Trotskyism Counter-Revolution in Disguise
The Anglo-Russian Committee
THE Trotskyite attitude towards the problems of the world
revolution is an outgrowth of Trotsky’s basic error about the impossibility of
Socialism in one country.
Out of numberless questions we select the following as typical:
The Anglo-Russian Unity Committee;
The Chinese Revolution;
The question of the Third Period;
The question of social-fascism;
The German situation.
The crowning glory of all these policies appears in the shape of that marvelous
new structure, the Fourth International.
* * *
The Anglo-Russian Unity Committee was organized in 1926 for the purpose of
bringing about common action of the workers against imperialism, against war,
and for world trade-union unity. It consisted of representatives of the trade
unions of the U.S.S.R. and of the British trade unions. It was to bring to the
British workers and to the workers of the world a better understanding of the
situation and aims of the Soviet workers, to help revolutionize the British
workers in their fights against British imperialism, and to increase the
influence of the Soviets among the workers of the capitalist countries.
Why did the leaders of the British trade unions agree to the formation of
such a committee? Because the workers in Great Britain and other countries were
becoming radicalized; because the influence of the Bolshevik revolution among
the workers of all countries was growing; because the trade unions of the
U.S.S.R. impressed the workers of other countries as sharing in the State power
of the Workers’ Republic, and because the Communists everywhere advocated the
necessity of unity of the working masses on the economic field.
Why did the leaders of the Soviet trade unions agree to enter such a
committee? They knew perfectly well the character of even the “Left” wing of the
British trade union leaders: Purcell, Cook and others. But they saw in this
committee an opening for contact with the broadest masses of Europe. The
committee was a sounding board from which the voices of Bolshevism would be
heard on a wider range among the workers of England and other countries. Above
all things they saw in it a weapon for the defense of the Soviet Union
at a time when the imperialists were perfecting their plans for an attack on the
Soviets. The tradition of the proletarian Action Committees against
British intervention in the Soviet Union in 1920 was still fresh.
Through the Anglo-Russian Unity Committee the question of a united front
of struggle against capitalism and war was presented to large masses of toilers
in the capitalist countries. Delegations of non-party workers to the Soviet
Union are a common occurrence. Purcell and his comrades were allowed to come to
the U.S.S.R. and were accorded friendly receptions. In exchange, representatives
of the Soviet Union were given a chance to appear before broad masses of the
British workers to present their revolutionary views.
The opposition was “against”.
In a pamphlet by the theoretician of Trotskyism in the United States, Max
Shachtman, the assertion is made that the Anglo-Russian Unity Committee was “a
political bloc between the reformists of England and the Russian party
bureaucracy” (Ten Years, p. 39). As a matter of fact it was not a bloc;
it was not even an alliance; it was a committee for the propaganda of trade
union unity. It was a committee that opened up before the Soviet unions the
possibility of exposing even the “Left” leaders when the occasion arose. This
came about after the collapse of the general strike in Great Britain in May,
1926. The British leaders of the Anglo-Russian Committee then swung to the
Right; they began to hide from the British workers their belonging to the unity
committee; in fact they were trying to wriggle out from under the obligations
agreed upon by entering the committee. This gave an occasion for the Soviet
trade unions to appear before the British workers and to explain to them the
treacherous rôle of the “Left” union leaders. And it was just at this moment
that the Trotskyites became most vociferous, demanding the breaking up of the
An ingenious theory is presented by the above mentioned Trotsky disciple in
the United States. He stresses “the falsity of the conception” that such leaders
as Purcell, Cook, Hicks, Swales, and Citrine can become “the revolutionary
organizers of the world’s working class against imperialist war and for the
defense of the Soviet Republic”. Oh profound theoretician! Oh penetrating
tactician! The Communists had to wait until 1933 to learn this consummate wisdom
about the reformist leaders remaining reformist leaders. Mr. Shachtman
conveniently forgets that when the united front is built in which a reformist
leader is forced to join, it is not the leader but the
masses under his influence that are won for the defense of the Soviet Union
and for other revolutionary tasks.
Mr. Shachtman clinches his deadly attack with this broadside: In the
Anglo-Russian Committee he sees the hand of the “Stalinists” who are frantically
in search for “anti-interventionists” and who attempt “to convert the
Communist Parties into Soviet border patrols”. (Ibid., p. 39.)
Mr. Shachtman does not want the Communist Parties to be border patrols of the
Soviet Union. Why should he if the Trotskyites do not think that socialism is
being built in the Soviet Union? He says so quite plainly: “The Stalinist
conception of the rôle and nature of the Anglo-Russian Committee flowed directly
from the theory of socialism in one country. According to the latter, Russia
could build up its own nationally isolated socialist economy, ‘if’ only foreign
military intervention could be staved off.” To the Trotskyites this is not so.
The staving off of foreign military intervention therefore is for them not the
prime task of the international proletariat.
One more thing should be noted in connection with the Anglo-Russian
Committee. Just at the time when the situation became more difficult, when the
betrayal of the British general strike raised greater obstacles in the way of
the Soviet approach to the British workers, when it was necessary to use more
patience and more flexible tactics in relation to these workers, the opposition
shrank before the difficulties. In true petty-bourgeois fashion it fell into a
panic. The expression of this panic was the demand of withdrawal. The demand
sounded “ultra-revolutionary”. It was—defeatism.