Marx-Engels | Lenin | Stalin | Home Page
Contemporary Trotskyism: Its Anti-Revolutionary NatureM. BASMANOV
IntroductionThe second half of the twentieth century will be known in history as a period of the most profound revolutionary change. The emergence of a world socialist system, which has become the chief revolutionary force of our epoch, the fall of colonial empires and the appearance of dozens of independent countries in their place, an unprecedented upsurge of class struggle in developed capitalist countries — all this has transformed the political climate of the world.
Our age is a time of increasing revolutionary activity among the widest sections of the people. While in the last century, at one stage of history or another, the number of participants in revolutionary action in all the countries might be counted in thousands, rarely tens of thousands and even more rarely hundreds of thousands, nowadays hundreds of millions of people take part in the anti-imperialist movement. Now the battle front against imperialism extends throughout the world.
"The world is being revolutionised" is a phrase which reflects the anxiety of the supporters of imperialism, and appears more and more often in the pages of the capitalist press.
The scientific and technological revolution is not only altering the economic profile of the countries, it is bringing about serious changes in the class structure, and increasing the social polarisation of bourgeois society.
The working class is rapidly increasing in numbers, its organisation improves and its ability to resist grows.
Social groups that seemed a short time ago to be a long way from any kind of revolutionary action, are joining in the anti-imperialist struggle.
The working intelligentsia is making itself felt as a force to be reckoned with by the monopolies. More and more of them are joining the ranks of the hired workers, and their interests are closely interwoven with those of the working class.
Back in the fifties bourgeois propaganda, with satisfaction rather than in reproach, spoke of the students as the "silent", "passive" generation. But now students are demanding democratic reforms in higher education, guarantees that work will be found for them in their particular field, and are taking part in the struggle for social progress and national liberation.
The ruling bourgeoisie is yielding to the working class in the struggle to win other social strata that has gone on for more than a hundred years. Imperialism is steadily losing its ability to mesmerise the masses with its ideals and has no alternative to put forward against socialism
Yet imperialism remains a serious and dangerous enemy. It uses all sorts of devices to impede the inevitable development of the revolutionary process which is transforming society. These include attempts to create a united front of the reactionary forces of the whole world, stepping up of ideological sabotage against the socialist system, new and more refined methods of social demagogy and the ideological hoodwinking of the workers in capitalist countries. Where demagogy will not help, imperialism is quick to resort to force, to police brutality against those who take part in revolutionary movements.
Ahead lies a hard and complex struggle, class conflict of the sharpest kind. Victory over imperialism can be brought nearer by co-ordinating the actions of the working class and all progressive and democratic forces, and by the closest co-operation between the numerous anti-imperialist movements and trends
This is all the more essential because the ideological and political offensive of the supporters of imperialism is now aimed primarily at splitting the main revolutionary streams of our time — the world socialist system, the working-class movement in capitalist countries and the national liberation movement. They also try to set at loggerheads various sections of the population: non-proletarian groups with anti-imperialistic inclinations are set against the working class, the young against the older generation, and working people who are not members of the Communist parties against Communists. Imperialism sees temporary salvation in disunity of the revolutionary forces, and mortal danger in their unity.
In every country where a struggle against the power of capital is being waged there is no greater problem than the achievement of united action between workers, peasants and other working people. The mounting revolutionary mass movement can overthrow the supremacy of monopolies if all forms of social protest follow a clear-cut anti-monopoly line and contribute to a united programme of anti-imperialist struggle.
The solution of this problem is helped by the fact that the new social strata that are being drawn into the revolutionary conflict bring with them an enormous supply of energy, and a powerful feeling of hatred for the capitalist system. They are becoming increasingly aware of the need to unite with other revolutionary forces.
Of vital importance for the achievement of this aim is the fact that the anti-monopoly struggle is led by the proletariat, the class that sees its historic mission in the abolition of every form of exploitation. It is the proletariat that is coming forward in capitalist countries as the leading force in social progress.
Direction of the class struggle is an art and a science, and in mastering them one is helped by a profoundly scientific, revolutionary world outlook, which crystallises the preceding experience of liberation movements, and can answer the questions raised by present-day revolutionary practice. Marxism-Leninism provides such a world outlook. It guides the activities of the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat, the Communist and Workers' parties. By bringing up to date and perfecting the strategy and tactics of class struggle, Marxism-Leninism helps the workers to find the best ways and methods for a revolutionary transformation of society.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, when Russia entered a period of the most bitter class conflicts, Lenin urged Marxists to raise the workers to the level of revolu- tionaries. This Leninist principle is not only valid but has even acquired a particular significance today. While spreading the ideas of scientific communism among the broad proletarian masses and preparing them for the revolutionary struggle, Communists also intensify their propaganda work among those non-proletarian sections which are groping their way towards political life, and among whom manifestations of social protest are the strongest.
The Communist and Workers' parties are guided in this respect by the approach Lenin adopted in the conditions of tsarist Russia of having an action programme that would appeal both to protesting students and dissatisfied teachers and to discontented believers.
At the same time the Communist and Workers' parties must be able to resist the various erroneous opinions and ideas which appear both in the ranks of the working class and among other sections of the working people. Such opinions are bound to spread when broader social strata are joining in the revolutionary movement.
Lenin wrote on this point: "If this movement is not measured by the criterion of some fantastic ideal, but is regarded as the practical movement of ordinary people, it will be clear that the enlistment of larger and larger numbers of new 'recruits', the attraction of new sections of the working people must inevitably be accompanied by waverings in the sphere of theory and tactics, by repetitions of old mistakes, by a temporary reversion to antiquated views and antiquated methods, and so forth. The labour movement of every country periodically spends a varying amount of energy, attention and time on the 'training' of recruits.'"
The nineteen sixties saw the emergence of many different theories denying the revolutionary potential of the working class, and seeking the motive force of revolution anywhere but in that class. The non-proletarian strata (the intelli- gentsia, students and partly peasants in developing countries) are having it drummed into them that a revolutionary transformation of society can be brought about without an alliance with the working class.
These pseudo- scientific "theories" have this in common: their advocates strive to refute the ideas of scientific communism and foster distrust for the international policy evolved by the Communist and Workers' parties. Their objective is to prevent the creation of a single anti- imperialist movement without which revolutionary victory is unthinkable.
Such theories are particularly dangerous since they encourage tendencies prejudicial to the cause of the revolu- tion, and start a long line of false conclusions and wrong actions. The group isolation peculiar to certain sections of the non-proletarian strata is presented as "a theoretical credo", while refusal to accept the proposal of the working class and the Communists to take joint action becomes a principle of behaviour.
Worse still, currency is given to pernicious and disruptive ideas that it is possible to be a revolutionary and oppose imperialism from anti-communist positions. To put it another way, monopoly is challenged in words, but the actual attack is being launched against the Communist parties and the international working-class movement.
Trotskyism is particularly active in spreading such views. In the twenties and thirties Trotskyism was routed, both ideologically and organisationally, was rejected by the international communist movement, and for a long time it lingered in the backwaters of history.
But now, since the fifties and the beginning of the sixties, the Trotskyites have begun to raise their heads. This has shown itself in mounting attempts to bring together various ill-assorted groups. Almost every two or three years Trots- kyites of different persuasions hold "international" congresses at which they hurriedly work their way through a variety of motions dealing with revolution, war and peace. What is the reason for these stirrings of life among the Trotskyites?
The reason why Trotskyism has become active — however insignificant and peripheral such activity may be on the world scene — is to be found in certain peculiarities of the present stage of the anti-imperialist struggle. The Trotskyites have placed their hopes on those representatives of the non- proletarian strata of capitalist and developing countries who are trying to be "Lefter than the Left" and reject the strategy and tactics of the Communist parties.
Like dried infusoria which revive in a drop of muddy water, the Trotskyites bestirred themselves at the first signs of petty-bourgeois "ultra-Left" hostility towards communism. The thing that has enabled the Trotskyites to refloat their leaky political boats for a while is "Left" extremism that, having reached the peak of absurdity and substituting anticommunism and anti-Sovietism for the struggle against capitalism, has gained some influence among certain non- proletarian strata.
Using treachery, intrigue and every political dodge, Trotskyite groups in several capitalist countries (their membership rarely reaches two figures) have set themselves the task of infiltrating the "Left radical" movements and trends which arose in the sixties. They try in every way to fan the ultra-Left tendencies that exist there, and to drag in the anti-communist principles of their "Fourth Interna- tional".
Thus, until recently, a significant number of Trotskyites entertained great hopes of spreading their ideas in the coun- tries of Latin America, Asia and Africa. Expecting to acquire supporters there, they proclaimed the peasantry to be the most radical force of the present time, and concentrated their efforts on penetrating the peasant movement and bringing it under their influence. When, however, they saw that their hopes would not be fulfilled, they began to seek a new sphere of action.
Since 1968 proposals have been made at Trotskyite con- gresses and conferences to probe the growing political potential of students, who, it was claimed, should in the present historical conditions be considered the most radical force.
It is clear that the attempts of the Trotskyites to attach themselves to the student movement are not accidental.
The present-day student population is a new generation which was born and grew up after the Second World War. And many young people, who naturally have not had time to acquire any sort of serious political experience, often give themselves up to illusions regarding the possibility of working out a special programme of "youth" activities quite apart from the general context of the class struggle. Besides Communist groups within the student movement, which is exceedingly variegated from the social point of view, there are all sorts of currents and trends — from supporters of pure reformism to advocates of "immediate direct action", who fight an unceasing ideological war among themselves.
Unlike the older generation, who still remember earlier anti-revolutionary Trotskyite actions and know the worth of their ultra-Left phrases, the students have no "immunity" from Trotskyism. They usually have a distorted understand- ing of Trotskyism, acquired from the lectures of bourgeois professors, who do not spare praise for Trotsky and his "teaching" in order to blacken scientific socialism.
The Trotskyites have simultaneously increased their ideological appeals to extremist-minded petty-bourgeois intellectuals, exploiting their prejudices against the Com- munist parties' strategic principles and the search for a "third path" of social development having nothing in common with either capitalism or contemporary socialist reality.
Lenin, in his day, noted that Trotsky "unites ... all philistines who do not understand the reasons for the struggle", 1 and this is just how the successors of Trotsky try to attract people who are confused by the complexity of the political struggle and do not even comprehend what they expect from it.
The Trotskyites ferret out every possible approach to petty- bourgeois intellectuals with extremist leanings, the student movement, and the Latin American revolutionary guerrillas among whom there are both peasants and officers with radical sympathies. And everywhere their function is to split the revolutionary movement and provoke it to irresponsible adventurism.
Left-wing extremism, as is well known, is sometimes a punishment for the Right-wing opportunist sins of Social- Democracy. It is no accident that Trotskyites are also active where the revolutionary movement is artificially held back by the compromising policy of Right-wing Social-Democrats. In a number of West European countries they try to influence those members of Social-Democratic parties and of the organisations connected with them who are opposed to the treacherous policy of the social-reformers, but fight shy of the tactics and strategy of the Communist parties.
The position adopted by the Communist Party of China has played into the hands of the Trotskyites.
The "congress" of the Paris group of the "Fourth Interna- tional" held in 1961 openly announced that Maoist efforts to undermine the international communist movement had created "such opportunities for Trotskyite activity as there have never been before". And the next "congress" two years later, which came out in favour of the Maoists' basic "pro- grammatic" demands, urged Trotskyites "toward bolder and more aggressive action than ever before".
The theories of both Trotskyites and Maoists certainly have features in common. The Peking leaders agree with the Trotskyites on many points: anti-Marxist views on the world revolutionary process and orientation on the export of revolution; emphasis on war as the only means for the promotion of world revolution; defeatist appraisals concern- ing the prospects of building a socialist society; slanderous outbursts against the Soviet Union; ideas about the pre- eminence of political directives over the objective laws of social development; attempts to isolate the national liberation movement, and setting it up in opposition to other revolutionary streams of today; slanderous charges of "degeneration", "revisionism" and so on against Communist parties in a number of countries.
Of course, Maoism is not a version of Trotskyism, but it is an eclectic petty-bourgeois system which besides elements of Confucianism, anarchism and petty-bourgeois chauvinism includes a variety of Trotskyite ideas.
In some ways the Chinese leaders have simply taken over certain Trotskyite doctrines; in others their views objectively coincide. Both of them, from their own peculiar positions and for their own selfish purposes, undermine the struggle against imperialism by fighting against the Communist parties and Marxism-Leninism.
A great deal of the uproar that the Trotskyites have raised about their readiness to form a union with the Peking leaders savours of self-advertisement. The leaders of the "Fourth International" have tried to squeeze the maximum political advantage out of the similarity between their opinions and those of the Peking leaders. And this political game of the Trotskyites misleads certain people in capitalist countries.
In the Central Committee's report to the 24th Congress of the CPSU it was pointed out that the Trotskyites quite often gang up with the factionalist groups created by the Chinese leaders. 1 )
Fishing for new supporters, the latter-day Trotskyites make every effort to appear in Marxist colours and, while distorting Leninism, cunningly use its terminology for their disruptive purposes. This has been part of their strategy for a long time.
The purpose behind the Trotskyite pretence was revealed by that prominent figure in the world communist movement, Otto Kuusinen, in an article entitled "Notes on Historical Ex- perience", in which he wrote: "Trotskyites were masters in the art of political forgery and in the art of manipulating quotations taken from Lenin. They understood the strength of the international influence wielded by the teaching of Lenin, and realised that without at least lip-service to Leninism it was no use hoping to attract revolutionary- minded workers to their side.'"
Here again bourgeois propaganda hastens to the rescue of the Trotskyite deceivers.
As Lenin wrote in 1915, "bourgeois society is continually producing . . . opportunists who love to call themselves socialists, who deliberately and systematically deceive the masses with the most florid and 'radical' words". Today's reality again confirms the truth of Lenin's words. Anti- communist propaganda constantly supports ultra-Left tendencies, insofar as they do not constitute a serious danger to imperialism, but run counter to the general line taken by the most revolutionary force of our time, the international communist movement, and hinder the strengthening of the solidarity of the anti-imperialist fighters.
Sparing no effort to popularise various ultra-Left concep- tions, bourgeois propaganda presents Trotskyism as a "trend" in the communist movement, as a "legitimate branch of Marxism", its aim being to stimulate interest in Trotskyism and its anti-communist "theoretical" clap-trap. The sponsors of the anti-communist propaganda campaign give their utmost support to the Trotskyites. They enable them to pursue their activities legally even in countries where the forces of democracy are cruelly persecuted and the Communist parties have been driven underground. Trotskyite writings are printed by major bourgeois publishing firms. O. V. Kuusinen, Selected Works (1918-1964), Russ. ed., Moscow, 1966, p. 682.
And although there is no direct admissions, either in the bourgeois or in the Trotskyite press, that the Trotskyites receive financial subsidies in some covert way from their "well-wishers", it is obvious that such help exists. How otherwise could these feeble groups find the means regularly to publish dozens of journals and papers, organise "interna- tional congresses", and take part in election campaigns?
The Trotskyites repay their debts. Applauded by bourgeois propagandists, they slander the Communist parties, and vie with one another in calumniating socialist countries.
Wherever they can, they try to prevent unity among the ranks of the revolutionaries. They are best served when there is a split, as in these conditions they can engage in political manoeuvres and take advantage of organisational weakness in the revolutionary movement.
The anti-imperialist movement can succeed if it displays vigilance in face of subversive activities of the Trotskyites. To expose them means to show the deep gulf that exists between words and deeds. Claiming to the name of "revolutionaries", they have always done all they can to hinder the advance of the class struggle.
The Trotskyites are still at the same game today, spinning their intrigues among the non-proletarian strata. Experience has shown that those who fall into their political trap are lost to the revolutionary movement. Even a short term in Trotskyite circles more often than not leads to political apathy and a loss of interest for the class struggle. No one can put down revolutionary fervour as effectively as the Trotskyites with their concepts, Leftist in form and defeatist in substance.
This is why the Communist and Workers' parties, who have long worked for a genuinely anti-imperialist movement, wage an irreconcilable war against Trotskyism. They expose its schemes, and reveal the mechanics of its disruptive activity. The Communists expose the real aims pursued by the imperialist press in supporting Trotskyism and its views, and explain to the masses why so much energy and funds are directed towards putting new life into Trotskyism.
Communist parties go deeply into the historical experience of the international working-class movement's struggle against Trotskyism.Of special interest among the work of Soviet historians are two books that came out in 1968 and 1969, The Struggle of the Bolshevik Party Against Trotskyism (1903 — February 1917) and The Struggle of the Bolshevik Party Against Trotskyism in the Period After the October Revolution.' The authors employ a great deal of factual material to illustrate the anti-revolutionary activities of the Trotskyites and show the struggle Lenin and the international communist movement waged against Trotskyism right up to its ideolog- ical and organisational defeat at the end of the twenties.
Among other works on Trotskyism mention should be made of a book by a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of France, Leo Figueres, Trotskyism Is Anti-Leninism, which deals mainly with the struggle waged by the CPSU against Trotskyism in the period before the October Revolution and in the first decade after it. 2 This book also briefly discusses Trotskyism's attempts to galvanise its activity after its utter ideological and organisational defeat within the communist movement. The aim of this present book is to show that the Trotskyites, having been utterly defeated ideologically and organisationally within the international communist move- ment, have tried to rebuild their position and to embark on a new series of anti-revolutionary campaigns. The task is twofold, first we must get to the bottom of the views of contemporary Trotskyism on the world revolutionary process.Second, the means and methods of Trotskyite disruptive activity in the contemporary revolutionary movement must be exposed.All this should enable us to see the political character of Trotskyism better, and to understand its anti-revolutionary essence.