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On Trotskyism- The Imperialist Press- IC
It is now a year since the League for a Workers Republic undertook to publish a detailed statement of the trotskyist position on a number of fundamental questions, in reply to a statement of the 'Stalinist' position by the I.C.O. (which has been done in the earlier articles in this series). As was anticipated, the L.W.R reply has not materialised. Already the LWR has split. The few concessions which its leadership made to reality brought into being a 'pure' trotskyist faction in opposition to it. This faction broke from the LWR and attached itself to the Socialist Labour league (the main trotskyist organisation in Britain). It denounced che LWR (quite correctly) for liquidationism and nationalism, and after a flurry of activity hurried towards oblivion, after the manner of numerous predecessors. The effect of losing its pure trotskyist 'left' was to drive the LWR ever deeper into opportunism. It is now thoroughly submerged in the Irish Labour Party, and any appearance of building an independent political movement has vanished .
An item appeared in "The Workers' Republic" of September 19, 1970, which marks the final abandoning by the LWR of the attempt to account for itself in real historical terms. This is a list of quotes which has done service in many trotskyist papers as a substitute for polit ical thought. It consists of a couple of the more extravagant items from what is called the "Stalin cult". Also the following quote from a poem in an emigre Russian Monarchist paper, commenting on (1936) Moscow trial;
"We thank thee Stalin. Sixteen scoundrels, Sixteen butchers of the fatherland, Have been gathered to their forefathers. Today the sky looks blue. Thou has repaid us for the sorrows of so many years ."This Monarchist statement is supposed to indicate that Stalin acted in the interest of the counter-revolution, and had the support of the bourgeoisie and the landlords, while the Opposition represented the working class interest ... In fact all it demonstrates is that this particular clique of Monarchist emigres retained all their political backwardness in exile. It may have seemed to them for a brief moment in 1936 that Stalin was becoming a Russian nationalist, and was moving in their direction . It would be interesting to see how long they held that illusion (if in fact they held it at all: it is more likely that the quote expresses glee at the illusion that two sets of revolutionaries were at loggerheads). In any case the Russian emigre Monarchists were by 1936 nothing more than quaint fossils of a world that had vanished.
The flower of the Russian bourgeoisie in exile was the Mensheviks, and the Menshevik bourgeois intelligentsia never wavered in the assessment that the Opposition was the thing to support and that Stalinism" had to be overthrown at all costs. Recent imperialist publications express great admiration for the Opposition, and show a clear awareness that it was the spearhead of bourgeois politics in the Soviet Union , And, needless to say, it was not fossilised Monar chist politics, but a development of the Opposition (Trotskyist/ Bukharinist) politics (aided by the intelligent application of imper ialist pressures and inducements) that brought revisionism to domin ance in the Soviet Union.
Since the LWR has raised the matter of the relation of trotskyism and Stalinism with the bourgeois press in the 1930s, let us see how the matter stands with Trotsky. (Unlike the LWR, we will take account only of the main bourgeois press , and ignore the idiosyncracies of obsolete or eccentric cliques).
Lord Beaverbrook's DAILY EXPRESS was in 1929 as it is today , a right-wing T y imperialist newspaper. It is one of imperialism's most effective mass circulation newspapers on the Tory side. It has over the decades exercised a very extensive direct imperialist inf luence on the politics of a substantial section of the working class. When the thousands of workers who were influenced by its vigorous Toryism looked at their Daily Express on February 27 , 1929, they say the following head lines splashed across the front page:TROTSKY'S OWN STORY OF HIS EXILE FROM RUSSIA: DRAMATIC REVELATIONS BY BANISHED REVOLUTIONARY : HOW HE WAS RUSHED TO TURKEY: BITTER ATTACKS ON STALIN, HIS CHIEF ENEMY:
THE USE OF FORCE OVER A REBELLIOUS PEOPLE: AN HISTORICIC DOCUMENT; PHOTOGRAPHS OF M AND MADAME TROTSKY: TROTSKS OWN EXCLUSIVE STORY, BY LEON TROTSKY .""The Daily Express publishes today the first lnstalment of Leon Trotsky's own story of his banishment from the Bolshev ist Russia which he did so much to create It is a historic document. Trotsky, ill and exiled in Constantinople, where he is pro tected by Russian officials against the danger of assassination, has dramatically brok&n his long silence . He bitterly blames his arch-enemy, Stalin, Dictator of Russia, for the fate that has overtaken him, predicts Stalin 's down fall, criticises the Soviets' present regime, and reveals the secret history of t:he developments which have led to his being a penniless political outcast."The Daily Express commented on Trotsky's articles:"Their politic al and historical importance is remarkable, and at the same time they are full of vivid human interest that carries the reader from stage to stage of an astonishing narrative."The next day Trotsky again had the front page of the Daily Express. The headlines were:
"TROTSKY'S VIOLENT DENUNCIATION OF STALIN: 'GRAVEDIGGER OF THE PARTY': AMAZING OUTBURST BY EXILE: 'I WILL HAMPER HIM ': DEFIANT CHALLENGES BY SOVIET OUTCAST: WHAT IT THINK OF STALIN BY LEON TROTSKY".And yet again on March 1st Trotsky occupied the front page of the Daily Express .
On February 27, beneath a welter of sensationalist headl ines and blurbs, Trotsky began his articles as follows:"Any policy with high ideas should avoid sensation, and my object in writing these despatches is not further to sensat ionalise my case, but on the contrary to stifle sensation by giving the public objective information asj.ar as objectivity is possible in political matters,
"It is true that I am now adopting a different means of appr oaching public opinion than heretofore; but that is because I am in a didiffurent position from any Ihave ever before occu pied .."My object is not propaganda, but simply veracity. Before I undertook to write these articles I demanded entire freedom of expr ession. I will say what I think or say nothing."In the articles which follow Trotsky - who had been expelled from the Comintern and from the Soviet Union the previous year - publicly launched his new political career, and laid down the new trotskyist positions. (And it was not only the Daily Express that became the vehicle for his politics - and paid him handsomely for the privilege. In the same period many right-wing imperialist papers in Europe and America put themselves at his disposal, and allowed him to "say what I think" in their columns .)
The Comintern journal, lmprecorr (International Press Correspondence), commented on this new development in trotskyism in the issue of March 22, 1929:"Since the end of 1928, the reactionary bourgeois press has been enriched by a new collaborator in the person of L.D.Trotsky. In the Daily Express, the organ of Chamberlain and of the Conservative Party in Great Britain, in the New York Herald and Tribune, the organs of the American capitalists, in the ultra-Conservative Dutch papers Algemeen Handelsblaad and Nieuve Rotterdamsche Cour ant, as also in other reactionary bourgeois papers, served by the American Consolidated Press agency, a series of articles by Trotsky has recently appeared, which were acquired by the agency for a substantial sum of American money. This has naturally aroused triumph in the bourgeois press, which could never have expected that in 1929 they would have no less a collaborator than 'Mr. Trotsky', as he is described below his portrait in the Daily Express.
"Yes, the bourgeoisie has reason to be glad. For a time the name of 'Mr. Trotsky' will serve as a bait for the love of sensation on the part of the public which the bourgeois press manages to keep in a state of benighted stupidity. And it is well worth paying Trotsky a few thousand or even tens of thousands of doll ars for the articles in which he libels the Communist Party, the Soviet authorities and the Connnunist International.
"Of late years our class enemies have evinced great interest in the fate of Trotsky. Both the Social Democratic and the bourgeois press have promptly seized upon every invention, every libellous declaration of Trotsky, on all his attacks on the Party, on the Soviet authority and on the Comintern. His books and articles are prized by bourgeois publishers and bourgeois editors, who are glad to advertise them, seeing that the outward Left veneer of his writings is of no significance compared with their counter-revolutionary contents and in comparison with the objective counter-revolutionary role which these writings have played and still play in the hands of our class enemies."The article quotes the following comment of Theodore Dan, leader of the emigre Mensheviks:
"The Social Democratic labour movement need have no fear in regard to the political activity of Trotsky. On the contrary, he is more likely to give the death blow to the Communist movement outside Russia and to induce the Communist workers to return to Social Democracy than to strengthen any Communist Party or to weaken the Social Democrats in any way".Another emigre Menshevik writing in a German Social Democratic paper, according to the Inprecorr article, "assumes that Trotsky still has remnants of his Communist illusions, symptoms of War Com munism, and the like, but points out that it is not these differences that must be remembered but rather the various points which bring Trotsky nearer to the Social Democrats. This approach, she says, is based mainly on the fact that:
'Trotsky now derives his "vital" slogans from the programme of the Russian Social Democrats. The Trotskyists are gradually finding the right path '."The confidence of the Menshevik reactionaries that trotskyism would function to the disadvantage of Communism and to the advantage of Social Democracy has been fully justified by the history of the subsequent forty years. Trotskyism everywhere functions as the militant, anti-Conm1unist, 'left ' spearhead of Social Democracy.
(The Irish trotskyists who undertook a year ago to publish a detailed statement on the matters dealt with in these articles have already virtually disappeared into the Irish Labour Party.)Inprecorr continues:"The reactionaries know what they are doing. They know why they publish the article of Trotsky. For the sake of the credulous he is at liberty to make the reservation: "Before I started writing this article, I demanded the right of full freedom for my utterance. I will either say what I think or
I will say nothing." Everyone has the right to ask since when and why the bourgeois imperialist press has become a free tri bune for such as profess themselves to be good Leninists. And if this 'truth 'which appears today in the columns of the
Daily Express ..has been paid for with the gold of the bourgeoisie, every worker will understand that this 'truth ' is advantageous to the bourgeoisie, otherwise it would hardly be paid for. Let Trotsky declare that he does not aim at propaganda but solely at the truth. Any anyone who knows that Trotsky was subjected to the condition of avoiding all revo lutionary propaganda will know how to estimate the meaning of his declaration that propaganda was not his aim.
"And is it not curious that the British bourgeoisie is willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for 'propaganda' to Trotsky whereas it organised its breach with the Soviet Union for no other reason than just on account of 'propaganda '? Is it not obvious that Mr. Trotsky's sort of propaganda is absolutely different from the sort of propaganda for which Cormnunists have been arrested and shot in all the capitalist countries of Europe and America?..
"The Daily Express prefaces the article by a short remark ...: "He reveals the secret history of the developments which led to his being a penniless political outcast." Poor Mr .Trotsky. How is it possible not to pity this man who is now penniless and obliged to make money out of his political conscience? There is nothing to be done. He who has engaged to serve new masters must also suffer such reservations, such as Trotsky would not so long ago have attacked in- the strongest terms ."On April 5th, Inprecorr reported that Trotsky's writings were being published "even in Fascist organs like the 'Corriera della Sera'and in 'boulevard papers ' like the Paris 'Journal '. In America the articles of Trotsky are distributed by the Current News and Features, an auxiliary organisation of the Consolidated Press•.. This agency controls a big newspaper in practically every city, and thus Trotsky has from the very beginning had the 'big ' press on his side."
In an attempt to justify Trotsky, P. Healy - leader of the LWR - compared his Daily Express articles to Marx's articles for the New York Trioune in the 1850s. Let us list some points of comparison .
The Daily Express in 1929 was the organ of right wing Tory imperialism. It was, without qualification, the organ of imperialist reaction.
The New York Tribune in the 1850s was not an imperialist paper. It was an organ of the most advanced bourgeois democracy in the pre imperialist era of American capitalism, in a situation where bourgeois democracy had still substantial progressive tasks to accomplish . It was founded by a group of Fourierist Utopian socialists . It campaigned for the abolition of slavery and supported the general democratic movement in Europe. (Its editor , Charles Dana, contacted Marx during the 1848 revolution in Germany. Beaverbrook did not, however, contact Lenin in 1917 to report the Russian revolution for the Daily Express.)
Mehring, in his biography of Marx, corranents that the Tribune "by its agitation for an American brand of Fourierism raised itself above the exclusively money-grubbing activities of a capitalist undertaking' (p277). Lord Beaverbrook, of course, regarded money-grubbing as the noblest human activity.
Marx got paid a few dollars for high quality articles on developments in the international democratic movement, Trotsky got paid tens of thousands of dollars for a guttersnipe attack on the first socialist country, by the imperialists who were encircling it and trying to destroy it.
At one point, when Marx saw signs that the Tribune was back-track ing from the democratic position on a particular issue, and was flirting with Tsarism and pan-Slavism, he immediately sent in artic les exposing and denouncing pan-Slavism. The Tribune returned to the democratic position but cut down its contract for articles from Marx. Since Trotsky assures us that he insisted on being given "entire freedom of expression" by Lord Beaverbrook, and since he chose to publish an attack on the Soviet Union instead of an exposure of British imperialism, are we to take it that he was in general agreement with the politics of the Daily Express?
Marx 's articles in Tribune were exclusively about international democratic affairs. He did not use it for polemics against socialist tendencies that he disagreed with . At a time when he was on the starvation line, (the romanticised "penniless piitical outcast", Trotsky, never even remotely approached the poverty that Marx lived in for decades), Marx was able to get a small regular income, and at the same time contribute to democratic politics (in the sense of anti-colonial and anti-feudal politics, not anti-socialist poli tics) by bis articles in the Tribune. He never compromised his Communist politics in these articles . Trotsky's articles, on the other hand, were exclusively attacks on the Soviet leadership and the international Communist movement. He did not make any attempt to expose British imperialism to the working class readers of the Daily Express. For all his eyewash about Beaverbrook giving him freedom of expression, he knew perfectly well what he could, and what he could not, get published in the Daily Express. Beaverbr ook was not paying him to expose British imperialism . He was paying him to attack the Soviet Union and the international Communist leadership . That is all he was 'free' to do in the Daily Express, and other imperialist papers. And that is exactly what he did , in the appropriate sensationalist journalistic style.
There is no comparison between Marx's Tribune articles and Trotsky's Daily Express articles, however much the trotskyist may try to degrade Marx by comparing the two. If Marx had prostituted himself , for a high price, to Bismarck during the period of the anti-Social ist legislation in Germany, and had supplied the reactionary German press with guttersnipe rantings against the German socialist leaders, then we might begin to compare Marx and Trotsky.
These 1929 articles were no isolated incident in Trotsky's career after his expulsion from the Communist International. He continued as he began. Throughout the 1930s he was imperialism 's foremost anti-Communist guttersnipe . His major books, from "MY LIFE" (1929) to the hysterical diatribe against Stalin which he was working on when he died , were all written as propaganda for the imperialist press. Consider the following account of his literary activities ten years later, given by his trotskyist biographer Isaac Deutscher:"Financial difficulties", [i.e.not difficulty in feeding him self, as in the case of Marx, but difficulty in financing an international counter-revolutionary movement. B & ICO], "led him to a strange quarrel with Life magazine. At the end of September 1939..one of 'Life 's'editors came to Coyoacan" [where Trotsky 's Mexican fortress was. B & ICO], "and cormnissioned him to write an article on Lenin's death (Trotsky had just concluded the chapter in "Stalin" in which he suggested that Stalin had poisoned Lenin, and he was to present this version in "Life".) His first article appeared in the magazine on 2nd October . Although it contained relatively inoffensive reminiscences, the article raised the ire of pro-Stalinist 'liberals ', who flooded "Life" with vituperative protests. "Life" printed some of these to the annoyance of Trotsky, who maintained that the protests had come from 'a G.P.U. factory' in New York, and were defamatory of him. He nevertheless sent in his second article, the one on Lenin 's death; but "Life''refused to publish it. Ironically, the objections of the editors were reasonable enough: they found Trotsky's surmise that Stalin had poisoned Lenin unconvincing; and they demanded from him "less conjecture and more unquestionable facts". He threatened to sue "Life" for breach of contract, and in a buff submitted the article to 'Saturday Evening Post' and 'Colliers ', where he again met with refusals, until 'Liberty' finally published it.
It is sad to see how much time in his last year the irate and futile correspondence about this matter took. In the end "Life" paid him the fee for the rejected article ." (THE PROPHET OUT CAST p446)The 'biography' of Stalin is a long brooding compilation of gossip. It culminates in the suggestion that Stalin poisoned Lenin - or that he acceded to Lenin's request for poison in order to commit suicide. All that needs to be said is that in order to keep on top of the market for sensationalised anti-Communist journalism you have to get ever more sensationalist. By 1939 the guttersnipe was scraping the barrel. His scurrility had become so obviously baseless and hysterical that it fell below even the abysmal standards of objectivity which the 'quality' imperialist press requires of anti-Communist journalism .
Even Deutscher thinks it wiser to concede that"..in composing the portrait (of Stalin), he uses abundantly and far too often the material of inference, guess, and hearsay.
He picks up any piece of gossip or rumour if only it shows a trait of cruelty or suggests treachery in the young Djugashvili. He gives credence to Stalin's schoolmates and later enemies who, in reminiscences about their childhood, written in exile thirty or more years after the events, say that the boy Soso 'had only a sarcastic sneer for the joys and sorrows of his fellows' :or that from 'his youth the carrying out of vengeful plots be came for him a goal that dominated all his efforts' . He cites Stalin's adversaries who depict the youngster and the mature man as almos.t an agent provocateur.
"There is no need to go into many examples of this approach. The most striking is, of course, Trotsky's suggestion that Stalin had poisoned Lenin".Deutscher finds Trotsky's caricature of Stalin 'implausible' because"The monster does not form, grow and emerge. He is almost fully-fledged from the outset. Any better qualities and emotions,...without which no young man would ever join a persecuted revolutionary party, are almost totally absent . Stalin 's rise within the party is not due to merit or achievement; and so his career becomes very nearly inexplicable . His election to Lenin's Politburo, his presence in the Bolshevik inner cabinet, and his appointment to the post of General Secretary appear quite fortuitous ." (p455)The 'brilliant' Trotsky had degenerated so much even on the literary level, by 1939 that he embarrassed his idolators.
From 1929 to 1940 Trotsky worked for the imperialist propaganda machine. And appropriately enough his literary remains and archives were entrusted to the bourgeoisie . Marx left everything with Engels. Engels left everything with the German Socialist Party. Lenin and Stalin left everything with the Bolshevik Party. Trotsky left everything to the American bourgeoisie (not even to his 'Fourth International' ). He sold his archives to Harvard University for $115,000. They found their proper resting place .
Like many opportunists, Trotsky was riddled with affectations. He was above all a poseur, an attitudiniser. At the end of MY LIFE he strives for a new pose. geois market socialist, might be the conclusion To find it he casts back to the petty bour Proudhon. In the final paragraph (which of a bourgeois romantic novel) we read :"...Proudhon had the nature of a fighter, a spiritual disint erestedness , a capacity for despising official public opinion, and finally, a many-sided curiosity never extinguished. This enabled him to rise above his own life ...as he did above all contemporaneous reality. On April 26, 1852 Proudhon wrote to a friend from prison : 'The movement is no doubt irregular and crooked, but the tendency is constant. What every government does in turn in favour of revolution becomes inviolable. I enjoy watching this spectacle, in which I understand every single picture; I observe these changes in the life of the world as if I had received their explananion from above;What depresses others elevates me more and more, inspires and fortifies me; how can you want me then to accuse destiny, to complain about people and curse them? Destiny - I laugh at it; and as for men, they are too ignorant, too enslaved for me to feel annoyed at them. "
"Despite their slight savour of ecclesiastical eloquence, those are fine words. I subscribe to them .''When he rose "above all contemporaneous reality", and struck a meta physical attitude, Proudhon at least did so in a private letter from prison . When Trotsky mimicked this attitude it was with the greatest public display. When he laughed at destiny and despised men as ingorant and enslaved it was when he was earning thousands of pounds writing propaganda for Lord Beaverbrook's paper, an instrument for perpetuating ignorance and slavery.
As Marx put it:• • all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice ...: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce ." (THE EIGHTEENTH BRUMAIRE OF LOUIS BONAPARTE.)The Irish Communist . March 1971)
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