Trotskyism – a rallying point for counter-revolution

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Trotskyism or Leninism
By Harpal Brar

Trotskyism – a rallying point for counter-revolution

Stalin went on to conclude that the danger was "... that Trotskyism, owing to its entire inner content stands every chance of becoming the centre and rallying point of the non-proletarian elements who are striving to weaken to disintegrate the proletarian dictatorship," in view of which it was "the duty of the Party to bury Trotskyism as an ideological trend." (Ibid. p. 373).

In later years Trotsky himself was obliged to admit that "in the wake of this vanguard [i.e., the Trotskyist opposition] there dragged the tail end of all sorts of dissatisfied, ill-equipped and even chagrined careerists," adding, however, that the opposition had managed to free itself from "its accidental and uninvited fellow wayfarers." On the contrary, as the contents of the pages that follow reveal, it is precisely the non-proletarian elements, with their irreconcilable hostility to the proletarian dictatorship, their striving for the disintegration of the proletarian dictatorship, who supported the Trotskyist opposition in the USSR and who continued to support him abroad after his expulsion from the Soviet Union. It is precisely the same type of person who has since those times rallied around Trotskyism, driven by an innate hatred of Marxism-Leninism and of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Even the Trotskyite Deutscher is compelled to say. 'Outside the party, formless revolutionary frustration mingled with distinctly counter-revolutionary trends Since the ruling group had singled out Trotsky as a target for attack he automatically attracted the spurious sympathy of many who had hitherto hated him. As he made his appearance in the streets of Moscow [in. the spring of 19241, he was spontaneously applauded by crowds in which idealist communists rubbed shoulders with Mensheviks Social Revolutionaries; and the new bourgeoisie of the NEP, by all those indeed who, for diverse reasons hoped for a change [i.e., for the disintegration of the proletarian dictatorship through the weakening and disintegration of the Bolshevik Party]" (Isaac Deutscher, Stalin, Pelican, 1966, p. 279).

At its plenary meeting held on 17-20 January, 1925, the Central Committee of the RCP(B) characterised Trotskyism as a variety of Menshevism" and Trotsky's ceaseless attacks on Bolshevism as an attempt to substitute Trotskyism for Leninism. This meeting resolved to remove Trotsky from the office of Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR, and he was "warned in the most emphatic term that membership of the Bolshevik Party demands real, not verbal subordination to Party discipline and total and unconditional renunciation of any attacks on the ideals of Leninism "

Emergence of the New Opposition

After the above meeting pronounced against Trotsky and warned that his splittist activity and anti Leninist propaganda was incompatible with Party membership, Trotsky retreated for a while, awaiting his chance This chance came when Zinoviev and Kamenev – two old Bolsheviks – frightened by difficulties and overcome by defeatism, went into opposition after the 14th Party Conference (April 1925) affirmed the possibility of building socialism, in the USSR. Being incorrigible defeatists and sceptics, Zinoviev and Kamenev denied the possibility of building socialism in the Soviet Union, and in this way found common ground with pessimism, scepticism and defeatism personified, namely, Trotsky, the author of the theory of 'permanent revolution', the epitome of hopelessness.

The New Opposition (as it was called), led by Zinoviev and Kamenev, launched 'vicious attacks on the Party's Leninist line (on the possibility of building socialism) at the 14th Congress of the Party, winch opened in December 1925. After suffering a crushing defeat at that Congress, the New Opposition, headed by Zinoviev and Kamenev (who had until only recently been -seeking to remove Trotsky from the leadership and whom Trotsky, in turn, had been seeking to eliminate from the leadership of the Party) openly embraced Trotskyism. Thus emerged an anti-Party opposition bloc, to which flocked the remnants of the various opposition groups previously squashed by the Party – all motivated by their hatred of, and opposition to, the Party's policy of strengthening the proletarian dictatorship and building socialism in the USSR.

The leaders of this opposition, Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, "granting each other mutual amnesty," as Stalin put it, and using as an occasion and a pretext the collapse of the British General Strike (that they blamed on the leadership of the Bolshevik Party for having allegedly failed to give leadership and guidance to the British workers), produced their platform, written by Trotsky, which was presented in part to the Plenum of the Central Committee on 6-9 April 1926, and in full to the meeting of July 14-23 1926. In flagrant breach of Party discipline, the opposition organised demonstrations in factories, demanding full discussion of their platform. The communist workers vehemently denounced the opposition leaders and made them leave these meetings. Faced with this humiliating defeat, the opposition leaders beat a retreat and sent a statement, on 16 October 1926, in which they confessed their errors and promised to desist in future from their factional activity against the Party. In the words of Ian Grey:

"Appalled by their own temerity and recklessness, the six leaders – Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Pyatakov, Sokolnikov and Evdakimov – confessed their guilt in a public declaration and swore not to pursue factional activity in future. They also denounced their own left-wing supporters in the Comintern and the Workers' Opposition group." (Ian Grey, Stalin – Man of History, Abacus, 1982, pp. 213-214).

Formation of an illegal party

The opposition's statement of October, 1926, turned out to be totally insincere and thoroughly hypocritical. As a matter of fact the opposition had formed an illegal party of its own, with a separate system of membership, district committees, and a centre. The illegal party, with a secret illegal printing press, held secret meetings at which the opposition's factional platform, and the tactics to be adopted against the Bolshevik Party, were discussed – all this in violation of the decisions of the 10th Party Congress banning the formation and continuation of separate factions within the Party.

In October 1926, the Plenum of the Central Committee, sitting jointly with the Central Control Commission, issued a severe warning to the leaders of the opposition, removing Trotsky from the Politburo and Kamenev from his candidate membership of this body. Zinoviev was removed from the Comintern.

The Fifteenth All-Union Party Conference (Oct-Nov 1926) characterised the Trotsky-Zinoviev opposition as a Menshevik deviation in the Party, issuing the warning that further development in the direction of Menshevism would lead to the opposition's expulsion from the Party.

At the beginning of 1927 the opposition renewed its attack on the policy of the Comintern vis--vis the Chinese revolution, blaming the Comintern and the CPSU for the reverses of the Chinese revolution. Taking advantage of the internal difficulties, as well as of the deterioration in the international position of the USSR, the opposition yet again came out with the so-called 'platform of 83'. Renewing their slander against the Party, the opposition claimed in this platform that the Soviet government was intending to abolish the monopoly of foreign trade and grant political fights to the kulaks. Such slanders could not but encourage the kulaks and imperialism alike in putting pressure on the Soviet government in an attempt to wrest precisely such concessions from the Soviet government. In addition, the opposition demagogically demanded greater freedom in the Party, which it understood to mean the freedom to form factions and to "indulge in unparalleled abuse and impermissible vilification of the Central Committee, CPSU(B) and the ECCI. They complain of the 'regime' within the Comintern and the CPSU(B). Essentially, what they want is freedom to disorganise the Comintern and the CPSU(B)..." (Stalin, Collected Works, Vol. 9, p. 317).

Trotskyism's struggle against 'Stalinism' – a continuation of the struggle against Leninism

What the Trotskyite opposition was fighting against was the regime established by the 10th congress under the guidance of Lenin – a regime designed to strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat through unity and iron discipline within the Bolshevik Party by outlawing factionalism. The underlying principles of the regime established by the 10th Congress were that "while inner-Party democracy is operated and businesslike criticism of the Party's defects and mistakes is permitted no factionalism whatsoever is permitted, and all factionalism must be abandoned on pain of expulsion from the party.," (Stalin, The Political Completion of the Russian Opposition, Collected Works, Vol. 10, p. 166).

"I assert", said Stalin, "that the Trotskyites had already started their fight against the Leninist regime in the Party in Lenin's time, and that the fight the Trotskyites are now [i.e., September 19271 waging is a continuation of the fight against the regime in the Party which they were already waging in Lenin's time." (Ibid.)

As the opposition's platform drew no support from the workers, it retreated again and handed another declaration to the Central Committee, on 8 August 1927, in which they promised yet again to cease their factional activity, only to violate it a month later.

As the preparations got under way in September 1927 for the Fifteenth Party Congress, the opposition drew up the third statement of its aims and policies. An end had to be put to the opposition's factionalism, its disorganising activity and the charade of repeated violations of its hypocritical declaration of admission of guilt and promises to cease factional activity. So, at the end of October 1927, the Central Committee in a joint meeting with the Central Control Commission, expelled Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee, deciding further to submit all the documents relating to the factional activity of the Trotskyite opposition to the Fifteenth Congress for consideration by the latter.

It is worth recalling that during the Party discussion preceding the Fifteenth Party Congress, 724,000 members voted for the Leninist policy of the Central Committee, while a derisory 4,000 votes were cast for the platform of the Trotskyite-Zinovievite opposition bloc, that is, half of one per cent of the membership that took part in this debate.

Why did the opposition fail?

The opposition failed to get any support in the Party organisations, for its line was that of utter bankruptcy the line of wanting to supplant Leninism by Trotskyism, while the Party wished faithfully to pursue the line of Leninism – that of revolutionary Bolshevism.

"How, then," asked Stalin, "are we to explain the fact that notwithstanding his oratorical skill, notwithstanding his will to lead, notwithstanding his abilities, Trotsky was thrown out of the leadership of the great Party which is called the CPSU(B)?" He went on to answer: "The reason is that the opposition intended to replace Leninism with Trotskyism, to 'improve' Leninism by means Of Trotskyism. But the Party want to remain faithful to Leninism in spite of all the various artifices of the down-at-heel aristocrats in the Party. That is the root cause why the Party, which has made three revolutions, found it necessary to turn its back on Trotsky and on the opposition as a whole." (Collected Works, Vol. 10, p. 165).

Speaking at the Fifteenth Congress of the Party, Stalin returned to this question again. "How could it happen that the Party as a whole, and after it the working class as well so thoroughly isolated the opposition? After a1l the opposition is headed by well-known people with well-known names, people who know how to advertise themselves..., people who are not afflicted with modesty and who are able to blow their own trumpets, to make the most of their wares.

"It happened because the leading group of the opposition proved to be a group of petty-bourgeois intellectuals divorced from life, divorced from the revolution, divorced from the Party, from the working class." (Stalin, ibid. p. 345).

From factionalism within the Party to counter-revolutionary struggle against the Soviet regime

Faced with utter defeat within the Party, bankrupt politically and isolated from the Party membership, the Trotskyite-Zinovievite bloc switched over from factional activity within the Party to anti-Soviet and counter-revolutionary struggle against the Bolshevik regime, attracting in the process all the anti-Soviet elements to their camp.

On 7 November, 1927, the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, Trotsky and Zinoviev organised anti-Party demonstrations in Moscow and Leningrad. Poorly attended, these counter-revolutionary demonstrations were easily dispersed by the demonstrators of the working class under the leadership of the CPSU.

By its November 7 actions the opposition had given full proof of its conversion into a counter-revolutionary force openly hostile to the proletarian dictatorship in the USSR. Having infringed all the norms and rules of Party life, the Trotskyites now embarked upon a career of violating state laws which in due course led them to murder, sabotage, wrecking and, finally, to an alliance with fascism.

On 14 November, 1927, the Central Committee expelled Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Party, while other members of their group were removed from the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission.

The Fifteenth Congress of the Party (December 1927), noting that the opposition had ideologically broken with Leninism, had degenerated into Menshevism, had adopted the path of capitulation to international imperialism and the internal bourgeoisie and had become an instrument of struggle against the dictatorship of the proletariat, enthusiastically endorsed these expulsions. Moreover it expelled in addition a further 75 members of the Trotsky-Zinoviev bloc, as well as 15 Democratic Centralists. Further, the Congress instructed Party organisations to purge their ranks of incorrigible Trotskyites and take steps to re-educate the rank-and-file members of the opposition in the spirit of Leninism.

After the Congress many ordinary members of the opposition recognised their errors, broke with Trotskyism and were restored to Party membership. In January 1928 Trotsky was exiled to Alma-Ata in Central Asia (Kazakhstan). Even there he continued clandestinely to indulge in his anti-Party, anti-Soviet activity. Consequently, in January 1929 he was expelled from the Soviet Union.

Since the opposition intended little by little to switch the Bolshevik Party from the Leninist path to that of Trotskyism, and since the Party wanted to remain a Leninist Party, it was only natural that the Party turned its back on the opposition and raised ever higher the banner of Leninism. This alone explains why, as Stalin put it, "yesterday's leaders of the Party have now become renegades." (Collected Works, Vol. 10, p. 199).

Not personal factors but departure from Leninism is the cause of Trotskyism's failure

Instead of grasping this truth, the Trotskyite opposition in its day, and the Trotskyites ever since then, have explained the opposition's defeat by personal factors. This is how Stalin described the far-reaching historical roots of Trotsky's fight against Bolshevism and the reasons for the failure and bankruptcy of the opposition's line:

"The opposition thinks that its defeat can be 'explained' by the personal factor, by Stalin's rudeness... That is too cheap an explanation. It is an incantation, not an explanation. Trotsky has been fighting Leninism since 1904. From 1904 until the February revolution in 1917 he hung around the Mensheviks desperately fighting Lenin's Party all the time. During that period Trotsky suffered a number of defeats at the hand of Lenin's Party- Why? Perhaps Stalin's rudeness was to blame? But Stalin was not yet the secretary of the Central Committee at that time; he was not abroad, but in Russia, fighting tsarism underground, whereas the struggle between Trotsky and Lenin raged abroad. So what has Stalin's rudeness got to do with it?

"During the period from the October Revolution to 1922, Trotsky, already a member of the Bolshevik Party, managed to make two 'grand' sorties against Lenin and his Party: in 1918 – on the question of the Brest Peace; and in 1921 – on the trade-union question. Both those sorties ended in Trotsky being defeated. Why? Perhaps Stalin's rudeness was to blame here? But at that time Stalin was not yet the secretary of the Central Committee. The secretarial posts were then occupied by notorious Trotskyists. So what has Stalin's rudeness got to do with it?

"Later, Trotsky made a number of fresh sorties against the Party (1923, 1924, 1926, 1927) and each sortie ended in Trotsky suffering a fresh defeat.

"Is it not obvious from all this that Trotsky's fight against the Leninist Party has deep, far-reaching historical roots? Is it not obvious from this that the struggle the Party is now waging against Trotskyism is a continuation of the struggle that the Party, headed by Lenin, waged from 1904 onwards?

"Is it not obvious from all this that the attempts of the Trotskyists to replace Leninism by Trotskyism are the chief cause of the failure and bankruptcy of the entire line of the opposition?

"Our Party was born and grew up in the storm of revolutionary battles. It is not a party that grew up in a period of peaceful development. For that very reason it is rich in revolutionary traditions and does not make a fetish of its leaders. At one time Plekhanov was the most popular man in the Party. More than that he was the founder of the Party, and his popularity was incomparably greater than that of Trotsky or Zinoviev. Nevertheless, in spite of that the Party turned away from Plekhanov as soon as he began to depart from Marxism and go over to opportunism. Is it surprising, then, that people who are not so 'great, people like Trotsky and Zinoviev, found themselves at the tail of the Party after they began to depart from Leninism?" (Collected Works, Vol. 10, pp 199-201).

Just as the struggle waged against Trotskyism by the Bolshevik Party headed by Stalin from 1924 onwards was a continuation of the struggle that the Party headed by Lenin had waged from 1903 onwards, equally Trotsky's fight against the Bolshevik Party headed by Stalin was a continuation of the struggle that Trotskyism waged against the Bolshevik Party when it was headed by Lenin. Lenin had been the chief target of Trotsky's vilifications from 1903 to 1917. After the death of Lenin, Stalin came to occupy this honourable position, became the chief target of the opposition's attack. This was because Stalin, by faithfully defending and carrying forward the Leninist fine, became the most representative spokesman of the Bolshevik Party and in that capacity drew the wrath of the opposition in its repeated, if unsuccessful, attempts to substitute Trotskyism for Leninism. It was not a case of the allegedly Leninist Trotsky fighting against an allegedly outside usurper, Stalin, as is put out in Trotskyite fairy tales; on the contrary, it was the staunch and indefatigable Leninist (Stalin) who brilliantly continued the successful Leninist assault on the anti-Bolshevik and petty-bourgeois ideology of Trotskyism. This alone explains Trotskyism's hatred of Joseph St" the very mention of whose name causes Trotskyite gentry to foam at the mouth- This is how Stalin described the opposition's hatred for him:

"First of all about the personal factor. You have heard here how assiduously the oppositionists hurl abuse at Stalin, abuse him with all their might. The reason why the main attacks were directed against Stalin is because Stalin knows all the opposition's tricks better, perhaps, than some of our comrades do, and it is not easy, I dare say, to fool him. So they strike their blows primarily at Stalin. Well, let them hurt abuse to their hearts' content.

"And what is Stalin? Stalin is only a minor figure. Take Lenin. Who does not know that at the time of the August bloc the opposition, headed by Trotsky, waged an even more scurrilous campaign of slander against Lenin? Listen to Trotsky, for example.

"'The wretched squabbling systematically provoked by Lenin, that old hand at the game, that professional exploiter of all that is backward in the Russian labour movement, seems like a senseless obsession' (See Trotsky's 'Letter to Chkeidze', April 1913).

"Note the language, comrades! Note the language! It is Trotsky writing. And writing about Lenin.

"Is it surprising, then, that Trotsky, who wrote in such an ill-mannered way about the great Lenin, whose shoe-laces he was not worthy of tying, should now hurl abuse at one of Lenin's numerous pupils – Comrade Stalin?

"More than that. I think the opposition does me honour by venting all its hatred against Stalin. That is as it should be. I think it would be strange and offensive if the opposition, which is trying to wreck the Party, were to praise Stalin, who is defending the fundamentals of the Leninist Party principle." (Collected Works, Vol. 10, pp. 177-178).

Trotsky's regular predictions of doom