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On Trotskyism - Stalin - IC
"The motive of personal revenge has always been a considerable factor in the repressive polciies of Stalin••• His craving for revenge on me is compl etely unsatisfied•.• This is the source of gravest apprehensionsfor Stalin: that savage fears ideas, since he knows their explosive power and knows his weakness in the face of them ." (Trotsky:DIARY IN EXILE)
There is no doubt that what Stalin felt for Trotsky personally was amused contempt: proletarian contempt for an intellectual attitudiniser. The brooding, the craving for personal revenge, was all done by Trotsky. There is no hint cf brooding in Stalin's writings . His last work was a high-level scientific work on political economy. Trotsky's last work was yet another long, brooding tirade against Stalin : yet another attempt to justify himself before history. (His writings on Lenin in the years 1903/17, when he felt continuously hurt by Lenin, have the same subjectivist character.)
On a comparatively reasonable level, he writes: "The Soviet bureaucracy supports Stalin precisely because he is the bureaucrat who defends their interests better than anybody else". (DEFENCE
OF MARXISM pl79) In this view Stalin is merely the leading repres entative of the 'bureaucrac y'. It is no more absurd than the notion of the bureaucracy itself. But it leaves Trotsky's 'craving for revenge completely unsatisfied" . It is not enough that Stalin
should be the leader of the bureaucracy that had strangled working class politics: "After the bureaucracy had strangled the internal life of the party, the Stalinist tops strangled the internal life of the bureaucracy itself• .." "...The Stalinist faction raises itself above the party and above the bureaucracy itself." (KIROV ASSASSINATION, ps25 & 12.)
The position then is that the 'bureaucracy' has 'expropriated' the working class, and that Stalin has expropriated the bureaucracy.
There is a bureaucratic dictatorship over the working class, and Stalinist personal dictatorship over the bureaucracy. And Stalin is even more alien to the working class interest than the bureauc racy is. Stalin reached his position as personal dictator, not through any great strategic ability, but through a narrow and blind craving for personal power. "Stalin measured every situation...by one criterion - usefulness to himself, to his struggle for dominat ion over others. Everything else was intellectually beyond his depth ... Nor did he think through to the social significance of this process in which he was playing the leading role He acted like the empiricist he is" (STALIN p386, old edition).
The vast political and economic developments of the 1930s occurred under this absolute personal dictatorship. Stalin was a narrow minded and politically mediocre bureaucrat with a strong craving for personal power who somehow or other became dictator of the Soviet Union . How did he achieve this position, and how did h maintain it for so long in a period of such momentous change? On that point , unfortunately, Trotsky can only give rhetorical expres sion to his own injured emotions .
Leaving Trotsky's gibberish aside, the fact is that Stalin did personally hold an exceptional position in the political leadership.
Trot$ky could not explain how he came to hold this position . And he consLdered it sufficient to show that Stalin held this exceptio nal, and let us say 'dictatorial', position to prove that he was a counter-revolutionary.
But Stalin was not the first man to hold such a 'dictatorial' position; though nobody else held it for such a long period. In 'In Defence of Leninism" we quoted Lenin to the effect that the mere fact of personal 'dictatorship ' indicated nothing about its class nature. In THE IMMEDIATE TASKS OF THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT (1918)Lenin dealt with the assertion that "personal dictatorship is absolutely incompatible with Bolshevik (i.e. not bourgeois, but socialist Sovie democrac ". He wrote:
"The question is becoming one of really enormous significance: first, the question of principle, viz ., is the appointment of individual persons, dictators with unlimited powers, in general compatible with the fundamental principles of Soviet government?
The irrefutable experience of history has shown that in the history of revolutionary movements the dictatorship of individual persons was very often the vehicle , the channel of the dictator ship of revolutionary classes . Undoubtedly , the dictatorship in individual persons was compatible with bourgeois democracy ."
But is it compatible with socialist democracy?
"If we are not anarchists, we must admit that the state, i.e. coercion, is necessary for the transition from capitalism to socialism. The form of coercion is determined by the degree of development of the given revolutionary class, and also by special circumstances••. Renee there is absolutely no contradiction in principle between Soviet (i.e. Socialist) democracy and the exer cise of dictatorial powers by individual persons."
There was also a time when Trotsky understood that elementary truth. The following is a quote from his pamphlet, WHERE IS BRITAIN GOING?, written in 1925:
"Following at the tails of those living non-lions who write lead ing articles in the Manchester Guardian and other Liberal organs, (we should mention here that the present-day leader-writers of the Guardian include one of the IOC>st eminent Irish trotskyists, Mr. John Palmer. And the presence of trotskyists on the editor ial staffs of newspapers is now becoming a comrronplace even in Ireland), the leaders of the Labour Party customarily contrast democracy with any kind of despotic government, in the form of the 'dictatorship of Lenin ', or the 'dictatorship of Mussolini '.•. The Liberal vulgarians customarily say that they are against a dictatorship from the left just as much as from the right, alth ough in practice they do not let slip any opportunity of support ing a dictatorship of the right. For us, however, the question is decided by the fact that one dictatorsliip urges society for ward, and the other drags it backward. The dictatorship of Muss olini is a dictatorship of a prematurely rotten, impotent, thor oughly corrupted Italian bourgeoisie. It is a dictatorship with a broken nose. The 'dictatorship of Lenin' expresses the mighty pressure of a new historic class and its superhuman struggle with all the forces of the old society. If Lenin is to be compared to anyone , it is not with Buonaparte, and still less with Mussolini, but with Cromwell and Robespierre. One can say with a certain amount of truth that Lenin is the proletarian Cromwely.6£ the 20th century.' (p91-2)
A fool , an ignoramus, or a Fabian may see in Cromwell only a personal dictator . But in actuality, here in the conditions of a profound social rupture, the personal dictatorship was the form adopted by a class dictatorship, and that class which alone was capable of freeing the kernel of the nation from the old shells and husks." (p97)
The only explanation of the 'Stalin dictatorshi that makes sense is the same as the explnation of the 'Lenin dictatorship' given ab ove . The view that Stalin manipulated the bureaucracy, which mani pulated the Party, which manipulated the working class, and that in this hierarchy Stalin was farther removed from the working class than any of the intermediaries, does not allow of any natural , soc ial explanation for Stalin 's authority .
Trotsky describes Stalin as a savage The savage imagines that he can control natural forces through a kind f mimicry: that he can cause rain by imitating a cloud-burst. But the power exercised by Stalin was real. It was not the fantasy power of a savage, and we must assume, despite Trotsky, that it WdS noc exercised by the ineffective methods of a savage.
The source of Stalin 's power was the working class. His personal power, in fact, was nothing more than his effective leadership of the working class in the building of socialism.
Stalin led the Russian working class for thirty years. These were years of continuous, rapid and fundamental social change in the Soviet Union. In a stagnant society a personal dictatorship based on military power may continue for a relatively long period by force of inertia. But the force of inertia can explain nothing about Stalin 's position. At no time would the force of inertia have maintained him in his position for a year
In a period of revolutionary change the continuance in power of an individual political leader can only be explained by his effective leadership of the class whose interest is the motive power for this change. There was only one class in the Soviet Union whose interest required the abolition of capitalism and the commodity system, and that was the working class. If Stalin's power was not an expression of his effective leadership of the working class, then it was enti rely miraculous in character.
(The Irish Communist. July 1970)
NOTE TO SECOND EDITION It is interesting to note the similarity between the view which the wing of the Royalist party which came nearest to democracy had of Cromwell and>'> the wing of bourgeois democracy which came nearest to Conununism had of Stalin. (* the view which) I,dward Hyde, later Lord Clarendon, was actively involved on th.: Parl iamentary side during the initial phase of the struggle between Parl iament and Charles I, and his objective was the establishment of constitutional monarchy. But constitutional monarchy was not possi ble at that point due to the fact that the King was an incorrigible absolute monarchist. Since Parliament was determined not to tolerate any longer any traces of absolute monarchy the refusal of the King to compromise his authority led the Parliament to an ever greater asser tion of its independence. This brought the more democratic and revo lutionary elements to the fore in the Parliament , culminating in the supremacy of the Independents led by Cromwell . When Clarendon had to choose between a virtually independent Parliament and an uncompromis ing Monarchy he chose the latter, and became personal adviser to King. As a former Parliamentary leader he was a valuable political acquisi tion to the Monarchists . And though he joined the Monarchists he remained in partial sympathy with the Parliament.
Revolutionary times cause rapid developments . Clarendon's position, from being a liberal tendency in the Monarchist position, eventually became the main Monarchist position . Politics to the right of his became useless and died away. After the death of Cromwell, Clarend on negotiated on behalf of the King (Charles II, Charles the first having demonstrated the bankruptcy of absolute monarchy in England by losing his head) the compromise which led to the Restoration . On the Restoration he became the chief minister of Charles II. He later wrote "The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England": a Monarchist history which shows great understanding of the Parliament ary party . Here is how he describes Cromwell, the chief enemy of the Monarchists:
"...he could never have done half that mischief without great parts of courage and industry and judgement. And he must have had a wonderful understanding in the natures and humours of men, and as great a dexterity in applying them, who from a private and obscure birth, (though of a good family ,)without interests of estate, alliance or friendships> could raise himself to such a height, and compound and knead such opposite and contradictory tempers, humours, and interests, into a consistence that contri buted to his designs and to their own destruction; whilst he himself grew insensibly powerful enough to cut off those by whom he had climbed, in the instant that they projected to demolish their own building .•. Without doubt, no man with more wickedness ever attempted anything or brought to pass what he desired more wickedly, more in the face and contempt of religion and moral honesty; yet wickedness as great as his could never have accom plished those trophies without the assistance of a great sp1r1t, an admirable circumspection and sagacity, and a most magnanimous resolution.
"When he appeared first in the Parliament, he seemed to be a person in no degree gracious, no ornament of discourse, none of those talents which use to reconcile the affections of standers by: yet he grew into place and authority, his parts seemed to be renewed, as if he had concealed faculties. tiil he had occasion to use them; and when he was to act the pa-rt of a great man, he did it without any indecency through the want of custom..."
"To reduce three nations, which perfectly hated him, to an entire obedience to all his dictates; to awe and govern those nations by an army that was indevoted to him and wished his ruin; was an instance of a very prodigious address. But his greatness at home was but a shadow of the glory he had abroad. It was hard to diso:we: who feared him most, France, Spain, or the Low Countries, where his friendship was current at the value he put upon it.11 And he "even terrified the Pope him self , without so much as doing any grace to the English Catho lics .•.11'In a word, as he had all the wickednesses against which damn ation is denounced and for which hell-fire is prepared , so he had some virtues which have caused the memory of some men in all ages to be celebrated , and he will be looked upon by post erii:y as a brave bad man"(Book XV, Paragraphs 147/156).
Compare this with, for example, Isaac Deutscher on Stalin . Claren don was impressed by the great political capabil ity of the vulgar commoner, Cromwell, and with the rise·of England to a major Europe an power during his government. Deutscher was impressed by the great political capability of the worker, Stalin , and by the inunen se industrial and cultural transformation of backward, illiterate, peasant Russia during the Stalin period. But both Clarendon and Deutscher, while being in sympathy with aspects of the new world that was emerging, remained rooted in the old. They could only judge the new world in the light of the old . Hence the paradoxical character of Clarendon 's Cromwell and Deutscher1 s Stalin. But such paradoxes are not real historical facts. They arise out of an in adequate understanding of historical fact, or out of an attempt to understand a particular society in terms of a qualitatively differ ent society .
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