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Defeat of Trotskyism,Marjorie Pollitt
The Trotskyists Today Shall we have peace, or shall war spread further throughout the world? This is the vital issue facing all who profoundly desire peace and progress to-day.
In Spain and China, the fires of war already devour their thousands and tens of thousands.
In Spain it is the fascist Franco, with Blackshirt Mussolini and Brownshirt Hitler at his back, who lays waste the land.
In China, the Japanese fascists sack town and village with a wild brutality which shocks the civilised world.
The British Labour movement and all friends of peace must close their ranks against the onset of the warmongers. They must decide now who are their allies in the cause of peace; they must know and recognise the enemies of peace and progress in whatever guise they appear.
The Man-in-the-Street and his wife, whether they live in Nanking or Madrid, London or New York, Cairo or Tokio, have a stake in peace and none in war. War for them means not profits but death, hunger and suffering. Peace gives the opportunity to strengthen the forces which will reconstruct the world as the people’s commonwealth.
One state has already been won by the people. That state is the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. There, an entire nation devotes itself with clear-sighted courage and tireless energy to building Socialism. To complete its task, the Soviet Union has one paramount need—peace. The Soviet Union is the main bulwark of peace in the field of international politics, both for the reason that war will hold up her magnificent socialist enterprises and because, as a people’s state, she recognises her deep responsibilities to the workers of those countries where capitalism has yet to be overthrown.
Therefore, an enemy of the U.S.S.R. is an enemy of British Labour and of all who stand for peace and democracy throughout the world
Trotsky—Enemy of Peace
Socialism to-day has no more implacable opponent, war no more staunch ally, peace no greater enemy, than Leon Trotsky.
Let British Labour know him, his followers and his actions, for what they are—a peril to the progress of humanity.
Let British Labour beware of false counsellors who say that the burning differences between Stalin and Trotsky are merely an expression of personal rivalry or a “domestic affair for the Communists to decide.”
Only those who do not know the facts can believe such statements. Stalin is leading a great state of 170,000,000 people to the goal for which so many in every country have worked and died. Stalin himself, and the Communist Party, have one supreme duty to the people—to guide them along the right road, to protect them from wrong policies which can only retard the advance to the new society.
It Is Our Concern
The fight against such wrong policies is in no sense a question of “rivalry” or a “domestic concern of the Communists.” It is the concern of the whole people, and especially of the working class in every country, because their own fate is in the balance.
No one in the working-class or progressive movements now believes that the fight against fascism is “a squabble between the fascists and the Communists.”
They recognise it for what it is—a fight by all the progressive sections of society against the forces of barbarism and reaction. In exactly the same way, the fight against Trotsky and his followers must be recognised as a fight by all the progressive sections of society against those who are attempting to sow disruption and prepare the way for fascism.
It is sometimes asked how it can be possible that such men as Trotsky and his immediate associates have changed so suddenly and completely. Such a question is not necessarily based on opposition to the unmasking of traitors, but upon incomplete knowledge of their past history. It is asked chiefly by people who are not familiar with the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and who have been deceived by the false statements made by the capitalist press and the Trotskyites alike, that Trotskyism is a new political tendency; that when Lenin was alive, he and Trotsky were inseparable political workers whose views were completely identical, and that it was only after Lenin’s death that Trotsky found himself in opposition to the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
Trotsky Against Lenin,
1903-1917 The first point to be noted is that Trotsky was not one of the “old guard,” who, from the very foundation of the Bolshevik Party in 1903 consistently struggled to build up the steeled and disciplined party which eventually led the toiling people to overthrow their oppressors. On the contrary, from 1903 to 1917 Trotsky was bitterly opposed to the very existence of a disciplined revolutionary Party. Moreover, he directed precisely the same type of virulent, personal invective against Lenin as he does to—day against Stalin, describing him as the person chiefly responsible for hindering the development of a real revolutionary movement in Russia. During this period, Trotsky’s line had far more in common with Menshevism than with Bolshevism. The Mensheviks believed that the only possible alternative to the Tsarist autocracy was a republic of the orthodox capitalist type.
Trotsky’s theory was that it would be a good thing to start attacking private property, but that immediately this was done, the hostility and resistance of the peasantry would be aroused.
He argued that because the working class is the only class directly interested in winning Socialism, all other sections of the population—peasants, professional people, small business men and traders—are implacably hostile elements who belong in the same camp as the big capitalists, can never be won over to support the working class, and must always be regarded as enemies to be ruthlessly attacked and exterminated.
The only allies which the working class could expect to win, in Trotsky’s view, were the workers of other countries; the only really effective assistance they could give would be to bring about the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism in their own countries; and if this was not immediately forthcoming, then the working class was doomed, and would be totally unable to build its Socialist State.
In Trotsky’s own words: — “The antagonisms which appear under a workers’ government in a backward land where the vast majority of the population is made up of peasants, can only be solved in the international arena, the arena of the proletarian world revolution.” (Preface to “1905.”)
or again: — “In the absence of direct State support on the part of the European proletariat, the Russian working class will not be able to keep itself in power and to transform its temporary rule into a stable socialist dictatorship. No doubt as to the truth of this is possible.” (“Our Revolution,” Russian Edition, Pg. 278.)
or finally: — “A steady rise of socialist economy in Russia will not be possible until after the victory of the proletariat in the leading countries of Europe.” (“Collected Works,” Vol. 3, Part I, Pgs. 92-93.) Nothing could be more explicit
“It is Possible for Socialism to Triumph”
But does this sound like political unanimity with Lenin, whose whole perspective during the years leading up to the revolution of 1917 was the gradual isolation of the main enemy by the winning of section after section of the population to the support of the working class—whose very definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat was “a peculiar form of class alliance directed against capital,” an alliance between the proletariat and the petty bourgeoisie, independent artisans, peasants and intelligentsia—an alliance capable of establishing a fully socialist society, even if no revolutionary upheaval takes place in another country?
In 1915, Lenin wrote in this connection: — “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 a few or even in one single country.” (Selected Works, Vol. 5, Pg. 141.)
In 1921, in The Food Tax, Lenin wrote: — “If we can secure ten to twenty years of amicable relationships with the peasantry, then we can count upon a victory on an international scale, even if the other proletarian revolutions now in course of preparation should be slow to come.”
or, again: —“All the means of large-scale production are in the hands of the State, and the powers of the State are in the hands of the proletariat; there is the alliance of this same proletariat with the many millions of middle and poor peasants; there is the assured leadership of these peasants by the proletariat . . . Have we not all the means requisite for the establishment of a fully socialist society?""
Why Trotsky Joined the Communist Party
In view, then, of this acute difference of opinion between Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party, how was it possible for him to join that Party in 1917?
Simply because he believed that the international situation was going to develop in such a way as to prove that he had been right all along. At that time, after three years of the Great War, the wave of revolution was everywhere rising. Trotsky was now convinced that the necessity would not arise for the Russian workers to have to set to work single-handed to build Socialism. The rest of Europe would rise at the signal of revolt in Russia and confirm all that he had ever said and written.
And so, although at this stage Trotsky found a basis for co-operation with Lenin, it was not a basis of agreement with Lenin’s line, but a temporary opportunist adventurist basis, which was soon to be broken down when the international revolutionary wave receded and the paramount task facing the Bolshevik Party was precisely that of building Socialism in one country.
Once get a clear understanding of the original political basis of Trotskyism, and events to-day which appear on the surface to be the incomprehensible, fantastic acts of a madman, emerge as the logical consequence of persistence in a theory which history—life itself—has discredited and disproved to the last letter.
History Has Rejected Trotsky’s Line
Socialism has been built in one country. The peasantry has not merely been “won over” to the proletariat, but has been “transformed,” through the socialist development of agriculture, into a body of collective farm workers. The scientist, the artist, the poet, the musician, the writer, the actor—all have found fulfilment under a system which can absorb and use to the limit the creative output of the human brain as well as physical labour.
But Socialism has been built in the Soviet Union precisely because Trotsky’s wrong policies have been defeated. The difficult problems which the Communist Party had to face in the early days of the revolution found many people insufficiently steeled and grounded in the theories of Marx and Lenin to be able to grasp the correct solution. Thus, when Germany offered peace-terms to the new Soviet Government in 1917, and these were denounced by Trotsky as a betrayal of the revolution, he was able to rally a majority against Lenin and carry rejection of the terms. The result was that German troops invaded the Soviet Union, thousands of lives were unnecessarily lost and the terms of the Brest-Litovsk treaty, which was eventually signed, inflicted infinitely greater hardship and territorial loss upon the struggling Soviet power than the original terms would have done.
How clearly Lenin foresaw the ultimate degeneration of Trotsky and his supporters when he said:
“He is no revolutionary who recognises the revolution of the proletariat only under the ‘condition’ that it proceeds smoothly and easily, that the proletarians of the various countries immediately come into action, that right from the outset there is a guarantee against defeats, that the revolution will advance along the broad, free and straight path to victory, that one will not here and there—on the way to victory—have to bear heavy sacrifices, to hold out in a beleaguered fortress and to climb up the narrowest, most inaccessible winding and dangerous mountain paths. He is no revolutionary—he has not freed himself from the pedantry of the bourgeois intelligentsia—he will in fact again and again slide down into the camp of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie.”
Attempts to Disrupt the Party
During Lenin’s illness in 1923, Trotsky’s old line of opposition came out sharply again. He began to chafe at the Party discipline which hindered him in the free expression of his resurrected theories on the impossibility of building Socialism in one country, and put forward organisational proposals to change the centralised, disciplined Bolshevik Party operating a single policy, into a hotch-potch of diverse, competing political groups.
It was as the sponsor of this new organisational proposal, rather than as the spokesman of a specific political idea that Trotsky laid his claim to the leadership of the Party. He understood perfectly well that it was precisely the existence of a centralised, disciplined, politically-unified Party which stood between him and his determination to build up an organised Opposition Group to the policy of Lenin and the majority.
His proposals were decisively rejected.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, the Trotsky group felt certain that they could seize power and dominate the Party. They made two serious underestimations. They did not appreciate the strength of Stalin—strength which came not from armed force but from his policy, which history was to prove the only correct policy; they did not realise that although Lenin was dead, his influence and his teaching lived on in the Party which he had formed and led—a Party which unhesitatingly supported the new leader whose policy they recognised as Lenin’s policy.
When the Trotsky group failed to reach their goal, a period of fierce, open opposition began inside the ranks of the Communist Party, which lasted until 1927, when the Party membership insisted on the expulsion of Trotsky and his close associates, who had openly and repeatedly flouted every Party rule.