zarya’, became the fundamental nucleus of chauvinism.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Collapse of the Second International,” in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 308).

b) a group of Mensheviks headed by Grigori Plekhanov and Grigori Alexinsky around the journal “Prizyv” (The Call) published in Paris.

“The main theories of the social-chauvinists. . . are represented by Plekhanov.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 282).

“Plekhanov has sunk into-nationalism, hiding his Russian chauvinism under Francophilism; so has Alexinsky.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Position and Tasks of the Socialist International”, in: ibid.; p. 85-86).

2) The “Centrist” trend was represented by:

a) The Menshevik “Organisation Committee” (O.C), headed by Pavel Axelrod, which in February 1915 began publication of “Izvestia” (News) of the Foreign Secretariat of the Organisation Committee.

“This Centrist tendency includes . . the party of the Organisation Committee . . and others in Russia.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution,” in: “Selected Works,” Volume 6; London; 1935; p. 65).

“Take . .the . manifesto of the 0.C (Organisation Committee-Alliance Editor). . . .
1) The manifesto does not contain a single statement which in principle repudiates national defence in the present war;
2) there is absolutely nothing in the manifesto which in principle would be inacceptible to the ‘defencists’ or social chauvinists;
3) there are a number of statements in the manifesto which are completely’identical’ with ‘defencism’: ‘The proletariat cannot remain indifferent to the impending defeat’; . . ‘the proletariat is vitally interested in the self-preservation of the country.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “Have the O.C. and the Chkheidze Fraction a Policy of Their Own?”, in “Collected Works,” Viume 19; London; l942; p. 36, 37).

“To cover up this political reality (i.e., social-chauvinism — Ed.) by Left phrases and quasi-Social-Democratic-ideology, is the actual political meaning of the . . activities of the Organisation-Committee. In the realm of ideology — the ‘Neither- victory nor defeat’ slogan; in the realm of practice — an anti-‘split’ struggle — this is the business-like . . programme of ‘peace’, with the ‘Nashe Dyelo’ and Plekhanov.”

(V. I. Lenin: State of Affairs within Russian Social Democracy’, in: Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 204.)

b) the Menshevik Duma fraction, headed by Nikolai Chkheidze.

“This Centrist tendency includes . . Chkheidze and others in Russia.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution,” in: “Selected Works’, Volume 6; London; 1946; p. 65).

“Chkheidze’s group confined itself to the parliamentary field. It did not vote appropriations, since it would have roused a storm of indignation among the workers. . . Neither did it protest against social-chauvinism.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and War,” in: ibid.; p. 240).

“Chkheidze uses the same chauvinist phrases about the ‘danger of defeat’, stands for . . ‘the struggle for peace’, etc., etc.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Have the 0.C. and the Chkheidze Fraction a Policy of Their Own?”, in ‘Collected Works”, Volume 19; London; 19~2; p. 39).

“(1) The ‘save the country” formula employed by Chkhejdze differs in no material respect from defencism;
2) the Chkheidze fraction never opposed Nr. Potresov and Co. .
3) the decisive fact: the fraction has never opposed participation in the War Industries Committees’.

(V. I. Lenin: “The Chkheidze Fraction and its Role’, in: ibid.; p. 325).

“To cover up this political reality (i.e., social-chauvinism — Ed.) by ‘Left ‘phrases and quasi-Social-Democratic ideology, is the actual political meaning of the legal activities of Chkheidze’s fraction.”

(V. I. Lenin: “State of affairs within Russian Social-Democracy, in: “Collected “Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 204).

c) the group, headed by Trotsky, around “Nashe Slovo,” the policy of which will be discussed in the next sections.

3) The revolutionary, international trend was represented by the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, headed by Lenin.

The theses which Lenin put forward in September 1914 from Berne (Switzerland), on the other hand, called on the work in classes of all belligerent countries actively to oppose the war and to seek to transform it into a civil war against ” their own” imperialists.

“Transform the present imperialist war into civil war — is the only correct proletarian slogan.”‘

(V. I. Lenin: “The War and Russian Social Democracy,”‘ in: “Selected Works,” Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 130).

The “Peace” Slogan-The First of Trotsky’s Two Slogans

The policy put forward by Trotsky in the pages of “Nashe Slovo” in relation to the imperialist war may be summarised in two slogans:

firstly, that of “revolutionary struggle for peace” (or “revolutionary struggle against the war,” called by Lenin the “peace slogan”:

“Phrase-mongers like Trotsky (See No. 105 of the ‘Nashe Slovo’) defend, in opposition to us, the peace slogan.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The ‘Peace’ Slogan Appraised,” in: “Collected Works,'” Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 262).

‘Revolutionary struggle against the war ‘ . . is an example of the high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London 1935; p. 3142).

Lenin opposed the “peace” slogan throughout the war:

“The peace slogan is in my judgment incorrect at the present moment. This is a philistine’s, a preacher’s, slogan. The proletarian slogan must be civil war.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. G. Shlyapnikov, October 17th., 1914, in: “Collected Works’, Volume 18; n.d.; p. 75).

“Propaganda of peace at the present time, if not accompanied by a call for revolutionary mass action, is only capable of spreading illusions, of demoralising the proletariat by imbuing it with belief in the humanitarianism of the bourgeoisie, and of making it a plaything in the hands of the secret diplomacy of the belligerent countries. In particular, the ilea that a so-called democratic peace is possible without a series of revolutions is profoundly mistaken.”

(V. I. Lenin: Conference of the Sections of the RSDLP Abroad,” in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London 1935; p. 135).

“To accept the peace slogan per Se, and to repeat it, would be encouraging the ‘pompous air of powerless (what is worse hypocritical) phrasemongers’; that would mean deceiving the people with the illusion that the present governments, the present ruling ‘classes, are capable before they are . . eliminated by a number of revolutions of granting a peace even half way satisfactory to democracy and the working class. Nothing is more harmful than such a deception.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Peace Question’, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 266).

In September 1915 Trotsky carried forward his opposition to the Leninist policy towards the war at the International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald (Switzerland). The Bolshevik resolution was rejected by a majority of the delegates, including Trotsky. As he expresses it himself:

“Lenin was on the extreme left at the Conference. In many questions he was in a minority of one, even within the Zimmerwald left wing, to which I did not formally belong.”

(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970; p. 250).

In these circumstances, the Bolsheviks agreed to sign a compromise manifesto drafted by Trotsky:

“The revolutionary wing, led by Lenin, and the pacifist wing, which comprised the majority of the delegates, agreed with difficulty on a conmon manifesto of which I had prpared the draft”.

(L. Trotsky: ibid p. 250).

The central point of this manifesto was “the struggle for peace”:

“It is necessary to take up this struggle for peace, for a peace without annexations or war indemnities. . . .It is the task and the duty of the Socialists of the belligerent countries to take up this struggle with full force.”

Manifesto Of the International Specialist Conference, Zimmerwald, cited in: V. I Lenin: Collected Works’, Vo1ume 18; London; Ibid.; p. 475).

Lenin commented on this manifests after the conference:

“Passing to ‘the struggle for peace’…here also we find inconsistency, timidity, failure to say everything that ought to be said. . . It does not name directly, openly and clearly the revolutionary methods of struggle.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The First Step’, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 343).

“Neither Victory nor Defeat”- Trotsky’s Second Slogan

Secondly, in opposition to Lenin’s declaration that a revolutionary struggle against “one’s own imperialists in wartime was facilitated by, and facilitated, the military defeat of “one’s own” imperialists in the war, Trotsky put forward the slogan of “Neither victory nor defeat!”:

“‘Bukvoyed (i.e., Ryazonov — Ed.) and Trotsky defend the slogan ‘Neither victery nor defeat!”

(V. I. Lenin: “Defeat Of One’s Own Governrnent in the Imperialist War”, in: Selected Works’, Volume 5; London 1935; p. 145-6).

In an Open Letter addressed to the Bolsheviks in “Nashe Slovo” in the summer of l9l5, Trotsky denounced Lenin’s policy of “revolutionary defeatism” as:

“An uncalled-for and unjustifiable concession to the political methodology of social-patriotism which substitutes for the revolutionary struggle against the war and the conditions that cause it, what, under present conditions, is an extremely arbitrary orientation towards the lesser evil.”

(L. Trotsky: in: “Nashe Slovo”, No. 105, cited in V. I. Lenin: “Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War”, in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; l935; p. 142).

Lenin replied to Trotsky’s Open Letter in August l9l5, in his article “Defeat of One’s Government in the Imperialist War”:

“This is an example of the high-flown phraseology with which Trotsky always justifies opportunism.

Making shift with phrases, Trotsky has lost his way amidst three pine trees. It seems to him that to desire Russia’s defeat means desiring Germany’s victory. . .
To help people who are unable to think, the Berne resolution made it clear that in all imperialist ceuntries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government. Bukvoyed and Trotsky preferred to evade this truth. . Had Bukvoyed and Trotsky thought a little, they would have realised that they adopt the point ‘of view of a war of governments and the bourgeoisie, i.e., that they cringe before the ‘political methodology of ‘social-patriotism’, to use Trotsky’s affected language.

Revolution in wartime is civil war; and the transformation of war between governments into civil war is, on the one hand, facilitated by military reverses (‘defeats’) of governments; on the other hand, it is impossible really to strive for such a transformation without thereby facilitating defeat.

The very reason the chauvinists. . .repudiate the ‘slogan’ of defeat is that this slogan alone implies a consistent appeal for revolutionary action against one’s own government in wartime. Without such action, millions of the r-r-revolutionary phrases like war against ‘war and the conditions, and so forth’ are not worth a penny. . . .

To repudiate the ‘defeat’ slogan means reducing one’s revolutionary actions to an empty phrase or to mere hypocrisy. .. .

The slogan “Neither victory nor defeat” . . is nothing but a paraphrase of the ‘defence of the fatherland’ slogan. . . . .

On closer examination, this slogan will be found to mean ‘civil peace’, renunciation of the class struggle by the oppressed classes in all belligerent ‘countries, since class struggle is impossible without . . facilitating the defeat of one’s own country. Those who accept the slogan ‘Neither victory nor defeat’, can only hypocritically be in favour of the class struggle, of ‘breaking civil peace’; those in practice, renounce an independent proletarian policy because they subordinate the proletariat of all belligerent countries to the absolutely bourgeois task of safeguarding imperialist governments against defeat. .

Those who are in favour of the slogan ‘Neither victory nor defeat’ are consciously or unconsciusly chauvinists, at best they are conciliatory petty bourgeois; at all events they are enemies of proletarian policy, partisans of the present governments, of the present ruling classes. . . .

Those who stand for the slogan ‘Neither victory nor defeat’ are in fact on the side of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists, for they ‘do not believe’ in the possibility of international revolutionary action of the working class against its own governments, and they do not wish to help the development of such action which, though no easy task, it is true, is the only task worthy of a proletarian, the only socialist task.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 142-3, 145, 146-7).

In April 1915 Rosa Luxemburg, in prison, wrote, under the pseudonym “Junius”, a pamphlet entitled ‘The Crisis of German Social Democracy.” It was published a year later, in April 1916. Rosa Luxemburg, like Trotsky opposed Lenin’s policy of “revolutionary defeatism“:

“What shall be the practical attitude of social democracy in the present war? Shall it declare: since this is an imperialist war, since we do not enjoy in our country any socialist self-determination, its existence or non-existence is of no consequence to us, and we will surrender it to the enemy? Passive fatalism can never be the role of a revolutionary party like social democracy. . . .
Yes, socialists should defend their country in great historical crises.”

(R. Luxemburg: “The Crisis of German Social Democracy”, in: “Rosa Luxemburg Speaks’; Now York; 1970; p. 311, 314,).

and like Trotsky, she put forward the slogan of “Neither victory nor defeat”:

“Here lies the great fault of German social democracy….. . . It was their duty . to proclaim to the people of Germany that in this war victory and defeat would be equally fatal.”

(R. Luxemburg: ibid.; p. 314).

suggesting that the defence of the country “against defeat” should be carried on under the slogan she had consistently opposed as a leader of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, the Slogan of “national self-determination”:

“Instead of covering this imperialist war with a lying mantle of national self-defence, social democracy should have demanded the right of national self-determination seriously,”

(R. Luxemburg: ibid.; p. 311-12).

Lenin replied to Rosa Luxemburg’s pamphlet in his article “The Pamphlet by Junius”, published in August 1916:

“We find the same error in Junius’ arguments about which is better, victory or defeat? His conclusion is that both are equally bad. . . This is the point of view not of the revolutionary proletariat, but of the pacifist petty bourgeois.. . . Another fallacious argument advanced by Junius is in connection with the question of defence of the fatherland. Junius . . falls into the very strange error of trying to drag a national programme into the present non-national war. It sounds almost incredible, but it is true.

He proposes to ‘oppose’ the imperialist war with a national programme.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Pamphlet by Junius”; in: “Collected ‘Works’, Volume 19; London; 1942; p. 212, 207, 209).

True, Rosa Luxemburg, unlike the open social-chauvinists, supported the concept of class struggle against one’s own government during the war, not, however, in relation to the slogan of “turn the imperialist war into civil war”, but as “the best defence against a foreign enemy”:

“The centuries have proven that not the state of siege, but relentless class struggle . . is the best protection and the best defence against a foreign enemy.”

(R. Luxemburg: ibid.; p. 304).

Lenin commented:

“In saying that class struggle is the best means of defence against invasian, Junius applied Marxian dialectics only half way, taking one step on the right road and immediately deviating from it. . . Civil war against the bourgeoisie is also a form of class struggle, and only this form of class struggle would have saved Europe (the whole of Europe, not only one country) from the peril of invasion.

Junius came very close to the correct solution of the problem and to the correct slogan: civil war against the bourgeoisi for socialism; but, as if afraid to speak the whole truth, he turned back to the phantasy of a ‘national war’ in 1914, 1915 and 1916. . ..

Junius has not completely rid himself of the ‘environment’ of the German Social-Democrats, even the Lefts, who are afraid to follow revolutionary slogans to their logical conclusion.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 210, 212).

The Struggle against National Self-Determination

The manifesto drafted by Trotsky which was adopted by the International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald (Switzerland) in September 1915, recognised the right of self-determination of nations as an “indestructible principle”:

“The right of self-determination of nations must be the indestructible principle in the system of national relationships of peoples.”

(Manifesto of the International Socialist Conference at Zimmerwald, September 1915, in: V. I. Lenin: “Collective Works” , Volume 18, London; n .d.; p. 475)

The Polish delegation at the conference (consisting of Karl Radek, Adolf Warski and Jacob Ganetsky) opposed recognition of the right of self determination of nations, but submitted a declaration on the national question which, in fact, recognised the right of self-determination of Poland, since it declared that the international working class:

“Will break the fetters of national oppression and abolish all forms of foreign domination, and secure for the Polish people the possibility of all-sided, free development as an equal member in a League of Nations.”

(Bulletin of the International Socialist Committee in Berne, No. 2; September 27th., 1915; p. 15).

Lenin commented on this declaration:

“There is no material difference between these postulates and the recognition of the right of nations to self-determination, except that their political formulation is still more diffuse and vague than the majority of the programmes and resolutions of the Second International. Any attempt to express these ideas in precise political formulae . . will prove still more strikingly the error committed by the Polish Social-Democrats in repudiating the self-determination of nations”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”; in: “Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 279-80).

In October 1915 Karl Radek (under the pseudonym “Parabellum” wrote an article in the “Berner Tagwacht” (Berne Morning Watch entitled “Annexations and Social-Democracy,” in which, on behalf of the leadership of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, he declared that:

“We are opposed to annexations.”

(K. Radek: “Annexations and Social-Democracy; cited in: V. I. Lenin: “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 282).

but denounced the:

“Struggle for the non-existent right to self-determination.”

(K. Radek: ibid; p. 282).

Lenin replied to Radek in November 1915 in his article “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”:

“Our ‘struggle against annexations’ will be meaningless and not at all terrifying to the social-patriots if we do not declare that the Socialist of an oppressing nation who does not conduct propaganda, both in peace time and war time, in favour of the freedom of secession for the oppressed nations is not a Socialist and not an internationalist, but a chauvinist.”‘

(V. I. Lenin: “The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: ‘Selected Works, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 287).

In November 1915 Nikolai Bukharin and Grigori Pyatakov sent to the Central Committee of the RSDLP the theses, “The Slogan of the Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” written by Bukharin. The theses concluded:

“We do not under any circumstances support the government of the Great Power that suppresses the rebellion or the outburst of indignatien of an oppressed nation; but at the same time, we ourselves do not mobilise the proletarian forces under the slogan ‘right of nations to self-determination’. In such a case, our task is to mobilise the forces of the proletariat of both nations (jointly with others) under the slogan ‘civil class war for socialism’, and conduct propaganda against the mobilisation of the forces under the slogan ‘right of nations to self-determination.'”

(N. Bukharin: “The slogan of the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, cited in: V.I. Lenin: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 379-80).

Lenin replied to Bukharin’s theses in March 1916 with theses of his own, entitled “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”;

“Victorious socialism must achieve complete democracy and, consequently, not only bring about the complete equality of nations, but also give effect to the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e. the right to free political secession. Socialist Parties which fail to prove by all their activities now, as well as during the revolution and after its victory, that they will free the enslaved nations and establish relations with them on the basis of free union — a free union is a lying phrase without right to secession — such parties are committing treachery to socialism”.

(V. I. Lenin: “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 5; London; 1935 p. 267).

Rosa Luxemburg, writing under the psedonym “Junius” in the pamphlet, “The Crisis of German Social-Democracy,” published in April 1916, declared that wars of national liberation were impossible under imperialism:

“In the present imperialistic milieu there can be no wars of national self-defence.”

(R. Luxemburg: ‘The Crisis of German Social-Democracy,” in: “Rosa Luxemburg Speaks”; New York; 1970; p. 305).

Lenin commented in “The Pamphlet by Junius,” published in August 1916:

“National wars waged by colonial and semi-eolonial countries are not only possible but inevitable in the epoch of imperialism.

National wars must not be regarded as impossible in the epoch of imperialism even in Europe.

The postulate that ‘there can be no more national wars’ is obviously fallacious in theory. . . But this fallacy is also very harmful in a practical political sense; it gives rise to the stupid propaganda for ‘disarmament’, as if no other war but reactionary wars are possible; it is the cause of the still more stupid and downright reactionary indifference towards national movements. Such indifference becomes chauvinism when members of ‘Great’ European nations, i.e., nations which oppress a mass of small and colonial peoples, declare with a learned air that ‘there can be no more national wars.”’

(V. I. Lenin: “The Pamphlet by Junius”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 19; London 1942; p. 204, 205, 206).

In August 1916 Grigori Pyatakov wrote, under the pseudonyn “P. Kievsky,” an article entitled: “The Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination.” In this article, which was not published, Pyatakov denounced the slogan of the right of nations to self-determination on the grounds that:

“This demand leads directly to social-patriotism.”

(G. Pyatakov: “The Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self Determination, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “A Caricature of Marxism and ‘Imperialist Economism’” in Ibid; “Collected Works”, Volume 19; London 1942; p. 216).

Lenin replied to Pyatakov’s argument in a long article “A Caricature of Marxism and ‘lmperialist Economics,’” written in October 1916 but not published until 1924:

“In the present imperialist war, . . phrases about defence of the fatherland are deception of the people, for this war is not a national war. In a truly national war the words ‘defence of the fatherland’ are deception, and we are not opposed to such a war.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Caricature of Marxism and ‘Imperialist Economism”, in ibid.; p. 217).

Pyatakov insisted:

“With regard to the colonies, we confine ourselves to a negative slogan, i.e., . . “Get out of the colonies.'”

(G. Pyatakov: ibid.; p. 251)

And Lenin replied:

“Both the political and the economic content of the slogan ‘Get out of the colonies!” amounts to one thing. . Only: freedom of secession for the colonial nations; freedom to establish a separate state.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid; p. 252).

The theoretical basis of Pyatakov’s opposition to national self-determination is summarised in his declaration that:

“. . dualistic propaganda is substituted for the monistic action of the International.”

(G. Pyatakov: ibid.; p. 241).

To which Lenin replied:

“Is the actual condition of the workers in the oppressing nations the same as that of the workers in the oppressed nations from the standpoint of the national problem? No, they are not the same. . .That being the case, what is to be said about P. Kievsky’s phrase: the ‘monistic’ action of the International?

It is an empty, sonorous phrase, and nothing more.

In order that the action of the International, which in real life consists of workers who are divided into those belonging to oppressing nations and those belonging to oppressing nations, may be monistic action, propaganda must be carried on differently in each case.”

(V. I. Lenin: Ibid; p. 242-3)

This “dualistic propaganda” had already been described by Lenin:

“The Social-Democrats of the oppressing notions must demand the freedom of secession for the oppressed notions,. . The Social-Democrats of the oppressed nations, however, must put in the forefront the unity and the fusion of the workers of the oppressed nations with the workers of the oppressing nations.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Revolutionary Proletariat And the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London 1935; p. 284)

Lenin’s summary of Pyatakov’s article was devastating:

“P. Kievsky. . totally fails to understand Marxism.
Kievsky does not advance a single correct argument. The only thing that is correct in his article, that is, if there are no mistakes in the figures, is the footnote in which he quotes some statistics about banks.”

(V. I. Lenin: A Caricature of Marxism and ‘Imperialist Economism'”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 19; London; 1942; p. 218, 262).

In this struggle between the advocates of the right of self-determination of nations and its opponents, Trotsky adopted a characteristically centrist position: hypocritical support for the slogan but without support for its essential content, the right of secession:

“Trotsky . . is body and soul for self-determination, but in his case too it is an idle phrase, for he does not demand freedom of secession for nations oppressed by the “fatherland” of the socialist of the given nationality.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The ‘Peace Programme”, in “Collected Works”, Volume 19 London 1942; p. 66).

“The Kautskyists hypocritically recognise self-determination – -in Russia this is the road taken by Trotsky and Martov. In words, both declare that they are in favour of self-determination, as Kautsky does. But in practice? Trotsky engages in his customary eclecticism. . . The prevailing hypocrisy remains unexposed, . .. namely, the attitude to be adopted towards the nation that is oppressed by ‘my’ nation. . . .

A Russian Social-Democrat who ‘recognises’ self-determination of nations . . without fighting for freedom of Secession for the notions oppressed by tsarism is really an imperialist and a lackey of tsarism.

Whatever the subjective ‘well-meaning’ intentions of Trotsky and Martov may be, they, by their evasions, objectively support Russian social-imperialism.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up’, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 19; London; 1942; p. 305)

Trotsky’s Conciliationism

Lenin stood firmly for the organisational separation of revolutionary internationalism from both open and concealed (ie. Centrist) social-chauvinism:

“To keep united with opportunism at the present time means precisely to subjugate the working class to ‘its’ bourgeoisie, to make an alliance with it for the oppression of other nations and for the struggle for the privileges of a great nation; at the same time it means splitting the revolutionary proletariat of all countries.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Socialism and War’, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 230-1).

“We must declare the idea of unity with the Organisation Committee an illusion detrimental to the workers’ cause.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘And Now What?”, in: ibid.; p. 109).

“We shall not be for unity with Chkheidze’s fraction (as desired both by Trotsky, by the 0rgansation Committee, and by Plekhanov and Co.; . for this would mean to cover up and defend the ‘Nashe Dyelo.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Aleksendro Kollontai, summer 1915, in: ibid.; p. 208).

In contrast to Lenin, Trotsky stood consistently for the unity of what he termed the “internationalist” groups, a category which included the concealed social-chauvinists of the Centre (the Organisation Committee, the Menshevik Duma fraction and the group around Trotsky).

At the beginning of 1915, “Nashe Slovo” addressed an appeal to the Bolshevik Central Committee and to the Menshevik Organisation Committee proposing a conference of all the groups which took a “negative attitude’ towards social-chauvinism. In its reply, dated March 1915, the Organisation Committee said:

‘To the conference must be invited the foreign representatives of all those party centres and groups which were . . present at the Brussels Conference of the International Socialist Bureau before the war.’

(Letter of Organisation Committee, March 12th., 1915, cited in: V. I. Lenin: The Question of the Unity of Internationalists”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 177).

Lenin commented:

“Thus, the Organisation Committee declines on principle to confer with the internationalists, since it wishes to confer also with the social-patriots (it is known that Plekhanov’s and Alexinsky’s policies were represented at Brussels).

We must not confer, it says, without the social-patriots, we must confer with them!”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 177, 178).

Nevertheless, Trotsky continued his efforts to bring about organisational unity between the Bolsheviks end the concealed social-chauvinists of the Centre. In June 1915 Trotsky wrote an Open Letter to the editors of the Bolshevik magazine “Kommunist”: published in No. 105 of “Nashe Slovo” in which he said:

“I am proud of the conduct of our Duma members (the Chkheidze group); I regard them as the most important agency of internationalist education of the proletariat in Russia, and for that very reason I deem it the task of every revolutionary Social-Democrat to extend to them every support and to raise their authority in the International.”

(L. Trotsky: Open Letter to the Editors of “Kommunist”, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d., p. 435)

Lenin commented on Trotsky’s unprincipled conciliationism in various articles:

“The elements that are grouped around the ‘Nashe Slovo’ are vacillating between platonic sympathy for internationalism and a tendency for unity at any price with the “Nasha Zarya” and the Organisation Committee.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Conference of the Foreign Sections of the RSDLP”, in: Collected Works, Volume 18; London; n .d.; p.150).

“‘Nashe Slovo’ . . raises a revolt against social-nationalism while standing on its knees before it, since it fails to unmask the most dangerous defenders of the bourgeois current (like Kautsky); it does not declare war against opportunism but, on the contrary, passes it over in silence; it does not undertake, and does not point out, any real steps towards liberating socialism from its shameful patriotic captivity. By saying that neither unity nor a split with those who joined the bourgeoisie is imperative, the ‘Nashe Slovo’ practically surrenders to the opportunists.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Collapse of Platonic Internationalism”, in: ibid.; p.183).

“Trotsky always, entirely disagrees with the social-chauvinists in principle, but agrees with them in everything in practice.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘State of Affairs within Russian Social-Democracy”, in: Ibid.; p. 205-6).

“We shall not be for unity with Chkheidze’s fraction (As desired . .by Trotsky . .) for this would mean to cover up and defend the ‘Nashe Dyelo’…
Roland-Holst, as well as Rakovsky . .and Trotsky too, are in my judgment all most harmful ‘Kautskyists’, inasmuch as they are all, in one form or another, for unity with the opportunists, . . are embellishing opportunism, they all (each in his way) advance eclecticism instead of revolutionary Marxism.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letters to Aleksandra Kollontai, summer 1915, in: ibid.; p. 208, 209).

“In Russia Trotsky . . fights for unity with the opportunist and chauvinist group “Nashe Zarya.'”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Socialism and War”, in: ibid.; p.232).

“Martov and Trotsky in Russia are causing the greatest harm to the labour movement by their insistence upon a fictitious unity, thus hindering, the now ripened imminent unification of the opposition in all countries and the creation of the Third International.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Tasks of the Opposition in France”, in: ‘Collected Works”, Volume 19; London; 1942; p. 32).

“What are our differences with Trotsky?. . In brief — he is a Kautskyite, that is, he stands for unity with the Kautskyites in the International and with Chkheidze’s parliamentary group in Russia. We are absolutely against such unity.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Henrietta Roland-Holst, Morch 8th., 1916, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 43; Moscow; 1969; p. 515-16).

“What a swine this Trotsky is — Left phrases and a bloc with the Right. . . He ought to be exposed.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Aleksendra Kollontai, February 17th., 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow, 1966; p. 285).

Kamenev’s Defence

In November 1915 eleven leading members of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, including five deputies, were arrested at a conference near Petrograd and charged with being members of an organisation aiming at the overthrow of the existing political order.

At their trial Lev Kamenev and two of the deputies declared in their defence that they did not accept the policy of the Party in so for as it enjoined members to work for the defeat of Russia in the war.

Lenin commented:

“The trial of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Fraction . . has proven first, that this advanced detachment of revolutionary Social-Democracy in Russia did not show sufficient firmness at the trial. . To attempt to show solidarity with the social-patriot, Mr. Yordansky, as did Comrade Rosenfeld (i.e., Kamenev –Ed.) or to point out one’s disagreement with the Central Committee, is an incorrect method; this is impermissible from the standpoint of revolutionary Social-Democracy.”

(V. I. Lenin: “What has the Trial of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Fraction Proven?”, in: “Works”, Volume 18; Moscow; n.d.; p. 151)

1916: The Attempt to Introduce Anarchist Ideas into the Party

In 1916 Nikolai Bukharin wrote, under the pseudonym “Nota Bene,” an article entitled ‘The Imperialist Predatory State” in the magazine “The Youth International” (organ of the Bureau of the International League of Socialist Youth Organisations) , in which he said:

“It is quite a mistake to seek the difference between Socialists and anarchists in the fact that the former are in favour of the state while the latter are against it. The real difference is that revolutionary Social-Democracy desires to organise social production on new lines, centralised, . . whereas decentralised, anarchist production would mean retrogression. . . .Social-Democracy. . must now more than ever emphasise its hostility to the state in principle.”

(N. Bukharin: “The Imperialist Predatory State”, cited in: V. I. Lenin; ‘The Youth International”, in: Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 243, 244).

To which Lenin replied:

“This is wrong. The author raises the question of the difference in the attitude of Socialists and anarchists towards the state, But he does not answer this question, but another, namely the difference in the attitude of Socialists and anarchists towards the economic foundation of future society. . . The Socialists are in favour of utilising the present state and its institutions in the struggle for the emancipation of the working class, and they also urge the necessity of utilising the State for the peculiar form of transition from capitalism to socialism. This transitional form is the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is also a state.
The anarchists want to ‘abolish’ the state, to ‘blow it up’.

The Socialists . . hold that the state will die out.
Comrade Nota-Bene’s . . remark about the ‘state idea’ is entirely muddled. It is un-Marxian and un-socialistic.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Youth International’, in: ibid.; p. 243, 244).

In April 1929 Stalin commented:

“The well-known theoretical controversy which flared up in 1916 between Lenin and Bukharin on the question of the state . . is important in order to reveal Bukharin’s inordinate pretensions to teach Lenin, as well as the roots of his theoretical unsoundness on such important questions as the dictatorship of the proletariat. . . .Bukharin landed in a semi-Anarchist puddle.

In Bukharin’s opinion the working class should be hostile in principle to the state as such, including the working-class state.”

(J.V. Stalin: “The Right Deviation in the CPSU (B.)”, in: “Leninism”; London; 1942; p. 276, 277).

1916-1917: Trotsky Goes to America

In September 1916 the French authorities, at the request of the tsarist government, banned “Nashe Slovo” and deported Trotsky to Spain. Although he did not participate in any political activity in Spain, after a few days he was arrested by the Spanish police and, in December, deported to the United States. He arrived in New York in January 1917.

The Assassination of Rasputin

During the war great influence was exercised over the tsar and tsarina by the monk Grigori Rasputin. In December 1916 a group of nobles, headed by the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, organised the assassination of Rasputin, believing that his influence was being used against the war effort.

1917: Trotsky in America

In January 1917 Trotsky landed in New York, and joined the staff of a Russian magazine published there under the editorship of Nikolai Bukharin and Aleksandra Kollontai, -“Novy Nir” (New World). Typically, he formed a bloc with the right-wing members of the staff against the Left:

“Trotsky arrived, and this scoundrel at once ganged up with the Right wing of ‘Novy Mir’ against the Left Zimmerwaldists!! That’s it!! That’s Trotsky for you!! Always true to himself – twists, swindles, poses as a Left, helps the Right, so long as he can.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Inessa Armand, February 19th., 1917, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p.288)

In “Navy Mir,” Trotsky continued to put forward his theory of “permanent revolution,” arguing that if the German working class failed to rise along with the Russian working class, the workers’ government of a revolutionary Russia must wage war against the German ruling class:

“If the conservative social-patriotic organisation should prevent the German working class from rising against its ruling classes in the coming epoch, then of course the Russian working class would defend its revolution with arms in its hands. The revolutionary workers’ government would wage war against the Hohenzollerns, summoning the brother proletariat of Germany to rise against the common enemy.”

(L. Trotsky: Article in “Novy Mir”, March 21st., 1917, cited in: L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”; Volume 1; London; 1967; p. 438).

The “February Revolution”

From the first days of 1917 strikes spread throughout the main cities of tsarist Russia. By March 10th; these had developed in Petrograd into a political general strike, with the demonstrating workers carrying Bolshevik slogans: “‘Down with the tsar!,” “Down with the war!” and “Bread!”

The practical work of the Bolshevik Party in Russia at this time was directed by the Bureau of the Central Committee, headed by Vyacheslav Molotov. On March 11th. the Bureau issued a manifesto calling for an armed uprising against tsarism and the formation of a Provisional-Government.

On March 12th; an elected Soviet of Workers’ Deputies came into being in Petrograd as an action committee to carry out the uprising and in the following days Soviets were established in Moscow and other cities. On March 13th, the Petrograd Soviet revived its “Izvestia” (“News”).

When the tsar ordered troops to suppress the rising by force, the soldiers — mostly peasant in uniform — refused to obey the orders of their officers and joined the revolutionary workers, thus bringing into being a revolutionary alliance of workers and peasants. The workers and soldiers now began to disarm the police and to arm themselves with their weapons. On March 14th, the Petrograd Soviet was expanded into a “Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

On March 15th. the tsar, Nicholas II, abdicated.

The revolution of March 1917 (known as the “February Revolution” under the old-style calendar) had been accomplished by the workers and peasants. Its character was that of a bourgeois-democratic revolution directed against the tsarist autocracy.

The Formation of the Provisional Government

As soon as the capitalist class realised that the bourgeois-democratic revolution was unavoidable, they proceeded to manoeuvre in an effort to minimise its scope — and above all to prevent its development into a socialist revolution.

On March 12th., the day after the tsar had dissolved the Fourth State Duma, its liberal capitalist members set up an “Executive Committee of the Imperial Duma,” headed by the President of the Duma, the monarchist landlord Mikhail Rodzyanko.

On March 15th, this Executive Committee set up a “Provisional-Government,” headed by Prince Georgi Lvov as Prime Minister and including among its Ministers Pavel Miliukov (leader of the Constitutional Democrats) as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aleksendr Guchkov (leader of the Octobrists) as Minister of War, and Aleksandr Karensky (a prominent Socialist-Revolutionary) as Minister of Justice.

The capitalist class endeavoured for a few days to save the monarchy, by persuading the tsar to abdicate in favour of his brother Mikhail. But this proved untenable in view of popular feeling against the monarchy, and Mikhail abdicated on the following day, March 16th.

The capitalists then turned their efforts to attempting to turn Russia into a capitalist parliamentary republic.

On March 17th. the new government issued a manifesto “To the Citizens”; setting out its programme:

“1. Complete and immediate amnesty for all political and religious offences, including terrorist acts, military revolts, agrarian insurrections, etc.

2.Freedom of speech, press, assembly, union, strikes, and the extension of all political liberties to persons in the military service within the limits required by considerations of technical military necessity.

3. Abolition of all feudal estate and national restrictions.

4. Immediate preparation for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly on the basis of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage. This Constituent Assembly shall determine the form of State and the constitution of the country.

5. Formation of a people’s militia with elected officers subordinated to the organs of local self-government and taking the place of the police.

6. Elections to the local organs of self-government on the basis of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage.

7. The troops who participated in the revolutionary movement are not to be disarmed and are to remain in Petrograd.

8. While maintaining a rigid military discipline in the service, all obstacles are to be eliminated preventing soldiers from exercising the public rights enjoyed by other citizens.”

(Manifesto of Provisional Government, May 17th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: Collected Works, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 348)

Lenin commented:

“In its first proclamation to the people (March 17), the government uttered not a word about the main and basic question of the present moment, peace. It keeps secret the predatory treaties made by tsarism with England, France, Italy, Japan, etc. It wishes to conceal from the people the truth about its war programme, and the fact that it is for war, for victory over Germany. . . . The new government cannot give the people bread. And no amount of freedom will satisfy masses suffering hunger…

The entire Manifesto of the new government . . .inspires me with the greatest distrust, for it consists only of promises, and does not carry into life any of the most essential measures that could and should be fully realised right now”

(V. I. Lenin: Theses of March 17th, 1917; in ibid; p.24, 25).

The Role of the Petrograd Soviet

Although there was a large spontaneous element in the “February Revolution,” the Bolsheviks, played a leading role in the uprising itself. Despite this, in the majority of cases a majority of the members of the Soviets and of their Executive Committees were Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries; the Bolsheviks were, in the period following the “February Revolution” in a small minority in most of the Soviets, including those of Petrograd and Moscow.

A number of factors were responsible for this position: the industrial working class had been diluted during the war by large numbers of peasants from the villages, while Bolshevik leaders such as Lenin and Stalin were in exile.

As a result of this, on March 18th. the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet issued a proclamation calling upon the workers to support the capitalist Provisional Government. Lenin commented:

“The proclamation issued by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies … is a most remarkable document. It proves that the Petrograd proletariat, at the time it issued its proclamation, at any rate, was under the preponderant influence of the petty-bourgeois politicians.

The proclamation declares that every democrat must ‘support’ the new government and that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies requests and authorises Kerensky to participate in the Provisional Government. . .These steps are a classic example of betrayal of the cause of the revolution and the cause of the proletariat.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters from Afar”‘, in: ibid.; p. 41, 42).

At the same time the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet set up a “Contact Commission,” headed by Aleksandr Skobolev, the official aim of which was to maintain contact with, and “control”, the Provisional Government.

Lenin summed up the political situation resulting from the February Revolution in the following words:

“The first stage of the revolution . . , owing to the insufficient class consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, led to the assumption of power by the bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 6; London; 1946; p. 22).

The Political Line Of the Party in March 1917

The victory of the “February Revolution” created a new political situation in Russia which called for a new political line on the part of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

As Stalin expressed it in November 1924:

“This was the greatest turning point in the history of Russia and an unprecedented turning point in the history Of our Party. The old, pre-revolutionary platform Of direct overthrow of the government was clear and definite, but it was no longer suitable for the new conditions of struggle . . Under the now conditions of the struggle, the Party hod to adopt a new orientation. The Party (its majority) groped its way towards this new orientation.”

(J. V. Stalin “Trotskyism or Leninism?”; in Works Volume 6; Moscow; 1953); p. 347, 348).

At the time of the “February Revolution” the Bureau of the Control Committee of the RSDLP, centred in Petrograd, was led by Vyacheslav Molotov.

On March 18th., 1917 the Bureau issued, in the name of the Central Committee, a manifesto to “All Citizens of Russia,” calling for the formation of a Provisional Revolutionary Government.

“Citizens! The fortresses of Russian tsarism have.. fallen. . . . It is the task of the working class and the revolutionary army to create a Provisional Revolutionary Government which is to head the new republican order now in the process of birth.

The Provisional Revolutionary Government must take it upon itself to create temporary laws defending all the rights and liberties of the people, to confiscate the lands of the monasteries and the landowners, the crown lands and the appanages, to introduce the 8-hour working day and to convoke a Constituent Assembly on the basis a universal, direct and equal suffrage, with no discrimination as to sex, nationality or religion, and with the secret ballot.
The Provisional Revolutionary Government must take it upon itself to secure provisions for the population and the army; for this purpose it must confiscate all the stores prepared by the former government and the municipalities…..
It is the task of the people and its revolutionary government to suppress all counter-revolutionary plots against the people.

It is the immediate and urgent task of the Provisional Revolutionary Government to establish relations with the proletariat of the belligerent countries for the purpose 0f . . terminating the bloody war carnage imposed upon the enslaved peoples against their will.

The workers of shops and factories, also the rising troops, must immediately elect their representatives to the Provisional Revolutionary Government. . .
Forward under the red banner of the revolution!

Long live the Democratic Republic!
Long live the revolutionary working class!
Long live the revolutionary people and the insurgent army!”

(Manifesto of CC, RSDLP, March 18th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”; Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929; p. 378-79).

The manifesto was published in the first issue of “Pravda,” which reappeared on the same day.

Among the Bolsheviks liberated from exile in Siberia by the “February Revolution” were Josef Stalin and Lev Kamenev, both of whom returned to Petrograd. Kamenev joined the editorial board of “Pravda” on March 23rd., Stalin two days later on March 28th.

Kamenev immediately upheld a chauvinist line on the war, contending like the Menshevik leaders that with the victory of the “February Revolution” the working class should adopt a position of “revolutionary defencism.” He wrote in “Pravda” of March 28th:

“The soldiers, the peasants and the workers of Russia who went to war obeying the pull of the now overthrown Tsar. . have freed themselves; the Tsar’s banners have been replaced by the red banners of the revolution!. . .

When an army faces an army, it would be the most absurd policy to propose to one of them to lay down arms and go home. This . .would be a policy of slavery which a free people would repudiate with scorn. No, we will firmly hold our posts, we will answer a bullet by a bullet and a shell with a shell. . . .

A revolutionary soldier or officer, having overthrown the yoke of tsarism, will not vacate a trench to leave it to a German soldier or officer who has not mustered up courage to overthrow the yoke of his own government. We must not allow any disorganisation of the military forces of the revolution! ….

Russia is bound by alliances to England, France and other countries. It cannot act on the questions of peace without them.”

(L. Kamenev: “Without Secret Diplomacy”; cited in “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929, p. 379; 380).

Stalin rejected this policy of chauvinist “revolutionary defencism.” He wrote in “Pravda” on the following day, March 29th :

“The present war is an imperialist war. Its principal aim is the seizure (annexation) of foreign, chiefly agrarian, territories by capitalistically developed states.. . .

It would be deplorable if the Russian revolutionary democracy, which was able to overthrow the detested tsarist regime, were to succumb to the false alarm raised by the imperialist bourgeoisie”.

(J. V. Stalin: “The War”, in: “Works”; Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p.5; 7).

The majority of the Bureau, headed by Stalin and Molotov, correctly saw the Provisional Government as an organ of the capitalist class, and the Soviets as the embryo of a Provisional Government. A resolution of the Bureau published in “Pravda” on April 8th declared:

“The Provisional Government set up by the moderate bourgeois classes of society and associated in interests with Anglo-French capital is incapable of solving the problems raised by the revolution. Its resistance to the further extension and deepening of the revolution is being paralysed only by the growth of the revolutionary forces themselves and by their organisation. Their rallying centre must be the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in the cities and the Soviets of Peasants’ and Agricultural Workers’ Deputies in the countryside as the embryo of a revolutionary government, prepared in the further process of development, at a definite moment of the revolution, to establish the full power of the proletariat in alliance with the revolutionary democracy.”

(Resolution of Bureau of CC, RSDLP; cited in: N. Popov: “Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”‘, Part 1; London; n .d.; p. 353-54).

However, in “groping” towards a correct political line in the new situation, the majority of the Bureau made a tactical error. Instead of putting forward the clear slogan of “All power to the Soviets!’, they adopted a policy of “putting pressure on the Provisional Government” to perform actions which, as an organ of the capital class, it was incapable of doing:

“The solution is to bring pressure on the Provisional Government to make it declare its consent to start peace negotiations irnmediately.

The workers, soldiers and peasants must arrange meetings and demonstrations and demand that the Provisional Government shall come out openly and publicly in an effort to induce all the belligerent powers to start peace negotiations immediately, on the basis of recognition of the right of nations to self-determination.”

(J. V. Stalin: ibid.; p. 8).

On which Lenin commented forthrightly the day after his return to Russia:

“The “Pravda” demands that the government renounce annexations. To demand that a government of capitalists renounce annexations is balderdash.”

(V. I. Lenin Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17, 1917, in Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 98).

This incorrect tactical line corresponded closely with the tactical line of Kamenev, who said:

“Our slogan is — pressure on the Provisional Government with the aim of forcing it openly, before world democracy, and immediately to come forth with an attempt to induce all the belligerent countries forthwith to start negotiations concerning the means of stopping the World War.”

(L. Kamenev: “Without Secret Diplomacy”, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”; Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929; p. 380).

Stalin himself analysed this mistaken tactical policy in November 1924:

“The Party (its majority) groped its way towards this new orientation. It adopted the policy of pressure on the Provisional Government through the Soviets on the question of peace and did not venture to step forward at once from the old slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry to the new slogan of power to the Soviets. The aim of this halfway policy was to enable the Soviets to discern the actual imperialist nature of the Provisional Government on the basis of the concrete questions of peace and in this way to wrest the Soviets from the Provisional Government. But this was a profoundly mistaken position, for it gave rise to pacifist illusions, brought grist to the mill of defencism, and hindered the revolutionary education of the masses. At that time I shared this mistaken position with the Party comrades and fully abandoned it only in the middle of April, when I associated myself with Lenin’s theses.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism” , in: Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p. 348).

Lenin Returns to Russia

As soon as the “February Revolution” broke out, Lenin began attempts to return to Russia. The governments of the Allied powers refused him permission to travel through their countries but eventually, as a result of negotiations between Fritz Platten, Secretary of the Swiss Socialist Party, and the German government, 32 Russian political emigres (19 of which were Bolsheviks, among them Lenin) were permitted to travel through Germany in a sealed railway carriage accorded extra-territorial rights. The German government, of course, calculated that the return of these revolutionaries to Russia would be detrimental to the Russian war effort.

Lenin arrived in Petrograd on the evening of April 16th; and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of workers and soldiers.

On the following day he reported to the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet on the circumstances of his journey through Germany.

Lenin’s “April Theses”

Later on April 17th., Lenin spoke at a meeting of the Bolshevik delegates to the First Congress of Soviets, presenting his theses on the new situation in Russia following the “February Revolution” — the “April Theses.” The main points of these theses were as follows:

1. The “February Revolution” has brought into being the democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry in the shape of the Soviets of Workers’and Soldiers’ Deputies.

“The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies’ — here you have ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ already realised in life.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters on Tactics”; in ‘Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 120).

2. But alongside the Soviets there came into being out of the “February Revolution” the Provisional Government, representing the interests of the capitalist class.

‘The Provisional Government of Lvov and Co. is a dictatorship . . based . . on seizure by force accomplished by a definite class, namely, the bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”., in: ibid.; p. 133).

3. Thus, out of the “February Revolution” has arisen a temporary condition of dual power, of two rival governments.

“What has made our revolution so strikingly unique is that it has established dual power . . . What constitutes dual power? The fact that by the side of the Provisional Government, the government of the bourgeoisie, there has developed another, as yet weak; embryonic, but undoubtedly real and growing government — the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Dual Power”, in: ibid.; p. 115).

“There is not the slightest doubt but that such a combination cannot last long. There can be no two powers in a state. One of them is bound to dwindle to nothing, and the entire Russian bourgeoisie is already straining all its energies everywhere and in every possible way in an endeavour to weaken, to set aside, to reduce to nothing the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, to create one single power for the bourgeoisie.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”; in: ibid.;p. 133)

4. Despite its weakness, it is the democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry (the Soviet embryonic government) which alone at present possesses effective machinery of force (in the shape of the armed workers and revolutionary soldiers).

“In Petrograd the power is actually in the hands of the workers and soldiers; the new government does not use violence against them, and cannot do so because there is no police, there is no army seperated from the people, there is no all-powerful officialdom placed above the people.”

(V. I. Lenin “‘Letters on Tactics”, in ibid.; p. 121).

5. Nevertheless, the leaders of the Soviets are placing this machinery of force at the disposal of the Provisional Government, and seeking to liquidate the democratic dictatorship of the working-class and peasantry.

“By direct agreements with the bourgeois Provisional Government and by a series of actual concessions to the latter, the Soviet power has surrendered and is surrendering its position to the bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin “On Dual Power, in ibid.; p. 116).

6. This has been possible because of the inadequate class consciousness and organisation of the workers and peasants, which has been influenced by petty-bourgeois ideological pressure:

“The reason (i.e., for the surrender of power to the capitalist class — Ed.) is in the lack of organisation and class consciousness among the workers and peasants.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 116).

“Russia is now in a state of ebullition. Millions of people, politically asleep for ten years, politically crushed by the terrible pressure of tsarism and slave labour for landowners and manufacturers, have awakened and thrown themselves into politics. Who are these millions of people? Mostly small proprietors, petty bourgeois. . . .A gigantic petty-bourgeois wave has swept over everything, has overwhelmed the class-conscious proletariat not only numerically but also ideologically.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 1321).

7. After the “February Revolution” the war remains an imperialist war, and the effort of the Provisional Government remains a reactionary one which the Party must continue to oppose.

“Under the new government of Lvov and Co., owing to the capitalist nature of this government, the war on Russia’s part remains a predatory imperialist war.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17, 1917, in Ibid; p. 95).

8. The Party must not, therefore, make the slightest concession to “revolutionary defencism” and must dissociate itself from all who foster revolutionary defencism.”

“In our attitude towards the war not the slightest concession must be made to ‘revolutionary defencism.'”

(V. I. Lenin; ibid.; p. 95).

9. The capitalist Provisional Government is incapable of solving the fundamental social problems of the workers and poor peasantry.

‘The government of the Octobrists and Cadets, of the Guchkovs and Miliukovs, could give neither peace nor bread, nor freedom, even if it were sincere in its desire to do so.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters from Afar”, in: ibid., p. 34)

10. Therefore the revolution must be carried forward to a new stage by the working class in alliance with, and leading, the poor peasantry.

“The present situation in Russia . . represents transition from the first stage of the revolution . . to its second stage which is to place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies,.April 17, 1917, in Ibid.; p. 97).

11. The Provisional Government needs to be overthrown, but it cannot be overthrown at present.

“The Provisional Government . . should be overthrown, for it is an oligarchical, bourgeois, and not a people’s government. . it cannot be overthrown now; . . generally speaking, it cannot be ‘overthrown’ by any ordinary method, for it rests on the ‘support’ given to the bourgeoisie by the second government — the Soviet of ‘Workers ‘ Deputies, which is the only possible revolutionary government directly expressing the mind and the will of the majority of workers and peasants.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Dual Power”, in: ibid; p. 116-17).

12. The next step in the revolution is, therefore, to convince the working class and poor peasantry to throw off the domination of the Soviets by the compromising petty bourgeois elements and to transform them into their organs of power.

“Any one who, right now, immediately and irrevocably, separates the proletarian elements of the Soviets . . from the petty bourgeois elements, provides a correct expression of the interests of the movement.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters on Tactics’, in: ibid.; p. 126).

“It must be explained to the masses that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is the only possible form of revolutionary government and that, therefore, our task is, while this government is submitting to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic, and persistent analysis of its errors and tactics, an analysis especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses.

While we are in the minority, we carry on the work of criticism and of exposing errors, advocating all along the necessity of transferring the entire power of state to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17, 1917, in: ibid; p. 99).

13. So long as the Soviets control an effective machinery of force and the Proviosional Government does not, this process of transferring all power to the Soviets may be accomplished peacefully.

“The essence of the situation (i.e., from March 12th. to July 17th., 1917 — Ed.) was that the arms were in the hands of the people, and that no coercion was exercised over the people from without. That is what opened up and ensured a peaceful path for the development of the revolution. The slogan ‘All power to the Soviets’ was a slogan for a peaceful development of the revolution, which was possible between March 12 and July 17.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Slogans”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 6; London; 19216; p. 167-68).

14. Thus, the former slogan ‘Turn the imperialist war into civil war” is now for the time being incorrect:

“We advocated the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war — are we not going back on ourselves? But the first civil war in Russia has ended.
. . In this transitional period, as long as the armed force is in the hands of the soldiers, as long as Miliukov and Guchkov have not resorted to violence, this civil war, as far as we are concerned, turns into peaceful, prolonged and patient class propaganda. We discard this slogan for the time being, but only for the time being.”

(V. I. Lenin: Report on the Current Situation”, in: ibid.; p. 95, 96).

15. The aim of transferring all power to the Soviets is to set up a Russian Soviet Republic, a state of the working class and peasantry.

“Not a parliamentary republic – a return to it from the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies would be a step backward – but a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies througout the land, from top to bottom.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17th., 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume. 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 99).

16. The formation of this Soviet Republic will be a major step in the direction of socialism: however, its immediate programme will not be the introduction of socialism, but the establishment of control by the Soviets over production and distribution:

“The Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies must seize power not for the purpose of building an ordinary bourgeois republic, nor for the purpose of introducing Socialism immediately. The letter could not be accomplished.
. . They must seize power in order to take the first concrete steps towards introducing Socialism.”

(V. I. Lenin: Report On the Political Situation, 7th. Conference of RSDLP, in: ibid.; p. 283)

“Not the ‘introduction’ of Socialism as an immediate task, but the immediate placing of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies in control of social production and distribution of goods.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ end Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17th., 1917,in: ibid.; p. 101).

together with:

“Abolition of the police, the army, the bureaucracy.
All officers to be elected and to be subject to recall at any time, their salaries not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker. .
Confiscation of all private lands.
Nationalisation of all lands in the country, and management of such lands by local Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. A separate organisation of Soviets of Deputies of the poorest peasants. Creation of model agricultural establishments out of large estates. . . . . .
Immediate merger of all the banks in the country into one general national bank, over which the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies should have control.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 108).

17. The term “social-democratic” has been so brought into disrepute by the social-chauvinists that the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party should change its name to the Russian Communist Party.

“We must call ourselves the Communist Party — just as Marx and Engels called themselves Communists….
The majority . . of the Social-Democratic leaders are betraying Socialism…..
The masses are distracted, baffled, deceived by their leaders…..
Should we aid and abet that deception by retaining the old and worn-out party name, which is as decayed as the Second International? . .
It is high time to cast off the soiled shirt, it is high time to put on clean linen.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 154, 156, 157).

18. The “Zimmerwald International”‘ has already broken down as a result of its persistent centrism; the Party must withdraw from it (except for purposes of information) and found a new revolutionary Third International.

‘The chief fault of the Zimmerwald International, the cause of its breakdown (for from a political and ideological viewpoint it has already broken down), was its vacillation, its indecision, when it came to the most important practical end all-determining question of breaking completely with the social-chauvinists and the old social-chauvinist International. . .

We must break with this International immediately. We ought to remain in Zimmerwald only to gather information.

It is precisely we who must found, right now, without delay, a new, revolutionary proletarian International.”

(V. I. Lenin ibid.; p. 151, 152).

To sum up, Lenin held that, politically, the “February Revolution” was a bourgeois-democratic revolution which transferred power from the tsarist autocracy to the dual power of the democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry (in the shape of the Soviets) and of the capitalist class (in the shape of the Provisional Government). Politically, therefore, the ‘February Revolution” represented the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution:

“Before the March revolution of 1917, state power in Russia was in the hands of one old class, namely, the feudal noble landlord class, headed by Nicholas Romanov.
After that revolution, state power is in the hands of another class, a new one, namely, the bourgeoisie….
The passing of state power from one class to another is the first, the main, the basic principle of a revolution, both in the strictly scientific and in the practical meaning of that term.
To that extent, the bourgeois or the bourgeois democratic, revolution in Russia is completed.
But at this point we hear the noise of objectors, who readily call themselves ‘old Bolsheviks’ : Haven’t we always maintained, they say, that a bourgeois-democratic revolution is culminated only in a ‘revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’? . . . .
The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies’ –here you have ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ already realised in life.”

(V. I Lenin: ‘Letters on Tactics’ in: ibid.; p. 119, 120)

Economically and socially, however, particularly in so far as the agrarian revolution (the transfer of the land to the working peasantry) is concerned, the “February Revolution” did not complete the bourgeois-democratic revolution, Economically and socially, the bourgeois-democratic revolution was not completed until the “October Revolution”, the political content of which was proletarian-socialist.

“Is the agrarian revolution, which is a phase of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, completed? On the contrary, is it not a fact that it has not yet been?”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 119-120).

“The bourgeois-democratic content of the revolution means purging the social relations (systems and institutions) of the country of mediavalism, serfdom, feudalism. . . .
‘We solved the problems (i.e., economic and social problems — Ed.) of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in passing, as a ‘by-product’ of the main and real proletarian-revolutionary socialist work.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution”; in: “Selected Works”; Volume 6; London; 1946; p. 501; 503.

Lenin thus maintained that the Bolshevik strategy and tactics relating to the first, bourgeois-democratic stage of the revolutionary process in Russia had been confirmed by the “February Revolution”, but in a “more multicoloured” Way than could have been anticipated:

“The Bolsheviks’ slogans and ideas have been generally confirmed by history; but as to the concrete situation, things have turned out to be different, more original, more unique, more multicoloured than could have been anticipated by any one.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters on Tactics”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 120).

Trotsky and the “Ideological Rearmament” of the Bolshevik Party

After the “October Revolution” the question naturally arose among Trotsky’s disciples as to how it had come about that the socialist revolution in Russia had been brought about in accordance with a political line advanced by Lenin, who had consistently opposed Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution.”

Trotsky’s answer was simple, if completely mythical: in May 1917 the Bolshevik Party, on Lenin’s initiative, had “rearmed itself” ideologically by accepting Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution”; thus history had “confirmed” the correctness of Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution”:

“Bolshevism under the leadership of Lenin (though not without internal struggle) accomplished its ideological rearmanent on this most important question in the spring of 1917, that is, before the seizure of power.”

(L. Trotsky: Note in “The Year 1905;”(January 1922), cited in: L. Trotsky: ‘The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 236).

“Precisely in the period between January 9 and the October strike (in 1905 — Ed.) the author formed those opinions, which later received the name: ‘theory of the permanent revolution’ . . . . .
This appraisal was confirmed as completely correct, though after a lapse of twelve years.”

(L. Trotsky: Forward to “The Year 1905” (January 1922), cited in: L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 235).

“I by no means consider that in my disagreements with the Bolsheviks I was wrong on all points.. . .
I consider that my assessment of the motive forces of the revolution was absolutely right.. . .
My polemical articles against the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks . . devoted to an analysis of the internal forces of the revolution and its prospects . . I could republish even now without amendment, since they fully and completely coincide with the position of our Party, beginning with 1917.”

(L. Trotsky: Letter to N.S. Olminsky, December 1921 cited in: N. S. Olminsky: Foreword to “Lenin on Trotsky” (1925), cited in: J. V. Stalin: Reply to the Discussion on the Report an “The Social–Democratic Deviation in Our Party’, l5th Conference of CPSU (B.), November 3rd., 1926; in “Works”;, Volume 3; Moscow; 1954;p. 349-50).

In fact, of course, Lenin took pains to dissociate himself from Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution” after his return to Russia in April 1917:

“Trotskyism: ‘No Tsar but a workers’ government’. This, surely is wrong.”

(V. I. Lenin: Report on the Political Situation, Petrograd City Conference of the RSDLP, April 27th, 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London;
1929, p. 207).

“Had we said: ‘No Tsar, but a Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ — it would have meant a leap over the petty bourgeoisie.”

(V.I. Lenin: Concluding Remarks in Connection with the Report on the Political Situation, 7th. Conference of the RSDLP, May 7th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 287).

Lenin did not put forward in April 1917 the strategy of direct advance to the dictatorship of the working class (in alliance with the poor peasantry) as a corrected strategy for the realisation of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.

On the contrary, the bourgeois-democratic revolution, as the first stage of the revolutionary process in Russia, had already been realised, politically, in the “February Revolution.” The strategy of direct advance to the dictatorship of the working class (in alliance with the poor peasantry) was put forward as a new strategy for the new situation following the “February Revolution,” a new strategy for the second stage of the revolutionary process.

As Lenin expressed it in his “April Theses”:

“The present situation in Russia. . .represents a transition from the first stage of the revolution to its second stage which is to place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at a Caucus of the Bolshevik Members of the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, April 17th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 97).

Trotsky’s myth — that Lenin put forward in April 1917 a “corrected” strategy for the realisation of the bourgeois–democratic revolution similar to that embodied in Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution” — is based on a denial of the fact that the ‘February Revolution” constituted, politically, a bourgeois-democratic revolution.

In his “History of the Russian Revolution,” Trotsky admits this fact:

‘The insurrection triumphed. But to whom did it hand over the power snatched from the monarchy? We come here to the central problem of the February revolution. Why and how did the power turn up in the hands of the liberal bourgeoisie?”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 1; London; 1967; p. 155).

But in his “The Permanent Revolution,” Trotsky deliberately confuses the political bourgeois-democratic revolution of March with the bourgeois-democratic revolutionary economic and social changes that followed the revolution of November in order to present the latter as a “bourgeois-democratic revolution” which resulted in the dictatorship of the proletariat:

‘The bourgeois-democratic revolution was realised during the first period after October. . But, as we know, it was not realised in the form of a democratic dictator-ship (i.e., of the working class and peasantry –but in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.. . . .The two lines, the ‘permanent’ and Lenin’s . . were completely fused by the October Revolution.”

(L. Trotsky: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 229, 234).

In November 1926 Stalin was justifiably sarcastic about Trotsky’s claim that in May 1917 the Party had “rearmed itself” with Trotsky’s theory of ‘permanent revolution”:

‘Trotsky cannot but know that Lenin fought against the theory of permanent revolution to the end of his life. But that does not worry Trotsky.
It turns out . . that the theory of permanent revolution ‘fully and completely coincided with the position of our Party, beginning with 1917’. . ..
But …how could Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution have coincided with the position of our Party when it is known that our Party, in the person of Lenin, combated this theory all the time? . .
Either our Party did not have a theory of its own, and was later compelled by the course of events to accept Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution; or it did have a theory of its own, but that theory was imperceptibly ousted by Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, ‘beginning with 1917’. . . .
Surely the Bolsheviks had some theory, some estimate of the revolution, some estimate of its motive forces. etc?. . . .
What happened to Leninism, to the theory of Bolshevism, to the Bolshevik estimate of our revolution and its motive forces, etc.?…….
And so, once upon a time there were people known as the Bolsheviks who somehow managed, ‘beginning’ with 1903, to ‘weld’ together a party, but who had no revolutionary theory. So they drifted and drifted, ‘beginning’ with 1903, until somehow they managed to reach the year 1917. Then, having espied Trotsky with his theory of permanent revolution,’ they decided to ‘rearm themselves’ and ‘having rearmed themselves’, they lost the last remnants of Leninism, of Lenin’s theory of revolution, thus bringing about the ‘full coincidence’ of the theory of permanent revolution with the ‘position’ of our Party.
That is a very interesting fairy-tale, comrades. It, if you like, is one of the splendid conjuring tricks you may see at the circus. But this is not a circus; it is a conference of our Party. Nor, after all, have we hired Trotsky as a circus artist.”

(J. V. Stalin: Reply to the Discussion on the Report “The Social-Democratic Deviation in our Party”, l5th. Conference of CPSU (B.), November 3rd., 1926, in:
“Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1954; p. 350, 351, 353-54).

The Opposition to Lenin’s Theses

Within the Party the principal opposition to Lenin’s “April Theses” was led by Trotsky’s brother-in-law Lev Kamenev.

On April 21st, 1917, Kamenev published in “Pravda” an article– entitled “Our Differences” in which he denounced Lenin’s “personal opinion” as “unacceptable” on the grounds that he was advocating an immediate socialist revolution before the bourgeois-democratic revolution had been completed.

“In yesterday’s issue of the ‘Pravda’ Comrade Lenin published his ‘theses’. They represent the personal opinion of Comrade Lenin. . . The policy of the “Pravda” was clearly formulated in the resolutions prepared by the Bureau of the Central Committee. . . .
Pending new decisions of the Central Committee and of the All-Russian Conference of our Party, those resolutions remain our platform which we will defend . . against Comrade Lenin’s criticism.. .
As regards Comrade Lenin’s general line, it appears to us unacceptable inasmuch, as it proceeds from the assumption that the bourgeois-democratic revolution has been completed and it builds on the immediate transformation of this revolution into a socialist revolution. . . .
In a broad discussion we hope to carry our point of view as the only possible one for revolutionary Social-Democracy in so far as it wishes to be and must remain to the very end the one and only party of the revolutionary masses of the proletariat without turning into a group of Communist propagandists.”

(L. Kamenev: “Our Differences”; cited in: V. I. Lenin: Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 380-81)

Lenin replied:

“There are two major errors in this.
1. The question of a ‘completed bourgeois-democratic revolution is stated wrongly. . . . .
Reality shows us both the passing of the power into the hands of the bourgeoisie (a ‘completed’ bourgeois-democratic revolution of the ordinary type) and, by the side of the actual government, the existence of a parallel government which represents the ‘revolutionary- democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’. . .
Is this reality embraced in the old Bolshevik formula of Comrade Kamenev which says that ‘the bourgeois democratic revolution is not completed’?
No, the formula . . is dead. . . .
Anyone who is guided in his activities by the simple formula ‘the bourgeois-democratic revolution is not completed’ vouchsafes, as it were, the certainty of the petty bourgeoisie being independent of the bourgeoisie….
In doing so, he at once helplessly surrenders to the-petty bourgeoisie. . . .
The mistake made by Comrade Kamenev is that in 1917 he only sees the past of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. In reality, however, its future has already begun, for the interests and the policy of the wage earners and the petty proprietors have already taken different lines.. . . .
This brings me to the second mistake in the remarks of Comrade Kamenev quoted above: He reproaches me, saying that my line ‘builds’ on the immediate transformation of this bourgeois-democratic revolution into a socialist revolution.
This is not true. . . .
I declared in plain language that in this respect I only build on ‘patient’ explaining (is it necessary to be patient to bring about a change which can be realised ‘immediately’).”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letters on Tactics”; in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20 , Book 1 London; 1929; p. 125, 126, 127).

An opposition group in the Moscow City Committee, headed Aleksei Rykov and Viktor Nogin, opposed the basis of Lenin’s theses on the grounds that Russia was too industrially undeveloped for socialist construction:

Lenin replied:

“Comrade Rykov says that Socialism must first come from other countries with greater industrial development. But this is not so. It is hard to tell who will begin and who will end. This is not Marxism, but a parody on Marxism.”

(V. I. Lenin: Concluding Remarks in Connection with the Report on the Political Situation, May 7th. Conference of RSDLP, May 7th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 287).

Another group of members of the Party – including I. P. Goldenberg, V. Bazarov, B. V. Avilov and Y N. Steklov, — left the Bolshevik Party altogether in protest against Lenin’s theses and founded the paper “Novaya Zhizn” (New Life), which supported the unification of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and “Novaya Zhizn”-ists into a single party based on the openly Menshevik view that the Socialist revolution “Must be preceded by a more or less prolonged period of capitalism.”

At the Petrograd City Conference of the Party, held from April 27th; to May 5th; 1917, a resolution in support of the political line laid down in Lenin’s “April Theses” was carried.

The “April Days”

On May 1st., 1917 (April 18th ; under the old style calendar) Foreign Minister Pavel Miliukov sent a note to the Allied Governments emphasising the determination of the Provisional Government to carry the war to a victorious conclusion and to remain loyal to the tsarist government’s treaties with the Allies.

‘The declarations of the Provisional Government naturally cannot offer the slightest cause to assume that the accomplished upheaval will result in a weakening of Russia’s role in the common struggle of the Allies. Quite the contrary. The effort of the whole people to carry the World War through to a decisive victory has only been strengthened. . Naturally, the Provisional Government. . . in protecting the rights of our fatherland, will hold faithfully to the obligations which we have assumed towards our allies. . The government is now, as before, firmly convinced, that the present war will be victoriously concluded in complete accord with the Allies.”

(Provisional Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Note to Allied Governments of May 1st., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 371).

The publication of the note within Russia gave rise to mass demonstrations in Petrograd over the next four days, in which armed soldiers took a prominent part — attempting at times to occupy public buildings. Among the demonstrators the slogans “Down with Miliukov” and “Down with Guchkov” were raised everywhere.

The Central Committee of the Party was concerned that this spontaneous movement might develop along insurrectionary lines which, in the existing situation, could only harm the revolutionary movement; on May 4th., therefore, it adopted a resolution drafted by Lenin calling upon all Party members to exert every effort to keep the demonstrations peaceful:

“Party agitators and speakers must refute the despicable lies that we threaten with civil war. . . At the present moment, when the capitalists and their government cannot and dare not use violence against the masses . . any thought of civil war is naive, senseless, monstrous. . . .
All Party agitators, in factories, in regiments, in the streets, etc. must advocate these views and this proposition (i.e., withdrawal of support by the Soviets from the Provisional Government — Ed.) by means of peaceful discussions and peaceful demonstrations, as well as meetings everywhere.”

(V. I. Lenin: Resolution of CC, RSDLP, May 4th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 245, 246).

These demonstrations proved sufficient to force the resignation of Guchkov as Minister of War May 13th; and of Miliukov as Minister of Foreign Affairs on May 15th.

On May 14th the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet voted in favour of a coalition Provisional Government, in which the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary parties would be formally represented.

The First Coalition Provisional Government came into being on May 18th with Prince Georgi Lvov continuing as Prime Minister. Aleksandr Tereshchenko replaced Miliukov as Minister of Foreign Affairs; Aleksandr Kerensky and Viktor Chernov (of the Socialist Revolutionaries) became Minister of War and Minister of Agriculture respectively; Aleksandr Skobelev and Iraklii Tseretelli (of the Mensheviks) became Minister of Labour and Minister of Posts and Telegraphs respectively.

In the following month Lenin commented on the formal entry of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries into the Provisional Government:

‘The entrance of Tseretelli, Chernov and Co. into the cabinet has changed to an insignificant degree only the form of the compact between the Petrograd Soviet and the government of the capitalists. ..
Day by day it becomes ever clearer that Tseretelli, Chernov and Co. are simply hostages of the capitalists, have become the sides of the capitalists who are actually stifling the revolution; Kerensky has sunk to the point where he uses violence against the masses. . .The Coalition Cabinet represents only a transition period in the development of the basic class contradictions in our revolution. . . This cannot last very long.”

(V. I. Lenin: Postcript to Pamphlet ‘The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 159, 160).

The Seventh Conference of the RSDLP

The Seventh Conference of the Russian Social-Democrotic Labour Party (the “April Conference”) was held in Petrograd from May 7th. to 12th., 1917, attended by 133 voting delegates representing 80,000 Party members.

The Report on the Political Situation was given by Lenin, and the opposition to Lenin’s political line was led by Lev Kamenev and Aleksei Rykov.

Kamenev directed his main attack against the slogan ‘Down with the Provisional Government!'”, implying that this was a Leninist slogan whereas it had been put forward during the “April Days” by the Petrograd Committee of the Party in violation of the line of the Central Committee. In place of this (for the moment) incorrect slogan, Kamenev urged that the Party should put forward the completely unrealistic demand for control of the Provisional Government by the Soviets.

Lenin replied:

“We say that the slogan ‘Down with the Provisional Government’ is an adventurer’s slogan. That is why we have advocated peaceful demonstrations. . . The Petrograd Committee, however, turned a trifle to the Left. In a case of this sort, such a step was a grave crime.

Now about control. . . . . .Comrade Kamenev . . views control as a political act. . . We do not accept control… The Provisional Government must be overthrown, but not now, and not in the ordinary way.”

(V. I. Lenin: Concluding Remarks in connection with the Report on the Political Situation, 7th. Conference RSDLP, May 7th., 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 285-86, 287).

Rykov opposed Lenin’s political line on the grounds that Russia was too industrially undeveloped to move towards a socialist revolution.
Lenin replied:

“Comrade Rykov. . . . says that Socialism must come first from other countries with greater industrial development. But this is not so. It is hard to tell who will begin and who will end. This is not Marxism, but a parody on Marxism.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 287).

By a majority the congress approved a series of resolutions endorsing the Leninist line.

The Leninist political line on the national question in particular, that the Party must advocate the right of oppressed nations to self-determination to the point of secession — was presented in the Report on the National Question given by Stalin. This slogan was opposed by Felix Dzherzhinsky and Yuri Piatakov, the latter demanding:

“The only effective method of solving it (i.e., the national question — Ed.) is the method of a socialist revolution under the slogan ‘Down with boundaries.’ for only thus can one do away with imperialism –this new factor leading to a sharpening of national oppression.
Whereas (1) ‘the right of nations to self-determination’ . . is a mere phrase without any definite meaning; ….
and whereas (2) this phrase is interpreted as meaning much more than is thought of in the ranks of revolutionary Social-Democracy,. . . .
the Conference . . assumes that paragraph 9 of our programme (i.e., support for the right of nations to self-determination — Ed.) should be eliminated.”

(Y. Piatakov: Resolution on National Question submitted to 7th. Conference, RSDLF; cited in: V. I.Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929; p.411, 412).

Lenin replied:

“Ever since 1903, when our Party adopted its programme, we have been encountering the desperate opposition of the Poles. . . And the position of the Polish Social-Democracy is as strange and monstrous an error now as it was then. These people wish to reduce the stand of our Party to that of the chauvinists.. . .

In Russia we must stress the right of separation for the subject nations, while in Poland we must stress the right of such nations to unite. The right to unite implies the right to separate. . . .

Comrade Piatakov’s standpoint is a repetition of Rosa Luxemburg’s standpoint . . Theoretically he is against the right of separation. . What Comrade Piatakov says is incredible confusion.. . .When one says that the national question has been settled, one speaks of Western Europe. Comrade Piatakov applies this where it does not belong, to Eastern Europe, and we find ourselves in a ridiculous position. . . .

Comrade Piatakov simply rejects our slogan. The method of accomplishing a socialist revolution under the slogan ‘Down with the boundaries’ is an utter absurdity. . . We maintain that the state is necessary, and the existence of a state presupposes boundaries. Even the Soviets are confronted with the question of boundaries . . .What does it mean, ‘Down with the boundaries’? This is the beginning of anarchy . . .
He who does not accept this point of view is an annexationist, a chauvinist.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech on the National Question, 7th. Conference RSDLP, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 310, 312, 313, 314).

The conference discussed the question of the Party’s participation in the Third (and last) “Zimmerwald Conference,” due to be held in Stockholm (Sweden) in May 1917 (but later postponed until September).

In his “April Theses” Lenin had already demanded a break with the “Zimmerwald International”, proposing that the Party should remain within it only for purposes of information. At the conference, however, this policy was opposed by a considerable body of delegates headed by Grigori Zinoviev, who proposed:

“Our party remains in the Zimmerwald bloc with the aim of defending the tactics of the Zimmerwald Left Wing there. . . .The conference decides to take part in the international conference of the Zimmerwaldists scheduled for May 31 and authorises the Central Committee to organise a delegation to that conference.”

(Resolution on “The Situation within the International and the Tasks of the RSDLP”, 7th. Conference RSDLP, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 2; London; 1929; p. 407).

Zinoviev’s resolution was carried by the conference against the opposition of Lenin, who described Zinoviev’s tactics as:

“..arch-opportunist and pernicious.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at 7th. Conference, RSDLP, cited in: “History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)”; Moscow; 1941; p. 189)

The conference also discussed the question of the Party’s participation in an “international socialist conference” to discuss “peace terms”, also scheduled for Stockholm in May. On May 6th, the Danish Social-Democrat Frederik Bergjberg had personally addressed the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet on the “Stockholm Conference”. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had accepted the invitation to participate in the conference; the Bolsheviks had rejected the invitation.

The question was placed on the agenda of the conference at the request of Viktor Nogin, who proposed that a Bolshevik delegation should attend the “Stockholm Conference.”

Lenin replied:

“I cannot agree with Comrade Nogin . . Back of this whole comedy of a would-be Socialist congress there are actually the political maneuvers of German imperialism. The German capitalists use the German social-chauvinists for the purpose of inviting the social-chauvinists of all countries to the conference. because they want to fool the working masses. . . . .Borgjberg is an agent of the German government.. . .We must expose this whole comedy of the Socialist conference, expose all these congresses as comedies intended to cover up the deals made by the diplomats behind the backs of the masses.”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech on the Proposed Calling of an International Socialist Conference, 7th. Conference RSDLP, May 8 1917, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 20, Book 1; London; 1929; p. 287, 288, 290).

The conference adopted a resolution along these lines.

The conference adopted a series of resolutions in accordance with Lenin’s political line:

  • “On the War”,
  • ”On the Attitude towards the Provisional Government”;
  • “On the Agrarian Question”;
  • “’On a Coalition Cabinet”,
  • “’On Uniting the Internationalists against the Petty-bourgeois Defencist Bloc’”,
  • “On the Present Political Situation” ;
  • and “On the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

The Conference elected a new Central Committee, consisting of Lenin, Stalin, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Nilyutin, Nogin, Sverdlov, Smilga and Fedorov, and instructed it to bring up to date the programme of the Party adopted in 1903.

The First Congress of Soviets

The First All-Russian Congress of Soviets was held in Petrograd from June l6th to July 6th., 1917. Of the 790 delegates, only 103 (13%) were Bolsheviks, and the congress was dominated by the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries. The congress, against Bolshevik opposition, adopted resolutions in favour of:

  • participation in the Provisional Government,
  • “defence of the fatherland” in the imperialist war;
  • the military offensive at the front demanded by the Allied powers;
  • and the war loan (“Liberty Loan”).

On June 21st; the Central Committee of the RSDLP decided to call a peaceful demonstration for June 23rd; under the slogans: ‘Down with the Capitalist Ministers!'” and “All Power to the Soviets!”. The Congress of Soviets, on the initiative of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, immediately adopted a resolution prohibiting the demonstration on the pretext that:

“We know that the hidden counter-revolutionaries are making ready to take advantage of your demonstration.”

(Resolution of First Congress of Soviets, June 21st., 1917, cited by V. I, Lenin: ‘Disquieting Rumours”, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 20, Book 2 London; 1929; p. 41).

In the early hours of the morning of June 22nd; the Central Committee, on Lenin’s initiative, called off the planned demonstration.

On June 24th, Lenin explained the reasons for this decision to a meeting of the Petrograd Committee of The Party:

“The dissatisfaction of the majority of the comrades with the calling off of the demonstration is quite legitimate, but the Central Committee could not act otherwise for two reasons: First, we received a formal prohibition of all demonstrations from our semi-official government : second, a plausible reason was given for this prohibition. . . . .
Even in simple warfare it sometimes happens that for strategic reasons it is necessary to postpone an offensive fixed for a certain date.. . . .
It was absolutely necessary for us to cancel our arrangements. This has been proved by subsequent events.'”

(V. I. Lenin: Speech at the Session of the Petrograd Committee of the RSDLP, June 24th., 1917, in: ibid.: p.245).

The “subsequent events,” referred to by Lenin were the holding, earlier on the same day, of a united session of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, the Presidium of the Congress of Soviets and the Fraction Committees of the parties represented at the Congress.

Iraklii Tseretelli, Menshevik Minister of Posts and Telegraphs in the Provisional Government, denounced the Bolshevik demonstration that had been planned for June 23rd. as “a plot to overthrow the Provisional Government by force”; he demanded that the Bolsheviks be expelled from the Soviets and that the arms in the hands of the workers be taken from them.

The Bolshevik delegates walked out of the congress in protest at Tseretelli’s speech, and issued a declaration in which they declared:

“We have not renounced for a single moment in favour of a hostile majority of the Soviet our right, independently and freely, to utilise all liberties for the purpose of mobilising the working masses under the banner of our proletarian class party. . .
What is planned is the disarming of the revolutionary vanguard — a measure that has always been resorted to by the bourgeois counter-revolution. . . .
Citizen Tseretelli and those who direct him are hardly ignorant of the fact that never in history have the working masses given up without struggle the arms they had received at the hand of the revolution. Consequently, the ruling bourgeoisie and its ‘Socialist’ Ministers are provoking civil war. . and they are aware of what they are doing. . . .
We expose before the All-Russian Congress and the masses of the people . . this attack on the revolution that is now being prepared. . . .
The revolution is passing through a moment of supreme danger. We call upon the workers to be firm and watchful.”

(Declaration of Bolshevik Fraction to All-Russian Congress of Soviets, June 24th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.: p. 416).

However, rank-and-file pressure compelled the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary leaders of the Soviet on June 25th. to call a demonstration for July 1st. in the name of the Congress of Soviets. About 400,000 workers and soldiers took part in the demonstration in Petrograd on this day, and, to the horror of the compromising leaders of the Soviets, 90% of the banners bore the slogans put forward by the Bolsheviks: “Down with the Ten Capitalist Ministers!, and “All Power to the Soviets!’

The Congress elected a Central Executive Committee and instructed it to convene a new congress within three months.

Trotsky Returns to Russia

When news of the “February Revolution” reached America, Trotsky made inmediate arrangements to return to Russia. Sailing from New York in a Norwegian ship at the end of March, he was taken off the ship at Halifax (Canada) by British naval police and confined for a month in an internment camp for German prisoners of war at Amherst.

At the end of April he was released from internment, and resumed his journey. Landing in Norway, he crossed Scandinavia to reach Petrograd on May 17th., 1917.

He went almost immediately to the Smolny Institute, a former private school for girls which was now the head-quarters of the Petrograd Soviet. In view of his leading role in the Soviet of 1905, he was made an associate member of the Executive of the Soviet, without the right to vote.

He joined a group called the “Inter-Regional Organisation” (Mezhrayontsi), which had been founded in 1913 and to the publications of which he had contributed from abroad. The Inter-Regional Organisation was a centrist group, which prided itself on being neither Bolshevik nor Menshevik, and its influence was confined to a few working-class districts of Petrograd. In the early summer of 1917 its leading members included Anatoly Lunacharsky, David Riazanov, Dmitri Manuilsky, Mikhail Pokrovsky, Adolphe Joffe and Lev Karahkhan.

Now Trotsky took a leading role in the organisation, and in founding its organ ‘Vperyod’ (Forward).

According to Trotsky,

“Whoever lived through the year 1917 as a member of the central kernel of the Bolsheviks knows that there was never a hint of any disagreement between Lenin and me from the very first day. . . .

From the earliest days of my arrival, I stated . . . . . that I was ready to join the Bolshevik organisation immediately in view of the absence of any disagreements whatever but that it was necessary to decide the question of the quickest possible way of attracting the ‘Mezhrayontsi’ organisation into the party. . . .

Among the membership of the “Mezhrayontsi” organisation there were elements which tried to impede the fusion, advancing this or that condition, etc.”

(L. Trotsky: “The Stalin School of Falsification”; New York; 1972; p. 5, 6).

According to Lenin, however, Trotsky himself was precisely one of the ‘elements which tried to impede fusion.’

On May 23rd., a meeting took place between representatives of the Bolsheviks (including Lenin) and representatives of the Inter-Regional Organisation (including Trotsky) to explore the possibility of fusion.

As Trotsky’s biographer puts it:

“At the meeting of 23 May he (i.e., Lenin — Ed.) asked Trotsky and Trotsky’s friends to join the Bolshevik party immediately. He offered them positions on the leading bodies and on the editorial staff of ‘Pravda’. He put no conditions to them. He did not ask Trotsky to renounce anything of his past; he did not even mention past controversies. . . .

Trotsky would have had to be much more free from pride than he was to accept Lenin’s proposals immediately. He and his friends should not be asked to call themselves Bolsheviks. . . They ought to join hands in a new party, with a new name, at a joint congress of their organisations.”

(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky; 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p. 257-8).

Lenin’s own notes of the meeting say:

“Trotsky (who took the floor out of turn immediately after me) . . . .
I cannot call myself a Bolshevik. . . .
We cannot be asked to recognise Bolshevism. . .
The old factional name is undesirable.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Leniniskii Sbornik” (Lenin Miscellany) Volume 4; Moscow; 1925; p. 303).

The meeting, therefore, broke up without reaching any agreement.

Not until August, three months before the October Revolution, did the Inter-Regional Organisaion join the Bolshevik Party, while Trotsky was in prison!

The Resignation of the Cadet Ministers

On July 16th, 1917, the Ministers belonging to the Constitutional-Democratic Party (the ‘Cadets”) resigned from the Government.

Lenin pointed out that:

“. . by leaving, they say, we present an ultimatum. . . . To be without the Cadets, they aver, means to be without the ‘aid’ of world-wide Anglo-American capital.”

(V. I. Lenin: “What could the Cadets Count on when leaving the Cabinet?”, in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 16).

The effect of this ultimatum was to face the Menshevik Ministers in the Provisional Government with the choice of either participating in the attempted suppression of the working class and poor peasantry or of allying themselves with the revolutionary working class and peasantry – which their whole political outlook would make them fear to do:

“Either suppress such a class by force — as the Cadets have been preaching since May 19 — or entrust yourself to its leadership. . . The Tsteretellis and Chernovs, they think would not do that, they would not dare.’ They will yield to us.’ . . .
The calculation is correct.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 15, 16).

The “July Days”

The resignation of the Cadet Ministers from the government on July 16th. stimulated on the following day mass demonstrations of armed workers and soldiers outside the headquarters of the Petrograd Soviet, under the slogans “All Power to the Soviets.”

In the evening of July 17th a Bolshevik revolution in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets calling for the transfer of all power to the Soviets was rejected.

On the next day, July 18th., “Pravda” published an appeal from the Bolsheviks calling for an end to the demonstrations:

“For the present political crisis, our aim has been accomplished. We have therefore decided to end the demonstration. Let each and every one peacefully and in an organised manner bring the strike and the demonstration to a close.”

(Proclamation of the CC of the RSDLP July 18th.,. 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d., p. 300).

Later, in September 1917, Lenin analysed the reasons why it would have been incorrect to have attempted to turn the armed demonstration of the ‘July Days’ into an insurrection:

“On July 16-17 . . there were still lacking the objective conditions for a victorious uprising.

1. ‘We did not yet have behind us the class that is the vanguard of the revolution. We did not yet have a majority among the workers and soldiers of the capitals. . . 

2. At that time there was no general revolutionary upsurge of the people . . .

3. At that time there were no vacillations on a serious, general, political scale among our enemies and among the undecided petty bourgeoisie. . . ..

4. This is why an uprising on July 16-17 would have been an error; we would not have retained power either physically or politically.. . . .

Before the Kornilov affair, the army and the provinces could and would have marched against Petrograd.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Marxism and Uprising”, in: “Collected Works “, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 225-226).

The Order for the Arrest of Lenin

On July 18th., 1917 the newspaper “‘Zhivoye Slovo” (Living Word) published a statement from Grigori Alexnsky asserting that he had documentary evidence that Lenin was “a spy in the pay of German imperialism.” On the same day military cadets wrecked the printing plant and editorial offices of “Pravda,” preventing the publication of Lenin’s reply to the slander.

On July 19th government troops occupied the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Party, and the government issued an order for the arrest of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kameonev.

A movement demanding that Lenin surrender to the arrest order was led by Trotsky.

As Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer Isaac Deutscher expresses it:

“Lenin . . made up his mind that he would not allow himself to be imprisoned but would go into hiding… Trotsky took a less grave view and Lenin’s decision seemed to him unfortunate. . . he thought that Lenin had every interest in laying his record before the public, and that in this way he could serve his cause better than by flight, which would merely add to any adverse appearances by which people might judge him.”

(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p. 274).

To this demand Lenin replied:

“Comrades yielding to the ‘Soviet atmosphere’ are, often inclined towards appearing before the courts.
Those who are closer to the working masses apparently incline towards not appearing.. .
The court is an organ of power. . . .
The power that is active is the military dictatorship. Under such conditions it is ridiculous even to speak of ‘the courts’. It is not a question of ‘courts’, but of an episode in the civil war. This is what those in favour of appearing before the courts unfortunately do not want to understand. . . .
Not a trial but a campaign of persecution against the internationalists, this is what the authorities need. . Let the internationalists work underground as far as it is in their power, but let them not commit the folly of voluntarily appearing before the courts’.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Question of the Bolshevik Leaders appearing before the Courts”, in ibid.; p. 34, 35).

The Bolshevik viewpoint on the question of the attitude to be adopted towards the warrant of arrest issued for the Bolshevik leaders was put at the Sixth Congress of the Party in August by Stalin:

“There is no guarantee that if they do appear they will not be subjected to brutal violence. If the court were democratically organised and if a guarantee were given that violence would not be committed it would be a different matter.”

(J. V. Stalin: Speech in Reply to the Discussion on the Report of the Central Cornittee, 6th. Congress RSDLP, in: “Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 193; p. 182).

Feeling that his political reputation was suffering because no warrant had been issued for his own arrest, Trotsky wrote an Open Letter to the Provisional Government pleading that he too should be made liable to arrest:

“On 23 July, four days after Lenin had gone into hiding, Trotsky therefore addressed the following Open Letter to the Provisional Government:
‘Citizen Ministers —
You can have no logical grounds for exempting me from the effect of the decree by dint of which Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev are subject to arrest. . . You can have no reason to doubt that I am just as irreconcilable an opponent of the general policy of the Provisional Government as the above-mentioned Comrades’.”

(I. Deutscher: ibid.; p. 276-77).

The Provisional Government obliged Trotsky by arresting him on August 5th, and incarcerating him in the Kresty prison from which he was released on bail on September 17th.

The New Political Situation following the “July Days”

On July 20th, 1917 Prince Lvov resigned as Prime Minister of the Provisional Government, and on the following day his place was taken by Aleksandr Kerensky (Socialist-Revolutionary).

On July 22nd, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, against Bolshevik opposition, adopted a resolution of confidence in the Provisional Government as a government of defence of the revolution.

At this time Lenin analysed the new political situation following the “July Days” as follows:

1. As a result of the treachery of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary leaders, dual power had ceased to exist; effective state power passed into the hands of a military dictatorship of the counter-revolutionary capitalist class:

“‘The counter-revolution has become organised and consolidated, and has actually taken state power into its hands. . . .The leaders of the Soviets as well as of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik Parties, with Tseretelli and Chernov at their head, have definitely betrayed the cause of the revolution by placing it in the hands of the counter-revolutionists and transforming themselves, their parties end the Soviets into fig-leaves of the counter-revolution. . . . .Having sanctioned the disarming of the workers and the revolutionary regiments, they have deprived themselves of all real power.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Political Situation”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 36-37).

“The turning point of July 17 consisted in just this, that after it the objective situation changed abruptly. Thc fluctuating state of power ceased, the power having passed at a decisive point into the hands of the counter-revolution. . . After July 17, the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, hand in hand with the monarchists and the Black Hundreds,, has attached to itself the petty-bourgeois Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, partly by intimidating them, and has given over actual state power . . into the hands of a military clique.”

(V. I. Lenin: “‘On Slogans”, in: ibid.; p. 44-45.)

2. Thus, the possibility of the peaceful development of the revolution by the winning of a majority for revolutionary socialism in the Soviets no longer exists:

“The struggle for the passing of power to the Soviets in due time, is finished. The peaceful course of development has been rendered impossible.. . . . .
At present power can no longer be seized peacefully. It can be obtained only after a victory in a decisive struggle against the real holders of power at the present moment, namely, the military clique.. . . .This power must be overthrown.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Slogans”, in: ibid.; p. 44, 45-46, 47).

3. Thus, the slogan of “All Power to the Soviets”, which was correct in the period when the peaceful development of the revolution, is no longer correct and should be abandoned:

“The slogan of all power passing to the Soviets was a slogan of a peaceful development of the revolution, possible in April, May, June and up to July 18-22, i.e., up to the time when actual power passed into, the hands of the military dictatorship. Now this slogan is no longer correct.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Political Situation, in: ibid.; p. 37).

“This slogan would be a deception of the people. It would spread among it the illusion that to seize power, the Soviets even now have only to wish or to decree it.”

(V. I Lenin: “On Slogans”, in: ibid.; p. 45)

4. Even if slogans were given a clear revolutionary content, it would be an incorrect call for “All Power To the Soviets!” – because after the overthrow of the capitalist military dictatorship power, power will not pass to the present impotent and treacherous Soviets, but to revolutionary Soviets, which do not as yet exist:

“Soviets can and must appear in this now revolution, but not the present Soviets, not organs of compromise with the bourgeoisie, but organs of a revolutionary struggle against it. . . .

The present Soviets . . resemble a flock of sheep brought to the slaughter-house, pitifully bleating when placed under the knife. . . The slogan of the power passing to the Soviets might be construed as a ‘simple’ call to let power pass into the hands of the present Soviets, and to say so, to appeal for this, would at present mean to deccive the people. Nothing is more dangerous than deception.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Slogans”, in: ibid.; p. 49).

The Second Coalition Provisional Government

On July 25th, 1917 Kerensky issued a decree reintroducing capital punishment at the front, and three days later ordered the suppression of ‘Pravda” and other Bolshevik papers.

On July 29th, General Lavr Kornilov was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the army, replacing General Aleksel Brusilov.

On July 31st, Kerensky issued a decree dissolving the Finnish Sejm (Parliament), which had on July 19th, passed a bill for the autonomy of Finland.

On August 6th., the second coalition Provisional Government was formed, with Aleksandr Kerensky as Prime Minister and Minister of War and including Ministers from the Cadets, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

Lenin commented on the formation of the new government as follows:

“Let the Party loudly and clearly proclaim to the people the whole truth: that we are experiencing the beginnings of Bonapartism; that the ‘new’ government is merely a screen to conceal the counter-revolutionary Cadets and military clique which have power in their hands; that the people will not get peace, the peasants will not get the land, the workers will not get the eight-hour day, the hungry will not get bread, without complete liquidation of the counter-revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Beginning of Bonapartism”, in “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d; p. 78-79).

The Sixth Congress of the Party

The Sixth Congress of the RSDLP took place secretly in Petrograd from August 8th – 16th, 1917, attended by 157 voting delegates representing 40,000 members.

In Lenin’s absence, both the Report of the Central Committee and the Report on the Political Situation were given by Stalin. In the latter, Stalin said:

“Some comrades say that since capitalism is poorly developed in our country, it would be utopian to raise the question of a socialist revolution.. . It would be rank pedantry to demand that Russia should ‘wait’ with socialist changes until Europe ‘begins’. That country “begins” which has the greater opportunities. . . .Overthrow of the dictatorship of the imperialist bourgeoisie — that is what the immediate slogan of the Party must be.

The peaceful period of the revolution has ended. A period of clashes and explosions has begun.. . .

The characteristic feature of the moment is that the counter-revolutionary measures are being implemented through the agency of ‘Socialists’. It is only because it has created such a screen that the counter-revolution may continue to exist for another month or two. But since the forces of revolution are developing, explosions are bound to occur, and the moment will come when the workers will raise and rally around them the poorer strata of the peasantry, will raise the standard of workers’ revolution and usher in an era of socialist revolution in Europe.”

(J. V. Stalin: Report on the Political Situation, Sixth Congress RSDLP, in: ‘Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p. 185, 186, 189, 190).

Nikolai Bukharin put forward in the discussion on the Report on the Political Situation a theory of the further development of the revolution based on Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution.” Bukharin held that the revolution in its further development, would consist of two phases, the first phase being essentially a peasant revolution, the second phase that of a revolution of the working class in which the peasant would not be the ally of the working class, in which the only ally of the Russian working class would be the working classes of Western Europe, that is:

“The first phase, with the participation of thc peasantry anxious to obtain land; the second phase, after the satiated peasantry has fallen away, the phase of the proletarian revolution, when the Russian proletariat will be supported only by proletarian elements and by the proletariat of Western Europe.'”

(N. Bukharin: Speech at 6th. Congress, RSDLP, cited in: N. Popov: “Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Part 1; London; n.d.; p. 383).

Stalin opposed Bukharin’s theory as “not properly thought out” and “fundamentally wrong”:

“What is the prospect Bukharin held out? His analysis is fundamentally wrong. In his opinion, in the first stage we are moving towards a peasant revolution. But it is bound to concur, to coincide with a workers’ revolution. It cannot be that the working class, which constitutes the vanguard of the revolution, will not at the same time fight for its own demands. I therefore consider that Bukharin’s scheme has not been properly thought out.

The second stage, according to Bukharin, will be a proletarian revolution supported by Western Europe, without the peasants, who will have received land and will be satisfied. But against whom would this revolution be directed? Bukharin’s gimcrack scheme furnishes no reply to this question”.

(J. V. Stalin: Reply to the Discussion on the Report on the Political Situation, 6th. Congress, RSDLP; in ibid.; p. 196).

Evgenii Preobrazhensky moved an amendment to the congress resolution on the political situation, an amendment also based on an aspect of Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution.” He proposed that the seizure of power should be undertaken:

“For the purpose of directing it towards peace and, in the event of a proletarian revolution in the West, towards socialism.”

(E. Preobrazhensky: Amendment to Resolution on the Political Situation, 6th. Congress RSDLP, cited in H. Popov: ibid.; p. 381).

Stalin strongly opposed this amendment:

“I am against such an amendment. The possibility is not excluded that Russia will be the country that will lay the road to socialism. . . We must discard the antiquated idea that only Europe can show us the way.”

(J. V. Stalin: Reply to Preobrazhensky on Clause 9 of the Resolution “On the Political Situation”, 6th. Congress RSDLP, in: ibid.; p. 199, 200).

Preobrazhensky’s amendment was rejected, and the resolution adopted by the congress declared:

“The correct slogan at the present time can be only complete liquidation of the dictatorship of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. Only the revolutionary proletariat, provided it is supported by the poorest peasantry, is strong enough to carry out this task. . . .

The task of those revolutionary classes will then be to strain every effort to take state power into their own hands and direct it, in alliance with the revolutionary proletariat of the advanced countries, towards peace and the Socialist reconstruction of society.”

(Resolution on the Political Situation, 6th. Congress RSDLP, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d.; p. 304).

The congress approved a resolution on the economic situation, the main points of which were the confiscation of the landed estates, the nationalisation of the land, the nationalisation of the banks and large-scale industrial enterprises, and workers’ control over production and distribution.

It also approved resolutions on the trade union movement and on youth leagues, setting out the aim that the Party should win the leading influence in all these bodies. It also endorsed Lenin’s decision not to appear for trial:

“Considering that the present methods of persecution by the police and secret service and the activities of the public prosecutor are re-establishing the practices of the Shcheglovitov regime, . . and feeling that under such conditions there is absolutely no guarantee either of the impartiality of the court procedure, or even of the elementary safety of those summoned before the court.”

(Resolution on the Failure of Lenin to Appear in Court, 6th. Congress RSDLP, cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 312).

The congress also adopted new Party Rules, based on the principles of democratic centralism, and admitted the Mezhrayontsi (the Inter-Regional Organisation) into the Party. In this way Trotsky, as a member of the Inter-Regional Organisation, became a member of the Bolshevik Party while himself in prison, less than three months before the “October Revolution.”

Finally, the congress issued a Manifesto to all the workers, soldiers and peasants of Russia, which ended:

“Firmly, courageously and calmly, without giving in to provocations, gather strength and form fighting columns! Under the banner of the Party, proletarians and soldiers! Under our banner, oppressed of the villages!

“Long live the revolutionary proletariat!”

“Long live the alliance of the workers and Down with the counter-revolution and its ‘Moscow Conference’ !”

“Long live the workers’ world revolution!”

“Long live Socialism!”

“Long Live the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks)!””

(Manifesto of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, Sixth Congress, cited in ibid.; p. 316-317).

The “Stockholm Conference”

As has been said, the 7th Conference of the Party in May had resolved that the Party should not participate in the “international socialist conference in Stockholm (scheduled originally for May but postponed till the autumn) but should expose it as a manoeuvre of the German social-chauvinists.

On August 19th , however, Lev Kamenev said in the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets:

“Now when our revolution has retreated to the second line of trenches, it is fitting to support this conference. Now, when the Stockholm Conference has become the banner of the struggle of the proletariat against imperialism, . . we naturally must support it.”

L. Kamenev: Speech to CEC, August 19th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; nd; p. 290).

Lenin denounced Kamenev’s statement with indignation:

“What right had Comrade Kamenev to forget that there is a decision of the Central Committee of the Party against participating at Stockholm? If this decision has not been abrogated by a congress or by a new decision of the Central Committee, it is law for the Party. . . .

Not only had Kamenev no right to make this speech, but . . he directly violated the decision of the Party; he spoke directly against the Party. . . . Kamenev . . did not mention that the Stockholm Conference will include social-imperialists, that it is shameful for a revolutionary-Social-Democrat to have anything to do with such people. . . .To go to confer with social-imperialists, with Ministers, with hangmen’s sides in Russia — this is a shame and a betrayal. . . . .

Not a revolutionary banner, but a banner of deals, compromises, forgiveness for social-imperialism, bankers’ negotiations concerning the division of annexations — this is the banner which is really beginning to wave over Stockholm. . . .

We have decided to build the Third International. We must accomplish this in spite of all difficulties, Not a step backward to deals with social-imperialists and renegades from Socialism.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Kamenev’s Speech in the Central Executive Committee concerning the Stockholm Conference”, in: ibid.; p94; 95, 96).

The following month, Lenin returned to his attack upon the Stockholm Conference:

“The Stockholm Conference . . failed. Its failure was caused by the fact that the Anglo-French imperialists at present are unwilling to conduct peace negotiations, while the German imperialists are willing.. . .

The Stockholm Conference is known to have been called and to be supported by persons who support their governments. . ..

The ‘Novaya Zhizn’ deceives the workers when it imbues them with confidence ~ the social-chauvinists. . .

We, on the other hand, turn away from the comedy enacted at Stockholm by the social-chauvinists and among the social-chauvinists, in order to open the eyes of the masses, in order to express their interests, to call them to revolution, . . for a struggle on the basis of principles and for a complete brook with social-chauvinism. . . .

The Stockholm Conference, even if it takes place, which is very unlikely, will be an attempt on the part of the German imperialists to sound out the ground as to the feasibility of a certain exchange of annexations.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On the Stockholm Conference”, in: ibid; p. 121, 123, 124, 125).

In fact, the “Stockholm Conference” never took place, owing to the refusal of the British and French Governments to allow their social-chauvinists to attend.

The Moscow State Conference

On the initiative of Aleksandr Kerensky, a “State Conference” was held in the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, from August 25th to 28th, 1917. The conference was dominated by representatives of the landlords and bourgeoisie, including a number of prominent generals, with a minority of Soviet representatives in the shape of Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. The Petrograd Soviet and provincial Soviets were not invited to send delegates.

The conference was opened by Kerensky, who declared that the fundamental tasks of the Provisional Government were the continuation of the war, the restoration of order in the army and the country, and the organisation of a stable power.

The principal speech was made by General Lavr Kornilov, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, while General Aleksei Kaledin, speaking in the name of the Don Cossacks, put forward the following programme:

1) politics to be forbidden in the army;
2) all Soviets and army committees to be abolished;
3) the Declaration of the Rights of the soldiers to be abolished;
4) full authority to be restored to the officers.

Prior to the opening of the conference, Stalin had characterised it as follows:

“The counter-revolution needs a parliament of its own, a centre of its own; and it is creating it.. . .
The conference to be convened in Moscow on August 25 will inevitably be transformed into an organ of counter-revolutionary conspiracy against the workers, . . against the peasants, . . and against the soldiers . .. into an organ of conspiracy camouflaged by the ‘socialist talk’ of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who are supporting the conference.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Against the Moscow Conference”, in: “Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953, p. 208, 209).

A resolution of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, published on August 21st called on all Party organisations:

“First, to expose the conference convening in Moscow as an organ of the conspiracy of the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie against the revolution; second, to expose the counter-revolutionary policy of the S-R’s, and Mensheviks who are supporting this conference; third, to organise mass protests of workers, peasants and soldiers against the conference.”

(Resolution of CC of RSDLP on the Moscow Conference, cited in V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d.; p. 318).

The Moscow Trade Union Council, under Bolshevik leadership, called a successful one-day general strike in the city in protest at the convening of the conference.

The Kornilov Revolt

On September 3rd , the Latvian capital Riga was surrendered to the German armies.

A powerful campaign was then launched in all the media controlled by the counter-revolutionary capitalist class blaming the fall of Riga on the demoralisation of the soldiers brought about by Bolshevik propaganda and agitation.

The Bolsheviks replied that this was not the reason for the fall of Riga, but that the city had been deliberately surrendered to the German armies in order to provide a pretext for a counter-revolutionary conspiracy:

“After the Moscow Conference came the surrender of Riga and the demand for repressive measures….The counter-revolution needed a ‘Bolshevik plot’ in order to clear the way for Kornilov. . . .The counter-revolutionary higher army officers surrendered . . Riga in August in order to exploit the ‘defeats’ at the front for the purpose of achieving the ‘complete’ triumph of counter-revolution.”

(J. V. Stalin: “We Demand!”, in: “Works”, Volume 3; Moscow; 1953; p. 277, 278).

On September 5th negotiations took place at army headquarters at the front between Commander-in-Chief General Lavr Kornilov and Boris Savinkoy, Deputy Minister of War in the Provisional Government, at which, on Kerensky’s instructions, Savinkov requested Kornilov to despatch army units to Petrograd:

“On the instructions of the Prime Minister, I requested you (Kornilov) to send the Cavalry Corps to ensure the establishment of martial law in Petrograd and the suppression of any attempt at revolt.”

(B. Savinkov: Statement cited in J. V. Stalin: “The Plot against the Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 367).

On September 7th. General Kornilov ordered an army corps, some Cossack detachments and the so-called ‘savage Division’ to move on Petrograd. The orders given to the commander of this force, General Krymov, were to occupy the city, disarm the units of the Petrograd garrison which joined the Bolshevik movement, disarm the population of Petrograd and disperse the Soviets.

“Occupy the city, disarm the units of the Petrograd garrison which joined the Bolshevik movement, disarm the population of Petrograd and disperse the Soviets.. . . . On the execution of this mission General Krymov was to send a brigade reinforced with artillery to Oranienbaum, which on its arrival was to call upon the Kronstadt garrison to dismantle the fortress and to cross to the mainland.”

(L. Kornilov: Explanatory Memorandum, cited in: J. V. Stalin: ibid.;p. 367).

The aim of the military coup was to set up a dictatorial government headed by Kornilov, with the participation of Aleksandr Kerensky (as Vice-Chairman), Boris Savinkov, Generel Mikhail Alekseev, and Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak. (Ibid.; p. 370)

As Stalin commented later:

“A compact was concluded (i.e., between the Provisional Government and General Kornilov — Ed.) to organise a conspiracy against the Bolsheviks, that is, against the working class, against the revolutionary army and the peasantry. It was a compact for conspiracy against the revolution!

That is what we have been saying from the very first day of the Kornilov revolt”.

(J. V. Stalin: “Comments”, in: ibid.; p. 350).

“The Kerensky Government not only knew of this diabolical plan, but itself took part in elaborating it and, together with Kornilov, was preparing to carry it out. .  The ‘Kornilov affair’ was not a ‘revolt’ against the Provisional Government, . . but a regular conspiracy against the revolution, an organised and thoroughly planned conspiracy. . . .

Its organisers and instigators were the counter-revolutionary elements among the generals, representatives of the Cadet Party, representatives of the ‘public men’ in Moscow, the more ‘initiated’ members of the Provisional Government, and — last but not least! — certain representatives of certain embassies. . . .Kornilov had the support of the Russian and the British and French imperialist bourgeoisie.”

(J. V. Stalin: ‘The Plot against the Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 367, 373, 379).

On September 8th, “demand” was sent to Kerensky in the name of Kornilov demanding that the former hand over dictatorial powers to the General. On the same day the “Cadet” Ministers resigned from the Provisional Government.

On the following day Kerensky — compelled for political reasons to keep his participation in the plot secret –issued an “appeal” to the population for “resistance” to Kornilov, and appointed Savinkov as Governor-General of Petrograd under a state of siege.

On September 10th , on the initiative of the Bolsheviks a broad Committee for Struggle against Counter-Revolution was set up in the capital. Detachments of armed workers (“Red Guards”) were formed for the defence of the city, and agitators (mostly Bolshevik soldiers) were sent to meet the advancing troops. The work of these agitators, in the existing circumstances, proved so successful that by September 12th, virtually all the rank-and-file soldiers had deserted Kornilov.

The political line put forward by Lenin in connection with the Kornilov “revolt” was to organise active struggle against the main enemy, the Kornilov forces, while on a campaign of exposure of the Kerensky government:

“We will fight, we are fighting against Kornilov, even as Kerensky’s troops do, but we do not support Kerensky. On the contrary, we expose his weakness. There is the difference. . . .

We are changing the form of our struggle against Kerensky. . . We shall not overthrow Kerensky right now; we shall approach the task of struggling against him in a different way, namely, we shall point out to the people (which struggles against Kornilov) the weakness and vacillation of Kerensky.”

(V. I. Lenin “Letter to the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, September 12th., 1917 in “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n .d., p. 137, 138).

On September l4th, General Krymov committed suicide, and, on the initiative of Kerensky, a five-man government called a “Directory” was set up as a new Provisional Government.

As Stalin commented:

“A Directory was the political form the Kornilov-Kerensky ‘collective dictatorship’ was to have been clothed in.

It should now be clear to everyone that in creating a Directory after the failure of the Kornilov ‘revolt’ Kerensky was establishing this same Kornilov dictatorship by other means.”

(J. V. Stalin: ‘The Plot against the Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 370).

The Kornilov revolt, together with the completely successful struggle led by the Bolsheviks against it, gave a great stimulus to the development of the socialist revolutionary forces.

“The Kornilov revolt was an attempt on the very life of the revolution. That is unquestionable. But in attempting to kill the revolution and stirring all the forces of society into motion, it thereby, on the one hand, gave a spur to the revolution, stimulated it to greater activity and organisation, and, on the other hand, revealed the true nature of the classes and parties, tore the mask from their faces and gave us a glimpse of their true countenances.

We owe it to the Kornilov revolt that the almost defunct Soviets in the rear and the Committees at the front instantaneously sprang to life and became active.

It is a fact that even the five-man ‘Directory’ set up by Kerensky had to dispense with official representatives of the Cadets.”

(J. V. Stalin: “The Break with the Cadets, in: ibid.; p. 296, 297)

The Political Situation Following the Kornilov “Revolt”

As a result of the collapse of the Kornilov “revolt”, the Provisional Government found itself for the moment virtually without any state machinery of force at its disposal. In those circumstances Lenin declared on September 4th , that for a short time — perhaps only for a few days– the revolution could advance peacefully by the formation (under the revived slogan of “All Power to the Soviets”) of a Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary Soviet Government.

“There has now arrived such a sharp and original turn in the Russian revolution that we, as a party, can offer a voluntary compromise — true, not to the bourgeoisie, our direct and main class enemy, but to our nearest adversaries, the ‘ruling’ petty-bourgeois democratic parties, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. . . . . .

The compromise on our part is our return to the pre-July demand of all power to the Soviets, a government of S-Rs and Mensheviks responsible to the Soviets.

Now, and only now, perhaps only for a few days or for a week or two, such a government could be created and established in a perfectly peaceful way. In all probability it could secure a peaceful forward march of the whole Russian Revolution, and unusually good chances for big strides forward by the world movement towards peace and towards the victory of Socialism.

Only for the sake of this peaceful development of the revolution — a possibility that is extremely rare in history and extremely valuable . . — can and must the Bolsheviks, partisans of a world revolution, partisans of revolutionary methods, agree to such a compromise, in my opinion.

The compromise would consist in this that the Bolsheviks .. . would refrain from immediately advancing the demand for the passing, of power to the proletariat and the poorest peasants, from revolutionary methods of struggle for the realisation of this demand. The condition which is self-evident . . would be full freedom of propaganda and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly without any new procrastination.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On Compromises”. in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 153-4).

Two days later, on September 16th Lenin concluded that the time in which a peaceful development of the revolution might occur had probably already passed:

“Perhaps those few days during which a peaceful development was still possible, have already passed. Yes, to all appearances they have already passed.”

(V. I. Lenin; ibid.; p. 157).

With the defeat of the Kornilov “revolt,” the political situation changed rapidly, as has been said.

The incident had exposed completely the counter-revolutionary character of the Provisional Government and of the Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary leaders. The masses of workers and peasants swung overwhelmingly behind the Bolsheviks. A section of the Mensheviks (the so-called “Internationalists”) and a section of the Socialist-Revolutionaries (the so-called ‘Left-Socialist-Revolutionaries”) departed the open counter-revolutionary leaders and forged a practical bloc with the Bolsheviks.

The incident also brought a great revival to the Soviets, and their bolshevisation. On September 13th the Petrograd Soviet adopted a revolutionary resolution moved by the Moscow Soviet followed suit on September 18th. In these circumstances, the Party revived the slogan of “All Power to the Soviets!”

“‘All Power to the Soviets!’ – such is the slogan of the new movement.”

(J. V. Stalin “All Power to the Soviets!'” ; in: “Works”, Volume 2 Moscow; 1953; p. 320).

On September 22nd, the Mensheviks, Socialist-Revolutionary Presidium of the Petrograd Soviet, headed by Nicholas Chkheidze, resigned, and on September 24th, Trotsky was elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet.

Trotsky’s “Proportional Representation’

In his presidential address to the Petrograd Soviet on September 24th, Trotsky said:

“We shall conduct the work of the Petrograd Soviet in a spirit of lawfulness and of full freedom for all parties. The hand of the Presidium will never lend itself to the suppression of a minority.”

(L. Trotsky: Presidential Address to Petrograd Soviet, September 24th , 1917, cited in: I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p. 287).

Thus, in the name of “protecting the rights of the minorities” under ‘proportional representation’, on the initiative of Trotsky the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, now in a minority in the Soviet, were voted back on to the Presidium,

“Despite Lenin’s objections, all parties were represented in the new Presidium of the Soviet in proportion to their strength.”

(I. Deutscher: ibid.; p. 287).

Lenin denounced with indignation:

“such glaring errors of the Bolsheviks as giving seats to the Mensheviks in the Presidium of the Soviets, etc.”

(V. I. Lenin “The Crisis Has Matured”, in ‘Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d. ; p. 278) .

Lenin Calls for Insurrection

At the end of September Lenin wrote to the Central Committee, the Petrograd Committee and the Moscow Committee of the Party demanding the immediate preparation of a revolutionary insurrection:

“Having obtained a majority in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of both capitals, the Bolsheviks can and must take power into their hands. … The majority of the people is with us. . .. Why must the Bolsheviks assume power right now? Because the impending surrender of Petrograd will make our chances a hundred times worse. . . What we are concerned with is not the ‘day’ of the uprising….

What matters is that we must make the task clear to the Party, place on the order of the day the armed uprising in Petrograd and Moscow (including their regions) . . .

No apparatus? There is an apparatus: the Soviets and democratic organisations. . . It is precisely now that to offer peace to the people means to win.
Assume power at once in Moscow and in Petrograd. . we will win absolutely and unquestionably”.

(V. I. Lenin: “The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 221, 222, 223).

A day or so later Lenin followed the above letter with a further letter to the Central Committee:

“We have back of us the majority of a class that is the vanguard of the revolution, the vanguard of the people, and is capable of drawing the masses along.
We have back of us a majority of the people.. . . .
We have the advantageous position of a party which knows its road perfectly well. . . . . .

Victory is assured to us, for the people are now very close to desperation, and we are showing the whole people a sure way out. . .

We have before us all, the objective prerequisites for a successful uprising. .

Delay is impossible. The revolution is perishing.
Having put the question this way, having concentrated our entire fraction in the factories and barracks, we shall correctly estimate the best moment to begin the uprising.

And in order to treat uprising in that Marxist way, i.e., as an art, we must at the same time, without losing a single moment, organise the staff of the insurrectionary detachment; designate the forces; move the loyal regiments to the most important points; surround the Aleksandrinsky Theatre; occupy Peter and Paul Fortress; arrest the general staff and the government; move against the military cadets, the Savage Division, etc., such detachments as will die rather than allow the enemy to move to the centre of the city; we must mobilise the armed workers, call them to a last desperate bottle, occupy at once the telegraph and telephone stations, place our staff of the uprising at the central telephone station, connect it by wire with all the factories, the regiments, the points of armed fighting, etc,”

(V. I. Lenin: “Marxism and Uprising”, in: ibid.; p. 226, 227, 228-9).

The Central Committee Meeting of October 28th

The two letters of Lenin discussed in the last section were debated at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Party on October 28th.

The Committee took a hesitant attitude towards Lenin’s demand that an insurrection be placed on the immediate order of the day. Stalin’s motion that the letters should be sent to the most important organisations for discussion by them was held over until the next meeting. Kamenev’s motion that:

“The Central Committee, having considered the letters of Lenin, rejects the practical propositions contained in them.”

(Minutes of CC, RSDLP, September 28th., 1917, cited in V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 300).

Was, however, rejected.

The Question of the Zimmerwald Conference

The Seventh Conference of the RSDLP, in May 1917, had decided in favour of the representation of the Party at the Third Zimmerwald Conference in Stockholm planned for the end of May but postponed until September.

In September Lenin pressed the view that the decision to continue further participation in “rotten Zimmerwald” had been a mistake and urged that the Party’s delegation should not take part in the conference but should call a conference of the left Zimmerwaldists, without the Centrists:

“It is now perfectly clear that it was a mistake not to leave it (i.e., Zimmerwald — Ed.) . . .We must leave Zimmerwald immediately. . ..When we leave rotten Zimmerwald, we must decide immediately, at the plenary session of September 16, 1917, to call a conference of the Lefts.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On The Zimmerwald Question”; in: “Collected Works”, Volume 2, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 150).

The “Democratic Conference”‘

From September 27th to October 5th , 1917 the Provisional Government convoked a “Democratic Conference” in the Aleksandrinsky Theatre, Petrograd. Its aim was to try to provide a basis of support for the government in the new situation following the defeat of the Kornilov “revolt.”

It was, of course, completely unrepresentative. As Lenin pointed out:

“The Democratic Conference does not represent the majority of the revolutionary people, but only the conciliatory petty-bourgeois top layer.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 221).

The Bolsheviks were represented at the conference, and on October lst, submitted a long declaration calling for the formation of a revolutionary Soviet government with the following programme:

“1. The abolition of private property in landowners’ land without compensation and its transfer to the management of peasant committees….

2. The introduction of workers’ control over both production and distribution on a state-wide scale, the centralisation of banking, control over the banks and the nationalisation of the most important industries, such as oil, coal, and metals; universal labour duty; immediate measures to demobilise industry; and organisation of supplying the village with industrial products at fixed prices. The merciless taxation of large capital accumulations and properties and the confiscation of war profits for the purpose of saving the country from economic ruin.

3. Declaring secret agreements to be void, and the immediate offer of a universal democratic peace to all the peoples of the belligerent nations.

4. Safeguarding the rights of all nationalities inhabiting Russia to self-determination. The immediate abolition of all repressive measures against Finland and the Ukraine.”

(Declaration of Bolshevik Fraction at Democratic Conference, cited in V. I. Lenin “Collected Works”;, Volume 21, Book 2;London; n.d.; p. 321-22).

and demanding the following immediate measures:

“1. Stopping all repressions directed against the working class and its organisations. Abolition of capital punishment at the front and the re-establishment of full freedom of agitation and of all democratic organisations within the army. Cleansing the army of counter-revolutionary elements.

2. Commissars and other officials to be elected by local organisations.

3. General arming of the workers and the organisation of a Red Guard.

4. Dissolution of the State Council and the State Duma. The immediate convening of the Constituent Assembly.

5. Abolition of all the privileges of the estates (of the nobility, etc.), c)mplete equa1~ty of rights for all citizens.

6. Introduction of the eight-hour day and of a comprehensive system of social insurance.”

(Ibid; p. 322).

After repeated inconclusive votes, the conference declared in favour of a coalition government but without participation of the Cadets. Kerensky, however, declined to abide by the decision of the conference he had himself organised, and on October 8th, formed a new coalition government which included several individual members of the Cadet Party.

The most important act of the conference was to set up a “Provisional Council of the Republic,” known as the “Pre-Parliament,” by which the capitalist class aimed to divert the less politically developed workers and poor peasants from the path of revolution to the path of parliamentary democracy.” The Pre-parliament was intended to substitute itself for the Soviets.

In an article published on October 7th, two days after the conference ended, Lenin summed it up as follows:

“In the Soviets, the S-Rs and Mensheviks have lost their majority. They therefore have had to resort to a fraud: to violate their pledge to call a new congress of the Soviets after three months; . . to fix up a ‘Democratic’ Conference. . . .The leaders are basing themselves on a minority, in defiance of the principles of democracy. Hence the inevitability of their frauds.”

(V.I. Lenin: “Heroes or Frauds”; in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 244, 245).

The Boycott of the Pro-parliament

Already by the last day of the “Democratic Conference”, October 5th , Lenin had become convinced that, in view of the development of the revolution, it had been a mistake for the Bolsheviks to participate in this “hideous fraud”:

“The more one reflects on the meaning of the so-called Democratic Conference,…the more firmly convinced one becomes that our Party has committed a mistake by participating in it. . . .A new revolution is obviously growing in the country, a revolution . . of the proletariat and the majority of the peasants, the poorest peasantry, against the bourgeoisie, against its ally, Anglo-French finance capital, against its governmental apparatus headed by the Bonapartist Kerensky. We should have boycotted the Democratic Conference; we all erred by not doing so.”

(V. I. Lenin: “From a Publicist’s Diary”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 1;. London; n.d. p. 249, 253).

On this basis, Lenin proceeded to fight for a policy of boycotting the new fraud, the Pre-parliament:

“This pre-parliament . . is in substance a Bonapartist fraud. . . . The tactics of participating in the pre-parliament., are incorrect. They do not correspond to the objective interrelation of classes, to the objective conditions of the moment.. We must boycott the pre-parliament. We must leave it and go to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, to the trade unions, to the masses in general . . .We must give them a correct and clear slogan to disperse the Bonapartist gang of Kerensky with his forged pre-parliament.”

(V.I. Lenin ibid.; p. 252–253).

However, before Lenin’s letter had been received, on October 3rd the Central Committee of the Party had convened a meeting of the Central Committee extended to include members of the Petrograd Committee and the Bolshevik delegates to the Democratic Conference. Stalin and Trotsky reported in favour of boycotting the Pre-parliament, while Lev Kamenev and Viktor Nogin reported in favour of participation, and were supported by David Riazanov and Aleksei Rykov. The conference adopted a resolution in favour of participation by 77 votes to 50.

On October 6th , Lenin demanded a reversal of this decision:

“Trotsky was for the boycott. Bravo, Comrade Trotsky!
Boycottism was defeated in the fraction of the Bolsheviks who came to the Democratic Conference.
Long live the boycott!
We cannot and must not reconcile ourselves to participation under any condition.
We must at all costs strive to have the boycott question solved in the plenum of the Central Committee and at an extraordinary party congress. .
There is not the slightest doubt that in the ‘top’ of our Party we note vacillations that may become ruinous, because the struggle is developing.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 254).

The Central Committee of the Party did, in fact, convene a Party Congress for October 30th., 1917. In his theses intended for this congress, Lenin wrote:

“The participation of our Party in the ‘preparliament’ . . is an obvious error and a deviation from the proletarian-revolutionary road. . . .
When the revolution is thus rising, to go to a make-believe parliament, concocted to deceive the people, means to facilitate this deception, to make the cause of preparing the revolution more difficult. . . .
The Party congress, therefore, must recall, the members of our Party from the pre-parliament, declare a boycott against it.”‘

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Theses . . for a Resolution and Instructions to Those Elected to the Party Congress”, in: ‘Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; nd.; p. 61).

However, the convocation of the congress proved unnecessary, and was cancelled by the Central Committee. On October 18th, the Central Committee adopted a resolution to boycott the pre-parliament, against only one dissentient vote. The dissentient, Lev Kamenev, asked that a statement by him be attached to the minutes of the meeting:

“I think that your decision to withdraw from the very first session of the ‘Soviet of the Russian Republic’ predetermines the tactics of the Party during the next period in a direction which I personally consider quite dangerous for the Party.”

(L. Kamenev: Statement to CC, RSDLP, October 18th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: in: “Collected Works”; Volume 21; Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 302).

On the opening day of the Pre-parliament, October 20th., Trotsky read a declaration on behalf of the Bolsheviks:

“We, the fraction of Social-Democrats-Bolsheviks, declare: with this government of traitors to the people and with this council of counter-revolutionary connivance we have-nothing in common. We do not wish to cover up, directly or indirectly, not even for a single day, that work which is being carried out behind the official screen and which is fatal to the people. . .
In withdrawing from the Provisional Council we appeal to the vigilance and courage of the workers, soldiers and peasants of all Russia.
We appeal to the people.
All power to the Soviets!
All the land to the people!
Long live the immediate, honourable, democratic peace!
Long live the Constituent Assembly! “

(Declaration of the Bolshevik Fraction Read in the Pre-parliament, October 20th 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London n.d.; p. 324).

The Bolsheviks then walked out of the Pre-parliament.

The Central Committee Meeting of October 23rd

Two days after the Bolsheviks walked out of the Pre-parliament, there took place, on October 23rd, the famous session of the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Party at which the decision to launch the insurrection was taken.

Twelve of the twenty-one members of the CC were present, including Lenin disguised in wig and spectacles.

The minutes of the meeting recorded the main points only of Lenin’s statement:

“Lenin states that since the beginning of September a certain indifference towards the question has been noted. He says that this is inadmissible, if we earnestly raise the slogan of seizure of power by the Soviets. It is, therefore, high time to turn attention to the technical side of the question. Much time has obviously been lost.

Nevertheless, the question is very urgent and the decisive moment is near. . . .
The absenteeism and the indifference of the masses can be explained by the fact that the masses are tired of words and resolutions.

The majority is now with us. Politically, the situation has become entirely ripe for the transfer of power.”

(Minutes of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, October 23, 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, B k 2; London; n.d.; p. 106).

Lenin then moved a resolution which ended:

“Recognising thus that an armed uprising is inevitable and the time perfectly ripe, the Central Committee proposes to all the organisations of the Party to act accordingly and to discuss and decide from this point of view all the practical questions.”

(Resolution of Central Committee, RSDLP, October 23rd 1917, cited in: ibid; p; 107).

The resolution was carried by ten votes to two – the dissentients being Grigori Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev.

The Campaign of Kamenev and Zinoviev against the Central Committee’s Decision on the Insurrection

On October 24th, Lev Kamenev and Grigori Zinoviev sent a joint memorandum to the principal organisations of the Party attacking the Central Committee’s decision of the previous day to launch an insurrection:

“The Congress of Soviets has been called for November 2. . . It must become the centre of the consolidation around the Soviets of all proletarian and demi-proletarian organisations. . . As yet there is no firm organisational connection between these organisations and the Soviets. . . But such a connection is in any case a preliminary condition for the actual carrying out of the slogan “All power to the Soviets?. . . .

Under these conditions it would be a serious historical untruth to formulate the question of the transfer of power into the hands of the proletarian party in the terms: either now or never.

No. The party of the proletariat will grow.. . . And there is only one way in which the proletarian party can interrupt its successes, and that is if under present conditions it takes upon itself to initiate an uprising and thus expose the proletarians to the blows of the entire consolidated counter-revolution, supported by the petty-bourgeois democracy.

Against this pernicious policy we raise our voices in warning.”

(G. Zinoviev & L. Kamenev Statement to Party Organisations October 24th, 1917, cited in V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; nd.; p. 332).

A few days later the statement was distributed in leaflet form in Petrograd.

Trotsky’s “Soviet Constitutionalism”

Trotsky’s opposition to Lenin’s call to insurrection was more subtle than that of Kamenev and Zinoviev.

Whereas the latter openly opposed Lenin’s demands for immediate preparations for insurrection, Trotsky supported these demands in words. He insisted however, in the name of “Soviet constitutionalism” that the actual call to insurrection should be issued not by the Petrograd Soviet, and certainly not by the Party, but by the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets.

As Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer Isaac Deutscher expresses it:

“Trotsky was approaching the problem from his new point of vantage as President of the Petrograd Soviet. He agreed with Lenin on the chances and the urgency of insurrection. But he disagreed with him over method, especially over the idea that the party should stage the insurrection in its own name and on its own responsibility. He took less seriously than Lenin the threat of an immediate counter-revolution. Unlike Lenin, he was confident that the pressure of the Bolshevik majority in the Soviets would not allow the old Central Executive to delay much longer the All-Russian Congress. . . . . .

Lenin . . refused to let insurrection wait until the Congress convened, because he was convinced that the Menshevik Executive would delay the Congress to the Greek Calends, and that the insurrection would never take place as it would be forestalled by a successful counter-revolution.. . .

The difference between Lenin and Trotsky centred on whether the rising itself ought to be conceived in terms of Soviet constitutionalism. The tactical risk inherent in Trotsky’s attitude was that it imposed certain delays upon the whole plan of action…

Lenin . . viewed Trotsky’s attitude in the matter of insurrection with uneasiness, and even suspicion. He wondered whether, by insisting that the rising should be linked with the Congress of the Soviets, Trotsky was not biding his time and delaying action until it would be too late. If this had been the case, then Trotsky would have been, from Lenin’s viewpoint, an even more dangerous opponent than Kamenev and Zinoviev, whose attitude had at least the negative merit that it was unequivocal and that it flatly contradicted the whole trend of Bolshevik policy. Trotsky’s attitude, on the contrary, seemed to follow from the party’s policy and therefore carried more conviction with the Bolsheviks; the Central Committee was in fact inclined to adopt it. In his letters, Lenin therefore sometimes controverted Trotsky’s view almost as strongly as Zinoviev’s and Kamencv’s, without, however, mentioning Trotsky by name. To wait for the rising until the Congress of Soviets, he wrote, was just as treasonable as to wait for Kerensky to convoke the Constituent Assembly, as Zinoviev and Kamenev wanted to do.”

(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; pp. 290-291, 294-95).

Lenin’s objections to Trotsky’s line on this question were twofold:

Firstly: it would mean dangerous delay in calling the insurrection;

Secondly: since the calling of the Second Congress of Soviets was constitutionally in the hands of the Central Executive Committee (C.E.C) – elected at the First Congress of Soviets in June and dominated by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries — it would mean permitting counterrevolutionaries, and not the revolutionary vanguard Party, to “fix the date of the insurrection,” or even to postpone it indefinitely.

In this connection, it must be remembered that the First Congress of Soviets had instructed the C.E.C. to summon a new congress “within three months”, i.e. not later than September. The C.E.C however, justifiably fearing that the Bolsheviks would have a majority at the congress, violated this instruction. Only under the extreme pressure of the Bolsheviks at the time of the Democratic Conference did the C.E.C. reluctantly agree to convoke the congress for November 2nd . On October 31st, however, it postponed the congress to November 7th.

Lenin saw Trotsky’s line as either — and he left the question open – “absolute idiocy” or “complete betrayal”, and he attacked it continuously up to the moment of the insurrection itself:

On October 10th:

“The general political situation causes me great anxiety . . The government has an army, and is preparing itself systematically.

And what do we do? We only pass resolutions. We lose time. We set ‘dates’ (November 2, the Soviet Congress – is it not ridiculous to put it off so long? Is it not ridiculous to rely on that?”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to I.T. Smilga, October 10th., 1917; in: ‘Collected Works’, Volume 21, Book 1; London; n.d.; p. 265).

On October 12th:

“Yes, the leaders of the Central Executive Committee are pursuing tactics whose sole logic is the defence of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. And there is not the slightest doubt that the Bolsheviks, were they to allow themselves to be caught in the trap of constitutional illusions, of ‘faith’ in the Congress of Soviets. . . . of waiting’ for the Congress of Soviets, etc. — that such Bolsheviks would prove miserable traitors to the proletarian cause. . . .

The crisis has matured. The whole future of the Russian Revolution is at stake. The whole honour of the Bolshevik Party is in question…We must . . admit the truth, that in our Central Committee and at the top of our Party there is a tendency in favour of awaiting the Congress of Soviets, against the immediate seizure of power, against an immediate uprising. We must overcome this tendency or opinion.

Otherwise the Bolsheviks would cover themselves with shame forever; they would be reduced to nothing as a party. For to miss such a moment and to ‘await’ the Congress of Soviets is either absolute idiocy or complete betrayal.. . . To ‘await’ the Congress of Soviets is absolute idiocy, for this means losing weeks, whereas weeks and even days now decide everything. . . To ‘await’ the Congress of Soviets is idiocy, for the Congress will give nothing, it can give nothing!. . .
First vanquish Kerensky, then call the Congress.

The victory of the uprising is now secure for the Bolsheviks . . if we do not ‘await’ the Soviet Congress. . . . To refrain from seizing power at present, to ‘wait’, to ‘chatter’ in the Centra1 Committee, to confine ourselves . . to ‘fighting for the Congress’ means to ruin the revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Crisis has Matured”, in: ibid.; p. 275, 276, 277, 278).

Only when Lenin took the extreme step of resigning from the Central Committee in order to fight for his line in the lower organs of the Party (on October 12th) did a majority accept Lenin’s line on this question:

“I am compelled to tender my resignation from the Central Committee which I hereby do, leaving myself the freedom of propaganda in the lower ranks of the Party and at the Party Congress.

For it is my deepest conviction that if we ‘await’ the Congress of Soviets and let the present moment pass, we ruin the revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 278).

Although Lenin withdrew his resignation when the Central Committee voted for a boycott of the Pre-parliament, Trotsky continued to fight for his line and Lenin continued to fight against it:

On October 16-20:

“Events indicate our task so clearly to us that hesitation actually becomes a crime.. . . To ‘wait’ under such conditions is a crime.

The Bolsheviks have no right to wait for the Congress of Soviets; they must take power immediately.

To wait for the Congress of Soviets means to play a childish game of formality, a shameful game of formality; it means to betray the revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to the Central Committee, Moscow Committee, Petrograd Committee, and the Bolshevik Members of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets, October 16-20, 1917; in: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d.; p. 69).

On October 21st:

“We must not wait for the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which the Central Executive Committee may postpone till November; we must not tarry.. . .
Near Petrograd and in Petrograd — this is where this uprising can and must be decided upon and carried out . . as quickly as possible….Delay means death.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Bolshevik Comrades Participating in the Regional Congress of the Soviets of the Northern Region, October 21st., 1917,in: ibid.; p. 91).

On November 6th.; (i.e, on the eve of the insurrection):

“The situation is extremely critical. It is as clear as can be that delaying the uprising now really means death.

With all my power I wish to persuade the comrades that now everything hangs on a hair, that on the order of the day are questions that are not solved by conferences, by congresses (even by Congresses of Soviets), but only . . by the struggle of armed masses.

The bourgeois onslaught of the Kornilovists, the removal of Verkhovsky, show that we must not wait. We must at any price, this evening, tonight, arrest the Minister, having disarmed (defeated if they offer resistance) the military cadets, etc.

We must not wait! We may lose everything!. . . History will not forgive delay by revolutionists who could be victorious today (and will surely be victorious today!), while they risk losing much tomorrow, they risk losing all.

If we seize power today, we seize it not against the Soviets but for them.

It would be a disaster or formalism to wait for the uncertain voting of November 7. The people have a right and a duty to decide such questions not by voting but by force.. . . .

The government is tottering. We must deal it the death blow at any cost. To delay action is the same as death.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to the Members of the Central Committee, November 6th., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 144-145).

Trotsky later felt it expedient to deny the charge that he had sought to accommodate the insurrection to the Second Congress of Soviets:

“We should search in vain among the minutes or among any memoirs whatever, for any indication of a proposal of Trotsky to ‘accommodate the insurrection necessarily to the Second Congress of Soviets.'”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 3; London; 1967; p. 332).

Elsewhere in the same work, however, Trotsky makes his own position at the time quite clear. He reports his declaration ‘In the name of the Petrograd Soviet” on November 1st:

“I declare in the name of the Soviet that no armed actions have been settled upon by us….The Petrograd Soviet is going to propose to the Congress of Soviets that they seize the power.”

(L. Trotsky: Speech to Petrograd Soviet, November 1st., 1917; cited in: L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 102, 103).

and comments:

“The Soviet was sufficiently powerful to announce openly its programme of state revolution and even set the date.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 103).

Trotsky also reports his speech at an emergency session of the Petrograd Soviet on November 6th., 1917 (the day before the insurrection began):

“An armed conflict today or tomorrow is not included in our plan — on the threshold of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets. We think that the Congress will carry out our slogan with greater power and authority'”

(L. Trotsky: Speech in Petrograd Soviet, November 6th., 1917, cited in: L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 331-2).

Stalin later referred to:

“the mistake made by the Petrograd Soviet in openly fixing and announcing the date of the uprising. (November 7).”

(J.V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism? , in: “Works”, Volume 6; Moscow, 1953; p. 362).

To which Trotsky replied:

“Where, and when, and from which side, did the Soviet publish abroad the date of the insurrection?”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 333).

and answers himself:

“It was not the insurrection, but the opening of the Congress of Soviets, which was publicly and in advance set for the 7th. . . ‘It flowed from the logic of things’, we wrote subsequently, ‘that we appointed the insurrection for November 7th.’ ..On the second anniversary of the revolution the author of this book, referring, in the sense just explained, to the fact that: ‘the October insurrection was, so to speak, appointed in advance for a definite date, for November 7th., and was accomplished upon exactly that date’, added: “We should seek in vain in history for another example of an insurrection which was accommodated in advance by the course of things to a definite date.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 333-34).

Thus Trotsky, here was admitting the justice of Lenin’s comment:

“To ‘call’ the Congress of Soviets for November 2, in order to decide upon the seizure of power — is there any difference between this and a foolishly “appointed” uprising?”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Crisis has Matured”, in: ‘Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book l, London; n.d.; p. 277).

According to Trotsky, Lenin’s original plan for the insurrection (to which he adhered up to November 6th.) was that it should be called “‘in the name of the Party,” and endorsed by the Congress of Soviets when this met:

Lenin’s plan, he says:

“presupposed that the preparation and completion of the revolution were to be carried out through party channels and in the name of the party, and afterwards the seal of sanction was to be placed on the victory by the Congress of Soviets.”

(L. Trotsky: “Lessons of October”; London; 1971; p. 45).

“In the first weeks he (i.e. Lenin — Ed.) was decidedly in favour of the independent initiative of the Party.”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”;, Volume 3; London; 1967; p.265-6).

And Trotsky complains, for example, of the resolution drafted by Lenin which was also approved by the Central Committee at its meeting on October 23rd:

“The task of insurrection he presented directly as the task of the party. The difficult task of bringing its preparation into accord with the Soviets is as yet not touched upon. The All-Russian Congress of Soviets does not get a word.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid; p. 143).

Trotsky “kindly” attributes Lenin’s “wrong estimates” to his absence from Petrograd”:

“Lenin, who was not in Petrograd, could not appraise the full significance of this fact (i.e., the invalidation by the Petrograd Soviet of Kerensky’s order transferring two-thirds of the garrison to the front –Ed.) . . . . Lenin’s counsel . . flowed precisely from the fact that in his underground refuge he had no opportunity to estimate the radical turn.”

(L. Trotsky: “Lessons of October” London; 1971; p. 47-48).

“Lenin’s isolation . . deprived him of the possibility of making timely estimates of episodic factors and temporary changes.. . . If Lenin had been in Petrograd and had carried through at the beginning of October his decision in favour of an immediate insurrection without reference to the Congress of Soviets, he could undoubtedly have given the carrying out of his own plan a political setting which would have reduced its disadvantageous features to a minimum. But it is at least equally probable that he would himself in that case have come round to the plan actually carried out.”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 3; London; 1967; p. 327-8).

In fact, Lenin’s basic plan was that the insurrection should be planned, timed and led by the Party, through either the Petrograd or the Moscow Soviet — both of which were now led by the Party — but not through the Second Congess of Soviets, the calling of which was dependent upon the Central Executive Committee led by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries. As Stalin comments:

“According to Trotsky, it appears that Lenin’s view was that the Party should take power in October ‘independently’ of and behind the back of the Soviet’.
Later in, criticising this nonsense, which he ascribes to Lenin, Trotsky ‘cuts capers’ and finally delivers the following condescending utterance:
“That would have been a mistake”.
Trotsky is here uttering a falsehood about Lenin, he is misrepresenting Lenin’s views on the role of the Soviets in the uprising. A pile of documents can be cited showing that Lenin proposed that power be taken through the Soviets, either the Petrograd or the Moscow Soviets, and not behind the back of the Soviets.”

(J.V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism?”, in: ‘Works’, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 359-60).

Trotsky’s myth goes on to say that the Central Committee “rejected Lenin’s plan for the insurrection” and “adopted Trotsky’s plan that the insurrection should be called by the Second Congress of Soviets. Only on the evening of November 6th , according to Trotsky was Lenin convinced of the “incorrectness” of his “conspiratorial plan”;

“The Central Committee did not adopt this (i.e., Lenin’s — Ed.) proposal the insurrection was led into Soviet channels.”

(L. Trotsky: ‘Lessons October; London 1971; p. 45).

“When he (i.e., Lenin — Ed ) arrived in Smolny (i.e., on the evening November 6th , the day before the insurrection — Ed.) . . I understood that only at that moment had he finally become reconciled to the fact that we had refused the seizure of power by way of a conspirative plan.”

(L. Trotsky: “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 3; London,.1967; P. 345)

As Stalin points out, however, the Central Committee of the Party did not adopt Trotsky’s plan that the insurrection should be called by the Second Congress of Soviets. In fact, the insurrection had been carried through before the Congress met.

“Lenin proposed that power be taken before November 7th, for two reasons.

Firstly, because the counter-revolutionaries might have surrendered Petrograd (i.e., to the German armies — Ed ) at any moment, which would have drained the blood of the developing uprising.

Secondly, because the mistake made by the Petrograd Soviet in openly fixing and announcing the day of the uprising (November 7) could not be rectified in any other way than by actually launching the uprising before the legal date set for it. The fact of the matter is that Lenin regarded insurrection as an art, and he could not help knowing that the enemy, informed about the date of the uprising (owing to the carelessness of the Petrograd Soviet) would certainly try to prepare for that day.

Consequently, it was necessary to forestall the enemy, i.e., without fail to launch the uprising before the legal date. This is the chief explanation for the passion with which Lenin in his letters scourged those who made a fetish of the date — November 7. Events show that Lenin was absolutely right. It is well known that the uprising was launched prior to the All Russian Congress of Soviets. It is well known that power was actually taken before the opening of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and it was taken not by the Congress of Soviets, but by the Petrograd Soviet, by the Revolutionary Military Committee. The Congress of Soviets merely took over power from the Petrograd Soviet. That is why Trotsky’s lengthy arguments about the importance of Soviet legality are quite beside the point.”

(J. V. Stalin: ibid; p. 362).

The Extended Central Committee Meeting of October 29th

On October 29th., 1917 an extended session of the Central Committee of the RSDLP was held, in which participated representatives of the Petrograd Committee, the Petrograd Regional Committee, the Military Organisation, the Bolshevik Fraction of the Petrograd Soviet, trade unions and factory committees.

Lenin reported on the Central Committee meeting of October 23rd, and read the resolution on insurrection adapted by that meeting.

Representatives then reported on the situation existing, in their particular sectors.

In the discussion on the present situation, the resolution was strongly opposed by Lev Kamenev and Grigori Zinoviev.

Kamenev said:

“This resolution . . shows how not to carry out an uprising: during this week nothing has been done.. . .

The results for the week indicate that there are no factors favouring a rising. . We have no apparatus for an uprising; our enemies have a much stronger apparatus, and it has probably further increased during this week. . . In preparing for the Constituent Assembly we do not at all embrace the road of parliamentarism. . . Two tactics are fighting here: the tactic of conspiracy and the tactic of faith in the moving forces of the Russian Revolution.”

(L. Kamenev: Speech at Extended Meeting of CC, RSDLP, October 29th., 1917; in: Minutes, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2: London; n.d.; p. 337).

Zinoviev said:

“The Constituent Assembly will take place in an atmosphere that is revolutionary to the highest degree. Meanwhile, we shall strengthen our forces. The possibility is not eliminated that we, together with the Left S-Rs, shall be in the majority there. ….We have no right to risk, to stake everything on one card.. . . .

If the congress takes place on the 2nd, we must propose that it should not disband until the constituent assembly convenes. There must be a defensive, waiting tactic. . . It is necessary to reconsider, if possible, the resolution of the CC. . We must definitely tell ourselves that we do not plan an uprising within the next five years.”

(G. Zinoviev: Speech at Extended Meeting of CC, RSDLP, October 29th., 1917, in Ibid; p. 36, 337).

Stalin spoke strongly in favour of confirmation of the Central Committee resolution of October 23rd., and this was finally done by 19 votes against 2 — the dissentients again being Kamenev and Zinoviev.

The Central Committee then continued in session alone, and set up a Military Centre of the Central Committee consisting of Stalin, Sverdlov, Bubnov, Dzerzhinsky and Uritsky.

After the meeting had concluded, Kamenev sent a letter to the Central Committee tendering his resignation from it:

“Not being able to support the point of view expressed in the latest decisions of the CC which define the character of its work, and considering that this position is leading the party of the proletariat to defeat, I ask the CC to recognise that I am no longer a member of the CC.”

(L. Kamenev: Letter to CC, RSDLP, October 29th., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: Ibid. ; p. 260).

The Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region

From October 24-26th , 1917 the Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of the Northern Region took place in Petrograd. Since the overwhelming majority of the delegates were Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets — still dominated by Mensheviks and Right Socialist-Revolutionaries — declared the congress unofficial, and the small Menshevik fraction declared themselves present “for purposes of information only.”

The congress declared itself in favour of the immediate transfer of power to the Soviets, the immediate transfer of land to the peasants, an immediate offer of peace and the convening of the Constituent Assembly at the appointed time.

On October 29-30th Lenin – wrote a long, “Letter to Comrades” in which he refuted point by point the arguments of Kamenev and Zinoviev against the immediate launching of an insurrection.

On October 31st, Kamenev, on behalf of Zinoviev and himself, published a statement in the newspaper “Novaya Zhizn” (New Life) in which he declared that they felt themselves obliged:

“To declare themselves against any attempt to take the initiative of an armed uprising which would be doomed to defeat and which would have the most dangerous effect on the party, the proletariat, the fate of the revolution. To stake everything on the card of an uprising within the next few days would be tantamount to making a step of desperation”;

(L. Kamenev: “L. Kamenev About the Uprising”, in “Novaya Zhizn”, October 31st., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 261).

Lenin thundered immediately at the treachery of the “strikebreakers of the Revolution”:

“On the eve of the critical day . . two ‘outstanding Bolsheviks’ attack an unpublished decision of the Party centre in the non-Party press, in a paper which as far as this given problem is concerned goes hand in hand with the bourgeoisie against the workers’ party. . . .

I will fight with all my power both in the Central Committee and at the congress to expel them both from the Party.

I cannot judge from afar how much damage was done to the cause by the strike-breaking action in the non-Party press. Very great practical damage has undoubtedly been caused. To remedy the situation, it is first of all necessary to re-establish the unity of the Bolshevik front by excluding the strike-breakers.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to the Members of the Bolshevik Party, October 31st., 1917, in: ibid.; p. 129-30, 131).

On the following day he wrote to the Central Committee of the Party:

“A self-respecting Party cannot tolerate strike-breaking and strike-breakers in its midst. This is obvious. The more we think about Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s appearance in the non-Party press, the more obvious it becomes that their action has all the elements of strike-breaking in it.

We cannot refute the gossipy lie of Zinoviev and Kamenev without doing the cause still more harm. Therein lies the boundless meanness, the absolute treacherousness of these two persons, that in the face of the capitalists they have betrayed the strikers’ plans. For once we keep silent in the press, everybody will guess how things stand. . . . .

There can be and must be only one answer to this: an immediate decision of the Central Committee saying that:

‘Recognising in Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s appearance in the non-Party press all the elements of strikebreaking, the Central Committee expels both from the Party’. . . .

The more ‘outstanding’ the strike-breakers, the more imperative it is to punish them immediately with expulsion.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to the Central Committee of the RSDLP, November 1st, 1917; in ibid. p. 133, 135, 136).

The Central Committee Meeting of November 2nd. At its meeting on November 2nd., the Central Committee accepted Kamenev’s resignation from the CC. It adopted a resolution to the effect:

“that no member of the CC shall have the right to speak against the adopted decisions of the CC,”

(Minutes of Meeting of CC, RSDLP, November 2nd., 1917, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 21, Book 2; London; n.d.; p. 261).

and a more specific resolution imposing:

“Upon Kamenev and Zinoviev the obligation not to make any statements against the decisions of the CC and the line of work laid out by it.”

(Ibid.; p. 261).

The Insurrection

On November 5th , the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet appointed commissars for all the military detachments under its command. On the same day the Peter and Paul fortress, the last important obstacle to insurrection, declared for the Petrograd Soviet.

In the early morning of November 6th, the Provisional Government attempted to launch a counter-offensive against the revolutionary forces by issuing orders for the arrest of the members of the Revolutionary Military Committee and for the suppression of the central organ of the Bolsheviks, “Rabochy Put” (Workers Path).

By 10 a.m. detachments of Red Guards had placed a guard on the printing plant and editorial offices of the newspaper, and at 11 a.m. the paper came out with a call for the immediate overthrow of the Provisional Government.

In the late evening of November 6th, Lenin arrived at the Smolny which, as the headquarters both of the Petrograd Soviet and of the Bolshevik Party, had become the directing centre of the insurrection. Throughout the night, revolutionary soldiers and workers came to the Smolny and were armed with weapons supplied by the army units from the city’s arsenals.

From dawn on November 7th revolutionary troops and Red Guards occupied the Petrograd railway stations, post offices, telegraph offices, telephone exchanges, government offices and the state bank The Pre-Parliament was dispersed. The cruiser “Aurora,” controlled by revolutionary sailors, trained its guns on the Winter Palace, the only territory remaining to the Provisional Government.

During the day the Revolutionary Military Committee issued a manifesto: “To the Citizens of Russia” drafted by Lenin:

“The Provisional Government has been overthrown. The power of state has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, the Revolutionary Military Committee, which stands at the head of the Petrograd Proletariat and garrison.

The cause for which the people have fought – the immediate proposal of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed proprietorship, workers’ control over production and the creation of a Soviet government — is assured.

Long live the revolution of the workers, soldiers, and peasants!”

(V. I. Lenin: “Manifesto of Revolutionary Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, November 7th , 1917, in: V. I. Lenin & J. V. Stalin: “‘1917: Selected Writings and Speeches”; Moscow; 1938; p. 613).

In one respect the manifesto was slightly premature, for it was not until the evening of November 7th. that revolutionary workers, soldiers and sailors took the Winter Palace by storm and arrested those members of the Provisional Government who had not fled (Kerensky had escaped earlier in the day by car, accompanied by a U.S. Embassy car flying the Stars and Stripes).

At 11 p.m. on November 7th the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets opened in the Smolny.

As Stalin points out:

“It is well known that the uprising was launched prior to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets. It is well known that power was actually taken before the opening of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and it was taken not by the Congress of Soviets, but by the Petrograd Soviet, by the Revolutionary Military Committee. The Congress of Soviets merely took over power from the Petrograd Soviet.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Trotskyism Or Leninism?”, in: “Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 362).

The Role of Trotsky in the October Revolution

As Stalin points out, Trotsky, as President of the Petrograd Soviet and of its Revolutionary Military Committee, played an important role in thc”October Revolution”:

“I am far from denying Trotsky’s undoubtedly important role in the uprising.. . . .It cannot be denied that Trotsky fought well in the period of October . . But Trotsky was not the only one who fought well in the period of October. Even people like the Left Socialist revolutionaries, who then stood side by side with the Bolsheviks, also fought well.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism?”, in: “Works’, Volume 6; Moscow; 1933; p. 342, 344).

In his myth about the “October Revolution,” however, Trotsky was concerned to underestimate the leading role of the Party in the revolution, to underestimate the role of Lenin (whose tactics for the insurrection were, he alleges, incorrect), and to overestimate the role of the Military Revolutionary Committee Of the Petrograd Soviet and of himself as Chairman of that Committee.

Thus, Trotsky quotes with obvious approval one of the earlier editions of Lenin’s “Collected Works,” in which the editors say in a note on Trotsky:

“After the Petrograd Soviet went Bolshevik he was elected its President and in that capacity organised and led the insurrection of November 7th.”

(Cited by: L. Trotsky “History of the Russian Revolution”, Volume 3; London; 1967; p. 344).

The amendment of this estimation is, alleges Trotsky, due to the fact that:

“The bureaucratic revision of history of the party and the revolution is taking place under Stalin’s direct supervision.”

(L. Trotsky. Ibid.; p. 343).

Stalin certainly denied the “special role” of Trotsky in the “October Revolution” claimed by Trotsky and his supporters:

“The Trotskyites are vigorously spreading rumours that Trotsky inspired and was the sole leader of the October uprising. . Trotsky himself, by consistently avoiding mention of the Party, the Central Committee and the Petrograd Committee of the Party, by saying nothing about the leading role of these organisations in the uprising and vigorously pushing himself forward as the central figure in the October uprising, voluntarily or involuntarily helps to spread the rumours about the special role he is supposed to have played in the uprising….

…I must say, however, that Trotsky did not play any special role in the October uprising, nor could he do so; being chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, he merely carried out the will of the approrpiate Party bodies, which directed every step that Trotsky took.

On October 29 (at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Party — Ed.) a practical centre was elected for the organisational leadership of the uprising. Who was elected to this centre?

The following five: Sverdlov, Stalin, Dzerzhinzky, Bubnov, Uritsky.

The functions of this practica1 centre: to direct all the practical organs of the uprising in conformity with the directives of the Central Committee. Thus, as you see, something ‘terrible’ happened at the meeting of the Central Committee, i.e , ‘strange to relate’ the ‘inspirer’, the ‘chief figure’, the ‘sole 1eader’ of the uprising, Trotsky, was not elected to the practica1 centre, which was called upon to direct the uprising. . . And yet, strictly speaking, there is nothing strange about it, for neither in the party, nor in the October uprising, did Trotsky play any special role, nor could he do so, for he was a relatively new man in our Party in the period of October… He, like all the responsible workers, merely carried out the will of the Central Committee and of its organs. . . This talk about Trotsky’s special role is a legend that is being spread by obliging ‘Party’ gossips.

This of course, does not mean that the October uprising did not have its inspirer. It did have its inspirer and leader, but his was Lenin, and none other than Lenin, that same Lenin whose resolutions the Central Committee adopted when deciding the question of the uprising, that same Lenin who, in spite of what Trotsky says, was not prevented by being in hiding from being the actual inspirer of the uprising. . . .

What sort of a ‘history’ of October is it that begins and ends with attempts to discredit the chief leader of the October uprising, to discredit the Party, which organised and carried out the uprising? Trotsky by his literary pronouncements is making another (yet another!) attempt to create the conditions for substituting Trotskyism for Leninism.”

(J. V. Stalin: ‘Trotskyism or Leninism?”, in: “Works,” Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 341-3, 363, 364).

Trotsky, in his reply, confirms Stalin’s charge that he is concerned to underestimate the leading role of the Party in the insurrection. He admits that “the practical centre” of the Central Committee was set up:

“at Lenin’s suggestion”

(L. Trotsky: ‘History of the Russian Revo1ution;”, Volume 3; London; 1967 p. 339).

But he denies that it or any other party organ guided the insurrection. The insurrection, he declares, was guided by the Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, with Trotsky as its chairman, alone:

“The Military Revolutionary Committee from the moment of its birth had the direct leadership not only of the garrison, but of the Red Guard. . .. No place remained for any other directing centre….There was but one revolutionary centre, that affiliated with the Soviet — that is, the Military Revolutionary Committee.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.) p. 340, 341).

The Character of the “October Revolution”

Lenin characterised the “October Revolution” as a proletarian-socialist revolution in its main, political content — since by it the working class in alliance with, and leading, the peasantry seized political poor from the capitalist class. But he characterised it as a bourgeois-democratic revolution in its’ economic content — since it completed the bourgeois-democratic revolutionary tasks which the “February Revolution” did not carry out.

“The immediate and direct aim of the revolution in Russia was a bourgeois-democratic aim, namely to destroy the relics of medievalism and abolish them completely….We brought the bourgeois-democratic revolution to completion has done before.

We are progressing towards the socialist revolution, consciously, deliberately and undeviatingly, knowing that no Chinese wall separates it from the bourgeois-democratic revolution….

But…we solved the problems of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in passing, as a “by-product” of the main and real proletarian-revolutionary socialist work.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 6; London; 1946; p. 500; 501; 503.)

“The October Revolution overthrew the bourgeoisie and transferred power to the proletariat but did not immediately lead to:
the completion of the bourgeois revolution, in general and: the isolation of the kulaks in the countryside, in particular –
these were spread over a certain period of time but this does not mean that our fundamenta1 slogan at the second stage of the revolution – “together with the poor peasantry, against capitalism in town and country, while neutralising the middle peasantry, for the power of the proletariat” –
— was wrong . . . .
The strategic slogans of the Party can be appraised only from the point of view of a Marxist analysis of the class forces and of the correct disposition of the revolutionary forces. . . . .
Is it possible for the overthrow of the power of the bourgoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat to be effected within the framework of the bourgeois revolution? . . .
How can it be asserted that the kulaks (who, of course, are also peasants) could support the overthrow of the bourgoisie and the transfer of power to the proletariat’? . .. . .
One of the main tasks of the October Revolution was to complete the bourgeois revolution. . . .and since the October Revolution did complete the bourgeois revolution it was bound to meet with the sympathy of all the peasants . . But can it be asserted on these grounds that the completion of the bourgeois revolution was not a derivative phenomenon in the course of the October Revolution but its essence or its principal aim? . . .
And if the main theme of a strategic slogan is the question of the transfer of power from one class to another, is it not clear from this that the question of the completion of the bourgeois revolution by the proletarian power must not be confused with the question of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and achieving this proletarian power, i.e., with the question that is the main theme at the second stage of the revolution? .
In order to complete the bourgeois revolution it was necessary in October:
first to overthrow the power of the bourgeoisie and to set up the power of the proletariat, for only such a power is capable of completing the bourgeois revolution. But in order to set up the power of the proletariat in October it was essential to prepare and organise for October the appropriate political army, an army capable of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and of establishing the power of the proletariat, and there is no need to prove that such a political army could be prepared and organised by us only under the slogan:
Alliance of the proletariat with the poor peasantry against the bourgeoisie, for the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

(J. V. Stalin: “The Party’s Three Fundamental Slogans on the Peasant Question”, in “Works”; Volume 9; Moscow; 1954; p. 208-09; 210, 211-12).

For the autumn of 1913, however, the continuing revolution developed uninterruptedly into a proletarian-socialist revolution in its economic content.

“Until the organisation of the Committees of Poor Peasants, i.e., down to the summer and even the autumn of 1918, our revolution was to a large extent a bourgeois revolution . . . But from the moment the Committees of Poor Peasants began to be organised, our revolution became a proletarian revolution. . It was only when the October revolution in the countryside began and was accomplished in the summer of 1913 that we found our real proletarian base; it was only then that our revolution became a proletarian revolution in fact, and not merely by virtue of proclamations, promises and declarations.”

(V. I. Lenin: Report of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist (Bolsheviks) at the Eighth Party Congress, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1943; 10. 37, 33).

“In November 1917 we seized power together with the peasantry as a whole. This was a bourgeois revolution in as much as the class war in the rural districts had not yet developed.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Work in the Rural Districts”, in: ibid.; p. 171).

CONCLUSION

From the foundation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party to November 1917, the efforts of the revisionists in Russia were directed towards preventing the socialist revolution from taking place, making use in the main of open political opposition, couched in pseudo-Marxist phraseology, either to the revolution itself or to the policies necessary to bring the revolution about. These efforts of the revisionists, dealt with in this report, met with failure. The socialist revolution took place in November 1917.

From the socialist revolution in November 1917 to the summer of 1932, the efforts of the revisionists in Soviet Russia were directed towards preventing the construction of socialism from being brought about, making use in the main of open political opposition, couched in pseudo-Marxist-Leninist phraseology, either to the construction of socialism itself or to the policies necessary to bring about the construction of socialism. These efforts of the revisionists, to be dealt with in a later report, met with failure.

A socialist society was completely — though not completely securely for all time – constructed in the Soviet Union.

In the period from the summer of 1932 to the mid-1960s, the efforts of the revisionists in the Soviet Union were directed towards restoring a capitalist society, making use in the main of conspiratorial methods of political opposition. These efforts of the revisionists, to be dealt with in a later report, met with success. Today in the Soviet Union the dictatorship of the working class has been liquidated and all the essentials of a state capitalist economic system, based on profit as the motive of production and on the exploitation of the Soviet working class by the new class of state capitalists, have been brought into being.

The Soviet Union has become a neo–imperialist state, pursuing essentially similar aims to those of the older imperialist states, and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has been transformed by its revisionist leaders from the vanguard party of the Soviet working class to a fascist-type political instrument of the Soviet neo- imperialists.

An analysis of the way in which the revisionists succeeded in dominating, and bringing about the degeneration of, the international communist movement is essential to the task of building a Marxist-Leninist International free of all revisionist trends. The series of reports on “The Origins of Revisionism”, of which the preceding report forms one, is an attempt to make such an analysis.

THE END

U.S. Hands Off North Korea!

No To The Imperialist War Drive!

Resistance Editorial

The so-called “America First” budget put forward by Trump includes a 10% increase in military spending. This increases what is already the world’s largest military budget by $56 billion. The cost of this increase will be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable sections of U.S. society — children, seniors, and those suffering from illness — as the increases are offset with slashed social spending. Long-term vital programs like “Meals on Wheels” are in the crosshairs in favor of yet more spending on an already bloated military.

Trump has already engaged in military action from the failed raid in Yemen, which killed 30 civilians, to the drone strike on a Mosque in Aleppo, Syria, killing 46 worshipers. The administration claimed to have struck a meeting of al Qaida militants, an assertion that is contradicted by sources in Syria. U.S. troops are already on the ground acting as “advisers” in Syria — a program that was begun by Obama.

Trump rode to the White House on a wave of saber rattling, reaction, immigrant bashing, and racism. This war drive is coupled with an all out attack on democratic rights and programs for the relief of the poor at home — medicaid, school lunch programs, meals on wheels. More tax breaks to the rich guarantee that the cost will be borne by working class people, the poor and oppressed communities.

Tillerson’s threat toward North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled the end of U.S. “strategic patience” with North Korea, stating that a “preemptive strike” against North Korea is possible. An attack on North Korea is a high-risk scenario that raises the very real danger of a regional conflict involving China and North Korean retaliatory attacks on both South Korea and Japan. North Korea has the capability to strike back with conventional and nuclear weapons. North Korea’s heavy artillery could flatten South Korea with disastrous results.

Millions would perish from such an ill-conceived U.S. adventure.  A war with North Korea would create a refugee crisis, starvation, and billions of dollars in property destruction. The effect on world financial markets could be devastating. Trump’s bellicose threats towards China during the campaign, and since taking office, increase the possibility of China’s involvement as an ally of the North Koreans. For the time being, Beijing has indicated their willingness to cooperate with the U.S. on the question of the North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. However, tensions have been high, with China pressing its claims on islands in the South China Sea, and Trump’s missteps on Taiwan and the US’s “One China Policy” all helping make the region a powder keg.

From 1950-1953, the U.S. fought a bloody war in Korea as the first violent engagement of the Cold War between the USSR and the West. More than 33,000 U.S troops perished in the war as well as more than a half million combined combat and civilian deaths of South Koreans. North Korea suffered more than 200,000 killed in action and an additional 300,000 wounded. Chinese military losses were also high with more than 130,000 dead and 340,000 wounded. The Korean War was fought to a stalemate and there was never a peace accord between the involved parties. The combat death toll for all sides is estimated by some experts at more than 1.2 million. During the war, the South Korean regime murdered tens of thousands of suspected communist sympathizers and their families.

Mass Antiwar Movement Needed

During the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sections of the antiwar movement consciously de-mobilized themselves in order to provide cover for the Democrats. It remains to be seen whether the scattered antiwar forces will find their voice in time to mount opposition to a U.S. attack on North Korea. While Trump and Tillerson’s rhetoric has turned the region into a powderkeg, prominent Democrats have remained silent.

To stop the drive towards war a  united front mass action oriented movement is needed. The test for the U.S. left and antiwar movement is to create the broadest possible mobilizations against Trump’s grotesque militarism and aggression around the world, while demanding the funding of human needs at home.  

Going forward, we need to build a non-exclusionary, democratic movement that is independent from ruling class political parties. This is independent of positions about the character of North Korea. The first priority, regardless of attitude toward the Kim regime, is to prevent another imperialist war. That means turning the anti-Trump struggle into a fight to oppose war and re-orient the US economy to serve human need.

U.S. Hands Off North Korea!

Money for jobs, education and healthcare, not for war! 

Feed children and seniors, not the Pentagon!

Source

Bruce Cumings on the North Korean Economy

“My spirits brightened, however, when former Congressman Stephen Solarz, long interested in Korean affairs, found a ‘brilliant and breathtaking’ study by a CIA analyst and concluded it was for North Korea ‘what the Rosetta Stone was to ancient Egypt’. So rare and privileged was the author’s knowledge that it took him a decade to get the CIA to declassify the book. Helen-Louise Hunter was for two decades a ‘Far East Specialist’ in the CIA, which is where her first book appeared (if that is the right word) as a long internal memorandum. Here was the solution to another problem we hear a lot about from the Beltway pundits: ‘a country about which we knew virtually nothing’ (in Solarz’s words). That is, we have trouble penetrating and surveilling them: how scary!

Hunter’s work has some excellent information on arcane and difficult to research subjects like North Korean wage and price structures, the self-sufficient and decentralized neighborhood living practices that mostly eliminated the long lines for goods that characterized Soviet-style communism, and the decade of one’s young life that almost every North Korean male is required to devote to military service in this garrison state. She points out the many achievements of the North Korean system, in ways that would get anyone outside the CIA labeled a sympathizer – compassionate care for war orphans in particular and children in general, ‘radical change’ in the position of women (‘there are now more college-educated women than college-educated men’), genuinely free housing, preventive medicine on a national scale accomplished to a comparatively high standard, infant mortality and life expectancy rates comparable to the most advanced countries until the recent famine, ‘no organized prostitution,’ and ‘the police are difficult, if not impossible, to bribe’. The author frequently acknowledges that the vast majority of Koreans do in fact revere Kim Il-Sung, even the defectors from the system whose information forms the core evidence for her book. According to Prince Sihanouk, a close friend of Kim’s who frequently stayed for months at a time in the North, ‘Kim ha[d] a relationship with his people that every other leader in the world would envy”; he described it as ‘much closer’ than his own with the Cambodian people (where he is both venerated and highly popular).

American cheerleaders for the South never tire of saying that its GNP is ten times larger than North Korea’s; certainly it is much larger, but if, say, the World Bank were to value goods and services in the North in terms of what the equivalents would cost in the United States, as it did for China after it opened up, the North’s GNP would mushroom overnight. In Hunter’s account of the DPRK when its economy was still reasonably good, about twenty years ago, she found that daily necessities were very low priced, luxuries vastly overpriced. Rents were so nominal that most housing was effectively free, as was health care, and ‘the government subsidizes the low prices of rice, sugar, and other food necessities, as well as student uniforms and work clothes.’ All homes in the country had electricity by 1968, far ahead of where the South was at the time. To take a measure close to home, she estimates that a husband and wife who were both university professors would be able to save about 50 percent of their monthly salaries. Rice and corn, the major staples, were rationed by the state, as were cooking oils, meat, soy sauce, bean curd, and kimch’i. Other things – fruits, vegetables, nuts, noodles, beer – could be purchased at low prices, with meats and luxury food overvalued. The general egalitarianism of the society was remarkable, in her view, even if the elite lived much better than the mass.”

 – Bruce Cumings, “North Korea: Another Country,” The New Press, New York, 2003, pp. 194-196.

Grover Furr: Trotsky’s Lies – What They Are, and What They Mean

The personality and the writings of Leon Trotsky have long been a rallying point for anticommunists throughout the world. But during the 1930s Trotsky deliberately lied in his writings about Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. My new book, Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’, discusses some of Trotsky’s lies that have fooled people, and demoralized honest communists, for decades. 

 

In January 1980 the Trotsky Archive at Harvard University was opened to researchers. Within a few days Pierre Broué, the foremost Trotskyist historian of his time, discovered that Trotsky had lied. Trotsky had always denied that any clandestine “bloc of oppositionists” including Trotskyists, existed in the Soviet Union. Trotsky called this an “amalgam,” meaning a fabrication by Stalin. This “bloc” was the main focus of the second and third Moscow Trials of January 1937 and March 1938. Broué showed, from letters in the Trotsky Archive by Trotsky and by his son Leon Sedov, that the bloc did exist.

 

In 1985 American historian Arch Getty discovered that the Harvard Trotsky Archive had been purged of incriminating materials, but purged imperfectly. Getty also found evidence that Trotsky had indeed remained in contact with some of his former supporters inside the Soviet Union. Trotsky always strenuously denied this, claiming that he cut off all ties to those who “capitulated” to Stalin and publicly renounced their Trotskyist views. Again, Trotsky was lying. In 2010 Swedish researcher Sven-Eric Holmström published an article on the “Hotel Bristol” question in the First Moscow Trial of August 1936. In it Holmström proves that Trotsky was lying here too. 

 

In 2005 I began to systematically study all the accusations against Stalin and Beria that Nikita Khrushchev made in his infamous “Secret Speech.” I discovered that not a single one of Khrushchev’s so-called “revelations” can be supported from the evidence. But during the 1930s Trotsky had made the same kind of accusations against Stalin that Khrushchev later did. The fact that Khrushchev did nothing but lie suggested that Trotsky might have lied as well. Thanks to Broué and Getty I already knew that Trotsky had lied about some very important matters. Any detective, in any mystery story, knows that if a suspect has lied about some important matters, he should ask himself: What else is this person lying about?

 

I set about studying his writings in order to determine which of Trotsky’s statements could be tested. Wherever I had independent evidence to check the veracity of any accusation that Trotsky levelled against Stalin, I found that Trotsky was lying — again. Today I have so much evidence that even a whole book does not come close to holding it all. So there will be two more volumes concerning Trotsky’s lies. The second volume will be published in early 2017.

Between September 2010 and January 2013 I researched and wrote a book on the assassination on December 1, 1934 of Sergei Mironovich Kirov, First Secretary of the Leningrad Party. That book, The Murder of Sergei Kirov, was published in June 2013. The Kirov murder is the key to the Soviet high politics of the rest of the 1930s: the three public Moscow Trials of August 1936, January 1937, and March 1938, often called “Show Trials;” the Military Purge or “Tukhachevsky Affair” of May and June 1937; and the Ezhovshchina of July 1937 to October 1938, which anticommunist scholars call the “Great Terror,” after a dishonest book by Robert Conquest. 

 

Trotsky too wrote about the Kirov murder investigation. He identified the articles in the French communist and Soviet press that he read. I discovered that Trotsky lied about what these articles on the Kirov murder investigation said. Trotsky fabricated a story that Stalin and his men were responsible for Kirov’s death. Once again, Trotsky lied about what the articles he read in the French communist newspaper Humanité and in Russian-language Soviet papers, to which Trotsky had access within only a couple of days of their publication in Moscow. 

 

Trotsky’s lies would have been immediately apparent to anybody who set Trotsky’s articles side by side with the French and Russian newspaper articles that he had read and which he claimed he was closely studying and analyzing. It appears that no one ever did that – until now. The result was that Trotsky’s falsified version of the Kirov assassination – that Stalin and the NKVD had killed Kirov – was taken up not only by Trotsky’s followers, but by Nikita Khrushchev. 

 

In his completely fraudulent “Secret Speech” Khrushchev gave additional credibility to the “Stalin killed Kirov” story. Khrushchev and his speechwriters probably took this directly from Trotsky. Trotsky’s tale that “Stalin had Kirov killed” passed from Khrushchev to the professional anticommunist scholar-propagandists like Robert Conquest and many others. In the late 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev’s men tried and failed to find evidence in the Soviet archives to support this story. 

 

Aleksandr Iakovlev, Gorbachev’s chief man for ideology, sent them back to the archives to try again. Once again, the Politburo research team filed to find any evidence to even suggest that Stalin had had Kirov killed. The history of the “Stalin had Kirov killed” fabrication is a good example of how a number of Trotsky’s deliberate lies were taken up by Soviet anticommunists like Khrushchev and Gorbachev, and by pro-capitalist anticommunists in the West. In my new book Trotsky’s “Amalgams” I uncover and discuss a number of other deliberate lies by Trotsky about Stalin and the USSR. All of them have been adopted by anticommunists and by Trotskyists. In the second and third volumes of this work I will discuss Trotsky’s conspiracies with saboteurs and fascists inside the USSR, and with the Nazis and the Japanese militarists. 

 

In early 1937 Trotsky succeeded in persuading John Dewey, the famous educator, and a number of others, to hold hearings, supposedly to determine whether the charges leveled against Trotsky in the August 1936 and January 1937 Moscow Show Trials were true. The Commission duly concluded that Trotsky was innocent and the Moscow Trials were all a frame-up. I carefully studied the 1,000 pages of the Dewey Commission materials. I discovered that the Commission was dishonest and shockingly incompetent. It made error after error in logical reasoning. Of most interest is the fact that Trotsky lied to the Dewey Commission many times. The Dewey Commission could not possibly have declared Trotsky “Not Guilty” if the Commission members had known that Trotsky was lying to them. I wish to briefly mention two more sections of my book. They are: my project to verify – that is, to check — the Moscow Trials testimony; and my examination of the errors that most readers of Soviet history make, errors which make them unable to understand the significance of the evidence we now have. 

 

The testimony of the defendants in the three public Moscow Trials is universally declared to be false, forced from innocent men by the prosecution, the NKVD, “Stalin.” There has never been a shred of evidence to support this notion. Nevertheless, it is staunchly affirmed by ALL specialists in Soviet history, as well as by all Trotskyists. Thanks to years of identifying, searching for, locating, obtaining, and studying primary sources, I realized that there now exists enough evidence to test many of the statements made by the Moscow Trials defendants. I devote the first twelve chapters of Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’ to a careful verification of many of the statements by the Moscow Trials defendants. I found that, whenever we can double-check a fact-claim made by a Moscow Trials defendant against independent evidence now available, it turns out that the Moscow Trials defendant was telling the truth. Trotsky, Khrushchev and his men, Cold-War Soviet “experts,” 

 

Gorbachev and his men, and today’s academic scholars in Soviet studies, all claimed or claim that the Trials are frame-ups. I prove from the evidence that they are wrong. The Moscow Trials testimony is what it claims to be: statements that the defendants chose to make. I verify this with a great deal of evidence from outside the Trials themselves and even outside the Soviet Union. This is an important conclusion. This result in itself disproves the “anti-Stalin paradigm” of Soviet history. It also contributes to disproving Trotsky’s version of Soviet history, a version that the Trotskyist movement worldwide continues to believe and to propagate today. Those of us — researchers, activists, and others — who wish to find the truth about Soviet history of the Stalin period, and not merely attempt to confirm our preconceived ideas about it – we are in possession of a number of results that completely overturn the convention anti-Stalin paradigm of Soviet history. These include the following: 

 

* the fact that Nikita Khrushchev lied about every accusation he made against Stalin (and Lavrentii Beria) in his world-shaking “Secret Speech” to the XX Party Congress of the CPSU in February 1956. This clearly means that Khrushchev’s researchers could not find any true “crimes” that Stalin – or Beria – had committed, and so were reduced to fabrication. 

 

* the fact that, despite a very thorough and time-consuming search of the archives in 1962-1964, Khrushchev’s “Shvernik Commission” could find no evidence at all to suggest that either the Moscow Trials defendants or the “Tukhachevsky Affair” defendants were victims of a “frame-up” or had lied in their confessions in any way. 

 

* the fact that neither Gorbachev’s and Eltsin’s researchers, nor the anticommunist researchers since that time, who have had wide access to the former Soviet archives, have been able to find any evidence at all to challenge the conclusions in the Kirov Assassination, the Moscow Trials, or the Military Purges. 

 

* the fact that the testimony at the Moscow Trials was, in the main, truthful. 

 

* the fact that Ezhov and Ezhov alone, not Stalin and his supporters in the Soviet leadership, were responsible for the mass murders of July 1938 to November 1939 known to scholars as the “Ezhovshchina” and to anticommunist propagandists as “the Great Terror.” 

 

* the fact that, in his writings about the USSR during the period after the Kirov murder, Trotsky lied repeatedly in order to cover up his conspiracies. 

 

* the fact that most of today’s scholars of the Stalin period in the USSR lie in order to deceive their readers. But they do so in a way that can only be discovered by a very close, detailed study of their sources. 

 

Trotskyist scholarship is consistently parasitical on mainstream anticommunist scholarship. Here is one example. In a recent review on the Trotskyist, and ferociously anti-Stalin World Socialist Web Site (wsws.org) of Princeton University historian Stephen Kotkin’s book Stalin, a Trotskyist reviewer refers approvingly to the anti-Stalin statements of Oleg Khlevniuk, who is called the respected Russian historian Oleg Khlevniuk. – https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/06/04/kot4-j04.html 

 

Khlevniuk is a fanatical anticommunist and also a very blatant liar, in all his writings. Khlevniuk is anti-Stalin; WSWS.ORG, the Trotskyist publication, is anti-Stalin; therefore the Trotskyists “trust” the foremost anticommunist liar in the world today! Meanwhile, mainstream anticommunist scholarship has been drawing upon the writings of Trotsky himself for decades. Trotsky, of course, knew that he was lying: 

 

* about the “bloc of Rights, Trotskyists, Zinovievites, and other Oppositionists;” 

 

* about his own involvement in the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934; 

 

* about his conspiring with the “Tukhachevsky Affair” military conspirators for a coup d’état against the Stalin government and to stab the Red Army in the back during an invasion by Germany or Japan; 

 

* about his conspiring with the Nazis and the Japanese militarists; 

 

* about conspiring with fascists and his own followers within the USSR to sabotage industry, transportation, and mines. 

 

* about the charges against, and the confessions by, the defendants in the Moscow trials, which Trotsky knew were true. 

 

Trotsky knew that he lied, repeatedly, over and over again, in his Bulletin of the Opposition. Trotsky knew that he repeated these lies to the Dewey Commission. 

 

The Spanish Civil War 

 

And Trotsky knew that he lied to his own followers, including his closest followers like Andres Nin, Erwin Wolf, and Kurt Landau. Nin had been one of Trotsky’s closest political assistants. Nin is supposed to have broken with Trotsky in 1931. But in 1930 Nin wrote, in a Trotskyist journal, that Trotsky’s Soviet-based followers who had retracted their Trotskyist views and pledged loyalty to the Communist Party’s line, had done so dishonestly. They had done so in order to remain within the Party so they could continue to recruit others to their secret conspiracies. Therefore, though Nin openly broke with the Trotskyist movement in an organizational sense, his actions in Spain suggest that this was a cover for maintaining a secret connection with Trotsky. 

 

The Spanish communists and the Soviet NKVD in Spain suspected this too. Nin became one of the leaders of the POUM, an anti-Soviet and antiStalin party that was very friendly to Trotsky. Erwin Wolf went to Spain as Trotsky’s political representative. He did so in order to lead a “revolution” against the Spanish Republic – right in the middle of a war with the Spanish fascists, who were aided by Hitler and Mussolini. Nin and Wolf ran these risks because they believed that Trotsky was innocent of the charges that were made against him in the Moscow Trials. They thought that Trotsky, not Stalin, was the true communist and true revolutionary. Consequently, they thought that they were going to Spain to do what Lenin would have wanted done. 

 

In May 1937 a revolt against the Spanish Republican government broke out in Barcelona. POUM and the Spanish Trotskyists enthusiastically participated in this revolt. It appears that Nin, Wolf, and Landau thought this might be the beginning of a Bolshevik-style revolution, with themselves as Lenin, the POUM as the Bolsheviks, the Republican government as the capitalists, and the Spanish and Soviet communists as the phony socialists like Alexander Kerensky! The “Barcelona May Days Revolt,” was a vicious stab in the back against the Republic during wartime. It was suppressed in less than a week. After that, the Spanish police and Soviet NKVD hunted down the Trotskyists and the POUM leadership. Andres Nin was certainly kidnapped, interrogated, and then murdered by the Soviets and Spanish police. The same thing probably happened to Landau and Wolf. 

 

The Soviets knew then what we know today: that Trotsky was conspiring with the Germans, the Japanese, and the “Tukhachevsky Affair’ military men. But Nin and Wolf certainly did not know this. They believed Trotsky’s professions of innocence. If Andres Nin, Erwin Wolf, and Kurt Landau had known what Trotsky knew, and what we now know, would they have gone to Spain to try to carry out Trotsky’s instructions? Impossible! Therefore, Trotsky sent these men into an extremely dangerous situation by means of lying to them about his own activities and aims, and about what Stalin was doing. And it cost them their lives. The same is true for all the Trotskyists who were executed in the Soviet Union itself. Evidently, there were hundreds of them. They all supported Trotsky because they believed his version of Soviet history, and had been convinced by Trotsky’s writings that Stalin was lying, that the Moscow Trials were a frame-up, and that the Stalin regime had abandoned the goal of worldwide socialist revolution. These men and women would not have followed Trotsky if he had not lied to them. 

 

In the first chapter of Trotsky’s “Amalgams” I examine the errors that most students of Soviet history, including academic professionals, make when faced with primary source evidence. The truth is that very few people, including professional historians, know how to examine historical evidence. Very few Marxists know what a materialist examination of evidence looks like, or are capable of recognizing or critiquing an idealist argument when they are confronted with one. These errors are not only errors of “denial” by persons who do not wish to have their proTrotsky or anti-Stalin preconceptions disproven. Most or all of these same errors are made by pro-Stalin, anti-revisionist people. Anticommunist arguments have been so overwhelming, not only in Cold War pro-capitalist form but especially in supposedly procommunist but in reality anticommunist Khrushchev- and Gorbachev-era writings, that it has degraded the thinking of all of us. 

 

The lies of Trotsky’s that Pierre Broué and Arch Getty discovered 30 years ago have been ignored. This fact itself deserves explanation. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Broué continued to find, and write about, more lies by Trotsky. But all the while he continued to deny that these lies were of any importance. Broué also ignored Getty’s two discoveries. First, that the Trotsky Archive had been “purged” of incriminating materials. Second, that Trotsky had indeed remained in contact with oppositionists like Radek with whom he swore he had broken all ties. Vadim Rogovin, the leading Trotskyist historian of the Stalin-era Soviet Union, went along with Broué’s cover-up and also introduced some lies of his own. Trotskyists and Cold Warriors continue either to ignore Broué’s discoveries altogether or to echo Broué’s claim that these lies were of little significance. We can understand why they do this. 

 

The fact that Trotsky lied dismantles what I call the “anti-Stalin paradigm”: the Trotskyist and the Cold War anticommunist versions of Soviet history. Trotsky, of course, had to lie. He was running a serious conspiracy to get rid of Stalin, in conjunction with many supporters inside the Soviet Union and the Bolshevik Party and in collusion with Nazi Germany, militarist Japan, England and France. A conspiracy requires secrecy and lying. But who, above all, was Trotsky fooling? Not Stalin and the Soviet government. They knew he was lying. The conclusion is inescapable: Trotsky was lying in order to fool his own supporters! They were the only people who believed whatever Trotsky wrote. 

 

They believed Trotsky was the true, principled Leninist that he claimed to be, and that Stalin was the liar. This cost the lives of most of his supporters inside the Soviet Union, when Trotskyism was outlawed as treason to the Soviet state because of Trotsky’s conspiracy with Germany and Japan. It has led Trotsky’s followers outside the Soviet Union to spend their lives in cult-like devotion to a man who was, in fact, doing just what the Soviet prosecutor and the Moscow Trials defendants claimed he was doing. 

 

The figure of Leon Trotsky casts a giant shadow over the history of the Soviet Union, and therefore over the history of the world in the 20th century. Trotsky was the most significant – in fact, the only outstanding – Opposition figure in the factional disputes that shook the Bolshevik Party during the 1920s. It was during the 20s that Trotsky attracted to himself the group of persons who formed the United Opposition and whose conspiracies did so much irreparable harm to the Party, the Comintern, and the world communist movement. 

 

Conclusions 

 

What does the fact that Trotsky lied, that Khrushchev lied, and that these facts were ignored for so long, mean? 

 

What does it mean for the main question that faces us, and billions of working people in the world, today? I mean the question of why the wonderful international communist movement of the 20th century collapsed, the movement that 70 years ago, triumphant in World War 2, in the Chinese communist revolution, in the anti-colonial movements around the world, seemed to be poised to bring about an end to capitalism and the victory of world socialism? 

 

How do we convince workers, students, and others that we know why the old communist movement failed and that we have learned what we have to do differently to avoid repeating those failures in the future? We must study this question. We also need to discuss it – to entertain and debate different, informed viewpoints. 

 

Therefore we have to defend the legacy of the international communist movement during Lenin’s and, especially, during Stalin’s time. At the same time we must be fearlessly critical of it, so we discover what errors they made and so not make the same errors again. In my judgment – and I hope that it is yours as well – discovering the reasons for the collapse of the magnificent international communist movement of the 20th century is the most important historical and theoretical question for all exploited people today, the vast majority of humankind. To have any hope of solving it, we must think boldly, “go where no one has gone before.” If we pretend that “Marx and Engels had all the answers,” or “Lenin had all the answers” (many Trotskyists, of course, believe that “Trotsky had all the answers”) — if we believe that, then we are guaranteed, AT BEST, to fall far short of what they achieved. Marx said that great historical events occur twice “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” 

 

The tragedy of the international communist movement of the 20th century was that, ultimately, it failed. Unless we figure out where they went wrong then we are doomed to be the “farce.” And that would be a political crime — OUR crime. So we have to look with a critical eye at ALL of our legacy. Marx’s favorite saying was: “De omnibus dubitandum” — “Question everything.” Marx would be the last person in the world to exclude himself from this questioning. 

 

History can’t teach lessons directly. And history isn’t political theory. But if we ask the right questions, history can help us answer them. Meanwhile, we should all publicize everywhere and in every way we can that, like Khrushchev and Gorbachev, Trotsky lied – provably, demonstrably lied – and, what’s more, that all the anti-Stalin, anticommunist “experts” anointed by capitalist universities and research institutes are lying too. 

 

We need to point out that the only way forward is to build a new communist movement to get rid of capitalism. And that to do that, we need to learn from the heroic successes, as well as from the tragic errors, of the Bolsheviks during the period when the Soviet Union was led by Joseph Stalin. My hope and my goal is to contribute, through my research, to this project which is so vital for the future of working people everywhere. Thank you.

 

* Professor, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ 07043 USA. The above is a Presentation at the 7th World Socialism Forum, World Socialism Research Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), October 22, 2016.

Isaac Asimov Reviews ‘1984’

Originally published in The New York Times.

REVIEW OF 1984

By Isaac Asimov

I’ve been writing a four-part article for Field Newspaper Syndicate at the beginning of each year for several years now and in 1980, mindful of the approach of the year 1984, FNS asked me to write a thorough critique of George Orwell’s novel 1984.

I was reluctant. I remembered almost nothing of the book and said so – but Denison Demac, the lovely young woman who is my contact at FNS, simply sent me a copy of it and said, ‘Read it.’

So I read it and found myself absolutely astonished at what I read. I wondered how many people who talked about the novel so glibly had ever read it; or if they had, whether they remembered it at all.

I felt I would have to write the critique if only to set people straight. (I’m sorry; I love setting people straight.)

A. THE WRITING OF 1984

In 1949, a book entitled 1984 was published. It was written by Eric Arthur Blair under the pseudonym of George Orwell.

The book attempted to show what life would be like in a world of total evil, in which those controlling the government kept themselves in power by brute force, by distorting the truth, by continually rewriting history, by mesmerising the people generally.

This evil world was placed only thirty-five years in the future so that even men who were already in their early middle age at the time the book was published might live to see it if they lived out a normal lifetime.

I, for instance, was already a married man when the book appeared and yet here we are less than four years away from that apocalyptic year (for ‘1984’ has become a year that is associated with dread because of Orwell’s book), and I am very likely to live to see it.

In this chapter, I will discuss the book, but first: Who was Blair/Orwell and why was the book written?

Blair was born in 1903 into the status of a British gentleman. His father was in the Indian civil service and Blair himself lived the life of a British Imperial official. He went to Eton, served in Burma, and so on. However, he lacked the money to be an English gentleman to the full. Then, too, he didn’t want to spend his time at dull desk jobs; he wanted to be a writer. Thirdly, he felt guilty about his status in the upper class. So he did in the late 1920s what so many well-to-do American young people in the 1960s did. In short, he became what we would have called a ‘hippie’ at a later time. He lived under slum conditions in London and Paris, consorted with and identified with slum dwellers and vagrants, managed to ease his conscience and, at the same time, to gather material for his earliest books.

He also turned left wing and became a socialist, fighting with the loyalists in Spain in the 1930s. There he found himself caught up in the sectarian struggles between the various left-wing factions, and since he believed in a gentlemanly English form of socialism, he was inevitably on the losing side. Opposed to him were passionate Spanish anarchists, syndicalists, and communists, who bitterly resented the fact that the necessities of fighting the Franco fascists got in the way of their fighting each other.

The communists, who were the best organised, won out and Orwell had to leave Spain, for he was convinced that if he did not, he would be killed From then on, to the end of his life, he carried on a private literary war with the communists, determined to win in words the battle he had lost in action.

During World War II, in which he was rejected for military service, he was associated with the left wing of the British Labour party, but didn’t much sympathise with their views, for even their reckless version of socialism seemed too well organised for him. He wasn’t much affected, apparently, by the Nazi brand of totalitarianism, for there was no room within him except for his private war with Stalinist communism. Consequently, when Great Britain was fighting for its life against Nazism, and the Soviet Union fought as an ally in the struggle and contributed rather more than its share in lives lost and in resolute courage, Orwell wrote Animal Farm which was a satire of the Russian Revolution and what followed, picturing it in terms of a revolt of barnyard animals against human masters.

He completed Animal Farm in 1944 and had trouble finding a publisher since it wasn’t a particularly good time for upsetting the Soviets. As soon as the war came to an end, however, the Soviet Union was fair game and Animal Farm was published. It was greeted with much acclaim and Orwell became sufficiently prosperous to retire and devote himself to his masterpiece, 1984.

That book described society as a vast world-wide extension of Stalinist Russia in the 1930s, pictured with the venom of a rival left-wing sectarian. Other forms of totalitarianism play a small role. There are one or two mentions of the Nazis and of the Inquisition. At the very start, there is a reference or two to Jews, almost as though they were going to prove the objects of persecution, but that vanishes almost at once, as though Orwell didn’t want readers to mistake the villains for Nazis. The picture is of Stalinism, and Stalinism only.

By the time the book came out in 1949, the Cold War was at its height. The book therefore proved popular. It was almost a matter of patriotism in the West to buy it and talk about it, and perhaps even to read parts of it, although it is my opinion that more people bought it and talked about it than read it, for it is a dreadfully dull book – didactic, repetitious, and all but motionless.

It was most popular at first with people who leaned towards the conservative side of the political spectrum, for it was clearly an anti-Soviet polemic, and the picture of life it projected in the London of 1984 was very much as conservatives imagined life in the Moscow of 1949 to be.

During the McCarthy era in the United States, 1984 became increasingly popular with those who leaned towards the liberal side of the political spectrum, for it seemed to them that the United States of the early 1950s was beginning to move in the direction of thought-control and that all the viciousness Orwell had depicted was on its way towards us.

Thus, in an afterword to an edition published in paperback by New American Library in 1961, the liberal psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm concluded as follows:

‘Books like Orwell’s are powerful warnings, and it would be most unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too.’

Even if Stalinism and McCarthyism are disregarded, however, more and more Americans were becoming aware of just how ‘big’ the government was getting; how high taxes were; how increasingly rules and regulations permeated business and even ordinary life; how information concerning every facet of private life was entering the files not only of government bureaux but of private credit systems.

1984, therefore, came to stand not for Stalinism, or even for dictatorship in general – but merely for government. Even governmental paternalism seemed ‘1984ish’ and the catch phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’ came to mean everything that was too big for the individual to control. It was not only big government and big business that was a symptom of 1984 but big science, big labour, big anything.

In fact, so thoroughly has 1984-ophobia penetrated the consciousness of many who have not read the book and have no notion of what it contains, that one wonders what will happen to us after 31 December 1984. When New Year’s Day of 1985 arrives and the United States is still in existence and facing very much the problems it faces today, how will we express our fears of whatever aspect of life fills us with apprehension? What new date can we invent to take the place of 1984?

Orwell did not live to see his book become the success it did. He did not witness the way in which he made 1984 into a year that would haunt a whole generation of Americans. Orwell died of tuberculosis in a London hospital in January 1950, just a few months after the book was published, at the age of forty-six. His awareness of imminent death may have added to the bitterness of the book.

B. THE SCIENCE FICTION OF 1984

Many people think of 1984 as a science fiction novel, but almost the only item about 1984 that would lead one to suppose this is the fact that it is purportedly laid in the future. Not so! Orwell had no feel for the future, and the displacement of the story is much more geographical than temporal.

The London in which the story is placed is not so much moved thirty-five years forward in time, from 1949 to 1984, as it is moved a thousand miles east in space to Moscow. Orwell imagines Great Britain to have gone through a revolution similar to the Russian Revolution and to have gone through all the stages that Soviet development did. He can think of almost no variations on the theme. The Soviets had a series of purges in the 1930s, so the Ingsoc (English Socialism) had a series of purges in the 1950s. The Soviets converted one of their revolutionaries, Leon Trotsky, into a villain, leaving his opponent, Joseph Stalin, as a hero. The Ingsoc, therefore, convert one of their revolutionaries, Emmanuel Goldstein, into a villain, leaving his opponent, with a moustache like Stalin, as a hero.

There is no ability to make minor changes, even. Goldstein, like Trotsky, has ‘a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard’. Orwell apparently does not want to confuse the issue by giving Stalin a different name so he calls him merely ‘Big Brother’.

At the very beginning of the story, it is made clear that television (which was coming into existence at the time the book was written) served as a continuous means of indoctrination of the people, for sets cannot be turned off. (And, apparently, in a deteriorating London in which nothing works, these sets never fail.)

The great Orwellian contribution to future technology is that the television set is two-way, and that the people who are forced to hear and see the television screen can themselves be heard and seen at all times and are under constant supervision even while sleeping or in the bathroom. Hence, the meaning of the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’.

This is an extraordinarily inefficient system of keeping everyone under control. To have a person being watched at all times means that some other person must be doing the watching at all times (at least in the Orwellian society) and must be doing so very narrowly, for there is a great development of the art of interpreting gesture and facial expression. One person cannot watch more than one person in full concentration, and can only do so for a comparatively short time before attention begins to wander. I should guess, in short, that there may have to be five watchers for every person watched. And then, of course, the watchers must themselves be watched since no one in the Orwellian world is suspicion-free. Consequently, the system of oppression by two-way television simply will not work.

Orwell himself realised this by limiting its workings to the Party members. The ‘proles’ (proletariat), for whom Orwell cannot hide his British upper-class contempt, are left largely to themselves as subhuman. (At one point in the book, he says that any prole that shows ability is killed – a leaf taken out of the Spartan treatment of their helots twenty-five hundred years ago.)

Furthermore, he has a system of volunteer spies in which children report on their parents, and neighbours on each other. This cannot possibly work well since eventually everyone reports everyone else and it all has to be abandoned.

Orwell was unable to conceive of computers or robots, or he would have placed everyone under non-human surveillance. Our own computers to some extent do this in the IRS, in credit files, and so on, but that does not take us towards 1984, except in fevered imaginations. Computers and tyranny do not necessarily go hand in hand. Tyrannies have worked very well without computers (consider the Nazis) and the most computerised nations in today’s world are also the least tyrannical.

Orwell lacks the capacity to see (or invent) small changes. His hero finds it difficult in his world of 1984 to get shoelaces or razor blades. So would I in the real world of the 1980s, for so many people use slip-on shoes and electric razors.

Then, too, Orwell had the technophobic fixation that every technological advance is a slide downhill. Thus, when his hero writes, he ‘fitted a nib into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. He does so ‘because of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil’.

Presumably, the ‘ink-pencil’ is the ball-point pen that was coming into use at the time that 1984 was being written. This means that Orwell describes something as being written’ with a real nib but being ‘scratched’ with a ball-point. This is, however, precisely the reverse of the truth. If you are old enough to remember steel pens, you will remember that they scratched fearsomely, and you know ball-points don’t. This is not science fiction, but a distorted nostalgia for a past that never was. I am surprised that Orwell stopped with the steel pen and that he didn’t have Winston writing with a neat goose quill.

Nor was Orwell particularly prescient in the strictly social aspects of the future he was presenting, with the result that the Orwellian world of 1984 is incredibly old-fashioned when compared with the real world of the 1980s.

Orwell imagines no new vices, for instance. His characters are all gin hounds and tobacco addicts, and part of the horror of his picture of 1984 is his eloquent description of the low quality of the gin and tobacco. He foresees no new drugs, no marijuana, no synthetic hallucinogens. No one expects an s.f. writer to be precise and exact in his forecasts, but surely one would expect him to invent some differences.

In his despair (or anger), Orwell forgets the virtues human beings have. All his characters are, in one way or another, weak or sadistic, or sleazy, or stupid, or repellent. This may be how most people are, or how Orwell wants to indicate they will all be under tyranny, but it seems to me that under even the worst tyrannies, so far, there have been brave men and women who have withstood the tyrants to the death and whose personal histories are luminous flames in the surrounding darkness. If only because there is no hint of this in 1984, it does not resemble the real world of the 1980s.

Nor did he foresee any difference in the role of women or any weakening of the feminine stereotype of 1949. There are only two female characters of importance. One is a strong, brainless ‘prole’ woman who is an endless washerwoman, endlessly singing a popular song with words of the type familiar in the 1930s and 1940s (at which Orwell shudders fastidiously as ‘trashy’, in blissful non-anticipation of hard rock).

The other is the heroine, Julia, who is sexually promiscuous (but is at least driven to courage by her interest in sex) and is otherwise brainless. When the hero, Winston, reads to her the book within a book that explains the nature of the Orwellian world, she responds by falling asleep – but then since the treatise Winston reads is stupefyingly soporific, this may be an indication of Julia’s good sense rather than the reverse. In short, if 1984 must be considered science fiction, then it is very bad science fiction.

C. THE GOVERNMENT OF 1984

Orwell’s 1984 is a picture of all-powerful government, and it has helped make the notion of ‘big government’ a very frightening one.

We have to remember, though, that the world of the late 1940s, during which Orwell was writing his book, was one in which there had been, and still were, big governments with true tyrants – individuals whose every wish, however unjust, cruel or vicious, was law. What’s more, it seemed as though such tyrants were irremovable except by the chance of outside force. Benito Mussolini of Italy, after twenty-one years of absolute rule, was overthrown, but that was only because his country was suffering defeat in war.

Adolf Hitler of Germany, a far stronger and more brutal tyrant, ruled with a steel hand for twelve years, yet even defeat did not, in itself, bring about his overthrow. Though the area over which he ruled shrank and shrank and shrank, and even though overwhelming armies of his adversaries closed in from the east and west, he remained absolute tyrant over whatever area he controlled – even when it was only over the bunker in which he committed suicide. Until he removed himself, no one dared remove him. (There were plots against him, to be sure, but they never worked, sometimes through quirks of fate that seemed explainable only by supposing that someone down there liked him.)

Orwell, however, had no time for either Mussolini or Hitler. His enemy was Stalin, and at the time that 1984 was published, Stalin had ruled the Soviet Union in a ribbreaking bear hug for twenty-five years, had survived a terrible war in which his nation suffered enormous losses and yet was now stronger than ever. To Orwell, it must have seemed that neither time nor fortune could budge Stalin, but that he would live on forever with ever increasing strength. – And that was how Orwell pictured Big Brother.

Of course, that was not the way it really was. Orwell didn’t live long enough to see it but Stalin died only three years after 1984 was published, and it was not long after that that his regime was denounced as a tyranny by – guess who – the Soviet leadership.

The Soviet Union is still the Soviet Union, but it is not Stalinist, and the enemies of the state are no longer liquidated (Orwell uses ‘vaporised’ instead, such small changes being all he can manage) with quite such abandon.

Again, Mao Tse-tung died in China, and while he himself has not been openly denounced, his close associates, as ‘the Gang of Four’, were promptly demoted from Divinity, and while China is still China, it is not Maoist any longer.

Franco of Spain died in his bed and while, to his very last breath, he remained the unquestioned leader he had been for nearly forty years, immediately after that last breath, Fascism abruptly dwindled in Spain, as it had in Portugal after Salazar’s death.

In short, Big Brothers do die, or at least they have so far, and when they die, the government changes, always for the milder.

This is not to say that new tyrants may not make themselves felt, but they will die, too. At least in the real 1980s we have every confidence they will and the undying Big Brother is not yet a real threat.

If anything, in fact, governments of the 1980s seem dangerously weak. The advance of technology has put powerful weapons – explosives, machine guns, fast cars into the hands of urban terrorists who can and do kidnap, hijack, gun down, and take hostages with impunity while governments stand by more or less helplessly.

In addition to the immortality of Big Brother, Orwell presents two other ways of maintaining an eternal tyranny.

First -,present someone or something to hate. In the Orwellian world it was Emmanuel Goldstein for whom hate was built up and orchestrated in a robotized mass function.

This is nothing new, of course. Every nation in the world has used various neighbours for the purpose of hate. This sort of thing is so easily handled and comes as such second nature to humanity that one wonders why there have to be the organised hate drives in the Orwellian world.

It needs scarcely any clever psychological mass movements to make Arabs hate Israelis and Greeks hate Turks and Catholic Irish hate Protestant Irish – and vice versa in each case. To be sure, the Nazis organised mass meetings of delirium that every participant seemed to enjoy, but it had no permanent effect. Once the war moved on to German soil, the Germans surrendered as meekly as though they had never Sieg-Heiled in their lives.

Second – rewrite history. Almost every one of the few individuals we meet in 1984 has, as his job, the rapid rewriting of the past, the readjustment of statistics, the overhauling of newspapers – as though anyone is going to take the trouble to pay attention to the past anyway.

This Orwellian preoccupation with the minutiae of ‘historical proof’ is typical of the political sectarian who is always quoting what has been said and done in the past to prove a point to someone on the other side who is always quoting something to the opposite effect that has been said and done.

As any politician knows, no evidence of any kind is ever required. It is only necessary to make a statement – any statement – forcefully enough to have an audience believe it. No one will check the lie against the facts, and, if they do, they will disbelieve the facts. Do you think the German people in 1939 pretended that the Poles had attacked them and started World War II? No! Since they were told that was so, they believed it as seriously as you and I believe that they attacked the Poles.

To be sure, the Soviets put out new editions of their Encyclopaedia in which politicians rating a long biography in earlier editions are suddenly omitted entirely, and this is no doubt the germ of the Orwellian notion, but the chances of carrying it as far as is described in 1984 seem to me to be nil – not because it is beyond human wickedness, but because it is totally unnecessary.

Orwell makes much of ‘Newspeak’ as an organ of repression – the conversion of the English language into so limited and abbreviated an instrument that the very vocabulary of dissent vanishes. Partly he got the notion from the undoubted habit of abbreviation. He gives examples of ‘Communist International’ becoming ‘Comintern’ and ‘Geheime Staatspolizei’ becoming ‘Gestapo’, but that is not a modern totalitarian invention. ‘Vulgus mobile’ became ‘mob’; ‘taxi cabriolet’ became ‘cab’; ‘quasi-stellar radio source’ became ‘quasar’; ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’ became ‘laser’ and so on. There is no sign that such compressions of the language have ever weakened it as a mode of expression.

As a matter of fact, political obfuscation has tended to use many words rather than few, long words rather than short, to extend rather than to reduce. Every leader of inadequate education or limited intelligence hides behind exuberant inebriation of loquacity.

Thus, when Winston Churchill suggested the development of ‘Basic English’ as an international language (something which undoubtedly also contributed to ‘Newspeak’), the suggestion was stillborn. We are therefore in no way approaching Newspeak in its condensed form, though we have always had Newspeak in its extended form and always will have.

We also have a group of young people among us who say things like ‘Right on, man, you know. It’s like he’s got it all together, you know, man. I mean, like you know -‘ and so on for five minutes when the word that the young people are groping for is ‘Huh?’

That, however, is not Newspeak, and it has always been with us, too. It is something which in Oldspeak is called ‘inarticulacy’ and it is not what Orwell had in mind.

D. THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION OF 1984

Although Orwell seemed, by and large, to be helplessly stuck in the world of 1949, in one respect at least he showed himself to be remarkably prescient, and that was in foreseeing the tripartite split of the world of the 1980s.

The international world of 1984 is a world of three superpowers: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia – and that fits in, very roughly, with the three actual superpowers of the 1980s: the United States, the Soviet Union, and China.

Oceania is a combination of the United States and the British Empire. Orwell, who was an old Imperial civil servant, did not seem to notice that the British Empire was in its last throes in the late 1940s and was about to dissolve. He seems to suppose, in fact, that the British Empire is the dominant member of the British-American combination.

At least, the entire action takes place in London and phrases such as ‘the United States’ and ‘Americans’ are rarely, if ever, mentioned. But then, this is very much in the fashion of the British spy novel in which, ever since World War II, Great Britain (currently about the eighteenth strongest military and economic power in the world) is set up as the great adversary of the Soviet Union, or of China, or of some invented international conspiracy, with the United States either never mentioned or reduced to the small courtesy appearance of an occasional CIA agent.

Eurasia is, of course, the Soviet Union, which Orwell assumes will have absorbed the whole European continent. Eurasia, therefore, includes all of Europe, plus Siberia, and its population is 95 per cent European by any standard.

Nevertheless, Orwell describes the Eurasians as ‘solid-looking men with expressionless Asiatic faces’. Since Orwell still lives in a time when ‘European’ and ‘Asiatic’ are equivalent to ‘ ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, it is impossible to inveigh against the Soviet Union with the proper emotion if it is not thought of as ‘Asiatic’. This comes under the heading of what Orwellian Newspeak calls ‘double-think’, something that Orwell, like any human being, is good at.

It may be, of course, that Orwell is thinking not of Eurasia, or the Soviet Union, but of his great bête noire, Stalin. Stalin is a Georgian, and Georgia, lying south of the Caucasus mountains, is, by strict geographic considerations, part of Asia.

Eastasia is, of course, China and various dependent nations. Here is prescience. At the time Orwell was writing 1984, the Chinese communists had not yet won control of the country and many (in the United States, in particular) were doing their best to see that the anti-Communist, Chiang Kai-shek, retained control. Once the communists won, it became part of the accepted credo of the West that the Chinese would be under thorough Soviet control and that China and the Soviet Union would form a monolithic communist power.

Orwell not only foresaw the communist victory (he saw that victory everywhere, in fact) but also foresaw that Russia and China would not form a monolithic bloc but would be deadly enemies.

There, his own experience as a Leftist sectarian may have helped him. He had no Rightist superstitions concerning Leftists as unified and indistinguishable villains. He knew they would fight each other as fiercely over the most trifling points of doctrine as would the most pious of Christians.

He also foresaw a permanent state of war among the three; a condition of permanent stalemate with the alliances ever-shifting, but always two against the strongest. This was the old-fashioned ‘balance of power’ system which was used in ancient Greece, in medieval Italy, and in early modern Europe. Orwell’s mistake lay in thinking there had to be actual war to keep the merry-go-round of the balance of power in being. In fact, in one of the more laughable parts of the book, he goes on and on concerning the necessity of permanent war as a means of consuming the world’s production of resources and thus keeping the social stratification of upper, middle, and lower classes in being. (This sounds like a very Leftist explanation of war as the result of a conspiracy worked out with great difficulty.)

In actual fact, the decades since 1945 have been remarkably war-free as compared with the decades before it. There have been local wars in profusion, but no general war. But then, war is not required as a desperate device to consume the world’s resources. That can be done by such other devices as endless increase in population and in energy use, neither of which Orwell considers.

Orwell did not foresee any of the significant economic changes that have taken place since World War II. He did not foresee the role of oil or its declining availability or its increasing price, or the escalating power of those nations who control it. I don’t recall his mentioning the word ‘oil’.

But perhaps it is close enough to mark Orwellian prescience here, if we substitute ‘cold war’ for ‘war’. There has been, in fact, a more or less continual ‘cold war’ that has served to keep employment high and solve some short-term economic problems (at the cost of creating long-term greater ones). And this cold war is enough to deplete resources.

Furthermore, the alliances shifted as Orwell foresaw and very nearly as suddenly. When the United States seemed all-powerful, the Soviet Union and China were both vociferously anti-American and in a kind of alliance. As American power decreased, the Soviet Union and China fell apart and, for a while, each of the three powers inveighed against the other two equally. Then, when the Soviet Union came to seem particularly powerful, a kind of alliance sprang up between the United States and China, as they co-operated in vilifying the Soviet Union, and spoke softly of each other.

In 1984 every shift of alliance involved an orgy of history rewriting. In real life, no such folly is necessary. The public swings from side to side easily, accepting the change in circumstance with no concern for the past at all. For instance, the Japanese, by the 1950s, had changed from unspeakable villains to friends, while the Chinese moved in the opposite direction with no one bothering to wipe out Pearl Harbour. No one cared, for goodness’ sake.

Orwell has his three great powers voluntarily forgo the use of nuclear bombs, and to be sure such bombs have not been used in war since 1945. That, however, may be because the only powers with large nuclear arsenals, the United States and the Soviet Union, have avoided war with each other. Were there actual war, it is extremely doubtful that one side or the other would not finally feel it necessary to push the button. In that respect, Orwell perhaps falls short of reality.

London does, however, occasionally suffer a missile strike, which sounds very much like a V-1 or V-2 weapon of 1944, and the city is in a 1945-type shambles. Orwell cannot make 1984 very different from 1944 in this respect. Orwell, in fact, makes it clear that by 1984, the universal communism of the three superpowers has choked science and reduced it to uselessness except in those areas where it is needed for war. There is no question but that the nations are more eager to invest in science where war applications are in clear view but, alas, there is no way of separating war from peace where applications are in question.

Science is a unit, and everything in it could conceivably be related to war and destruction. Science has therefore not been choked off but continues not only in the United States and Western Europe and Japan, but also in the Soviet Union and in China. The advances of science are too numerous to attempt to list, but think of lasers and computers as ‘war weapons’ with infinite peaceful applications.

To summarise, then: George Orwell in 1984 was, in my opinion, engaging in a private feud with Stalinism, rather that attempting to forecast the future. He did not have the science fictional knack of foreseeing a plausible future and, in actual fact, in almost all cases, the world of 1984 bears no relation to the real world of the 1980s.

The world may go communist, if not by 1984, then by some not very much later date; or it may see civilisation destroyed. If this happens, however, it will happen in a fashion quite different from that depicted in 1984 and if we try to prevent either eventuality by imagining that 1984 is accurate, then we will be defending ourselves against assaults from the wrong direction and we will lose.

Source

Stalin & the Myth of the ”Old Bolsheviks”

Introduction

One often hears Trotskyists, Anarchists and bourgeois propagandists accuse Joseph Stalin of killing all or at least most of the so-called ”Old Bolsheviks” and thus being able to allegedly distort the true meaning behind Bolshevism/Leninism. Here I won’t be getting into a thorough debate about what is or is not the real core ideology of Bolshevism but I would like to examine the accusation that Stalin ”killed the Old Bolsheviks”.

1. Who were the so-called ”Old Bolsheviks”?

According to the groups mentioned above, i.e. left-communists, Trotskyists, Anarchists and Right-Wingers the term ”Old Bolshevik” typically refers to people such as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov etc.

They allege that these people represented ”real Bolshevism” and that Stalin killed them to implement his ”Stalinist distortion of Bolshevism”.

But what makes these people ”Old Bolsheviks”? Sure enough some of them such as Zinoviev were long standing members of the Bolshevik party, but is that all that we’re talking about? Zinoviev, Kamenev & co. had numerous disagreements with Lenin, the founder and leader of Bolshevism so can they truly be called Bolsheviks at all? Second of all, there are many people who were also longtime members of the Bolshevik Party yet they don’t get the same status of being called ”Old Bolsheviks”.

We can only conclude that the Right-Winger, Trotskyist and their ilk define ”Old Bolsheviks” merely as people who were killed by Stalin. That is their only qualification.

2. The Real Old Bolsheviks

Interestingly Right and ”Left” critics of Stalin don’t seem to consider the following group of people Old Bolsheviks despite the fact that they obviously were – or at least ignore them when arguing that ”Stalin killed the Old Bolsheviks”.

Note: The Bolshevik faction ”RSDLP(B)” emerged in 1903-1907. The RSDLP itself was founded in 1898.

Stalin             (joined the RSDLP in 1899. Bolshevik as early as 1903)
Kalinin          (joined the party in 1898. Bolshevik at least as early as 1905)
Voroshilov    (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1903)
Orjonikidze   (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1903)
Sverdlov       (joined the RSDLP in 1902. Bolshevik as early as 1903)
Molotov        (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1906)
Kaganovich   (joined the RSDLP(B) in 1911)

These people were not killed by Stalin, in fact they were his allies and I would argue much better Bolsheviks then Zinoviev & co. However for some reason they do not seem to count.

3. Were Zinoviev, Kamenev & Bukharin really such good Bolsheviks?

I think it can be demonstrated rather easily that Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Trotsky & co. were not particularly good Bolsheviks and for that reason calling them ”Old Bolsheviks” (that Stalin ’murdered’ to distort bolshevism) seems dubious.

Zinoviev & Kamenev:
Lenin himself wanted Z. & K. expelled from the Bolshevik party altogether due to their treachery on the eve of the October Revolution. Z. & K. opposed the revolution and criticized it in a bourgeois newspaper, thus revealing the Bolsheviks plan to overthrow the government to the class-enemy.

”When the full text of Kamenev’s and Zinoviev’s statement in the non-Party paper Novaya Zhizn was transmitted to me by telephone, I refused to believe it… I no longer consider either of them comrades and that I will fight with all my might, both in the Central Committee and at the Congress, to secure the expulsion of both of them from the Party… Let Mr. Zinoviev and Mr. Kamenev found their own party”
–LENIN, ”Letter to Bolshevik Party Members” (18th Oct. 1917)

Bukharin:
Despite being known as a Right-Winger for his views on economic policy, Bukharinists used to be thought of as a Left-Communist faction in the party. This is in the main due to their adventurism and opposition to the Brest-Litovsk peace-treaty.

Lenin slammed the actions of Bukharin & the ”Left”-communists in ”Peace or War?”

”…he who is against an immediate, even though extremely onerous peace, is endangering Soviet power.”

He also attacked Bukharin on the economic front in 1921 in his work ”Once Again On the Trade Unions: On the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin”.

Trotsky:
Mentioning Trotsky in this context is perhaps superfluous but I will do it for the sake of thoroughness. He joined the party only in 1917 and cannot be called an Old Bolshevik in any case. Initially he was a Menshevik (1903-1905), then a member of the ultra-opportunist August Bloch (1907-1913) which Lenin ridiculed, opponent of the Zimmerwald Left that Lenin supported (1914-1916) and finally the semi-Menshevik Mezhraiontsy which ceased to exist in 1917. His disagreements with Lenin are too numerous to mention.

He was a longtime enemy of Lenin prompting Lenin to refer to him as a ”Judas”, ”Swine”, ”Scoundrel”, “bureaucratic” helper of the liberal bourgeois and calling his theory of Permanent Revolution both ”absurd” and half-menshevik. Instead of providing quotations sources for the claims will be at the end or otherwise this section would be too lengthy.

Lenin also attacked Trotsky for his flip flopping on the Brest peace deal and his ridiculous economic policy & poor handling of the trade unions together with Bukharin.

4. The Bloc of Rights & Trotskyites

In 1921 at the 10th congress of the RCP Lenin argued for the banning of factional cliques in the Bolshevik party. This was accepted and factions were either expelled or they capitulated. However after his death various factional groups sprung up. In 1927 Trotsky, Zinoviev & Kamenev were expelled from the party for factionalism after organizing an anti-party demonstration, though Z & K. later capitulated to Stalin.

Trotsky was exiled from the USSR, while Zinoviev & Kamenev were marginalized. The Bukharinists also lost the debate against Stalin & the majority. By 1932 Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev & Bukharin had all lost their legitimate political power. Trotsky created a secret conspiratorial anti-soviet group which was joined by Z. & K. and later various Bukharinites. This group became known in the Soviet media as ”The Bloc of Rights & Trotskyites”.

This is the real reason for which these people were later arrested & executed. They wished to carry out destabilization against the Soviet government which was already worried about foreign Fascist invasions. All of this was denied by anti-soviet elements for decades but the discovery of various letters from Trotsky and his associates has proven it without a shadow of a doubt.                     

”…The proposal for a bloc seems to me to be completely acceptable.”
Trotsky to Sedov

”The bloc is organised, it includes the Zinovievists, the Sten–Lominadze Group and the Trotskyists…”
Sedov to Trotsky

One fights repression by means of anonymity and conspiracy…”
–Trotsky to Sedov

”As far as the illegal organisation of the Bolshevik-Leninists in the USSR is concerned, only the first steps have been taken towards its re-organisation.”
Trotsky (Dec. 16 1932)

Source: Library of Harvard College 13905c, 1010, 4782 quoted in Pierre Broué’s The “Bloc” of the Oppositions against Stalin

Whether or not you believe the actions of Trotsky & co. to be justified it is dishonest to claim they were framed or unjustly murdered for their so-called Bolshevism. They fought against the Soviet government and lost.

5. Conclusions: Will the Real Old Bolsheviks please Stand up?

Stalin did not in fact kill the Old Bolsheviks, he killed anti-Soviet renegades whose Bolshevik credentials were questionable at best. The real Old Bolsheviks were people like Kalinin and Voroshilov who supported Lenin since the beginning through thick and thin, not flip-flopping opportunists like Zinoviev who stabbed Lenin in the back when ever it was advantageous.

LENIN QUOTES ON TROTSKY:

”…Trotsky’s (the scoundrel… this swindler … pays lip-service to the Party and behaves worse than any other of the factionalists.”
–LENIN CW 34 p. 400 (1909)

”At the Plenary Meeting Judas Trotsky made a big show of fighting liquidationism…”
–LENIN ”Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame” (1911)

Trotsky… proclaiming his absurdly Left ‘permanent revolution’ theory.”

–LENIN ”Disruption of Unity Under Cover of Outcries for Unity” (1914)

Trotsky’s… theory has borrowed… from the Mensheviks…”
–LENIN ”On the Two Lines in the Revolution” (1915)

”The Bolsheviks helped the proletariat consciously to follow the first line… liberal bourgeoisie was the second… Trotsky is in fact helping the liberal-labour politicians in Russia…”
– LENIN, Ibid.

”What a swine this Trotsky is—Left phrases, and a bloc with the Right…”
–LENIN ”Letter to Alexandra Kollontai” (1917)

”It is Trotsky who is in “ideological confusion”… There you have an example of the real bureaucratic approach: Trotsky… Trotsky’s “theses” are politically harmful…”
–LENIN ”The Trade Unions, The Present Situation And Trotsky’s Mistakes” (1920)

”Comrade Trotsky is essentially wrong on all his new points… Trotsky and Bukharin have produced a hodgepodge of political mistakes”
–LENIN ”Once Again On The Trade Unions: The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin” (1921)

Source

John Callaghan on Rajani Palme Dutt and Evidence for the Moscow Trials and Anti-Soviet Conspiracies

On pages 279-280 of the book Rajani Palme Dutt: A Study in British Stalinism by John Callaghan (Lawrence & Wishart 1993), the author writes the following:

“… the evidence points overwhelmingly to Dutt’s satisfaction with the Communist record. In preparing his book on The Internationale, for example, he had considered the inclusion of an anecdote to illustrate the ‘basic guilt of the accused’ [in the Moscow Trials]. Fortunately, although Dutt changed his mind about publication, this curious fragment survives and acquires an especially sinister light today in view of the fact that the Soviet state itself eventually admitted the falsity of the charges brought against the leading Bolsheviks in question. Dutt’s ‘evidence’ concerns ‘a lengthy day’s visit to the village at some distance from Moscow’ where Bukharin and Radek were at work in the summer of 1935. Here ‘under the seal of absolute secrecy’ they apparently ‘gave him a serious and alarming account… of the net in which they had become involved and of the dilemmas with which they were faced’. Dutt was told in very general terms, with no names mentioned, of how ‘opposition to the party, however much it might be felt to be justified at a given moment, can lead by its own logic step by step into the camp of counter-revolution’. He was accordingly advised to never enter this ‘fatal path of conflict with the party’ and retired with ‘the memory of this talk… like a nightmare’ weighing on his mind during the ensuing period. At first Dutt tried to convince himself that these old ‘friends and comrades’ had presented ‘an allegory to test him’ but he had ‘a lurking suspicion’ that their confessions of guilt were true and only failed to report them to the party by taking refuge in the ‘cowardly evasion’ that he had no grounds for certainty concerning their sins. Thus ‘when the trials followed, of Radek, and subsequently of Bukharin, it was as if a weight were lifted from the writer’s [Dutt’s] consciousness that, however terrible, the facts at last were out’. Dutt now read the trial statements of both men and as he did so ‘he felt as if he were reading the same story a second time, since their narrative corresponded so closely with what they had told him on that summer’s day and evening in 1935, even with many of the same phrases.'”

The source given is: Dutt, ‘Radek-Bukharin conversations ommitted from The Internationale’, 11 March 1964, CPGB archive.

Stalin’s Four Attempts at Resignation

Joseph Stalin was elected as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU in April 1922 during the 11th Congress of the Party. Between then and until his death, he asked to be relieved of his duties as General Secretary a total of four times — all of which were rejected.

On Lenin’s motion, the Plenum of the Central Committee, on April 3, 1922, elected Stalin …  [as the] General Secretary of the Central Committee, a post at which he has remained ever since.

Alexandrov, G. F. Joseph Stalin; a Short Biography. Moscow: FLPH, 1947, p. 74

Stalin’s first attempt at resignation (likely in 1925) from the post of General Secretary was at a meeting of the Central Committee after the 13th Congress (held in May 1924). This was rejected unanimously by all the delegations, including Trotsky. Stalin remarked on this later in 1927 in a speech at a meeting of the Central Committee:

It is said that in that “will” Comrade Lenin suggested to the congress that in view of Stalin’s “rudeness” it should consider the question of putting another comrade in Stalin’s place as General Secretary. That is quite true.

Yes, comrades, I am rude to those who grossly and perfidiously wreck and split the Party. I have never concealed this and do not conceal it now. Perhaps some mildness is needed in the treatment of splitters, but I am a bad hand at that.

At the very first meeting of the plenum of the Central Committee after the Thirteenth Congress I asked the plenum of the Central Committee to release me from my duties as General Secretary. The congress itself discussed this question. It was discussed by each delegation separately, and all the delegations unanimously, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev, obliged Stalin to remain at his post.

What could I do? Desert my post? That is not in my nature; I have never deserted any post, and I have no right to do so, for that would be desertion. As I have already said before, I am not a free agent, and when the Party imposes an obligation upon me, I must obey.

A year later I again put in a request to the plenum to release me, but I was again obliged to remain at my post. What else could I do?

The next two attempts to resign from the post of General Secretary was a year after in 1926 and later in 1927. The British historian Robert Service who specialized in Russian history wrote about this in his biography of Stalin:

On 27 December 1926, he wrote to Sovnarkom Chairman Alexei Rykov saying: ‘I ask you to release me from the post of Central Committee General Secretary. I affirm that I can no longer work at this post, that I’m in no condition to work any longer at this post.’ He made a similar attempt at resignation on 19 December 1927.

All three of these previous attempts were rejected. The last attempt to resign was in 1952, about five months before Stalin’s death, during a meeting of the Central Committee where he urged the Central Committee to relieve him of his duties. This too was rejected. 

In a speech given by him to the Central Committee that mainly criticized Molotov for some of his decisions, he was interrupted near the end of the speech by someone from the floor.

VOICE FROM THE FLOOR – We need to elect comrade Stalin as the General Secretary of the CC CPSU and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

STALIN – No! I am asking that you relieve me of the two posts!

MALENKOV – coming to the tribune: Comrades! We should all unanimously ask comrade Stalin, our leader and our teacher, to be again the General Secretary of the CC CPSU.

Originally posted by Socialist Musings.

Grover Furr on Archival Evidence for the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites

kirov-lg

“Shortly after the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard’s Houghton Library was opened in January 1980, Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué discovered letters between Leon Sedov and his father Trotsky that proved the existence of a bloc between Trotskyites and other opposition groups within the USSR. Sometime in the middle of 1932 Sedov informed his father as follows:

“[The bloc] is organized. In it have entered the Zinovievites, the Sten-Lominadze group and the Trotskyites (former ‘[capitulators]’). The group of Safar. Tarkhkan has not formally entered yet – they stand on too extreme a position; they will enter in a very short time. – The declaration of Z. and K. concerning their enormous mistake in ’27 was made during negotiations with our people concerning the bloc, immediately before the exile of Z and K.” [70]

About the same time American historian Arch Getty was discovering that Trotsky had secretly sent letters to at least Radek, Sokol’nikov, Preobrazhenskii, Kollontai, and Litvinov. The first three had been Trotskyites before publicly recanting their views. Getty did not find the letters – only the certified mail receipts for them. Getty realized this meant that the Trotsky Archive has been ‘purged.’ These letters had been removed. Other materials had undoubtedly been purged as well. [71]

The only reason to “purge” the archives would have been to remove materials that would have seemed incriminating – that would have negatively impacted Trotsky’s reputation.As an examination of the question of the letter to Radek shows, the letters that we know were removed proved, at the very least, that Trotsky lied during the 1930s by claiming he never maintained contact with oppositionists inside the USSR when, in reality, he was doing so, and by claiming that he would never agree to a secret bloc between his supporters and other oppositionist groups in act he had done precisely that.

Evidently Broué found the implications of this fact very disturbing. He never mentioned Getty’s discoveries of Trotsky’s letters to his supporters and others inside the USSR or the purging of the Trotsky archive, even though Broué cites the same Getty publications (an article and a book) in a very positive manner. [72]

Therefore it has been well established by scholars by the mid-1980s that a Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc did in fact exist and that it was formed in 1932 and that Zinoviev and Kamenev were personally involved. Sedov also foresaw the entry into the group of Safarov, who in any case had a group of his own.

In an interview with the Dutch social-democratic newspaper Het Volk during the second half of January 1937, at the time of the Second Moscow Trial, Sedov stated, in a slip of the tongue, that “the Trotskyists” had been in contact with the defendents at the First Moscow Trial of August 1936. [73] Sedov specifically named Zinoviev, Kamenev and Smirnov. Concerning Radek and Piatakov Sedov went on to say that “[t]he Trotskyists have had much less contact with them than with the others. To be exact: no contact at all.” That is, Sedov tried to withdraw his “slip” about Radek and Piatakov.

But Sedov did not even try and retract the information that preceded it: that “the Trotskyists” had indeed been in contact with “the other”: Smirnov, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. This interview, “slip of the tongue” included, was published in a provincial edition of Het Volk on January 28, 1937. It was noticed by the Communist press, which called attention to Sedov’s “slip of the tongue.” (Arbeideren, Oslo, February 5, 1937; Abejderbladet, Copenhagen, February 12, 1937.) Thanks to Getty we now know that the Communist press was correct. Sedov’s remark really was a “slip of the tongue.” We know that Sedov was lying because Getty had found evidence of Trotsky’s letter to Radek. Trotsky has indeed been in touch with Radek. Sedov’s first remark, about “much less contact,” was accurate.

Therefore we have good, non-Soviet evidence, confirmed by the Trotsky Archive, of the following:

  • A “bloc” of Zinovievites, Trotskyites, and others including at least the Sten-Lominadze and, perhaps, the Safarov-Tarkhanov group (with whom they were in any case in touch) and involving Zinoviev and Kamenev themselves, was indeed formed in 1932.
  • Trotsky had indeed been in touch with Zinoviev and Kamenev, as well as others, probably through his son and chief representative Sedov.
  • Trotsky was indeed in touch with at least Radek and Piatakov.
  • Trotsky really did send a letter to Radek, who was in Geneva at the time, in the Spring of 1932, just as Radek testified in the January 1932 Moscow Trial.
  • There is no reason to accept Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué’s conclusion that thus bloc was “ephemeral” and died out shortly after it was formed, because we know the Trotsky Archive was purged at some time, while Broué had no evidence to support that statement.

[….]

The Harvard Trotsky archive yielded to Broué and Getty unmistakable evidence that the “bloc” did exist; that Trotsky was in contact with the bloc’s members and his own supporters inside the USSR, and that Trotsky lied consistently about all these matters both in the Bulletin of the Opposition and to the Dewey Commission. No scholar today denies this. Kirilina, Lenoe, and Egge simply ignore the whole matter.

The NKVD of the 1930s termed the complexly-interlocking set of oppositional conspiracies the “klubok,” or “tangle.” If any of these conspiracies were acknowledged to have existed, it would be hard to deny the existence of the rest, since all the defendants implicated others in a chant that, directly or indirectly, connected them all. Admitting that the bloc of Trotskyites and Zinovievites did in fact exist would present the danger of a “slippery slope” to any historian who wanted to deny the validity of the other conspiracies. For once it is conceded that the first alleged underground opposition conspiracy really did exist, and therefore that both the Khrushchev and Gorbachev official reports, rehabilitations, and official historians were lying, it logically follows that other conspiracies, which these same sources also denied, might have existed too.

 – Grover Furr, “The Murder of Sergei Kirov: History, Scholarship and the Anti-Stalin Paradigm,” pages 131-133, 136.

Footnotes

[70] Harvard, Trotsky Archive 4782 p. 1; see Broué in Cahiers Leon Trotsky 1980 p. 36; Broué, “Party Opposition to Stalin…” p. 100.

[71] Other materials were certainly removed – “purged” – with traces of their removal remaining. For example, excerpts from a discussion between Trotsky and Sedov concerning the slogan “remove Stalin” (‘ubrat Stalina’) remain in the archive, but the full letters from which the excerpts were made are not there.

[72] We will examine this whole question in detail in a forthcoming work.

[73] “Het process te Moskou. Wie niet wil bekennen al doodgeschoten?” Het Volk 28 Jan. 1937 pp. 1 and 5. My sincere thanks to Sven-Eric Holmstrom for tracking down this article and generously providing me with a copy.

Labour Party (EMEP): Step by Step; Moving Towards a Dictatorship

emep_bayraklar

Labour Party (EMEP), Turkey
emep.org

The failed attempted military coup of 15 July, orchestrated by the so called ‘Gülen Movement’ – the pro-American Islamic organisation that shared power with the AKP government for 10 years – was called “a gift from God” by the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.

The crushing of the coup was quickly followed by the declaration of a state of emergency (OHAL). OHAL enabled the government to take administrative and political decisions and to introduce regulatory legislation without the need for judicial and/or parliamentary approval.

Under the leadership of President Erdoğan, the AKP government issued emergency decrees (KHKs) one after another; leading to suspension and dismissal of tens of thousands of military and police officers, judges, prosecutors and civil servants. Almost 40,000 people, including academics and teachers were also arrested. The number of jailed journalists rose to a record high of 140. Meanwhile, 37 thousand petty criminals were released on the account that there was not enough space in prisons. Whereas the government initially claimed that dismissals and arrests were carried out only against coup plotters of the Gülen movement; soon it became clear that democrats and socialists were also targeted. Through only one decree, more than 10 thousand teachers, all members of Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers Union), were laid-off. A great majority of them were democrats, socialists and supporters of Kurdish national movement.

Following the attempted coup, overriding of rights and freedoms – traditionally deficient in Turkish political democracy – have increased; bourgeois law is at a standstill and has been replaced by arbitrary treatments of the executive/government. Replacing legislation with the state of emergency and rule by emergency decrees, and subordinating the judiciary to the executive through special courts and appointment of new judges and prosecutors; Erdoğan and AKP are trying to establish a fascist dictatorship regime of one-man, one-party.

The government issued unconstitutional and illicit decrees, while by law it only could issue ones that are constitutional and related to the events that lead to declaration of state of emergency. With the help of these decrees targeting the critics of AKP, demonstrations are banned, dissident newspapers, journals, radio stations and TV channels are shut down; their property and equipment are confiscated.

The municipalities led by HDP, third biggest party in the parliament with 40 MPs and representing the Kurdish democratic movement, were raided by the police and more than 20 mayors arrested. Trustees were appointed to their posts without a public vote.

Finally, a total of ten HDP MPs – including the party co-chairs – were jailed. At the same time, 10 executives of the Cumhuriyet newspaper – founded 93 years ago with the establishment of Turkish Republic and politically aligned in recent years with social democracy – were also arrested.

Publications defending the revolutionary line of the working class­ such as Hayatın Sesi TV, Evrensel Kültür (a culture and art magazine), Özgürlük Dünyası (a journal of political theory), Tiroj (bilingual Kurdish-Turkish cultural magazine) were among the television stations and publications closed down by the government.

Unconstitutionally, without breaking his association with AKP for nearly two years and consolidating all executive power in his hands, the de-facto president Erdoğan is trying to change the constitution in line with the aforementioned situation and pushing for a presidential system.

Furthermore, while insisting on a foreign policy based on expansionism and sectarian war, intimate with Islamist terrorist groups, the Erdoğan-led government is taking further steps. Over the last five years, it has supported radical Islamist gangs in Syria and their organisation, to overthrow the Esad regime. In a new attempt, Turkey launched a military operation in Northern Syria at the end of the summer, to back a few thousand Islamist terrorist militants it put forward initially. The intervention was under the pretext of fighting against ISIS, but its main target was Syrian Kurds. Turkey, along with Islamist gangs, controls/invades an area of almost 2000 km2, stretching from the banks of the Euphrates river to the Kurdish canton of Afrin, including cities and towns such as Jarablus. Nowadays, the government pursues the propaganda of conquering al-Bab. However, a spike was put in Turkey’s wheel due to US support for Syrian Democratic Forces – the backbone of whom is YPG – in the operation to liberate the “capital” of ISIS, Raqqa; and the support of Russia for the Esad regime, trying to capture al-Bab because of its strategic importance as a gate to Aleppo.

The AKP government, while fighting the PYD-YPG in Syria, is also in conflict with the Iraqi government due to its military presence in the Iraqi town of Bashiqa; Iraq is demanding the withdrawal of the Turkish forces. The Turkish Airforce is regularly bombing Northern Iraq, claiming to attack PKK camps.

In the last year, Syria and Iraq policies of Turkey have increasingly changed; as well as relations with the Us and the EU cooling, due to the Turkish belief that they supported the attempted coup of 15 July.

Following the agreement for Turkey to stop the migration from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and the EU to pay Turkey three billion Euros, as well as give Turkish citizens visa-free travel rights within the EU, both sides failed to keep their promises and the relationships between Turkey and the EU are strained. The AKP government is claiming that they’ll wait two more months before cancelling the agreement and that they’ll go to a referendum on EU membership due to its criticism of Turkey; EU, citing the imprisonment of journalists and the like, have started talking about halting discussions on Turkish membership.

Since its establishment, Turkey had close economical, trade and financial ties with the West and very strong military ties with the USA; as such it is undoubtedly very hard for Turkey as a NATO member to change its ‘axis’ or ‘boss’. Nevertheless, President Erdoğan, having visited Pakistan recently, has stated “…why not? It will help Turkey feel at ease” on the issue of membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Besides the policies and steps taken by the AKP government, the Turkish economy is not going in the right direction either. The rate of growth has been falling for the last four years, the deficit and unemployment increasing. According to official figures unemployment is at 11% but the real figure is higher. The dollar has risen 10% against the Turkish Lira in the recent days; as if the Turkish lira has devaluated and lost 10% of its value. The government is cutting the interest rate and increasing available credit in an attempt to stimulate the economy but stagnation has set in all sectors – primarily building and textile sectors. A capitalist crisis that is not limited to, and not necessarily starting in the financial sector is raising its “head” and this is the soft underbelly of the AKP.

Despite all bans and police oppression, strikes at workplaces level continue. The powers of the executive are ever increasing; students are demonstrating against the decision that university rectors will be appointed by the President. Solicitors and intellectuals are demonstrating to condemn the imprisonment of their peers. Opponents of AKP are trying to create new alliances. Unity for Democracy with its components of democratic, socialist, social-democrat and Kurdish national movements, including our party, is taking further steps to organise following a series of meetings.

New magazines are published in place of others.

Is the future of Turkey going to be a fascist dictatorship run by one man? Or the struggle for democracy and freedom will widen and strengthen to achieve new successes; the dimensions of the struggle and the level of organisation will determine this. Of course the international support and solidarity will have a great contribution to the outcome.

Labour Party (EMEP) Turkey
International Bureau

22nd Plenary of the ICMLPO: ‘Free Trade Agreements’ Weapons of Economic Aggression and Imperialist Domination

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Currently in most of the European countries as well as in the USA and Canada, hundred thousands of workers and progressive people protest and fight against “free trade treaties” like TTIP, TISA and CETA. A large resistance movement has developed. Already, there have been some successes in the struggle. The negotiations have been suspended. Nevertheless the resistance movement especially against CETA continues.
Why?

Why?

The workers and peoples have gathered some experience with “free trade agreements” and have seen that they did not result in more and better jobs, but instead in increased poverty. For example, the NAFTA agreement between the USA, Canada and Mexico has not lead to an economic growth, but instead to low wages, unemployment and to the elimination of the weaker enterprises, that where defeated in the increasing competition.

It is therefore obvious that such agreements are in favor of the biggest imperialist monopolies. Likewise, the Ukraine was forced to sign an “association agreement” with the EU, a “free trade agreement” which had all the negative consequences for the workers, the people and the economy. Furthermore, this agreement included the subordination of Ukraine under the military structures of EU and NATO, transforming the Ukraine into a front state of aggression against Russia.

These agreements are very undemocratic. The negotiations are generally conducted in secret. They are put into practice “provisionally” even before they are ratified by the bourgeois parliaments or after they have been rejected by a parliament or in a referendum. In the Netherlands, the “free trade treaty” with the Ukraine was rejected by the people in a referendum. But the EU just ignored the people’s will.

Whenever such treaties are put into practice, the bourgeois institutions are submitted to new private arbitrating tribunals.

The mobilization against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a similar “free trade treaty”, is developing on both sides of Pacific.

At this time, the EU forces many African states to sign the so called “Economic Partnership Agreement” which will increase their dependency on the EU imperialists. It will deepen the neocolonial plundering by opening the markets for the EU industry even more, destroying their own economic structures, and it will also ease the exploitation of their natural resources. The peoples of Africa struggle against this new imperialist offensive. We have to support them.

The workers and the people have good reasons to combat these treaties. Of course, TTIP, TISA and CETA are treaties between imperialist powers, where each party hopes to outwit the other and gain hegemony. They will lead to lower wages, increased unemployment, lower social and environmental standards, the dismantling of democratic rights and to an increased competition among the workers. Thus the workers and the people’s determined resistance is justified. We, as Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations are an active part in these movements and work to develop it.

We, as Marxist-Leninist parties and organizations are an active part in these movements and work to develop it.

Stop TTIP, CETA and TISA!

Stop the so called “Economic Partnership Agreement” between EU and Africa!

22nd Plenary of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations

Mao Apologised to Yugoslavian Delegates, told Stalin Blocked our Revolution

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It has always been our understanding on Mao, that he was a revisionist and an Anti-Marxist Leninist. With new documents and papers coming out of various Archives, our view has been solidified in light of such information. Mao, had always adopted a vacillating position when it came to matter of international import that concerned the International Communist Movement. At one hand he went to China and asked Stalin of every possible help, including to get his works reviewed by Soviet experts to asking for help on industrialisation.

On numerous occasion he did not fail to eulogies Stalin and writing to him that Soviet Party being the headquarters and Stalin the captain, and immediately after the 20th CPSU Party Congress like Khrushchev turned all guns again same Stalin whom he had called in 1939 as “…Stalin is the leader of the world revolution. This is of paramount importance. It is a great event that mankind is blessed with Stalin. Since we have him, things can go well. As you all know, Marx is dead and so are Engels and Lenin. Had there been no Stalin, who would there be to give directions?

The below document titled “MINUTES, MAO’S CONVERSATION WITH A YUGOSLAVIAN COMMUNIST UNION DELEGATION, BEIJING” further exposes the sheer un-Marxist attitude of Mao when he shamelessly puts blame on Stalin even stating that Stalin blocked our revolution.

But, it was not the end in 1958 Mao again did a U turn and in October 25, 1966 said “The revisionist leading clique of the Soviet Union, the Tito clique of Yugoslavia, and all the other cliques of renegades and scabs of various shades are mere dust heaps in comparison, while you, a lofty mountain, tower to the skies.”

We leave it to the discretion of our dear comrades who still harbour respect and faith in Mao, and to what is said as Mao-Tse-Tung thought or Maoism.

[All emphasis and underline are ours.]

Other Aspect

“MINUTES, MAO’S CONVERSATION WITH A YUGOSLAVIAN COMMUNIST UNION DELEGATION, BEIJING

We welcome you to China.  We are very pleased at your visit.  We have been supported by you, as well as by other brotherly [Communist] parties.  We are invariably supporting you as much as all the other brotherly parties.  In today’s world, the Marxist and Communist front remains united, whether in places where success [of Communist revolution] is achieved or not yet achieved.  However, there were times when we were not so united; there were times when we let you down.  We listened to the opinions of the Information Bureau [2] in the past.  Although we did not take part in the Bureau’s [business], we found it difficult not to support it.  In 1949 the Bureau condemned you as butchers and Hitler-style fascists, and we kept silent on the resolution [condemning you], although we published articles to criticize you in 1948.  In retrospect, we should not have done that; we should have discussed [this issue] with you: if some of your viewpoints were incorrect, [we should have let] you conduct self-criticism, and there was no need to hurry [into the controversy] as [we] did.  The same thing is true to us: should you disagree with us, you should do the same thing, that is, the adoption of a method of persuasion and consultation.  There have not been that many successful cases in which one criticizes foreign parties in newspapers.  [Your] case offers a profound historical lesson for the international communist movement.  Although you have suffered from it, the international communist movement has learned a lesson from this mistake.  [The international communist movement] must fully understand [the seriousness of] this mistake.

When you offered to recognize new China, we did not respond, nor did we decline it.  Undoubtedly, we should not have rejected it, because there was no reason for us to do so.  When Britain recognized us, we did not say no to it.  How could we find any excuse to reject the recognition of a socialist country?

There was, however, another factor which prevented us from responding to you: the Soviet friends did not want us to form diplomatic relations with you.  If so, was China an independent state?  Of course, yes.  If an independent state, why, then, did we follow their instructions?  [My] comrades, when the Soviet Union requested us to follow their suit at that time, it was difficult for us to oppose it.  It was because at that time some people claimed that there were two Titos in the world: one in Yugoslavia, the other in China, even if no one passed a resolution that Mao Zedong was Tito.  I have once pointed out to the Soviet comrades that [they] suspected that I was a half-hearted Tito, but they refuse to recognize it.  When did they remove the tag of half-hearted Tito from my head?  The tag was removed after [China] decided to resist America [in Korea] and came to [North] Korea’s aid and when [we] dealt the US imperialists a blow.

The Wang Ming line[3] was in fact Stalin’s line.  It ended up destroying ninety percent of our strength in our bases, and one hundred percent of [our strength] in the white areas.[4] Comrade [Liu] Shaoqi[5] pointed this out in his report to the Eighth [Party] Congress.[6]  Why, then, did he not openly attribute [the losses] to the [impact of] Stalin’s line?  There is an explanation.  The Soviet Party itself could criticize Stalin; but it would be inappropriate for us to criticize him.  We should maintain a good relationship with the Soviet Union.  Maybe [we] could make our criticism public sometime in the future.  It has to be that way in today’s world, because facts are facts.  The Comintern made numerous mistakes in the past.  Its early and late stages were not so bad, but its middle stage was not so good: it was all right when Lenin was alive and when [Georgii] Dimitrov was in charge.[7]  The first Wang Ming line dominated [our party] for four years, and the Chinese revolution suffered the biggest losses.[8]Wang Ming is now in Moscow taking a sick leave, but still we are going to elect him to be a member of the party’s Central Committee.  He indeed is an instructor for our party; he is a professor, an invaluable one who could not be purchased by money.  He has taught the whole party, so that it would not follow his line.

That was the first time when we got the worst of Stalin.

The second time was during the anti-Japanese war.  Speaking Russian and good at flattering Stalin, Wang Ming could directly communicate with Stalin.  Sent back to China by Stalin, he tried to set [us] toward right deviation this time, instead of following the leftist line he had previously advocated.  Advocating [CCP] collaboration with the Guomindang [the Nationalist Party or GMD], he can be described as “decking himself out and self-inviting [to the GMD];” he wanted [us] to obey the GMD whole-heartedly.  The Six-Principle Program he put forward was to overturn our Party’s Ten-Principle Policy.  [His program] opposed establishing anti-Japanese bases, advocated giving up our Party’s own armed force, and preached that as long as Jiang Jieshi [Chiang Kai-shek] was in power, there would be peace [in China].  We redressed this deviation.  [Ironically,] Jiang Jieshi helped us correct this mistake: while Wang Ming “decked himself out and fawned on [Jiang],” Jiang Jieshi “slapped his face and kicked him out.”  Hence, Jiang Jieshi was China’s best instructor: he had educated the people of the whole nation as well as all of our Party members.  Jiang lectured with his machine guns whereas Wang Ming educated us with his own words.

The third time was after Japan’s surrender and the end of the Second World War.  Stalin met with [Winston] Churchill and [Franklin D.] Roosevelt and decided to give the whole of China to America and Jiang Jieshi.  In terms of material and moral support, especially moral support, Stalin hardly gave any to us, the Communist Party, but supported Jiang Jieshi.  This decision was made at the Yalta conference.  Stalin later told Tito [this decision] who mentioned his conversation [with Stalin on this decision] in his autobiography.

Only after the dissolution of the Comintern did we start to enjoy more freedom.  We had already begun to criticize opportunism and the Wang Ming line, and unfolded the rectification movement.  The rectification, in fact, was aimed at denouncing the mistakes that Stalin and the Comintern had committed in directing the Chinese revolution; however, we did not openly mention a word about Stalin and the Comintern.  Sometime in the near future, [we] may openly do so.  There are two explanations of why we did not openly criticize [Stalin and the Comintern]: first, as we followed their instructions, we have to take some responsibility ourselves.  Nobody compelled us to follow their instructions!  Nobody forced us to be wrongfully deviated to right and left directions!  There are two kinds of Chinese: one kind is a dogmatist who completely accepts Stalin’s line; the other opposes dogmatism, thus refusing to obey [Stalin’s] instructions.  Second, we do not want to displease [the Soviets], to disrupt our relations with the Soviet Union.  The Comintern has never made self-criticism on these mistakes; nor has the Soviet Union ever mentioned these mistakes.  We would have fallen out with them had we raised our criticism.

The fourth time was when [Moscow] regarded me as a half-hearted Tito or semi-Titoist.  Not only in the Soviet Union but also in other socialist countries and some non-socialist countries were there some people who had suspected whether China’s was a real revolution.

You might wonder why [we] still pay a tribute to Stalin in China by hanging his portrait on the wall.  Comrades from Moscow have informed us that they no longer hang Stalin’s portraits and only display Lenin’s and current leaders’ portraits in public parade.  They, however, did not ask us to follow their suit.  We find it very difficult to cope.  The four mistakes committed by Stalin are yet to be made known to the Chinese people as well as to our whole party.  Our situation is quite different from yours: your [suffering inflicted by Stalin] is known to the people and to the whole world.  Within our party, the mistakes of the two Wang Ming lines are well known; but our people do not know that these mistakes originated in Stalin.  Only our Central Committee was aware that Stalin blocked our revolution and regarded me as a half-hearted Tito.

We had no objection that the Soviet Union functions as a center [of the world revolution] because it benefits the socialist movement.  You may disagree [with us] on this point.  You wholeheartedly support Khrushchev’s campaign to criticize Stalin, but we cannot do the same because our people would dislike it.  In the previous parades [in China], we held up portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, as well as those of a few Chinese [leaders]—Mao, Liu [Shaoqi], Zhou [Enlai], and Zhu [De][9] —and other brotherly parties’ leaders.  Now we adopt a measure of “overthrowing all”: no one’s portrait is handed out.  For this year’s “First of May” celebration, Ambassador Bobkoveshi[10] already saw in Beijing that no one’s portrait was held in parade.  However, the portraits of five dead persons—Marx, Engles, Lenin and Stalin and Sun [Yat-sen]—and a not yet dead person—Mao Zedong—are still hanging [on the wall].  Let them hang on the wall!  You Yugoslavians may comment that the Soviet Union no longer hangs Stalin’s portrait, but the Chinese still do.

As of this date some people remain suspicious of whether our socialism can be successfully constructed and stick to the assertion that our Communist Party is a phony one.  What can we do?  These people eat and sleep every day and then propagate that the Chinese Communist Party is not really a communist party, and that China’s socialist construction is bound to fail.  To them, it would be a bewildering thing if socialism could be built in China!  Look out, [they warn].  China might become an imperialist country—to follow America, Britain, and France to become the fourth imperialist country!  At present China has little industry, thus is in no position [to be an imperialist country]; but [China] will become formidable in one hundred years!  Chinggis Khan[11] might be brought to life; consequently Europe would suffer again, and Yugoslavia might be conquered!  The “Yellow Peril” must be prevented!

There is absolutely no ground for this to happen!  The CCP is a Marxist-Leninist Party.  The Chinese people are peace-loving people.  We believe that aggression is a crime, therefore, we will never seize an inch of territory or a piece of grass from others.  We love peace and we are Marxists.

We oppose great power politics in international relations.  Although our industry is small, all things considered, we can be regarded as a big power.  Hence some people [in China] begin to be cocky.  We then warn them: “Lower your heads and act with your tails tucked between your legs.”  When I was little, my mother often taught me to behave “with tails tucked between legs.”  This is a correct teaching and now I often mention it to my comrades.

Domestically, we oppose Pan-Hanism,[12] because this tendency is harmful to the unity of all ethnic groups.  Hegemonism and Pan-Hanism both are sectarianism.  Those who have hegemonious tendencies only care about their own interests but ignore others’, whereas those Pan-Hanists only care about the Han people and regard the Han people as superior to others, thus damaging [the interests of] all the minorities.

Some people have asserted in the past that China has no intention to be friends with other countries, but wants to split with the Soviet Union, thus becoming a troublemaker.  Now, however, this kind of people shrinks to only a handful in the socialist countries; their number has been reduced since the War to Resist America and Assist Korea.[13]  It is, however, a totally different thing for the imperialists:  the stronger China becomes, the more scared they will be.  They also understand that China is not that terrifying as long as China has no advanced industry, and as long as China continues to rely on human power.  The Soviet Union remains the most fearsome [for the imperialists] whereas China is merely the second.  What they are afraid of is our politics and that we may have an enormous impact in Asia.  That is why they keep spreading the words that China will be out of control and will invade others, so on and so forth.

We have been very cautious and modest, trying to overcome arrogance but adhering to the “Five Principles.”[14] We know we have been bullied in the past; we understand how it feels to be bullied.  You would have had the same feeling, wouldn’t you?

China’s future hinges upon socialism.  It will take fifty or even one hundred years to turn China into a wealthy and powerful country.  Now no [formidable] blocking force stands in China’s way.  China is a huge country with a population of one fourth of that of the world.  Nevertheless, her contribution to the world is yet to be compatible with her population size, and this situation will have to change, although my generation and even my son’s generation may not see the change taking place.  How it will change in the future depends on how [China] develops.  China may make mistakes or become corrupt; the current good situation may take a bad turn and, then, the bad situation may take a good turn.  There can be little doubt, though, that even if [China’s] situation takes a bad turn, it may not become as decadent a society as that of Jiang Jieshi’s.  This anticipation is based on dialectics.  Affirmation, negation, and, then, negation of negation.  The path in the future is bound to be tortuous.

Corruption, bureaucracy, hegemonism, and arrogance all may take effect in China.  However, the Chinese people are inclined to be modest and willing to learn from others.  One explanation is that we have little “capital” at our disposal: first, we did not invent Marxism which we learned from others; second, we did not experience the October Revolution and our revolution did not achieve victory until 1949, some thirty-two years after the October Revolution; third, we were only a branch army, not a main force, during the Second World War; fourth, with little modern industry, we merely have agriculture and some shabby, tattered handicrafts.  Although there are some people among us who appear to be cocky, they are in no position to be cocky; at most, [they can merely show] their tails one or two meters high.  But we must prevent this from happening in the future: it may become dangerous [for us] in ten to twenty years and even more dangerous in forty to fifty years.

My comrades, let me advise you that you should also watch out for this potential.  Your industry is much modernized and has experienced a more rapid growth; Stalin made you suffer and hence, justice is on your side.  All of this, though, may become your [mental] burden.

The above-mentioned four mistakes Stalin committed [concerning China] may also become our burden.  When China becomes industrialized in later years, it will be more likely that we get cocky.  Upon your return to your country, please tell your youngsters that, should China stick her tail up in the future, even if the tail becomes ten thousand meters high, still they must criticize China.  [You] must keep an eye on China, and the entire world must keep an eye on China.  At that time, I definitely will not be here: I will already be attending a conference together with Marx.

We are sorry that we hurt you before, thus owing you a good deal.  Killing must be compensated by life and debts must be paid in cash.  We have criticized you before, but why do we still keep quiet?  Before [Khrushchev’s] criticism of Stalin, we were not in a position to be as explicit about some issues as we are now.  In my previous conversations with [Ambassador] Bobkoveshi, I could only say that as long as the Soviet Union did not criticize Stalin, we would be in no position to do so; as long as the Soviet Union did not restore [diplomatic] relations with Yugoslavia, we could not establish relations with you.[15]  Now these issues can be openly discussed.  I have already talked to the Soviet comrades about the four mistakes that Stalin had committed [to China]; I talked to [Soviet Ambassador Pavel] Yudin[16] about it, and I shall talk to Khrushchev about it next time when we meet.  I talk to you about it because you are our comrades.  However, we still cannot publish this in the newspapers, because the imperialists should not be allowed to know about it.  We may openly talk about one or two mistakes of Stalin’s in the future.  Our situation is quite different from yours:  Tito’s autobiography mentions Stalin because you have already broken up with the Soviet Union.

Stalin advocated dialectical materialism, but sometimes he lacked materialism and, instead, practiced metaphysics; he wrote about historical materialism, but very often suffered from historical idealism.  Some of his behavior, such as going to extremes, fostering personal myth, and embarrassing others, are by no means [forms] of materialism.

Before I met with Stalin, I did not have much good feeling about him.  I disliked reading his works, and I have read only “On the Basis of Leninism,” a long article criticizing Trotsky, and “Be Carried Away by Success,” etc.  I disliked even more his articles on the Chinese revolution.  He was very different from Lenin: Lenin shared his heart with others and treated others as equals whereas Stalin liked to stand above every one else and order others around.  This style can be detected from his works.  After I met with him, I became even more disgusted:  I quarreled a lot with him in Moscow.  Stalin was excitable by temperament.  When he became agitated, he would spell out nasty things.

I have written altogether three pieces praising Stalin.  The first was written in Yanan to celebrate his sixtieth birthday [21 December 1939—ed.], the second was the congratulatory speech [I delivered] in Moscow [in December 1949—ed.], and the third was an article requested by Pravda after his death [March 1953—ed.].  I always dislike congratulating others as well as being congratulated by others.  When I was in Moscow to celebrate his birthday, what else could I have done if I had chosen not to congratulate him?  Could I have cursed him instead?  After his death the Soviet Union needed our support and we also wanted to support the Soviet Union.  Consequently, I wrote that piece to praise his virtues and achievements.  That piece was not for Stalin; it was for the Soviet Communist Party.  As for the piece I did in Yanan, I had to ignore my personal feelings and treat him as the leader of a socialist country.  Therefore, that piece was rather vigorous whereas the other two came out of [political] need, not my heart, nor at my will.  Human life is just as contradictory as this: your emotion tells you not to write these pieces, but your rationality compels you to do so.

Now that Moscow has criticized Stalin, we are free to talk about these issues.  Today I tell you about the four mistakes committed by Stalin, but, in order to maintain relations with the Soviet Union, [we] cannot publish them in our newspapers.  Since Khrushchev’s report only mentioned the conflict over the sugar plant while discussing Stalin’s mistakes concerning us, we feel it inappropriate to make them public.  There are other issues involving conflicts and controversies.

Generally speaking, the Soviet Union is good.  It is good because of four factors: Marxism-Leninism, the October Revolution, the main force [of the socialist camp], and industrialization.  They have their negative side, and have made some mistakes.  However, their achievements constitute the major part [of their past] while their shortcomings are of secondary significance.  Now that the enemy is taking advantage of the criticism of Stalin to take the offensive on a world-wide scale, we ought to support the Soviet Union.  They will certainly correct their mistakes.  Khrushchev already corrected the mistake concerning Yugoslavia.  They are already aware of Wang Ming’s mistakes, although in the past they were unhappy with our criticism of Wang Ming.  They have also removed the “half-hearted Tito” [label from me], thus, eliminating altogether [the labels on] one and a half Titos.  We are pleased to see that Tito’s tag was removed.

Some of our people are still unhappy with the criticism of Stalin.  However, such criticism has positive effects because it destroys mythologies, and opens [black] boxes.  This entails liberation, indeed, a “war of liberation.”  With it, people are becoming so courageous that they will speak their minds, as well as be able to think about issues.

Liberty, equality, and fraternity are slogans of the bourgeoisie, but now we have to fight for them.  Is [our relationship with Moscow] a father-and-son relationship or one between brothers?  It was between father and son in the past; now it more or less resembles a brotherly relationship, but the shadow of the father-and-son relationship is not completely removed.  This is understandable, because changes can never be completed in one day.  With certain openness, people are now able to think freely and independently.  Now there is, in a sense, the atmosphere of anti-feudalism: a father-and-son relationship is giving way to a brotherly relationship, and a patriarchal system is being toppled.  During [Stalin’s] time people’s minds were so tightly controlled that even the feudalist control had been surpassed.  While some enlightened feudal lords or emperors would accept criticism, [Stalin] would tolerate none.  Yugoslavia might also have such a ruler [in your history] who might take it well even when people cursed him right in his face.  The capitalist society has taken a step ahead of the feudalist society.  The Republican and Democratic Parties in the United States are allowed to quarrel with each other.

We socialist countries must find [better] solutions.  Certainly, we need concentration and unification; otherwise, uniformity cannot be maintained.  The uniformity of people’s minds is in our favor, enabling us to achieve industrialization in a short period and to deal with the imperialists.  It, however, embodies some shortcomings, that is, people are made afraid of speaking out.  Therefore, we must find some ways to encourage people to speak out.  Our Politburo’s comrades have recently been considering these issues.

Few people in China have ever openly criticized me.  The [Chinese] people are tolerant of my shortcomings and mistakes.  It is because we always want to serve the people and do good things for the people.  Although we sometimes also suffer from bossism and bureaucracy, the people believe that we have done more good things than bad ones and, as a result, they praise us more than criticize us.  Consequently, an idol is created: when some people criticize me, others would oppose them and accuse them of disrespecting the leader.  Everyday I and other comrades of the central leadership receive some three hundred letters, some of which are critical of us.  These letters, however, are either not signed or signed with a false name.  The authors are not afraid that we would suppress them, but they are afraid that others around them would make them suffer.

You mentioned “On Ten Relationships.”[17] This resulted from one-and-a-half-months of discussions between me and thirty-four ministers [of the government].  What opinions could I myself have put forward without them?  All I did was to put together their suggestions, and I did not create anything.  Any creation requires materials and factories.  However, I am no longer a good factory.  All my equipment is out-of-date, I need to be improved and re-equipped as much as do the factories in Britain.  I am getting old and can no longer play the major role but had to assume a minor part.  As you can see, I merely played a minor role during this Party’s National Congress whereas Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping[18] and others assumed the primary functions.

[1] The content of this conversation suggests that it occurred between 15 and 28 September 1956, when the CCP’s Eighth National Congress was in session.

[2] This refers to the Information Bureau of Communist and Workers’ Parties (Cominform), which was established in September 1947 by the parties of the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, France, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Yugoslavia. The Bureau announced that it was ending its activities in April 1956.

[3] Wang Ming (1904-1974), also known as Chen Shaoyu, was a returnee from the Soviet Union and a leading member of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1930s. Official Chinese Communist view claims that Wang Ming committed “ultra-leftist” mistakes in the early 1930s and “ultra-rightist” mistakes in the late 1930s.

[4] The white areas were Guomindang-controlled areas.

[5] Liu Shaoqi was vice chairman of the CCP Central Committee and chairman of the Standing Committee of the People’s National Congress. He was China’s second most important leader.

[6] The Chinese Communist party’s eighth national congress was held in Beijing on 15-27 September 1956.

[7] Georgii Dimitrov (1882-1949), a Bulgarian communist, was the Comintern’s secretary general from 1935 to 1943.

[8] Mao here pointed to the period from 1931 to 1935, during which the “international section,” of which Wang Ming was a leading member, controlled the central leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

[9] Zhu De was then vice chairman of the CCP Central Committee and vice chairman of the PRC.

[10] Bobkoveshi was Yugoslavia’s first ambassador to the PRC, with whom Mao Zedong met for the first time on 30 June 1955.

[11] Chinggis Khan, also spelled Genghis Jenghiz, was born about 1167, when the Mongolian-speaking tribes still lacked a common name.  He became their great organizer and unifier. Before his death in 1227, Chinggis established the basis for a far-flung Eurasian empire by conquering its inner zone across Central Asia. The Mongols are remembered for their wanton aggressiveness both in Europe and in Asia, and this trait was certainly present in Chinggis.

[12] The Han nationality is the majority nationality in China, which counts for over 95 percent of the Chinese population.

[13] The “War to Resist America and Assist Korea” describes China’s participation in the Korean War from October 1950 to July 1953.

[14] The five principles were first introduced by Zhou Enlai while meeting a delegation from India on 31 December 1953. These principles—(1) mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, (2) mutual non-aggression, (3) mutual non-interference in international affairs, (4) equality and mutual benefit, and (5) peaceful coexistence—were later repeatedly claimed by the Chinese government as the foundation of the PRC’s foreign policy.

[15] China did not establish diplomatic relations with Yugoslavia until January 1955, although the Yugoslavian government recognized the PRC as early as 5 October 1949, four days after the PRC’s establishment.

[16] P. F. Yudin (1899-1968), a prominent philosopher and a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party from 1952 to 1961, was Soviet ambassador to China from 1953 to 1959.

[17] “On Ten Relationships” was one of Mao’s major works in the 1950s. He discussed the relationship between industry and agriculture and heavy industry and light industry, between coastal industry and industry in the interior, between economic construction and national defense, between the state, the unit of production, and individual producers, between the center and the regions, between the Han nationality and the minority nationalities, between party and non-party, between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary, between right and wrong, and between China and other countries. For an English translation of one version of the article, see Stuart Schram, ed., Chairman Mao Talks to the People (New York: Pantheon Books, 1974), 61-83.

[18] Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping were all leading members of the Chinese Communist Party. At the Party’s Eighth Congress in September 1956, Liu and Zhou were elected the Party’s vice chairmen, and Deng the Party’s general secretary.

SOURCE:

Mao Zedong waijiao wenxuan [Selected Diplomatic Papers of Mao Zedong] (Beijing: The Central Press of Historical Documents, 1993), 251-262. Translated and Annotated by Zhang Shu Guang and Chen Jian

This document taken from

http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117035#_ftn0

Stalin’s ‘Anti-Semitism’

 

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The accusation that Stalin was an anti-Semite is a strange one. Neither Stalin’s written texts nor his actions indicate anti-Semitism. Indeed, they indicate precisely the opposite, as I will show in a moment. So those who wish to make the accusation have to rely on hearsay – second- and third-hand snippets from passing conversations, whether from an estranged daughter or from those within and without the USSR who were not favourably disposed to Stalin.[1] And once such a position is ‘established’, it is then possible to read some of his actions and written comments in such a light. For instance, the ‘anti-cosmopolitan’ campaign of the late 1940s becomes a coded ‘anti-Semitic’ campaign. Or the ‘doctors plot’ of 1952-53 – in which leading doctors were suspected of seeking to assassinate government officials – is seen as an excuse for a widespread anti-Semitic purge and deportation,[2] halted only because of Stalin’s death (we may thank Khrushchev for this piece of speculation). However, the only way such an assumption can work is that many doctors in the Soviet Union were Jewish; therefore the attack on doctors was anti-Semitic. Equally, even more doctors were Russian, but for some strange reason, the plot is not described as anti-Russian.

Unfortunately for Stalin’s accusers, even the hearsay indicates that Stalin was opposed to the deep-rooted anti-Semitism of Russian culture. During the anti-cosmopolitan campaign of 1948-49 – which was actually anti-capitalist in the wake of the Second World War – it became the practice in some journal articles to include, where possible, the original family names in brackets after the Russian name. Sometimes, such original names were Jewish. When Stalin noticed this he commented:

Why Mal’tsev, and then Rovinskii between brackets? What’s the matter here? How long will this continue …? If a man chose a literary pseudonym for himself, it’s his right…. But apparently someone is glad to emphasise that this person has a double surname, to emphasise that he is a Jew…. Why create anti-Semitism?[3]

Indeed, to the Romanian leader, Gheorghiu-Dej, Stalin commented pointedly in 1947, ‘racism leads to fascism’.[4] At this point, we face an extraordinary contradiction: those who would accuse Stalin of anti-Semitism must dismiss his deep antipathy to fascism and deploy the reductio ad Hitlerum. If one assumes, even subconsciously, that Hitler and Stalin were of the same ilk, then it follows that Stalin too must be an anti-Semite. Apart from the sheer oxymoron of an anti-fascist fascist, this assertion seems very much like the speculative thought bubble that becomes ‘true’ through a thousand repetitions.[5]

I prefer to follow a rather conventional approach, instead of relying on hearsay, gossip and speculation. That approach is to pay attention to his written statements and actions. These are rather telling. Already in ‘Marxism and the National Question’ (1913), in which Stalin deals extensively with the Jews and the Bund (The General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), he points out that dispersed minorities such as the Jews would be given the full range of protections, in terms of language, education, culture and freedom of conscience, within a socialist state. This would become his standard position, reiterated time and again and contrasted with the tsarist autocracy’s fostering of pogroms.[6] It was also reflected in extensive programs among Jews, including the fostering – not without problems and failures – of Yiddish, Jewish institutions and the significant presence of Jews at all levels of government.[7]

From time to time, Stalin had to deal with outbursts of anti-Semitism that still ran deep in Russian culture (thanks to the residual influence of tsarist autocracy). For example, in 1927 he explicitly mentions that any traces of anti-Semitism, even among workers and in the party is an ‘evil’ that ‘must be combated, comrades, with all ruthlessness’.[8] And in 1931, in response to a question from the Jewish News Agency in the United States, he describes anti-Semitism as an ‘an extreme form of racial chauvinism’ that is a convenient tool used by exploiters to divert workers from the struggle with capitalism. Communists, therefore, ‘cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism’. Indeed, in the U.S.S.R. ‘anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system’. Active ‘anti-semites are liable to the death penalty’.[9]

This was no empty boast, as those who accuse Stalin of anti-semitism seem to assume. It is worth noting that article 123 of the 1936 Constitution ensured that this position was law.[10]Active anti-Semitism, even racial slurs, were severely punished. It may be surprising to some, but one of the key tasks of the NKVD (precursor to the KGB) was to counteract waves of residual anti-Semitism.[11] Yes, one of the jobs of the infamous secret police of the USSR was to root out anti-Semitism.

Further, the ‘affirmative action’ program of the Soviet Union,[12] enacted in Stalin’s capacity as Commissar for Nationality Affairs (1917-24), was explicitly a program in which territories of identifiable ethnic minorities were established, with their own languages and forms of education, the fostering of literature and cultural expression, and local forms of governance. As for dispersed minorities, even within such regions, they were provided with a stiff framework of protections, including strong penalties for any form of racial denigration and abuse. Already in 1913 Stalin had prefigured such an approach, specifying among others ‘the Jews in Poland, the Letts in Lithuania, the Russians in the Caucasus, the Poles in the Ukraine, and so on’.[13] They too – in a program of indigenization (korenizatsiia)[14] – should be able to use their own languages, operate their own schools, law-courts and soviets, and have freedom of conscience in matters relating to religion. Indeed, by the mid-1930s the Jews too were identified as a ‘nation’ with territory, having the Jewish Autonomous district in Birobidzhan.[15] This importance of this move (part of Crimea had also been proposed) is rarely recognised. It eventually failed, but it was the first move towards Jewish territory in the modern era.[16]

A final question: what about the attacks on Judaism as a religion? In 1913, Stalin wrote of the ‘petrified religious rites and fading psychological relics’[17] fostered by pockets of the ‘clerical-reactionary Jewish community’.[18] Is this anti-Semitic? No, it is anti-religious. Judaism too was subject anti-religious campaigns, which had the result not so much of divorcing Jews from their religious ‘roots’ but of producing a profound transformation in Jewish institutions and culture, so much so that one can speak of a ‘sovietisation’ of Jewish culture that produced Jews who were not religious but proud of contributions to Soviet society.[19]

What are we to make of all this? Do the hearsay and implicit assumptions speak the truth, or do Stalin’s words and actions speak the truth? I prefer the latter. But if we are to give some credence to the hearsay, then it may indicate a profoundly personal struggle for a Georgian, who was brought up with an ingrained anti-Semitism, to root it out in the name of socialism.

[1] For useful collections of such hearsay, see Erik Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism  (London: Routledge Curzon, 2002), 201-7; Erik Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 8, no. 1 (2007).

[2] Jonathan Brent and Vladimir P. Naumov, Stalin’s Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948-1953  (New York: HarperCollins, 2003); Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar  (London: Phoenix, 2003), 626-39.

[3] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[4] Van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, 205.

[5] As a small sample, see Benjamin Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority  (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 138-45; Vojtech Mastny,The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years, vol. Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1996), 157-58, 162; Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice  (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), 33-38; Philip Boobyer, The Stalin Era  (London: Routledge, 2000), 78; Konstantin Azadovskii and Boris Egorov, “From Anti-Westernism to Anti-Semitism: Stalin and the Impact of the ‘Anti-Cosmopolitan’ Campaigns of Soviet Culture,”Journal of Cold War Studies 4, no. 1 (2002); Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, 310-12; Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007), 264; Van Ree, “Heroes and Merchants: Stalin’s Understanding of National Character,” 45; Paul R. Gregory, Terror By Quota: State Security from Lenin to Stalin (An Archival Study)  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 53, 265.

[6] I. V. Stalin, “The Russian Social-Democratic Party and Its Immediate Tasks,” in Works, vol. 1, 9-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1901 [1954]), 20-21; I. V. Stalin, “Rossiĭskaia sotsial-demokraticheskaia partiia i ee blizhaĭshie zadachi,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 11-32 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1901 [1946]), 21-23; I. V. Stalin, “To the Citizens: Long Live the Red Flag!,” in Works, vol. 1, 85-89 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1905 [1954]); I. V. Stalin, “K grazhdanam. Da zdravstvuet krasnoe znamia!,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 84-88 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1905 [1946]); I. V. Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” in Works, vol. 2, 300-81 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1913 [1953]), 319-21; I. V. Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” in Sochineniia, vol. 2, 290-367 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1913 [1946]), 308-10; I. V. Stalin, “Abolition of National Disabilities,” in Works, vol. 3, 17-21 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1917 [1953]), 17; I. V. Stalin, “Ob otmene natsionalʹnykh ogranicheniĭ,” in Sochineniia, vol. 3, 16-19 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1917 [1946]), 16; I. V. Stalin, “The Immediate Tasks of the Party in the National Question: Theses for the Tenth Congress of the R. C. P. (B.) Endorsed by the Central Committee of the Party,” in Works, vol. 5, 16-30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1921 [1953]), 17, 27; I. V. Stalin, “Ob ocherednykh zadachakh partii v natsionalʹnom voprose: Tezisy k Х s”ezdu RKP(b), utverzhdennye TSK partii,” in Sochineniia, vol. 5, 15-29 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1921 [1947]), 16, 26; Stalin, “Concerning the Presentation of the National Question,” 52-53; Stalin, “K postanovke natsionalʹnogo voprosa,” 52-53.

[7] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 58-71, 77-84; Anna Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939  (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), xv-xvi.

[8] I. V. Stalin, “The Fifteenth Congress of the C.P.S.U.(B.), December 2-19, 1927,” in Works, vol. 10, 274-382 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1927 [1954]), 332; I. V. Stalin, “XV s”ezd VKP (b) 2–19 dekabria 1927 g,” in Sochineniia, vol. 10, 271-371 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1927 [1949]), 324.

[9] I. V. Stalin, “Anti-Semitism: Reply to an Inquiry of the Jewish News Agency in the United States,” in Works, vol. 13, 30 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1931 [1954]), 30; I. V. Stalin, “Ob antisemitizme: Otvet na zapros Evreĭskogo telegrafnogo agentstva iz Аmerik,” in Sochineniia, vol. 13, 28 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1931 [1951]), 28.

[10] I. V. Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” in Works, vol. 14, 199-239 (London: Red Star Press, 1936 [1978]), article 123; I. V. Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” (Moscow: Garant, 1936 [2015]), stat’ia 123. This also applied to the earliest constitutions of republics, such as the RSFSR, Ukraine and Belorus. See Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 52-57.

[11] Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 84-88; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 169, 186-87.

[12] Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001); Terry Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” in A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-Making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin, ed. Ronald Grigor Suny and Terry Martin, 67-90 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[13] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 375-76; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 362. See also the exposition of the seventh and ninth clause of the Party Program, concerning equal rights, language and self-government in I. V. Stalin, “The Social-Democratic View on the National Question,” in Works, vol. 1, 31-54 (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1904 [1954]), 42-46; I. V. Stalin, “Kak ponimaet sotsial-demokratiia natsionalʹnyĭ vopros?,” in Sochineniia, vol. 1, 32-55 (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel´stvo politicheskoi literatury, 1904 [1946]), 43-47.

[14] Korenizatsiia, a term coined by the Bolsheviks, is ‘derived directly not from the stemkoren- (“root”—with the meaning “rooting”) but from its adjectival form korennoi as used in the phrase korennoi narod (indigenous people)’ Martin, “An Affirmative Action Empire: The Soviet Union as the Highest Form of Imperialism,” 74.

[15] Stalin, “Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, With amendments adopted by the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Sessions of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R., Kremlin, Moscow, December 5, 1936,” article 22; Stalin, “Konstitutsiia (osnovnoĭ zakon) soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (utverzhdena postanovleniem chrezvychaĭnogo VIII s”ezda sovetov soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik ot 5 dekabria 1936 g.),” stat’ia 22.

[16] For a little detail, see Pinkus, The Jews of the Soviet Union: a History of a National Minority, 71-76.

[17] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 310; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 300.

[18] Stalin, “Marxism and the National Question,” 374-75; Stalin, “Marksizm i natsionalʹnyĭ vopros,” 361.

[19] Shternshis, Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939, 1-43.

Source