ARCHIVE | Nadezhda K. Krupskaya
Two Tracts on Trotskyism
1. The Lessons of October
Two years ago, Vladimir llyitch, speaking at a plenary meeting of the Moscow
Soviet, said that now we were treading the path of practical work, that we were
no longer treating Socialism as an ikon merely to be described in glowing
colours. ‘We must take the right road,’ he said, ‘it is necessary to submit
everything to the test; the masses and the whole population must test our
methods, and say: ‘Yes, this order of things is better than the old one.’ This
is the task which we have set ourselves.
Our Party, a small group in comparison to the total population, took up this
task. This small group undertook to change everything, and it did change
everything. That this is no Utopia, but a reality in which we live, has been
demonstrated. We have all seen that it has been done. We had to do it in such a
way that the great majority of working proletarians and peasants had to admit:
‘It is not you who praise yourselves, but we who praise you. We tell you that
you have attained so much better results that no reasonable human being would
ever think of returning to the old order.’
The Party works continually and unwearyingly. In 1924 the fact of the Lenin
Recruitment showed us that the working masses regard the C.P. as their Party.
This is an important point. This is a real and permanent achievement, and in
itself no small praise. Out in the country we are praised already for many
things, though these things are as yet but little. Our Party devotes much
attention to the peasantry, and not only to the whole peasantry, but to the
poorer and middle strata. The Party is working for the improvement of the
subordinate Soviet apparatus; it aids the village nuclei in their work, and
hopes to attain much. The Party accomplishes a large amount of practical work of
every description, comprising an enormous field of activity, and guides the
carriage of history along the road pointed out by Lenin.
The Party has devoted itself seriously to the accomplishment of practical work.
Under our conditions this is an extremely difficult task, and for this reason
the Party is so hostile to any discussion. For this reason Comrade Trotsky’s
speech on the last barricade seemed so strange to the Thirteenth Party
Conference. And for this reason great indignation has been aroused by Comrade
Trotsky’s latest ‘literary’ efforts.
I do not know whether Comrade Trotsky has actually committed all the deadly sins
of which he is accused – the exaggerations of controversy are inevitable.
Comrade Trotsky need not complain about this. He did not come into the world
yesterday, and he knows that an article written in the tone of the ‘Lessons of
October’ is bound to call forth the same tone in the ensuing controversy. But
this is not the question. The question is that Comrade Trotsky calls upon us to
study the ‘Lessons of October,’ but does not lay down the right lines for this
study. He proposes that we study the role played by this or that person in
October, the role played by this or that tendency in the Central Committee, etc.
But this is what we must not study.
The first thing which we must study is the international situation as it existed
in October, and the relations of class forces in Russia at that time.
Does Comrade Trotsky call upon us to study this? No. And yet the victory would
have been impossible without a profound analysis of the historical moment,
without a calculation of the actual relations of forces. The application of the
revolutionary dialectics of Marxism to the concrete conditions of a given
moment, the correct estimation of this moment, not only from the standpoint of
the given country, but on an international scale, is the most important feature
of Leninism. The international experience of the last decade is the best
confirmation of the correctness of this Leninist process. This is what we must
teach the Communist Parties of all countries, and this is what onr youth must
learn from the study of October.
But Comrade Trotsky overlooks this question. When he speaks of Bulgaria or
Germany, he occupies himself but little with the correct estimation of the
moment. If we regard events through Comrade Trotsky’s spectacles, it appears
exceedingly simple to guide events. Marxist analysis was never Comrade Trotsky’s
This is the reason why he so under-estimates the role played by the peasantry.
Much has already been said about this.
We must further study the Party during October. Trotsky says a great deal about
the Party, but for him the Party is the staff of leaders, the heads. But those
who really wish to study October, must study the Party as it was in October. The
Party was a living organism, in which, the C.C. (‘the staff’) was not cut off
from the Party, in which, the members of the lowest Party organisations were in
daily contact with the members of the C.C. Comrades Sverdlov and Stalin knew
perfectly well what was going on in every district in Petrograd, in every
province, and in the army. And Lenin knew all this as well, though living
illegally. He was kept well informed and received letters about everything which
occurred in the life of the organisation. And Lenin did not only know how to
listen, he also knew very well how to read between the lines. The victory was
made possible by precisely the fact that there was a close contact between the
C.C. and the collective organisation.
A Party whose upper stratum had lost contact with the organisation would never
have been victorious. All Communist Parties must impress this upon themselves,
and organise themselves accordingly.
Where the Party is so organised, where the staff knows the will of the
collective organisation – and not merely from the resolutions – and works in
harmony with this will, the vacillations or errors of individual members of the
staff do not possess the decisive significance ascribed to them by Comrade
Trotsky. When history confronts the Party with an entirely new and hitherto
unexampled emergency, it in only natural that the situation is not uniformly
estimated by everyone and then it is the task of the organisation to find the
right common line.
Lenin invariably attached enormous importance to the collective organisation of
the Party. His relations to the Party Conferences were based upon this. At every
Party Conference he brought forward everything which he had thought out since
the last Party Conference. He held himself to be chiefly responsible to the
Party Conference, to the organisation as a whole. In cases of differences of
opinion he appealed to the Party Conference (for instance in the question of the
Trotsky does not recognise the part played by the Party as a whole, as an
organisation cast in one piece. For him the Party is synonymous with the staff.
Let us take an example: ‘What is the Bolshevisation of the Communist Party?’ –
he asks in the ‘Lessons of October.’ It consists in so educating the Parties,
and so choosing their leaders that they do not go off the tracks when their
This is a purely ‘administrative’ and utterly superficial standpoint. Yes, the
personalities of the leaders is a point of the utmost importance. Yes, it is
necessary that the most gifted, the best, the firmest in character of our
members are selected for our staff: but it is not merely a question of their
personal capacities, but a question of whether the staff is closely bound up
with the whole organisation.
There is another factor thanks to which we have accomplished our victory in
October, and that is the correct estimation of the role and importance of the
masses. If you will read all that Lenin wrote on the role played by the masses
in the revolution and in the development of Socialism, you will see that Lenin’s
estimation of the part played by the masses is one of the corner-stones of
Leninism. For Lenin the masses are never a means, but the decisive factor. If
the Party is to lead millions, it must be in close contact with these millions,
it must be able to comprehend the life, the sorrows, and aspirations of the
masses. Bela Kun relates that when he began to speak to Lenin about a
revolutionary war against Germany, Lenin replied: ‘I know that you are not a
mere chatterbox – take a journey to the front tomorrow and see whether the
soldiers are ready for a revolutionary war.’ Bela Kun took the journey to the
front, and saw that Lenin was in the right.
We do not find any appeal for the study of this side of the October revolution
in the ‘Lessons of October.’ On the contrary. When forming his estimate of the
German events, Comrade Trotsky under-estimates the passivity of the masses.
A certain Syrkin has put a very foolish interpretation on John Reed’s book. Many
people are of the opinion that we should not put John Reed’s book into the hands
of young people. It contains inaccuracies and legends. The history of the Party
is not to be learnt from Reed. Why then did Lenin recommend this book so warmly?
Because in the case of John Reed’s book this question is not the main point. The
book gives us an excellent and artistic description of the psychology and trends
of feeling among the masses of the soldiery and the workers who accomplished the
October revolution, and of the clumsiness of the bourgeoisie and its servants.
John Reed enables even the youngest Communist to grasp the spirit of revolution
much more rapidly than the perusal of dozens of protocols and resolutions. It
does not suffice for our youth to merely know the history of the Party, it is of
equal importance that they feel the pulse of the October revolution. How can our
youth become Communists if they know nothing more than Party conditions in their
narrower import, and do not feel what war and revolution have been?
Comrade Trotsky approaches the study of October from the wrong side. The
incorrect estimate of October is only one step removed from a wrong estimate of
actuality and from the wrong estimates of a number of phenomena of immense
significance. The wrong estimate of actuality leads to wrong decisions and
actions. Anyone can comprehend this. What has happened cannot be undone. Since
the ‘Lessons of October’ have seen the light of day, they must be fully
discussed in the press and in the Party organisation. This must be done in a
form accessible to every member of the Party.
Our Party has now greatly increased in numbers. Broad masses of workers are
joining the Party, and these workers are insufficiently enlightened on the
questions raised by Comrade Trotsky. Things perfectly clear to an old
Bolshevist, who has fought determinedly for the Leninist line, are not clear to
the young Party member. The Leninist must learn, above all, not to say that:
‘The discussion of this question disturbs us in our learning.’ On the contrary,
the discussion of this question will enable us to gain an even profounder
comprehension of Leninism.
Comrade Trotsky devoted the whole of his powers to the fight for the Soviet
power during the decisive years of the revolution. He held out heroically in his
difficult and responsible position. He worked with unexampled energy and
accomplished wonders in the interests of the safeguarding of the victory of the
revolution. The Party will not forget this.
But the achievements of October have not yet been fully consummated. We must
continue to work determinedly for their fulfillment. And here it would be
dangerous and disastrous to deviate from the historically tested path of
Leninism. And when such a comrade as Trotsky treads, even unconsciously, the
path of revision of Leninism, then the Party must make a pronouncement.
‘The Errors of Trotskyism’, London, CPGB, May 1925, pp. 365-371.
Nadezhada K. Krupskaya
The Slander Drive of the Second International