Problems of theory and history


With his pretension to be a better Leninist than Lenin, Trotsky vehemently denied that he wanted to 'skip over the peasantry' or that he underestimated its revolutionary potential. He accused Lenin of having criticised him on this point without having read his work. In reality, in the chapter of 'Results and Prospects' devoted to relations between the proletariat in power and the peasantry, he openly showed his contempt for the latter.(30) A few quotations will prove it:

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. Revolutionary agitation and organisation will then be conducted with the help of state resources. (pp. 202-3)
    In such a situation, created by the transference of power to the proletariat, nothing remains for the peasantry to do but to rally to the regime of the workers' democracy. It will not matter much even if the peasantry does this with a degree of consciousness no larger than that with which it usually rallies to the bourgeois regime. (p. 205)

Alluding to Lenin's policy, he also wrote: 'Lenin now proposes that the proletariat's political self-limitation should be supplemented with an objective anti-socialist "safeguard" in the form of the muzhik as collaborator or co-director'.(31)
    In fact, according to Lenin, the proletariat 'can become a victorious fighter for democracy only if the peasant masses join its revolutionary struggle'.(

    Let us note first of all that the chapter from which we have taken the first two quotations is entitled 'The proletariat in power and the peasantry'. Trotsky says nothing about the alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry with a view to taking power.
    We can summarise Trotsky's ideas before 1917 on this subject as follows:
    The proletariat emancipates the peasantry and conducts agitation and organisational work within it after the seizure of power.
    For Lenin, on the contrary, the revolutionary mobilisation of the peasantry is a condition of victory.
    The peasantry rallies to the proletariat with more or less as much fatalism and ignorance of its own interests as when it supports a reactionary regime.
    According to Lenin, 'The proletariat cannot count on the ignorance and prejudices of the peasantry as the powers that be under a bourgeois regime count on and depend on them'.(
    For Trotsky there was no question of making concessions to the peasantry in order to ensure that the contradiction between it and the proletariat remained secondary, because he did not distinguish, in fact, between the democratic stage and the socialist stage of the revolution.(34) Rather, he considered that the transition to the socialist stage presupposes a conflict between the two classes.
    Lenin's definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat makes it obvious how anti-Leninist this position is:(

    The dictatorship of the proletariat is a special sort of class alliance between the proletariat (the vanguard of the workers), and the non-proletarian strata of those who labour (petty bourgeoisie, small employers, peasants, intelligentsia, and so forth) . . . for the complete overthrow of capitalism . . . for the definitive inauguration and consolidation of socialism.

In a country like Russia the 'non-proletarian strata of those who labour' were mainly the broad peasant masses. For Lenin, the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia was therefore a particular form of the class alliance between the proletariat and the working peasants and we know that before his death one of his main concerns was the strengthening of this alliance. Here, on the contrary, is what Trotsky wrote in 1922, in the preface to his '1905':

Precisely in order to guarantee its victory, the proletarian vanguard in the very earliest stages of its rule would have to make extremely deep inroads not only into feudal but also into bourgeois property relations. While doing so it would enter into hostile conflict not only with all those bourgeois groups which had supported it during the first stage of the revolutionary struggle but also with the broad masses of the peasantry with whose collaboration it - the proletariat - had come into power.