Category Archives: Trotskyism

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).


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.


Grover Furr: The Ukrainian Famine: Only Evidence Can Disclose the Truth


No detective can solve a crime without carefully and objectively studying the evidence. Likewise, no one can know what actually occurred in history without studying, in an objective manner, the relevant primary sources – the evidence. I have spent decades in studying the primary sources concerning many specific events of the Stalin period. Mark Tauger has studied the primary sources on Soviet agriculture for more than 25 years.

Louis Proyect has not done this. Consequently he has no chance of discovering the truth, or of recognizing it when he sees it. He is inevitably doomed to “believe” whatever fits his preconceived ideological bias, and to reject everything else. This is fatal to any attempt to learn what really happened.

Louis Proyect’s attack on me and on Mark Tauger (“What Caused the Holodomor?” Cp March 24, 1971) is ideology masquerading as history. It is replete with falsehoods. I’ll concentrate on the lies Proyect tells about me and my research. I hope that Mark Tauger will respond to Proyect’s ignorant accusations against his research.

Proyect begins his article by stating: “Furr’s political life revolves around celebrating Stalin’s greatest achievements—such as they were.” This is false. My goal is not to “celebrate” Stalin, or anyone or anything. In my research I aim to discover the truth about Soviet history of the 1930s, using the best primary-source evidence and maintaining scrupulous objectivity.

I agree with historian Geoffrey Roberts when he says:

In the last 15 years or so an enormous amount of new material on Stalin … has become available from Russian archives. I should make clear that as a historian I have a strong orientation to telling the truth about the past, no matter how uncomfortable or unpalatable the conclusions may be. … I don’t think there is a dilemma: you just tell the truth as you see it.

(“Stalin’s Wars”, February 12, 2007. At )

The common or “mainstream” view of Stalin as a bloodthirsty tyrant is a product of two sources: Trotsky’s writings of the 1930s and Nikita Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” to the XX Party Congress in February, 1956. This canonical history of the Stalin period – the version we have all learned — is completely false. We can see this now thanks mainly to two sets of archival discoveries: the gradual publication of thousands of archival documents from formerly secret Soviet archives since the end of the USSR in 1991; and the opening of the Leon Trotsky Archive at Harvard in 1980 and, secondarily, of the Trotsky Archive at the Hoover Institution (from where I have just returned).

Khrushchev Lied

In its impact on world history Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” is the most influential speech of the 20th century. In it Khrushchev painted Stalin as a bloodthirsty tyrant guilty of a reign of terror lasting more than two decades.

After the 22nd Party Congress of 1961, where Khrushchev and his men attacked Stalin with even more venom, many Soviet historians elaborated Khrushchev’s lies. These falsehoods were repeated by Cold War anticommunists like Robert Conquest. They also entered “left” discourse through the works of Trotskyists and anarchists and of “pro-Moscow” communists.

Khrushchev’s lies were amplified during Mikhail Gorbachev’s and Boris Eltsin’s time by professional Soviet, then Russian, historians. Gorbachev orchestrated an avalanche of anticommunist falsehoods that provided the ideological smokescreen for the return to exploitative practices within the USSR and ultimately for the abandonment of socialist reforms and a return to predatory capitalism.

During 2005-2006 I researched and wrote the book Khrushchev Lied. In my book I identify 61 accusations that Khrushchev made against either Stalin or, in a few cases, Beria. I then studied each one of them in the light of evidence available from former Soviet archives. To my own surprise I found that 60 of the 61 accusations are provably, demonstrably false.

The fact that Khrushchev could falsify everything and get away with it for over 50 years suggests that we should look carefully at other supposed “crimes” of Stalin and of the USSR during his time.

Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’

From 1980 till the early 1990s Pierre Broué, the foremost Trotskyist historian of his day, and Arch Getty, a prominent American expert in Soviet history, discovered that Trotsky had lied, repeatedly and about many issues, in his public statements and writings in the 1930s. In my book Trotsky’s ‘Amalgams’ (2015) I discussed the implications of these lies by Trotsky and of some additional lies of his that I discovered myself. They completely invalidate the “Dewey Commission,” to whom Trotsky lied shamelessly and repeatedly, as well as Trotsky’s denials in the Red Book and elsewhere of the charges leveled against him in the First and Second Moscow Trials.

Challenging the “Anti-Stalin Paradigm”

I have not reached these conclusions out of any desire to “apologize” for – let alone “celebrate” — the policies of Stalin or the Soviet government. I believe these to be the only objective conclusions possible based on the available evidence.

The conclusions I have reached about the history of the Soviet Union during the Stalin period are unacceptable to people who, like Proyect, are motivated by prior ideological commitments rather than by a determination to discover the truth “and let the chips fall where they will.”

The “anti-Stalin paradigm” is hegemonic in the field of Soviet history, where it is literally “taboo” to question, let alone disprove as I do, the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Cold War falsehoods about Stalin and the Stalin period. Those in this field who do not cut their research to fit the Procrustean bed of the “anti-Stalin paradigm” will find it hard if not impossible to publish in “mainstream” journals and by academic publishers. I am fortunate:  I teach English literature and do not need to publish in these “authoritative” but ideologically compromised vehicles.

Those who, like Proyect, are motivated not to discover the truth but to shore up their ideological prejudices think that everybody must be doing likewise. Therefore Proyect argues not from evidence, but by guilt by association, name-dropping, insult, and lies.

A few examples:

Guilt by association: Proyect claims that I am “like” Roland Boer, Roger Annis, and Sigizmund Mironin.

Name-dropping: Davies and Wheatcroft are well-known and disagree with Tauger, so – somehow – they are “the most authoritative,”  “right” while Tauger is “wrong.”

Insult: Tauger is complicit in “turning a victim into a criminal.”

Proyect: “…it seems reasonable that Stalin was forced to unleash a brutal repression in the early 30s to prevent Hitler from invading Russia—or something like that.” In reality neither I nor Tauger say anything of the kind.

Lies: Proyect quotes a passage from Tauger’s research about the Irish potato famine and then accuses Tauger of wanting to exculpate the British:

“The British government responsible? No, we can’t have that.”

But the very next sentence in Tauger’s article reads:

“Without denying that the British government mishandled the crisis…”

Proyect is a prisoner of the historical paradigm that controls his view of Soviet history. A few examples:

* Proyect persists in using the term “Holodomor.” He does not inform Cp readers that Davies and Wheatcroft, whose work he recommends, reject both the term “Holodomor” and the concept in the very book Proyect recommends!

* Proyect: “…no matter that Lenin called for his [Stalin’s] removal from party leadership from his death-bed.”

But, thanks to careful research by Valentin Sakharov of Moscow State University, even “mainstream” researchers know that this note, like “Lenin’s Testament,” is probably a forgery:

There is no stenographic original of the “Ilich letter about the [general] secretary.” In the journal of Lenin’s activities kept by the secretarial staff there is no mention of any such “Ilich letter.” … not a single source corroborates the content of the January 4 dictation. Also curious is the fact that Zinoviev had not been made privy to the “Ilich letter about the [general] secretary” in late May, along with the evaluations of six regime personnel. The new typescript emerged only in June. (Stephen Kotkin, Stalin 505)

* Proyect: “Largely because of his bureaucratic control and the rapid influx of self-seeking elements into the party, Stalin could crush the opposition…”

However, in his 1973 work Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution Stephen Cohen wrote:

But machine politics alone did not account for Stalin’s triumph. … within this select oligarchy, Stalin’s bureaucratic power was considerably less imposing…. By April 1929, these influentials had chosen Stalin and formed his essential majority in the high leadership. They did so, it seems clear, less because of his bureaucratic power than because they preferred his leadership and politics. (327)

* Proyect: “Stalin’s forced march did not discriminate between rich and poor peasants.”

But in 1983 James Mace, a champion of the Ukrainian Nationalist fascist collaborators, wrote about the role of “committees of poor peasants,” komitety nezamozhnykh selian, in supporting collectivization. There is much other evidence of peasant support for collectivization.


Correctly understood, history is the attempt to use well-known methods of primary-source research in an objective manner, in order to arrive at accurate – truthful — statements about the past. Very often the result is disillusioning to those who cling to false ideological constructs, even when those constructs constitute the “mainstream” of politicized historiography.

No one who does not try to discover the truth and then tell it without fear or favor, is worthy to be called a historian, regardless of how famous, honored, or “authoritative” he or she may appear to be.

Distortions and lies about Soviet history of the Stalin period predominate everywhere, including Ukraine, Russia, and in the West. These lies mainly consist in repeating Trotskyist and Khrushchevite lies, in defiance or in willful ignorance of the primary-source evidence now available.

The newly-available evidence from archival sources necessitates a complete rewriting of Soviet history of the Stalin period and a complete revision of Stalin’s own role. This exciting yet demanding prospect is of great importance to all who wish to learn from the errors, as well as from the successes, of the Bolsheviks, the pioneers of the communist movement of the 20th century.


Information about my published books, in all languages, is on my Home Page. There too you can find links to all of my published articles, some in Russian only, on Soviet history.

Dimitrov to Stalin on the Dissolution of the Polish Communist Party


Dimitrov to Stalin, 28 November 1937, with enclosed draft resolution of the ECCI. Original in Russian. Typewritten with handwritten comments by Stalin.

Top secret, [1]

Dear Comrade Stalin!

We are thinking of passing the attached resolution on the dissolution of the Polish Communist Party in the ECCI Presidium, and then publishing it.

After publishing this resolution, we would send an open letter to the Polish Communists that would reveal in greater detail the enemy’s decomposing activities within the ranks of the Communist Party and the Polish workers’ movement.

In reestablishing the CP of Poland, it has been suggested that a special organizational commission be formed. We plan to select some of the members of this commission for the most distinguished and tested fighters from the International Brigades in Spain.

We beg you, Comrade Stalin, to give your advice and directives:

  1. Regarding this issue, whether this announcement will be expedient before the investigation of the former Polish party leaders under arrest is completed, or should we wait longer?
  2. Regarding the contents and the character of the resolution on the dissolution of the CP of Poland itself.

With fraternal greetings.



No. 132/Id

28 November 1937

T[op] Secret,


Polish fascism, unable to cope with the growing mass revolutionary movement by means of overt terror alone, has made espionage, sabotage, and provocation the major tool of its struggle against the workers’ movement, against all anti-fascist, democratic forces, [having] poisoned the entire political and social life in Poland with this foul system. For many years, it has been planting its spies and agents among all the workers’ and peasants’ democratic organizations. However, the Pilsudchiks [2] made a special effort to infiltrate the Communist movement, which represents the greatest threat for Polish fascism.

The Executive Committee of the Communist International has established, on the basis of irrefutable documentary evidence, That for a number of years enemies, agents of Polish fascism, have been operating within the leadership structures of the Polish Communist Party. By organizing splits, often fictitious, within the workers’, national-democratic, and petty-bourgeois organizations, the Pilsudchiks poured their spies and provocateurs into the Communist Party, disguised as oppositional elements coming over to the ranks of the Communist movement (the PPS group headed by Sochacki-Bratowski, the Poalei-Zion group headed by Henrykowski and Lampe, the Ukrainian s[ocial] d[emocratic] group, the UVO group of Wasylkiw-Turianski, Korczyk’s group of Belorussian SRs, the “Wyzwolenie” group of Wojewodzki). [3] By arranging the arrests so as to remove the most loyal elements from the Communist ranks. the Polish defenziwa [counterintelligence] gradually advanced its agents into leading positions in the Communist Party. At the same time, in order to give its agents provocateurs and spies authority among the workers [and] members of the Communist Party after staging mock trials, the fascists would often subject their own agents to imprisonment so that later they could be liberated, at the earliest convenience, by organizing “escapes” or by “exchanges” for spies and saboteurs caught red-handed in the USSR. With the help of their agents in the leading organs of the party, the Pilsudchiks promoted their people [for example Zarski, Sochacki, Dombal] to the Communist faction of the Sejm [parliament] during the elections to the Sejm, instructed them to deliver provocative speeches, which the fascists used to attack the Soviet Union and for the bloody repression of the workers’ and peasants’ movement.

The gang of spies and provocateurs entrenched in the leadership of the Polish Communist Party, having planted, in turn, agents in the periphery of the party organization, systematically betrayed the best sons of the working class to the class enemy. By organizing failures, [they were] destroying, year after year, party organizations in the Polish heartland, as well as in Western Belorussia and Western Ukraine. [This gang] systematically perverted the party’s political line so as to weaken the influence of communism among the masses, to make the party increasingly alien and hostile to the Communist International. For its work of disintegration, Polish fascism widely used a Trotskyist-Bukharinist reprobates, [who] either were already, or were willingly becoming, agents of Polish defenwiza, by virtue of having a common outlook with fascism. The Polish defenwiza kindled the factional struggle in the party, through its agents both in the Kostrzewa-Warski group and in the Lenski-Henrykowski group, and used both factions to disorganize the party and its work among the masses, and to separate the workers from the Communist Party.

However, the most ignoble role that this espionage agency played was following the directives of the fascist intelligence in relation to the USSR. Playing on the nationalist prejudices of the most backward masses among the Polish people, it sought to create obstacles to the rapprochement of the peoples of Poland and the peoples of the USSR, and in the interests of the fascist warmongers, to wreck the cause of peace that is selflessly defended by the great country of the Soviets. At the same time, this network of class enemies, disguised as political emigres, was transferred by Polish fascism to the USSR so as to conduct espionage, sabotage, and wrecking activities.

All attempts to purge the agents of Polish fascism from the ranks of the Communist movement, while retaining the current organization of the Polish Communist Party, prove futile, since the central party organs were in the hands of spies and provocateurs who used the difficult situation of the underground party to remain in its leadership.

Based on all this and in order to give honest Polish Communists a chance to rebuild a party, once it is purged of all agents of Polish fascism, the Executive Committee of the Communist International, in accordance with the statutes and the decisions of the Congresses of the Communist International, resolves:

1. To dissolve the Polish Communist Party because of its saturation with spies and provocateurs.

2. To recommend that all honest Communists, until the re-creation of the Polish Communist Party, shift the emphasis of their work to those mass organizations where there are workers and toilers, while fighting to establish the unity of the workers’ movement and to create in Poland a popular antifascist front.

At the same time, the ECCI warns the Communists and the Polish workers against any attempt by Polish fascism and its Trotskyist-Bukharinist espionage network to create a new organization of espionage and provocation, under the guise of a pseudo-Communist Party of Poland, to corrupt the Communist movement.

The Communist International knows that thousands of Polish workers sacrifice themselves and their lives to serving and protecting the vital interests of the toiling masses; it knows that the heroic Polish proletariat had, in its glorious revolutionary past, many remarkable moments of struggle against the tsarist and Austro-Hungarian monarchies, against Polish fascism. It knows about the heroic deeds of the Dombrowski battalions sent by the Polish proletariat to defend the Spanish people. It is convinced that the Polish proletariat will have [again] a Communist party, purged of the foul agents of the class enemy, which will indeed lead the struggle of the Polish toiling masses for their liberation.



[1] Handwritten in the margin: “N1433/2 XII 37.” Across the letter, Stalin wrote: “The dissolution is about two years two late. It is necessary to dissolve [the party], but in my opinion, [this] should not be published in the press.” This resolution was first published in Voprosy istorii KPSS, 1988, no. 12, p. 52,

[2] Pilsudchiks: a derisive name used to describe the Polish government under Marshal Pilsudski, and a generic term for his followers. Jozef Pilsudski was a leader of the right-wing of the Polish Socialist Party. In 1918 he was war minister, and between 1918 and 1922 head of state. After May 1926 he was again war minister, then prime minister, and later inspector general of Poland’s armed forces – Trans.

[3] Various Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian, and Belorussian groups.

From “Dimitrov and Stalin, 1934-1943: Letters from the Soviet Archives” by Alexander Dallin and F.I. Firsov, pp. 28-31.

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 ( 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. – 


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. 




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.

Stalin & the Myth of the ”Old Bolsheviks”


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)

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”.

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.


”…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)


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.

Grover Furr on Archival Evidence for the Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites


“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.


[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.

Communist Party Alliance: On Sectarianism

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The ‘left’ in Britain is characterised by sectarianism. What are the main reasons for this in an imperialist country? John Green examines the causes.

The Causes of Sectarianism

Bourgeois Social Conditions

Divisions in the revolutionary movement are not formed simply from ideological differences, but sometimes represent class and social divisions. The social conditions of many of those who describe themselves as Marxist-Leninist in this country are largely at the root of their sectarianism.

Britain is an imperialist country. In this country, productive industry ranks a poor second to profits received from exploiting other countries, which through a system of ‘aid’ and debt are maintained in neo-colonial servitude. This determines that a petty-bourgeois mentality is created in a section of the proletariat and the intelligentsia in Britain, and this sectarian mentality infects many of those who are drawn into the ranks of the revolutionary left. Thus for some communists the prime requirement of communist unity is that they themselves must lead it. Any initiative, to be acceptable to these “leaders”, must be their own idea. When those affected by this petty-bourgeois mentality do occasionally and for a time gain the leadership of a grouping, democracy, principle and all else is subordinated to their own leadership pretensions.


A form of sectarianism which is no less damaging is met with in those opportunists who refuse to work with others not on the basis of principle, but on the basis of expediency, for tactical gains. These do great harm to the cause of revolutionary unity, in that they appear to legitimise the absence of principle.

Dogmatic Doctrinairism

Another form which sectarianism often takes is in insisting upon adherence to the elaboration of Marxism-Leninism by a great historical figure as an ’ a priori ‘ requirement before any attempt to form revolutionary unity can take place. They use this position as an apparently principled justification for their unwillingness to collaborate. This is a mistake. Ideological unity cannot be based upon an historical figure. It must be around fundamental questions of principle, strategy and tactics, and each disputed question must be put under discussion. Only by doing this, can the real lines of demarcation, which are concealed behind these allegiances, be drawn and unity be attained.

Opposing Sectarianism

Dialectical Unity

The first principle for the proletarian revolutionary who is not, like the petty-bourgeois revolutionary, willing to compromise with imperialism until unity is achieved on terms exactly to his satisfaction, is to achieve a dialectical, fighting unity with fellow communists. The unity we must work for is around Marxist principles consolidated in a programme.

The unity of the Communist Party must be a dialectical unity, one which contains contradictions. We need to be able to disagree whilst working together to achieve the Party programme. We must not slurry over contradictions within our ranks for the purpose of preserving formal unity, but we must not transform these differences into a sharp dividing line.

Dialectical unity finds expression within prevailing social conditions. Where there is disagreement on historical questions, unity can exist within a party where objective circumstances permit. This is the case when circumstances are unchanging and principles are not yet being tested by prevailing social conditions. Only at the turning-points, where objective social circumstances are in a process of rapid change (e.g. a revolutionary situation is emerging), do significant differences emerge.

It is important to realise that these differences will not necessarily reflect at all the great questions of the past. Even where people have taken a view on an apparently similar historical question, new circumstances may elicit a new understanding of contemporary events. Prevailing social conditions may demand a change in ideas.

Formal (Idealist) Unity

To unite only with those with whom we agree on historical questions is a form of idealist unity, not dialectical unity, in that it brushes aside consideration of prevailing conditions and absolutises differences. This purist approach leaves the question of building unity for the purpose of revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat to the indefinite future, when no doubt prevailing social conditions will force us to address these questions. The proponents of this absolute ‘unity’, in practice, subordinate questions of principle to organisational questions.

Attempts at idealist unity look for formal organisational means to efface differences or manage them without resolving them, such as by banning the disputed subject.

The principle of dialectical unity should not be confused with the policy of those groupings who struggle for organisational objectives instead of principles. Such groupings, it is true, unite people of different views, but they subordinate the clarification and resolution of their differences to success in the organisational struggle. This would be only a formal unity. A party built on such lines would tend to fall apart in the course of sharp struggles. If organisational means were employed to preserve the autonomy of those with an aversion to centralism, there would be a lack of internal discipline and the party would not serve the interests of the proletariat. The lumping together of autonomous groupings which do not recognise (or recognise only formally) the legitimacy of the elected leaders, and even creating institutions for the advantage of factions, would be an expression of idealist unity. It would subvert democratic centralism and lay the basis for the principle of opportunism.

Abstract Unity

Unity on the basis of abstract principles would also result in a purely formal unity. This was evident at the time of the split with the opportunists of the Second International during World War One. Trotskyists of the past claimed to uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat, but in practice counterposed socialism in one country to world revolution. For this reason, discussions need to clarify the depth of existing differences.

Non-Antagonistic Contradictions

Different trends emerge in the party in the course of struggle and it is possible for these to be in unity at a certain juncture when objective circumstances make this necessary in order to achieve the Party programme or to defend party policy. Examples of this are the unity of Bukharin and Stalin to defeat the left deviation; and the fact that Trotsky was for a time a leading member of the Bolsheviks (but lost little time in demonstrating his inability to adhere to Party discipline). It is only at turning-points in social conditions that significant differences emerge. At such times, ‘one becomes two’, but in such a way that the party is strengthened.

During certain periods, contradictions may be non-antagonistic. Part of the sectarianism of Marxist-Leninists in this country is that they frequently fail to distinguish non-antagonistic contradictions at particular periods. Differences over the ‘historical’ application of Marxist-Leninist principles are non-antagonistic contradictions unless prevailing social conditions are such that the questions that called forth these historical questions are again raised from the realm of the possible to become living questions.

The Party Programme

Differences continually emerge from objective conditions and must be resolved within the party. The party must establish a political programme and an organisational structure designed to put the programme into effect. The purpose of the organisation is to realise the programme.

The form of organisation appropriate to the Communist Party is democratic centralism, which contains both differences (democracy) and concrete unity (centralism).

It is the programme, rather than merely abstract adherence to principles, which is primary and which decides the nature of the party and who is able to further its objectives.

Lines of Demarcation

Lenin, in the Declaration of the Editorial Board of Iskra, declared ‘Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise, our unity will be purely fictitious, it will conceal the prevailing confusion and hinder its radical elimination.’ The unity he was working towards was the unity of Marxists, in opposition to those who ‘corrected’ Marxism and removed its revolutionary content.

From the Soviet period up to the present day, lines of demarcation have been drawn between those who upheld the principles of Marxism-Leninism, of which Stalin represented the main defence, including the possibility of socialism in a single country and proletarian internationalism, and those who attacked these principles (Imperialism, Social Democracy, Trotsky, Soviet revisionists).

These principles were developed and applied historically through practice and it is our task to continue to apply and develop them in our own practice today. We must view our principles in the fullness of their historical application but must not allow our differences to bar us from achieving revolutionary unity.

Author: John Green
The Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau


Socialism and Bureaucracy


In the following article, A. Clark examines the problem of bureaucracy from the point of view of a society going through a process of socialist transformation. He suggests that the continually advancing technological revolution in the field of computerisation and the communication and information revolution will serve as the material base to resolve most or even all of the problems associated with bureaucracy.


The first successful socialist seizure of power by the working class did not end, but rather more aptly started with the problems of bureaucracy. Lenin’s initial optimism on having curtailed bureaucracy and its nefarious influence was short-lived. This was replaced by a more realistic view of the nature of the problem. In 1922, Lenin noted that

‘If we take Moscow with its 4,700 communists in responsible positions, we must ask: who is directing whom? I doubt very much whether it can be said that the communists are directing that heap. To tell the truth, they are not directing, they are being directed’. (Lenin: Vol. 33, pp.288-289)

Here Lenin identifies what was to become a perennial theme of the Russian socialist revolution – the relation between the communists and the soviet bureaucracy, which included the struggle between them. Pre-Revolutionary Russia had behind it a long bureaucratic tradition and this bureaucratic past was superimposed, so to speak, on the new revolution. But in addition to the superimposition of this bureaucratic past on the new revolution, there was the fact that the state increasingly began to direct all aspects of the national economy. Even the collective farms, which emerged after the collectivisation drive in the 1930s, although not state institutions, were not completely autonomous from the state. The extension of state ownership and therefore the role of the state in the economy were bound to increase the size of the state administration and therefore a tendency towards bureaucracy was reinforced.

The increase in the size of the means of administration as a consequence of the extension of the regulatory influence of the state over the economy is not necessarily identical with what is referred to as the problem of bureaucracy, although it is often related to it. In other words, bureaucracy and administration are not the same thing even if usually closely related.

The view that state ownership necessarily leads to an increase in bureaucracy is not a valid argument, although it is a favourite argument for those who want to argue a case against socialism. Most theorists on bureaucracy disagree about the exact meaning of the term, and indeed, the problem of bureaucracy will arise mostly in cases where a bureaucracy is incompetent and dysfunctional. The soviet bureaucracy was a case in point. It had largely been inherited from Tsarism. Lenin had considered that, if the soviet bureaucracy rose to the level of competence of a bureaucracy that existed in one of the advanced bourgeois democratic republics, this would have constituted a big step forward for the Workers State. Had Russia gone through a long period of a bourgeois democratic republic, the problems of bureaucracy as it applies to the functional side of the question may hardly have arisen at all, at least no more than in an advanced capitalist country.

In historical terms Russia skipped a long period of bourgeois democratic development, and so the problems of bureaucracy were posed in a rather sharp, and at times, aggressive manner. To the functional side of the question of bureaucracy were added the socio-political problem of the state bureaucracy, or its leading stratum, consolidating itself into a special, privileged caste elevated above the masses.


The struggle against the soviet bureaucracy consolidating itself into a special privileged caste, which could usurp political power, or subvert the struggle for socialism, is part of the history of the Russian socialist revolution. Lenin in his writings on soviet bureaucracy refers to bureaucratic ‘grandees’. Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, mentions Stalin’s reference to a ‘damned caste’. [1]

Stalin’s role here was decisive. He was in the forefront of the anti-bureaucratic struggle, which included the struggle against the soviet bureaucracy turning itself into a caste, which could potentially seize political power. This has been described by one writer as Stalin’s anti-bureaucrat scenario. [2] Thus in the middle and late 1930s the struggle against the enemies hiding in the soviet bureaucracy came to a head. Even as early as 1919, Lenin had pointed out that

‘The Tsarist bureaucrats began to join the Soviet institutions and practice their bureaucratic methods, they began to assume the colouring of communists and, to succeed better in their careers, to procure membership cards of the Russian Communist Party’. (Lenin: March 1919, Vol. 29; p.183)

The nature of these purges has confused many bourgeois writers on the revolution. Pseudo-left elements, especially Trotskyists, misconstrue the purges completely suggesting that they represented counterrevolution. In reality, the purges were directed against the counterrevolution, which is the emerging new consensus of the more serious writers although they are anti-Stalinist.

That Trotsky could convince his small band of devotees that the purges were counterrevolutionary is not altogether surprising. After losing political power, Trotsky eventually abandoned the Leninist view on combating bureaucracy. Lenin had argued that the struggle against bureaucracy was a long-term process.
Trotsky rejected this view when he found himself outside of the communist party. On the question of fighting bureaucracy, Trotsky went over to a short-term perspective, misleading those who were ignorant or foolish enough to follow him, to believe that the problems arising from bureaucracy could be resolved by means of a ‘political revolution’. This is precisely what Lenin had warned against, i.e., making a political platform out of the issue of bureaucracy.

Trotsky, rejecting Lenin on this issue and his slogan of ‘political revolution’ against the soviet bureaucracy could only serve the interest of bourgeois democratic counterrevolution. It is perhaps necessary to add here that when the Stalinist leadership turned against soviet bureaucracy, they were not going against Lenin’s advice on how to combat bureaucracy. [3] The Stalinist drive against the soviet bureaucracy served several different purposes. For Stalin, like Lenin, there could be no talk of smashing or overthrowing the soviet bureaucracy. While Trotsky and his supporters were putting forward the ultra-left theory about a counterrevolutionary ‘Stalinist’ bureaucracy, the Stalinists, guided by Marxism-Leninism saw the issue not in terms of overthrowing the supposedly counterrevolutionary soviet bureaucracy but rather purging the counterrevolutionary elements in the soviet bureaucracy.

It is clear that Marxist-Leninists, like Stalin, rejected Trotsky’s short-term strategy for fighting bureaucracy based on the idea of a political revolution. Trotsky had reached this conclusion not because it was scientifically correct, but rather because he saw it as the only means of regaining political power. On the question of fighting bureaucracy, Stalin adhered to Lenin’s line.

The more serious bourgeois researchers into these matters come closer to the truth than any Trotskyist interpretation, thus Getty, when referring to the purges of the middle and late 1930s concludes that

‘The evidence suggests that the Ezhovschchina – which is what most people mean by the ‘Great Purges’ – should be redefined. It was not the result of a petrified bureaucracy stamping out and annihilating old radical revolutionaries. In fact, it may have been just the opposite. It is not inconsistent with the evidence to argue that the Ezhovschchina was rather a radical, even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy’. (J. Arch Getty: The Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party reconsidered – 1933-1938; p.206) [4]

In Getty’s view, then, the Stalinist purges constitute a radical, ‘even hysterical, reaction to bureaucracy’. This was certainly the apogee of radical Stalinist anti-bureaucratism. For Stalin the soviet bureaucracy had to be purged of all actual and potential counterrevolutionary elements. It was not a question of overthrowing the soviet bureaucracy, as the ultra-left Trotskyists would have, but rather of purging it of all counterrevolutionary elements. Many believe that the Soviet Union would not have stood up to the later Nazi aggression had this action not been taken.

Stalin’s anti-bureaucratic credentials can therefore be clearly established, although the problems of bureaucracy remained and could not be solved until society had reached a higher technical level.

In one form or another, to one degree or another previous socialist regimes have had to face this problem. The Titoite revisionists of Yugoslavia saw the solution in terms of decentralisation. In socialist Albania, the Cultural Revolution, with bureaucracy as one of its targets, began when in 1966 the Central Committee sent an open letter to all party members attacking the evils of bureaucracy. There began a significant reduction in the size of bureaucracy and Albania copied the Maoist line. Those bureaucrats who remained had to spend one month each year performing service in manual labour to keep them in touch with the working class and peasantry.

In truth though, this approach, whether in China or Albania, had no long-term benefits. It did however succeed in alienating the administrative staff, who naturally saw themselves as victims and were resentful of the disruption caused to the economy by these anti-bureaucratic drives.

As previously pointed out, the struggle against bureaucracy in a socialist country has two sides to it. First, there is the struggle against the dysfunctional aspect of bureaucracy. This includes the gradual reduction of the size of bureaucracy, while improving its administrative performance. The other aspect of this struggle is that aimed at preventing the bureaucracy, in particular its managerial layers separating itself from the rest of society – and becoming a privileged caste which can seize political power. Because bureaucracy has no particular ideology or ownership of property holding it together the possibility of it actually seizing political power is rather more problematic than is often realised.


For Marxists, the state is the inevitable product of class society. As classes fade away, the state in the sense of bodies of armed men and all its appurtenances, for the repression of one class by another will fade away. Bureaucracy is one of the forms in which state power in class society expresses itself. The function of the state is to defend a particular social set-up and its ruling class. This applies to socialist society with the same force as it applies to capitalist society. As long as capitalism and the bourgeoisie exist all talk about the withering away of the state is foolhardy in the extreme.

The Soviet State illustrates this point clearly. It had to grow in power and strength in order to resist the pressure of imperialism and world reaction. Those, like the Yugoslav revisionists who attacked Stalin for not promoting a premature withering away of the state, simply demonstrate their anarchist and anti-Marxist conceptions of this process. The state rises and falls with class society. Its departure from the historical stage cannot precede the departure of classes.

Just as Marxist-Leninists want a state that serves socialism, they want the bureaucracy to serve socialism as well. Stalin’s struggle with the soviet bureaucracy is well known and documented. This struggle was certainly inevitable. The essence of this struggle was to get the bureaucracy to serve the interest of socialism. But Stalin understood the contradictory nature of the struggle against bureaucracy. He knew the communist must struggle against bureaucracy while using it at the same time. Bureaucracy is a means of administration by specialists, which is deployed in the interest of socialism by the political leadership of the working class, while at the same time fighting its negative aspects.

When the state takes over the running of industry this can lead to an increase in its administrative functions, and hence bureaucracy. However, it is wrong to view an increase in administrative bureaucracy as a logical result of socialism per se. It is rather a result of the technological level of the given society. Thus, the state of technology comes into play when we consider the extent of the process of bureaucratisation. In other words, the process of bureaucratisation is determined by science and technology.

In today’s world of the continuing rapid advances in the technological revolution, with no end in sight, administrative systems are bound to reflect technological advances. This would suggest that administrative systems will decrease in size while increasing in their ability to process and control information. The old views that state ownership and socialism lead inevitably to an increase in administrative bureaucracy will no longer be plausible. Implicit in all this is the withering away of the state and bureaucracy.

This process, i.e., the withering away of the state and bureaucracy is part of the process of achieving communist society based on advancing technological revolution. For these reasons, it is incumbent on serious Marxists to reject pseudo-left Trotskyist theories that bureaucracies under socialism can be overthrown by means of ‘political revolutions’.

A. Clark.


[1] Svetlana Alliluyeva: 20 Letters to a Friend; p. 174.

[2] See Lars Lih’s introduction to: Stalin’s Letters to Molotov.

[3] The term ‘Stalinist’ refers to those who supported Stalin.

[4] The word ‘Ezhovschchina’, from the name Ezhov, sometimes spelt Yezhov, was the name of Nikolai Ezhov, who replaced Yagoda as head of Soviet security and subsequently put in charge of the purges.

V.I. Lenin on Trotsky’s slogan for ‘a United States of Europe’


“As early as 1902, he [i.e., the British economist John Hobson — ES] 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 Kautskyites 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, and that objectively the opportunists are a section of the petty bourgeoisie and of a certain strata of the working class who have been bribed out of imperialist superprofits and converted to watchdogs of capitalism and corruptors of the labour movement.”

 – V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism.”

Why Does the Pseudo-Left Hate Grover Furr?


by Espresso Stalinist

Grover Furr is an American professor and author. He has taught at Montclair State University in New Jersey for over four decades, and has written essays, articles and books on Soviet history in both Russian and English. Though his body of work covers a wide variety of topics, his most famous writings study the period of Soviet history under Joseph Stalin, particularly regarding controversies around the Moscow Trials, the Katyn “massacre,” the events in Poland in 1939, the murder of Sergei Kirov, the Ukrainian famine and Khrushchev’s “secret speech.” Furr’s research on the history of communism, Soviet history and the historical falsifications told against socialism is some of the most remarkable, ground-breaking and enlightening in the world. He uses a very precise and admirable document-based approach to research that is exceedingly valuable and hard to find elsewhere.

This approach, unsurprisingly, has won him more than a fair share of enemies and critics, not only on the right but the left as well. Those on the left who attack Grover Furr are the most peculiar of his critics. Professor Furr is someone that sets about examining historical allegations used to attack socialism, and in his published books and articles finds and publishes objective documentary and archival proof that it is not true, or at least deceptive. In other words, he spends a great deal of time and effort countering bourgeois propaganda about Marxism-Leninism. What has been their response? To attack him. One would think someone who speaks Russian, has translated Russian documents and has access to the archives would be of interest to those looking to learn about the history of socialism. One would further think, that a sincere person who considers themselves a socialist or a Marxist would thank Grover Furr for finding proof that a large portion of what we are told about Stalin and the U.S.S.R. are lies.

We live in an age where most Marxist or progressive academics who dare to challenge the status quo are fired, sidelined, driven out of academia or simply deemed irrelevant. Only a fool would pretend that academic repression isn’t a reality. Yet, when it comes to the brave, bold and challenging works Furr has published, critics universally dismiss them without reviewing the evidence he presents. In discussions, I have never heard them say, “No Professor Furr, I disagree with your thesis statement, and wish to make a counter-thesis. Here are my facts, arguments and sources backing it up.” Instead, what I hear over and over is his work dismissed as “absurd,” “insane,” or Furr himself labeled as a “crackpot” or “Stalinist.” There is almost always an attempt to link his methods of research to anti-Semites and fascists, or even outright call him a “Holocaust denier,” implicitly comparing Soviet history with Nazi Germany.

Why do his critics almost universally behave in this manner? The answer is simply: because they can’t refute anything he says.

For all Furr’s research has contributed to our understanding of Soviet history and to refuting the lies told about life in socialist countries, his critics and opponents have not offered any meaningful refutation of his works or even engaged with the evidence contained therein. When pressed to sum up his theses, the evidence he presents to support them, and then to offer counter-evidence and refutations of their own, silence fills the space. Very few, if any of his critics are capable of defining what specific points of his works they disagree with or can prove false. Often they assert things that are already addressed in the article in question. The opponents of Furr’s research, whatever their ideological differences may be, all share one common thread that over time is rendered impossible to miss. For all their ranting and raving, not a single one directly challenges him on the sources or attempts to refute his argument. There is a concrete reason for this – opposition to Furr’s research comes from knee-jerk anti-communism.

The pseudo-left’s endless venom towards Furr’s work is entirely (no, not partially, or even mostly, but from what I have seen, entirely) devoid of counter-criticism, counter-evidence, contrasting research or engagement in any way, shape or form with Furr’s work. At the present time, there are no scholarly refutations of Grover Furr’s work. Hostile reviews, on the other hand, are plentiful. Nor is there any lack of critics who chant “give us more evidence,” demanding a larger amount of evidence to their satisfaction – which of course, is a level of evidence that will never exist, no matter how much of it there is. Another consistent pattern with his critics is that they assume that an author must be able to prove the meaning of their research to the satisfaction of a hostile or skeptical critic in order to be considered valid. If the author fails to accomplish this task, it proves that he or she doesn’t understand what it means, and furthermore their failure to do so is definitive proof that the entirety of the research is consequently meaningless.

The debate on Grover Furr is always about form – the person, his writing style, his alleged motives, his allege dishonesty or lack of qualifications, and never about content – the evidence presented, what it shows, and whether it’s true or not. The infantile pseudo-left responds to science with provocation, facts with hostility, reason with insults, ideological questions with personal attacks, and the deep questions posed by Furr’s work with shallow criticisms. This is not to say that anyone who has criticisms of Furr’s work is automatically opposed to socialism. Far from it – criticism is an essential part of being a Marxist-Leninist. But by and large the criticisms of Grover Furr are not made from a principled standpoint.

“No one takes Grover Furr seriously” is the refrain. Yet, John Arch Getty, Robert Thurston, Lars Lih and many others have praised Furr’s work while disagreeing with his politics. One does not have to completely share Furr’s worldview to find a great deal of value in his essays, articles and books. In fact, any serious researcher, Marxist or not, can learn a great deal from the evidence he gathers to back up his viewpoints, evidence that is almost never studiously read or studied by those who violently denounce it. If the idea that Furr is not a serious academic is a legitimate position to take, then there should be criticisms of his scholarship. Perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single argument as to why Grover Furr is an unacceptable source of information other than his opinions aren’t popular. If his arguments themselves cannot be addressed, then his critics have no right to reject the citing of his work.

Much is made of Furr’s “academic credentials,” or alleged lack thereof, to write about the subjects he chooses. He is an English professor they say, and therefore cannot be considered an authority on history. These noble knights dedicated to the defense of “credible” capitalist academia you see, must speak out against Furr. Yet, these same people have no problem with the works of Noam Chomsky, a linguist who writes an endless parade of books on a wide variety of subjects outside of his field, such as criticizing U.S. foreign policy, economy, science, immigration and the Cold War. Anyone who is familiar with Chomsky’s work knows his views are fairly traditional anarchism combined with Enlightenment-era classical liberalism. They are not friendly to socialism, and certainly no threat to anyone in the ruling class. Speaking out against imperialism in of itself is not a particularly radical act, especially when you’re not criticizing it from a Marxist perspective. Many far-rightists and libertarians speak out against U.S. foreign policy as well. Why the double standard? What is the difference between Furr and Chomsky? Quite simple, really. Chomsky is the poster boy of left anti-communism, of a “safe” and defanged leftism deprived of anything not acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Meanwhile, Furr’s research attempts to refute popular anti-communist propaganda instead of accepting it. The pseudo-left would rather back the petty-bourgeois cause than the proletarian one, because they are “radicals” stuck in that method of thinking.

It is is absolutely inarguable that the modern view of the history of socialism has been shaped by those who despise it, and yet phony leftists have no trouble upholding the most vile smears against Soviet, Eastern European and Chinese history. In an atmosphere where the highly dubious works of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes are upheld as a dogma and treated as material to be seriously engaged with or even refuted, Furr’s work is singled out by both reactionaries and the pseudo-left for outright dismissal and slander.

When denial is not enough, general charges are invented, such as the allegation his presentations of history are “conspiracy theories.” This has also been used to describe the works of other Marxist-Leninist scholars, such as William Bland. I stress again that until there are refutations, one cannot accept these charges. After all, with all the history of capitalist plots we’ve learned, can one seriously accept this level of argumentation? Are the facts true, or not? Blanket cries of “Stalinist” directed against Furr mean nothing. If critics have counter-evidence, then let them step forward and present it. This should not be an unreasonable demand for a Marxist – or for anyone, really.

When Furr speaks of opposition conspiracies within the Soviet Union, or of holes and outright falsifications in the official story of Katyn, these are treated with the utmost skepticism. The idea that the defendants of the Moscow Trials may have actually been involved in terrorist conspiracies to overthrow the Soviet government and assassinate officials is seen as nonsense. Yet, when we are presented with stories of a heinous conspiracy involving J.V. Stalin and a substantial number of other high officials to themselves assassinate Zinoviev, Bukharin and a number of others through judicial means, then this “conspiracy theory” is adopted as the default correct position. It follows that it is easier to go along with the dominant narrative – that is, that of the bourgeoisie – regarding the history of socialism than it is to objectively challenge these ideas.

With the fake left, the formula could not be more simple: U.S. Cold War propaganda is upheld, pro-communist scholarly research is not. Every charge against the socialist countries is true; every defense of socialism is akin to Holocaust denial. Those who would agree, at least in words, that the history of the Soviet Union is falsified by capitalist scholars and reactionaries, and that socialist leaders are routinely subjected to outright slander are declared “insane,” their research or conclusions “absurd,” and derided as “crackpots” or “Stalinists.” The critics do not review the evidence or engage with the thesis; they merely dismiss it. They do not present counter-evidence; they merely assert it. Furr’s fake “left” opponents claim that Furr is “not credible scholarship” only because they don’t agree with it. Furr is only a “crackpot” because they don’t like what he has to say. In their view, scholarly research that counters the bourgeois propaganda narrative of history should be cast aside, silenced, devalued, delegitimized, hidden from the public view and ultimately, destroyed.

It seems to me the “left” needs to look in a mirror and stare itself straight in the eye, and ask: what have we come to, if we cannot refute these works? What exactly does it say, when the entire pseudo-left cannot refute someone who is supposedly “a crackpot with no academic credentials?” What does it say, when they cannot even define the actual content of his work when asked, yet they have already declared it false on the whole? What does it say, when they have no evidence to counter Furr’s claims, but rely on attacking Grover Furr the person?

Any allegations that his works are “below criticism” are disingenuous. If they are worthy of such hostility, then they are worthy of honest criticism. If only all of us checked their facts and cited their sources for all to see like Furr does, rather than rest on our own preconceived notions and prejudices, perhaps the American left wouldn’t be in such a precarious position these days.

The pseudo-left’s hatred has nothing to do with honesty. This is because of anti-communism, not political disagreement, not ideological difference, not a problem with Furr’s research or his conclusions, not an issue with his methods, or legitimate criticism of his evidence. It is a liberal and reactionary view that anything anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin must be true, while anything that challenges that view must be attacked, smeared, demonized, ridiculed and silenced. When evidence is not engaged with or dismissed, and the person themselves is slandered, it is not principled disagreement, it is not ideological difference – it is hate and prejudice.

The question stands: why does the pseudo left hate Grover Furr? The answer becomes plain: they hate Grover Furr precisely because his works challenge the hegemony of the Trotsky-Khrushchev-Gorbachev-Cold War anti-communist anti-Stalin paradigm, the dominant paradigm of the bourgeoisie. In other words, they hate Grover Furr because he is a good communist in an age filled with fake ones. They hate Grover Furr because he is an honest researcher in an age filled to the brim with propaganda. They hate Grover Furr because he has evidence for the conclusions he draws and presents it openly, rather than relying on emotionalism. They hate Grover Furr because he challenges the bourgeois anti-communist understanding of Soviet history. These days pseudo-leftists are not just dishonest or liberal; they are avowed anti-communists.

Revisionism in Russia: Trotsky Against the Bolsheviks – Part One: To 1914


Read part two here.


Trotsky speaks:

“Among the Russian comrades, there was not one from whom I could learn anything…The errors which I have committed . . always referred to questions that were not fundamental or strategic. . . In all conscientiousness I cannot, in the appreciation of the political situation and of its revolutionary perspectives, accuse myself of any serious errors of judgement.

Looking back, two years after the revolution, Lenin said:

‘At the moment when it seized the power and created the Soviet republic, Bolshevism drew to itself all the best elements in the currents of Socialist thought that were nearest to it’.

Can there be even a shadow of doubt that when he spoke so deliberately of the best representatives of the currents closest to Bolshevism, Lenin had foremost in mind what is now called ‘historical Trotskyism’? . . Whom else could he have had in mind?”

(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970; p. 184, 185, 353).


“Trotsky is very fond of explaining historical events . . in pompous and sonorous phrases, in a manner flattering to Trotsky.”

(V.I. Lenin: “Violation Of Unity under Cover Of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 194).

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

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

Originally Printed and published by: B.C., (Secretary) 26, Cambridge Road, Ilford Esssex. for the COMMUNIST LEAGUE (CL).


Revisionism is the perversion of Marxism-Leninism to suit the needs of the exploiting classes, to the elimination of which Marxism-Leninism is directed.
A study of revisionism in Russia is of particular importance to Marxist-Leninists, since it was through revisionism that the socialist society constructed there came to be replaced by an essentially capitalist society.

One of the myths of Trotskyism is that in the years before 1917 Trotsky fought side by side with Lenin from revolutionary positions, and that only after Stalin became General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party in 1922 did a political rift develop between Trotsky and his supporters on the one hand and the leadership of the Party on the other.

The facts documented in this report demonstrate that this theory could hardly be further from the truth. From 1903 to 1917, year after year, Trotsky fought Lenin on almost every political issue that arose, along with other figures whom we shall meet again in connection with the revisionist struggle to prevent the construction of socialism after the revolution and to destroy it when it had been built — such figures -as Lev Kamenev (Trotsky’s brother-in-law), Grigori Zinoviev, Yuri Piatakov, Grigori Sokolnikov, Nikolai Bukharin, Aleksei Rykov, Khristian Rakovsky, Adolf Warski, David Ryazanov, Evgenii Preobrazhensky, Solomon Lozovsky and Dmitri Manuilsky.

The first part of this report covers the period up to the outbreak of the first imperialist war in 1914; the second covers the period from 1914 to the “October Revolution” of 1917. Later reports will cover the period from 1917 onwards.

1879 – 1895: Childhood

Lev Davidovich Bronstein, who later became Leon Trotsky was born on November 7th, 1879.

His father, David Leontievich Bronstein, was a well-to-do farmer, of Jewish origin but. Indifferent to religion, who worked with the help of wage-labour a large farm called Yanovka, near the small town of Bobrinetz in the province of Kherson in the southern Ukraine.

His mother, Anna Bronstein, was an educated, petty bourgeois, city-bred woman, of Jewish descent and orthodox in religion.

Lev was the Bronsteins’ fifth child, and by the time of his birth they were affluent enough to afford a nursemaid for him.

At the age of seven his parents sent him to a “kheder” a private Jewish religious school, at Gromokla, a German-Jewish colony about two miles away. There he stayed with relatives. But the tuition was in Yiddish, and the boy learned little there except to read and write a little Russian. After a few months his parents withdrew him from the school and he returned home.

In the autumn of 1888, when Lev was nearly nine, he was sent to stay with other relatives in Odessa in order to attend school there. These relatives –Moissei Filipovich Spentzer, a liberal publisher, and his wife, the headmistress of a secular school for Jewish girls – gave the boy his first introduction to the great literature of the world. They arranged for him to attend St. Paul’s “Realschule” a progressive, cosmopolitan school which taught in Russian.

In the course of his seven years at the “Realschule” he excelled in his studies, became fastidious about his appearance and dress, and acquired, as he says, a feeling of superiority towards his fellow students.

1896-1899: Youth

In 1896, at the age of seventeen, he completed his course in Odossa and moved to Nicolayev to attend a similar school for the purpose of matriculating.

Here he lodged with a family whose sons had already been touched by socialist ideas and who argued against Trotsky’s conservative outlook. Six months later he had embraced socialism and had been introduced into radical discussion circle held in a gardener’s hut on the outskirts of the town. Most of the members of this group were Narodniks, adherents of an intellectual, individualistic, vaguely socialist trend, which based itself, not on the working class, but on the peasantry, and which at first appealed strongly to Trotsky… One member of the group, however –Aleksandra Sokolovskaya, a girl some few years older than Trotsky who later became his first wife was a Marxist and strongly influenced the development of his views.

When his father objected to his association with this radical circle, Trotsky gave up the allowance he had been receiving from home, took up private tutoring and moved from his lodgings to live in the gardener’s hut, as a member of the Narodnik “commune.”

In the spring of 1897 he took a leading part in the formation of an underground trade union, the South Russian Workers’ Union, which had grown to about 200 members before the end of the year and published its own duplicated paper “Nashe Delo” (Our Cause).

In the summer of 1897 Trotsky graduated with first-class honours, and at the end of that year was arrested, together with some other leading members of the union. He was kept in a small cell in the prison at Kerson for several months, being transferred to the prison at Odessa in the middle of 1898. He occupied himself here in writing a treatise on freemasonry, and in reading Marxist books smuggled in from outside.

Towards the end of 1899, Trosky received his sentence (without trial) of deportation to Siberia for four years. He was first moved to a transfer prison in Moscow, where he met older and more experienced revolutionaries from all over Russia and made his first acquaintance with the writings of Lenin. In the spring or summer of 1900 he married in the Moscow prison Aleksandra Sokolovskaya, and shortly afterwards he and his wife began their journey into exile.

1900 – 1902: Exile

They reached their place of exile — the settlement of Verkholensk in the mountains overlooking Lake Baikal — in the late autumn of 1900. Having come to accept Marxism in the preceding years, Trotsky now identified himself with the labour movement, becoming a leading member of the Siberian Social Democratic Workers’ Union.

In December 1900 he began to write for the “Vostochnoye Obozrenie” (Eastern Review), a progressive newspaper published in Irkutsk, under the pseudonym of “Antid Oto.” His contributions consisted, mainly of reportage on the conditions of the Siberian peasants, together with literary criticism.

In the summer of 1902 Trotsky made his escape from Siberia, abandoning his wife, and two children. In Samara he received a message from Lenin asking him to report to the headquarters of ‘Iskra’- (The Spark) in London as soon as possible.

1902 – 1903: Trotsky Becomes an Iskra-ist

Trotsky arrived in London in October 1902 and Lenin found him lodgings. He began to contribute to “Iskra” in November 1902 and soon became known as a brilliant writer and orator.

From time to time he visited Prance, Switzerland and Belgium, and it was on a visit to Paris that he met his second “wife” (he was never formally divorced from Aleksandra Sokolovskaya), a Russian revolutionary of noble birth, Natalya Sedova, who was studying the history of art at the Sorbonne.

1903: The Struggle at the Second Congress

The Second congress Of the Russian Social-Democratic Party attended by 43 delegates, was held in July/August 1903, first in Brussels, and then in London. The main business on its’ agenda was to adopt a programme and rules. Trotsky attended as a delegate from the Siberian Social-Democratic Workers’ Union.

The sharpest controversy at the congress arose around the first clause of the rules, defining what was meant by the term “member of the party.” In accordance with the principles he had been putting forward for some time in “Iskra,” Lenin proposed the following wording for Clause 1:

“A member of the R.S.D.L.P. is one who recognises its programme and supports the Party materially as well as by personal participation in one of the organisations of the Party.”

Yuli Martov moved to substitute for the words underlined:

“Working under the control and guidance of one of the organisations of the Party.”

Lenin’s case against Martov’s formulation was that:

1) It would in practice be impossible to maintain effective “control and guidance” over Party members who did not personally participate in one of the organisations of the Party;

2) It reflected the outlook, not of the working class, which is not shy of organisation and discipline, but of the petty bourgeois intelligentsia, who tend to be individualistic and shy of organisation and discipline;

3) It would widen Party membership to include supporters of the Party, and so would abolish the essential dividing line between the working class and its organised, disciplined vanguard; it would, therefore, have the effect of dissolving the vanguard in the working class as a whole and so would serve the interests of the class enemies of the working class.

Trotsky sided with Martov, whose formulation was adopted by 28 votes to 22 with 1 abstention.

Later, the withdrawal of seven opponents of Lenin from the congress altered the balance of forces in favour of Lenin and his supporters, Lenin then proposed that the editorial board of “Iskra” (which consisted of six members) should be replaced by one of three members. Trotsky countered this manoeuvre with a motion confirming the old editorial board in office, but this was defeated by a majority of 2 votes; thereupon the anti-Leninists abstained from further voting. In the elections which followed three anti-Leninists (Axelrod, Potresov and Vera Zasulich) were dropped from the board, leaving Lenin, Plekhanov and Martov. Furthermore, three supporters of Lenin were elected to form the Central Committee.

Thus, at its Second Congress the Party showed itself to be divided into two factions. From that time those Party members who supported Lenin’s political line were known as Bolsheviks (from ‘bolshinstvo”, majority) while those who opposed Lenin’s political line were known as Mensheviks (from “menshinstvo” minority).

The Bolshevik trend was a Marxist trend, representing the interests of the working class within the labour movement;

TheMenshevik trend was a revisionist trend representing the interests of the capitalist class within the labour movement.

The “Report of the Siberian Delegation”

Later Trotsky admitted his error in having opposed Lenin at the 2nd. Congress on the question of Party organisation. Speaking of Lenin’s attitude at the Congress, Trotsky says in his autobiography:

“His behaviour seemed unpardonable to me, both horrible and outrageous. And yet, politically, it was right and necessary, from the point of view of organisation.

My break with Lenin occurred on what might be considered “moral” or even personal grounds. But this was merely on the surface. At bottom, the separation was of a political nature and merely expressed itself in the realm of organisational methods.

I thought of myself as a centralist. But there is no doubt that at that at that time I did not fully realise what an intense and imperious centralism the revolutionary party would need to lead millions of people in a war against the old order . . At the time of the London Congress in 1903, revolution was still largely a theoretical abstraction to me.

Independently I still could not see Lenin’s centralism as the logical conclusion of a clear revolutionary concept.”

(L.Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1971; p. 162)

His immediate reaction to the congress, however, was to write “Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Report of the Siberian Delegation” which was published in Geneva in 1903.

In this he defended his, and his delegation’s opposition to Lenin and his supporters at the congress:

“Behind Lenin stood the new compact majority of the ‘hard’ ‘Iskra’ men, opposed to the ‘soft’ ‘Iskra’ men. We, the delegates of the Siberian Union, joined the ‘soft’ ones, and . . we do not think that we have thereby blotted our revolutionary record.”

(L.Trotsky: “Vtoroi Syezd R.S.D.R.P. (Otchet Sibirskoi Delegatskii)” (Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. (Report of the Siberian Delegation); Geneva: 1903; p.21.)

At the Congress, declared Trotsky, Lenin had:

“…With the energy and talent peculiar to him, assumed the role of the party’s disorganiser.”

(L.Trotsky: ibid.;. p.11).

and, like a new Robespierre, was trying to:

“…transform the modest Council of the Party into an omnipotent Committee of Public Safety.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p.21).

so preparing the ground for the:

“Thermidorians of Socialist opportunism.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid; p.30).

He added in a postscript that Lenin resembled Robespierre, however, only as

“a vulgar farce resembles historic tragedy…”

(L.Trotsky: ibid.; p.33).

The 1903 Menshevik Conference

After the Congress, the Mensheviks — including Trotsky boycotted “Iskra” and refused to contribute to it.

In September 1903 they held a factional conference in Geneva to decide on future action. A shadow “central committee” was set up, consisting of Pavel Axelrod, Pedor Dan, Yuli Martov, Aleksandr Potresov and Trotsky, to direct the struggle against the Bolsheviks.

In Trotsky’s view the immediate aim of the campaign should be to force the Bolsheviks to restore the ousted Mensheviks to their former positions of influence, both in the Central Committee and the editorial board. A resolution, drafted by Martov and Trotsky, was adopted by the conference:

“We consider it our moral and political duty to conduct . . the struggle by all means, without placing ourselves outside the Party and without bringing discredit upon the party and the idea of its central institutions, to bring about a change in the composition of the leading bodies, which will secure to the Party the possibility of working freely towards its own enlightenment.”

(P.B. Axelrod &. Y. 0. Martov: “Pisma P.B. Axelroda i.Yu Martova” (Letters of P.B. Axelrod and Y.0.Martv); Berlin; l924; p.94).

The “New” Iskra

Soon after the Second Congress of the Party, Plekhanov gave way to the attacks of the Mensheviks. In violation of the decisions taken at the Party congress, he claimed and exercised the right as joint editor to coopt to the editorial board of “Iskra” the Menshevik former editors. Lenin strongly objected to this step, and resigned from the board.

The new editorial board transformed “Iskra” into a Menshevik organ, which waged unremitting struggle against Lenin and his supporters and against the Bolshevik Central Committee of the Party. Thus, from its 52nd. issue “Iskra” became known in the Party as the “new” “Iskra,” in contrast to the “old” Leninist “Iskra.” It continued publication until October 1905.

Trotsky became a prominent contributor to the “new Iskra” and issued a pamphlet setting forth the Menshevik political line. Lenin commented:

“A new pamphlet by Trotsky came out recently, under the editorship of ‘Iskra’, as was announced. This makes it the ‘Credo’, as it were, of the new ‘Iskra’. The pamphlet is a pack of brazen lies, a distortion of the facts. . . The Second Congress was, in his words, a reactionary attenpt to consolidate sectarian methods of organisation, etc.”

(V.I. Lenin: Letter to Yelena Stasova, F.V. Lengnik, and 0thers, October 1904, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 43; Moscow; 1969; p. 129).

1904: The Russo – Japanese War

In February 1904 the Russo-Japanese War began with a Japanese attack on the Russian fortress of Port Arthur. The Russian Army suffered defeat and almost the entire Russian Navy was destroyed in the Straits of Tsushima, forcing the Tsarist government to conclude an ignominious peace treaty in September 1905.

1904: “Our Political Tasks”

Between February and May 1904, Lenin was engaged on writing the book “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.” In this he expounded at length the principles of party organisation he had put forward at the Second Congress and analysed the character of the Menshevik opposition.

In August 1904 Trotsky’s reply to Lenin’s book was published in Geneva under the title “Our Political Tasks.” It was dedicated to “My dear teacher Pavel B.Axelrod.”

In “Our Political Tasks” – Trotsky developed his attack upon “Maximillien Lenin”; whom he described as:

“…an adroit statistician and a slovenly attorney”

(L. Trotsky: ‘ashi Politicheskie Zadachi’(Our Political Tasks) Geneva; 1904; p. 95)

with a

“…hideous, dissolute and demagogical”

(L.Trotsky : ibid. ; p. 75)

style, whose

“Evil-minded and morally repulsive suspiciousness, a shallow caricature of tragic Jacobinist intolerance, must be liquidated now at all costs, otherwise the Party is threatened with moral and theoretical decay”;

(L. Trotsky: ibid. ; p. 95).

He developed his attack upon Lenin’s principles of Party organisation, claiming that they would lead to the establishment, not of the dictatorship of the working class but of a dictatorship over the working class (a dictatorship that would eventually be one of a single individual), which the working class would find intolerable:

“Lenin’s methods lead to this: the Party organisation at first substitutes itself for the Party as a whole; then the Central Committee substitutes itself for the organisation; and finally a single ‘dictator’ substitutes himself for the Central Committee…. A proletariat capable of exercising its dictatorship over society will not tolerate any dictatorship over itself.”

(L. Trotsky. Ibid.; p. 54, 105)

and declaring that Lenin’s organisational principles would, in any case, be unworkable since any serious faction would defy Party discipline:

“Is it so difficult to see that any group of serious size and importance, if faced with the alternative of silently destroying itself or of fighting for its survival regardless of all discipline, would undoubtedly choose the latter course?”

(L. Trotsky: ibid; p. 72).

Meanwhile, readers of the “new” “Iskra” in Russia had been complaining strongly about Trotsky’s virulent attacks on Lenin in the columns of the paper, and in April 1904, on the demand of Plekhanov, he was forced to resign from it.

The Campaign for The Holding Of a Party Congress

In July 1904, two members of the Central Committee of the Party, Krassin and Noskov, broke with the Bolsheviks, giving the Mensheviks a majority on the committee. The Bolsheviks then began a campaign within the Party for the holding of a new congress.

In August l904 Lenin guided the conference of twenty-two prominent Bolsheviks which took place in Switzerland and which issued an appeal to the Party calling for the convocation of the Third Congress. At the same time a number of conference of Bolsheviks took place in Russia, out of which in December l904 came the Bureau of the Majority Committees which became the organising centre for the campaign for a new congress.

During the autumn of 1904, the Bolsheviks organised their own publishing house and at the end of the year established their own newspaper “Vperyod” (Forward), the first issue of which appeared on January 1904.

1904-1905: Parvus Lays the Basis for Trotsky’s “Theory of Permanent Revolution”

In November and December 1904 Trotsky wrote a brochure on the necessity for the working class to play the leading role in the capitalist revolution in Russia which, the following year, he entitled “Before the 9th January” (this being the date, under the old Russian calendar, in 1905 when the first Russian revolution began with the shooting down by the tsar’s troops of an unarmed workers’ demonstration).

When in Munich, Trotsky was accustomed to stay at the home of Aleksandr Helfand, a Russian Jew who then claimed to be a Marxist. Helfand published his own political review “Aus der Weltpolitik” (‘World Politics’) and wrote articles for other magazines especially Kautsky’s “Neue Zeit” (New Life) and the new “Iskra” — under the pen-name “Parvus.”

When Trotsky visited Munich in January 1905, he had the proofs of the brochure with him. Parvus was impressed with its contents and decided to put the weight of his authority behind Trotsky by writing a preface to it. In this preface he stated a conclusion which Trotsky still hesitated to draw:

“In Russia only the workers can accomplish a revolutionary insurrection. . . The revolutionary provisional government will be a government of workers’ democracy.”

(Parvus: Preface to: L.Trotsky: “Do 9 Yanvara”; Geneva; 1905)

In April 1905 Lenin commented on Parvus’s theory that the capitalist revolution in Russia could result in a government of the working class, as it had been put forward in the brochure written by

“the windbag Trotsky.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government”; in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 35)

Lenin declared:

“This cannot be . . This cannot be, because only a revolutionary dictatorship relying on the overwhelming majority of the people can be at all durable.. . The Russian proletariat, however, at present constitutes a minority of the population in Russia. It can become the great overwhelming majority only if it combines with the mass of semi-proletarians, semi-small proprietors, i.e. with the mass of the petty-bourgeois urban and rural poor. And such a composition of the social basis of the possible and desirable revolutionary-democratic dictatorship will of course, find its reflection in the composition of the revolutionary government. With such a composition the participation or even the predominance of the most diversified representatives of revolutionary democracy in such a government will be inevitable.”

(V. I. Lenin; ibid.; p. 35).

1905: The Beginning of the 1905 Revolution

On January 22nd, 1905 a peaceful demonstration of unarmed workers, led by a police agent, a priest by the name of Georgi Gapon, was fired on by troops while on its way to present a petition to the tsar at his Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Over a thousand workers were killed, more than two thousand injured.

The massacre taught tens of thousands of workers that they could win their rights only by struggle. During the weeks and months that followed, economic strikes began to pass into political strikes, into demonstrations and in places into clashes with tsarist troops.

In a letter written in Geneva three days after “Bloody Sunday,” Lenin wrote:

“The Russian proletariat will not forget this lesson. Even the most uneducated, the most backward strata of the working class, who naively trusted the tsar and sincerely wished to put peacefully before ‘the tsar himself’ the requests of a tormented nation, were all taught a lesson by the troops led by the tsar and the tsar’s uncle, the Grand Duke Vladimir… The arming of the people is becoming one of the immediate tasks of the revolutionary movement… The immediate arming of the workers and of all citizens in general, the preparation and organising of the revolutionary forces for overthrowing the government authorities and institutions — this is the practical basis on which all revolutionaries can and must unite to strike a common blow…
Long live the Revolution!
Long live the proletariat in revolt.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Beginning of the Revolution in Russia””, In: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; -London; l946;p. 289, 291, 292).

“No Tsar, but a Workers’ Government”

In February 1905 Trotsky returned to Russia, settling first in Kiev. Here he made contact with a member of the Party’s Central Committee who had the previous July played a treacherous role in assisting the Mensheviks to capture the Central Committee — Leonid Krassin. Krassin was in charge of a clandestine printing plant, which he now placed at Trotsky’s disposal.

A few weeks later Trotsky moved to St. Petersburg, where he became leader of the city’s Menshevik group.

He now adopted the view put forward in Parvus’s preface to his brochure “Before the 9th. January,” namely that the capitalist revolution in Russia should result in a workers’ government:

“The composition of the Provisional Government will in the main depend on the proletariat. If the insurrection ends in a decisive victory, those who have led the working class in the rising will gain power.”

(L. Trotsky: “Article in Iskra” (The Spark), No. 93; March 17th., 1905).

“Trotskyism: ‘No Tsar, but a workers’ government’. This surely, is wrong. There is a petty bourgeoisie, it cannot be ignored”.

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

Trotsky however, declared that this formulation of his political line was sloganised by Parvus and not by himself:

“At no time and in no place did I ever write or utter or propose such a slogan as “No Tsar — but a workers’ government.” The fact of the matter is that a proclamation entitled: ‘No Tsar — but a workers’ government’ was written and published abroad in the summer of 1905 by Parvus.”

(L. Trotsky. “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p.222)

The Third Party Congress

Early in 1905, the Central Committee acceded to the pressure within the Party and agreed to collaborate with the Bureau of Majority Committees in convening the Third Congress of the Party.

The congress took place in London in April/May 1905, that is, during the rising tide of the 1905 Revolution. It was boycotted by the Mensheviks, and attended by 24 delegates.

The congress adopted a resolution calling on the Party urgently to make all political and technical preparations for an armed uprising, and to organise armed resistance to the violence of the government-sponsored reactionary organisations. It also amended the formulation of point 1 of the Party rules adopted at the 2nd. Congress in order to bring this into line with Lenin’s principles of Party organisation and, abolishing the dual leading bodies (Central Committee and editorial board) the 2nd. Congress, to make the Central Committee the leading body of the Party.

The congress set up a new central organ of the Party “Proletary” (The Proletarian). Lenin, who chaired the congress, was elected to the Central Committee, which at its first meeting, appointed him editor of the paper. This appeared in May 1905 and was published regularly in Geneva until Lenin returned to Russia in November 1905.

The 1905-Menshevik Conference

The Mensheviks, who boycotted the Third Congress of the Party, held their own conference simultaneously in Geneva. The conference endorsed the Menshevik line on the capitalist revolution (see next section) and refrained from discussing resolutions that had been submitted on the arming of the masses and work among the troops.

Lenin’s “The Two Tactics of Social-Democracy”

In July 1905 Lenin published a long work, “The Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution” in which he analysed the resolution of the Third Party Congress on the question of the capitalist revolution alongside that adopted at the Menshevik conference.

Lenin’s conception of the capitalist revolution was as follows:

1. The capitalist revolution is advantageous to the working class:

“The bourgeois revolution is in the highest degree advantageous to the proletariat. The bourgeois revolution is absolutely necessary in the interests of the proletariat. The more complete, determined and consistent the bourgeois revolution, the more secure will the proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie and for socialism become.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, in: “Selected Works ” Volume 3; London; 1946; p.75).

2. The working class is in fact,- objectively more interested in a full capitalist revolution than is the capitalist class:

“In a certain sense the bourgeois revolution is more advantageous to the proletariat than it is to the bourgeoisie. This postulate is undoubtedly correct in the following sense: it is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie to rely on certain remnants of the past as against the proletariat, for instance, on a monarchy, a standing army, etc. It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie if the bourgeois revolution does not too resolutely sweep away the remnants of the past, but leaves some. . . It is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie if the necessary bourgeois-democratic changes take place more slowly, more gradually, more cautiously, with less determination, by means of reforms and not by means of revolution; if these changes spare the ‘venerable’ institutions of feudalism (such as the monarchy); if these reforms develop as little as possible the revolutionary initiative of the common people, i.e., the peasantry, and especially the workers, for otherwise it will be easier for the workers, as the French say, ‘to pass the rifle from one shoulder to the other’, i.e., to turn the guns which the bourgeois revolution will place in their hands; the democratic institutions which will spring up on the ground that will be cleared of feudalism, against the bourgeoisie.
On the other hand, it is more advantageous for the working class if the necessary bourgeois democratic changes take place in the form of revolution and not reform.

The very position the proletariat as a class occupies, compels it to be consistently democratic.

The bourgeoisie looks behind, is afraid of democratic progress which threatens to strengthen the proletariat. The proletariat has nothing to lose but its chains, but by means of democracy it has the whole world to win”.

(V.1. Lenin: ibid.; p. 75-77).

3. Therefore, ‘the working class must strive to make itself the leading force in the capitalist revolution, with the peasantry as its allies:

“Only the proletariat can be a consistent fighter for democracy. It may become a victorious fighter for democracy only if the peasant masses join it in its revolutionary struggle. If the proletariat is not strong enough for this, the bourgeoisie will put itself at the head of the democratic revolution and will impart to it the character of inconsistency and selfishness. The proletariat must carry out to the end the democratic revolution, and in this unite to itself the mass of the peasantry in order to crush by force resistance of the autocracy and to paralyse the instability of the bourgeoisie. At the head of the whole of the people, and particularly of the peasantry — for complete freedom for a consistent democratic revolution, for a republic!”

(V.I. Lenin: ibid; p. 86, 110-11, 14).

4. The provisional government which will be set up as a result of a democratic revolution carried out under the leadership of the working class will be the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”:

“’A decisive victory of the revolution over tsarism’ is the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry…. It will be a democratic, not a socialist dictatorship.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p,. 82).,

5. The working class must endeavour to continue the capitalist revolution so as to transform it uninterruptedly into a working class revolution, a socialist revolution, which will make the working class the ruling class:

“From the democratic revolution we shall at once, according to the degree of our strength, the strength of the class conscious and organised proletariat, begin to pass over to the socialist revolution. We stand for continuous revolution. We shall not stop half way.”

(V. I. Lenin; “The Attitude of Social-Democracy toward the Peasant Movement”, in: ibid; p 145) .

6. The working class will be the leading force in the socialist revolution, with the poorer strata of the peasantry and urban petty-bourgeoisie as its allies:

“The proletariat must accomplish the socialist revolution and in this unite to itself the mass of the semi-proletarian elements of the population in order to crush by force the resistance of the bourgeoisie and to paralyse the instability of the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie. . At the head of all the toilers and the exploited – for socialism!”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Two Tactics Of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 111, 124).

The Menshevik conception of the capitalist revolution, on the other hand, was, on the other hand as follows:

1. As in previous capitalist revolutions in history, the capitalist revolution in Russia will make the capitalists the ruling class:

“It is evident that the forthcoming revolution cannot assume any political forms against the will of the whole – of the bourgeoisie, for the latter will be the master of tomorrow.”

(M. Martynov: “Two Dictatorships”, Cited by: V. I. Lenin: “Social-Democracy, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government”, in: ibid.; p. 26).

2. Therefore the role of the working class in the capitalist revolution must be to exert pressure upon the capitalist class to bring the revolution to a successful conclusion:

“The hegemony of the proletariat is a harmful utopia. The proletariat must follow the extreme bourgeois opposition.”

(M. Martynov: “Two Dictatorships”, cited in: J. V. Stalin: Preface to The Georgian Edition of K. Kautsky: “The Driving Forces and Prospects, of the Russian Revolution”, in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 2-3).

“The struggle to influence the course and outcome of the bourgeois revolution can express itself only in the fact that the proletariat will exert revolutionary pressure on the will of the liberal and radical bourgeoisie, and that the more democratic ‘lower stratum’ of society will force its’ ‘upper stratum’ to agree to lead the bourgeois revolution to its logical conclusion.”

(M. Martynov: ibid., cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 28).

3. There will be a relatively long interval of time between the capitalist revolution and the subsequent socialist revolution:

“The triumph of socialism cannot coincide with the fall of absolutism. These two movements necessarily will be separated from one another by a significant interval of time.”

(G. Plekhanov: “Chto zhe dal “she?”in: “Zarya”; No. 2-3; December 1901).

4. The capitalist revolution may be decisively victorious over the tsarist autocracy without the revolutionary overthrow of this autocracy:

“A decisive victory of the revolution over tsarism may be marked either by the setting up of a provisional government, which emerges from a victorious people’s uprising, ‘or by the revolutionary initiative of this or that representative institution’ which, under the immediate pressure of the revolutionary people, decides to set up a “national constituent assembly.”

(Resolution of 1905 Menshevik Conference, cited by: V. I. Lenin: “The Two Tactics of social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, in: ibid.; p. 57).

5. Social-Democrats must not participate in the provisional government, if one is set up in place of the autocracy since:

a) this will be a capitalist government, and participation by Social-Democrats in a capitalist government is contrary to socialist principles;

b) an attempt to do so would frighten the capitalist class and lead to the restoration of autocracy:

“Social-Democrats must, during the whole course of the revolution, strive to maintain a position which would best of all …preserve it from being merged with bourgeois democracy…. Therefore, Social-Democracy must not strive to seize or share power in the provisional government, but must remain the party of the extreme revolutionary opposition.”

(Ibid., p. 69).

“The Conference believes that the formation of a Social Democratic provisional government, or entry into the government would lead, on the one hand, to the masses of the proletariat becoming disappointed in the Social-Democratic Party and abandoning it …. because the Social-Democrats, in spite of the fact that they had seized power, would not-be able to satisfy the pressing needs of the working class, including the establishment of socialism, and, on the other hand, would induce the bourgeois classes to desert the cause of the revolution and in that way diminish its sweep.”

(Ibid.; p. l04).

“By simply frightening the majority of the bourgeois elements, the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat can lead to but one result — the restoration of absolutism in its original form.”

(M. Martynov: “Two Dictatorships”, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government'”; in: ibid.; p. 27).

6. Only in the event of working class revolution in Western Europe should the Social-Democratic Party depart from this principle and participate in the provisional government, for only then would it be possible to go forward in Russia to the working class, socialist revolution:

“Only in one event should social-Democracy, on its own initiative, direct its efforts towards seizing power and retaining it as long as possible, namely, in the event of the revolution spreading to the advanced countries of Western Europe where conditions for the achievement of socialism have already reached a certain state of maturity. In that event, the restricted historical scope of the Russian revolution can be considerably extended and the possibility of striking the path of socialist reforms will arise.”

(Resolution of 1905 Menshevik Conference, cited in: -V.I. Lenin:”The Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, in: ibid.; p. 96).

The St. Petersburg Soviet in the 1905 Revolution

In May 1905 Trotsky went to Finland. When he returned to St. Petersburg in October, a general strike had broken out in the city.

The striking workers elected delegates to a strike committee, which quickly developed into the first important “Soviet of Workers’ Deputies” and began to publish its own organ: “Izvestia” (News). The Mensheviks supported the Soviet from its inception, regarding it as an organ of democratic local government. The St. Petersburg Bolsheviks, led by Bogdan Knunyantz, were, however, at first hesitant in their approach to it, regarding it as a rival to the Party and demanding that it affiliate to the Party before they could support it.

Meanwhile Lenin, after making arrangements for the publication in St. Petersburg of a legal Bolshevik newspaper “Novaya Zizn” (New Life), had left-Geneva in October for Russia. Held up in Stockholm, he wrote from there:

“Comrade Radin (i.e., Knunyantz — -Ed.) is wrong in raising the question in No. 5 of the ‘Novaya Zhizn’, …the Soviet of Workers? Deputies or the Party? I think that it is wrong to put the question in this way, and that the decision must certainly be: both the Soviet of Deputies and the Party . . .

The Soviet of Deputies, as an organ representing all occupations, should strive to include deputies from all industrial, professional and office workers, domestic servants, farm labourers, etc., from all who want and are able to fight in common for a better life for the whole working people.

I think it inadvisable to demand that the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies should accept the Social-Democratic Programme and join the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party….

I believe (On the strength of the incomplete and only ‘paper’ information at my disposal) that politically the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies should be regarded as the embryo of a provisional revolutionary Government.”

(V.I. Lenin “Our Tasks and the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies”; in “Collected Works”; Volume 10; Moscow; 1962; p. 19, 20, 21).

Later, after his arrival in St. Petersburg, Lenin made a clear analysis of the Soviet. It could not be an organ of government until the power of the central tsarist state had been smashed, at least locally; in the existing circumstances its role must be to conduct this revolutionary struggle to smash the central state machine.

“The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies is not a parliament of labour and not an organ of proletarian self-government. It is not an organ of government at all, but a fighting organisation for the achievement of definite aims. . .

The Soviet of Workers Deputies represents an undefined, broad fighting alliance of socialists and revolutionary democrats.”

(V. I.Lenin: “Socialism and Anarchism”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; l943; p. 343) .

“The Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, etc., were in fact the embryo of a provisional government; power would inevitably have passed to them had the uprising been victorious.”

(V.I. Lenin; “The Dissolution of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat”, in: Ibid.; p. 383).

Although the St. Petersburg Bolsheviks corrected their attitude to the Soviet within a few days, their hesitancy in supporting it contributed in considerable measure to the fact that the majority of the deputies were from the outset Mensheviks or supporters of the Mensheviks. On October 30th, the Soviet elected its Executive; this consisted of three Mensheviks, three Bolsheviks, and three Socialist-Revolutionaries.

After a few days under the chairmanship of the Menshevik S. Zborovski, the Soviet elected as its chairman the lawyer Georgi Nosar (better known under his pseudonym “Khrustalev”); who was then independent of any party but later joined the Mensheviks.

Trotsky, who had allied himself with the St. Petersburg Mensheviks on his arrival in the city, was elected to the Soviet and soon came to play a leading role in its activities – which following the Menshevik political line of damping down the revolutionary enthusiasm and activity of the workers.

On November 2nd,

“Trotsky urged the Soviet to call off the general strike.”

(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p. 132).

and it duly came to an end on November 3rd.

On November 13th, the workers themselves began to introduce an eight-hour working day in the factories, and on the 15th, widespread public indignation at the state of siege which the tsarist government had just imposed on Poland, forced the Soviet to call a second general strike in St. Petersburg.

On November 18th, three days later,

“Trotsky.. . proposed to call an end to the second general strike.”

(I. Deutscher; ibid ; p. 134),

on the pretext that :

“The government had just announced that the sailors of Kronstadt (who had participated in the first general strike — Ed.) would be tried by ordinary military courts, not courts martial. The Soviet could withdraw not with victory indeed, but with honour.”

(I. Deutscher; Ibid.; p. 134).

In his speech to the Soviet urging the calling-off of the second general strike, Trotsky’s biographer declares that:

“While he tried to dam up the raging element of revolt, he stood before the Soviet like defiance itself, passionate and sombre.”

(I. Deutscher: ibid; p. 134),


“Events work for us and we have no need to force the pace. We must drag out the period of preparation for decisive action as much as we can, perhaps for a month or two, until we can come out as an army as cohesive and organised as possible. . .
When the liberal bourgeoisie, as if boasting of its treachery, tells us: ‘You are alone. Do you think you can go on fighting without us? Have you signed a pact with victory?’, we throw our answer in their face: ‘No, we have signed a pact with death.'”

(L.Trotsky; Speech to St. Petersburg Soviet, November 16th., l905, in: No. 7, November 20th., 1905).

Having succeeded in inducing the Soviet to call off the second general strike,

“A few days later he had again to impress upon the Soviet its own weakness and urge it to stop enforcing the eight-hour day. . . The Soviet was divided, a minority demanding a general strike; but Trotsky prevailed.”

(I. Deutscher: ibid; p. 135).


“We have not won the eight-hour day for the working class, but we have succeeded in winning the working class for the eight-hour day.”

(L.Trotsky: Speech to St. Petersburg Soviet, cited in: I. Deutscher: ibid.; p. 140).

In addition to his activities in the Soviet, Trotsky had contrived to gain control, jointly with Parvus (who had followed him to St. Pctersburg and had become a deputy in the Soviet) of a daily newspaper, “Russkaya Gazeta” (The Russian Newspaper), and later in the year, alongside it, he founded with Parvus and Yuli Martov a second daily “Nachalo” (The Beginning),which became the organ of Menshevisim from October to December 1905.

By the beginning of December, the government felt strong enough to take the offensive again. Press censorship was reimposed, and on December 5th. Khrustalev, the Chairman of the Soviet, was arrested together with a few other leading members. Trotsky replied to this by proposing that:

“The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies temporarily elect a new chairman and continue to prepare for an armed uprising.”

(L. Trotsky: Resolution to St. Petersburg Soviet, cited in: I. Deutscher: Ibid.; p. 140)

The Soviet accepted the proposal and elected a three-man Presidium, headed by Trotsky.

But the preparations for the “armed uprising” of Trotsky’s were virtually non-existent.

“The preparations for the rising which Trotsky had mentioned had so far been less than rudimentary: two delegates had been sent to establish contact with the provincial Soviets. The sinews of insurrection were lacking.”

(I. Deutscher: ibid.; p. 140).

Trotsky’s last gesture in the 1905 Revolution was then to put forward a “Financial Manifesto” written by Parvus. This called upon the people to withhold payment of taxes, declaring:

“There is only one way to overthrow the government –to deny it . . its revenue.”

(Financial Manifesto of St. Petersburg Soviet, cited in: I.Deutscher: ibid.; p.141).

On December 16th., Trotsky presided over a meeting of the Executive of the St. Petersburg Soviet, when a detachment of soldiers and police burst in to the meeting room and the members of the executive were arrested. A number of charges were brought against them, the principle charge being that of plotting insurrection.

The role of the Mensheviks in the St. Petersburg Soviet was summed up later by J.V. Stalin:

“The St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, being the Soviet of the most important industrial and revolutionary centre of Russia, the capital of the tsarist empire, ought to have played a decisive role in the Revolution of 1905. However, it did not perform this task, owing to its bad, Menshevik leadership. As we know Lenin had not yet arrived in St. Petersburg; he was still abroad. The Mensheviks took advantage of Lenin’s absence to make their way into the St.Petersburg Soviet and to seize hold of its leadership. It was not surprising under such circumstances that the Mensheviks Khrustalev, Trotsky, Parvus and others managed to turn the St. Petersburg Soviet against the policy of an uprising. Instead of bringing the soldiers into close contact with the Soviet and linking them up with the common struggle, they demanded that the soldiers be withdrawn from St. Petersburg. The Soviet, instead of arming the workers and preparing them for an uprising, just marked time and was against preparations for an uprising.”

(J.V. Stalin: “History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”(Bolsheviks; Moscow; 1941; p.79-80).

The Moscow Uprising

On December 19th., 1905 the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, which was led by the Bolsheviks, resolved to:

“Strive to transform the strike into an armed uprising.”

(V.I. Lenin: “The Lessons of the Moscow Uprising; in: “Selected Works, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 346)

and by December 22nd, the first barricades were being set up in the streets.

“The 23rd: artillery fire is opened on the barricades and on the crowds in the streets. Barricades are set up more deliberately, and no longer singly but on a really mass scale. The whole population is in the streets; all the principal centres of the city are covered by a network of. barricades. For several days stubborn guerrilla fighting proceeds between the insurgent detachments and the troops. The troops become exhausted and Dubasov is obliged to beg for reinforcements. Only on December 28 did the government forces acquire complete superiority and on December 30 the Semenov regiment stormed the Prosnya distrect, the last stronghold of the uprising.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Lessons of the Moscow Uprising”, in: ibid; p. 347).

In fact, the attitude of the Menshevik leadership of the St. Petersburg Soviet, led by Trotsky enabled the tsar to transfer troops from the capital to Moscow and this was a significant factor in the crushing of the uprising in the latter city.

“The climax of the Revolution of 1905 was reached in the December uprising in Moscow. A small crowd of rebels, namely, of organised and armed workers — they numbered not more than eight thousand –resisted the tsar’s government for nine days. The government dared not trust the Moscow garrison; on the contrary, it had to keep it behind locked doors, and only on the arrival of the Semenovsky Regiment from St. Petersburg was it able to quell the rebellion.”

(V.I. Lenin: Lecture on the 1905 Revolution, in: ibid.; p. 16).

Soviets of Workers’ Deputies were organised in other towns as well as in St. Petersburg and Moscow. In addition, Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies and Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies were established in some places.

Isolated strikes, riots and mutinies continued into 1906, leading to a lack of clarity for some months as to whether the revolutionary tide was ebbing or merely temporarily at rest before a subsequent rise. In fact December 1905 proved to be the peak of the revolutionary tide.

1906 -1907: The Trial of the Leaders of the St. Petersburg Soviet

The trial of the leaders of the St. Petersburg Soviet, the main charge against whom was that of plotting insurrection, began almost a year after the Revolution had been crushed, on October 2nd, 1906.

The defendants denied having engaged in technical preparation for a rising. On October 4th, Trotsky told the court:

“A rising of the masses is not made, gentlemen the judges. It makes itself of its own accord. It is the result of social relations and conditions, and not of a schema drawn up on paper. A popular insurrection cannot be staged. It can only be foreseen. For reasons that were as little dependent on us as on Tsardom, an open conflict had become inevitable. It came nearer with every day. To prepare for it meant for us to do everything possible to reduce to a minimum the number of victims of this unavoidable conflict.”

(L. Trotsky: Speech at Trial of Leaders of St. Petersburg Soviet, cited in: I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed- Trotsky: 1879-1921”-; London; 1970; p. 166).

On November 15th, the verdict was delivered. The defendants were found guilty on the main charge of plotting insurrection, but Trotsky and fourteen others were found guilty on minor charges and sentenced to deportation to Siberia for life and loss of all civil rights.

In February 1907 Trotsky escaped into Finland.

Trotsky’s “Results and Prospects”: The Theory of “Permanent Revolution”

While in prison, Trotsky wrote “Results and Prospects,” which was published in St. Petersburg in 1906 as the final chapter of his book “Our Revolution,” a collection of essays on the Russian Revolution of December 1905.

In this essay Trotsky gave a fundamental statement of his views on capitalist revolution, the “theory of permanent revolution”

The term “permanent revolution” was derived from an address by Marx and Engels written in 1850:

“While the democratic petty bourgeois wish to bring the revolution to a conclusion as quickly as possible and with the achievement at most of the above demand, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent, until all more or less possessing classes have been displaced from domination, until the proletariat has conquered state power…Their (i.e. the German workers’ –Ed.) battle-cry must be: the permanent revolution.”

(K. Marx and F. Engels: Address of the “Central Council to the Communist League”, in: K. Marx: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 2; London 1943; p. 161, 168)

Lenin accepted this conception of the permanent revolution, although after the publication of Trotsky’s work Marxists preferred to use the term “uninterrupted revolution” or “continuous revolution” in order to avoid confusion with Trotsky’s perversion of the term in connection with his anti-Leninist theory of the capitalist revolution. In September 1905, Lenin wrote:

“From the democratic revolution we shall at once, according to the degree of our strength, the strength of the class conscious and organised proletariat, begin to pass over to the socialist revolution. We stand for continuous revolution.”

(V.I. Lenin: “The Attitude of Social-Democracy towards the Peasant Movement”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 145).

Trotsky’s theory of the capitalist revolution, as put forward in “Results and Prospects” was as follows:

1. The working class will be the active force in the capitalist revolution, with the peasantry as supporters:

“The struggle for the emancipation of Russia from the incubus of absolutism which is stifling it has become converted into a single combat between absolutism and the industrial proletariat, a single combat in which the peasants may render considerable support but cannot play a leading role.
Many sections of the working masses, particularly in the countryside, will be drawn into the revolution and become politically organised only after the advance guard of the revolution, the urban proletariat, stands at the helm of the state.

The proletariat in power will stand before the peasants as the class which has emancipated it.

The Russian peasantry in the first and most difficult period of the revolution will be interested in the maintenance of a proletarian regime (workers’ democracy).”

(L. Trotsky: “Results and Prospects”, in: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 66, 70, 71-72).

2. Because the peasantry in the capitalist revolution is destined to play only an auxiliary role of supporters rather than allies of the working class, the democratic-revolution will place in power — not- an alliance of the working class and peasantry, democratic dictatorship of the working class and peasantry” — but the working class, establishing the dictatorship of the working class, a revolutionary workers’ government:

“The idea of a ‘proletarian and peasant dictatorship’ is unrealisable . . There can be no talk of any special form of proletarian dictatorship in the bourgeois revolution, of democratic proletarian dictatorship (or dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry). Victory in this struggle must transfer power to the class that has led the strife, i.e., the Social-democratic proletariat. The question, therefore, is not one of a “revolutionary provisional government” — an empty phrase . . . but of a revolutionary worker government, the conquest of power by the Russian proletariat.”

(Trotsky: ibid.; p. 73, 80, 121-22).

3. Once in power the working class will be compelled to proceed with the construction of a socialist society:

“The proletariat, once having taken power, will fight for it to the very end. . . Collectivism will become not only the inevitable way forward from the position in which the party in power will find itself, but will also be a means of preserving this position with the support of the proletariat. . . The political domination of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic enslavement. No matter under what political flag the proletariat has come to power, it. is obliged to take the path of socialist policy.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 80, 101).

4. But the construction of socialism will inevitably bring the working class into hostile collision with the peasantry and urban petit bourgeoisie:

“Every passing day will deepen the policy of the proletariat in power, and more and more define its class character. Side by side with that, the revolutionary ties between the proletariat and the nation will be broken. . .

The primitiveness of the peasantry turns its hostile face towards the proletariat.
The cooling-off of the peasantry, its political passivity, and all the more the active opposition of its upper sections, cannot but have an influence on a section of the intellectual and the petty-bourgeoisie of the towns.

Thus, the more definite and determined the policy the proletariat in power becomes, the narrower and more shaky does the ground beneath its feet become.

The two main features of proletarian policy which will meet opposition from the allies of the proletariat are collectivism and internationalism.

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p.76-77).

5. Thus the working class in power — now isolated from and opposed by the masses of the peasantry and urban petty bourgeoisie – will inevitably be overthrown by the forces of reaction — unless the working classes in Western Europe establish proletarian dictatorships which render direct state aid to the working class of Russia:

“Left to it’s own resources, the working class of Russia will inevitably be crushed by the counterrevolution the moment the peasantry turns its back on it. It will have no alternative but to link the fate of its political rule and, hence, the fate of the whole Russian revolution, with the fate of the socialist revolution in Europe.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 115).

Without the direct State support of the European proletariat the working class of Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domination into a lasting socialistic dictatorship. Of this there cannot for one moment be any doubt.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 105.)

6. The Russian working class government will, therefore, be forced to use its state power to actively to initiate socialist revolutions in Western Europe and beyond:

“This immediately gives the events now unfolding an international character. . . The political emancipation of Russia led by the working class. .will transfer to it colossal power and resources, and will make it the initiator of the liquidation of world capitalism. . .

If the Russian proletariat, having temporarily obtained power, does not on its own initiative carry the revolution on to European soil, it will be compelled to do so by the forces of European feudal-bourgeois reaction.

The colossal state-political power given it by a temporary conjuncture of circumstances in the Russian bourgeois revolution it will cast into the scales of the class struggles of the entire capitalist world.”

(L. Trotsky; ibid.; p. 108, 115).

Trotsky continued to put forward his theory of “permanent revolution” throughout his life.

In his book “The Permanent Revolution,” published in Berlin in Russian in 1930. he says:

“I came out against the formula ‘democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’…. The theory of the permanent revolution, which originated in 1905. . . .pointed out that the democratic tasks of the backward bourgeois nations lead directly, in our epoch, to the dictatorship of the proletariat. . . The socialist revolution begins on national foundations – but it cannot be completed within these foundations. . . . The difference between the permanent and the Leninist standpoint expressed itself politically in the counterposing of the slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat relying on the peasantry to the slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. . . . The world division of labour, the dependence of Soviet industry upon foreign technology, the dependence of the productive forces of the advanced countries of Europe upon Asiatic raw materials, etc… make the construction of an independent socialist society in any single country impossible.”

(L. Trotsky: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 128,132, 133, 189, 280).

As we have seen, Lenin analysed the revolutionary process in tsarist Russia as essentially one of two successive stages — firstly, the stage of democratic revolution, secondly, the stage of socialist revolution, but with the possibility of uninterrupted transition from the first stage to the second if the working class were able to win the leading role in the first stage.

The Trotskyite theory of “permanent revolution” rejected Lenin’s concept of two stages in the revolutionary process in tsarist Russia, and postulated a single stage, that of the proletarian-socialist revolution leading directly to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Lenin saw the revolutionary process in colonial-type countries also as essentially one of two successive stages–firstly, the stage of national-democratic revolution, secondly, the stage of socialist revolution, but with the possibility of uninterrupted transition from the first stage to the second if the working class were able to win the leading role in the first stage.

Trotsky logically extended his theory of “permanent revolution” to colonial-type countries, here also postulating a single stage in the revolutionary process, that of proletarian-socialist revolution leading directly to the dictatorship of the proletariat.

“In order that the proletariat of the Eastern countries may open the road to victory, the pedantic reactionary theory of Stalin . . on ‘’stages’’ and ‘steps’’ must be eliminated at the very outset, must be cast aside, broken up and swept away with a broom. . . . With regard to . . . the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Comintern’s endeavour to foist upon the Eastern countries the slogan of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, finally and long ago exhausted by history, can have only a reactionary effect.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 48, 276, 278).

Lenin was, of course, strongly opposed to what he called Trotsky’s:

“absurdly ‘Left’ theory of ‘permanent revolution.’”

(V. I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 207).

Analysing Trotsky’s “Results and Prospects” in 1907, Lenin pointed out:

“Trotsky’s major mistake is that he ignores the bourgeois character of the revolution and has no clear conception of the transition from this revolution to the socialist revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Aim of the Proletarian Struggle in Our Revolution”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 15; Moscow; 1962; p. 371).

At the end of 1910, we find Lenin saying:

“Trotsky distorts Bolshevim, because he has never been able to form any definite views on the role of the proletariat in the Russian bourgeois revolution.”

(V.1. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”; in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; l946; p. 505).

And in November 1915:

“Trotsky . . repeats his ‘original’ theory of 1905 and refuses to stop and think why, for ten whole years, life passed by this beautiful theory.

Trotsky’s original theory takes from the Bolsheviks their call for a decisive revolutionary struggle and for the conquest of political power by the proletariat, and from the Mensheviks it takes the ‘repudiation’ of the role of the peasantry. . . .

Trotsky is in fact helping the liberal labour politicians in Russia who by the ‘repudiation’ of the role of the peasantry mean refusal to arouse the peasants to revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Two Lines of the Revolution”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 5; London; 1935; p. 162, 163).

In November and December 1924 Stalin made a more comprehensive theoretical analysis of Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution”:

“Trotskyism is the theory of ‘permanent’ (uninterrupted) revolution. But what is permanent revolution in its Trotskyist interpretation? It is revolution that fails to take the poor peasantry into account as a revolutionary force. Trotsky’s ‘permanent’ revolution is, as Lenin said, ‘skipping’ the peasant movement, playing at the seizure of power;. Why is it dangerous? Because such a revolution, if an attempt had been made to bring it about, would inevitably have ended in failure, for it would have divorced from the Russian proletariat its ally, the poor peasantry. This explains the struggle that Leninism has been waging against Trotskyism ever since –1905.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Trotskyism or Leninism?”, in: “Works”, Volume 6; Moscow; 1953; p. 364-65).

“What is the dictatorship of the proletariat according to Trotsky? The dictatorship of the proletariat is a power, which comes ‘into hostile collision’ with ‘the broad masses of the peasantry’ and seeks ‘the solution of its ‘contradictions’ only ‘’in the arena of the world proletarian revolution’.
What difference is there between this ‘theory of permanent revolution’ and the well-known theory of Menshevism which repudiates the concept of dictatorship of the proletariat?

Essentially, there is no difference.

‘Permanent revolution’ is not a mere underestimation of the revolutionary potentialities of the peasant movement. ‘Permanent revolution’ is an underestimation of the peasant movement, which leads to the repudiation of Lenin’s theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ is a variety of Menshevism. . . .

Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ means that the victory of socialism in one country, in this case Russia, is impossible without direct state support from the European proletariat’, i.e., before the European proletariat has conquered power.
What is there in common between this ‘theory’ and Lenin’s thesis on the possibility of the victory of socialism ‘in one capitalist-country taken separately’?

Clearly, there is nothing in common.

What does Trotsky’s assertion that a revolutionary Russia could not hold out in the face of a conservative Europe signify?

It can signify only this:

firstly, that Trotsky does not appreciate the inherent strength of our revolution;

secondly, that Trotsky does not understand the inestimable importance of the moral support which is given to our revolution by the workers of the West and the peasants of the East; thirdly, that Trotsky does not perceive the internal infirmity which is consuming imperialism today.

Trotsky’s ‘permanent revolution’ is the repudiation of Lenin’s theory of proletarian revolution; and conversely, Lenin’s theory of the proletarian revolution is the repudiation of the theory of ‘permanent revolution’. . . .

Hitherto only one aspect of the theory of ‘permanent revolution’ has usually been noted — lack of faith in the revolutionary potentialities of the peasant movement. Now, in fairness, this must be supplemented by another aspect — lack of faith in the strength and capacity of the proletariat in Russia.

What difference is there between Trotsky’s theory and the ordinary Menshevik theory that the victory of socialism in one country, and in a backward country at that, is impossible without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in the principal countries of Western Europe?

Essentially, there is no difference.

There can be no doubt at all. Trotsky’s theory of ‘permanent revolution’ is a variety of Menshevism . . .

Honeyed speeches and rotten diplomacy cannot hide the yawning chasm which lies between the theory of ‘permanent revolution’ and Leninism.”

(J. V. Stalin: “The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists”, in: ‘Works’, ibid.; p. 385-6,389, 392, 395-96, 397).

The Campaign for Party Unity

In the revolutionary conditions, which prevailed in the autumn of 1905, Bolsheviks and Mensheviks of the rank and file worked closely together and by the end of the year most of the local organisations of the two “parties” had united. Accordingly the demand grew among the workers and the rank-and-file of the Party that the leaderships of the two sections should unite.

While fully supporting these moves for unity, Lenin and most of the Bolsheviks felt strongly that the political differences between the leaderships of the two factions should not be glossed over, since this would only confuse the workers. In this they were opposed by conciliationists among the Bolsheviks, such as Leonid Krassin and Aleksandr Bogdanov, who minimised these differences.

Lenin arrived back in Russia in November 1905, and in December attended the First Party (Bolshevik) Conference in Tammerfors (Finland), where he met J.V. Stalin for the first time.

The conference adopted a resolution to apply the elective principle within the Party in view of the freer political conditions brought about by the 1905 revolution, and another favouring the earliest possible restoration of unity with the Mensheviks and the immediate creation of a joint Central Commiittee.

Simultaneously with the Bolshevik conference, the Mensheviks held a conference in St. Petersburg where, under pressure from their- rank-and-file, they endorsed the Leninist formula of Party organisation in point 1 of the Party rules and adopted a resolution in favour of unity with the Bolsheviks

The joint Central Committee, consisting of three Bolsheviks and three Mensheviks, began to operate at the height of the December insurrection. When at the end of December, both the Bolshevik “Novaya Zhizn” (New Life) and the Menshevik “Nachalo”(Beginning) were suppressed, both leaderships combined to issue a joint newspaper — “Severny Golos” -(Voice of the North) — under a joint editorial Board.

1907, The Fourth (Unity) Congress of the Party

The Fourth Unity Congrcss of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour was held in Stockholm (Sweden) in-April/May 1906 was attended by 111 delegates from Party organisations, together with 3 each from the national parties which affiliated to the Party at the Congress (the “Bund”, the Polish Social-Democratic Party and the Social-Democratic Party 0f the Latvian Region).

As a result of the fact that many Bolshevik-led Party organisations had been broken up after the 1905 uprising, a number of these were not represented at the congress, so that the Mensheviks had a majority (62-49). This manifested itself in a number of the resolutions. As Lenin pointed out:

“The three most important resolutions of the Congress clearly reveal the erroneous views of the former ‘Menshevik’ faction, which numerically was predominant at the Congress.

“The Congress rejected the proposal to make it one of the tasks of the Party to combat. . Constitutional-illusions.

Nor in its resolutions on the armed uprising did the Congress give what was necessary, viz., direct criticism of the mistakes of the proletariat, a clear estimate of the experience of October-December 1905, or even an attempt to study the inter-relation between strikes and uprising. The Congress did not openly and clearly tell the working class that the December uprising was a mistake, but in a covert way it condemned the uprising.

We think that this is more likely to confuse the political class consciousness of the proletariat than to enlighten it..

We must and shall fight ideologically against those decisions of the Congress which we regard as erroneous.”

(V. I. Lenin: An Appeal to the Party by Delegates at the Unity Congress who belonged to the Late ‘Bolshevik’ Faction, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; l946; p. 469, 470-71.)

Nevertheless, the congress endorsed the basic principles of Party organisation put forward by Lenin.

The congress also endorsed the formal unity of the two factions and the principle of democratic centralism.

The Central Committee elected at the Fourth Congress consisted of 7 Mensheviks and 3 Bolsheviks.

Against Bolshevik opposition, a Menshevik resolution was carried which elected an editorial board for the central organ of the Party which was outside the control of the Central Committee and contained not a single Bolshevik; it consisted of Martov, Dan, Martynov, Potresov and Maslow. During its life this editorial board did not publish a single issue of the central organ.

Thus, the “unity” created at the Fourth Congress between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks was purely formal, and the two factions continued to exist within the framework of a single party.

The Stolypin Repression

The First State Duma met in May 1906, but did not prove docile enough for the ruling class. In July the tsarist government dissolved it, and Petr Stolypin (who had been Minister for Internal Affairs since May) was made Prime Minister. Under Stolypin a period of active repression of the revolutionary movement began. The new government suppressed the Bolshevik newspaper, which had been coming out since April under the successive names of “Volna” (The Wave), “Vperyod” (Forward) and “Ekho” (The Echo). In August 1906, regulations were issued providing for trial by courts martial and the death sentence for “revolutionary activity”, and mass arrests and executions followed. In the same month the Bolsheviks began to issue an illegal newspaper, “Proletary” (Proletarian), edited by Lenin, which continued to appear until December 1909.

In September 1906 Lenin proposed that, since the tide of revo1ution was now clearly on the ebb, the Party shou1d participate in the elections for the Second State Duma (due to be convoked in March 1907). As a result, left-wing representation in this Duma was considerably stronger than it had been in the first, namely:

157 Trudoviks (Group of Toil) and Socialist-Revolutionaries (expressing the outlook of the peasantry) (from 94 in the First State Duma);

165 Social-Democrats (from 18 in the First State Duma), while the representation of the Cadets (the Constitutional-Democratic Party, representing the interests of the bourgeoisie)

fell from 179 to 98. Most of the Social Democratic deputies were, however Mensheviks.

The Fifth Party Congress

The Fifth Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party was held in London in May/June 1907. It was attended by 336 delegates, representing a membership of some 150,000.

The congress consolidated the Russian, Polish and Latvian Parties (together with, for a time, the Bund) into a single Party based on (mainly) Leninist principles.

Trotsky participated in the congress, expounding at length his “theory of permanent revolution,” to which Rosa Luxemburg gave her support:

“At the London congress I renewed acquaintance with Rosa Luxemburg whom I had known since 1904. . .On the question of the so-called permanent revolution, Rosa took the same stand as I did.”

(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1971; p. 203).

In the resolutions the congress largely adopted the Bolshevik line. A Bolshevik resolution condemning the Menshevik proposal to transform the Party into a broad “Labour Party” of the British type was carried by 165 votes to 94; another Bolshevik resolution declaring that the Cadets were now a counter-revolutionary party which must be mercilessly exposed, and that it was essential to coordinate the Party’s own activity with that of the parties expressing the outlook of the peasantry (i.e., the Trudoviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries) was carried by 159 votes to 104.

However, a Bolshevik motion of censure on the Menshevik Central Committee elected at the Fourth Congress in 1906 was lost. This resolution was opposed not only by the Mensheviks, but by a centrist group headed by Trotsky:

“If, after all, the Bolshevik resolution, which noted the mistakes of the Central Committee was not carried, it was because the consideration “not to cause a split” strongly influenced the comrades.”

(J.V. Stalin: “The London Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Notes of a Delegate)”; in: ‘Works’, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 59)

“Trotsky… spoke on behalf of the ‘Centre’, and expressed the views of the Bund. He fulminated against us for introducing our ‘unacceptable’ resolution. He threatened an outright split. . . That is a position based not on principle, but on the Centre’s lack of principle.”

(V. I. Lenin: Fifth Congress of RSDLP, Speech on the Report of the Activities of the Duma Group, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 12; Moscow; 1962; p. 451-2)

Trotsky endeavored to justify his concilationist position by suggesting that there were no fundamental differences between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, saying:

“Here comes Martov . . and threatens to raise between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks a Marxist wall . . .’Comrade Martov, you are going to build your wall with paper only with -your polemical literature you have nothing else to build it with.”

(Pyatyi Syezd RSDRP (Fifth Congress RSDLP); Moscow; n.d.; p. 54-55).

In view of the decline of the revolutionary tide, the question of ‘armed insurrection’ was dropped from the agenda of the congress. However, a sharp controversy arose at the congress on the question of “expropriations,” i.e., the illegal acquisition of funds for the Party.

Lenin’s views on this question had been expressed in an article published in “Proletary,” in October 1906:

“Armed struggle pursues two different aims; which must be strictly distinguished; in the first place this struggle aims at assassinating individuals, chiefs and subordinates, in the army and police: in the second place, it aims at the confiscation of monetary funds both from the government and from private persons. The confiscated funds go partly into the treasury of the Party, partly for the special purpose of arming and preparing for an uprising, and partly for the maintenance of persons engaged in the struggle we are describing. . .

It is not guerilla actions which disorganise the movement, but the weakness of a party which is incapable of taking such actions under its control.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Guerilla Warfare, in: “Collected Works””, Volume 11; Moscow; 1962; p. 216, 219).

The Fourth Congress of the Party in 1906 had adopted a Menshevik resolution banning Party members, from taking part in “expropriations” and at the Fifth Congress an attack was launched upon the Bolsheviks for allegedly continuing to take part in (or at least advise others on the organisation of “expropriations.” A Menshevik motion was adopted at the Fifth Congress banning the participation of Party members in all armed actions and acts of “expropriation” and- ordering the disbandment of the fighting squads connected with the, Party.

Trotsky, according to his biographer, sharply supported the Menshevik attacks on this issue:

“The records of the Congress say nothing about the course of this controversy, (i.e. on “expropriations” –Ed.); only fragmentary reminiscences, written many years after, are available. But there is no doubt that Trotsky was, with Martov, among those who sharply arraigned the Bolsheviks.”

(I. Deutscher; ‘The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921″; London; 1970; p. 179).

Shortly after the Congress, Lenin wrote to Maxim Gorky that :

“At the London Congress, too, he (i.e., Trotsky –Ed.) acted the ‘poseur.’”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Maxim Gorky, February 13th., 1908; in: ,”Collected Works”, Volume 34; Moscow; 1966; p. 386).

While Stalin, writing of Trotsky’s activities at the congress, declared

“Trotsky proved to be ‘pretty but useless.’”

(J.V. Stalin: “The London Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Notes of a Delegate)”, in: “Works”; Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 52).

After the congress Trotsky carried his attacks on the Bolsheviks on the question of “expropriations’ into the columns of “Vorwaerts” (Forward), the organ of the German Social-Democratic Party. He describes how Lenin reacted to this news:

“I told Lenin of my latest article in “Vorwaerts” about the Russian Social-Democracy. . . The most prickly question in the article was that of so-called ‘expropriations’. .. The London congress, by a majority of votes composed of Mensheviks, Poles and some Bolsheviks banned ‘expropriations’. When the delegates shouted from their seats: “What does Lenin say? We want to hear Lenin”, the latter only chuckled, with a somewhat cryptic expression. After the London congress, ‘expropriations’ continued. . . That was the point on which I had centred my attack in the “Vorwaerts.”

‘Did you really write like this?’, Lenin asked me reproachfully.

Lenin tried to induce the Russian delegation at the congress to condemn my article. This was the sharpest conflict with Lenin in my whole life.”

(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; Now York; 1971; p. 218).

The Stolypin Coup d’Etat

In June 1907 the tsarist government accused the Social-Democratic deputies in the Second-State Duma of conspiracy, and demanded that the Duma lift their parliamentary immunity. When the Duma hesitated, the government peremptorily dissolved it on June 16th, 1907 – the “Coup d’Etat of June 3rd 1907 as it was known under the old calendar. Most of the Social-Democratic deputies were then arrested.

In the same manifesto the government announced new electoral laws for the Third State Duma, the purpose of which was to increase the representation of the landlords and capitalists, and to reduce still further the representation of the workers and peasants.

“The government promulgated a ‘new law’ which reduces the number of peasant electors by half, doubles the number of landlord electors, . reduces the number of deputies also by nearly half. . . reserves for the government the right to distribute voters according to locality, various qualifications and nationality; destroys all possibility of conducting free election propaganda, etc., etc. And all this has been done in order to prevent revolutionary representatives of the workers and peasants from getting into the Third Duma, in order to fill the Duma with the liberal and reactionary representatives of the landlords and factory owners. This is the idea behind the dispersion of the Second State.”

(J.V. Stalin: “The Dispersion of the Duma and the Tasks of the Proletariat”, in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; l9~3; p. 14).

The Third Party Conference

The Third Conference of the RSDLP was held in August 1907 in Vyborg (Finland), attended by 26 delegates of whom 15 were Bolsheviks and 11 Mensheviks.

The dissolution of the Second State Duma and the issue of the new reactionary electoral law had caused the Socialist-Revolutionary Party to revert to a policy of boycotting the elections to the Third State Duma, and had revived boycotting among the Bolsheviks. The leader of the boycottists at the conference was Aleksandr Bogdanov.

Lenin moved a resolution at the conference which declared that reaction prevailed in the country and would prevail for some years, although it would inevitably be followed by a new upsurge; in the meantime it was essential to take advantage of every legal opportunity and, in particular, of the tribune afforded by the Duma. The resolution was adopted by the conference.

The Third State Duma

Despite the decision of the Third Party Conference to participate in the elections to the Third State Duma, many Bolsheviks continued to oppose this. In the autumn of 1907 Lenin wrote a number of articles on this question, the most famous of which – “Against the Boycott” – — Was published as part of a pamphlet entitled “Boycott of the Third Duma,” the other part being written by Lev Kamenev and entitled “For the Boycott!”

“The state of affairs now, in the autumn of 1907, does not call for such a slogan and does not justify it. . . .
Without renouncing the application of the slogan of boycott in times of an upsurge, when the need for such a slogan may seriously arise, we must direct all our efforts towards the aim of transforming by direct influence every upsurge in the labour movement into a general, wide, revolutionary attack against reaction as a whole, against its very foundations.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Boycott: From the Notes of a Social-Democratic Publicist”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; l946; p.427).

The Third State Duma was convened in November 1907. By reason of the new reactionary electoral system, left–wing representation in the Duma was considerably reduced from what it had been in the second, namely:

13 Trudoviks (Group of Toil), from l57 Trudoviks and Social-Revolutionaries in the Second State Duma);

18 Social-Democrats (from 65 in the Second State Duma)

The Fourth Party Conference

The Fourth Conference of the RSDLP was held in November 1907 in Helsingfors (Finland), attended by 10 Bolsheviks, 4 Mensheviks, 5 representatives of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, 3 representatives of the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region, and representatives of the “Bund.”

The main business of the conference was to discuss the work of the Social-Democratic fraction in the newly elected Third State Duma. The Mensheviks to whose faction a majority of the Social-Democratic deputies belonged — were in favour of the independence of the deputies from Party control, while the Bolsheviks regarded it as essential that the fraction should be guided by the Party like any other section of Party members. The Bolshevik resolution to this effect was adopted. This resolution also demanded that the fraction should wage relentless war in the Duma on the pro-tsarist majority, that it should under no circumstances curtail its’ demands in concession to reaction, and that its efforts should be primarily devoted to using the Duma as a tribune for agitational purposes, in order to expose to the masses the reactionary policy of the pro-tsarist parties.

1907 – 1908: The Move Abroad

Owing to the increased repression of the Stolypin regime, which was extended to Finland despite the Finnish constitution, the Central Committee was compelled to move from Russia to Geneva towards the end of 1907. The publication of the illegal Bolshevik paper “Proletary” was also transferred to Geneva.

In December 1907 Lenin moved from Geneva to Paris.

In February 1908 the first issue of the central organ of the Party – “Sotsial-Demokrat” (The Social-Democrat) appeared in Russia. Following the arrest of its editors, publication of the paper was transferred abroad, first to Paris, then to Geneva. It continued to appear until January 1917.

The Menshevik leaders also moved abroad, and in February 1908 began to issue their organ “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata” (The Voice of the Social-Democrat) . The first editorial board consisted of Pavel Axelrod, Fedor Dan, Yuli Martov and Aleksandr Martynov. It continued to appear until December 1911.

1908: Liquidationism

The movement among the Mensheviks to transform the Party into a broad, legal Labour Party along British lines developed by the summer of 1908 into a trend which the Leninists called “liquidationism,” since it aimed at the liquidation of the Party as the revolutionary vanguard of the working class.

“Our Party organisations have all become reduced in membership. Some of them — namely, those whose membership was least proletarian — fell to pieces. The semi-legal institutions of the Party, created by the revolution, were raided time after time. Things reached such a state that some elements within the Party, which had succumbed to the influence of that disintegration, began to ask whether it was necessary to preserve the old Social-Democratic Party, whether it was necessary to continue its work, whether it was necessary to go ‘underground’ once more, and how this was to be done; and the extreme Right (the so-called liquidationist trend) answered this question in the sense that it was necessary to legalise ourselves at all costs, even at the price of an open renunciation of the Party programme, tactics and organisation. This was undoubtedly not only an organisational but also an ideological and political crisis.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On to the High Road”; in ‘Works’; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 3).

Liquidationism is ideologically connected with renegacy, . with opportunism. . . But liquidationism is not only opportunism. . . Liquidationism is opportunism that goes to the length of renouncing the Party . . . The renunciation of the ‘underground’ under the existing conditions is the renunciation of the old Party.

Liquidationism is not only the ‘liquidation’ of the old party of the working class; it also means the destruction of the class independence of the proletariat, the corruption of its class-consciousness by bourgeois ideas.

The liquidators are petty-bourgeois intellectuals, sent by the bourgeoisie to sow the seeds of liberal corruption among the workers. The liquidators are traitors to Marxism.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Controversial Questions”; in: ibid.; p. 126-7, 131, 138).

The August 1908 Central Committee Meeting

In August 1908 a meeting of the Central Committee of the RSDLP was held and the liquidator Mensheviks opened their attack on the Party organisation by moving a resolution that the Central Committee should be abolished as the leading organ of the Party and converted into a mere information bureau. The motion was defeated, and a Bolshevik motion to convene a Party Conference was adopted.

At this meeting the Central Committee set up a Russian Bureau of the Central Committee, composed of one representative each of the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, the Polish Party, the Latvian Party and the ‘Bund’, responsible, under the Central Committee, for the direction of Party work within Russia. It also set up a Central Committee abroad, composed of members of the Central Committee residing outside Russia, responsible to the Russian Collegium.

“Otzovism” and “Ultimatumism”

From August 1908 the Leninist tactics of combining legal and illegal forms of struggle began to be attacked, riot only by the liquidationists on the right, but also by a group of ‘leftist’ Bolsheviks who demanded the renunciation of all legal forms of struggle.

Since the main demand of this group of Bolsheviks was the immediate recall of the Social-Democratic Deputies from the Duma, they were called “Otzovists” (from “otozvat,” to recall).

Another group of ostensibly “leftist” Bolsheviks did not demand the immediate recall of the Party’s deputies, but demanded that they should be presented with an ultimatum to correct their politicel errors or be recalled. Lenin described these “ultimatumists” as:

“bashful otzovists.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”, in: ibid.; p. 514) .

The leading figures among the otzovists and ultimatumists were Aleksandr Bogdanov, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Leonid Krassin and Grigori Alexinsky.

In arguing in favour of recall, as did both otzovism and ultimatumism, the adherents of these trends made great play with the errors committed by the Social-Democratic deputies in the Duma who were mainly Mensheviks. The Leninists replied that this was an argument for correcting the errors, not for recalling the deputies.

“The illegal Party must know how to use the legal Duma fraction . . The most regrettable deviation from consistent proletarian work would be to raise the question of recalling the fraction from the Duma. ….

We must at once establish team work in this field, so that every Social-Democratic deputy may really feel that the Party is backing him, that the Party is distressed over his mistakes and takes care to straighten his path –so that every Party worker may take part in the general Duma work of the Party. . . striving to subordinate the special work of the fraction to Party propaganda and agitational activity as a whole.”

(V. I. Lenin: “On to the High Road”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1943; p. 8, 9).

The Leninists strongly condemned both otzovism and ultimatumism as “liquidationism in reverse,” since, like liquidationism; its aim was to liquidate one side of the Party’s work:

“In the course of the bourgeois-democratic revolution our Party was joined by a number of elements that were not attracted by its purely proletarian programme, but mainly by its glorious and energetic fight for democracy.

In these troubled times such elements more and more display their lack of Social-Democratic consistency and, coming into ever sharper contradiction with the fundamentals of revolutionary Social-Democratic tactics, have been, during the past year, creating a tendency which is trying to give shape to the theory of otzovism and ultimatumism.

Politically, ultimatumism at the present time is indistinguishable from otzovism; it only introduces greater confusion and disintegration by the disguised – character of its otzovism. By their attempt to deduce from the specific application of the boycott of representative institutions at this or that moment of the revolution that the policy of boycotting is a distinguishing feature of Bolshevik tactics in the period of counter-revolution also — ultimatumism and otzovism demonstrate that these trends are in essence the reverse side of Menshevism, which preaches indiscriminate participation in all representative institutions- irrespective of the given stage of development of’ the revolution. . . .

0tzovist-ultimatumist agitation has already begun to cause definite harm to the labour movement and to Social-Democratic work.. .

Bolshevism as a definite tendency . . has nothing in common with otzovism and ultimatumism and . . the Bolshevik faction must more resolutely combat these deviations from the path of revolutionary Marxism”.

(V.I. Lenin: Resolution of the Meeting of’ the Enlarged Editorial Board of ‘Proletary’: “On Otzovism and Ultimatumism”, in: ibid.; p. 19, 20-21).

The Struggle on Two Fronts

From August 1908, therefore, the Leninists carried on a struggle on the question of Party organisations on two fronts:

Against liquidationism on the one hand, and against “leftist” otzovism and ultimatumism on the other hand.

“Three and a half years ago all the Marxists. . had unanimously to recognise two deviations from the Marxian tactics. Both deviations were recognised as dangerous. Both deviations were explained as being due, not to accident, not to the evil intention of individual persons but to the ‘historical situation of the labour movement in the given period. . .

The deviations from Marxism are generated by the “bourgeois influences over the proletariat.”

(V. I.Lenin: “Controversial Questions” in: Ibid; p.129, 130).

“The Bolsheviks have actually carried on, from August 1908 to January l910, a strugg1e on two fronts, i.e., a struggle against the liquidators and the otzovists.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: ibid.; p. 45).


The reaction following the defeat of the 1905 Revolution led to a revival of’ idealist philosophy among the Russian intelligentsia, including some Social-Democrats.

During 1908 a number of books were published which claimed to bring Marxism “up-to-date.” The most important of these was a symposium entitled “Studies in the Philosophy of Marxism,” published in St. Petersburg, the leading contributors to which were Aleksandr Bogdanov and Anatoly Lunacharsky. Following the lines of an earlier work by -Bogdanov – “Empirio-Criticism” (1904-06)– this attempted to combine Marxist philosophy with the idealist philosophy of Ernst Mach and Richard Avenarius to produce a “synthesis” which they called “empirio-criticism.”

“A number of writers, would-be Marxists, have this year undertaken a veritable campaign against the philosophy of Marxism. In the course of less than half a year four books devoted mainly and almost exclusively to attacks on dialectical materialism have made their appearance. These include first and foremost ‘Studies in (? — it would have been more proper to say ‘against’) the Philosophy of Marxism.’”

(V.1. Lenin: Preface to the First Edition of “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”; in: ‘Selected Works’; Volume 11; London; 1943; p. 89).

In September 1908 Lenin completed a long philosophical work, “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism,” published in May 1909, in which he attacked and exposed these works of Anti-Marxist philosophy:

“Behind the mass of new terminological devices, behind the litter of erudite scholasticism, we invariably discerned two principal alignments, two fundamental trends in the solution of philosophical problems, Whether nature, matter, the physical, the external world be taken as primary, and mind, spirit, sensation (experience – as the widespread terminology of our time has it) , the psychical, etc., be regarded as secondary — that is the root question which in fact continues to divide the philosophers into two great camps.

The theoretical foundations of this philosophy (i.e., empirio-criticism — Ed.) must be compared -with those of dialectical materialism. Such a comparison . . reveals, along the whole line of epistemological problems, the thoroughly reactionary character of empirio-criticism, which uses new artifices, terms and subtleties to disguise the old errors of idealism and agnosticism. Only utter ignorance of the nature of philosophical materialism generally and of the nature of Marx’s and Engels’ dialectical method can lead one to speak of a ‘union’ of empirio-criticism and Marxism. .

Behind the epistemological scholasticism of empirio-criticism it is impossible not to see the struggle of parties in philosophy, a struggle which in the last analysis reflects the tendencies and. ideology of the antagonistic classes in modern society. The contending parties essentially, although concealed by a pseudo-erudite quackery of new terms or by a feeble-minded non-partisanship, are materialism and idealism. The latter is merely a subtle, refined form of fideism, which stands fully armed, commands vast organisations and steadily continues to exercise influence on the masses, turning the slightest vacillation in philosophical thought to its own advantage. The objective, class role played by empirio-criticism entirely consists in rendering faithful service to the fideists in their struggle against materialism in general and historical materialism in particular“.

(V.I. Lenin: “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”, in: ibid: p.385-6, 405, 406).


Among some Social-Democrats the revival of idealist philosophy took the form of trying to reconcile Marxist philosophy and religion.

In 1908, Anatoly Lunacharsky published “Religion and Socialism” in which he described Marxism as a “Natural, earthly, anti-metaphysical, scientific and human-religion.”

Shortly afterwards Maxim Gorky wrote a novel entitled “A Confession,” in which a character prays to the people with the words:

“Thou art my God, O sovereign people, and creator of all the gods, which thou hast formed from the beauties of the spirit in the travail and torture of thy quest..
And the world shall have no other gods but thee, for thou art the only god that works miracles.
This . . .is my confession and belief.”

(M. Gorky: “A Confession”; London 1910; p. 320).

Gorky carried this idea forward in his articles and letters.

“One does not seek for Gods – one creates them!”

(M. Gorky: “The Karamazov Episode Again”, cited-by: V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. M. Gorky, November 14th,1913, in: ibid.; p. 675).

The Leninists strongly attacked the concept of “God Building.”

“I cannot -and will not have anything to do with people who have set out to propagate unity between scientific socialism and religion.”

(V.I.Lenin: Letter to A.M.Gorky, April , 1908; In: “Socheniya”; Volume 34; Moscow; 1950; p.343.)

“God seeking no more differs from god-building, or god-making, or god-creating or the like than a yellow devil differs from a blue devil . .

Every religious idea, every idea of god, even every flirtation with the idea of god, is unutterable vileness, vileness that is greeted very tolerantly (and often even favourably) by the democratic bourgeoisie — and for that very reason it is vileness of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion’ of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions are far more easily exposed by the crowd, and are therefore far less dangerous, than the subtle, spiritual ideas of a god decked out in the smartest ‘ideological’ costumes. The Catholic priest who seduces young-girls (of whom I happened to read in a German newspaper) is far less dangerous to democracy than a priest without a frock, a priest without a coarse religion, a democratic priest with ideas who preaches the making and creating of a god. For the first priest is easily exposed, condemned and ejected, whereas the second cannot be ejected so easily.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. N. Gorky, November l4th. 1913; in: “Selected Works”, Volume 11; London; l943; p. 675-6).

“You advocate the idea of god and god-building…This theory is obviously connected with the theory, or theories, of Bogdanov and Lunacharsky. . . . And it is obviously false and obviously reactionary.

You have gilded and sugar-coated the idea of the clericals, the Purishkeviches, Nicholas II and Messieurs the Struves, for, in practice, the idea of god helps THEM to keep the people in slavery. By gilding the idea of-god, you gilded the chains with which they fetter – the ignorant workers and muzhiks. . .

The idea, of god has always deadened and dulled ‘social- sentiments’, for it substitutes a dead thing for a living thing, and has always been an idea of slavery (the worst, hopeless kind of slavery). The idea of god has never ’bound the individual to society’ but has always bound the oppressed classes by belief in the divinity of the oppressors.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to A. N. Gorky, December 1913; in: ibid; p. 678-9).

The “Party Mensheviks”

The Leninists considered that a truly united Party could be brought about-only by a rapproachement between the Bolsheviks on the one hand and a section of the Mensheviks on the other hand, those representing the principal factions within the Party and the only ones with significant mass influence. They estimated that a section of the Mensheviks would move farther from reflecting the interests of the capitalist class and nearer to reflecting the interests of the working class, so coming to oppose liquidationism, to split off from the liquidator Mensheviks and to support genuine, practical unity with the Bolsheviks.

In fact, towards the end of 1908 various groups of Mensheviks in Moscow, and later in the Vyborg district of St. Petersburg, passed resolutions sharply condemning the liquidator Mensheviks and their anti-Party policy.

A leading role in the splitting of the Mensheviks was taken by Georgi Plekhanov, who publicly dissociated himself from liquidationism, retired from the editorial board of the organ of the liquidator Mensheviks, “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata” (The Voice of the Social-Democrat), and began to issue his own illegal journal “Dnevnik Sotsial-Demokrata” (The Diary of a Social-Democrat) . In this paper, Plekhanov vigorously attacked the liquidators and called upon all Mensheviks who recognised the necessity of illegal work to rally together. The Leninists called these anti-liquidationist Mensheviks “Party Mensheviks.”

“Factions are generated by the relations between the classes in the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks only formulated answers to the questions put to the proletariat by the objective realities of l905-97. Therefore, only the inner evolution of these factions, the ‘strong’ factions — strong because of their deep roots, strong because their ideas correspond to certain aspects of objective reality — only the inner evolution of precisely these factions is capable of securing a real fusion of the factions, i.e- the creation of a genuinely and completely united party of proletarian Marxian socialism in Russia. Hence the practical conclusion:

the rapprochement in practical work between these two strong factions alone – and only in so far as they are purged of the non-Social-Democratic tendencies of liquidationism and otzovism – really represents a Party policy, a policy that really brings about unity, not in an easy way, not smoothly, and by no means immediately, but in a real way as distinguished from the endless quack promises of easy, smooth, immediate fusion of “all” factions. . ..

In my discussions I suggested the slogan: ‘rapprochement between the two strong factions, and no whining over the dissolution of the factions’.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 93-4).

“The present split among the Mensheviks is not accidental but inevitable.

The stand taken by certain Mensheviks justifies their appellation ‘Party Mensheviks’. They took their stand upon the struggle for the Party against the independent legalists…

Plekhanov was never a Bolshevik. We do not and never will consider him a Bolshevik. But we do consider him a Party Menshevik, as we do any Menshevik capable of rebelling against the group of independent legalists and carrying on the struggle against them to the end. We regard it as the absolute duty of all Bolsheviks in these difficult times, when the task of the day is the struggle for Marxism in theory and for the Party in the practical work of the labour movement, to do everything possible to arrive at a rapprochement with such Social-Democrats”

(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 66, 67, 69).

“In my opinion, the line of the bloc (Lenin-Plekhanov) is the only correct one: 1) this line, and it alone, answers to the real interests of the work in Russia, which demand that all real Party elements should rally together; 2) this line, and it alone, will expedite the process of emancipation of the legal organisations from the yoke of the Liquidators, by digging a gulf between the Menshevik workers and the Liquidators, and dispersing and disposing of the latter. A fight for influence in the legal organisations is the burning question of the day, a necessary stage on the road towards the regeneration of the Party.; and a bloc is the only means by which these organisations can be cleansed of the garbage of Liquidationists.

The plan for a bloc reveals the hand of Lenin — he is a shrewd fellow and knows a thing or two. But this does not mean that any kind of bloc is good. A Trotsky bloc (he would have said ‘synthesis’) would be rank unprincipledness.

A Lenin-Plekhanov bloc is practical because it is thoroughly based on principle, on unity of views on the question of how to regenerate the Party.”

(J. V. Stalin:”Letter to the Central Committee of the Party from Exile in Solvychegodsk, December 1910, in “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; l952; p. 2l5, 216).


The Leninists maintained that unity was possible only with groups, which accepted the fundamental principles of Leninist strategy and tactics, and of Leninist organisation.

There were some, however, who stood for unity of the groups at any price, who minimised the differences of principle between Bolsheviks and others and who demanded, that for the sake of unity, the Leninists should make compromises in their principles. Those people the Leninists called “conciliationists.”

“Differences of opinion must be hushed up, their causes, their significance, their objective conditions should not be elucidated. The principal thing is to ‘reconcile’ persons and groups. If they do not agree upon the carrying out of common policy, that policy must be interpreted in such a way as to be acceptable to all. Live and let live. This is philistine ‘concilationism’, which inevitably loads to narrow-circle diplomacy. To ‘stop up’ the source of disagreement, to hush it up, to ‘adjust’ at all costs, to neutralise the conflicting trends –it is to this that the main attention of such ‘concilationism’ is directed.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist,” in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 41).

The Leninists regarded concilationism as the product of the same objective conditions which had produced the factions between which it strove for agreement.

“Concilationism is the sum total of moods, strivings and views which are indissolubly bound up with the very essence of the historical task set before the RDSLP during the period of the counter-revolution of 1908-11.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 93).

They recognised conciliationism as a partial and concealed deviation from Marxist principles, since its aim was to secure modifications by the Leninists of their Principles for the sake of unity.

“Conciliatioism . . really renders a most faithful -service to the liquidators and the otzovists, and therefore constitutes an evil all the more dangerous to the Party, the more cunningly, artfully and floridly it cloaks itself with professedly Party, professedly anti-factional declamations.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: ibid.; p. 40).

“The role of the conciliators during the period of counter-revolution may be characterised by the following picture. With immense efforts the Bolsheviks are pulling our Party wagon up a steep slope. The liquidators –‘Golos’-ites are trying with all their might to drag it downhill again. In the wagon sits a conciliator; he is a picture of tenderness. He has such a sweet face, like that of Jesus. He looks the very incarnation of virtue. And modestly dropping his eyes and raising his hands he exclaims: ‘I thank: thee, Lord, that I am not like one of these’ — a nod in the direction of the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks – ‘vicious factionalists’ who hinder all progress’. But the wagon moves slowly forward and in the wagon sits the conciliator.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 110-11).

The Viennese “Pravda”

In the summer of 1907, following the Fifth Congress of the RSDLP, Trotsky had moved to Berlin. Here he became intimate with the right wing-leaders of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany. As his biographer, Isaac Deutscher, expresses it:

“Curiously enough, Trotsky’s closest ties were not with the radical wing of German socialism, led by Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebnicht and Franz Mehring, the future founders of the Communist Party, but with the men . . who maintained the appearances of Marxist orthodoxy, but were in fact leading the party to its surrender to the imperialist ambitions of the Hohenzollern empire.”

(I. Deutscher “The Prophet Armed Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London: 1970; p.162).

Trotsky contributed frequently to the SPG’s daily “Vorwarts” (Forward) and to its monthly ‘Neue Zeit’ (New Life), on which his influence was strong.
In those articles Trotsky reiterated his attacks on the “sectarianism” of the Bolsheviks, alleging that the:

“Boycottist tendency runs through the whole history of Bolshevism — the boycott of the trade unions, of the State Duma, of the local government bodies, etc.”

(L.. Trotsky: Article in “Neue Zeit”, No.50, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”, in: Selected Works’, Volume 3; London; 1946; p.505),

as a

“. . result of the sectarian fear of being swamped by the masses”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 505).

To which Lenin replied: 

“As regards the boycott of the trade unions and the local government bodies, what Trotsky says is positively untrue. It is equally untrue to say that boycottism runs through the whole history of Bolshevism; Bolshevism as a tendency took definite shape in the spring and summer of 1905, before the question of the boycott first came up. In August 1906 in the official organ of the faction, Bolshevism declared that the historical causes which called forth the necessity of the boycott had passed. Trotsky distorts Bolshevism.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 505.)

Trotsky further declared that both the Bolshevik and the actions, and the Party itself were “falling to pieces.” To this Lenin replied:

“Failing to understand the historical-economic significance of this split in the epoch of the counter-revolution, of this falling away of non-Social-Democratic elements from the Social-Democratic Labour Party, Trotsky tells the German readers that both factions are ‘falling to pieces,’ that the Party is ‘falling to pieces’, that the Party is becoming ‘disintegrated’.

This is not true. And this untruth expresss.. first of all, Trotsky’s utter lack of theoretical understanding. Trotsky absolutely fails to understand ‘why the Plenum described both liquidationism and otzovism as the manifestation of bourgeois influence over the proletariat’. Just think: is the severance from the Party of trends which have been condemned by the Party and which express the bourgeois influence over the proletariat, the collapse of the Party, the disintegration of the Party, or is it the strengthening and purging of the Party?”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 515)

The German government refused to allow Trotsky to stay in Berlin, and he moved shortly to Vienna. However he maintained his influence in the press of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, the leaders of which continued to regard him as “the authority,” on the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.

“It is time to stop being naive about the Germans, Trotsky is now in full command there.. . It’s Trotsky and Co. who are writing, and the Germans believe them. Altogether, Trotsky is boss in ‘Vorwarts.’”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letter to the Bureau of the CC of the RSDLP”, April 16th. 1912, in: “Collected Works”Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 34, 35).

Trotsky remained in Vienna for seven years, and there he became intimate with the right-wing leaders of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party – Victor Adler, Rudolf Hilferding, Otto Bauer an& Karl Renner. He became Vienna correspondent of the daily newspaper “Kievskaya Mysl” (Kievan Thought), and contributed to a number of other papers.

In October 1908, Trotsky began to edit a small run-down paper called “Pravda” (Truth), started in 1905, by the pro-Menshevik Ukrainian Social-Democratic League (“Spilika”) At the end of 1908, the group abandoned the paper, and it became Trotsky’s own journal. Published in Vienna from November 1909, it continued to appear until December 1913.

The principal regular contributors to the Viennese “Pravda,” under Trotsky, were Aleksandr Skobolev (a student-who later became Minister of Labour in the Kerensky government) Adolf Yoffe (who committed suicide in 1927-in protest at Trotsky’s expulsion from the Party), David Ryazanov (later director of the Marx-Engels Institute) and Victor Kopp (later a Soviet diplomat).

As Lenin commented in October 1911:

“‘Pravda’ represents a tiny group, which has not given an independent and consistent answer to any important fundamental question of the revolution and counter-revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Concilators or the Virtuous” in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 106).

Under Trotsky the Viennese “Pravda” became the principal organ of conciliationism, as Lenin repeatedly pointed out, describing Trotsky as a

“spineless conciliator”;

(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 60).

“During the period of the counter-revolution of 1908-11 . . Trotsky provides us with an abundance of instances of unprincipled ‘unity’ scheming”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 93, 105.)

Trotsky himself admits:

“My inner party stand was a concilationist one. . The great historical significance of Lenin’s policy was still unclear to me at that time, his policy of irreconcilable ideological demarcation and, when necessary split, for the purpose of welding and tempering the core of the truly revolutionary party.

By striving for unity at all-costs, I involuntarily and unavoidably idealised centrist tendencies in Menshsvism.”

(L. Trotsky: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 173).

In fact, Trotsky elaborated in this period a “theory” of conciliationism, based on the erroneous concept that factions expressed, not the interests of different classes, but “the influence of the intelligentsia” upon the working class:

“Trotsky expressed conciliationism more consistently than anyone else. He was probably the only one who attempted to give this tendency a theoretical foundation. This is the foundation: factions and factionalism-expressed the struggle of the intelligentsia ‘for influence over the irmiature proletariat’. . . .
The opposite view (i.e. the Leninist view – Ed.) is that the factions are generated by the relations between the classes in the Russian revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 93).

Trotsky attempted to give substance to his “non-factional” pose by articles in which he attacked as “anti-revolutionary” both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. In 1909, for example, he wrote in Rosa Luxemburg’s Polish paper “Przeglad Socjal-Demokratyczny” (Social-Democratic Review):

“While the Mensheviks, proceeding from the abstraction that ‘our revolution is bourgeois’, arrive at the idea of adapting the whole tactic of the proletariat to the conduct of the liberal bourgeoisie, right up to the capture of state power, the Bolsheviks, proceeding from the same bare abstraction: ‘democratic, not socialist dictatorship’, arrive at the idea of the bourgeois-democratic self-limitation of the proletariat with power in its hands. The difference between them on this question is certainly quite important: while the anti-revolutionary sides of Menshevism are already expressed in full force today, the anti-revolutionary features of Bolshevism threaten to become a great danger only in the event of the victory of the revolution.”

(L. Trotsky: Article in “‘Przeglad Socjal-Demokratyczny”, cited in: L. Trotsky: “The Permanent Revolution”; New York; 1970; p. 235-36).

However, Lenin pointed out that, under the guise of “non-factionalism,” Trotsky was, in fact, forming his own faction:

“That Trotsky’s venture is an attempt to create a faction is obvious to all now.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”, in: “Selected Works”; Volume 3; London; 1943; p.517).

“We were right in referring to Trotsky as the representative of the ‘worst remnants of factionalism’…Although Trotsky professes to be non-factional, he is known to all who are in the slightest degree acquainted with the labour movement in Russia as the representative of “Trotsky’s faction” — there is factionalism here, for both the essential characteristics of it are present: 1) the nominal recognition of unity, and 2) group segregation in reality. This is a remnant of factionalism, for it is impossible to discover in it anything serious in the way of contacts with the mass labour movement in Russia. Finally it is the worst kind of factionalism, for there is nothing ideologically and politically definite about it.”

(V.I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 191, 192).

Trotsky’s faction, declared Lenin, vacillated in theory from one of the major factions to the other:

“Trotsky completely lacks a definite ideology and policy, for having the patent, for ‘non-factionalism’, only means . . having a patent granting complete freedom to flit from one faction to another.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 191-92).

“Trotsky, on the other hand; represents only his own personal vacillations and nothing more. In l903 he was a Menshevik; he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to the Mensheviks in 1905 and merely flaunted ultra-revolutionary phrases; in 1906 he left them again; at the end of 1906 he advocated elect-oral agreements with the Cadets (i.e., was virtually once more with the Mensheviks) ; and in the spring of 1907, at the London Congress, he said that he differed from Rosa Luxemburg on ‘individual shades of ideas rather than on political tendencies’. Trotsky one day plagiarises the ideological stock-in-trade of one faction; next day he plagiarises that of another, and therefore declares himself to be standing above both factions.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia in: ‘Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 517).

His “political line” asserted Lenin, is mere high flown demagogy, characterised by revolutionary phrases, designed to deceive the workers:

“The Trotskys decieve the workers. Whoever supports Trotsky’s puny group supports a policy of lying and deceiving the workers. . . by ‘revolutionary’ phrase-mongering.”

(V. I. Lenin: “From the Camp of the Stolypin ‘Labour’ Party”, in: “Collected Works”; Volume 17; Moscow; 1963; p. 243).

“Empty exclamations, high-flown words. . and impressively important assurances — that is Trotsky’s total stock-in-trade.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Question of Unity”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; Moscow; 1963; p. 553) .

“Trotsky is fond of sonorous and empty phrases. . . . Trotsky’s phrases are full of glitter and noise, but they lack content. . . . Trotsky is very fond of explaining historical events in pompous and sonorous phrases, in a manner flattering to Trotsky.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “”Selected Works”; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 189,192, 194).

This demagogy, asserted Lenin, is used to attempt to conceal the fact that in practice Trotsky’s faction supports, and has the confidence of the liquidator Mensheviks and the otzovists:

“People like Trotsky, with his inflated phrases about the RSDLP and his toadying to the liquidators, ‘who have nothing in common’ with the RSDLP, today represents ‘the prevalent disease’. At this time of confusion, disintegration and wavering it is easy for Trotsky to become the ‘hero of the hour’ and gather all the shabby elements around himself. Actually they preach surrender to the liquidators who are building a Stolypin Labour Party.”

(V. I. Lenin: Resolution Adopted By the Second Paris Group of the RSDLP on the State of Affairs in the party”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 17: Moscow; 1963; p. 216).

“Trotsky and the ‘Trotskyites and conciliators’ like him are more pernicious than any liquidators; the convinced liquidators state their views bluntly, and it is easy for the workers to detect where they are wrong, whereas the Trotskys deceive the workers, cover up the evil. . . Whoever supports Trotsky’s puny group supports a policy. . of shielding the liquidators. Full freedom of action for Potresov and Co. in Russia, and the sheltering of their deeds by ‘revolutionary’ phrase-mongering abroad – — there you have the essence of the policy of ‘Trotskyism.’”

(V. I. Lenin: “From the Camp of the Stolypin ‘Labour Party’”, in: ibid.; p. 243).

“Trotsky’s particular task is to conceal liquidationism by throwing dust in the eyes of the workers. It is impossible to argue with Trotsky on the merits of the issue, because Trotsky holds no views whatever. We can and should argue with confirmed liquidators and otzovists; but it is no use arguing with a man whose game is to hide the errors of both trends; in his case the thing is to expose him as a diplomat of the smallest calibre.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Trotsky’s Diplomacy and a Certain Party Platform”, in: ibid.; p. 362).

“Trotsky follows in the wake of the Mensheviks and camouflages himself with particularly sonorous phrases. . .
In theory Trotsky is in no respect in agreement with either the liquidators or the otzovists, but in actual practice he is in entire agreement with both the ‘Golos’-ites and the ‘Vperyod’-ists. . .
Trotsky . . enjoys a certain amount of confidence exclusively among the otzovists and the liquidators.”

(V. I. Lenin : “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle” in Russia, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 499, 517).

The Menshevik leader Yuli Martov endorsed Lenin’s estimate of Trotsky in a letter dated May 1912:

“The logic of things compels Trotsky to follow the Menshevik road, despite all his reasoned pleas for some ‘synthesis’ between Menshevism and Bolshevism. … He has not only found himself in the camp of the ‘liquidators’, but he is compelled to take up there the most ‘pugnacious’ attitude towards Lenin.”

(Y. Martov: Letter, May 1912, cited in: “Pisnia P. B. Axelroda i Y. 0. Martova”. (Letters of P. B.Axelrod and Y. 0. Martov); Berlin, 1924; p. 233).

1909: The Fifth Party Conference

The Fifth Conference of the RSDLP was held in Paris in January 1909, attended by 18 delegates (6 Bolsheviks, I Mensheviks, 5 representatives of the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, and 3 representatives of the “Bund”).

The conference adopted a Bolshevik resolution which defined liquidationism as:

“…the attempts of a certain section of the Party intelligentsia to liquidate the existing organisation of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and substitute for it an amorphous association within the limits of legality at all costs, even if this legality is to be attained at the price of an open renunciation of the programme, tactics and traditions of our Party.”

(Resolution on Organisation, 5th. Conference of RSDLP, cited by V. I. Lenin. “Excerpts from the Resolutions of the Prague Conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party”; in: “Selected Works”; Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 151).

and instructed the Party to wage a determined struggle against this deviation:

“The All-Russian Conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party recognises that the following constitute the fundamental tasks of the Party at the present time: . . .
3) to strengthen the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in the shape it assumed during the revolutionary period; . . to fight against deviations from revolutionary Marxism, against the curtailment of the slogans of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, and against the attempts to dissolve the illegal organisations of the RSDLP that are observed among certain Party elements, which have yielded to the influence of disintegration.”

(V. I. Lenin: Draft Resolution on the Present Situation and the Tasks of the Party, in: ibid.; p. 15).

The “Proletary” Conference

In June 1909 the editorial board of the Bolshevik newspaper “Proletary” (The Proletarian) called a conference in Paris to which leading Bolsheviks were invited. Although called officially an “enlarged editorial conference” it was, in fact, a Bolshevik Conference.

The conference adopted a-resolution to the effect that otzovism, ultimatumism, Machism and god-building were all incompatible with membership of the Bolshevik faction, and the adherents of these trends were declared to have placed themselves outside the faction:

“At an official meeting of its representatives held as far back as the spring of 1909, the Bolshevik faction repudiated and expelled the otzovists.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 3; London; 1946; p. 517).

The conference drew attention to the emergence of the “Party Mensheviks,” and declared:

“Under such circumstances, the task of the Bolsheviks, who will remain the solid vanguard of the Party, is not only to continue the struggle against liquidationism and all the varieties of revisionism, but also to establish closer contact with the Marxian and Party elements of the other factions.”

(V. I. Lenin: Resolution of the Meeting of the Enlarged Editorial Board of “Proletary” – on “The Tasks of the Bolsheviks in the Party”, in: ‘Selected Works,” Volume 4; London 1943; p. 23-24).

The “Vperyod” Group

From August to December 1909 a number of otzovists and god-builders who had been expelled from the Bolshevik faction at the enlarged meeting of the editorial board of in June, held a “school” on the island of Capri (Italy).
The leading figures in the school were Grigori Alexinsky, Aleksandr Bogdanov and Anatoly Lunacharsky, with the participation of Maxim Gorky.

In December 1909 a number of lecturers at the Capri school, together with a number of prominent Bolsheviks including Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Dmitri Manuilsky and Mikhail Pokrovsky formed themselves into a new faction which they named “Vperyod” (Forward.) The name was selected because it was that of the paper published by the Bolshevik “Bureau of the Committees of the Majority” in 1904, in order to lend support to the group’s claim that its members were “true Bolsheviks” and that the Leninists were now “betraying Bolshevism.”

As Lenin characterised the faction:

“’Vperyod’ represents a non-Socialist-Democratic tendency (otzovism and Machism)”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous.””,Lenin “Selected Works”., Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 106).

Analysing the programme put forward by the “Vperyod” group, Lenin criticised it for its deviations towards otzovism in the sphere of political tactics and towards reactionary idealism in the sphere of philosophy:

“The platform of the “Vperyod” is permeated through and through by views which are incompatible with Party decisions. . .
In actual fact otzovist tactical conclusions follow from the view adopted by the ‘vperyod’ platform.
By putting forward in its platform the task of elaborating a so-called ‘proletarian philosophy’, ‘proletarian culture’, etc., the ‘Vperyod’ group in fact comes to the defence of the group of literati who are putting forward anti-Marxist views in this field. . . .
By declaring otzovism a ‘legitimate shade of opinion’, the platform of the ‘Vperyod’ group shields and defends otzovism, which is doing great harm to the Party.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The ‘Vperyod’ Group”, in: “Collected Works”; Volume 16; Moscow; 1963; p.145-6).

“Everyone knows that it is precisely Machism that is really implied by the term ‘’proletarian philosophy’. In fact, the most influential literary nucleus of the group is Machian, and it regards non-Machian philosophy as non-‘proletarian’….In reality, all the phrases about ‘proletarian culture’ are intended precisely to cloak the struggle against Marxism.

(V.I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist”, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 35-6).

In the winter of 1910-11 the ‘Vperyod’ group organised a second ‘school’ at Bologna (Italy), Here Trotsky acted as one of the lecturers, together with Yuli Martov and Aleksandra Kollontai.

1910: The January 1910 Central Committee Meeting

In January 1910, against the opposition of Lenin who considered the circumstances inopportune, a meeting of the Central Commiittee of the RSDLP was held in Paris, attended by representatives of the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, the “Party Mensheviks”, the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region, the “Vperyod” group, the Viennese group, and the “Bund’. Lenin’s opposition to the holding of the Central Committee at this time was due to his awareness that a number of Bolsheviksincluding Alexel Rykov, Solomon Lozovsky, Lev Kamenev, and Grigori Sokolnikov, had adopted a concilationist position.

Despite this, the Leninists were able to secure the unanimous adoption of a resolution which condemned both otzovism and liquidationism, although without specifically naming them.

“The historical situation of the Social-Democratic movement in the period of the bourgeois counter-revolution inevitably gives rise, as a manifestation of the bourgeois influence over the proletariat, on the one hand to the renunciation of the illegal Social-Democratic Party, this debasement of its role and importance, the attempts to curtail the programme and tactical tasks and slogans of consistent Social-Democracy, etc.; on the other hand, it gives rise to the renunciation of the Duma work of Social-Democracy and of the utilisation of the legal possibilities, the failure to understand the importance of either, the inability to adapt the consistent Social-Democratic tactics to the peculiar historical conditions of the present moment, etc.

An integral part of the Social-Democratic tactics under such conditions is the overcoming of both deviations by broadening and deepening the Social-Democratic work in all spheres of the class struggle of the proletariat and by explaining the danger of such deviations.”

(Resolution of Plenum of Central Committee of the RSDLP, January 1910, cited by V. I. Lenin: “Controversial Questions”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 129).

Lenin’s draft resolution used the phrase “fight on two fronts,” but this was altered by the meeting, on Trotsky’s motion, to the phrase “overcoming … by broadening and deepening”:

“The draft of this resolution was submitted to the Central Committee by myself, and the clause in question was altered by the plenum itself . . on the motion of Trotsky, against whom I fought without success. . . . The words ‘overcoming by means of broadening and deepening’ were inserted on Trostsky’s motion. . . ‘

Nothing at the plenum aroused more furious – and often comical — indignation than the idea of a ‘struggle on two fronts’. . . .

Trotsky’s motion to substituite ‘overcoming by means of broadening and deepening’ for the struggle on two fronts’ meet with the hearty support of the Mensheviks and the ‘Vperyod’-ists. . . .

In reality this phrase expresses a vague desire, a pious innocent wish that there should be less internal strife among the Social-Democrats! . . it is a sigh of the so-called conciliators.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Notes of a Publicist’, in: ibid.; p. 45, 47)

Despite it’s dilution by the concilationists, Lenin considered this resolution as “especially important”:

“This decision is especially important because it was carried unanimously: all the Bolsheviks, without exception, all the so-called ‘Vperyod’-ists, and finally (this is most important of all) all the Mensheviks and the present liquidators without exception, and also all the ‘national’ (i.e., Jewish, Polish and Lettish) Marxists endorsed this decision.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Controversial Questions “, in: ibid.; p. 128-9).

However, the conciliationists managed to secure the adoption of a number of other resolutions at the Central Committee meeting:

1) to dissolve all factional groups;
2) to discontinue the Bolshevik paper “Proletary” and the Menshevik paper “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata”;
3) to grant Trotsky’s Viennese “Pravda”‘ a subsidy from Party funds and to delegate a representative of the Central Committee to sit as co-editor along with Trotsky;
4) to set up an editorial board for the Party’s central organ, “Sotsial-Demokrat” (The Social-Democrat) consisting of two Bolsheviks (Lenin and Zinoviev), two Mensheviks (Martov and Dan, and one representative of the Polish Party (Waraki);
5) to initiate a “Discussion Sheet” in conjunction with the central organ, open to representatives of trends which differed from the line of the Party;
6) to establish the seat of the Central Committee in Russia;
7) to transfer all funds in the possession of factional centres to the general Party treasury.

So far as the last point was concerned, the Bolsheviks transferred their funds to three trustees – the leaders of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, Karl Kautsky, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin — until it could be shown that the other factions had carried out the decisions adopted at the Central Committee meeting.

The Leninists characterised this series of decisions as a conciliationist error, since it secured the dissolution of the Bolshevik faction in return for a worthless verbal promise from the other factions.

“Both the ideological merit of the plenum and its conciliationist error become clear. Its merit lies in its rejection of the ideas of liquidationism and otzovism; its mistake lies in indiscriminately concluding an agreement with persons and groups whose deeds do not correspond to their promises ( ‘they signed the resolution’).”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 101).

“The conciliators recognised all and sundry tendencies on ‘their mere promise to purge themselves, instead of recognising only those tendencies which are purging themselves (and only in so far as they do purge themselves) of their “ulcers”. The ‘Vperyod’-ists, the ‘Golos’ ites and Trotsky all ‘signed’ the resolution against otzovism and liquidationism — that is, they promised to ‘purge themselves’ — and that was the end of it! The conciliators ‘believed’ the promise and entangled the Party with non-Party grouplets, ‘ulcerous’ as they themselves admitted.”

(V. I.. Lenin: ‘The Climax of the Party Crisis’ in. ibid; p. 115).

The Violation of the CC Decisions

The Bolsheviks dissolved their factional organisation and wound up their factional Paper ‘Proletary’ (The Proletarian), in accordance with the decisions of the January 1910 meeting of the Central Committee.

The Mensheviks, however, declined to dissolve their factional organisation, their factional paper “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata’ (The Voice of the Social-Democrat) or to break with liquidationism. In fact, they began to publish in St. Petersburg a new legal monthly magazine called “Nasha Zarya” (Our Dawn) (which continued to appear until 1914) and continued to publish in Moscow their legal journal “Vozrozhdeniye” (Regeneration). And in August 1910 the Mensheviks began to issue in Moscow the magazine “Zhizn”(Life) (which, appeared until September 1910), while in January 1911 they began to issue in St. Petersburg the legal magazine “Dyelo Zhizni” (Life’s Cause) (which appeared until October 1941).

In all these publications, as well as in “Golos Sotsial-Deniokrata”; which continued to appear regularly, the Mensheviks continued to put forward openly liquidationist views:

“A party in the form of a complete and organised hierarchy of institutions does not exist”

(P. Potresov: Article in “Nasha Zarys”, No. 2, February 1910, p. 61, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Notes Of a Publicist”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; l943; p. 53).

“There is nothing to wind up and — we on our part would add — the dream of re-establishing this hierarchy in its old underground form is simply a harmful reactionary utopia.”

(Editorial in “Vozrozhdeniye”, No. 5, April 12th., 1910, p. 51, cited in V.I.Lenin: ibid.; p. 53).

“The tactics which are to be observed in the activities of the so-called ‘liquidators’ are the ‘tactics’ which put the open labour movement in the centre, strive to extend it in every possible direction, and seek within this open labour movement and there only the elements for the revival of the party.”

(Y.Martov: “Article in “Zhizn”, No. 1, September 12th., 1910, p. 9-l0; cited in: V. I. Lenin: ‘The Social Structure of State Power, the Prospects and Liquidationism”; in:ibid.; p. 84).

“In the new historical period of Russian life that has set in, the working class must organise itself not ‘for revolution’, not ‘in expectation of a revolution’, but simply for the determined and systematic defence of its special interests in all spheres of life; for the gathering and training of its forces for this many-sided and complex activity; for the training and accumulation in this way of socialist consciousness in general; for acquiring the ability to find one’s bearings — to stand up for oneself.”

(Y. Larin: “Right Turn and About Turn!”, in: “Dyelo Zhizni”, No. 2, p..18, cited in: V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 90).

“Great political tasks make inevitable a relentless war against anti- liquidationism …. Anti-liquidationism is a constant brake, constant disruption.”

(F. Dan: “Article in “Nasha Zarya”, No. 6, 1911, cited by: J. V. Stalin: “The Situation in the Social-Democratic Group in the Duma “, in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 385).

In various articles from June 1910 onwards, Lenin drew attention to the fact that the liquidator Menshviks had failed to carry out the decisions of the January 1910 Central Committee meeting:

“During that year (1910), the ‘Golos’-ites, the ‘Vperyod’-ists, and Trotsky, all in fact, estranged themselves from the Party and moved precisely in the direction of liquidationism and otzovism-ultimatumism.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in: ibid; p. 116).

“Since that very plenum of 1910, the above-mentioned principal publications of the liquidators. . have turned decidedly and along the whole line towards liquidationism, not only by ‘belittling’ (in spite of the decisions of the plenum) ‘the importance of the illegal Party’; but directly renouncing the Party, calling it a ‘corpse’, declaring the Party to be already dissolved, describing the restoration of an illegal Party as a ‘reactionary Utopia’, heaping calumny and abuse on the illegal Party in the pages of the legal magazines.”

(V. I. Lenin: Resolution on Liquidationism and the Group of Liquidators, Sixth Conference of the RSDLP, in: Ibid.; p. 152)

All the liquidationist newspapers and magazines….. after the most definite and even-unanimous decisions have been adopted by the Party, reiterate thoughts and arguments that contain obvious liquidationism…

The truth proved by the documents I have quoted, which cover a period of more than five years (1908-13), is that the liquidators, mocking all the Party decisions, continue to abuse and bait the Party, i.e., ‘illegal work.'”

(V.I. Lenin: “Controversial Questions”, in:. ibid.; p. 133-4).

The ‘Vperyod’-ists, on the other hand, continued to support toleration of otzovism within the Party:

“‘Vperyod’, No. 3 (May 1911) . . openly states that otzovism is a ‘completely legitimate tendency within our Party’ (p. 78).”

(V.I. Lenin: ‘The New Faction of Conciliators Or the Virtuous’, in; ibid.; p. 107).

In September 1910, Trotsky expelled Lev Kamenev, the officica representative of the Central Committee of the Party, from the editorial board of ‘Pravda’ denouncing:

“The conspiracy of the emigre clique (i.e., the Bolsheviks — Ed.) against the Russian Social-Democratic Labour party”;

(L. Trotsky: “Pravda’, No. 21, 1910),

and adding threateningly:

“Lenin’s circle, which wants to place itself above the Party, will find itself outside it’.

(L. Trotsky: ibid).

Lenin declared that Trotsky’s expulsion of the CC representative from the editorial board of “Pravda” confirmed the already expressed view of the Bolsheviks that, under the guise of “non-factionalism,” Trotsky was, in fact, endeavouring to form a faction:

“That Trotsky’s venture is an attempt to create a faction is obvious to all now, after obvious to all now, after Trotsky has removed the representative of the Central Committee from ‘Pravda.’”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Historical Meaning of the Internal Party Struggle in Russia”: In ‘Selected Works’; Volume 3; London; 19~6; p. 517).

The fact that Trotsky’s professed desire for unity of the factions concealed his support in practice for the Menshevik liquidators and otzovists is shown by his failure to condemn these factions for their repudiation of the conciliationist decisions to which all actions had agreed at the January 1910 meeting Central Committee.

As Trotsky’s sympathetic biographer Isaac Deutscher expresses it:

“This was the occasion on which Trotsky, the champion of unity, should have spared the offenders against unity no censure. Yet in ‘Pravda’ he ‘suspended judgement’ and only mildly hinted at his disapproval of the Mensheviks’ conduct.. . . Trotsky took his stand against the disciplinarians. Having done so, he involved himself in glaring inconsistencies. He, the fighter for unity, connived in the name of freedom of dissent at the new breach in the Party brought about by the Mensheviks. He, who glorified the underground with zeal worthy of a Bolshevik; joined hands with those who longed to rid themselves of the underground as a dangerous embarrassment. Finally, the sworn enemy of bourgeois liberalism allied himself with those who stood for an alliance with liberalism against those who were fanatically opposed to such an alliance. . . .
So self-contradictory an attitude brought him nothing but frustration. Once again to the Bolsheviks he appeared not just an opponent, but a treacherous enemy. . . Martov made him turn a blind eye more than once on Menshevik moves which were repugnant to him. His long and bitter quarrel with Lenin made him seize captiously on every vulnerable detail of Bolshevik policy. His disapproval of Leninism he expressed publicly with the usual wounding sarcasm. His annoyance with the Mensheviks he vented mostly in private arguments or in ‘querulous’ letters.”

(I. Deutscher: “The Prophet Armed: Trotsky: 1879-1921”; London; 1970; p.. 195, 196).

Lenin expressed, himself more forthrightly on Trotsky’s attitude in an article entitled “Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame”:

“At the Plenary Meeting Judas Trotsky made a big show of fighting liquidationism and otzovism. He vowed and swore that he was true to the Party. He was given a subsidy. . .
Judas expelled the representative of the Central Committee from ‘Pravda’ and began to write liquidationist articles in ‘Vorwarts’. In defiance of the direct decision of the School Commission appointed by the Plenary Meeting to the effect that no Party lecturer may go to the ‘Vperyod’ factional school, Judas Trotsky did go and discussed a plan for a conference with the ‘Vperyod’ group. . . Such is Judas Trotsky’s blush of shame.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Judas Trotsky’s Blush of Shame”; in: “Collected Works”; Volume 17; Moscow; 1963; p.45) .

The liquidator Menshevik members of the Central Committee, now based in Russia by the decision of the January 1910 meeting of the Central Committee and so compelled to function illegally, refused to attend the CC on the grounds that all illegal organisations were “objectionable” and “harmful.” The conciliationist members of the Central Committee refused to agree to meetings of the Central Committee without the liquidator Mensheviks, on the grounds that such meetings would be “unrepresentative.”

“And what about the work in Russia? Not a single meeting of the Central Committee was held during the whole year! Why? Because the members of the Central Committee in Russia (conciliators who well deserved the kisses of ‘Golos Likvidatorov’) kept on ‘inviting’ the liquidators for a year and a quarter but never got them to ‘accept the invitation.’”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in: Ibid.; p.116).

The result was that for a considerable period after the January 1910 meeting of the Central Committee, all practical Party work was carried out by the Bolsheviks and the Party Mensheviks,” the latter led by Georgi Plekhanov.

“All Party work .. during the whole of that year (i.e., 1910 — Ed.) was done by the Bolsheviks and the Plekhanovists. . .
This Party work (in literature, which was accessible to all) was conducted by the Bolsheviks and the Plekhanovists in spite…of the ‘conciliatory’ resolutions and the collegiums formed by the plenum, and not in conjunction with the ‘Golos’-ites and the ‘Vperyod’-ists, but against them (because it was impossible to work in conjunction with the liquidators and otozovists-ultimatumists).”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 115, 116).

1910-1911: The Bolsheviks Re-form their Faction

Considering in September 1910 that the repudiation of the January 1910 Central Committee decisions had been sufficiently demonstrated; in this month the Bolsheviks funded their own factional newspaper “Rabochaya Gazeta”‘ (Worker’s Newspaper), published in Paris under the editorship of Lenin. The Sixth Party Conference in January 1912, transformed this paper into the official organ of the Party’s Central Committee, and it continued to appear until August 1912.

“The first factional step the Bolsheviks took was to found “Rabochaya Gazeta” in September 1910.”

(V. I. Lenin. “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in “Selected Works” Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 102).

In December 1910 the Bolsheviks announced formally that they considered themselves released from all the obligations imposed by the January 1910 Central Committee meeting since its decisions had been consistently flouted by the liquidator Mensheviks.

“By their ‘declaration’ of December 18, 1910, the Bolsheviks openly and formally declared that they cancelled the agreement with all the other factions. The violation of the ‘peace’ made at the plenum, its violation by ‘Golos’, ‘Vperyod’ and Trotsky, had become a fully recognised fact.”

(V.I. Lenin: “The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in ibid.; p.117.)

In the same month, December 1910, the Bolsheviks began publication in Russia of’ the legal newspaper “Zvezda” (The Star) – published at first weekly and then two or three times a week, in St. Petersburg until its suppression by the tsarist government in April 1912. “Zvedzda”, was succeeded by “Nevskaya Zvezda” (The Neva Star) , until this too was suppressed in October 1912. They also began to issue the legal magazine “Mysl” (Thought), published monthly in Moscow until April 1911.

In May 1911 the Bolsheviks broke off relations with the Central Corrinittee Bureau Abroad, which was dominated by liquidator Mensheviks.

“For a year and a half, from January 1910 to June 1911, when they had a majority in the Foreign Bureau of the Central Committee and faithful ‘friends’ in the persons of the conciliators in the Russian Bureau of the Central Committee, they did nothing, absolutely nothing to further the work in Russia!”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in: ibid.; p. 121).

“The rupture between the Bolsheviks . . . and the Foreign Bureau of the Central Committee is a correction of the conciliationist mistake of the plenum. The rapprochement of the factions which are actually fighting against liquidationism end otzovism will now proceed despite the forms decided on by the plenum, for these forms did not correspond to the content.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The New Faction of Conciliators or the Virtuous”, in: ibid.; p. 101).

1911: The June 1911 Meeting of CC Members Living Abroad

In June 1911, on the initiative of Lenin, a meeting of Central Committee members living- abroad was held in Paris, attended by representatives of the Bolsheviks, the “Party Mensheviks” the Social-Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, and the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region.

The meeting set up an Organising Commission Abroad, charged with the calling of an All-Russian Conference. This, in turn, set up a Technical Comminion Abroad, to deal with technical questions such as publishing, transport, etc.

From its inception the Organising Commission Abroad had a majority of conciliationist members and, to avoid bringing about a break with the liquidator Mensheviks, it did not proceed with the work of calling a conference. In November 1911 therefore, the Bolshevik members withdrew from it.

The Russian Organising Commission

In July 1911 the Bolshevik member of the Central Committee in Paris sent Grigori Ordzhonikidze to Russia to work there for the calling of a Party Conference. As a result of Ordzhonikidze’s activity, a meeting of representatives of local Party organisations set up in November 1911 a ‘Russian Organising Commission” charged with making all arrangements for convening of a Party Conference.

This commission, composed of Bolsheviks and “Party Mensheviks,” made arrangements for the convening of the Sixth Party Conference in Prague in January 1912.

“By November l4, the Russian Organisation Committee was formed. In reality, it was created by the Bolsheviks and by the Party Mensheviks in Russia. ‘The alliance of the two strong factions’ (strong in their ideological solidarity and in their work of purging ‘ulcers’) became a fact.”

(V.I. Lenin: “The Climax of the Party Crisis”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943, p. 118)

In December 1911 the Bolsheviks began publication in St. Petersburg of a legal monthly magazine “Prosveshceniye” (Enlightenment) to succeed “Mysl,” suppressed by the Tsarist government. This in turn was suppressed by the tsarist government in June l914, but a double number appeared in the autumn of 1917.

In the same month, December 1911, a meeting of Bolshevik groups abroad took place in Paris, with the aim of unifying the Bolshevik groups abroad for the forthcoming Party conference. It was attended by 11 voting delegates, under the leadership of Lenin.

1912: The Sixth Conference of the RSDLP

To remedy the intolerable situation created by Menshevik domination of the Central Committee, which refused either to be active or to convoke a congress, a conference of the Party was convened in January 1912 on the initiative of the Bolsheviks – the Sixth Conference of the RSDLP.

More than twenty organisations of the Party were represented at the conference, including those of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Ekaterinoslav, Nicolayev, Saratov, Kazan, Vilna, Dvinsk, Tiflis and Baku. The Mensheviks refused to attend – except for a small group of “Party Mensheviks.”

The conference elected a Bolshevik Central Committee, headed by Lenin, and this in turn set up a new Russian Bureau of the Central Committee, headed by Stalin, to direct the practical work of the Party within Russia.

A resolution drafted by Lenin and adopted by the conference reviewed the anti-Party activities of the liquidator Mensheviks, who were grouped around the magazines “Nasha Zarya” (Cur Dawn) and “Dyelo Zhizni” (Life’s Cause), and declared them to be now “outside the Party”:

“The Conference declares that the group represented by ‘Nasha Zarya’ and ‘Dyelo Zhizni’ has by its behaviour, definitely placed itself outside the Party‘.

(V. I. Lenin: Resolution on Liquidationism and the Group of Liquidators, Sixth Conference RSDLP, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 152).

The Bolsheviks regarded the Sixth Party Conference as of great significance since, by the expulsion of the liquidator Mensheviks, it created for the first time a truly united Party based on Leninist principles:

“The conference was of the utmost importance in the history of our Party, for it drew a boundary line between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks and amalgamated the Bolshevik organisations all over the country into a united Bolshevik Party.”

(J. V. Stalin: Report to the 15th. Congress of the CPSU (B.), cited in: “History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)”. Moscow; 1941; p. 142).

The Bolshevik “Pravda” (Truth)

The liquidator Mensheviks and the group around Trotsky’s “Pravda” (Truth) refused to recognise the Sixth Party Conference as “legitimate”:

“Neither the liquidators nor the numerous groups living abroad (those of…Trotsky and others)…recognised our January 1912 conference”.

(V. I. Lenin: “Socialism and War”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; London; n.d.; p. 255).

Trotsky, in particular, denounced the Conference virulently in the pages of “Pravda” (e.g., “Pravda” No. 24, 1912) and anonymously in the pages of “Vorwarts”. His anger was intensified when, on May 5th., 1912, the Bolsheviks began publication in St. Petersburg of a daily newspaper under the name of “Pravda”, edited by Stalin; Trotsky thundered against the “theft” of “his” paper’s name by the:

“The circle whose interests are in conflict with vital needs of the Party, the circle which lives and thrives only through chaos and confusion”.

(“Pravda”, No. 25; 1912),

and demanded that the Bolshevik paper change its name, concluding threateningly:

“We wait quietly for an answer before we undertake further steps.'”


Lenin wrote to the editorial board of the Bolshevik “Pravda”:

“I advise you to reply to Trotsky through the post:
To Trotsky (Vienna)…We shall not reply to disruptive and slanderous letters”; Trotsky’s dirty campaign against ‘Pravda’ is one mass of lies and slander..”

(V. I. Lenin: “Letter to the Editor of Pravda”, July 19th., 1912, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 41),

and Stalin commented dryly that Trotsky was merely:

“. . .a vociferous champion with fake muscles.”

(J. V. Stalin: “The Elections in St. Petersburg”, in: “works”; Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 288).

“The Organisation Committee”

From the autumn of 1910 Trotsky began preparations to try to unite all the anti-Bolshevik elements associated with the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party into a single bloc which, by calling a conference in the name of the Party, might usurp the name and machinery of the Party.

As Lenin put it:

“Trotsky groups all the enemies of Marxism. Trotsky unites all to whom ideological decay is dear; . . . all philistines who do not understand the reasons for the struggle and who do not wish to learn, think and discover the ideological roots of the divergence of views.”

(V. I Lenin: Letter to the Russian Collegium of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 17; 1963; p. 21).

In November 1910 Trotsky secured the passage through the Vienna Club of the Russian Social-Democratic Party of a resolution setting up a fund for the purpose of convening such a conference. Lenin commented:

“On the 26th November, 1910, Trotsky carried through a resolution in the so called Vienna Party Club (a circle of Trotskyites, exiles who are pawns in the hands of Trotsky) . . . . Trotsky’s attacks on the bloc of Bolsheviks and Plekhanov’s group are not new; what is new is the outcome of his resolution; the Vienna Club (read ‘Trotsky’) has organised a ‘general Party fund for the purpose of preparing and convening a conference of the RSDLP’.
This . . is a clear violation of Party legality and the start of an adventure in which Trotsky will come to grief.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid; p. 19, 20)

“Trotsky’s resolution.. . expresses the very aim of the ‘Golos’ group — to destroy the central bodies so detested by the liquidators, and with them, the Party as an organisation. It is not enough to lay bare the anti-Party activities of ‘Golos’ and Trotsky; they must be fought.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The State of Affairs in the Party”, in: ibid.; p. 23).

In March 1912 Trotsky attempted to take advantage of the expulsion of the liquidator Mensheviks from the Party by calling a preliminary conference in Paris, attended by delegates of the various organisations (some purely fictitious) the leaderships of which were opposed to the Bolsheviks: the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region, the “Caucasian Regional Committee” of the RSDLP, the Bund, the Menshevik group around the newspaper “Golos Sotsial-Demokrata” (The Voice of the Social-Democrat), the “Vperyod” (Forward) Group, and the group around Trotsky’s Viennese “Pravda.”

The meeting denounced the Sixth Party Conference, and the Central Committee elected by it, as “illegitimate”:

“The conference declared that the conference (i.e., the Sixth Party Conference of the RSDLP — Ed) is an open attempt of a group of persons, who have quite deliberately led the Party to a split, to usurp the Party’s flag, and it expresses its profound regret that several Party organisations and comrades have fallen victims to this deception and have thereby facilitated the splitting and usurpatory policy of Lenin’s sect. The conference expresses its conviction that all the Party organisations in Russia and abroad will protest against the coup d’etat that has been brought about, will refuse to recognise the central bodies elected at that conference, and will by every means help to restore the unity of the Party by the convocation of a genuine all-Party conference.”

(Resolution of March 1912 Paris conference in: “Vorwarts”; (Forward), March 26th., 1912).

The conference set up an “Organisation Committee” with the official aim of convening a “legitimate Party Conference.”

Lenin pointed out that Trotsky’s role’ in the projected anti-Bolshevik bloc was to screen the liquidator Mensheviks with “left”demagogic phrases:

“The basis of this bloc is bloc is obvious: the liquidators enjoy full freedom to pursue their line . . ‘as before’, while Trotsky, operating abroad, screens them with r-r-revolutionary phrases, which cost him nothing and do not bind them in any way.”

(V. I. Lenin: “‘The Liquidators against the Party”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; Moscow; 1963; p. 24).

The Revolutionary Revival

During the first half of 1912 the revolutionary movement in Russia began to revive.

In April 1912; during a strike in the Lena goldfields in Siberia, more than 500 workers were killed or wounded by tsarist police. The workers replied with mass strikes and demonstrations, which reached their highest point on May Day.

The “August Bloc”

In August 1912 the anti-Bolshevik conference, to prepare which the “Organisation Committee” had been set up in March, took place in Vienna under the leadership of Trotsky, Martov and Dan.

The organisations represented at the conferences — organisations which together formed what the Party called the “August Bloc” were:

1) liquidator Mensheviks grouped around the paper -“Golos Sotsial-Demokrata”;

2) The liquidator Menshevik group around “Nevsky Golos”(The Voice of the Neva), a legal newspaper published in St. Petersburg from May to August 1912;

3) The “Caucasian Regional Committee of the Social-Democratic Labour Party.” (described by Lenin as a fictitious body), a group of Mensheviks from the Caucusus headed by Noah Jordania);

4) The Ukrainian social-democratic organisation ‘Spillka”;

5) The seven Menshevik Duma deputies;

6) The “Vperyod” group;

7) The Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region; and

8) The group around Trotsky’s Viennese “Pravda.”

Representatives of the Polish Socialist Party (not the Polish Social-Democratic Party) and of the Lithuanian Social-Democratic Party attended as observers.

The “Vperyod” group withdrew from the conference on its first day, and a “Bolshevik” who attended from Moscow was subsequently exposed as a police agent.

The conference adopted a resolution calling for the adaptation of the Party organisation to the “new forms and methods of the open Labour Movement’.

It adopted a new programme virtually in line with that of the liberal capitalists in order to make it acceptable to the tsarist government and enable the new party which was planned to emerge from the conference to function legally.

It also adopted a resolution on “national-cultural autonomy” in violation of the national programme of the RSDLP (to be discussed in the next section).

The “Organisation Committee” continued in existence.

Seventeen years later Trotsky commented critically on his role in initiating the formation of the “August Bloc”;

“In 1912, when the political curve in Russia took an unmistakable upward turn, I made an attempt to call a union conference of representatives of all the Social-Democratic factions. . . Lenin, however, came out with all his force against union. The entire course of events that followed proved conclusively that Lenin was right. The conference met in Vienna in August 1912, without the Bolsheviks, and I found myself formally in a ‘bloc’ with the Mensheviks and a few disparate groups of Bolshevik dissenters. This ‘bloc’ had no common political basis.”

(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970; p. 224-5).

“Cultural-national Autonomy”

The policy of “cultural-national autonomy” is based on the erroneous theory that nations are composed of individuals of a particular nationality, irrespective of the territory they inhabit. On the basis of this theory, the proponents of “cultural-national autonomy” propose that within a particular state there should be “separate bodies” with jurisdiction over the cultural affairs of each “nation,” bodies elected by individual persons of each nationality represented within the frontiers of the state concerned.

In 1899, under the influence of Otto Bauer and Karl Renner, “cultural-national autonomy” had been included in the programme of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party:

“What then is the national programme of the Austrian Social-Democrats? It is expressed in two words: cultural-national autonomy. This means, firstly, that -autonomy would be granted, let us say, not to Bohemia or Poland, which are inhabited mainly by Czechs and Poles, but to Czechs and Poles generally, . . no matter what part of Austria they inhabit. That is why this autonomy is called national and not territorial.

It means, secondly, that the Czechs, Poles, Germans, and so on, scattered over the various parts of Austria, taken personally, as individuals, are to be organised into integral nations, and are as such to form part of the Austrian state. In this way Austria would represent not a union of autonomous regions, but a union of autonomous nationalities, constituted irrespective of territory.

It means, thirdly, that the national institutions which are to be created for this purpose for the Poles, Czechs, and so forth, are to have jurisdiction only over ‘cultural’ not ‘political’ questions. Specifically political questions would be reserved for the Austrian parliament (the Reichsrat).

That is why this autonomy is also called cultural, cultural-national autonomy.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Marxism and the National Question”, in: “Works”; Volume 2; Moscow; 1953 p. 331-2).

Lenin and Stalin strongly opposed the definition of a “nation” put forward by the “cultural-national autonomists” as well as their political proposals:

“’Cultural-national autonomy implies precisely the most refined and, therefore, the most harmful nationalism, it implies the corruption of the workers by means of the slogan of national culture and the propaganda of the profoundly harmful and even ‘anti-democratic’ segregating of the schools according to nationality. In short, this programme undoubtedly contradicts the internationalism of the proletariat and is in accordance only with the ideals of the nationalist petty bourgeoisie.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The National Programme of the RSDLP”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 19; Moscow; 1963; p. 541).

“‘cultural-national autonomy’ . . aims at introducing the most refined, most absolute and most extreme nationalism. . Consolidating nationalism within a certain ‘justly’ delimited sphere, ‘constitutionalising’ nationalism, and securing the separation of all nations from one another by means of a special state institution — such is the ideological foundation and content of cultural-national autonomy. This idea is thoroughly bourgeois and thoroughly false. The proletariat cannot support any consecration of nationalism; on the contrary, it supports everything that helps to obliterate national distinctions and remove national barriers; it supports everything that makes the ties between nationalities closer and closer. . To act differently means siding with reactionary nationalism.'”

(V. I. Lenin: “Critical Notes on the National Question” in: “Questions of National Policy and Proletarian Internationalism”; Moscow; 1967; P. 26,. 28)

“The idea of national autonomy creates the psychological conditions for the division of the united workers’ party into separate parties built on national lines. The break-up of the party is followed by the breakup of the trade unions, and complete segregation is the result. In this way the united class movement is broken up into separate national rivulets.”

(J.V. Stalin: “Marxism and the National Question”; In: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 342-3).

At its Fourth Congress in 1901, the General Jewish Labour League of Lithuania, Poland and Russia (known as the “Bund”) had adopted a resolution declaring the Jewish people to be a “nation” and demanding “national autonomy” for the Jewish people within the Russian state. As Stalin pointed out, the autonomy demanded by the Bund could only be cultural-national autonomy:

“The Bund could seize upon any autonomy at all, it could only be … cultural-national autonomy; there could be no question of territorial–political autonomy for the Jews, since the Jews have no definite integral territory.”

(J. V. Stalin: “Marxism and the National Question”, in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 347).

At the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (to which the Bund was affiliated) in July/August 1903, the Bund had proposed that the Party’s Programme should include the demand for “cultural-national autonomy.” The proposal was rejected, only three votes being cast in its favour, and the Bund withdrew from the congress and (until 1906) from the Party.

The conference of the anti-Bolshevik “August Bloc” in August 1912 adopted a resolution on this question which declared:

“The Caucasian comrades expressed the opinion that it is necessary to demand national-cultural autonomy. This conference, while expressing no opinion on the merits of this demand, declares that such an interpretation . . . does not contradict the precise meaning of the programme.”

(Resolution on National-Cultural Autonomy, “August Conference”, cited in: J. V. Stalin: “Works,” Volume 2; Moscow; 1953; p. 295).

Stalin commented on this resolution:

“It was not only the laws of logic that were violated by the conference of the Liquidators. By sanctioning cultural national autonomy it also violated its duty to Russian Social-Democracy. It most definitely did violate ‘the precise meaning’ of the programme, for it is well known that the Second Congress; which adopted the programme, emphatically repudiated cultural-national autonomy”.

(V. I. Lenin: “Marxism and the National Question,” in: “Works”, Volume 2; Moscow; 1953;- p. 370).

It was this controversy on cultural-national autonomy which stimulated Stalin to write, in Vienna in 1913, the classic Marxist work on the national question, “Marxism and the National Question,” published in March-May 1913.

Lenin approved heartily of Stalin’s work:

“As regards nationalism, . . we have a marvellous Georgian who has sat down to write a big article for ‘Prosveshcheniye’, for which he has collected all the Austrian and other material.”

(V.I. Lenin: Letter to Maxim Gorky, February 1913, in: “Collected Works”; Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 84).

“This situation and the fundamentals of a national programme for Social-Democracy have recently been dealt with in Marxist theoretical literature (the most prominent place being taken by Stalin’s article).”

(V. I. Lenin: “The National Programme of the RSDLP”, in:
“Collected Works”, Volume 19; Moscow; 1963; p. 539) .


The campaign of the liquidator Mensheviks for a legally tolerated “open labour party” was associated with the concept that the “backward” Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party should “Europeanised” i.e. transformed into a social-democratic party of the type existing in Western Europe, where capitalist “democracy” had long been established and, furthermore, where the domination of opportunist trends was already clearly discernible. Trotsky played an important role in this campaign for the “Europeanisation” of the Russian Party:

“The vaunted ‘Europeanisation’ . . .is being talked about in every possible tone by Dan and Martov and Trotsky and all the liquidators. It is one of the main points of their opportunism. . . The liquidators play at ‘European Social-Democracy’, although — in the country where they amuse themselves with their game — there is as yet no constitution, as yet no basis for ‘Europeanism’’, and a revolutionary struggle has yet to be waged for them . . The liquidators describe as ‘Europeanism’ the conditions in which the Social-Democrats have been active in the principal countries of Europe since 1871, i.e., precisely at the time when the whole historical period of bourgeois revolutions was over and when the foundations of political liberty had taken firm shape for a long time to come.

Opportunist intellectuals transplant the slogans of such ‘European’ campaigns to a soil lacking the most elementary foundations of European Constitutionalism, in an attempt to bypass the specific historical evolution which usually precedes the laying of these foundations.”

(V. I. Lenin: “How P. B. Axelrod Exposes the Liquidators”, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 18; Moscow; 1963; p. l83-4; 185; 186).

1912-1913: Trotsky in the Balkans

Within a few weeks of the founding conference, it was clear to Trotsky that the “August Bloc” had already been proved abortive. He says in his autobiography, referring to September 1912:

“The August conference had already proved to be abortive”;

(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970; p. 226.)

In this month he was offered the post of Balkan correspondent to the newspaper “Kievskaya Mysl” (Kievan Thought), and he left Vienna in October, just as there began the First Balkan War (October-December 1912) between Turkey on the one hand and Serbia, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria on the other. This was continued as the Second Balkan War (January-May 1913). The Viennese “Pravda” ceased publication in December 1912.

Trotsky returned briefly to Vienna at the beginning of 1913, and then returned to the Balkans to cover the Third Balkan War (June-August 1913) between Serbia and Greece on the one hand and Bulgaria on the other.

The 1912 Duma Elections

In July 1912 the Third State Duma was formally dissolved, and the elections for the Fourth State Duma took place in the autumn.

The Bolsheviks and the Menshevik dominated “August Bloc” put forward rival candidates for the Duma. The Bolshevik candidates went to the working people on a revolutionary platform:

“The Social-Democratic Party needs a platform for the elections to the Fourth Duma in order once more to explain to the masses . . the need for, the urgency, the inevitability of the revolution…

The Social-Democratic Party wishes to utilise the elections in order, over and over again, to stimulate the masses to see the need for revolution; to see precisely the revolutionary revival which has begun. Therefore the Social-Democratic Party, in its platform, says briefly and plainly to the electors to the Fourth Duma: not constitutional reforms, but a republic, not reformism, but revolution.”

(V. I. Lenin: “The Platform of the Reformists and the Platform of the Revolutionary Social-Democrats”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 184-5).

The “August Bloc,” on the other hand, put forward a platform based on the demand for democratic reforms, falsely implying that these could be obtained without revolution through mass pressure of the working people upon the tsarist regime:

“Look at the platform of the liquidators. Its liquidationist essence is artfully concealed by Trotsky’s revolutionary phrases.

Our answer is – criticism of the utopia of constitutional reforms, explanation of the falsity of hopes placed in them, all possible assistance to the revolutionary upsurge, utilisation of the election campaign for that purpose. . .

They, the liquidators, need a platform ‘for’ the elections, i.e., in order politely to push back the consideration of’ a revolution as an indefinite contingency and to declare as ‘real’ the election campaign for a list of constitutional reforms. . .
The liquidators are using the elections to the Fourth Duma in order to preach constitutional reforms and to weaken the idea of revolution.”

(V.I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 180, 184, 185).

Of the nine deputies elected from the workers’ curiae, six were Bolsheviks; they were elected from the larger industrial centres, where four-fifths of the working class was concentrated. Seven liquidator Mensheviks were elected, the majority from non-working class curiae.

These deputies — the Bolshevik “Six” and the Menshevik “Seven” — at first formed a single “Social-Democratic” fraction in the Duma, which opened in November 1912. The fraction elected Nikolai Chkheidze, the Georgian Menshevik leader, as its Chairman.

The “Vperyod” Group Cooperate with the Bolsheviks

In November 1912 the “Vperyod” group severed their connection with the “August Bloc” and offered their cooperation to the Bolsheviks.

Lenin accepted the offer of cooperation gladly – but dubiously:

“I am ready to share with all my heart in your joy at the return of the ‘Vperyod’ group, if . . if your supposition is justified that ‘Machism, god-building and all that nonsense has been dumped for ever’, as you write. . . I underline -‘if’ because this, so far, is still a hope rather than a fact. . . .

I don’t know whether Bogdanov, Bazanov, Volsky (a semi-anarchist), Lunacharsky, Alexinsky, are capable of learning from the painful experience of 1908-11. Have they learned that Marxism is a more serious and more profound thing than it seemed to them, that one cannot scoff at it. . If they have understood this — a –thousand greetings to them. . . But if they haven’t understood it, then . against attempts to abuse Marxism or to confuse the policy of the workers’ party we shall fight without sparing our lives.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Maxim Gorky, January 1913, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 70, 71).

1913: The January 1913 Conference

In January 1913 a conference of the Central Committee of the RSDLP with leading Party workers was held in Cracow (Poland).

One resolution adopted by the conference noted the revolutionary revival that had marked the year 1912 and declared that one of the immediate tasks of the Party was:

“The organisation of revolutionary street demonstrations, both in conjunction with political strikes and as independent manifestations.”

(Resolution of January 1913 Conference, cited in: N. Popov: “Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”; London; n.d: p. 282).

The conference once again condemned liquidationism, placing on record that, following the “August Bloc” conference, the liquidator Mensheviks were advocating with still greater energy:

“a) an open party;
b) their opposition to the illegal organisations;
c) their opposition to the Party programme (as expressed in their defence of national-cultural autonomy, the demand for the revision of the agrarian laws of the Third Duma, the slurring over of the demand for a republic, etc.;
d) their opposition to revolutionary mass strikes; and
e) their approval of reformist and exclusively legal tactics.
Accordingly, one of the tasks of the Party is, as formerly, to wage determined warfare against the liquidationist groups ‘Nasha Zarya’ and ‘Luch’, and to explain to the working class masses the sinister character of their teachings”.

(Resolution of January 1913 Conference, cited in N. P.Popov: ibid.; p. 282-3).

The conference advocated the unification from below of the existing illegal working class organisations, in contrast to the unity from above proposed by the conciliators.

Lenin, who attended the Conference, considered that it was:

“Very successful and will play its part.”

(V. I. Lenin: Letter to Maxim Gorky, January 1913, in: “Collected Works”, Volume 35; Moscow; 1966; p. 77).

Trotsky’s Letter to Chkheidze

In “April 1913 Trotsky wrote a letter to Nikolai Chkheidze, Chairman of the Duma Menshevik fraction, in which he said:

“And what a senseless obsession is the wretched squabbling systematically provoked by the master squabbler, Lenin . . , that professional exploiter of the backwardness of the Russian, working class movement. . . The whole edifice of Leninism at the present time is built up on lies and falsifications and bears within it the poisoned seed of its own disintegration.”

(L. Trotsky: Letter to Nikolai Chkheidze, April 1913, cited in: N.Popov,:, “Outline History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union”; Volume 1; London; n.d.; p. 289).

Sixteen years later Trotsky did not challenge the authenticity of the letter:

“My letter to Chkheidze against Lenin was published during this period (i.e., l924- Ed.). This episode, dating back to April 1913, grew out of the fact that the ‘official Bolshevik newspaper then published in St. Petersburg had appropriated the title of my Viennese publication, ‘The Pravda — a Labour Paper’. This led to one of those sharp conflicts so frequent in the lives of the foreign exiles. In a letter written to Chkheidze, I gave vent to my indignation at the Bolshevik centre and at Lenin. Two or three weeks later, I would undoubtedly have subjected my letter to a strict censor’s revision; a year or two later still, it would have seemed a curiosity in my own eyes. But that letter was to have a peculiar destiny. It was intercepted on its way by the Police Department. It rested in the police archives until the October revolution, when it went to the Institute of History of the Communist Party.”

(L. Trotsky: “My Life”; New York; 1970: p. 514-5).

but described its use by the leadership of the CPSU in the campaign to expose the role of Trotsky as “one of the ‘greatest frauds in the world’s history”:

“In 1924, the epigones disinterred the letter from archives and flung it at the party. . The people read Trotsky’s hostile remarks about Lenin and were stunned. . . The use “that the epigones made of my letter to Chkheidze is one of the greatest frauds in the world’s history. The forged documents of the French reactionaries in Dreyfus case are as nothing compared to the political forgery perpetrated by Stalin and his associates.”

(L. Trotsky: ibid.; p. 516).

The “Summer Conference” 1913

In October 1913 another conference of the Central Committee of the Party with leading Party workers, attended by 22 persons, was held at Poropino (Polarid) — a conference referred to in Party literature as the “Summer” Conference of 1913.

One of the principal resolutions adopted by the Conference dealt with the position of the Party’s Duma fraction. Since the seven Menshevik deputies had a majority in the fraction over the six Bolshevik deputies, the latter were constantly being pressed, in the name of “democracy,” to adopt the rightist viewpoints of the majority. The conference protested at the conduct of the seven Menshevik deputies and decided that the bloc of six Bolshevik deputies, who were following the political line of the Party’s Central Committee, should have equal rights with the bloc of Mensheviks.

The seven Menshevik deputies refused to accept this resolution, and the Bolshevik “six” formed an independent “Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction.”

Another important resolution dealt with the national question, and clarified the meaning of “the self-determination of nations,” as the right of an oppressed nation to secede and form an independent state:

“As regards the right of the nations oppressed by the tsarist monarchy to self-determination, i.e., the right to secede and form independent states, the Social-Democratic Party must unquestionably champion this right.”

(Resolution on the National Question, “Summer Conference”, 1913, cited in: V. I. Lenin: “Collected Works”, Volume 19; Moscow; 1963; p. 428)

The delegation of the Social Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania at the “Summer Conference” refrained from voting on the question of the right of nations to self-determination,

“Declaring themselves opposed to any such right in general.”‘

(V. I. Lenin: “On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p.286).

The Polish delegation to the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party in 1903 had similarly opposed recognition of this right in the Programme Commission of the congress, but, receiving no support, did not raise their objections in the full congress but withdrew from it.

The Polish Party based their attitude on the ideas put forward by Rosa Luxemburg in her article “The National Question and Autonomy”; published in “Przeglad Socjal-Demokratyczny” (Social-Democratic Review) in 1908-09).

Although the Polish Party rejoined the RSDLP in 1906, its leaders continued to oppose the principle of the right of nations to self-determination, and in March 1914, Trotsky used this opposition to attack the Bolsheviks:

“The Polish Marxists consider that ‘the right to national self-determination’ is entirely devoid of political content and should be deleted from the programme.”

(L. Trotsky: “Borba”, No. 2, 1914, p. 25).

Lenin replied to these attacks in his article “On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”:

“Unless we in our agitation advance and carry out the slogan of the right to secession we shall play into the hands, not only of the bourgeoisie, but also of the feudal landlords and of the absolutism of the oppressing nation. . . In her anxiety not to ‘assist’ nationalistic bourgeoisie of Poland, Rosa Luxemburg by her denial of the right to secession in the programme of the Russian Marxists, is in fact assisting the Great Russian Black Hundreds.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 266).

And Lenin commented again on Trotsky’s role in such controversies:

“Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any serious question relating to Marxism; he always manages to creep into the chinks of this or that difference of opinion, and desert one sided for the other.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 286).

1914: The Collapse of the “August Bloc”

In February 1914 the Fourth Congress of the Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region held in Brussels and attended by Lenin, resolved to withdraw from the “August Bloc.”

With the withdrawal of the Latvian Party, described by Lenin as

“The only genuine organisation in the ‘August Bloc.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p.; 199),

The “August Bloc” collapsed.

“The August bloc turned out to be a fiction and collapsed.”

(V. I. Lenin: ibid.; p. 199).

Shortly afterwards the “Caucasian Regional Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party” — in the shape of Noah Jordania — considered it expedient to dissociate itself from the liquidator Mensheviks on a number of questions.

Trotsky’s “Borba”

With the collapse of the “August Bloc,” in February 1914, Trotsky withdrew from the editorial board of the Menshevik paper “Luch” (The Torch) and, together with some of his Viennese supporters, began to publish a legal journal called “Borba” (The Struggle), which continued to come out until July 1914. In this paper, as Lenin noted, he put forward liquidationist ideas in a disguised form.

“In his magazine Trotsky has tried to say as little as possible about the essence of his views, but “Pravda” (No . 37) has already pointed out that Trotsky has not uttered a word either on the question of illegal work, or on the slogan of the struggle for an open party, etc…

But although Trotsky has avoided expounding his views directly, a whole series of passages in his magazine indicate the ‘kind of ideas he is stealthily introducing and concealing.

Trotsky repeats the liquidationist libels upon the Party . . repeating . . what in essence are their pet ideas.”

(V. I. Lenin: ‘Violation of Unity under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 203, 204, 208)

The appearance of “Borba” stimulated Lenin to write one of his fullest analyses of the disruptive role of Trotsky and his supporters, the article “Violation of Unity under Cover of’ Cries for Unity,” written in May 1914:

“Trotsky calls his new magazine ‘non-factional’. He puts this word in the forefront in his advertisements, he stresses it in every way in the editorials of ‘Borba’. . . Trotsky’s ‘workers’ magazine’ is Trotsky’s magazine for the workers, for it bears no trace either of workers’ initiative or of contact with the workers’ organisations.. . . . By this label of ‘non-factionalism’ the worst representatives of the worst remnants of factionalism mislead the young generation of workers….

Since 1912, for more than two years, there has been no factionalism in Russia among the organised Marxists. There is a complete break between the Party and the liquidators . . . The word ‘factionalism’ is a misnomer.

Trotsky talks to us about the ‘chaos of factional struggle’ …. Trotsky is fond of sonorous and empty phrases –this is known, but the catchword ‘chaos’ is not only a phrase; in addition to that it is . . .a vain attempt to transplant to Russian soil in the present epoch the émigré relationships of the epoch of yesterday.

It is impossible to describe as chaos a struggle against a tendency which has been recognised by the entire Party as a tendency, and has been condemned since 1908. . . . To treat the history of one’s own party as ‘chaos’ means that one is suffering from unpardonable empty-headedness ….

Apart from the ‘Pravda’-ists and the liquidators, there are no fewer than five Russian factions, i.e., separate groups, which claim to belong to the same Social-Democratic Party: Trotsky’s group, the two ‘Vperyod’ groups, the ‘Party Bolsheviks’, the ‘Party Mensheviks’.

And here Trotsky is to a certain extent correct! This is real factionalism, this is real chaos…

During the whole of those two years (i.e., 1912 and 1913– Ed.) not one, not a single one of those five factions abroad made the slightest impression on any of the manifestations of the mass labour movement in Russia….

This fact proves that we were right in referring to Trotsky as the representative of the ‘worst remnants of factionalism’…

Although Trotsky professes to be non-factional, he is known to all who are in the slightest degree acquainted with the labour movement in Russia as the representative of ‘Trotsky’s faction’. . . This is a remnant of factionalism for it is impossible to discover in it anything serious in the way of contacts with the mass labour movement of’ Russia.

Finally, it is the worst kind of factionalism, for there is nothing ideologically and politically definite about it….

It cannot be denied that sections of the factions which, like Trotsky’s faction, really exist only from the Vienna-Paris, and not at all from the Russian, point of view are definite.

But Trotsky completely lacks a definite ideology; and policy, for having the patent for ‘non-factionalism’ only means . . having a patent granting complete freedom to flit to and fro from one faction to another….

Under the flag of ‘non-factionalism’ Trotsky is upholding one of the factions abroad which is particularly devoid of ideas and has no basis in the labour movement in Russia….

Not all is gold that glitters. Trotsky’s phrases are full of glitter and noise, but they lack content….

Recently (between August 1912 and February 1914) he followed in the footsteps of F. Dan, who, as is known, threatened and called for the ‘killing’ of anti-liquidationism. Now Trotsky does not threaten to ‘kill’ our tendency (and our Party –); he only prophesies that it will kill itself . . ..

‘Suicide’ is merely a phrase, an empty phrase, it is just ‘Trotskyism’ . . .

If our attitude towards liquidationism is wrong in theory and principle then Trotsky should have said plainly . . . . wherein he found it to be wrong. Trotsky, however, has for years avoided that essential point.

If our attitude towards liquidationism is refuted in practice by the experience of the movement, this experience should be analysed, and this again Trotsky fails to do. He admits: ‘advanced workers become the active agents of ‘schism’ (read — active agents of the ‘Pravda’-ist line, tactics, system, organisation).

Why is this regrettable development taking place that. . . .the advanced workers, and numerous workers at that, are supporting; ‘Pravda’?

Trotsky answers — owing to the state of ‘utter political perplexity’ of these advanced workers.

This explanation is no doubt extremely flattering to Trotsky, to all the five factions abroad, and to the liquidators. Trotsky is very fond of explaining historical events ‘with the learned mien of an expert’ in pompous and sonorous phrases, in a manner flattering to Trotsky. If ‘numerous advanced workers’ become ‘active agents’ of the political and Party line, which does not harmonise with the line of Trotsky, then Trotsky settles the question unceremoniously, directly and immediately: these advanced workers are ‘in a state of utter political perplexity, and he, Trotsky, is obviously in a ‘state’ of political firmness, clarity and correctness regarding the line! And this very same Trotsky, beating his chest, thunders against factionalism, against narrow circles, and against the intelligentsia foisting their will on the workers! . . . .

Trotsky is trying to disrupt the movement and cause a split….Trotsky’s ‘non-factionalism’ is schism, in the sense that it is a most impudent violation of the will of the majority of the workers….You believe it is precisely the ‘Leninists’ who are the splitters? ….

But if you are right, why did not all the factions and groups prove that unity with the liquidators was possible without the ‘Leninists’ and against the ‘splitters’?

In August 1912 the conference of the ‘uniters’ met. Discord set in at once. The August Bloc turned out to be a fiction and collapsed. In concealing this collapse, from his readers, Trotsky is deceiving them. The experience of our opponents has proved we were right; it has proved that it is impossible to work with the liquidators. . .

In his magazine Trotsky has tried to say as little as possible about the essence of his views. Trotsky has not uttered a word either on the question of illegal work, or on the slogan of the struggle for an open party, etc. Incidentally, that is why we say in this case, in which a segregated organisation wants to set itself up without having an ideological-political complexion, that it is the worst sort of factionalism….

Trotsky has avoided expounding his views directly.

Trotsky avoids facts and concrete indications just because they mercilessly refute all his angry exclamations and pompous phrases. It is of course very easy to assume a proud pose and say: ‘coarse sectarian caricature’. It is equally easy to add more slashing and pompous catchwords about ‘emancipation from conservative factionalism’.

But is this not too cheap? Is this not a weapon taken from the arsenal of the period when Trotsky was dazzling the schoolboys?

The old participants in the Marxian movement in Russia know Trotsky’s personality very well, and it is not worth while talking to them about it. But the young generation of workers do not know him and we must speak of him, for he is typical of all the five grouplets abroad which in fact are also vacillating between the liquidators and the Party….

Trotsky was an ardent ‘Iskra’-ist in 1901-03. .

At the end of 1903 Trotsky was an ardent Menshevik, i.e., one who deserted the ‘Iskra’-ists for the ‘Economists’; he proclaimed that ‘there is a deep gulf between the old and the new “Iskra.” In l904-5, he left the Mensheviks and began to vacillate, at one moment collaborating with Martynov (the ‘Economist’), and at another proclaiming the absurdly ‘Left’ theory of ‘permanent revolution’. In 1906-07 he drew nearer to the Bolsheviks, and in the spring of 1907 he declared his solidarity with Rosa Luxemburg.

During the period of disintegration, after long ‘non-factional’ vacillations, he again shifted to the Right, and in August 1912 entered into a ‘bloc’ with the liquidators. How he is again abandoning them, repeating, however, what in essence are their pet ideas.

Such types are characteristic as fragments of the historical factions of yesterday, when the mass labour movement of Russia was still dormant and every grouplet was ‘free’ to represent itself as . . a ‘great power’ talking of uniting with others. The young generation of workers must know very well with whom it has to deal.”

(V. I. Lenin: “Violation of Unity Under Cover of Cries for Unity”, in: “Selected Works”, Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 187-88, 189, 190; 191, 194, l95, 197, 198, 203, 206-08).

The Brussels Conference, 1914

In July 1914 the Executive Committee of the International Socialist Bureau (ISB) took up Trotsky’s concilationist mantle by convening a conference in Brussels of all the groups connected with the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. Apart from representatives of the ISB (who included Karl Kautsky, and Emile Vandervelde), the conference was attended by delegates from:

1. the (Bolshevik) Central Committee of the RSDLP;

2. the (now Bolshevik) Social-Democratic Party of the Latvian Region;

3. the “Vperyod” Group;

4. the (now purely Menshevik) “Organisation Committee”;

5. the “Bund”;

6. Plekhanov’s “Yedinstvo”(Unity) Menshevik group;

7. the Social-Democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania;

8. the Polish Socia1-Democratic Opposition;

9. the Polish Socialist Party; and

10. Trotsky’s “Borba” group.

The leader of the Central Committee delegation, Inessa Armand, delivered a statement, (drafted by Lenin) setting out fourteen conditions under which the Central Conmittee considered unification possible. These conditions included: the renunciation of views condemned by the Party, the recognition of the necessity of illegal as well as legal work, submission to the Central Committee and dissolution of factions.

Although, under the terms of reference under which it had been convened, the conference was for the purpose of an exchange of opinions only, Kautsky moved a resolution declaring that there were “no substantial disagreements” between the various groups to justify a continuation of “the split” in the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. The resolution was adopted by a majority of the delegates present, with the delegates of the Central Committee of the RSDLP and the Latvian Party abstaining.

The question of actual unification was to have been taken up at the next congress of the Second International, due to be held in Vienna in August l9l4, but the outbreak of the First World War prevented this congress from taking place.

After the conference, the anti-Bolshevik groups continued to collaborate for a time in what came to be called the “Brussels Bloc.”


Alliance (Marxist-Leninist): Ultra-Leftism in Linguistics and the Communist Academy


The usual picture of J.V. Stalin built up by the bourgeois is usually in the absence of facts. The paradigm built up is internally inconsistent. With respect to science, Stalin both destroyed true biological science by a rigid “Marxist” dogmatism; and he simultaneously destroyed linguistics, the latter because he could not bear to be challenged. However, Stalin’s polemics in linguistics was really an attack upon mechanical application of “Marxist” doctrine. On this there can be no doubt, as this attack is printed widely, and the bourgeoisie have to acknowledge Stalin’s written words. So, to bourgeois academics – How can these statements be both simultaneously true?

Another mutually contradictory view, is that V.I.Lenin and Stalin threw out: “old, established mores of pre-socialist society”; ie. they were philosophical and cultural barbarians towards previous bourgeois advances. Though supposedly, at the same time Stalin actively retarded developments, as he was enslaved by his “monkish” training as a boy.

Actually, ample data tells us that both Lenin and Stain thought, like Marx and Engels, that it was important to extract the best of bourgeois culture (in art and science) and build upon it to develop socialism :

“The old utopian socialists imagined that socialism could be built by men of a new type, that first they would train good, pure and splendidly educated people and these would build socialism. We always laughed at this .. it was playing with puppets, it was socialism as an amusement for your ladies, but not serious politics. We want to build socialism with the aid of those men and women who grew up under capitalism were depraved and corrupted by capitalism, but were steeled for the struggle.. We have bourgeois experts and nothing else. We have no other bricks with which to build.. The masses.. took power.. that is only half the task, but it is the greater half.. The working people are united in such a way as to crush capitalism by the weight of their mass unity. The masses did it. But it is not enough to crush capitalism. We must take the entire culture that capitalism left behind, and build socialism with it. We must take all its science, technology and art. Without these we shall be unable to build communist society. But this science technology and art are in the hands of and in the heads of the experts.. We will convince the bourgeois specialist that they have no alternative, that there will be return to the old society, and that they can do their work only in conjunction with the Communists who are working at their side.. whose object is to ensure that the fruits of bourgeois science and technology, the fruits of thousands of years of civilisation shall be enjoyed not by a handful of persons for the propose of distinguishing themselves and amassing wealth, but by literally all the working people.”

V.Lenin ” From The Achievements and Difficulties of the Soviet Government.” In “On the Intelligentsia”, Moscow, 1983, p.184-196. Collected Works 29: p 68-76.

As usual bourgeois scholars miss the boat by not caring to see the raging class struggle going on in the USSR. Instead all bad things are ascribed to Stalin’s “madness,” or “cruelties.” What is the truth about the views of Stalin upon how science should develop? Some aspects of Lenin and Stalin’s attitude to science are examined in this article.

The conventional wisdom is that Stalin imposed a dogmatic “Communist structured proletarian science.” But in fact Stalin stopped the building of a “Pure Communist” rival to the “Bourgeois” Academy of Sciences:

“Founded in June 1918, the Socialist (later Communist Academy) of Science ultimately developed a small section in the Natural Sciences, and more than one commentator saw it as a rival to the “bourgeois” Academy of Sciences It was never able to compete successfully with the older academy in the natural sciences. In the social sciences it enjoyed a period of flowering in the 20’s, and produced some of the best Marxist scholarship of Soviet history. In a sense, it succeeded too well in this area, since Stalin did not like independent minded marxists offering views on social issues, that might challenge his own. Stalin abolished the Communist Academy in 1936 at the beginning of his mass purges.”

Loren R Graham: “Science In Russia and The Soviet Union”, Cambridge, Mass. 1993, p. 86.

The main academic historian of Soviet science, Loren Graham, alleges that this was because Stalin:

“Did not like independent minded Marxists offering views on social issues that might challenge his own.”

p.86, Ibid, Graham.

But the Communist Academy had developed an anti-Marxist line that was openly (and not by subterfuge as suggested by so much bourgeois literature) fought by Stalin. The direct evidence for this is the attack that Stalin launched upon the Linguistic School, that centred upon the Theories of Marr. Stalin’s attitude to this and the timing of his critique of Marr, are a valuable source of evidence on his reasoning upon science. We examine this in detail below.

The Communist Academy of the Social Science was founded in 1918. E.A.Preobrazhenskii, was a key advocate of The Communist Academy and proclaimed:

“Marxism in Russia is the official ideology of the victorious proletariat; the Socialist Academy is the highest scientific institute of Marxist thought.. It recognises only the branches of socialist science which are anchored in Marxism… the theory of historical materialism is more important for the social sciences than the laws of Kepler and Newton are for physics.”

Cited, Alexander Vucinich, “Empire of Knowledge. The Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1917-1970).” Berkeley, California, 1984. p.81.

The Communist Academy was charged to form views of science and society consistent with Marxism-Leninism. But in reality the Communist Academy became little more than a:

“Library and a debating club, meeting infrequently and suffering from ambivalent goals and internal fragmentation.”

Vucinich, p.81-2.

But, in 1923, it became rather more energized, under the increasing class battles taking place with the various anti-Marxist-Leninist Left Opposition factions. It undertook to:

“Criticise the leading scientists who either displayed philosophical aloofness or opposed Marxist thought. The distinguished members of the Academy of Sciences served as particularly attractive targets for denunciatory attacks.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.83.

This new approach was consistently an Ultra-Leftist one. This was to take the form of attacks on scientists, not for their science but for their politics. This line was explicitly advocated by L.Trotsky, and a group around N.Bukharin and Preobrazhenskii. It was a line that neither Lenin nor Stalin had adopted, and in fact attacked.

The most prestigious members of the Academy of Sciences at this stage were definitely anti-Marxist, and included V.I.Vernadskii and I.P.Pavlov. Both had expressed their anti-Marxism. The Communist Academy attacked them, and the Academy of Sciences as an institution itself:

“V.I.Vernadskii was accused of flirting with Bergsonian Vitalism and of challenging the notion of the material unity of the universe, firmly built into Marxist ontology.. The famed neurophysiologist I.P.Pavlov was the target of numerous innuendoes depicting him as the mastermind of recurring efforts to make the study of conditioned reflexes the only basis of scientific sociology and social psychology.. M.N.Pokrovskii, President of the Communist Academy made no effort to disguise his view of the Academy of Sciences as a sanctuary of bourgeois thought and an institutional antitheses to Marxist plans for organised research.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.83

Most bourgeois tendencies allege that an Ultra-Left line towards science (i.e. anti-science line based purely on some alleged “Communist expediency”) was adopted by Stalin. But, the leading intellectual force of the Communist Academy, (as well as Preobrazenskii) was NOT Stalin, but in fact, Leon Trotsky:

“The Communist academy provided a forum for a group of Marxist theorists led by Leon Trotsky, who contended that the excessive worship of Pavlov’s theories worked against the burgeoning efforts to effect a fruitful synthesis of Marxism and Freudianism. Pavlov’s publicly expressed aversion to the use of revolutionary methods as a tool of resolving socials conflict was directed against the political strategy of the Bolshevik party. N.I.Bukharin, a member of the Communist Academy wrote a lengthy article refuting Pavlov’s claims that the October Revolution was a historical anomaly.”

p. 83, Vucinich, Ibid.

Despite this, the Bolshevik Government, (in both the Lenin and Stalin years) protected and aided both Vernadskii and Pavlov in their research. Pavlov in particular was greatly aided in his researches by both Lenin and Stalin after him. Lenin promulgated through the Council of People’s Commissars, a Decree ensuring that Pavlov would receive adequate state support for his work:

“Of tremendous importance to the working people of the world.”

(V.I.Lenin “Concerning The Conditions Ensuring the research Work of Academician I.P.Pavlov and His Associates.” In “On the Intelligentsia.” Ibid, p. 269. From CW Vol 32.p.69).

It is true that Pavlov’s research saw the legitimacy of environmental and organismal interaction, and this was congenial to Marxism-Leninism. But it does not alter the fact that a gifted researcher, though a self proclaimed and openly anti-Marxist, was given full rein to pursue science.

But even the members of the Communist Academy had great difficulty in agreeing how to view modern science from a Marxist perspective. There were two camps. The “Mechanists” led by L.I.Aksel’rod and A.K.Timiriazev and the self styled “Dialecticians”, led by A.M. Deborin. The battle between these two wings drew Stalin’s attention, and that of Vernadskii. The latter was an old “relic” of a scientist, actively still studying. He saw the two orientations from his view of science. He:

“Concluded that the philosophical stance of the (so called) mechanists was more realistic and more in tune with the spirit of twentieth century science. The mechanist orientation he said, was more satisfactory because it was further removed from Hegelian idealism and was closer to 18th Century materialism, which was based on the achievements and the logic of science and did not try to impose its authority on science.”

P. 151, Vucinich.

But Vernadskii was attacked on the grounds that his philosophy contradicted dialectical materialism. This attack was led by Deborin. As Vucinich says:

“That Vernadskii survived the attacks led by Deborin was proof of the willingness of the authorities to tolerate selected established scholars, in the natural sciences, despite demonstrative refusals to make dialectical materialism part of their thinking.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.152.

Deborin and his backer, Bukharin made other assertions. These included an attack upon Lenin, that alleged that Lenin was a man of action and not one of theory. Stalin identified the views of the Deborin group as an expression of “Menshevizing Idealism.” If that is so, there is a greater significance in Deborin’s attacks on Vernadskii. Not for the first time, it became obvious that simply using the terms Dialectical Materialism in an analysis did not make it dialectical, nor yet materialist! Obviously, Stalin cannot have supported attacks launched upon Vernadskii.

The CC of the CPSU(B), at that time still under the control of Marxist-Leninists, openly counter-attacked against Deborin in the theoretical journal : “Under the Banner of Marxism”:

“The organ defended the “general party line” and fought the two categories of philosophical deviationism:
‘the mechanical revision of Marxism, as the main danger at the present time, and the idealistic distortions of Marxism by the Deborin group.’
Deborin quickly admitted his errors.. particularly his ‘unsupportable’ assertion that while Plekhanov was primarily a theorist, Lenin was first of all ‘ a practical person, a revolutionary, and a leader.'”

Vucinich, Ibid, p. 151.

Deborin and his ally N.I.Bukharin then tried to make amends for their false characterisation of Lenin as being a man of action, and not a theorist. For instance at the 10th anniversary of Lenin’s death in 1923, both gave major eulogies of Lenin stressing his theoretical acumen. For Bukharin, this was the first time he had publicly credited Lenin for his theoretical contributions.

Despite this, the Communist Academy, continued to develop an Ultra-leftist line on several issues. M.B.Mitin later became a key proponent of Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, the main protagonist in the Biology Debates of a crude Reductionist Marxism. But at this earlier stage, Mitin became a leading “interpreter” of the relevance of dialectics to natural science. The thrust he used was to emphasise Lenin’s view in “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism,” that “too much mathematics” was equivalent to “formalism.” (Vucinich, Ibid, p. 154).

Here a new tactic was used. Later it became a more conscious strategy – one of hiding behind a Personalty Cult. Here the Cult was that of Lenin, later this would be of Stalin. This tactic would be to enshrine a view, and take it completely out of context to justify its application to unwarranted situations. For clearly Lenin, the author of “Empirio-criticism”; had not had any fundamental objections to mathematicians!


Luckily, we do have a very good “Test Case.” Firstly in 1938 the Communist Academy was closed, this of itself suggests a lack of support from the Politburo. But the real “test case” actually developed as an Ultra-Leftist line, emanating from within the Communist Academy. This specific Test Case, is the school of linguistics, built up within the Communist academy. Stalin critiqued it in “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics.” Stalin’s text is very far from a doctrinaire and shrill attack on a “Classless” science. In fact the pamphlet is a sharp attack on the mindless, mechanical and formal introduction of Class issues into a scientific debate on the origins of languages.

This trend had been started by N.Ia.Marr (also translated as N.Y.Marr), who was a member of the Academy of Science from 1912-1934 when he died. In 1930 he became a party member and in 1931 became a member of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and achieved the Lenin medal for achievement in science.

“Because of certain rudimentary similarities between his views and Marxist theory, Communist scholars were quickly accustomed to treating his theory as Marxist linguistics. Marxists were attracted to his Japhetic theory, which sought a common base for Caucasian and Semitic languages, and for all languages of the world – the ideas of common origins and evolutionary unilinearity having been firmly built into Marr’s thought and into Stalin’s internationalism of the 1930’s.”

Vucinich, Ibid, p.185.

This development was fostered and directly supported by the Communist Academy. Its President, Pokrovskii ensured that N.Ia Marr was made a member of the Communist Academy and became head of the subsection “of materialistic linguistics.” Pokrovskii’s commitment was emphatic:

“As stated correctly by a Leningrad comrade, Marr’s theory must recognise Marxism as its general philosophical and sociological base and Marxism must recognise the Japhetic theory as its special linguistic division.”

Cited, Vucinich A, Ibid. p.186.


FIRSTLY How “rigid” was Stalin on his application of principles of dialectical materialism to a general scientific problem?
SECONDLY, how “rigid” was Stalin in conceding that in science there has to be back and forth, debate, full intellectual cut and thrust?

The discourse “Concerning Problems in Linguistics,” was written in the form of questions from “younger comrades’, and Stalin’s responses. Stalin had been approached by students to enter the debate.

As regards the behaviour of debate and academic back and forth by scientists in science, Stalin was quite clear. It must be remembered that this work was originally published in Pravda in 1950. This timing is significant, for it came after T.D.Lysenko effectively and exclusively ruled the roost in genetics. In other words, Stalin’s words in linguistics, are pertinent to understanding how he may, or may not have supported Lysenko:

“Question: Did Pravda act rightly in starting an open discussion on problems of linguistics?

Answer: Yes it did. It has been brought out in the first place that in linguistic bodies, both in the center and in the republics a regime has prevailed which is alien to science and men of science. The slightest criticism of the state of affairs in Soviet Linguistics, even the most timid attempt to criticize the so-called “new doctrine” in linguistics, was persecuted and suppressed by the leading linguistic circles. Valuable workers and researchers in linguistics were dismissed from their posts or demoted for being critical of N.Y.Marr’s heritage or expressing the slightest disapproval of his teachings. Linguistic scholars were appointed to leading posts not on their merits, but because of their unqualified acceptance of N.Y.Marr’s theories.”

“It is generally recognised that no science can develop and flourish without a battle of opinions, without freedom of criticism, But this generally recognised rule was ignored and flouted in the most unceremonious fashion. There arose a closed group of infallible leaders, who having secured themselves against any possible criticism became a law unto themselves and did whatever they pleased.”

Stalin, J.V. “Concerning Marxism in Linguistics”, Contained in Stalin, J.V. “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics,” Foreign languages Press, Peking, 1972, p.29-30.

In the same section, Stalin states that besides exposing the fact that there was an extremely unhealthy climate in linguistics (‘a Regime’), there was a second reason why it was good to ventilate these issues openly. This was in order to clarify the controversial areas, from the scientific point of view:

“The usefulness of the discussion does not end here. It not only smashed the old regime in linguistics but also brought out the incredible confusion of ideas on cardinal question of linguistics which prevails among the leading circle in this branch of science. Until the discussion began, the “disciples” of N.Y.Marr kept silence and glossed over the unsatisfactory state of affairs in linguistics. But when the discussion started silence became impossible and they were compelled to express their opinion in the press. And what did we find? It turned out that in N.Y.Marr’s teachings there are a number of defects, errors, ill-defined problems and sketchy propositions. Why, one asks, have N.Y.Marr’s “disciples” begun to talk about this only now, after the discussion opened ? Why did they not see to it before? Why did they not speak about it in due time openly and honestly, as befits scientists?”

J.V.Stalin, Ibid, p.31.

In the same section Stalin points out that, Marr’s status was such, that any mundane words of Marr’s were considered valuable holy writ. So much so, that when even the author Marr himself discredits one of his own textbooks, his followers insisted on its use! It is very obvious how this enshrining of a view can take a knife to that independence of thought crucial for aspiring Marxist-Leninists. Stalin saw the potential for mischief (Sabotage):

“If I were not convinced of the integrity of Comrade Meschaninov and the other linguistic leaders I would say that such conduct is tantamount to sabotage.”

Stalin, p.30, Ibid.

But what leads to this rather unhappy and unscientific state of affairs?

“How could this have happened? It happened because the Arakcheyv regime established in linguistics, cultivates irresponsibility and encourages such arbitrary actions.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 30.

Arakcheyv was a:

“Reactionary politician Count Arakcheyev, responsible for an unrestrained, dictatorial police state warlord despotism and brutal rule enforced in Russia in the first quarter of the 19th century.”

Editors notes to J.V.S. Edition (Peking) cited above, p.55.


“Save us from N.Y.Marr’s “Marxism”! N.Y.marr did indeed want to be, and endeavoured to become, a Marxist, but he failed to become one. He was nothing but a simplifier and vulgarizer of Marxism, similar to the “proletcultist’ or the ‘Rappists.'”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31.

Who were the ‘proletcult’ (also spelt Proletkul’t) or the ‘Rappists’?

They were organisations that represented the views of the visual artists and writers respectively, who were trying to define their role in the revolution. Their big debate was whether any of the “Old cultures” (ie Rembrandt or Tolstoy or medieval church icons etc) had any relevance to socialist life in the Soviet Union. The tendency towards Ultra-Leftism , exemplified with the attitudes of poet and artist, Vladamir Mayakovsky (“Out with the Old”) was dominant.

Both Bukharin, and A.Lunarcharsky were in contradiction with that of Lenin, upon the Proletkul’t, and the issues of whether a new separate proletarian culture could be evolved without recourse to the structure of previous “bourgeois culture.” Thus Lenin had to soothe Buhkarin, and tried to win him to a compromise when Bukharin refused to attend the Congress of the Communist Group at the First All Russian Congress of Proletkul’t, October 5-12 1920.

[Editor : Please see a fuller “Note On RAPP and The Proletkul’t”, Below (p.19)].

The general relationship of The Communist Academy to Proletkul’t, lay in their common Ultra-Left wing approach to the intelligentsia; and their applications of a mechanical simplistic reductionist “Marxism,” and not a dialectical understanding. In this Marr was characteristic.

Wherein did Marr’s Ultra-Left errors lie?

“N.Y.Marr introduced into linguistics another and also incorrect and non-Marxist formula regarding the “class character”of language,and got himself into a muddle and put linguistics into a muddle. Soviet linguistics cannot be advanced on the basis of an incorrect formula which is contrary to the whole course of the history of peoples and languages.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31.

Moreover Marr’s style was repugnant:

“Marr introduced into linguistics an immodest boastful, arrogant, tone alien to Marxism and tending toward a bald and off-hand negation of everything done in linguistics prior to Marr.
Marr shrilly abused the comparative historical method as “idealistic”. Yet it must be said that, despite its serious shortcomings the comparative-historical method is nevertheless better than Marr’s really idealistic four-element analysis, because the former gives a stimulus to work, and the latter only gives a stimulus to loll in one’s arm-chair and tell fortunes in the tea-cup of the celebrated four elements…
To listen to Marr, and especially to his disciples, one might think that there was no such thing as the science of language, that the science of language appeared with the “new doctrine” of Marr. Marx and Engels were much more modest: they held that their dialectical materialism was a product of the development of the sciences, including philosophy, in earlier periods.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 31-2.

Stalin did not reject all that Marr said:

“Of course the works of Marr do not consist solely of errors. Marr made very gross mistakes when he introduced into linguistics elements of Marxism in a distorted form, when he tried to create an independent theory of language, But Marr had certain good and ably written works, in which he, forgetting his theoretical claims, conscientiously and one must say, skilfully investigates individual languages, In these works one can find not a little that is valuable and instructive. Clearly these valuable and instructive things should be taken from Marr and utilized.”

Stalin, “Concerning Certain Problems of Linguistics, Reply to Comrade E.Krasheninnikova,” Contained in “Marxism and Problems of Linguistics,” Peking, Ibid, p.39

We have examined how Stalin viewed Marr, and what he at least said about the scientific method-the “clash of opinions.” There is not a little here that reminds one forcibly about the tone of the Biology debates undertaken by Lysenko.

To illustrate that Stalin was not a crude “Reducer to Class Reality,” we have to discuss his actual concrete objections to the Japhetic School of Marr.


Firstly Marr, argued that language was a “superstructure on the base.” This was a mechanical translation of the Marxist view that all the phenomena of a class society reflect the underlying economic structures:

“Question :Is it true that Language is a superstructure of the base?

Answer : No, it is not true. The base is the economic structure of society as the given stage of its development. The superstructure us the political, legal, religious, artistic, philosophical views of society and the political legal and other institutions corresponding to them.

Every base has its own corresponding superstructure, the base of the feudal system has its superstructure its political legal or other views, and the corresponding institutions; the capitalist base has its own superstructure, so has the socialist base.

In this respect language radically differs from the superstructure. Take for example, Russian society and the Russian language. In the course of the past 30 years the old capitalist base has been eliminated in Russia and a new socialist base has been built. Correspondingly the superstructure on the capitalist base has been eliminated and a new superstructure created corresponding to the socialist base.. But in spit of this the Russian language has remained basically what it was before the October Revolution.. Language is not a product of one base or another, old or new within the given society, but of the whole course of history of the society and of the history of the bases for many centuries.. Language was created for by some by one class, but by the entire society, by the hundred of generations.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 3-6.

Secondly Marr argued that there were class languages, and now there was a “proletarian” languages pitched against a “bourgeois” language:

“Question: Is it true that language always was and is class language, that there is no such thing as language which is the single and common language of a society, a non-class language common to the whole people?

Answer: “The first mistake is that…our comrade are confusing language with superstructure…since the superstructure has a class character, language too must be a class language, and not a language common to the whole people.

The Second mistake of these comrades is that they conceive the opposition of interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and the fierce class struggle between them as meaning the disintegration of society, as a break of all ties between the hostile classes. They believe that since society has disintegrated and there is no longer a single society, but only classes, a single language of society, a national language, is unnecessary. If society has disintegrated and there is no longer a language common to the whole people, a national language, what remains? There remain classes and ‘class languages.’ Naturally every ‘class language’ will have its own ‘class’ grammar- a ‘proletarian’ grammar or a ‘bourgeois’ grammar.

True such grammars do not exist anywhere. But that does not worry these comrades: they believe that such grammars will appear in due course.

At one time there were ‘Marxists’ in our country who asserted that the railways left to us after the October Revolution were bourgeois railways, that it would be unseemly for us Marxists to use them, that they should be torn up and new ‘proletarian’ railways built. For this they were nicknamed ‘troglodytes.'”

Stalin, Ibid, p.16-7

Finally on Marr’s mechanical insistence that there were “stages” in language development, Stalin was equally blunt:

“It is said that the theory that languages develops by stages is a Marxist theory, since it recognises the necessity of sudden explosions as a condition for the transition for a language from an old reality to a new. This is of course untrue for it is difficult to find anything resembling Marxism in this theory.. Marxism does not recognise sudden explosions in the development of languages, the sudden end of an existing language, and the sudden erection of a new language. Lafargue was wrong when he spoke of a sudden “linguistic revolution” which took place between 1789 and 1794 in France (See Lafargue’s pamphlet The French Language Before and After the Revolution). There was not a linguistic revolution, let alone a sudden one, in France at that time.. Marxism holds that transition for a language from an old quality to a new does not take place by way of an explosion, of the destruction for an existing language and the certain of a new one, but by the gradual accumulation of the elements of the new quality and hence by the gradual dying away of the elements of the old quality.”

“It should be said in general for the benefit of comrades who have an infatuation for explosions that the law of transitions from an old quality to a new by means of an explosion is inapplicable not only to the history of the development of languages; it is not always applicable to other social phenomena of a base or superstructural character. It applies of necessity to a society divided into hostile classes. But it does not necessarily apply to a society which has no hostile classes.”

Stalin, Ibid, p. 27.

Finally why did Stalin feel that he could so sharply pin down the weaknesses of Marr? It was not the case for biology. But the debates in biology; and their terms paralleled well the Linguistics Debate, upon which Stalin came out with a written piece, that exposed the shallowness of the hitherto “Linguistics Debate.” Furthermore, these polemics, upon Linguistics, are not after all, like the common image painted by the bourgeois. You know the sort of thing, “subtle, quietly intelligent, devious – quiet in public, stab you dead in the dark sort of thing.”

Even the line the polemics describe, is counter to the view that the bourgeois paint. Instead of the crude Marxist Levelling that bourgeoisie accuse him of, Stalin upholds a much more visionary view. After all, what could be more plain to a “Marxist” than that everything in society is a product of class warfare? The same bourgeois and Trotskyites, who castigate Stalin’s understanding of philosophy as “Class Reductionist” cannot explain his refusal to jump onto Marr’s bandwagon. This would appear to be a “perfect bandwagon,” from the standpoint of the usual Paradigm set up by the bourgeois academics.

Obviously, Stalin was enabled to put into print an attack upon Ultra-Leftism in the science of Linguistics because some students had the good sense to approach him for direction. But it cannot be irrelevant that one of his first theoretical books had been : “Marxism and the National Question.” Indeed it had been this book written in 1913, that had first attracted Lenin’s attention to Stalin. One could be forgiven for guessing that this work, allowed Stalin the critical scientific insight into the technicalities that allowed him to open an attack.

In biology, he may not have had the critical insights. But he could see the debate as an important debate, that was proceeding. The complexity of this debate was staggering; both “sides” had good points. The same issues (environment versus heredity) continue to plague honest and principled scientists now. Stalin probably realised this. Not being an “expert,” Stalin commissioned assessments, from specialists in the biological field such as Sukachev. Ultimately Lysenkoism as a crude unthinking “application” of dialectics to biology was reductionist and destructive.

The linguistics debate makes clear Stalin’s opposition to an anti-scientific approach to technical questions; and Stalin’s insistence that only “applications of dialectics” will explain the facts. As opposed to this was the reductionist view that “dialectics came first and then come the facts.” As Stalin says in the linguistics debate, there is a relationship between that latter incorrect view, and sabotage.


Both Proletkul’t, and RAPP were Ultra-Leftist organisations for the visual arts, and writing respectively. Both provoked Lenin’s disapproval on aesthetics, and their ultra-leftist insistence of “out with the old.” For example Lenin explicitly did not support abstractionism in art and expressly countered movements like the Futurists (supported by Proletkul’t). These movements, always popular amongst the “avant garde” Art For Art Sake-ists in the West, were highly abstractionist in their art, and their view of what “the masses needed.” All this, ultimately led to an open disagreement between the Minister for Culture A.Lunarcharsky and Lenin.

The latter viewed the Futurists and the like tendencies as being generally positive. At the First Proletkul’t Congress in 1920, Lunarcharsky attempted to downplay the role of the State apparatuses like the Education commissariat, in ensuring that the Ultra-Left tendencies of Proletkul’t did not go unrestricted.

In an open rebuke, Lenin proposed a Draft Resolution. Points One and Two, emphasised the leading role of the workers and peasants in creating socialism; and therefore the leading role of the vanguard Communist Party in pubic education. The Third point pointed out that history had vindicated the Marxist world outlook.

The 4th and 5th points emphasised that all culture had to be absorbed, and that the State Apparatuses had to be the final arbiters of public education :

“4. Marxism has won its historic significance as the ideology of the revolutionary proletariat because, far from rejecting the most valuable achievements of the bourgeois epoch, it has, on the contrary assimilated and refashioned everything of value in the more than 2,000 years of the development of the human thought and culture. Only further work in this basis and in this direction, inspired by the practical experience of the proletarian dictatorship as the final stage in the struggle against every form of exploitation can be recognised as the development of a genuine proletarian culture.”

“5. Adhering unswervingly to this stand of principle, the All Russia Congress of Proletkul’t rejects in the most resolute manner, as theoretically unsound and practically harmful, all attempts to invent one’s own particular brand of culture, to remain isolated is self-contained organisations, to draw a line dividing the field of work of the Peoples’ Commissariat of Education and the Proletkul’t, or to set up a Proletkul’t “autonomy” within establishments, under the People’s Commissariat of Education and so forth. On the contrary the Congress enjoins all Proletkul’t organisations to fully consider themselves in duty bound to act as auxiliary bodies o the network of establishments under the People’s Commissariat of Education, and to accomplish their tasks under the general guidance of the Soviet Authorities (Specifically the People’s Commissariat of Education) and of the Russian Communist Party, as part of the tasks of the proletarian dictatorship.”

V.Lenin CW: Vol 31, Moscow, 1966-86. p.316-7.

Buhkarin had refused to speak at the Congress, following Lenin’s draft resolution, as above. Bukharin’s grounds for refusal were that he would be in disagreement with Lenin on various issues, especially Point 4 of Lenin’s draft Resolution “On Proletarian Culture ” (See above). However, Lenin tried to assuage Bukharin’s refusal with the following note:

“Why now dwell on the differences between us (perhaps possible ones), it suffices to state (and prove) on behalf of the Central Committee as a whole:
1. Proletarian culture = communism.
2. Is carried out by the RCP (ie the party-ed).
3. The proletar.class = RCP=Soviet power.
We are all agreed on this, aren’t we?”

V.Lenin Oct. 11th, 1920. In CW. Moscow, 1944 Vol 44. p.445.

The Draft Resolution of Lenin was adopted by the Congress of Proletkul’t.


Marxist-Leninist Research Bureau: The Aleksandr Smirnov Case (1928-38)

Lenin’s Tomb, 1927. (Left to Right) Rykov, Bukharin, Kalinin, Uglanov, Stalin, Tomsky. (Back Row) Murphy and son, Gordon.

Lenin’s Tomb, 1927. (Left to Right) Rykov, Bukharin, Kalinin, Uglanov, Stalin, Tomsky.
(Back Row) Murphy and son, Gordon.

The Formation of the Smirnov Group (1928-29)

In February 1928, Aleksandr Smirnov*, who had been People’s Commissar of agriculture in the Russian Republic, was promoted to the position of Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU:

“In February (1928 – Ed.), the Rightist Commissar of Agriculture of the Russian Republic, Aleksandr Smirnoy, was . . . appointed to the Party Secretariat.”

(Stephen F. Cohen: ‘Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography: 1888-1938’; London; 1974; p. 279).

and shortly afterwards Smirnoy took the initiative in forming an opposition group. At his public trial in March 1938, the defendant Izaak Zelensky*, a former agent of the tsarist secret service, admitted:

“I joined the Right organisation at the end of 1928 or at the beginning of 1929, . . . I was recruited by A. P. Smirnov.”

(Izaak A. Zelensky: Testimony at 1938 Treason Trial, in: Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet ‘Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites’ (hereafter listed as ‘Report (1938)’) ; Moscow; 1938; p. 325).

The A. P. Smirnov group:

“was Bukharinist in economic outlook.”

(Stephen F. Cohen: op. cit.; p. 348)

but separate from the Bukharinist leadership:

“The top Rightists . . . refused to have anything to do with Smirnov’s plans.”

(Robert Conquest: ‘The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties’; London; 1968; p. 31).

Their programme included the dissolution of most collective farms, the idependence of the trade unions from Party leadership and the removal of Stalin from the post of General Secretary of the CPSU:

“Their (the A. P. Smnirnov group’s – Ed.) programme seems to have covered . . . the dissolution of most of the kolkhozes, . . . the independence of the trade unions. Above all, they had discussed the removal of Stalin.”

(Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 30).

The defendant Izaak Zelensky admitted at the 1938 treason trial that the programme of the A. P. Smirnov group also included wrecking and terrorism:

“At the end of 1931 or the beginning of 1932, Smirnov . . . told me of the new tactics which had been outlined by the centre of the Rights, and which consisted in the following: the use of double-dealing, a conspirative form of organisation, the adoption of tactics of wrecking, diversion, destruction, training insurrectionary cadres, the adoption of terrorism.”

(Ivararokion;, Zelensky: Testimony at 1938 Treason Trial, in: Report (1938); op. cit.; p. 327).

From the outset, the A. P. Smirnov group was underground and illegal:

“Smirnov’s group . . . decided to go underground and formed an independent group known as ‘Bolshevik Workers . .. His first efforts were devoted to the creation of illegal cells in the more important working-class centres and the drawing together of all oppositional elements within the Party.”

(Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov: ‘Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party: A Study in the Technology of Power’; Munich; 1959; p. 193).

“A. P. Smirnov’s group . . . had to a large extent gone underground, with a view to organising for a struggle.”

(Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 30).

Among prominent members of the A. P. Smirnov group were Nikolay Uglanov* (discussed in the paper on the Ryutin Affair) and Lev Karakhan* – later exposed as a German agent, as was admitted by defendants in the 1938 treason trial:

“RYKOV: Karakhan reported that the German fascists were, of course, very well disposed towards the prospect of the Right coming into power and would welcome it very much.”

(Report (1938): op. cit.; p. 179).

“VYSHINSKY: Accused Bukharin, were you aware that Karakhan was a participant in the conspiratorial group of Rights and Trotskyites?


VYSHINSKY: Were you aware that Karakhan was a German spy?

BUHARIN: No, I was not aware of that.

VYSHINSKY (TO RYKOV): Were you aware, accused Rykov, that Karakhan was a German spy?

RYKOV: No, I was not.

VYSHINSKY: Were you not aware that Karakhan was engaged in negotiations with certain German circles? .

RYKOV: Yes, yes.

VYSHINSKY: Treasonable negotiations?

RYKOV: Treasonable. .

VYSHINSKY (TO BUKHARIN): Were you aware that Karakhan was engaged in negotiations with the German fascists?

BUKHARIN: I was. .

VYSHINSKY: Did you endorse these negotiations?

BUKHARIN: . . . I did not disavow them; consequently I endorsed them.. . . .

VYSHINSKY: And so, accused Bukharin, you bear responsibility for these negotiations with the Germans?

BUKHARIN: Undoubtedly.”

(Report (1938): op. cit.; p, 401-02, 407, 408).

The importance of the A. P. Smirnoy affair lay, firstly, in the fact that it embraced senior officials who had never before been associated with any opposition:

“The views of A. P. Smirnov and his followers mark an important crux. For we find veteran senior officials who had never been associated with any opposition.”

(Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 31).

and, secondly, in the fact that it:

“was supported by important trade union officials.”

(Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov: op. cit.; p. 192.

The CCICCC Resolution on the A. P. Smirnov Affair (1933)

In January 1933, the A.P. Smirnov group was condemned at a joint plenary meeting of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission of the Party. Bukharin dissociated himself from the group:

“At the plenum, Bukharin . . . made a speech typical of the extravagant and insincere tone which was now conventional in ex-oppositionist statements, demanding ‘the severe punishment of A. P. Smirnov’s grouping.”

(Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 31).

A resolution of the Plenum charged the group with forming an underground opposition group:

“Smirnov and others in fact carried on anti-Party activity and opposed the Party policy. They established a factional underground group.”

(Resolution of Joint Plenary Session of Central Committee and Central Control Commission, CPSU (January 1933), in: Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov: op. cit.; p. 194).

“At the January 1933 plenum , . . . the last of the new cycle of plots was exposed. . . . A. P. Smirnov . . . was charged . . . with forming an anti-Party group.”

(Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 31).

“The group of . . . A. P. Smirnov . . . was discussed at the meeting of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission in January 1933. A resolution was adopted condemning the creation of an underground factional group, allegedly dedicated to the disruption of industrialisation and collectivisation and the restoration of capitalism.”

(Roy A. Medvedev: ‘Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism’; New York; 1971; p.155).

“In January 1933, still another underground opposition cell was unearthed, this one organised by the former Commissar of Agriculture, A. P. Smirnov, . . . They were accused of organising ‘bourgeois degenerates’ to attempt, like the Ryutin group, ‘the restoration of capitalism and in particular of the kulaks.”‘

(Robert V. Daniels: ‘The Conscience of the Revolution’; Cambridge (USA); 1960; p. 380).

Nevertheless, the members of the group:

“were treated leniently.”

(Ian Grey: ‘Stalin: Man of History’; London; 1979; p. 256).

The Plenum removed Smirnov from the Central Committee:

“The joint plenary session of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission therefore resolves to expel Smirnov from the Party Central Committee with a warning that if he fails to gain the confidence of the Party in his work, he will be expelled from the Party.”

(Resolution of Joint Plenary Session of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission (January 1933). in: Aburakhman Avtorkanov: op. cit.; p. 195).

“Smirnov was removed from the Central Committee, with a warning that expulsion from the Party would follow if his future work did not merit trust.”

(Roy A. Medvedev: ‘Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism’; New York; 1971; p.155).

“A. P. Smirnov and others. . . . were merely reprimanded by the Central Committee, not expelled from the Party. Smirnov, the only one who had been on the Central Committee, was removed from it and threatened with expulsion from the Party if he did not mend his ways.”

(Robert H. McNeal: ‘Stalin: Man and Ruler’; Basingstoke; 1988; p. 146).

“A. P. Smirnov (was expelled — Ed.) from the Central Committee.'”

(Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 31).

The Expulsion and Trial of A. P. Smirnov (1934-35) In December 1934

Nonetheless Smirnov was expelled from the Party in 1934:

“Smirnov was expelled from the Party in December 1934 . . . for double-dealing and continuing his struggle against the Party.”

Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 31).

Early in 1935 Smirnov was arrested, tried for and found guilty of anti-Soviet activity and sentenced to imprisonment. He died in imprisonment in 1938.

The Trials of Uglanov and Karakhan (1936-37)

In 1936,

“. . Uglanov and others were given jail sentences.”

(Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 31).

while Karakhan was tried in 1937 for treason, found guilty and executed:

“On 16 December (1937– Ed.) . . . Karakhan . . . and others had been tried before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court as spies, bourgeois nationalists and terrorists, had confessed and had been executed.”

(Robert Conquest: op. cit.; p. 272).



KARAKHAN, Lev N., Soviet revisionist lawyer and diplomat (1889-1937); RSFSR People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs (1918-20, 1922); USSR Ambassador to china (1923-26); USSR Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs (l93~ 34); USSR Ambassador to Italy (1934-37); arrested, tried for and found guilty of espionage and treason, sentenced to death and executed (1937).

SMIRNOV, Aleksandr P., Soviet revisionist politician (1877-1938); RSFSR People’s Comissar of Agriculture1 and simultaneously Secretary-General, Peasants’ International (1923-28); RSFSR, Deputy Premier (1928-30); Secretary, Central Committee, CPSU (1928-30); expelled from Party (1934); arrested, tried for and found guilty of anti-Soviet activity and sentenced to imprisonment (1935); died in imprisonment (1938).

UGLANOV, Nikolay A., Soviet revisionist politician (1886-1940); secretary, Petrograd Party Committee (1921-22); secretary, Nizhny Novgorod Party Committee (1922-24); secretary, Moscow Party Committee (1924-28); USSR People’s Commmissar of Labour (1928-30); expelled from Party (1932); reinstated in Party (1934); re-expelled from Party, arrested, tried for and found guilty of anti-Soviet activity, and sentenced to imprisonment (1936); died in imprisonment (1938).

ZELENSKY, Izaak A., Soviet revisionist politician (1890-1938); Secretary, Moscow Party Committee (1920-21, 1924-31); Secretary, Central Asian Party Bureau (1924-31); Chairman, Central Union of Consumer Co-operatives (1931-37); arrested (1937); tried for and found guilty of treason, sentenced to death and executed (1938).


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CONQUEST, Robert: ‘The Great Terror; Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties’; London;
DANIELS, Robert V.: ‘The Conscience of the Revolution’; Cambridge (USA); 1960.
GREY, Ian: ‘Stalin: Man of History’; London; 1979.
McNEAL, Robert H.: ‘Stalin: Man and Ruler’; Basingstoke; 1988.
MEDVEDEV, Roy A.: ‘Let History Judge: The Origins and Consequences of Stalinism’; London; 1972.
ISCHULZ, Heinrich E., URBAN, Paul K. & LEBED, Andrew I. (Eds.): ‘Who was Who in the USSR: ‘Biographic Dictionary’; Methuen (USA); 1972.
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