Problems of theory and history


At the beginning of the Second World War, Trotsky gave a long interview to the 'Saint Louis Post Dispatch' (10, 17 and 24 March 1940) in which he gave the following reply to the question as to whether the dictatorship of the proletariat would mean the abandonment of the US Bill of Rights:(103)

Socialism would have no value if it did not bring with it not only the juridical inviolability but also the full safeguarding of all the interests of the human personality. Mankind would not tolerate a totalitarian abomination of the Kremlin pattern. The political regime of the USSR is not a new society but the worst caricature of the old. With the might and techniques and organisational methods of the United States; with the high well- being which planned economy could assure there to all citizens, the socialist regime in your country would mean from the beginning the rise of the independence, initiative and creative power of the human personality.

This was the right kind of language to reassure the most conservative bourgeois of Saint Louis. It is all a question of 'the interests of the human personality' (a purely individual category), or of 'mankind', which mankind, for once unanimous and without any class distinction, condemns 'the totalitarian abomination', namely, 'the political regime of the USSR'. The latter, he tells us, is not a new society (a political regime which is not a society!) but 'the worst caricature of the old society'. In other words, the dictatorship of the proletariat constructing socialism is a most abominable caricature of capitalism combined with feudal survivals from Tsarist Russia. Trotsky went further than Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who, in their book 'The Decay of Capitalist Civilisation' (1923), could not even then see a great difference between Bolshevism and Tsarism. At the end of his life, the positions of the father of the Fourth International coincided with those of the most frenetic anti-communists. Abandoning Marxist concepts, he took over their language, the ideological function of which is perfectly clear.
    Why did he speak of a 'totalitarian regime' not only in this interview, but also and at length in 'The Revolution Betrayed' (1936)? For the possibility it afforded him to rise above classes and to confound fascist states and communist states in the same virtuous censure as 'symmetrical phenomena' which 'show a deadly similarity in many of their features'.(104) He thus flattered American imperialism, which was opposing both types of state at the time. According to Trotsky, moreover, only 'a planned economy' was lacking in the USA for 'all citizens' to enjoy a greater well-being. Let us note that even non-Marxist authors like Herbert J. Spiro or revisionists like Lucien Goldmann acknowledge the ideological function fulfilled by the notion 'totalitarian regime' particularly in cold-war propaganda after 1945:(105)

Attempts were made . . . to construct the ultimate in self-contradiction, an 'ideology of freedom' . . . a whole new conceptual vocabulary was forged . . . The key to this vocabulary is the term totalitarianism, which is meant to describe and to explain such diverse political systems as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

At the end of his life, Trotsky went over to this 'ideology of freedom', reaction's war-horse in the post-war period. Even in 1936 the principal objective which he set for the revolution to overthrow 'bureaucratic absolutism' was the restoration of freedoms, especially those of the 'Soviet parties'.(106) His writings contain seeds of the propaganda which amalgamates fascism and communism whose most delirious - because most matter-of-fact - expression is to be found in Lord Radcliffe's report on 'Security Procedures in the Public Service' which states in Chapter 2: 'For the sake of brevity we have followed the common practice of using the phrase "Communist" throughout to include Fascists.'(107)

    Of course, Trotsky did not follow his position through to its logical conclusion. He almost identified fascism and communism but without quite taking the leap. The most talented of his followers (Rizzi, Burnham, Schachtmann) did not have this scruple. Nevertheless, it appears from the very article which he wrote to refute Rizzi(108) that Trotsky would have taken over the latter's theory if he had lived on after the Second World War. Here is how Isaac Deutscher summarises the most significant passage in this text:(109)

The final test for the working class, for socialism, and for Marxism was imminent: it was coming with the Second World War. If the war were not to lead to the proletarian revolution in the

West, then the place of decaying capitalism would indeed be taken not by socialism, but by a new bureaucratic and totalitarian system of exploitation. And if the working classes of the West were to seize power (as in Czechoslovakia) but then were incapable of holding it and surrender it to a privileged bureaucracy, as the Russian workers had done, then it would indeed be necessary to acknowledge that the hopes which Marxism placed in the proletariat had been false . . . Then it would be necessary (this is Trotsky speaking) to establish in retrospect that . . . the present USSR was the precursor of a new and universal system of exploitation . . . If the world proletariat should actually prove incapable of accomplishing its mission . . . nothing else would remain but to recognise openly that the socialist programme, based on the internal contradictions of capitalist society, had petered out as a Utopia.

It seems to us that this is clear, and it becomes even clearer if it is noted that throughout this article, Trotsky used the expression 'totalitarian regime' indiscriminately to designate state monopoly capitalism and 'Stalinist Bonapartism'. In this case one may wonder why until the very end Trotsky called for the unconditional defence of the USSR. We must understand what he meant by this . . . In a posthumous article published by the 'Fourth International' (October 1940), he wrote:(110)

Against the imperialist foe we will defend the USSR with all our might. However, the conquests of the October revolution will serve the people only if they prove themselves capable of dealing with the Stalinist bureaucracy as in their day they dealt with the Tsarist bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie.

Was this not treating the 'bureaucracy' as a class enemy? Was this not applying to the USSR Lenin's 'revolutionary defeatism' of 1914? Turning one's weapons not against the enemy without but against those holding power? Either these words were hot air (they were) or Trotsky was preparing the ground for the future recruiters of the Vlassov army. It is in this context that it is appropriate to set the Hitler-Trotskyist epithet used at that time by communists.

    At the time of the 1914-18 war, Lenin issued a call to the peoples of the world to turn the arms which the ruling classes had put into their hands for their mutual massacre against the power of those ruling classes in their own countries. When the Second World War broke out, Trotsky invited the peoples of the Soviet Union to 'deal with the Stalinist bureaucracy as in their day they dealt with the Tsarist bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie'. Whatever J.-J. Marie may think, this is fundamentally the same policy.(111) It seems that Trotsky wanted to overthrow the bureaucracy with the intention (praiseworthy, of course, as an intention!) of better defending the USSR, but to imagine that the accession to power of the 'Bolshevik-Leninist' Opposition was feasible at that time is lunacy. In so far as the Trotskyist propaganda had any effect whatever, it could only incite opposition to Soviet power and weaken its capacity to resist aggression by creating a diversion.

    Today, Trotskyists regard the accusation of Hitlero-Trotskyism as a typical case of Stalinist slander for which they do not have strong enough words to express their indignation. Now Trotsky's methods of amalgamation were identical to those of his great enemy.

 After Siqueiros's attempt on his life, he wrote a letter to the Mexican attorney-general in which he accused all communist parties of being reserves of spies and murderers in the pay of the GPU. He also added the following detail:(112)

I do not exclude the possibility of the participation of Hitler's Gestapo in the assassination attempt. Up to a certain point the GPU and the Gestapo are connected with each other; it is possible and probable that in special cases the same agents are at the disposal of both . . . It is completely possible that these two police forces co-operated in the attempt against me.

Conclusion: It is possible and probable that Siqueiros was a Hitlero-Stalinist agent; it is possible and probable that the Communists who agreed to work for Soviet agencies also put themselves at the disposal of the German agencies'

    We said above that Trotsky had nearly identified 'Stalinist totalitarianism' and Nazism, but occasionally the nuance becomes imperceptible. In an article entitled 'The twin star: Hitler-Stalin' (6 December 1939), he claimed to prove that Stalin was Hitler's satellite! A little further on, he asserted that Stalin's aim in Spain had been to 'prove to London and Paris that he was capable of eliminating proletarian revolution from Spain and Europe with much greater efficiency than Franco and his backers' (Hitler and Mussolini).(113)
At a time when the Second World War had already broken out, to make the CPSU led by Stalin the principal enemy was to line up on the side of the counter-revolution. There was no third road. Merleau-Ponty, whose sympathy for Trotsky has never been denied, remarked that when he was killed the moment was approaching at which 'political life would have become impossible for him'.(114) It is to be regretted that the assassin's ice-pick prevented History itself from presenting Trotsky with the verdict on his last bankruptcy.