Trotsky as "Freelancer"

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Trotskyism or Leninism
By Harpal Brar

Trotsky as "Freelancer"

"Broué's treatment of Trotsky's political activity between the decisive 1903 Bolshevik-Menshevik split and the October Revolution is at the core of his interpretation; because it is here that he deals with the debates within Russian Social Democracy over the nature, form and structure a revolutionary party must have if it is to take state power, as well as with the role of political and programmatic debate in forging such a party. After the 1903 split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, Trotsky became a sort of freelancer in the party.

"Broué praises Trotsky for this, seeing in it the cause for Trotsky's leading role in the 1905 Revolution as chairman of the St Petersburg Soviet and his brilliant propagandist use of his trial following the 1905 defeat:

"'In fact, effectively fired from any factional obligations, at a good distance from the up and downs of the conflicts between the two main factions, satisfied in this respect with his unitary' position whose victory seemed to him assured in the future, Trotsky had his hands completely free to devote his attention and activity to the events that were unfolding in Russia...' – Broué, p. 97.

"To read this, one would conclude that Lenin's factional struggle against Menshevism was irrelevant – if not outright counterposed – to intervening in and leading the revolutionary struggle. Indeed, Broué views Trotsky's role as the leading 'conciliator' between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks as exemplary.

"Earlier, as Broué notes, 'Trotsky, partisan of centralization and of the authority of the Central Committee ever since he bad been deported to Siberia, was seen in the émigré circles as Lenin's 'hatchet man',' At the 1903 Congress Trotsky began a programmatic struggle against Lenin on the question of the party. For example Trotsky opposed the sovereignty of the party congress: 'The Congress is a register, a controller, but not a creator' (Report of the Siberian Delegation, 1903) Although the programmatic implications were far from clear at the time, the 1903 split was a fundamental spilt on the party question Trotsky's federalist position on this question was also reflected in 'Report of the Siberian Delegation' with his rejection of the Bolshevik definition of a party member that required 'personal participation in one of the Party bodies.' In practical terms Trotsky was in favour of the Menshevik definition of a party member as one who gave Personal assistance 'to the party – he wished to allow all the broad 'workers organisations' which existed alongside the party committees in many major Russian cities, to act in the name of the party regardless of their adherence to the statutes or decisions of party congresses.

"At the same time that Broué enthuses over Trotsky's independence, he mentions in passing that Trotsky was wrong on the party question during this entire period. But what he says pales in comparison with Trotsky's own judgement:

"'The deep differences that divided me from Bolshevism for a whole number of years and in many cases placed me in sharp and hostile opposition to Bolshevism, Were expressed most graphically in relation to the Menshevik faction. I began with the radically wrong perspective that the course of the revolution and the pressure of the proletarian masses would ultimately force both factions to follow the same road. Therefore I considered a split to be an unnecessary" disruption of the revolutionary forces. But because the active role in the split by with the Bolsheviks – since it was only by ruthless demarcation, not only ideological but organizational as well, that it was possible, in Lenin's opinion, to assure the revolutionary character of the proletarian party (and the entire subsequent history has fully confirmed the correctness of those policies) – my 'conciliationism' led me at many sharp turns in the road into hostile clashes with Bolshevism.' – Trotsky, 'Our Differences' (Nov. 1924).

"The traditional 'center' and right wing of the Social Democracy were only too happy to use Trotsky's name and journalistic brilliance as a left cover for their own positions and as a weapon against Lenin. Thus Broué reports that 'Trotsky was on good terms with Kautsky and the 'center of the German Social Democracy until at least 1912... It was Kautsky during this period who, to Lenin's great anger, opened the pages of 'Die Neue Zeit' and 'Vorwarts' to Trotsky, Broué also details Trotsky's warm relations with the Austro-Marxists of Vienna, noting that he rapidly became 'the uncontested head of the Social Democratic colony in Vienna' from 1909 to 1912 .He passes rapidly over the fact that during the same period Rosa Luxemburg viewed Trotsky with 'systematic suspicion' and as a 'dubious individual', no doubt due to his ties to her right-wing opponents in the German Social Democracy.

"Broué's attitude toward Trotsky during these years is exemplified by his treatment of the infamous August bloc. The Vienna 'Pravda' edited by Trotsky attempted to 'conciliate' the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions- – Broué approvingly quotes the professional anti-communist Leonard Schapiro's praise of the Vienna 'Pravda' for not being as polemical as the Bolshevik press. A 1910 agreement between the factions provided for Bolshevik financial support to the Vienna 'Pravda', with Kamenev (who was close to Lenin and was Trotsky's brother-in-law) responsible for administering the Bolshevik funds The agreement stipulated that the Mensheviks would get rid of their right wing, and the Bolsheviks of their left wing. While the Bolsheviks respected the agreement, the Mensheviks did not, and in the subsequent polemics, Trotsky sided with the Mensheviks and got rid of Kamenev. Trotsky's articles, aimed at militants inside Russia who were unfamiliar with the details of the dispute, denounced the Bolsheviks as a 'conspiracy of the émigré clique.' Kautsky solicited and published several articles by Trotsky attacking the Bolsheviks, which provoked angry rejoinders not just from Lenin, but also from Plekhanov and Rosa Luxemburg. When the Bolshevik Prague Congress in 1912 proclaimed that it represented the party as a whole, Trotsky organised a unity' counter-conference in Vienna in August.

"In Trotsky's mind [the conference] was to have been the general unification, the reunification of the party. In fact, the Bolsheviks' rejection of it reduced the participants to a bloc against them, which they baptized the 'August bloc'. The Polish Social Democrats and Plekhanov also chose not to appear ... In fact, Trotsky's return to the factional arena proved particularly unfortunate. Independent of his intentions, and even of his precautions, the positions he took after the Prague conference and his role in forming the August bloc made him appear, despite himself, as the soul of a general coalition against the Bolsheviks and an indirect supporter of the 'liquidators'.' – Broué, pp. 139-140.

"Every qualifier in Broué's description of Trotsky's role in the August bloc is wrong or misleading. As is clear from Trotsky's denunciation of the Bolsheviks as an 'émigré clique', he was well aware that what Broué so delicately terms 'general unification', was a polemical cudgel with which to attack Lenin. Trotsky did not just 'appear' to be the soul of the anti-Bolshevik coalition, he was in fact that soul in that he was the most left-wing, most respected force outside the Bolsheviks. Trotsky's actions were not misconstrued 'despite himself,' but were an accurate reflection of the role he played vis-à-vis the Bolsheviks in the entire period from 1903 to at least 1915."

"The outbreak of WWI and the betrayal by the parties of the Second International most of whose leaders supported their own' governments in the bloody inter-imperialist war, shifted the grounds of dispute within the world socialist movement, forcing realignments and regroupments. Lenin and Trotsky both fought against the imperialist war, and both attended the gathering of antiwar socialists held in Zimmerwald Switzerland in September 1915." (pp. 33-34).

Be it noted in passing that the last sentence is either born out of dishonesty or simple ignorance – most likely the former – for everyone with the least knowledge about this matter knows that the Bolshevik slogan of working for the defeat of one's own government in the imperialist war then raging was countered by Trotsky with his chauvinist slogan demanding 'Neither victory nor defeat'. Further, we have provided, quotations above from Lenin to the effect that during this period Trotsky was a Kautskyite and fought against the Zimmerwald left headed by Lenin's Bolsheviks. But that does not concern us here. ICL continue:

"Broué argues that after Zimmerwald despite 'real disagreements' between Lenin and Trotsky, there was 'a reasonable prospect for a gradual rapprochement between the two men who in reality were divided only [sic] by the 1903 split, which had long since been outdated.' What Broué slides over is the fact that Lenin never repudiated the 1903 split – instead he generalized from it to a fully-formed theoretical position on the necessity for revolutionary cadres to organize a vanguard party, separate from reformist and centrist tendencies. Trotsky was ultimately won to Lenin's side on this question in 1917.

"There is something anachronistic and evocative of the worst aspects of French political traditions in Broué's repeated presentation of Trotsky as a simple star, freelancer, too busy being 'a leader of men' and giving brilliant speeches before and after the Revolution to have been a 'party man' or to have had the time to familiarize himself with [the] faction fights in the corridors'. Trotsky was a factionalist before 1917 – on the wrong side. But his program of conciliationism could never have built the sort of hard faction that could win leadership in the party, nor the kind of Party that could take state power." (p. 34).

Well said, Messrs the Trotskyites of the ICL! We think any comment on ibis would be superfluous!

All this does not, however, prevent the Trotskyites of the ICL from asserting, without as much as a blush, that Trotsky, after the death of Lenin, was best placed "to carry forward the authentic Bolshevik programme against Stalin's usurpers." Very strange logic indeed, according to which Trotsky, the Menshevik liquidator, who, spent two decades in a mortal struggle against every aspect of Leninism, was better suited to, carrying out the 'authentic' Bolshevik programme than someone like Stalin who, had spent two and a half decades faithfully supporting and actually carrying out the Bolshevik programme. Here is how ICL put it:

"In his admiration for Trotsky the left-Menshevik, Broué also never considers the potential authority that Trotsky would have gained and retained among stalwart Bolsheviks had he come over to Lenin's side as a hard party man in 1903 – an authority that would have served him well in the subsequent period when he fought to carry forward the authentic Bolshevik programme against Stalin's usurpers." (Ibid. p. 35).

Pigs might fly! The above statement of ICL amounts, if it amounts to anything at all, to a meaningless tautology, namely, had Trotsky been a staunch supporter of Leninism in the period 1903-17, he would have been well placed to carry out the authentic Bolshevik programme after Lenin's death. The problem, however, is that he was not during this long period, nor was he in the subsequent period, a staunch supporter of Leninism. The one who was a staunch Leninist, namely Joseph Stalin, was quite correctly chosen by the Bolshevik Party to lead it in carrying forward the authentic Bolshevik programme against the would-be usurper, to wit, Trotsky.

There is method in ICL's madness. They admit Trotsky's pre-1917 Menshevism in order to present gullible, readers with a sanitised version of Trotsky who, it is claimed, suddenly saw the light and after 1917 became a better Bolshevik than anyone else.

"The fact is," write the ICI, "that Broué... agrees with Trotsky's conciliationism before 1917, and much prefers Trotsky the anti-Leninist to Trotsky the Bolshevik."

Unlike Broué, in a vain attempt to gain credibility for Trotskyism, the ICL would rather make a clean admission of Trotsky's pre-1917 Menshevism and anti-Leninism in order to be able all the more zealously to fasten the label of staunch Leninist on Trotsky's lapel. This trick will not work, however, for apart from the short period during October when he hid his anti-Leninist stock-in-trade in the cupboard, Trotsky continued to practise his anti-Leninism, his anti-Bolshevism, with a zeal worthy of a better cause. It is not only the case that Broué, as is justly claimed by the ICI, "subtly puts Lenin under the gun" in order to gain the appreciation of the "anti- Leninist Soviet intelligentsia" (these words were written in the winter of 1990-91), but also the fact that the Trotskyites of the ICI, in common with all other Trotskyites, are attempting to substitute Trotskyism for Leninism, albeit by denouncing pre-1917 Trotskyism. No subterfuges, no tricks, no artful dodging, no deception, can detract from this fact – not even the pretence of praising Leninism.

3. Distrust of Bolshevik leadership

Trotsky stands for the distrust of the leaders of Bolshevism, for discrediting and defaming them. As Stalin correctly observed:

"I do not know of a single trend in the party that could compare with Trotskyism in the matter of discrediting the leaders of Leninism or the central institutions of the Party." (Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 366).

In Trotsky's letter to Chkeidze, already cited, Trotsky described Lenin as "a professional exploiter of every kind of backwardness in the Russian working-class movement."

If Trotsky could express such ill-mannered views about Leninism, is there anything surprising in the fact that he showered, after Lenin's death, even more vile abuse on Lenin's most faithful pupil, Stalin.

How could Trotsky end up in Bolshevik ranks?

How was it that Trotsky, having such an impeccably anti-Bolshevik and anti-Leninist record, found himself in the Bolshevik ranks in the period of the October revolution? Stalin, in a speech on 19 November 1924, asked and answered this question:

"How could it happen that Trotsky, who carried such a nasty stock-in-trade on his back; found himself, after all, in the rank of the Bolsheviks during the October movement? It happened because at that time Trotsky abandoned (actually did abandon) that stock-in-trade; he hid it in the cupboard .Had he not performed that 'operation', real co-operation with him would have been impossible. The theory of the August bloc, i.e., the theory of unity with the Mensheviks, had already been shattered and thrown overboard by the revolution, for how could there be any talk about unity when an armed struggle was raging between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks? Trotsky had no alternative but to admit that this theory was useless.

"The same misadventure 'happened' to the theory of permanent revolution, for not a single Bolshevik contemplated the immediate seizure of power on the morrow of the February Revolution, and Trotsky could not help knowing that the Bolsheviks would not allow him, in the words of Lenin, 'to play at the seizure of power.' Trotsky had no alternative but recognise the Bolsheviks' policy of fighting for influence in the Soviets, of fighting to win over the peasantry As regards the third specific feature of Trotskyism (distrust of (he Bolshevik leaders), it had naturally to retire into the background owing to the obvious failure of the first two features.

"Under the circumstances, could Trotsky do anything else but hide his stock-in-trade in the cupboard and follow the Bolshevik; considering that he had no group of his own of any significance, and that he came to the Bolsheviks as a political individual without an army? Of course, he could not!

"What is the lesson to be learnt from this? Only one: that prolonged collaboration between the Leninists and Trotsky is possible only if the latter completely abandons his old stock-in-trade, only if he completely accepts Leninism. Trotsky writes about the lessons of October, but he forgets ... the one I have just mentioned, which prime importance for Trotskyism. Trotskyism ought to learn that lesson of October too." (Collected Works, Vol. 6, pp. 366-367).

Trotskyism, however, failed to learn this lesson, and its old stock-in-trade, hidden in the cupboard in the period of the October movement, was dragged into daylight once more, especially after the death of Lenin, through Trotskyist literary pronouncements aimed at undermining the Bolshevik Party principle, belittling and discrediting Lenin (albeit under the guise of praising and exalting Lenin) and asserting the correctness of the much-discredited theory of permanent revolution, which was shattered by the experience of the three Russian revolutions – ie, that of 1905 and those of February and October 1917.

On arriving in Petrograd in 1917, Trotsky affiliated to the Mezhrayontsi (inter-regional), a group that vacillated between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. In August 1917, declaring that they had no differences with the Bolsheviks, the Mezhrayontsi joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks). Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks with them. On joining the Bolshevik Party, quite a number of Mezhrayontsi broke with opportunism; but, as subsequent events were to reveal, for Trotsky and some of his followers, joining the Bolsheviks was only a ruse. They continued to propound their harmful and reactionary views, flout discipline and undermine the Party's organisational and ideological unity.

As Trotskyism, Ear from abandoning its old nasty stock-in-trade, on the contrary dragged it out into the light of day, it was bound, owing to its entire inner content, to become the centre and rallying point not only of the non-proletarian elements in the USSR who were then (in the 1920s and 1930s) striving to disintegrate the proletarian dictatorship, but also of the imperialist bourgeoisie seeking by a thousand means to overthrow the proletarian regime that had been ushered in by the mighty October revolution. At every crucial stage in the development of the Russian revolution and the existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR, Trotskyism continued to maintain its reactionary anti-Bolshevik, anti-Leninist stance in matters of theory as well as organisation, cloaking it under thick layers of 'revolutionary' rhetoric.

Trotskyism or Leninism Brest-Litovsk