On Bhagat Singh’s day of martyrdom

[On this occassion we are publishing the text of the statement of Bhagat Singh before the Lahore High Court bench. Copyright: © Shahidbhagatsingh.org. Published originally on MIA with the permission of Shahidbhagatsingh.org and Shahid Bhagat Singh Research Committee.]


We are neither lawyers nor masters of English language, nor holders of degrees. Therefore, please do not expect any oratorial speech from us. We therefore pray that instead of going into the language mistakes of our statement Your Lordships will try to understand the real sense of it.

Leaving other points to our lawyers, I will confine myself to one point only. The point is very important in this case. The point is as to what were our intentions sand to what extent we are guilty. This is a very complicated question and no one will be able to express before you that height to mental elevation which inspired us to think and act in a particular manner. We want that this should be kept in mind while assessing our intentions our offence. According to the famous jurist Solomon, one should not be punished for his criminal offence if his aim is not against law.

We had submitted a written statement in the Sessions Court. That statement explains our aim and, as such, explains our intentions also. But the leaned judge dismissed it with one stroke of pen, saying that “generally the operation of law is not affected by how or why one committed the offence. In this country the aim of the offence is very rarely mentioned in legal commentaries.”

My Lords, our contention is that under the circumstances the learned judge ought to have judged us either by the result of our action or on the basis of the psychological part of our statement. But he did not take any of these factors into consideration.

The point to be considered is that the two bombs we threw in the Assembly did not harm anybody physically or economically. As such the punishment awarded to us is not only very harsh but revengeful also. Moreover, the motive knowing his psychology. And no one can do justice to anybody without taking his motive into consideration. If we ignore the motive, the biggest general of the words will appear like ordinary murderers; revenue officers will look like thieves and cheats. Even judges will be accused of murder. This way the entire social system and the civilization will be reduced to murders, thefts and cheating. If we ignore the motive, the government will have no right to expect sacrifice from its people and its officials. Ignore the motive and every religious preacher will be dubbed as a preacher of falsehoods, and every prophet will be charged of misguiding crores of simple and ignorant people.

If we set aside the motive, then Jessus Christ will appear to be a man responsible for creating disturbances, breaking peace and preaching revolt, and will be considered to be a “dangerous personality” in the language of the law. But we worship him. He commands great respect in our hearts and his image creates vibrations of spiritualism amongst us. Why? Because the inspiration behind his actions was that of a high ideal. The rulers of that age could not recognize that high idealism. They only saw his outward actions. Nineteen centuries have passed since then. Have we not progressed during this period? Shall we repeat that mistake again? It that be so, then we shall have to admit that all the sacrifices of the mankind and all the efforts of the great martyrs were useless and it would appear as if we are still at the same place where we stood twenty centuries back.

From the legal point of view also, the question of motive is of special importance. Take the example of General Dyer. He resorted to firing and killed hundreds of innocent and unarmed people. But the military court did not order him to be shot. It gave him lakhs of rupees as award. Take another example. Shri Kharag Bahadur Singh, a young Gurkha, Killed a Marwari in Calcutta. If the motive be set aside, then Kharag Bahadur Singh ought to have been hanged. But he was awarded a mild sentence of a few years only. He was even released much before the expiry of his sentence. Was there any loophole in the law that he escaped capital punishment? Or, was the charge of murder not proved against him? Like us, he also accepted the full responsibility of his action, but he escaped death. He is free today. I ask Your Lordship, why was he not awarded capital punishment? His action was well calculated and well planned. From the motive end, his action was more serious and fatal than ours. He was awarded a mild punishment because his intentions were good. He was awarded a mild punishment because his intention were good. He saved the society from a dirty leach who had sucked the life-blood of so many pretty young girls. Kharag Singh was given a mild punishment just to uphold the formalities of the law.

This principle (that the law does not take motive into consideration – ed.) is quite absurd. This is against the basic principles of the law which declares that “the law is for man and not man for the law”. As such, why the same norms are not being applied to us also? It is quite clear that while convicting Kharag Singh his motive was kept in mind, otherwise a murderer can never escape the hangman’s noose. Are we being deprived of the ordinary advantage of the law because our offence is against the government, or because our action has a political importance?

My Lords, under these circumstances, please permit us to assert that a government which seeks shelter behind such mean methods has no right to exist. If it is exists, it is for the time being only, and that too with the blood of thousands of people on its head. If the law does not see the motive there can be no justice, nor can there be stable peace.

Mixing of arsenic (poison) in the flour will not be considered to be a crime, provided its purpose is to kill rats. But if the purpose is to kill a man, it becomes a crime of murder. Therefore, such laws which do not stand the test of reason and which are against the principle of justice, should be abolished. Because of such unjust laws, many great intellectuals had to adopt the path of revolt.

The facts regarding our case are very simple. We threw two bombs in the legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929. As a result of the explosion, a few persons received minor scratches. There was pandemonium in the chamber, hundreds of visitors and members of the Assembly ran out. Only my friend B.K. Dutt and myself remained seated in the visitors gallery and offered ourselves for arrest. We were tried for attempt to murder, and convicted for life. As mentioned above, as a result of the bomb explosion, only four or five persons were slightly injured and one bench got damaged. We offered ourselves for arrest without any resistance. The Sessions Judge admitted that we could have very easily escaped, had we had any intention like that. We accepted our offence and gave a statement explaining our position. We are not afraid of punishment. But we do not want that we should be wrongly understood. The judge remover a few paragraphs from our statement. This we consider to be harmful for our real position.

A proper study of the full text of our statement will make it clear that, according to us, our country is passing through a delicate phase. We saw the coming catastrophe and thought it proper to give a timely warning with a loud voice, and we gave the warning in the manner we thought proper. We may be wrong. Our line of thinking and that of the learned judge may be different, but that does not bean that we be deprived of the permission to express our ideas, and wrong things be propagated in our name.

In our statement we explained in detail what we mean by “Long Live Revolution” and “Down With Imperialism”. That formed the crux of our ideas. That portion was removed from our statement. Generally a wrong meaning is attributed to the word revolution. That is not our understanding. Bombs and pistols do not make revolution. That is not our understanding. Bombs and pistols do not make revolution. The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting-stone of ideas. This is what we wanted to emphasize. By revolution we mean the end of the miseries of capitalist wars. It was not proper to pronounce judgment without understanding our aims and objects and the process of achieving them. To associate wrong ideas with our names is out and out injustice.

It was very necessary to give the timely warning that the unrest of the people is increasing and that the malady may take a serious turn, if not treated in time and properly. If our warning is not heeded, no human power will be able to stop it. We took this step to give proper direction to the storm. We are serious students of history. We believe that, had the ruling powers acted correctly at the proper time, there would have been no bloody revolutions in France and Russia. Several big power of the world tried to check the storm of ideas and were sunk in the atmosphere of bloodshed. The ruling people cannot change the flow of the current. We wanted to give the first warning. Had we aimed at killing some important personalities, we would have failed in the attainment of our aim.

My Lords, this was the aim and the spirit behind our action, and the result of the action corroborates our statement. There is one more point which needs elucidation, and that is regarding the strength of the bombs. Had we had no idea of the strength of the bombs, there would have been no question of our throwing them in the presence of our respected national leader like Pandit Motilal Nehru, Shri Kelkar, Shri Jayaker and Shri Jinnah. How could we have risked the lives of our leaders? After all we are not mad and, had we been so, we would have certainly been sent to the lunatic asylum, instead of being put in jail. We had full knowledge about the strength of the bombs and that is why we acted with so much confidence. It was very easy to have thrown the bombs on the occupied benches, but it was difficult to have thrown them on unoccupied seats. Had we not of saner mind or had we been mentally unbalanced, the bombs would have fallen on occupied benches and not in empty places. Therefore I would say that we should be rewarded for the courage we showed in carefully selecting the empty places. Under these conditions, My Lords, we think we have not been understood, My Lords, we think we have not been understood properly. We have not come before you to get our sentences reduced. We have come here to clarify our position. We want that we should not be given any unjust treatment, nor should any unjust opinion be pronounced about us. The question of punishment is of secondary importance before us.

Rank-and-file Movement in World War II

– Bill Hunter

The phrase “the spirit of 1945” has inspired many activists this year. Ken Loach’s film of the same name led to discussions of what that spirit was.But what is less known are the deep processes taking place in the working class during the Second War World.
There was a determined effort by militant workers to break Labour from the coalition national government and to use strikes to fight for their conditions against the Labour Party, the Communist Party and the trade union leadership whose line was: don’t strike support the war, we are all in it together against fascism. Meanwhile the capitalists continued to get fat on war profits.

Then, as today new rank and file organisations needed to develop if workers were going to fight and win against the employers and government. It continued an old tradition of rank and file actions.

Post-war history is shaped in part by rank and file committees expressing independent struggle against union leaderships who would not fight, who were opposed for example to calling a general strike and in the Second World War any strike!
Here we re-publish Bill Hunter on the 1944 “Apprentices’ strike”. We are not in a World War but there is a brutal social war taking place. Rank and file struggle is vital today as the TUC majority back the Labour Party just as they did then.
Today we must fight to place decision making into the hands of mass meetings of the rank and file.
In Marxists in the Second World War, Labour Review, December 1958, Bill explains about the rising movement of the class, “Working days lost by strikes, which fell to 940,000 in 1940, rose to 1,530,000 in 1942, 1,810,000 in 1943 and 3,710,000 in 1944. By the beginning of 1944 the government was faced with the prospect of a general strike throughout the coalfields. In the last months of 1943 there had been a wave of strikes, most of them in defence of young workers who had been conscripted for underground work”.
This story is from a chapter of Bill Hunter’s Lifelong Apprenticeship: Life and Times of a Revolutionary, Volume 1: 1920–1959. It is about the struggle of young engineering workers against conscription to the coal mines and the way the State tried to prepare an attack on militant workers by blaming the strikes on Trotskyists.
Strikes in war challenged union leaderships
The Labour and trade union bureaucracy was extremely worried at the biggest wave of industrial action since the 1926 General Strike, and at the growing political movement of hostility to the political truce.
As we have seen, at the beginning of 1944 no fewer than 44 resolutions were tabled for the Whitsun Labour Party conference demanding the end of the coalition government. The following year this movement in the Labour Party was to eject the party’s leaders from the Cabinet.
At the end of March 1944, 50,000 engineering apprentices went on strike. Their rank-and-file organisation, the ‘Apprentices’ Guild’, which had begun on the Tyne, was demanding that Bevin, the Minister of Labour, withdraw the new legislation that would conscript engineering apprentices into the mines, their names being chosen by ballot.
The Tyne Apprentices’ Guild expressed the deep feelings of young workers who, living in a coal-mining area, had the common opinion that they would rather go into the army than down the pits. One of their leaflets declared:
“The Government has adopted, and is now enforcing, the so-called Ballot Scheme. By this scheme, which was introduced without consulting the lads who will be driven down the pits, they claim they will solve the coal crisis. But this dictatorial measure has been taken against lads 18 to 21 years of age, who cannot legally demonstrate their hostility to, and lack of confidence in, the infamous pit compulsion scheme, because we lack the elementary rights of the Parliamentary vote.
“We apprentices declare that it is the greedy coal-owners who are responsible for the present coal crisis. They have soaked the miners for generations, grown fat on the sweat, tears, blood and broken bones of the miners. They have allowed the machinery in their pits to become antiquated, outdated and unproductive in their lust for profit. But the government has consistently refused to take real compulsory measures against the coal-owners. It is against the mass of unprotected youth that further dictatorial measures are taken.
“The government must nationalise the pits and operate them under the control of the trade unions”.

Government blames Trotskyists for strikes
The capitalist press had conducted a campaign against Trotskyists from time to time, but at the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944 the campaign became more rabid and widespread when the government prepared further anti-working class legislation to curb industrial and political unrest. Bevin was about to introduce a new regulation, 1A(a), which further increased the curbs on strikes and made illegal any proposal of strike action outside of an officially and legally constituted trade union meeting. In the press campaign, Trotskyists were accused of being responsible for the growing number of strikes. It was said they were the ‘hidden hand’ behind the big wave of industrial struggle. TheDaily Mail of 7 October 1943 declared that the Trotskyists:
“…play on the weariness of workers who have had four years of war and exaggerate grievances into a campaign to suppress the workers after the war. Why they have been allowed to have so much success is incomprehensible”.

Trotskyists arrested
Four Trotskyists, Jock Haston, Roy Tearse, Heaton Lee and Ann Keen, were arrested and charged with conspiracy under the Trades Disputes Act (1927) and with furthering an illegal strike. Under the Trades Disputes Act, a punitive measure against the trade unions passed after the General Strike, an illegal strike was one which “is not a trade dispute within the trade and is designed to coerce the government”.
These four Trotskyists were the first victims of this Act, which had originally been denounced as an infamous attack on workers’ rights by the very Labour and trade union leaders in the Cabinet which used it in 1944. The Newcastle jury flung out the conspiracy and incitement charges, even though, in a summing up hostile to the four accused, the judge directed them to support the charges. The Trotskyists were however found guilty of ‘furthering an illegal strike’, even though, in a previous judgement in the House of Lords it had been ruled that a strike could only be ‘furthered’ if it was already taking place and not before it had begun.

Letters to jail

Letters sent by Rachel Ryan, who then wrote daily to her sister, Ann Keen, in Durham Jail. In a letter dated 18 April, the news is about Regulation 1A(a) and how it appears to be directed against the whole of the workers:
“Anyone who speaks for strike action, however peaceably, except at a TU branch meeting, is liable to £500 fine and/or five years penal servitude. This is really vicious and will shake the whole of the labour movement.
The letter ends by saying that the TUC ‘have apparently’ accepted Regulation 1A(a). The next letter, dated 24 April, reports bus workers’ strikes and the solidarity shown by soldiers who were being compelled to drive and conduct buses:

“The London busmen have gone back to work today, but the Manchester busmen are still out. They are all giving a magnificent answer to Bevin. I don’t know whether you saw the item in the Herald to say that [with] the fares which the soldiers had collected on the buses, amounting to about four pounds at one garage, they had taken the drivers and conductresses out to the local pub and treated them and had a good old sing-song together. Real fraternisation all right.

“I expect you have seen the Daily Worker, although coming out mildly against the new legislation as not necessary, since the Defence Regulations and the Essential Works Orders] could be strengthened, have lost no time in trying to incite the Government to use the new legislation against us in their article on the bus strike.”

There was a great deal of support from activists in the trade union movement and in the left of the Labour Party in the campaign against the arrests.
All the sentences were later quashed on appeal. The state and press propaganda did not arouse a great deal of hostility to Trotskyism among the working class in the industrial areas. There was wide support among trade unionists for the campaign against the arrests…
To be sure, the state was worried about the increase of struggle, particularly among the miners, and nervous that the circulation and influence of Trotskyist propaganda could rapidly advance. But the state’s main attack was directed against the workers’ increasing combativity, mainly in engineering and mining, and the aim of the witch hunt against Trotskyists and of the arrests was to split and push back those who were struggling. The propaganda about subversives and the ‘hidden hand’ was meant to build up the atmosphere for further drastic measures against strike action, which Ernest Bevin as Minister of Labour was preparing to introduce.
Before I leave the 1944 arrests there is a story to relate of a significant victory against our Stalinist branch president, Len Hines, who was a leading Communist Party member in the area. He was convenor of Lincoln Cars factory, which became part of Ford’s and was at the Chiswick end of the Great West Road.

Members had to attend the Amalgamated Engineering Union branch meetings in order to pay their subscriptions. There would be 60 or 70 workers seated in the room with a queue at the back paying subscriptions. Hines dominated the meeting until we began to win support and eventually defeated him on a number of resolutions, including backing for the four Trotskyists who were arrested.

What is Fascism and how to fight it – Clara Zetkin

Our Introduction:

[Recent events in India and the world have forced the question of fascism back to the surface. Of particular importance is the re-emergence of the RSS and in particular of Modi in India, and the Golden Dawn party in Greece. At the same time there is a global resurgence of the working class and there are powerful popular revolutionary mobilizations in North Africa and the Middle East that challenge and overthrow governments and refuse to retreat into passive acquiescence in the face of new oppressors. In this situation of social and political uncertainly and tidal change, there is everywhere confusion about the nature of fascism and the kind of threat it poses. In everyday discussions, any act of tyranny is labelled fascism, but this is loose and lazy thinking that distorts a useful political perspective on the question of fascism and weakens the struggle against it. For instance, a lot of the international left thought Bush was somehow as fascist as Hitler ! This nonsense only helps the capitalist ruling class and its regime of reactionary bourgeois democracy. It blurs our focus and prevents us seeing our class enemies as they are, and stops us finding the most effective ways of hurting them and bringing them down.
The peculiar conditions in India exacerbate the negative effects of this confusion. What confuses socialists in India especially is the automatic posing of communalism and fascism as the same thing. Communal violence, be it between rival castes or the more infamous hindu-muslim communalism, is not something exclusive to the RSS or VHP. Often enough, self-proclaimed secular parties have indulged in the most horrifying communal carnage. The butchery perpetrated by Congress during the anti-sikh riots is a glaring example of this. This political confusion has made it almost fashionable to label any and every communalist atrocity as fascism ‘of an Indian variety’. The effects are twofold. On the one hand, communalism (which is a deeply rooted socio-political evil stemming from the British-inspired partition of the sub-continent) is mixed up with fascism (a violent and openly irrational social and political movement against the working class). On the other hand, the solutions for fighting fascism become muddled. In both cases, the dominant bourgeoisie, i.e. the capitalist ruling class, benefits, and ‘democratic’ reaction is strengthened. Once, by exploiting minority fears to its advantage (posing as ‘secular’,’democratic’ saviours), and again by being able to hijack any independent class-based effort to counter the threat of fascism. This ‘anti-fascist’ fraud has just been enacted in Greece, in fact, with the (very belated, and probably reluctant) crackdown on the leadership of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn movement, including its representatives in parliament and its supporters in the police and judiciary.
Clarity is the need of the hour ! The cost of an unclear view of fascism can be annihilation. Why? Well, the function of fascism is twofold. First, to destroy the organization and leadership of an ascending working class, and second, to channel raging petty bourgeois frustration and discontent away from a revolutionary progressive struggle where they would make common cause with the working class, towards mass action lining them up behind the interests of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie invests enormous resources in money and manpower in its war against the working class, and the most extreme of expression of its zealous hate, as we have seen historically in Italy, Germany, Spain, and the post ww2 Latin American dictatorships of Brazil, Argentina and Chile, for instance, is fascism. But history has also shown us that this is an expensive option, with catastrophic longterm effects, so it is not one which the bourgeoisie prefers in peace time. Democratic reaction, with the ever-present option of dictatorial emergency powers, is the norm, and the corner stone of this policy is pacify and dominate. The classical combination, in Marx’s words, of representation and repression.
The bourgeoisie invests in dividing the working class to prevent unity from arising in action. While weakening us, it strengthens itself at our expense ! This is where communalism makes its entry, in addition to, alongside, and distinct from fascism. In the Indian context, there is no easier way to keep the working class pacified than making working men and women fight against their own class brethren while stupidly following the lead of the bourgeoisie. The lasting legacy of partition can today be seen in events like Muzaffarnagar, where the ruling ‘secular’ Samajwadi party has deliberately allowed the communal carnage to take place unchecked. The RSS clearly had a hand in organizing the propaganda and mobilizing communities around reactionary caste-based chauvinism, but their main aim was not to target the working class or even to hijack petty-bourgeois frustration and rage. It was done simply to to organize a large scale pogrom against the muslim community. If we look beneath the superficial similarities between the attitude of the RSS towards the muslims and the Nazis towards the jews, it soon becomes clear that they’re hugely different from each other.
Battling this kind of fascism by calling for armed workers’ militias or massive violent force rooted in a united front of the working class is badly mistimed given the low level of class consciousness in India still, and quite misdirected, as there are no offices to attack or fascists to kill. Likewise, viewing every brand of religious or caste communalism as fascism blinds us to the threat when it really does emerge. The TMC though not a fully fascist formation is far clearer in launching pogroms against the Stalinist parties and attacking the working class than is the RSS or its supposed parliamentary twin the BJP.
In 1923, when Fascism had just started to show itself as a viable political force in the world, with the rise of Mussolini in Italy, Clara Zetkin from the old Bolshevik party, clarified and explained the nature of this threat to the working class and what it meant. While written almost 9 decades back, the questions answered by her are relevant even today to help understanding fascism. In particular, it helps us see through the myriad confusions over fascism prevalent in India.
We should bear in mind some important factors stressed by Clara that no longer have any social relevance for the growth of a mass fascist movement aiming to hijack the state apparatus and dismantle the formal rights and safeguards of bourgeois democracy.
The most important of these is the complete annihilation of the ultra-left ethos of classical fascism. Both Mussolini and Hitler started out as raging ultra-left socialists. Ultra-leftism as a childhood disorder growing up into an epidemic capable of destroying the world… Their original programmes stole freely and unashamedly from revolutionary socialism, shaming the reformist left leaderships by exposing their cowardice when it came to demanding what the masses wanted and needed. Clara gives a detailed account of the betrayal of this left-sounding programmed by Mussolini’s fascism. This is no longer an issue for us today. The fascists have ditched anything resembling left politics. All they have is an extremely superficial lumpen-proletarian “us ordinary Indian (or British or whatever) workers vs them” caricature of class appeal. The rise of Spanish fascism under Franco was a much more modern development in one way, as it had nothing whatever to do with an ultra-left appeal to the more ignorant elements of the working class or the frustrated proletarianized petty-bourgeois masses. But of course in Spain, the whole working class was ranged against Franco’s fascism – the divisions that led to its defeat were the fruit of Stalinist leadership failing to unite the class against militarized bourgeois reaction, and anarchist leadership failing to defeat the challenge of Stalinism for the hearts and minds of the Spanish working class.
The other important factor stressed by Clara is the mass base of fascism in the once independent but now wage-enslaved petty-bourgeoisie and small peasantry. Ruined by the success of Big Capital, impoverished once fee-earning doctors, teachers, and intellectuals were now either unemployed or scraping by on minimal salaries, and they hated it. And since their consciousness was individualistic and nostalgic, rooted in some imagined utopian past, they blamed outsiders and newcomers for their plight rather than the actual cause itself, Big Capital bankrupting them.
The process of blaming outsiders and newcomers is still alive and well in today’s fascist movements, where ultra-nationalism is the main ideological refrain, and it’s absurd to see the identical process of selecting appropriate scapegoats in every would-be special and different national framework. National minorities here, immigrants there, the  most recent usually being the most vilified. The left is always attacked for being anti-national, too, but sometimes this is difficult because occasionally the left is strongly organized against the fascists and more often because the established treacherous working class leaderships in labour parties and trade unions are at least as racist and anti-immigrant as the fascists themselves.
Three years after Clara wrote her article the great General Strike of 1926 broke out in Britain. The university students were out in force scabbing to break the strike. Today this is almost unthinkable. The most likely student attitude in many countries would be apathy, while a solid majority of students would be out helping the striking workers and organizing politically and socially in many other countries. This was seen with great clarity in the enormous youth mobilizations accompanying the end of the Vietnam war, and in particular in the years leading up to and culminating in the youth revolt of 1968.
And the process of proletarianization is as good as over in many countries. Not in India, but here the petty-bourgeoisie is huge and hard to break. So the millions of frustrated new recruits to unemployment and wage-slavery from once-comfortable professions that were found everywhere in the early decades of imperialist capitalism no longer exist. Their place has been taken by worker-peasants, where the poorest peasants are crushed by debt and driven onto the pavements of the metropolitan slums. A breeding ground for lumpenproletarian thugs for the fascists, of course, as can be seen in the slums of Karachi for instance, but nothing resembling the ‘respectable’ shopkeepers and small professionals who thronged the streets of Germany to cheer Hitler.
These differences from today are fundamental, but in no way lessen the danger to workers’ lives and communities from fascist gangs if these are allowed to put down roots and thrive in our cities. Workers must be prepared to organize themselves locally and regionally to challenge fascist gangs in battle if need be, and drive them out of their communities by force. This is the language fascists understand. And since they are unthinking cowards and bullies, a few sharp strokes of a stick across the snout will prove very effective deterrents. This requires local committees with complete self-reliance. The job has to be done on the spot. It will be the more effective, the better organized and the more conscious it is, but the local input is paramount.
And we should never forget that one of the most effective weapons against the scapegoating ideology of fascism is the pointing finger. “So, you’re angry because you’re out of work?” “Yeah” “Well, that poor/unemployed scapegoat over there never employed you, and never sacked you either, and he’s in the shit like you. That fat cat in the nice suit over there, on the other hand, he employed you, or rejected you, and he has thrown you onto the street.” “Hm, never thought of that…”

On Fascism:

In Fascism, the proletariat is confronted by an extraordinarily dangerous enemy. Fascism is the concentrated expression of the general offensive undertaken by the world bourgeoisie against the proletariat. Its overthrow is therefore an absolute necessity, nay, it is even a question of the every-day existence and of the bread and butter of every ordinary worker. On these grounds the whole of the proletariat must concentrate on the fight against Fascism. It will be much easier for us to defeat Fascism if we clearly and distinctly study its nature.

Hitherto there have been extremely vague ideas upon this subject not only among the large masses of the workers, but even among the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat and the Communists. Hitherto Fascism has been put on a level with the White Terror of Horthy in Hungary. Although the methods of both are similar, in essence they are different. The Horthy Terror was established after the victorious, although short lived, revolution of the proletariat had been suppressed, and was the expression of vengeance of the bourgeoisie. The ringleaders of the White Terror were a quite small clique of former officers. Fascism, on the contrary, viewed objectively, is not the revenge of the bourgeoisie in retaliation for proletarian aggression against the bourgeoisie, but it is a punishment of the proletariat for failing to carry on the revolution begun in Russia. The Fascist leaders are not a small and exclusive caste; they extend deeply into wide elements of the population.

We have to overcome Fascism not only militarily, but also politically and ideologically. The reformists even to-day consider Fascism to be nothing else but naked violence, the reaction against the violence begun by the proletariat. To the reformists the Russian Revolution amounts to the same thing as Mother Eve’s biting into the apple in the Garden of Eden. The reformists trace Fascism back to the Russian Revolution and its consequences. Nothing else was meant by Otto Bauer at the Unity Congress at Hamburg, when he declared that a great share of the blame for Fascism rests on the Communists, who had weakened the force of the proletariat by continual splits. In saying this he entirely ignored the fact that the German Independents had made their split long before the demoralising example was given by the Russian Revolution. Contrary to his own views, Bauer, at Hamburg, had to draw the conclusion that the organised violence of Fascism must be met by forming defence organisations of the proletariat, because no appeal to democracy can avail against direct violence. At any rate, he went on to explain that he did not mean such weapons as insurrection or a general strike which did not always lead to success. What he meant was the co-ordination of parliamentary action with mass action. What was to be the nature of these actions Otto Bauer did not say, but this is the very point of the question. The only weapon recommended by Bauer for the fight against Fascism was the establishment of an International Bureau of Information on world reaction. The distinguishing feature of this new-old International is its faith in the power and permanence of bourgeois domination, and its mistrust and cowardice towards the proletariat as the strongest factor of the world revolution. They are of the opinion that against the invulnerable force of the bourgeoisie the proletariat can do nothing else but act with moderation and refrain from teasing the tiger of the bourgeoisie. Fascism, with all its forcefulness in the prosecution of its violent deeds, is indeed nothing else but the expression of the disintegration and decay of capitalist economy, and the symptom of the dissolution of the bourgeois State. This is one of its roots. Symptoms of this decay of capitalism were observed even before the war. The war has shattered capitalist economy to its foundation, resulting not only in the colossal impoverishment of the proletariat, but also in deep misery for the petty bourgeoisie, the small peasantry and the intellectuals. All these elements had been promised that the war would bring about an amelioration of their material conditions. But the very opposite has happened. Large numbers of the former middle classes have become proletarians, having entirely lost their economic security.

Their ranks were joined by large masses of ex-officers, who are now unemployed. It was among these elements that Fascism recruited quite a considerable contingent. The manner of its composition is also the reason why Fascism in some countries is of an outspoken, monarchist character. The second root of Fascism lies in the retarding of the world revolution by the treacherous attitude of the reformist leaders. Large numbers of the petty bourgeoisie, including even the middle classes, had discarded their war-time psychology for a certain sympathy with reformist socialism, hoping that the latter would bring about a reformation of society along democratic lines. They were disappointed in their hopes. They can now see that the reformist leaders are in benevolent accord with the bourgeoisie, and the worst of it is that these masses have now lost their faith not only in the reformist leaders, but in socialism as a whole. These masses of disappointed socialist sympathisers are joined by large circles of the proletariat, of workers who have given up their faith not only in socialism, but also in their own class. Fascism has become a sort of refuge for the politically shelterless. In fairness it ought to be said that the Communists, too – except the Russians – bear part of the blame for the desertion of these elements to the Fascist ranks, because our actions at times failed to stir the masses profoundly enough. The obvious aim of the Fascists, when gaining support among the various elements of society, must have been, as a matter of course, to try and bridge over the class antagonism in the ranks of their own adherents, and the so-called authoritative State was to serve as a means to this end. Fascism now embraces such elements which may become very dangerous to the bourgeois order. Nevertheless, thus far these elements have been invariably overcome by the reactionary elements.

The bourgeoisie had seen the situation clearly from the start. The bourgeoisie wants to reconstruct capitalist economy. Under the present circumstances reconstruction of bourgeois class domination can be brought about only at the cost of increased exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie is quite aware that the soft-speaking reformist socialists are fast losing their hold on the proletariat, and that there will be nothing for the bourgeoisie but to resort to violence against the proletariat. But the means of violence of the bourgeois States are beginning to fail. They therefore need a new organisation of violence, and this is offered to them by the hodge-podge conglomeration of Fascism. For this reason the bourgeoisie offers all the force at its command in the service of Fascism. Fascism has diverse characteristics in different countries.

Nevertheless it has two distinguishing features in all countries, namely, the pretence of a revolutionary programme, which is cleverly adapted to the interests and demands of the large masses, and, on the other hand, the application of the most brutal violence. The classic instance is Italian Fascism. Industrial capital in Italy was not strong enough to reconstruct the ruined economy. It was not expected that the State would intervene to increase the power and the material possibilities of the industrial capital of Northern Italy. The State was giving all its attention to agrarian capital and to petty financial capital. The heavy industries, which had been artificially boosted during the war, collapsed when the war was over, and a wave of unprecedented unemployment set in. The pledges given to the soldiers could not be redeemed. All these circumstances created an extreme revolutionary situation. This revolutionary situation resulted, in the summer of 1920, in the occupation of the factories. Upon that occasion it was shown that the maturity of the revolution makes its first appearance among a small minority of the proletariat. The occupation of the factories was therefore bound to end in a tremendous defeat instead of becoming the starting point for revolutionary development.

The reformist leaders of the trade unions acted the part of ignominious traitors, but at the same time it was shown that the proletariat possessed neither the will nor the power to march on towards revolution.

Notwithstanding the reformist influence, there were forces at work among the proletariat which could become inconvenient to the bourgeoisie. The municipal elections, in which the social democrats gained a third of all the councils, were a signal of alarm to the bourgeoisie, who immediately started to seek for a force which could combat the revolutionary proletariat. It was just at that time that Mussolini had gained some importance with Fascismo. After the defeat of the proletariat in the occupation of the factories, the number of the Fascisti was over 1,000 and great masses of the proletariat joined the Mussolini organisation. On the other hand, large masses of the proletariat had fallen into a state of indifference. The cause of the first success of the Fascisti was that it made its start with a revolutionary gesture. Its pretended aim was to fight to retain the revolutionary conquests of the revolutionary war, and for this reason they demanded a strong State which would be able to protect these revolutionary fruits of victory against the hostile interests of the various classes of society represented by the “old State.” Its slogan was directed against all the exploiters, and hence also against the bourgeoisie. Fascism at that time was so radical that it even demanded the execution of Giolitti and the dethronement of the Italian dynasty. But Giolitti carefully refrained from using violence against Fascism, which seemed to him to be the lesser evil. To satisfy these Fascist clamours he dissolved Parliament. At that time Mussolini was still pretending to be a republican, and in an interview he declared that the Fascist faction could not participate at the opening of the Italian parliament because of the monarchist ceremony accompanying it. These utterances provoked a crisis in the Fascist Movement, which had been established as a party by a merger of the Mussolini adherents and the representatives of the monarchist organisation, and the executive of the new party was made up of an even number of members from both factions. The Fascist Party created a double-edged weapon for the corruption and terrorisation of the working class. For the corruption of the working class the Fascist Trade Unions were created, the so-called corporations in which workers and employers were united. To terrorise the working class, the Fascist Party created the militant squads which had grown out of the punitive expeditions. Here it must be emphasised again that the tremendous treason of the Italian reformists during the general strike, which was the cause of the terrible defeat of the Italian proletariat, had given direct encouragement to the Fascists to capture the State. On the other hand, the mistakes of the Communist Party consisted in their regarding Fascism as merely a militarist and terrorist movement without any profound social basis.

Let us now examine what Fascism has done since the conquest of power for the fulfilment of its intended revolutionary programme, for the realisation of its promise to create a State without class. Fascism held out the promise of a new and better electoral law and of equal suffrage for women. The new suffrage law of Mussolini is in reality the worst restriction of the suffrage law to favour the Fascist Movement. According to this law, two-thirds of all the seats must be given to the strongest party, and all the other parties together shall hold only one-third of the seats. Women’s franchise has been nearly entirely eliminated. The right to vote is given only to a small group of propertied women and the so-called “war-distinguished” women. There is no longer any mention made of the promise of the economic parliament and National Assembly, nor of the abolition of the Senate which had been pledged so solemnly by the Fascists.

The same can be said about the pledges made in the social sphere. The Fascists had inscribed on their programme the eight-hour day, but the bill introduced by them provides so many exceptions that there is to be no eight-hour day in Italy. Nothing came also of the promised guarantee of wages. The destruction of the trade unions has enabled the employers to effect wage reductions of 20 to 30 per cent, and in some cases of even 50 to 60 per cent. Fascism had promised old age and invalid insurance. In practice the Fascist Government, for the sake of economy, has struck off the miserable 50,000,000 lire which had been set aside for this purpose in the budget. The workers were promised the right of technical participation in the administration of the factories. To-day there is a law in Italy which proscribes the factory councils completely. The State enterprises are playing into the hands of private capital. The Fascist programme had contained a provision for a progressive income tax on capital, which was to some extent to act as a form of expropriation. In fact the opposite was done. Various taxes on luxuries were abolished, such as the automobile tax, for the pretended reason that it would restrict national production. The indirect taxes were increased for the reason that this would curtail the home consumption and thus improve the possibilities for export. The Fascist Government also abrogated the law for the compulsory registration of transfers of securities, thus reintroducing the system of bearer-bonds and opening the door wide to the tax-evader. The schools were handed over to the clergy. Before capturing the State, Mussolini demanded a commission to inquire into war profits, of which 85 per cent were to be restored to the State. When this commission had become uncomfortable for his financial backers, the heavy industrialists, he ordered that the commission should only submit a report to him, and whoever published any of the things that transpired in that commission would be punished with six months’ imprisonment. Also in military matters Fascism failed to keep its promises.

The army was promised to be restricted to territorial defence. In reality, the term of service for the standing army was increased from eight months to eighteen, which meant the increase of the armed forces from 250,000 to 350,000. The Royal Guards were abolished because they were too democratic to suit Mussolini. On the other hand, the carabinieri were increased from 65,000 to 90,000, and all the police troops were doubled. The Fascist organisations were transformed into a kind of national militia, which by latest accounts have now reached the number of 500,000. But the social differences have introduced an element of political contrast in the militia, which must lead to the eventual collapse of Fascism.

When we compare the Fascist programme with its fulfilment we can foresee already to-day the complete ideological collapse of Fascism in Italy. Political bankruptcy must inevitably follow in the wake of this ideological bankruptcy. Fascism is unable to keep together the forces which helped it to get into power. A clash of interests in many forms is already making itself felt. Fascism has not yet succeeded in making the old bureaucracy subservient to it. In the army there is also friction between the old officers and the new Fascist leaders. The differences between the various political parties are growing. Resistance against Fascism is increasing throughout the country. Class antagonism begins to permeate even the ranks of the Fascists. The Fascists are unable to keep the promises which they made to the workers and to the Fascist Trade Unions. Wage reductions and dismissals of workers are the order of the day. Thus it happens that the first protest against the Fascist trade union movement came from the ranks of the Fascists themselves. The workers will very soon come back to their class interest and class duty. We must not look upon Fascism as a .united force capable of repelling our attack. It is rather a formation, which comprises many antagonistic elements, and will be disintegrated from within. But it would be dangerous to assume that the ideological and political disintegration of Fascism in Italy would be immediately followed by military disintegration. On the contrary, we must be prepared for Fascism to endeavour to keep alive by terrorist methods. Therefore, the revolutionary Italian workers must be prepared for further serious struggles. It would be a great calamity if we were satisfied with the role of spectators of this process of disintegration. It is our duty to hasten this process with all the means at our disposal. This is not only the duty of the Italian proletariat, but also the duty of the German proletariat in the face of German Fascism.

After Italy, Fascism is strongest in Germany. As a consequence of the result of the war and of the failure of the revolution, the capitalist economy of Germany is weak, and in no other country is the contrast between the objective ripeness for revolution and the subjective unpreparedness of the working class as great as just now in Germany. In no other country have the reformists so ignominiously failed as in Germany. Their failure is more criminal than the failure of any other party in the old International, because it is they who should have conducted the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat with utterly different means in the country where the working-class organisations are older and better organised than anywhere else.

I am firmly convinced that neither the Peace Treaties nor the occupation of the Ruhr have given such a fillip to Fascism in Germany as the seizure of power by Mussolini. This has encouraged the German Fascists. The collapse of Fascism in Italy would greatly discourage the Fascists in Germany. We must not overlook one thing: the prerequisite for the overthrow of Fascism abroad is the overthrow of Fascism in every single country by the proletariat of these countries. It behoves us to overcome Fascism ideologically and politically. This imposes enormous tasks on us. We must realise that Fascism is a movement of the disappointed and of those whose existence is ruined. Therefore, we must endeavour either to win over or to neutralise those wide masses who are still in the Fascist camp. I wish to emphasise the importance of our realising that we must struggle ideologically for the possession of the soul of these masses. We must realise that they are not only trying to escape from their present tribulations, but that they are longing for a new philosophy. We must come out of the narrow limits of our present activity. The Third International is, in contradistinction to the old International, an International of all races without any distinctions whatever. The Communist Parties must not only be the vanguard of the proletarian manual workers, but also the energetic defenders of the interests of the brain workers. They must be the leaders of all sections of society which are driven into opposition to bourgeois domination because of their interests and their expectations of the future. Therefore, I welcomed the proposal of Comrade Zinoviev (speaking at a session of the Enlarged Executive Committee of the Communist International in June of this year) to take up the struggle for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government. I was jubilant when I read about it. This new slogan has a great significance for all countries. We cannot dispense with it in the struggle for the overthrow of Fascism. It means that the salvation of the wide masses of the small peasantry will be achieved through Communism. We must not limit ourselves merely to carrying on a struggle for our political and economic programme. We must at the same time familiarise the masses with the ideals of Communism as a philosophy. If we do this, we shall show the way to a new philosophy to all those elements which have lost their bearings during the historical development of recent times. The necessary prerequisite for this is that, as we approach these masses, we also become organisationally, as a Party, a firmly welded unit. If we do not do that, we run the risk of falling into opportunism and of going bankrupt. We must adapt our methods of work to our new tasks. We must speak to the masses in a language which they can understand, without doing prejudice to our ideas. Thus, the struggle against Fascism brings forward a number of new tasks.

It behoves all the parties to carry out this task energetically and in conformity with the situation in their respective countries. However, we must bear in mind that it is not enough to overcome Fascism ideologically and politically. The position of the proletariat as regards Fascism is at present one of self-defence. This self-defence of the proletariat must take the form of a struggle for its existence and its organisation.

The proletariat must have a well organised apparatus of self-defence. Whenever Fascism uses violence, it must be met with proletarian violence. I do not mean by this individual terrorist acts, but the violence of the organised revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat. Germany has made a beginning by organising factory “hundreds.” This struggle can only be successful if there is a proletarian united front. The workers must unite for this struggle regardless of party. The self-defence of the proletariat is one of the greatest incentives for the establishment of the proletarian united front. Only by instilling class-consciousness into the soul of every worker will we succeed in preparing also for the military overthrow of Fascism, which, at this juncture, is absolutely necessary.

If we succeed in this, we may be sure that it will be soon all up with the capitalist system and with bourgeois power, regardless of any success of the general offensive of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat. The signs of disintegration, which are so palpably before our eyes, give us the conviction that the giant proletariat will again join in the revolutionary fray, and that its call to the bourgeois world will be: I am the strength, I am the will, in me you see the future!

Bhagat Singh’s message to Young Political Workers

On the occasion of the 72nd year of Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom, we present this letter addressed to Young Political workers. *( The said text has been extracted from marxists.org bhagat singh archive ) :

To The Young Political Workers.

Our movement is passing through a very important phase at present. After a year’s fierce struggle some definite proposals regarding the constitutional reforms have been formulated by the Round Table Conference and the Congress leaders have been invited to give this [Original transcription is unclear — MIA Transcriber]…think it desirable in the present circumstances to call off their movement. Whether they decide in favour or against is a matter of little importance to us. The present movement is bound to end in some sort of compromise. The compromise may be effected sooner or later. And compromise is not such ignoble and deplorable an thing as we generally think. It is rather an indispensable factor in the political strategy. Any nation that rises against the oppressors is bound to fail in the beginning, and to gain partial reforms during the medieval period of its struggle through compromises. And it is only at the last stage — having fully organized all the forces and resources of the nation — that it can possibly strike the final blow in which it might succeed to shatter the ruler’s government. But even then it might fail, which makes some sort of compromise inevitable. This can be best illustrated by the Russian example.

In 1905 a revolutionary movement broke out in Russia. All the leaders were very hopeful. Lenin had returned from the foreign countries where he had taken refuge. He was conducting the struggle. People came to tell him that a dozen landlords were killed and a score of their mansions were burnt. Lenin responded by telling them to return and to kill twelve hundred landlords and burn as many of their palaces. In his opinion that would have meant something if revolution failed. Duma was introduced. The same Lenin advocated the view of participating in the Duma. This is what happened in 1907. In 1906 he was opposed to the participation in this first Duma which had granted more scope of work than this second one whose rights had been curtailed. This was due to the changed circumstances. Reaction was gaining the upper hand and Lenin wanted to use the floor of he Duma as a platform to discuss socialist ideas.

Again after the 1917 revolution, when the Bolsheviks were forced to sign the Brest Litovsk Treaty, everyone except Lenin was opposed to it. But Lenin said: “Peace”. “Peace and again peace: peace at any cos t— even at the cost of many of the Russian provinces to be yielded to German War Lord”. When some anti-Bolshevik people condemned Lenin for this treaty, he declared frankly that the Bolsheviks were not in a position to face to German onslaught and they preferred the treaty to the complete annihilation of the Bolshevik Government.

The thing that I wanted to point out was that compromise is an essential weapon which has to be wielded every now and then as the struggle develops. But the thing that we must keep always before us is the idea of the movement. We must always maintain a clear notion as to the aim for the achievement of which we are fighting. That helps us to verify the success and failures of our movements and we can easily formulate the future programme. Tilak’s policy, quite apart from the ideal i.e. his strategy, was the best. You are fighting to get sixteen annas from your enemy, you get only one anna. Pocket it and fight for the rest. What we note in the moderates is of their ideal. They start to achieve on anna and they can’t get it. The revolutionaries must always keep in mind that they are striving for a complete revolution. Complete mastery of power in their hands. Compromises are dreaded because the conservatives try to disband the revolutionary forces after the compromise from such pitfalls. We must be very careful at such junctures to avoid any sort of confusion of the real issues especially the goal. The British Labour leaders betrayed their real struggle and have been reduced to mere hypocrite imperialists. In my opinion the diehard conservatives are better to us than these polished imperialist Labour leaders. About the tactics and strategy one should study life-work of Lenin. His definite views on the subject of compromise will be found in “Left Wing” Communism.

I have said that the present movement, i.e. the present struggle, is bound to end in some sort of compromise or complete failure.

I said that, because in my opinion, this time the real revolutionary forces have not been invited into the arena. This is a struggle dependent upon the middle class shopkeepers and a few capitalists. Both these, and particularly the latter, can never dare to risk its property or possessions in any struggle. The real revolutionary armies are in the villages and in factories, the peasantry and the labourers. But our bourgeois leaders do not and cannot dare to tackle them. The sleeping lion once awakened from its slumber shall become irresistible even after the achievement of what our leaders aim at. After his first experience with the Ahmedabad labourers in 1920 Mahatma Gandhi declared: “We must not tamper with the labourers. It is dangerous to make political use of the factory proletariat” (The Times, May 1921). Since then, they never dared to approach them. There remains the peasantry. The Bardoli resolution of 1922 clearly denies the horror the leaders felt when they saw the gigantic peasant class rising to shake off not only the domination of an alien nation but also the yoke of the landlords.

It is there that our leaders prefer a surrender to the British than to the peasantry. Leave alone Pt. Jawahar lal. Can you point out any effort to organize the peasants or the labourers? No, they will not run the risk. There they lack. That is why I say they never meant a complete revolution. Through economic and administrative pressure they hoped to get a few more reforms, a few more concessions for the Indian capitalists. That is why I say that this movement is doomed to die, may be after some sort of compromise or even without. They young workers who in all sincerity raise the cry “Long Live Revolution”, are not well organized and strong enough to carry the movement themselves. As a matter of fact, even our great leaders, with the exception of perhaps Pt. Motilal Nehru, do not dare to take any responsibility on their shoulders, that is why every now and then they surrender unconditionally before Gandhi. In spite of their differences, they never oppose him seriously and the resolutions have to be carried for the Mahatma.

In these circumstances, let me warn the sincere young workers who seriously mean a revolution, that harder times are coming. Let then beware lest they should get confused or disheartened. After the experience made through two struggles of the Great Gandhi, we are in a better position to form a clear idea of our present position and the future programme.

Now allow me to state the case in the simplest manner. You cry “Long Live Revolution.” Let me assume that you really mean it. According to our definition of the term, as stated in our statement in the Assembly Bomb Case, revolution means the complete overthrow of the existing social order and its replacement with the socialist order. For that purpose our immediate aim is the achievement of power. As a matter of fact, the state, the government machinery is just a weapon in the hands of the ruling class to further and safeguard its interest. We want to snatch and handle it to utilise it for the consummation of our ideal, i.e., social reconstruction on new, i.e., Marxist, basis. For this purpose we are fighting to handle the government machinery. All along we have to educate the masses and to create a favourable atmosphere for our social programme. In the struggles we can best train and educate them.

With these things clear before us, i.e., our immediate and ultimate object having been clearly put, we can now proceed with the examination of the present situation. We must always be very candid and quite business-like while analysing any situation. We know that since a hue and cry was raised about the Indians’ participation in and share in the responsibility of the Indian government, the Minto-Morley Reforms were introduced, which formed the Viceroy’s council with consultation rights only. During the Great War, when the Indian help was needed the most, promises about self-government were made and the existing reforms were introduced. Limited legislative powers have been entrusted to the Assembly but subject to the goodwill of the Viceroy. Now is the third stage.

Now reforms are being discussed and are to be introduced in the near future. How can our young men judge them? This is a question; I do not know by what standard are the Congress leaders going to judge them. But for us, the revolutionaries, we can have the following criteria:

1. Extent of responsibility transferred to the shoulders of the Indians.
2. From of the Government institutions that are going to be introduced and the extent of the right of participation given to the masses.
3. Future prospects and the safeguards.

These might require a little further elucidation. In the first place, we can easily judge the extent of responsibility given to our people by the control our representatives will have on the executive. Up till now, the executive was never made responsible to the Legislative Assembly and the Viceroy had the veto power, which rendered all the efforts of the elected members futile. Thanks to the efforts of the Swaraj Party, the Viceroy was forced every now and then to use these extraordinary powers to shamelessly trample the solemn decisions of the national representatives under foot. It is already too well known to need further discussion.

Now in the first place we must see the method of the executive formation: Whether the executive is to be elected by the members of a popular assembly or is to be imposed from above as before, and further, whether it shall be responsible to the house or shall absolutely affront it as in the past?

As regards the second item, we can judge it through the scope of franchise. The property qualifications making a man eligible to vote should be altogether abolished and universal suffrage be introduced instead. Every adult, both male and female, should have the right to vote. At present we can simply see how far the franchise has been extended.

I may here make a mention about provincial autonomy. But from whatever I have heard, I can only say that the Governor imposed from above, equipped with extraordinary powers, higher and above the legislative, shall prove to be no less than a despot. Let us better call it the “provincial tyranny” instead of “autonomy.” This is a strange type of democratisation of the state institutions.

The third item is quite clear. During the last two years the British politicians have been trying to undo Montague’s promise for another dole of reforms to be bestowed every ten years till the British Treasury exhausts.

We can see what they have decided about the future.

Let me make it clear that we do not analyse these things to rejoice over the achievement, but to form a clear idea about our situation, so that we may enlighten the masses and prepare them for further struggle. For us, compromise never means surrender, but a step forward and some rest. That is all and nothing else.

HAVING DISCUSSED the present situation, let us proceed to discuss the future programme and the line of action we ought to adopt. As I have already stated, for any revolutionary party a definite programme is very essential. For, you must know that revolution means action. It means a change brought about deliberately by an organized and systematic work, as opposed to sudden and unorganised or spontaneous change or breakdown. And for the formulation of a programme, one must necessarily study:

1. The goal.
2. The premises from where were to start, i.e., the existing conditions.
3. The course of action, i.e., the means and methods.

Unless one has a clear notion about these three factors, one cannot discuss anything about programme.

We have discussed the present situation to some extent. The goal also has been slightly touched. We want a socialist revolution, the indispensable preliminary to which is the political revolution. That is what we want. The political revolution does not mean the transfer of state (or more crudely, the power) from the hands of the British to the Indian, but to those Indians who are at one with us as to the final goal, or to be more precise, the power to be transferred to the revolutionary party through popular support. After that, to proceed in right earnest is to organize the reconstruction of the whole society on the socialist basis. If you do not mean this revolution, then please have mercy. Stop shouting “Long Live Revolution.” The term revolution is too sacred, at least to us, to be so lightly used or misused. But if you say you are for the national revolution and the aims of your struggle is an Indian republic of the type of the United State of America, then I ask you to please let known on what forces you rely that will help you bring about that revolution. Whether national or the socialist, are the peasantry and the labour. Congress leaders do not dare to organize those forces. You have seen it in this movement. They know it better than anybody else that without these forces they are absolutely helpless. When they passed the resolution of complete independence — that really meant a revolution — they did not mean it. They had to do it under pressure of the younger element, and then they wanted to us it as a threat to achieve their hearts’ desire — Dominion Status. You can easily judge it by studying the resolutions of the last three sessions of the Congress. I mean Madras, Calcutta and Lahore. At Calcutta, they passed a resolution asking for Dominion Status within twelve months, otherwise they would be forced to adopt complete independence as their object, and in all solemnity waited for some such gift till midnight after the 31st December, 1929. Then they found themselves “honour bound” to adopt the Independence resolution, otherwise they did not mean it. But even then Mahatmaji made no secret of the fact that the door (for compromise) was open. That was the real spirit. At the very outset they knew that their movement could not but end in some compromise. It is this half-heartedness that we hate, not the compromise at a particular stage in the struggle. Anyway, we were discussing the forces on which you can depend for a revolution. But if you say that you will approach the peasants and labourers to enlist their active support, let me tell you that they are not going to be fooled by any sentimental talk. They ask you quite candidly: what are they going to gain by your revolution for which you demand their sacrifices, what difference does it make to them whether Lord Reading is the head of the Indian government or Sir Purshotamdas Thakordas? What difference for a peasant if Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru replaces Lord Irwin! It is useless to appeal to his national sentiment. You can’t “use” him for your purpose; you shall have to mean seriously and to make him understand that the revolution is going to be his and for his good. The revolution of the proletariat and for the proletariat.

When you have formulated this clear-cut idea about your goals you can proceed in right earnest to organize your forces for such an action. Now there are two different phases through which you shall have to pass. First, the preparation; second, the action.

After the present movement ends, you will find disgust and some disappointment amongst the sincere revolutionary workers. But you need not worry. Leave sentimentalism aside. Be prepared to face the facts. Revolution is a very difficult task. It is beyond the power of any man to make a revolution. Neither can it be brought about on any appointed date. It is brought can it be brought about on an appointed date. It is brought about by special environments, social and economic. The function of an organized party is to utilise an such opportunity offered by these circumstances. And to prepare the masses and organize the forces for the revolution is a very difficult task. And that required a very great sacrifice on the part of the revolutionary workers. Let me make it clear that if you are a businessman or an established worldly or family man, please don’t play with fire. As a leader you are of no use to the party. We have already very many such leaders who spare some evening hours for delivering speeches. They are useless. We require — to use the term so dear to Lenin — the “professional revolutionaries”. The whole-time workers who have no other ambitions or life-work except the revolution. The greater the number of such workers organized into a party, the great the chances of your success.

To proceed systematically, what you need the most is a party with workers of the type discussed above with clear-cut ideas and keen perception and ability of initiative and quick decisions. The party shall have iron discipline and it need not necessarily be an underground party, rather the contrary. Thought the policy of voluntarily going to jail should altogether be abandoned. That will create a number of workers who shall be forced to lead an underground life. They should carry on the work with the same zeal. And it is this group of workers that shall produce worthy leaders for the real opportunity.

The party requires workers which can be recruited only through the youth movement. Hence we find the youth movement as the starting point of our programme. The youth movement should organize study circles, class lectures and publication of leaflets, pamphlets, books and periodicals. This is the best recruiting and training ground for political workers.

Those young men who may have matured their ideas and may find themselves ready to devote their life to the cause, may be transferred to the party. The party workers shall always guide and control the work of the youth movement as well. The party should start with the work of mass propaganda. It is very essential. One of the fundamental causes of the failure of the efforts of the Ghadar Party (1914-15) was the ignorance, apathy and sometimes active opposition of the masses. And apart from that, it is essential for gaining the active sympathy of and of and organising the peasants and workers. The name of party or rather,* a communist party. This party of political workers, bound by strict discipline, should handle all other movements. It shall have to organize the peasants’ and workers’ parties, labour unions, and kindred political bodes. And in order to create political consciousness, not only of national politics but class politics as well, the party should organize a big publishing campaign. Subjects on all proletens [Original transcription is unclear — MIA Transcriber] enlightening the masses of the socialist theory shall be wit in easy reach and distributed widely. The writings should be simple and clear.

There are certain people in the labour movement who enlist some absurd ideas about the economic liberty of the peasants and workers without political freedom. They are demagogues or muddle-headed people. Such ideas are unimaginable and preposterous. We mean the economic liberty of the masses, and for that very purpose we are striving to win the political power. No doubt in the beginning, we shall have to fight for little economic demands and privileges of these classes. But these struggles are the best means for educating them for a final struggles are the best means for educating them for a final struggle to conquer political power.

Apart from these, there shall necessarily be organized a military department. This is very important. At times its need is felt very badly. But at that time you cannot start and formulate such a group with substantial means to act effectively. Perhaps this is the topic that needs a careful explanation. There is very great probability of my being misunderstood on this subject. Apparently I have acted like a terrorist. But I am not a terrorist. I am a revolutionary who has got such definite ideas of a lengthy programme as is being discussed here. My “comrades in arms” might accuse me, like Ram Prasad Bismil, for having been subjected to certain sort of reaction in the condemned cell, which is not true. I have got the same ideas, same convictions, same convictions, same zeal and same spirit as I used to have outside, perhaps — nay, decidedly — better. Hence I warn my readers to be careful while reading my words. They should not try to read anything between the lines. Let me announced with all the strength at my command, that I am not a terrorist and I never was, expected perhaps in the beginning of my revolutionary career. And I am convinced that we cannot gain anything through those methods. One can easily judge it from the history of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. All our activities were directed towards an aim, i.e., identifying ourselves with the great movement as its military wing. If anybody has misunderstood me, let him amend his ideas. I do not mean that bombs and pistols are useless, rather the contrary. But I mean to say that mere bomb-throwing is not only useless but sometimes harmful. The military department of the party should always keep ready all the war-material it can command for any emergency. It should back the political work of the party. It cannot and should not work independently.

On these lines indicated above, the party should proceed with its work. Through periodical meetings and conferences they should go on educating and enlightening their workers on all topics. If you start the work on these lines, you shall have to be very sober. The programme requires at least twenty years for its fulfillment. Cast aside the youthful dreams of a revolution within ten years of Gandhi’s utopian promises of Swaraj in One Year. It requires neither the emotion nor the death, but the life of constant struggle, suffering and sacrifice. Crush your individuality first. Shake off the dreams of personal comfort. Then start to work. Inch by inch you shall have to proceed. It needs courage, perseverance and very strong determination. No difficulties and no hardships shall discourage you. No failure and betrayals shall dishearten you. No travails (!) imposed upon you shall snuff out the revolutionary will in you. Through the ordeal of sufferings and sacrifice you shall come out victorious. And these individual victories shall be the valuable assets of the revolution.

2nd February, 1931

Bolshevism and Stalinism

The following article was written by Leon Trotsky as a defense against the concerted ideological attacks which befell bolshevism world over. The reactionary epoch which preceded the second world war saw a dramatic reversal of class consciousness world over. In this context Trotsky presented to us a sterling example of revolutionary integrity and upheld the fundamentals of bolshevism. The following article has been extracted from marxists.org.

Reactionary epochs like ours not only disintegrate and weaken the working class and isolate its vanguard but also lower the general ideological level of the movement and throw political thinking back to stages long since passed through. In these conditions the task of the vanguard is, above all, not to let itself be carried along by the backward flow: it must swim against the current. If an unfavorable relation of forces prevents it from holding political positions it has won, it must at least retain its ideological positions, because in them is expressed the dearly paid experience of the past. Fools will consider this policy “sectarian”. Actually it is the only means of preparing for a new tremendous surge forward with the coming historical tide.
The Reaction Against Marxism and Bolshevism
Great political defeats provoke a reconsideration of values, generally occurring in two directions. On the one hand the true vanguard, enriched by the experience of defeat, defends with tooth and nail the heritage of revolutionary thought and on this basis strives to educate new cadres for the mass struggle to come. On the other hand the routinists, centrists and dilettantes, frightened by defeat, do their best to destroy the authority of the revolutionary tradition and go backwards in their search for a “New World”.
One could indicate a great many examples of ideological reaction, most often taking the form of prostration. All the literature if the Second and Third Internationals, as well as of their satellites of the London Bureau, consists essentially of such examples. Not a suggestion of Marxist analysis. Not a single serious attempt to explain the causes of defeat, About the future, not one fresh word. Nothing but clichés, conformity, lies and above all solicitude for their own bureaucratic self-preservation. It is enough to smell 10 words from some Hilferding or Otto Bauer to know this rottenness. The theoreticians of the Comintern are not even worth mentioning. The famous Dimitrov is as ignorant and commonplace as a shopkeeper over a mug of beer. The minds of these people are too lazy to renounce Marxism: they prostitute it. But it is not they that interest us now. Let us turn to the “innovators”.
The former Austrian communist, Willi Schlamm, has devoted a small book to the Moscow trials, under the expressive title, The Dictatorship of the Lie. Schlamm is a gifted journalist, chiefly interested in current affairs. His criticism of the Moscow frame-up, and his exposure of the psychological mechanism of the “voluntary confessions”, are excellent. However, he does not confine himself to this: he wants to create a new theory of socialism that would insure us against defeats and frame-ups in the future. But since Schlamm is by no means a theoretician and is apparently not well acquainted with the history of the development of socialism, he returns entirely to pre-Marxist socialism, and notably to its German, that is to its most backward, sentimental and mawkish variety. Schlamm denounces dialectics and the class struggle, not to mention the dictatorship of the proletariat. The problem of transforming society is reduced for him to the realization of certain “eternal” moral truths with which he would imbue mankind, even under capitalism. Willi Schlamm’s attempts to save socialism by the insertion of the moral gland is greeted with joy and pride in Kerensky’s review, Novaya Rossia (an old provincial Russian review now published in Paris); as the editors justifiably conclude, Schlamm has arrived at the principles of true Russian socialism, which a long time ago opposed the holy precepts of faith, hope and charity to the austerity and harshness of the class struggle. The “novel” doctrine of the Russian “Social Revolutionaries” represents, in its “theoretical” premises, only a return to the pre-March (1848!) Germany. However, it would be unfair to demand a more intimate knowledge of the history of ideas from Kerensky than from Schlamm. Far more important is the fact that Kerensky, who is in solidarity with Schlamm, was, while head of the government, the instigator of persecutions against the Bolsheviks as agents of the German general staff: organized, that is, the same frame-ups against which Schlamm now mobilizes his moth-eaten metaphysical absolutes.
The psychological mechanism of the ideological reaction of Schlamm and his like, is not at all complicated. For a while these people took part in a political movement that swore by the class struggle and appeared, in word if not in thought, to dialectical materialism. In both Austria and Germany the affair ended in a catastrophe. Schlamm draws the wholesale conclusion: this is the result of dialectics and the class struggle! And since the choice of revelations is limited by historical experience and… by personal knowledge, our reformer in his search for the word falls on a bundle of old rags which he valiantly opposes not only to Bolshevism but to Marxism as well.
At first glance Schlamm’s brand of ideological reaction seems too primitive (from Marx … to Kerensky!) to pause over. But actually it is very instructive: precisely in its primitiveness it represents the common denominator of all other forms of reaction, particularly of those expressed by wholesale denunciation of Bolshevism.
“Back to Marxism”?
Marxism found its highest historical expression in Bolshevism. Under the banner of Bolshevism the first victory of the proletariat was achieved and the first workers’ state established. No force can now erase these facts from history. But since the October Revolution has led to the present stage of the triumph of the bureaucracy, with its system of repression, plunder and falsification – the “dictatorship of the lie”, to use Schlamm’s happy expression – many formalistic and superficial minds jump to a summary conclusion: one cannot struggle against Stalinism without renouncing Bolshevism. Schlamm, as we already know, goes further: Bolshevism, which degenerated into Stalinism, itself grew out of Marxism; consequently one cannot fight Stalinism while remaining on the foundation of Marxism. There are others, less consistent but more numerous, who say on the contrary: “We must return Bolshevism to Marxism.” How? To what Marxism? Before Marxism became “bankrupt” in the form of Bolshevism it has already broken down in the form of social democracy, Does the slogan “Back to Marxism” then mean a leap over the periods of the Second and Third Internationals… to the First International? But it too broke down in its time. Thus in the last analysis it is a question of returning to the collected works of Marx and Engels. One can accomplish this historic leap without leaving one’s study and even without taking off one’s slippers. But how are we going to go from our classics (Marx died in 1883, Engels in 1895) to the tasks of a new epoch, omitting several decades of theoretical and political struggles, among them Bolshevism and the October revolution? None of those who propose to renounce Bolshevism as an historically bankrupt tendency has indicated any other course. So the question is reduced to the simple advice to study Capital. We can hardly object. But the Bolsheviks, too, studied Capital and not badly either. This did not however prevent the degeneration of the Soviet state and the staging of the Moscow trials. So what is to be done?
Is Bolshevism Responsible for Stalinism?
Is it true that Stalinism represents the legitimate product of Bolshevism, as all reactionaries maintain, as Stalin himself avows, as the Mensheviks, the anarchists, and certain left doctrinaires considering themselves Marxist believe? “We have always predicted this” they say, “Having started with the prohibition of other socialist parties, the repression of the anarchists, and the setting up of the Bolshevik dictatorship in the Soviets, the October Revolution could only end in the dictatorship of the bureaucracy. Stalin is the continuation and also the bankruptcy of Leninism.”
The flaw in this reasoning begins in the tacit identification of Bolshevism, October Revolution and Soviet Union. The historical process of the struggle of hostile forces is replaced by the evolution of Bolshevism in a vacuum. Bolshevism, however, is only a political tendency closely fused with the working class but not identical with it. And aside from the working class there exist in the Soviet Union a hundred million peasants, diverse nationalities, and a heritage of oppression, misery and ignorance. The state built up by the Bolsheviks reflects not only the thought and will of Bolshevism but also the cultural level of the country, the social composition of the population, the pressure of a barbaric past and no less barbaric world imperialism. To represent the process of degeneration of the Soviet state as the evolution of pure Bolshevism is to ignore social reality in the name of only one of its elements, isolated by pure logic. One has only to call this elementary mistake by its true name to do away with every trace of it.
Bolshevism, in any case, never identified itself either with the October Revolution or with the Soviet state that issued from it. Bolshevism considered itself as one of the factors of history, its “Conscious” factor – a very important but not decisive one. We never sinned on historical subjectivism. We saw the decisive factor – on the existing basis of productive forces – in the class struggle, not only on a national scale but on an international scale.
When the Bolsheviks made concessions to the peasant tendency, to private ownership, set up strict rules for membership of the party, purged the party of alien elements, prohibited other parties, introduced the NEP, granted enterprises as concessions, or concluded diplomatic agreements with imperialist governments, they were drawing partial conclusions from the basic fact that had been theoretically clear to them from the beginning; that the conquest of power, however important it may be in itself, by no means transforms the party into a sovereign ruler of the historical process. Having taken over the state, the party is able, certainly, to influence the development of society with a power inaccessible to it before; but in return it submits itself to a 10 times greater influence from all other elements in society. It can, by the direct attack by hostile forces, be thrown out of power. Given a more drawn out tempo of development, it can degenerate internally while holding on to power. It is precisely this dialectic of the historical process that is not understood by those sectarian logicians who try to find in the decay of the Stalinist bureaucracy a crushing argument against Bolshevism.
In essence these gentlemen say: the revolutionary party that contains in itself no guarantee against its own degeneration is bad. By such a criterion Bolshevism is naturally condemned: it has no talisman. But the criterion itself is wrong. Scientific thinking demands a concrete analysis: how and why did the party degenerate? No one but the Bolsheviks themselves have, up to the present time, given such an analysis,. To do this they had no need to break with Bolshevism. On the contrary, they found in its arsenal all they needed for the explanation of its fate. They drew this conclusion: certainly Stalinism “grew out” of Bolshevism, not logically, however, but dialectically; not as a revolutionary affirmation but as a Thermidorian negation. It is by no means the same.
Bolshevism’s Basic Prognosis
The Bolsheviks, however, did not have to wait for the Moscow trials to explain the reasons for the disintegration of the governing party of the USSR. Long ago they foresaw and spoke of the theoretical possibility of this development. Let us remember the prognosis of the Bolsheviks, not only on the eve of the October Revolution but years before. The specific alignment of forces in the national and international field can enable the proletariat to seize power first in a backward country such as Russia. But the same alignment of forces proves beforehand that without a more or less rapid victory of the proletariat in the advanced countries the worker’s government in Russia will not survive. Left to itself the Soviet regime must either fall or degenerate. More exactly; it will first degenerate and then fall. I myself have written about this more than once, beginning in 1905. In my History of the Russian Revolution (cf. Appendix to the last volume: Socialism in One Country) are collected all the statements on the question made by the Bolshevik leaders from 1917 until 1923. They all amount to the following: without a revolution in the West, Bolshevism will be liquidated either by internal counter-revolution or by external intervention, or by a combination of both. Lenin stressed again and again that the bureaucratization of the Soviet regime was not a technical question, but the potential beginning of the degeneration of the worker’s state.
At the eleventh party congress in March, 1922, Lenin spoke of the support offered to Soviet Russia at the time of the NEP by certain bourgeois politicians, particularly the liberal professor Ustrialov. “I am for the support of the Soviet power in Russia” said Ustrialov, although he was a Cadet, a bourgeois, a supporter of intervention – “because it has taken the road that will lead it back to an ordinary bourgeois state”. Lenin prefers the cynical voice of the enemy to “sugary communistic nonsense”. Soberly and harshly he warns the party of danger: “We must say frankly that the things Ustrialov speaks about are possible. History knows all sorts of metamorphoses. Relying on firmness of convictions, loyalty and other splendid moral qualities is anything but a serious attitude in politics. A few people may be endowed with splendid moral qualities, but historical issues are decided by vast masses, which, if the few don’t suit them, may at times, treat them none too politely.” In a word, the party is not the only factor of development and on a larger historical scale is not the decisive one.
“One nation conquers another” continued Lenin at the same congress, the last in which he participated … “this is simple and intelligible to all. But what happens to the culture of these nations? Here things are not so simple. If the conquering nation is more cultured than the vanquished nation, the former imposes its culture on the latter, but if the opposite is the case, the vanquished nation imposes its culture on the conqueror. Has not something like this happened in the capital of the RSFSR? Have the 4700 Communists (nearly a whole army division, and all of them the very best) come under the influence of an alien culture?”. This was said in 1922, and not for the first time. History is not made by a few people, even “the best”; and not only that: these “best” can degenerate in the spirit of an alien, that is, a bourgeois culture. Not only can the Soviet state abandon the way of socialism, but the Bolshevik party can, under unfavorable historic conditions, lose its Bolshevism.
From the clear understanding of this danger issued the Left Opposition, definitely formed in 1923. Recording day by day the symptoms of degeneration, it tried to oppose to the growing Thermidorian the conscious will of the proletarian vanguard. However, this subjective factor proved to be insufficient. The “gigantic masses” which, according to Lenin, decide the outcome of the struggle, become tired of internal privations and of waiting too long for the world revolution. The mood of the masses declined. The bureaucracy won the upper hand. It cowed the revolutionary vanguard, trampled upon Marxism, prostituted the Bolshevik party. Stalinism conquered. In the form of the Left Opposition, Bolshevism broke with the Soviet bureaucracy and its Comintern. This was the real course of development.
To be sure, in a formal sense Stalinism did issue from Bolshevism. Even today the Moscow bureaucracy continues to call itself the Bolshevik party. It is simply using the old label of Bolshevism the better to fool the masses. So much the more pitiful are those theoreticians who take the shell for the kernel and appearance for reality. In the identification of Bolshevism and Stalinism they render the best possible service to the Thermidorians and precisely thereby play a clearly reactionary role.
In view of the elimination of all other parties from the political field the antagonistic interests and tendencies of the various strata of the population, to a greater of less degree, had to find their expression in the governing party, To the extent that the political centre of gravity has shifted from the proletarian vanguard to the bureaucracy, the party has changed its social structure as well as its ideology. Owing to the tempestuous course of development, it has suffered in the last 15 years a far more radical degeneration than did the social democracy in half a century. The present purge draws between Bolshevism and Stalinism not simply a bloody line but a whole river of blood. The annihilation of all the older generation of Bolsheviks, an important part of the middle generation which participated in the civil war, and that part of the youth that took up most seriously the Bolshevik traditions, shows not only a political but a thoroughly physical incompatibility between Bolshevism and Stalinism. How can this not be seen?
Stalinism and “State Socialism”
The anarchists, for their part, try to see in Stalinism the organic product, not only of Bolshevism and Marxism but of “state socialism” in general. They are willing to replace Bakunin’s patriarchal “federation of free communes” by the modern federation of free Soviets. But, as formerly, they are against centralized state power. Indeed, one branch of “state” Marxism, social democracy, after coming to power became an open agent of capitalism. The other gave birth to a new privileged caste. It is obvious that the source of evil lies in the state. From a wide historical viewpoint, there is a grain of truth in this reasoning. The state as an apparatus of coercion is an undoubted source of political and moral infection. This also applies, as experience has shown, to the workers’ state. Consequently it can be said that Stalinism is a product of a condition of society in which society was still unable to tear itself out of the strait-jacket of the state. But this position, contributing nothing to the elevation of Bolshevism and Marxism, characterizes only the general level of mankind, and above all – the relation of forces between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Having agreed with the anarchists that the state, even the workers’ state, is the offspring of class barbarism and that real human history will begin with the abolition of the state, we have still before us in full force the question: what ways and methods will lead, ultimately, to the abolition of the state? Recent experience bears witness that they are anyway not the methods of anarchism.
The leaders of the Spanish Federation of Labor (CNT), the only important anarchist organization in the world, became, in the critical hour, bourgeois ministers. They explained their open betrayal of the theory of anarchism by the pressure of “exceptional circumstances”. But did not the leaders of German social democracy produce, in their time, the same excuse? Naturally, civil war is not peaceful and ordinary but an “exceptional circumstance”. Every serious revolutionary organization, however, prepares precisely for “exceptional circumstances”. The experience of Spain has shown once again that the state can be “denied” in booklets published in “normal circumstances” by permission of the bourgeois state, but the conditions of revolution leave no room for the denial of the state: they demand, on the contrary, the conquest of the state. We have not the slightest intention of blaming the anarchists for not having liquidated the state with the mere stroke of a pen. A revolutionary party , even having seized power (of which the anarchist leaders were incapable in spite of the heroism of the anarchist workers), is still by no means the sovereign ruler of society. But all the more severely do we blame the anarchist theory, which seemed to be wholly suitable for times of peace, but which had to be dropped rapidly as soon as the “exceptional circumstances” of the … revolution had begun. In the old days there were certain generals – and probably are now – who considered that the most harmful thing for an army was war. Little better are those revolutionaries who complain that revolution destroys their doctrine.
Marxists are wholly in agreement with the anarchists in regard to the final goal: the liquidation of the state. Marxists are “state-ist” only to the extent that one cannot achieve the liquidation of the state simply by ignoring it. The experience of Stalinism does not refute the teaching of Marxism but confirms it by inversion. The revolutionary doctrine which teaches the proletariat to orient itself correctly in situations and to profit actively by them, contains of course no automatic guarantee of victory. But victory is possible only through the application of this doctrine. Moreover, the victory must not be thought of as a single event. It must be considered in the perspective of an historical epoch. The workers’ state – on a lower economic basis and surrounded by imperialism – was transformed into the gendarmerie of Stalinism. But genuine Bolshevism launched a life and death struggle against the gendarmerie. To maintain itself Stalinism is now forced to conduct a direct civil war against Bolshevism under the name of “Trotskyism”, not only in the USSR but also in Spain. The old Bolshevik party is dead but Bolshevism is raising its head everywhere.
To deduce Stalinism form Bolshevism or from Marxism is the same as to deduce, in a larger sense, counter-revolution from revolution. Liberal-conservative and later reformist thinking has always been characterized by this cliché. Due to the class structure of society, revolutions have always produced counter-revolutions. Does not this indicate, asks the logician, that there is some inner flaw in the revolutionary method? However, neither the liberals nor reformists have succeeded, as yet, in inventing a more “economical” method. But if it is not easy to rationalize the living historic process, it is not at all difficult to give a rational interpretation of the alternation of its waves, and thus by pure logic to deduce Stalinism from “state socialism”, fascism from Marxism, reaction from revolution, in a word, the antithesis from the thesis. In this domain as in many others anarchist thought is the prisoner of liberal rationalism. Real revolutionary thinking is not possible without dialectics.
The Political “Sins” of Bolshevism as the Source of Stalinism
The arguments of the rationalists assume at times, at least in their outer form, a more concrete character. They do not deduce Stalinism from Bolshevism as a whole but from its political sins. the Bolsheviks – according to Gorter, Pannekoek, certain German “Spartacists” and others – replaced the dictatorship of the proletariat with the dictatorship of the party; Stalin replaced the dictatorship of the party with the dictatorship of the bureaucracy, the Bolsheviks destroyed all parties except their own; Stalin strangled the Bolshevik party in the interests of a Bonapartist clique. The Bolsheviks compromised with the bourgeoisie; Stalin became its ally and support. The Bolsheviks recognized the necessity of participation in the old trade unions and in the bourgeois parliament; Stalin made friends with the trade union bureaucracy and bourgeois democracy. One can make such comparisons at will. For all their apparent effectiveness they are entirely empty.
The proletariat can take power only through its vanguard. In itself the necessity for state power arises from the insufficient cultural level of the masses and their heterogeneity. In the revolutionary vanguard, organized in a party, is crystallized the aspiration of the masses to obtain their freedom. Without the confidence of the class in the vanguard, without support of the vanguard by the class, there can be no talk of the conquest of power. In this sense the proletarian revolution and dictatorship are the work of the whole class, but only under the leadership of the vanguard. The Soviets are the only organized form of the tie between the vanguard and the class. A revolutionary content can be given this form only by the party. This is proved by the positive experience of the October Revolution and by the negative experience of other countries (Germany, Austria, finally, Spain). No one has either shown in practice or tried to explain articulately on paper how the proletariat can seize power without the political leadership of a party that knows what it wants. the fact that this party subordinates the Soviets politically to its leaders has, in itself, abolished the Soviet system no more than the domination of the conservative majority has abolished the British parliamentary system.
As far as the prohibition of other Soviet parties is concerned, it did not flow from any “theory” of Bolshevism but was a measure of defense of the dictatorship on a backward and devastated country, surrounded by enemies on all sides. For the Bolsheviks it was clear from the beginning that this measure, later completed by the prohibition of factions inside the governing party itself, signalized a tremendous danger. However, the root of the danger lay not in the doctrine or the tactics but in the material weakness of the dictatorship, ion the difficulties of its internal and international situation. If the revolution had triumphed, even if only in Germany, the need of prohibiting the other Soviet parties would have immediately fallen away. It is absolutely indisputable that the domination of a single party served as the juridical point of departure for the Stalinist totalitarian regime. The reason for this development lies neither in Bolshevism nor in the prohibition of other parties as a temporary war measure, but in the number of defeats of the proletariat in Europe and Asia.
The same applies to the struggle with anarchism. In the heroic epoch of the revolution the Bolsheviks went hand in hand with genuinely revolutionary anarchists. Many of them were drawn into the ranks of the party. The author of these lines discussed with Lenin more than once the possibility of allotting the anarchists certain territories where, with the consent of the local population, they would carry out their stateless experiment. But civil war, blockade and hunger left no room for such plans. The Kronstadt insurrection? But the revolutionary government could naturally not “present” to the insurrectionary sailors the fortress which protected the capital only because the reactionary peasant-soldier rebellion was joined by a few doubtful anarchists. The concrete historical analysis of the events leaves not the slightest room for legends, built up on ignorance and sentimentality, concerning Kronstadt, Makhno and other episodes of the revolution.
There remains only the fact that the Bolsheviks from the beginning applied not only conviction but also compulsion, often to a most severe degree. It is also indisputable that later the bureaucracy which grew out of the revolution monopolized the system of compulsions in its own hands. Every stage of development, even such catastrophic stages as revolution and counter-revolution, flows from the preceding stage, is rooted in it and carries over some of its features. Liberals, including the Webbs, have always maintained that the Bolshevik dictatorship represented only a new edition of Tsarism. They close their eyes to such “details” as the abolition of the monarchy and the nobility, the handing over of the land to the peasants, the expropriation of capital, the introduction of the planned economy, atheist education, and so on. In exactly the same way liberal- anarchist thought closes its eyes to the fact that the Bolshevik revolution, with all its repressions, meant an upheaval of social relations in the interests of the masses, whereas Stalin’s Thermidorian upheaval accompanies the reconstruction of Soviet society in the interest of a privileged minority. It is clear that in the identification of Stalinism with Bolshevism there is not a trace of socialist criteria.
Questions of Theory
One of the most outstanding features of Bolshevism has been its severe, exacting, even quarrelsome attitude towards the question of doctrine. The 26 volumes of Lenin’s works will remain forever a model of the highest theoretical conscientiousness. Without this fundamental quality Bolshevism would never have fulfilled its historic role. In this regard Stalinism, coarse, ignorant and thoroughly empirical, is its complete opposite.
The Opposition declared more than 10 years ago in its program: “Since Lenin’s death a whole set of new theories has been created, whose only purpose is to justify the Stalin group’s sliding off the path of the international proletarian revolution.” Only a few days ago an American writer, Liston M. Oak, who has participated in the Spanish revolution, wrote: “The Stalinists are in fact today the foremost revisionists of Marx and Lenin – Bernstein did not dare go half as far as Stalin in revising Marx.” This is absolutely true. One must add only that Bernstein actually felt certain theoretical needs: he tried conscientiously to establish a correspondence between the reformist practices of social democracy and its program. The Stalinist bureaucracy, however, not only had nothing in common with Marxism but is in general foreign to any doctrine or system whatsoever. Its “ideology” is thoroughly permeated with police subjectivism, its practice is the empiricism of crude violence. In keeping with its essential interests the caste of usurpers is hostile to any theory: it can give an account of its social role neither to itself nor to anyone else. Stalin revises Marx and Lenin not with the theoreticians pen but with the heel of the GPU.
Questions of Morals
Complaints of the “immorality” of Bolshevism come particularly from those boastful nonentities whose cheap masks were torn away by Bolshevism. In petit-bourgeois, intellectual, democratic, “socialist”, literary, parliamentary and other circles, conventional values prevail, or a conventional language to cover their lack of values. This large and motley society for mutual protection – “live and let live” – cannot bear the touch of the Marxist lancet on its sensitive skin. The theoreticians, writers and moralists, hesitating between different camps, thought and continue to think that the Bolsheviks maliciously exaggerate differences, are incapable of “loyal” collaboration and by their “intrigues” disrupt the unity of the workers’ movement. Moreover, the sensitive and touchy centrist has always thought that the Bolsheviks were “calumniating” him – simply because they carried through to the end for him his half-developed thoughts: he himself was never able to. But the fact remains that only that precious quality, an uncompromising attitude towards all quibbling and evasion, can educate a revolutionary party which will not be taken unawares by “exceptional circumstances”.
The moral qualities of every party flow, in the last analysis, from the historical interests that it represents. the moral qualities of Bolshevism self-renunciation, disinterestedness, audacity and contempt for every kind of tinsel and falsehood – the highest qualities of human nature! – flow from revolutionary intransigence in the service of the oppressed. The Stalinist bureaucracy imitates also in this domain the words and gestures of Bolshevism. But when “intransigence” and “flexibility” are applied by a police apparatus in the service of a privileged minority they become a force of demoralization and gangsterism. One can feel only contempt for these gentlemen who identify the revolutionary heroism of the Bolsheviks with the bureaucratic cynicism of the Thermidorians.
Even now, in spite of the dramatic events in the recent period, the average philistine prefers to believe that the struggle between Bolshevism (“Trotskyism”) and Stalinism concerns a clash of personal ambitions, or, at best, a conflict between two “shades ” of Bolshevism. The crudest expression of this opinion is given by Norman Thomas, leader of the American Socialist Party: “There is little reason to believe”, he writes (“Socialist Review”, September 1937, p.6), “that if Trotsky had won (!) instead of Stalin, there would be an end of intrigue, plots, and a reign of fear in Russia”. And this man considers himself … a Marxist. One would have the same right to say: “There is little reason to believe that if instead of Pius XI, the Holy See were occupied by Norman I, the Catholic Church would have been transformed into a bulwark of socialism”. Thomas fails to understand that it is not a question of antagonism between Stalin and Trotsky, but of an antagonism between the bureaucracy and the proletariat. To be sure, the governing stratum of the USSR is forced even now to adapt itself to the still not wholly liquidated heritage of revolution, while preparing at the same time through direct civil war (bloody “purge” – mass annihilation of the discontented) a change of the social regime. But in Spain the Stalinist clique is already acting openly as a bulwark of the bourgeois order against socialism. The struggle against the Bonapartist bureaucracy is turning before our eyes into class struggle: two worlds, two programs, two moralities. If Thomas thinks that the victory of the socialist proletariat over the infamous caste of oppressors would not politically and morally regenerate the Soviet regime, he proves only that for all his reservations, shufflings and pious sighs he is far nearer to the Stalinist bureaucracy than to the workers. Like other exposers of Bolshevik “immorality”, Thomas has simply not grown to the level of revolutionary morality.
The Traditions of Bolshevism and the Fourth International
The “lefts” who tried to skip Bolshevism in their return to Marxism generally confined themselves to isolated panaceas: boycott of parliament, creation of “genuine” Soviets. All this could still seem extremely profound in the heat of the first days after the war. But now, in the light of most recent experience, such “infantile diseases” have no longer even the interest of a curiosity. The Dutchmen Gorter and Pannekoek, the German “Spartakists”, the Italian Bordigists, showed their independence from Bolshevism only by artificially inflating one of its features and opposing it to the rest. But nothing has remained either in practice or in theory of these “left” tendencies: an indirect but important proof that Bolshevism is the only possible form of Marxism for this epoch.
The Bolshevik party has shown in action a combination of the highest revolutionary audacity and political realism. It established for the first time the correspondence between the vanguard and the class which alone is capable of securing victory. It has p roved by experience that the alliance between the proletariat and the oppressed masses of the rural and urban petit bourgeoisie is possible only through the political overthrow of the traditional petit-bourgeois parties. The Bolshevik party has shown the entire world how to carry out armed insurrection and the seizure of power. Those who propose the abstraction of the Soviets from the party dictatorship should understand that only thanks to the party dictatorship were the Soviets able to lift themselves out of the mud of reformism and attain the state form of the proletariat. The Bolshevik party achieved in the civil war the correct combination of military art and Marxist politics. Even if the Stalinist bureaucracy should succeed in destroying the economic foundations of the new society, the experience of planned economy under the leadership of the Bolshevik party will have entered history for all time as one of the greatest teachings of mankind. This can be ignored only by sectarians who, offended by the bruises they have received, turn their backs on the process of history.
But his is not all. The Bolshevik party was able to carry on its magnificent “practical” work only because it illuminated all its steps with theory. Bolshevism did not create this theory: it was furnished by Marxism. But Marxism is a theory of movement, not of stagnation. Only events on such a tremendous historical scale could enrich the theory itself. Bolshevism brought an invaluable contribution to Marxism in its analysis of the imperialist epoch as an epoch of wars and revolutions; of bourgeois democracy in the era of decaying capitalism; of the correlation between the general strike and the insurrection; of the role of the party, Soviets and trade unions in the period of proletarian revolution; in its theory of the Soviet state, of the economy of transition, of fascism and Bonapartism in the epoch of capitalist decline; finally in its analysis of the degeneration of the Bolshevik party itself and of the Soviet state. Let any other tendency be named that has added anything essential to the conclusions and generalizations of Bolshevism. Theoretically and politically Vandervilde, De Brouckere, Hilferding, Otto Bauer, Leon Blum, Zyromski, not to mention Major Attlee and Norman Thomas, live on the tattered leftovers of the past. The degeneration of the Comintern is most crudely expressed by the fact that it has dropped to the theoretical level of the Second International. All the varieties of intermediary groups (Independent Labor Party of Great Britain, POUM and their like) adapt every week new haphazard fragments of Marx and Lenin to their current needs. Workers can learn nothing from these people.
Only the founders of the Fourth International, who have made their own the whole tradition of Marx and Lenin, take a serious attitude towards theory. Philistines may jeer that 20 years after the October victory the revolutionaries are again thrown back to modest propagandist preparation. The big capitalists are, in this question as in many others, far more penetrating than the petit bourgeois who imagine themselves “socialists” or “communists”. It is no accident that the subject of the Fourth International does not leave the columns of the world press. The burning historical need for revolutionary leadership promises to the Fourth International an exceptionally rapid tempo of growth. The greatest guarantee of its further success lies in the fact that it has not arisen away from the great historical road, but has organically grown out of Bolshevism.
(28 August 1937)

“We Brand Stalin as the murderer of Trotsky”

On the 72nd anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky, we are republishing this article which had originally come out in “the militant” which was the newspaper of the US section of the fourth international in 1940. The article can also be seen in the website of our international http://www.litci.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2128:we-brand-stalin-as-the-murderer-of-trotsky&catid=41:world .

[This article was originally published on August 24, 1940 in The Militant, Official Weekly Newspaper of the former U.S. Socialist Workers Party, Section of the Fourth International.]

Trotsky’s Fight Goes On Under the Banner of The Forth International.

Death follows brutal attack.

Leon Trotsky, co-leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution, died in Mexico City on August 21 at 7:30 P.M., victim of a brutal assault by GPU assasin. He fought for life for 26 hours after Stalin’s hired murderer had driven  a pickaxe into his brain. It was his last battle.

But he did not surrender until he had indicted the monster in the Kremlin as the organizer of his murder. He did not surrender until, in his very last words which he insisted upon dictating before he lost consciousness, he had handed on the banner of the Fourth International to the men and women throughout the world whom he had gathered together in the World Party of Socilaist Revolution. “Please say to our friends,” he concluded, “ that I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International. Go forward!”.

It was characteristic of his great genious that, certain he was dying – immediately after the attack he told Joseph Hansen that “I will not survive this attack” – he devoted his last moments of conciousness to urging forward the activities of the Fourth International.

Equally characteristic was his conduct as he tell under the mortal blows of the GPU assassin and Trotsky’s secretary-guards rushed in, arms in hand, and flung themselves upon the assasin. “Let him live!” cried Trotsky repeatedly. Not out of kindness! But to assure the possibility that from the assasin might be wrested additional confirmation which would help to damn the Kremlin Cain in the eyes of the working class of the world.

The Hand of the GPU

Thanks to Trotsky’s dissection of every available bit of evidence, key participants in the May 24 attempt to murder him are now in prison formally charged with that crime, a number of them having confessed their complicity. Having learned from the unfolding of that crime how Stalin’s GPU works, the federal police authorities were quick to recognize its trademark in the succesful follow-up to the May 24 attempt.
Col. Leandro Sanchez Salazar, chief of the detective bureau, told reporters yesterday that he is convinced the assasin’s real name is Monrod, that he is a Belgian, and that he came to this continent as an agent of the GPU, the Stalinist secret police.
General Jose Nunez, Mexico’s chief of police, also said yesterday:
“We are working on the theory that Monrod had accomplices and we are making a munute investigation”. The assassin says “They” had threatened to kill his mother if he failed.
After reporting Monrod’s alibi, that the attack came in the midst of a political quarrel, Nunes dismissed it by saying: “He premetitated the attack on Trotsky, for he went to Trotsky’s home with the pick concelaled  under his raincoat and also carrying a revolver and a poniard (dagger)”.

Other methods failed

Stalin’s GPU undoubtedly resorted to the desperate device of compelling one of its creatures to kill Trotsky without much chance of the assailant escaping, when it became clear that a repetition of the May 24 attempt could not succeed. All weak chinks in the fortifications of the house had been taken care of since May 24. Even an army could succeed only by laying long siege. Hence the method used by Monrod.
The limitless power of the GPU over its creatures was indicated when the assasin cried out, as the guards seized him after the attack:
“They made me do it. Otherwise they would have killed my mother”.
No amount of questioning afterward would get him to reveal the whereabouts of his mother. He had recovered his poise and proceeded to act out the part assigned him by the GPU.
To justify Stalin’s crime, he had been instructed to say that he “broke with Trotsky” when the latter asked him to go to Russia to commit “acts of sabotage.” A thoroughly preposterous alibi, for every person with the slightest  understanding of Marxist politics knows that such methods are alien to Trotsky and the Fourth International. But Stalin’s arsenal is reduced to such flimsy arguments–and to the assasin’s weapon.

Was long prepared

Undoubtedly, but one of many plots simultaneously being carried forward by the GPU against Trotsky’s life, this one had been even longer in preparation than the May 24 attempt. In the latter, participants confessed, direct preparations began some five months before the attempt. In the final attempt, preparations began as long as two years ago.
It was then that Jacques Monrod managed an introduction in Paris to some Americans visiting there who had connections with the Trotskyst movement. He played the oldest game of all: pretended attachment to a girl. He followed her to the United States, arriving here shortly after the outbreak of the war. He himself was careful not to come in direct contact in the United States with the organized Trorskyst movement. He reserved all his chances of escaping detection for one try in Mexico.
There, through his American wife, he secured the opportunity to become acquainted with the Trotsky household by occasional visits. Undoubtedly the information he gathered made easier the work of the assasins’ band of May 24. When that failed Monrod was compelled by his superiors in the GPU to do the job himself.

Came with weapons

With his weapons concealed under his clothes, he went to the house Tuesday at about 5:30 p.m. He met Trotsky in the patio near the chicken yard, where he told Trotsky he had written an article on which he wished advice.
Trotsky then invited Jackson into his study but without previously notifying his secretaries. The first indication of something wrong was the sound of terrible cries and a violent struggle in Trotsky’s study. The two secretary-guards who were closest immediately left their post and rushed to the dining room next to Trotsky’s study.
Here they met Trotsky coming from his study with blood streaming from his face. One of the guards – Joe Hansen – immediately overpowered the assasin, felling him with a blow. The other, Harold Robbins, helped Trotsky to recline on the floor of the dining room.
Apparently the assassin had hoped that Trotsky would drop unconscious under the first blow from behind with the pick-axe. Instead Trotsky had struggled as he received repeated blows on his head and throat.
Trotsky thought that first blow had been a bullet. As he lay on the floor he told Joe Hansen: “Jackson shot me with a revolver. I am seriously wounded. I feel that this time it is the end.”
Joe Hansen tried to convince him that it was only a surface wound and that it could not have been a revolver. Trotsky would not be convinced. “No, he told Joe, “I feel here (pointing to his heart) that this time they succeeded.”

His final concern

But not on that fact did Trotsky dwell in those last minutes of consciousness left to him. Not on Stalin’s success in murdering him, but on what must now be done by those whom he called upon to carry on the banner of the Fourth International.
At the hospital he asked Joe Hansen if he had a notebook so that he could jot down precisely a declaration. Two things were in it. The indictment: “I am close to death from the blow of a political assasin.” And the conclusion: “Please say to our friends – I am sure of the victory of the Fourth International. Go Forward!”
That was just before he lost consciousness. When he did, he never regained it. Thereby his declaration became his last words.
We can be sure that he would have wished it that way. If there were to be no more words, then let the last ones be the words of a fighter exhorting those who come after to continue the fight. For that was Leon Trotsky.

BLPI on China and the political situation during the 2nd World war

we are presenting here a report from international notes dated April 1945 which included news three important resolutions of the BLPI.  This particular report and the BLPI’s position on China is of considerable significance today as it lays down a useful precedent on the core question of defencism and defeatism. The question has become a particularly dicey one when applied to the present situation in Libya. Broadly speaking the international left has been split between whether to take a position that calls for the defeat of Qaddafi as the core position or whether to call for a dual defeatism of forces, aiming both at Gaddafi as well as the imperialists. There are still others ( mostly of a third wordlist orientation and Stalinist orientations ) who call directly for the victory of Qaddafi over the rebels citing the ‘complete’ dominance of the rebels by imperialism. A similar situation it would appear had emerged in the debates around China almost 70 years back. The BLPI’s position was one which we feel is both pragmatic in its flexibility as well as consistent with a revolutionary Bolshevik Leninist line.


International Notes

[From Fourth International, vol.6 No.4, April 1945, pp.126-127]

The Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India and Ceylon, official section of the Fourth International, held its first All-India Conference in September 20-25, 1944. This conference convened as scheduled “somewhere in India” despite the bestial repressions and conditions of illegality imposed upon our Indian co-thinkers by the British despots whose colonial rule is comparable to the regime of the Nazis.

The First Representative Conference marks a great forward step in the development of the Indian Trotskyists whose unified organization was formed in May 1942 at a conference representing the Revolutionary Socialist League of Bengal, the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of the United Provinces and Behar, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party of Ceylon, and other Trotskyist groups. (Documents relating to the 1942 Founding Conference were published in Fourth International for March, April and October 1942.)

In reporting the work of the AR-Indian Conference, the editora of Permanent Revolution, theoretical organ of the Indian party, note with well-merited pride that:

“Representatives from every unit of the Party in India and Ceylon attended, despite all the difficulties. What these units are, none will expect us to announce. Suffice it to say, therefore, that the attendance reflected the All-India character of the organization even at its present stage of development.”

The three main questions on the conference agenda were: 1) The Political Situation in India; 2) The International Situation; and 3) Party Organization.

On the Indian question the Conference adopted a comprehensive resolution, the text of which was published in the October 1944 Fourth International. This resolution,

“reviews the impact of the war on the Indian economy and on the different social classes in India, outlines the changes and development in the attitude of the Indian bourgeoisie to British imperialism during the war, analyzes the course and consequences of the August (1942) struggle and the causes of its failure, examines the meaning and significance of the terms offered to British imperialism by Ghandiji since his release, characterizes the nature and role of the major political parties in India, estimates the likely effect of a Congress-Government settlement on the major political parties and on the mass mood and mass trends, and finally, on the basis of these, defines the political tasks of the Party in the period immediately ahead.” (Permanent Revolution, October-December 1944.)

The majority of the Conference adopted a separate resolution on The Pakistan Slogan and also discussed a Report on Separatist Tendencies in India which the Conference decided not to adopt but “to circulate for further discussion and investigation.”

With regard to the international situation, the Conference adopted two resolutions, one on the Soviet Union and the other relating to China. The Russian resolution takes into account the altered military situation and the consequent need for the revolutionists to adjust their tactics, and advocates “the intensified prosecution of the class struggle (in the non-Soviet territories occupied by the Red Army) regardless of the military consequences to the Red Army.” The resolution further points out the danger of capitalist restoration in the USSR which is implicit in the Kremlin’s policy of utilizing the Red Army as a police agency for the protection of capitalist property in the non-Soviet areas.

The second resolution on China in the World War represents a departure from the position expounded by the Fourth International. It declares that “by reasons of the interlocking of the Sino-Japanese War with the Second Imperialist World War, the subordination of Chungking’s struggle to the reactionary war of the Anglo-American imperialists, and the conversion of the Chungking regime into the channel of Anglo-American economic penetration and political control, the Chungking-led war against Japan has been denuded of its progressive content and cannot therefore be supported by proletarian revolutionaries.” (idem) The resolution does not deny that the “war of Chungking China against Japan” is progressive, but it maintains that this “progressive war” has become transformed into a “subordinate element of no great importance in the all-embracing general imperialist conflict in the Pacific.” This is precisely what must be proved. But the facts and arguments adduced in the resolution scarcely do so. For example, one of the arguments advanced to demonstrate the complete subordination of China’s war to Anglo-American control is the “creation of the Stilwell Command.” However, the incident of the Stilwell ouster could be utilized with far more justification to demonstrate just the contrary. Nor is the issue settled by citing the reactionary character of Chiang Kai-shek’s regime and its subservience to the Allies. What is decisive is not the character of the Chungking regime – which has not essentially altered throughout the struggle – but the actual degree of independence retained by China in her progressive war against the Japanese imperialists.

Up to now it has been – and remains – the position of the Fourth International that China’s war has retained sufficient independence from the imperialists, despite the latter’s aim to “interlock” and completely dominate the struggle. We see as yet no valid reasons for any change in policy. On the organization question, as the editors of Permanent Revolution report, the Conference

“first reviewed the past on the basis of a report presented by the Provisional Central Committee. It then adopted a comprehensive resolution, entitled Organizational Tasks of the Party in the Present Period, in which the present conditions of the Party was analyzed and its organizational policy in the period ahead defined.”

In conclusion they correctly state the following:

“That a young party, working underground in conditions of the most thoroughgoing imperialist repression, should have succeeded in holding a Conference of this nature is a testimony not only to its vitality but also to its adherence to the principles of democratic centralism and to its determination to carry through its historic task of building that revolutionary party of the Indian proletariat on whose timely creation the success of the Indian Revolution depends.”

On the 84th death anniversary of Comrade Lenin

On the 84th anniversary of Comrade Lenin’s demise we the new wave are reprinting a set of three articles on Lenin written by Comrade Trotsky between 1920 and the time of his death in 1924.


Nationalism in Lenin

[ – Leon Trotsky ]

LENIN’S internationalism needs no recommendation. Its distinguishing mark is the irreconcilable break, in the first days of the world war, with that falsification of internationalism that prevailed in the Second International. The official leaders of “Socialism,” from the parliamentary tribune, by abstract arguments in the spirit of the old Cosmopolites, brought the interests of the fatherland into harmony with the interests of humanity. In practice this led, as we know, to the support of the rapacious fatherland through the proletariat.

Lenin’s internationalism is by no means a form of reconciliation of Nationalism and Internationalism in words but a form of international revolutionary action. The territory of the earth inhabited by so-called civilized man is looked upon as a coherent field of combat on which the separate peoples and classes wage gigantic warfare against each other. No single question of importance can be forced into a national frame. Visible and invisible threads connect this question with dozens of phenomena at all ends of the world. In his appreciation of international factors and powers Lenin is freer than most people from national prejudices.

Marx was of the opinion that the philosophers had declared the world satisfactory and believed it to be his task to transform it. But he, the prophet of genius, had not lived to see it. The transformation of the old world is now in full swing and Lenin is its first worker. His internationalism is a practical appreciation of historical events and a practical adaptation to their course on an international scale and for international aims. Russia and her fate are only one element in this great historical struggle upon whose outcome the fate of humanity depends.

Lenin’s internationalism needs no recommendation. Withal Lenin himself is national to a high degree. He is deeply rooted in the new Russian history, makes it his own, gives it its most pregnant expression, and thereby reaches the height of international action and international influence.

At first the characterization of Lenin as “national” may seem surprising, and yet it is, fundamentally considered, a matter of course. To be able to direct such a revolution, without precedent in the history of peoples, as is now taking place in Russia, it is most evidently necessary to have an indissoluble organic connection with the main strength of popular life, a connection which springs from the deepest roots.

Lenin embodies in himself the Russian proletariat, a youthful class, that politically is scarcely older than Lenin himself, withal a deeply national class, for the whole past development of Russia is bound up with it, in it lies Russia’s entire future, with it lives and dies the Russian nation. Lack of routine and example, of falseness and convention, moreover, firmness of thought and boldness of action, a boldness that never degenerates into want of understanding, characterize the Russian proletariat and also Lenin.

The nature of the Russian proletariat, that has actually made it the most important power in the international revolution, had been prepared beforehand by the course of Russian national history, by the barbaric cruelty of the most absolute of states, the insignificance of the privileged classes, the feverish development of capitalism in the dregs of exchange, the deterioration of the Russian bourgeoisie and their ideology, the degeneration of their politics. Our “Third Estate” knew neither a reformation nor a great revolution and could not know them. So the revolutionary problems of the proletariat assumed a more comprehensive character. Our historical past knows neither a Luther, nor a Thomas Münzer, neither a Mirabeau nor a Danton, nor a Robespierre. For that very reason the Russian proletariat has its Lenin. What was lacking in tradition was gained in revolutionary energy.

Lenin reflects in himself the Russian workman’s class, not only in its political present but also in its rustic past which is so recent. This man, who is indisputably the leader of the proletariat, not only outwardly resembles a peasant, but has also something about him which is strongly suggestive of a peasant. Facing Smolny stands the statue of the other hero of the proletariat of the world: Marx on a pedestal in a black frock coat. To be sure, this is a trifle, but it is quite impossible to imagine Lenin in a black frock coat. In some pictures Marx is represented in a broad shirt front on which a monocle dangles.

That Marx was not inclined to coquetry is clear to all who have an idea of the Marxian spirit. But Marx grew up on a different basis of national culture, lived in a different atmosphere, as did also the leading personalities of the German workman’s class, with their roots reaching back, not to the village, but to the corporation guilds and the complicated city culture of the middle ages.

Marx’s style also, which is rich and beautiful, in which strength and flexibility, anger and irony, harshness and elegance are combined, betrays the literary and ethical strata of all the past German socialistic literature since the reformation and even before. Lenin’s literary and oratorical style is extremely simple, ascetic, as is his whole nature. But this strong asceticism has not a shade of moral preaching about it. This is not a principle, no thought-out system and assuredly no affectation, but is simply the outward expression of inward concentration of strength for action. It is an economic peasant-like reality on a very large scale.

The entire Marx is contained in the Communistic Manifesto, in the foreword to his Critique, in Capital. Even if he had not been the founder of the First International he would always remain what he is. Lenin, on the other hand, expands at once into revolutionary action. His works as a scholar mean only a preparation for action. If he had never published a single book in the past he would still appear in history what he now is: the leader of the proletarian revolution, the founder of the Third International.

A clear, scholarly system – materialistic dialectics #8211; was necessary, to be able to renounce deeds of this kind that devolved upon Lenin; it was necessary but not sufficient. Here was needed that mysterious creative power that we call intuition: the ability to grasp appearances correctly at once, to distinguish the essential and important from the unessential and insignificant, to imagine the missing parts of a picture, to weigh well the thoughts of others and above all of the enemy, to put all this into a united whole and the moment the “formula” for it comes to his mind, to deal the blow. This is intuition to action. On the one side it corresponds with what we call penetration.

When Lenin, his left eye closed, receives by radio the parliamentary speech of a leader of imperialistic history or the expected diplomatic note, a web of bloodthirsty reserve and political cant, he resembles a damnably proud moujik who won’t be imposed upon. This is the high-powered peasant cunning, which amounts almost to genius, equipped with the latest acquisitions of a scholarly mind.

The young Russian proletariat is able to accomplish what only he accomplishes who has plowed up the heavy sod of the peasantry to its depths. Our whole national past has prepared this fact. But just because the proletariat came into power through the course of events has our revolution suddenly and radically been able to overcome the national narrowness and provincial backwardness; Soviet Russia became not only the place of refuge of the Communistic International, but also the living embodiment of its program and methods.

By unknown paths, not yet explored by science, on which the personality of man acquires its form, Lenin has taken from nationalism all that he needed for the greatest revolutionary action in the history of humanity. Just because the social revolution, that has long had its international theoretical expression, found for the first time in Lenin its national embodiment, he became, in the true sense of the word, the revolutionary leader of the proletariat of the world.



Lenin Dead

Tiflis Station, January 22nd, 1924


Lenin is no more. We have lost Lenin. The dark laws that govern the work of the arteries have destroyed his life. Medicine has proved itself powerless to accomplish what was passionately hoped for, what millions of human hearts demanded.

How many, unhesitatingly, would have sacrifice their own blood to the last drop to revive, to renew the work of the arteries of the great leader, Lenin Ilyich, the unique, who cannot be replaced. But no miracle occurred where science was powerless. And now Lenin is no more. These words descend upon our consciousness like gigantic rocks falling to the sea. Is it credible, can it be thought of?

The consciousness of the workers of the whole world cannot grasp this fact; for the enemy is still very strong, the way is long, and the great work, the greatest of history, is unfinished; for the working class of the world needed Lenin as perhaps no one in the history of the world has yet been needed.

The second attack of illness, which was more severe than the first, lasted more than ten months. The arteries “played” constantly, according to the bitter expression of the physicians. It was a terrible play with the life of Lenin. Improvement could be expected, almost complete recovery, but also catastrophe. We all expected recovery, but catastrophe happened. The breathing center of the brain refused to function and stifled the center of that mind of great genius.

And now Vladimir Ilyich is no more. The party is orphaned. The workmen’s class is orphaned. This was the very feeling aroused by the news of the death of our teacher and leader.

How shall we advance, shall we find the way, shall we not go astray? For Lenin, comrades, is no longer with us!

Lenin is no more, but Leninism endures. The immortal in Lenin, his doctrine, his work, his method, his example, lives in us, lives in the party that he founded, lives in the first workmen’s State whose head he was and which he guided.

Our hearts are now so overcome with grief, because all of us, thanks to the great favor of history, were born contemporaries of Lenin, worked with him, and learned from him. Our party is Leninism in practice, our party is the collective leader of the workers. In each of us lives a small part of Lenin, which is the best part of each of us.

How shall we continue? With the lamp of Leninism in our hands. Shall we find the way? – With the collective mind, with the collective will of the party we shall find it!

And tomorrow, and the day after, for a week, a month, we shall ask, Is Lenin really dead? For his death will long seem to us an improbable, an impossible, a terrible arbitrariness of nature.

May the pain we feel, that stabs our hearts each time we think that Lenin is no more, be for each of us an admonition, a warning, an appeal: Your responsibility is increased. Be worthy of the leader who trained you!

In grief, sorrow, and affliction we bind our ranks and hearts together; we unite more closely for new struggles. Comrades, brothers, Lenin is no longer with us. Farewell, Ilyich! Farewell, Leader!



Lenin Before October


[-Leon Trotsky ]

That Lenin arrived in Petersburg and had come out against the war and against the Provisional Government at workers’ meetings, I learned from American newspapers at Amherst, a concentration camp for German prisoners in Canada. The interned German sailors began to take an immediate interest in Lenin, whose name they had come across for the first time in the news dispatches. These were all men avidly waiting for the war to end; it would open for them the gates of this prison camp. They listened with utmost attention to every voice raised against the war. Up to this time they had known of Liebknecht. But they had been told time and again that Liebknecht was a paid agent of the Entente. Now they learned of Lenin. They learned from me of Zimmerwald and Kienthal. Lenin’s anti-war speeches won many of them over to Liebknecht.

In my passage across Finland I was able for the first time to obtain current Russian newspapers and in them found dispatches reporting the entry of Tseretelli, Skobelev and other “socialists” into the Provisional Government. The situation was thus made perfectly clear. With Lenin’s April 4 Theses I acquainted myself on the second or third day after reaching Petersburg. These theses were just what the revolution ordered. Lenin’s article, The First Stage of the First Revolution, which he had sent much earlier Irom Switzerland, I read in Pravda much later.

Even today one may, as one should study most attentively, and therewith profit politically from these early and extremely shadow-like issues of Pravda. Against the background of, its columns in which the revolution was being simulated, Lenin’s Letter From Afar stands out with all of its concentrated force. Completely calm and theoretico-expository in tone, this article resembles a huge, tightly coiled spring of steel, which was presently destined to unwind and, as it expanded, to encompass the entire content of the revolution.

Bolsheviks and “Internationalists” in 1917

I arranged with Comrade Kamenev, on one of the first days after my arrival, for a visit with the editorial board of Pravda. Our first meeting must have taken place on May 5 or May 6. I told Lenin that there was nothing separating me from his April Theses and from the entire course followed by the Party since his arrival; and that I was personally faced with the choice of immediately entering the Party organization “as an individual,” or of trying to bring along with me the best section of those who stood for unity in the [Mezhrayontsy – Inter-District] organizations in Petersburg. This organization numbered about 1,000 workers and contained many precious revolutionary forces: Uritsky, Lunacharsky, Joffe, Vladimirov, Manuilsky, Karakhan, Yurenev, Posern, Litkens, and others. Antonov-Ovseyenko had by that time already joined the Party; so did Sokolnikov, I believe. Lenin did not express himself categorically in favor of either course. He found it necessary, above everything else, to acquaint himself more intimately with the situation and the men. Lenin did not exclude collaboration, of one sort or another, with Martov and generally with the section of Menshevik-Internationalists just returned from abroad. Along with this it was necessary to see how the mutual relations among and with the “Internationalists” would turn out in practice. In view of our tacit agreement, I, for my part, did not try to force the natural development of events. We had one and the same policy. At meetings of workers and soldiers I used, from the first day of my arrival, the formula of “We Bolsheviks and Internationalists,” and inasmuch as the constant repetition of this conjunction “and” kept burdening my speech, I soon abbreviated it to: “We Bolshevik-Internationalists.” The merger politically thus preceded the organizational fusion. [1]

Lenin’s Effect on the Reformists

I visited Pravda’s editorial staff two or three times, at the most critical moments before the July days. In these initial meetings, and more so, after the July days, Lenin gave the impression of most intense concentration, and awe-inspiring inner composure – all this under an outer shell of complete calm and “prosaic” simplicity. Kerenskyism in those days appeared all-powerful. Bolshevism was regarded as an “insignificant little handful.” The Party itself was not as yet cognizant of the power it would generate on the morrow. And at the same time Lenin confidently led the Party toward its supreme tasks …

Lenin’s speeches at the First Soviet Congress (June 1917) aroused anxious bepuzzlement among the SR-Menshevik majority. They sensed dimly that this man was taking aim at some long-range target. But to discern this target was beyond them. And these little citizens of the revolution kept asking themselves: “Who is he? What is he? Simply a maniac? Or is this an historical projectile of explosive force never known before?”

Lenin’s speech at the Soviet Congress where he argued the necessity of clapping 50 or so capitalists in jail was, if you like, not an “oratorical” success. It was nonetheless of exceptional significance. Comparatively few Bolsheviks in the audience gave the speaker a brief applause as he left the platform with the look of a man who had not spoken everything he had in mind, nor perhaps, had at all said what he wanted to say in a way he should have liked to … But just the same, a breath of the unusual swept over the hall. It was the breath of the future, felt momentarily by everyone, as bewildered looks accompanied this mnn, so commonplace and yet so enigmatic.

Who is he? What is he? After all, did not Plekhanov in his paper say that Lenin’s first speech on the revolutionary soil of Petersburg was the raving of a man in fever? After all were not the delegates, elected by the masses, in their large majority members of the SRs and the Mensheviks? After all, did not Lenin’s views evoke sharp antagonism among the Bolsheviks themselves?

An Apparent Contradiction

On the one hand, Lenin demanded a complete break not only with bourgeois liberalism but also with every variety of defensism. Inside his own Party he organized a struggle against these “old Bolsheviks, who,” as Lenin said, “had already, more than once played a melancholy role in the history of our Party, and who are now thoughtlessly repeating a formula learned by heart instead of studying the peculiarities of the new, living reality.” (Lenin, Collected Works, First Russian edition, vol. XIV, part 1, p. 28.) From a superficial point of view Lenin was thereby weakening his own Party. And, at the same time, he declared, on the other hand, at the Soviet Congress: “It is not true that there is no party in Russia which is ready today to take upon itself the whole power: there is such a party. Our Party.”

Isn’t there, after all, a monumental contradiction between the position of a “propaganda circle” which differentiates itself from everybody else, and this public claim to assume power over this entire vast country, so shaken to its foundations? And so the Soviet Congress did not understand in the least what this strange man wanted, nor what he hoped for, this ice-cold fanatic, writing little articles for a little newspaper. And there was laughter – when at the Soviet Congress, Lenin declared with beautiful simplicity, which was taken for simplemindedness by authentic simpletons: “Our Party is ready to assume power, the whole power.” “You may laugh all you want to,” said Lenin. He knew that he who laughs last, laughs best. Lenin loved this French saying, because he was firmly determined to have the last laugh. And he went on calmly to prove that it was necessary, as a beginning, to clap in jail 50 to 100 of the biggest millionaires and to proclaim to the people that we regard all capitalists as bandits and that Tereschenko was no better than Miliukov, only a bit more foolish. Terrible, astounding, deadly-simple ideas! And this representative of a small section of the Soviet Congress, a tiny minority which, from time to time applauded him discreetly, told the whole Congress: “Are you afraid of assuming power? Not we. We are ready to take it.” In answer there naturally came – laughter. Laughter which at that moment was almost condescending, but somewhat troubled, just the same

“Put More of a Squeeze on the Bourgeoisie”

And for his second speech Lenin selected the dreadfully simple words from some peasant’s letter to the effect that it is necessary to put more of a squeeze on the bourgeoisie so as to make it burst at all the seams; then the war would come to an end. But that if we did not put such strong pressure on the bourgeoisie, everything would go to pot. And this simple, naive quotation – is this the whole program? Mow can this fail to puzzle? And again there comes a trickle of laughter, condescending and troubled. And, in fact, these words “put more of a squeeze on the bourgeoisie” do not carry much weight, taken abstractly as the program of a propaganda group. However, the puzzled audience failed to understand that Lenin had faultlessly overheard the growing squeeze of history upon the bourgeoisie and knew that as a consequence of this squeeze the bourgeoisie would inescapably “burst in all its seams.”

It was not without reason that Lenin had explained to Citizen Maklakov (a Russian liberal) in May that “the ‘country’ of workers, peasant-poor, and poorest peasants is a thousand times farther to the Left than the Chernovs and Tseretellis” and “a hundred times farther to the Left than our own Party.” Therein is the fountain-source of Lenin’s tactics. Through the newly-fresh, but already quite turgid, democratic pellicle, he had deeply probed this “country of workers, peasant-poor, and poorest peasants.” And it showed itself ready to carry out the greatest of revolutions. But the country was not yet able to express this, its readiness in political terms. Those parties which continued to speak in the name of workers and peasants, were deceiving them. Our Party was as yet not known at all to millions of workers and peasants; they had not yet discovered it as the articulator of all their aspirations, and at the same time our Party did not as yet understand its own potential dynamism and was in consequence a “hundred times” to the Right of the workers and peasants. It was necessary to level off the one with the other.

It was necessary for the many-millioned masses to discover the Party, and for the Party to discover the many-millioned masses. It was necessary not to rush too far ahead, but also urgent not to lag behind. It was necessary to keep on explaining patiently and persistently. What had to be explained were very simple things: “Down With the Ten Capitalist Ministers!” The Mensheviks refuse? So be it. Down with the Mensheviks! They laugh? There is a season for everything … He laughs best who laughs last.

Sverdlov and His Role

I recall proposing a motion to the effect that the Soviet Congress place first on its agenda the question of the offensive then being prepared at the front against the Germans. Lenin approved of this idea, but evidently wanted to discuss it first with other members of the Central Committee. To the first session of the Soviet Congress, Comrade Kamenev brought a draft Bolshevik declaration on this offensive, hastily sketched by Lenin. I do not know if this document has been preserved. The text – I no longer recall the reasons for it – proved unsuited for the Congress, so far as both the Bolshevik and Internationalist deputations were concerned. Among those who objected to the text was also Posern, whom we had chosen to bring the matter up on the floor. I hastily drafted another text which was used. The organizational side of presenting this declaration was, if I am not mistaken, in the hands of Sverdlov, whom I met for the first time during this Soviet Congress. He was chairman of the Bolshevik Soviet fraction.

Although short and slight of build, which gave the impression of poor health, Sverdlov’s figure was notable, emanating quiet strength. Me presided quietly and smoothly, without any noise or backfire, just like a perfectly functioning motor. The secret was not, naturally, in the art of presiding 6ut in this, that Sverdlov was thoroughly acquainted with the composition of the gathering and knew exactly what he wanted. Every session was preceded by his conferring with individual delegates, by interrogations, here and there by admonitions. Even before a session convened, Sverdlov had a general idea of the lines it would follow. But even without preliminary conferences, he knew better than anybody else just what the attitude of this or that worker would be toward the issue under discussion. The number of comrades of whose political horizon he had a clear conception was very large considering the size of our Party at the time. Me was a born organizer and arranger. Every political question presented itself to him first of all in its specific organizational form, as a question of reciprocal relations between individuals and groupings inside our Party; and of reciprocal relations between the Party as a whole and the masses. Into algebraic formulas he instantly and almost automatically introduced arithmetical numbers. So far as revolutionary action was concerned, he thereby furnished a most important verification of political formulas.

Lenin’s Evaluation of Opponents

Following the cancellation of the June 10 demonstration, when the atmosphere of the First Soviet Congress became white-hot, with Tseretelli threatening to disarm the Petersburg workers, I along with Comrade Kamenev went to Pravda’s editorial offices; and there after a brief exchange of views, I drafted at Lenin’s suggestion an address of the Bolshevik Central Committee to the Executive Committee of the Soviet Congress.

At this meeting Lenin made a few remarks concerning Tseretelli, while commenting upon Tseretelli’s speech (on June 11): “He was once a revolutionist; how many years he spent in prison! And now this complete renunciation of his own past.” There was nothing political in these words; they were spoken not for political effect, but came simply as the product of a fleeting reflection upon the sad fate of a former prominent revolutionist. Lenin’s voice was tinged with regret, with umbrage, but he spoke laconically and dryly, for nothing was so repugnant to him as the slightest hint of sentimentality and psychological slobbering.

On the 4th or 5th of July, as I recall, I met Lenin (along with Zinoviev?) in the Tauride Palace. Our offensive had been beaten back. Among the ruling circles malignant rancor against the Bolsheviks had reached its peak. “Now they will shoot us down,” said Lenin. “It is the most advantageous moment for them.” His basic thought was to sound retreat and go underground to the extent that this might prove necessary. It was one of the abrupt turns of Lenin’s strategy, based as always on a swift appraisal of the situation. Later, in the days of the Third Congress of the Communist International, Vladimir Ilyich happened to say: “In July we did many foolish things.” He was referring here to the premature military action, to the over-aggressive forms of the July demonstration, neither of which corresponded at the time to our forces on the national scale. All the more remarkable was the sober resoluteness with which on July 4-5 he weighed the situation not only from the side of the revolution but also that of the counterrevolution, and came to the conclusion that “for them” it was just the time to shoot us down. Fortunately, our enemies still lacked both such consistency and resolution. They confined themselves to the chemical concoctions of Pereversev (the then Minister of Justice). It is quite likely, though, that had they succeeded in the first days following the July demonstration to lay their hands on Lenin, they, that is, their officer clique, would have treated Lenin exactly as less than two years later, the German officers dealt with Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

Facing Savage Attacks of Reaction

There was no definitive decision made at the foregoing meeting to hide or to go underground. Kornilovism was gathering momentum gradually. Personally, I put in public appearances for two or three days and spoke at some Party and organizational conferences on the topic: What to do? The savage attack upon the Bolsheviks seemed insurmountable. The Mensheviks labored might and main to extract maximum profit from a situation that had been created not without their own personal intervention.

Once I had to speak, I recall, in the library of the Tauride Palace, at some meeting of trade union representatives. There were altogether a score or so present, that is, the top union leadership. The Mensheviks dominated. I argued for the necessity of the trade unions to protest against the charge that the Bolsheviks were in any way tied up with German militarism. My recollections of this meeting are hazy, but I do remember quite exactly two or three joyfully malignant faces, verily pleading that their ears be boxed …

The reign of terror meanwhile intensified. Arrests went on. A few days were spent by me, in hiding, at Comrade Larin’s home. Then I began going out again, made my appearance at the Tauride Palace and was shortly imprisoned. My release came already in the days of the Kornilov monstrosity and of the incipient Bolshevik flood-tide. By this time we had succeeded in consummating the entry of the pro-unity (Inter-District) tendency into the Bolshevik Party. Sverdlov suggested that I meet with Lenin who was then still in hiding. I no longer recall who guided me to the hide-out in a worker’s flat (was it not Rakhia perhaps?) where I met Vladimir llyich. Also present was Kalinin, whom V.I. (Lenin) kept questioning in my presence concerning the mood of the workers; whether they were ready for a fight, whether they would go to the end, whether it was possible to take power, and so on.

Lenin’s Mood at the Turn of the Tide

What was Lenin’s frame of mind at the time? If one were to characterize it in a couple words, one would have to say that it was a mood of restrained impatience and deep anxiety. He saw clearly that the moment was nearing when everything would have to be poised on a razor’s edge and at the same time it seemed to him, and not without good reason, that among the top Party circles all the necessary conclusions were not being drawn. The conduct of the Central Committee he regarded as too passive and dilatory. Lenin did not consider it possible to return openly to work, because he justifiably feared that his arrest would consolidate and even strengthen the dilatory mood among the Party chiefs, and this would unavoidably lead to letting slip of an exceptional revolutionary situation … This was the reason why Lenin’s vigilance in these days and weeks reached its climax, as did his pouncing upon every sign of “Fabian strategy,” every intimation of dilatoriness and indecision. He demanded an immediate start toward correctly organized conspiratorial work: Let us catch the enemy by surprise and wrest the power – and then we shall see. This, however, provides a subject for a more detailed and independent study.

The future biographer of Lenin will have to treat with and pay the utmost attention to the very fact of Lenin’s return to Russia, and his coming in touch with the mass of the people. Except for a brief interlude in 1905, Lenin had spent more than a decade and a half in foreign exile. All this while, his sense of reality, his sensitivity to the living, toiling human being did not become enfeebled. but had, on the contrary, grown stronger owing to the activity of his theoretical thought and his creative imagination. From sporadic, chance meetings and observations he caught on the wing and recreated the likeness of the whole. Nonetheless he had lived an exile’s life during that period of his life when he completely matured for his coming historical role. He arrived in Petersburg with fully finished revolutionary generalizations, in which was summed up his entire life’s socio-theoretical and practical experience.

Hardly did he set foot on Russian soil, than he issued the slogan of the socialist revolution. But this marked only the beginning of the verification, by the living experience of the awakened toiling masses of Russia, of everything that Lenin had accumulated, thought out to the end, and made his own. Lenin’s formulas withstood the test. More than this, only here in Russia, in Petersburg, did these formulas become filled with day-to-day, invincible concreteness and thereby with insuperable power. It was now no longer necessary to recreate a panoramic likeness of the whole by way of reconstructing it from separate, more or less accidental specimens. The whole made itself known, speaking with all the tongues of the revolution. And here Lenin showed, and perhaps felt fully for the first time himself, to what measure he possessed the ability to hear the still chaotic voice of the awakening masses. With what profound organic contempt did he watch the mouse-play of the leading parties of the February revolution, these waves of “mighty” public opinion which ricocheted from one newspaper to the next; with the same contempt he watched anli noted the myopia, the narcissism, the noisy loquacity, in brief – Official, February Russia.

Attuned to the Rumbling of Revolution

Behind this scene, set with democratic decorations, he heard the rumbling of events of an entirely different order. Whenever skeptics used to call his attention to all the great difficulties in the way, to the mobilization of bourgeois public opinion, the existence of the elemental petty-bourgeois mass, he would set his jaws, and his prominent cheekbones would jut out more angularly than ever. This was a sign that he was holding himself back from telling these skeptics, clearly and pointedly, what he really thought of them. He saw and understood the obstacles no less than others did, but he apprehended. lucidly, tangibly, nay, physically those titanic forces accumulated by history that were now ripping into the open in order to cast aside all the obstacles. He saw, he heard and apprehended, before all the Russian worker, whose class had grown in numbers, who had not yet forgotten the experience of 1905, who had behind him the school of war, who had passed through its illusions as well as through the tinsel and lie of defensism, and who was ready now for the greatest of sacrifices, and for exertions never seen before.

Lenin physically felt the soldier, stunned by three years of hellish slaughter – meaningless, aimless – and now, awakened by the thunder of the revolution, preparing to pay back for all these meaningless sacrifices, all those humiliations and cuffs on the ear by way of an explosion of raging hate that spares nothing. Lenin heard the mouzhik, who still dragged the century-old chains of serfdom, and who now thanks to the upheaval caused by the war, sensed for the first time the possibility of settling accounts, terribly, ruthlessly, with the oppressors, the slaveholders, the gentry, the nobility. The Mouzhik was still helplessly milling around hesitating to choose between Chernov’s bunkology and his own “measures,” i.e., the great agrarian mutiny. The soldier still kept shifting from one foot to the other, seeking for pathways in between patriotism and frantic desertion. The workers still listened, but already mistrustfully and semi-hostilely, to the last tirades of Tseretelli. Already the steam gurgled impatiently in the boilers of Kronstadt warships.

The sailor, combining in his person the razor-edged hate of the workers and the muffled bear-like wrath of the mouzhik; the sailor, seared by the flames of the horrible slaughter, was already dumping overboard all those who in his eyes personified the various species of feudalistic, bureaucratic and military oppression. The February revolution was about to jump the track and roll over the embankment.

The rags and patches of Czarist legality were gathered up by the Compromisist saviors, smoothed out, sewn together and converted into the thin pellicle of democratic legality. But underneath it, everything gurgled and seethed, all the wrongs of the past sought for outlets; hatred toward the cop on the beat, toward the police captain, the district inspector, the chief of police, the police commissioner, the registrar, the manufacturer, the usurer, the landowner, the parasite, the lily-handed one, the reviler, the face-slapper – this hatred prepared a revolutionary eruption, greatest on record.

It was this that Lenin heard and saw; it was this that he felt physically with invincible clarity, with absolute conviction, when, after a long absence, he came in touch with this land seized by paroxysms of the revolution.

Grime-Covered Workers in Ballerina’s Palace

“You little fools, you petty braggarts, you dolts, you think that history is made in drawing rooms where upstart democrats rub elbows with titled liberals; where yesterday’s nonentites from among provincial lawyers hastily learn the art of bowing and kissing little hands of illustrious ladies? You little fools! You little braggarts! You dolts! History is being made in the trenches where, intoxicated by the nightmarish fumes of war, the soldier plants his bayonet in an officer’s belly and then rides the freight-train tops, deserting to his native village there to let the red cock loose over the manor house. Does this barbarism offend your souls? Don’t burn yourselves out with anger. History has this to say to you: You are welcome to all I have … These are merely the end-products of everything that had gone before. You seriously imagine that history is made in your Contact Commissions? Nonsense, infant prattle. Delusions! Cretinism! History, for your information, has this time chosen as its trial laboratory the palace of Kshesinskaia, the dancer, former mistress of a former Czar. And from here, from this structure-symbol of Old Russia, history is preparing to liquidate your entire Petersburgish-Czaristic, bureaucratico-noble, landlord-bourgeois rot and indecency. Hither, to this palace of a former Imperial ballerina, are streaming grime-covered factory delegates, greyish, pock-marked and lice-ridden foot-messengers from the trenches, and from here they spread all over the land the new, prophetic words.”

The Ministers-in-Woe of the revolution met in council after council on how to restore this palace to its lawful owner. Bourgeois, SRist, Menshevist papers bared in rage their rotten teeth because Lenin, from Kshesinskaia’s balcony, broadcast the slogans of the socialist revolution. But these belated efforts were to no avail. They added neither to Lenin’s hate of Old Russia, nor to his will to settle accounts with it. The first as well as the second had already approached its limit. On Kshesinskaia’s balcony, stood the same Lenin who two months later was to hide in a haystack, and who, within a few weeks, was to assume the post of Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars.

Party Moods and the Masses

Seeing all this, Lenin also saw that inside the Party itself there existed a conservative resistance – at first not so much political as psychological in character – to that great leap which had to be made. Lenin watched with anxiety the widening lack of correspondence between the moods of a section of Party chiefs and the millions of workers. He was not satisfied for a moment with the formal adoption of the armed-uprising formula by the Central Committee, he knew the difficulties of transition from word to deed. With all the force and resources at his command he strove to subject the Party to the pressure of the masses and the Party’s Central Committee to the pressure of its rank and file. He summoned individual comrades to his place of refuge, gathered reports, checked them, arranged for cross-interrogations, and in every conceivable way, from below, from deep inside, by circuitous paths and in every criss-cross way, he sped his slogans into the Party in order to confront the top Party circles with the need to act and go the limit.

Unbounded Faith in Masses

To form a correct estimate of Lenin’s conduct in this period, it is essential to establish one thing, namely: that he had unbounded faith in the desire and ability of the masses to accomplish the revolution; but he did not have the same confidence in regard to the Party staff. And at the same time Lenin understood with a clarity beyond all clarity that there was not a minute to lose. A revolutionary situation cannot be arbitrarily preserved, like a vegetable, until the moment when the Party is ready to make use of it. We have seen a similar experience recently in Germany. Not so long ago we had to listen to a view that if we had not taken power in October, we would have done so two or three months later. A gross delusion! Had we not taken power in October, we would not have taken it at all. Our strength prior to October lay in the uninterrupted flow of the masses to us, the influx of those who believed that this Party would do what the rest had failed to do. If the masses had perceived any vacillation on our part at this moment, any delay, any discrepancy between our word and our deed, then in the course of the next two or three months, the masses would have ebbed away from us, just as they previously did from the SRs and the Mensheviks. The bourgeoisie would have gained a breathing spell and would have used it to conclude a peace. The relation of forces could have changed drastically, and the proletarian overturn would have been postponed to an indefinite future. It was just this that Lenin understood, apprehended and felt. From this sprang his alarm, his mistrust and his fierce pressure which proved to be the salvation of the revolution.

Inner-Party Disagreements Flare

The inner-party disagreements which flared stormily in the October days, had already manifested themselves in a preliminary way during several prior stages of the revolution. The first collision, the most principled one but still calmly theoretical in tone, arose immediately upon Lenin’s arrival. It was the conflict over his (April 4) theses. The second muffled clash occurred in connection with the armed demonstration of April 20. The third – around the projected armed demonstration of June 10. The “moderates” held that Lenin wanted to foist an armed demonstration upon them with a view toward an uprising.

The next and much sharper conflict flared up in connection with the July days. The differences broke into the press. A further stage in the development of this internal struggle was reached on the question of the Pre-Parliament. This time in the Party’s parliamentary fraction two groupings collided breast to breast. Were any minutes taken of this session? Were these minutes preserved? I do not know. But these debates are unquestionably of extraordinary interest. Two tendencies were delineated quite clearly: the one, in favor of taking power; the other, in favor of playing an oppositional role in the Constituent Assembly. The partisans of boycotting the Pre-Parliament were in the minority, but it was a minority almost as large as the majority. To these debates in the fraction and the decision adopted by it (in favor of participating in the Pre-Parliament) Lenin, from his hide-out, reacted swiftly by way of a letter to the Central Committee. This letter, in which Lenin declared himself, in more than vigorous terms, in solidarity with the boycotters of the “Buligynite Duma” of Kerensky-Tseretelli, I have been unable to locate in the second part of Volume XIV of Lenin’s Collected Works. (The Buligyn Duma was convened by the Czar in 1905 in order to try to head off the then unfolding revolution.) Has this extremely valuable document been preserved?

Probings and Reconnoiterings

The differences reached their highest tension immediately before the October stage, when under discussion was the final adoption of the course toward the uprising and the setting of a date for it. And finally, even after the October 25 overturn, the differences grew sharp in the extreme over the question of a government in coalition with the other socialist parties.

It would be interesting in the maximum degree to reconstruct, down to the last detail, Lenin’s role on the eve of April 20, on the eve of June 10, and of the July days. “We did many foolish things in July,” Lenin used to say later in private conversations and, as I recall, he repeated it at a conference with the German delegation on the March events in Germany in 1921. Of what did these “foolish things” consist? Of vigorous, or rather over-vigorous probings; of active, or rather much too active reconnoiterings. Without such reconnoiterings, from time to time, we could have fallen behind the masses. But on the other hand, as everybody knows, an active reconnoitering action may sometimes pass involuntarily into a general battle. This was almost the case in July. But the signal for retreat was given in plenty of time. And in those days the enemy lacked the courage to force matters to a showdown. And it was by no means accidental that this courage was lacking. Kerenskyism is half-and-half by its very nature; and this cowardly Kerenskyism tended to paralyze Kornilovism all the more, the more Kerenskyism itself stood in fear of Kornilovism.

April 1924



Lenin on the national question

As a continuation of our series of documents on the question of national self determination we are publishing Three significant writings of Lenin on the national question.

The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.) APRIL 24–29, 1917

Resolution on the National Question

The policy of national oppression, inherited from the autocracy and monarchy; is maintained by the landowners, capitalists, and petty bourgeoisie in order to protect their class privileges and to cause disunity among the workers of the various nationalities. Modern imperialism, which increases the tendency to subjugate weaker nations, is a new factor intensifying national oppression.

The elimination of national oppression, if at all achievable in capitalist society, is possible only under a consistently democratic republican system and state administration that guarantee complete equality for all nations and languages.

The right of all the nations forming part of Russia freely to secede and form independent states must be recognised. To deny them this right, or to fail to take measures guaranteeing its practical realisation, is equivalent to supporting a policy of seizure or annexation. Only the recognition by the proletariat of the right of nations to secede can ensure complete solidarity among the workers of the various nations and help to bring the nations closer together on truly democratic lines.

The conflict which has arisen at the present time between Finland and the Russian Provisional Government strikingly demonstrates that denial of the right to free secession leads to a direct continuation of the policy of tsarism.

The right of nations freely to secede must not be confused with the advisability of secession by a given nation at a given moment. The party of the proletariat must decide the latter question quite independently in each particular case, having regard to the interests of social development as a whole and the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat for socialism.

The Party demands broad regional autonomy, the abolition of supervision from above, the abolition of a compulsory official language, and the fixing of the boundaries of the self-governing and autonomous regions in accordance with the economic and social conditions, the national composition of the population, and so forth, as assessed by the local population itself.

The party of the proletariat emphatically rejects what is known as “national cultural autonomy”, under which education, etc., is removed from the control of the state and put in the control of some kind of national diets. National cultural autonomy artificially divides the workers living in one locality, and even working in the same industrial enterprise, according to their various “national cultures”; in other words, it strengthens the ties between the workers and the bourgeois culture of their nations, whereas the aim of the Social-Democrats is to develop the international culture of the world proletariat.

The party demands that a fundamental law be embodied in the constitution annulling all privileges enjoyed by any one nation and all infringements of the rights of national minorities.

The interests of the working class demand that the workers of all nationalities in Russia should have common proletarian organisations: political, trade union, co-operative educational institutions, and so forth. Only the merging of the workers of the various nationalities into such common organisations will make it possible for the proletariat to wage a successful struggle against international Capital and bourgeois nationalism.

The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

APRIL 24–29, 1917

Speech on the National Question April 29 (May 12)

Beginning from 1903, when our Party adopted its programme, we have been encountering violent opposition on the part of the Polish comrades. If you study the Minutes of the Second Congress you will see that they were using the same arguments then that they are using now, and that the Polish Social-Democrats walked out from that Congress because they held that recognition of the right of nations to self-determination was unacceptable to them. Ever since then we have been coming up against the same question. Though imperialism already existed in 1903, the Polish Social-Democrats made no mention of it in their arguments. They are making the same strange and monstrous error now as they were then. These people want to put our Party’s stand on a par with that of the chauvinists.

Owing to long oppression by Russia, Poland’s policy is a wholly nationalist one, and the whole Polish nation is obsessed with one idea—revenge on the Muscovites. No one has oppressed the Poles more than the Russian people, who served in the hands of the tsars as the executioner of Polish freedom. In no nation does hatred of Russia sit so deep as with the Poles; no nation dislikes Russia so intensely as the Poles. As a result we have a strange thing. Because of the Polish bourgeoisie, Poland has become an obstacle to the socialist movement. The whole world could go to the devil so long as Poland was free. Of course, this way of putting the question is a mockery of internationalism. Of course, Poland is now a victim of violence, but for the Polish nationalists to count on Russia liberating Poland—that would be treason to the International. The Polish nationalists have  so imbued the Polish people with their views that this is how the situation is regarded in Poland.

The Polish Social-Democratic comrades have rendered a great historic service by advancing the slogan of internationalism and declaring that the fraternal union of the proletariat of all countries is of supreme importance to them and that they will never go to war for the liberation of Poland. This is to their credit, and this is why we have always regarded only these Polish Social-Democrats as socialists. The others are patriots, Polish Plekhanovs. But this peculiar position, when, in order to safeguard socialism, people were forced to struggle against a rabid and morbid nationalism, has produced a strange state of affairs: comrades come to us saying that we must give up the idea of Poland’s freedom, her right to secession.

Why should we Great Russians, who have been oppressing more nations than any other people, deny the right to secession for Poland, Ukraine, or Finland? We are asked to become chauvinists, because by doing so we would make the position of Social-Democrats in Poland less difficult. We do not pretend to seek to liberate Poland, because the Polish people live between two states that are capable of fighting. Instead of telling the Polish workers that only those Social-Democrats are real democrats who maintain that the Polish people ought to be free, since there is no place for chauvinists in a socialist party, the Polish Social-Democrats argue that, just because they find the union with Russian workers advantageous, they are opposed to Poland’s secession. They have a perfect right to do so. But people don’t want to understand that to strengthen internationalism you do not have to repeat the same words. What you have to do is to stress, in Russia, the freedom of secession for oppressed nations and, in Poland, their freedom to unite. Freedom to unite implies freedom to secede. We Russians must emphasise freedom to secede, while the Poles must emphasise freedom to unite.

We notice here a number of sophisms involving a complete renunciation of Marxism. Comrade Pyatakov’s stand repeats that of Rosa Luxemburg….[1] (Holland is an example.)  This is how Comrade Pyatakov reasons, and this is how he refutes himself, for in theory he denies freedom of secession, but to the people he says that anyone opposingfreedom of secession is not a socialist. Comrade Pyatakov has been saying things here that are hopelessly muddled.In Western Europe most countries settled their national questions long ago. It is Western Europe that isreferred when it is said that the national question has been settled. Comrade Pyatakov, however, puts this where itdoes notbelong—to Eastern Europe, and we find ourselves in a ridiculous position.

Just think of the dreadful mess that results! Finland is right next door to us. Comrade Pyatakov has no definite answer for Finland and gets all mixed up. In yesterday’sRabochaya Gazeta you read that the movement for separation is growing in Finland. Finns arriving here tell us that separatism is growing there because the Cadets refuse to grant the country complete autonomy. A crisis is approaching there, dissatisfaction with Governor-General Rodichev is rife, but Rabochaya Gazeta writes that the Finns should wait for the Constituent Assembly, because an agreement will there be reached between Finland and Russia. What do they mean by agreement? The Finns must declare that they are entitled to decide their destiny in their own way, and any Great Russian who denies this right is a chauvinist. It would be another thing if we said to the Finnish worker: Decide what is best for yourself….

Comrade Pyatakov simply rejects our slogan, saying that it means giving no slogan for the socialist revolution, but he himself gives no appropriate slogan. The method of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” is all muddled up. We have not succeeded in publishing the article in which I called this view “Imperialist Economism”.[3] What does the “method” of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” mean? We maintain that the state is necessary, and a state presupposes frontiers. The state, of course, may hold a bourgeois government, but we need the Soviets. But even Soviets are confronted with the question of frontiers. What does “Down with frontiers”  mean? It is the beginning of anarchy….The “method” of socialist revolution under the slogan “Down with frontiers” is simply a mess. When the time is ripe for socialist revolution, when it finally occurs, it will spread to other countries. We shall help it along, but in what manner, we do not know. “The method of socialist revolution” is just a meaningless phrase. We stand for the settlement of problems which the bourgeois revolution has left unsolved. Our attitude to the separatist movement is indifferent, neutral. If Finland, Poland or Ukraine secede from Russia, there is nothing bad in that. What is wrong with it? Anyone who says that is a chauvinist. One must be mad to continue Tsar Nicholas’s policy. Didn’t Norway secede from Sweden? Alexander I and Napoleon once bartered nations, the tsars once traded Poland. Are we to continue this policy of the tsars? This is repudiation of the tactics of internationalism, this is chauvinism at its worst. What is wrong with Finland seceding? After the secession of Norway from Sweden mutual trust increased between the two peoples, between the proletariat of these countries. The Swedish landowners wanted to start a war, but the Swedish workers refused to be drawn into such a war.

All the Finns want now is autonomy. We are for Finland receiving complete freedom, because then there will be greater trust in Russian democracy and the Finns will not separate. While Mr. Rodichev goes to Finland to haggle over autonomy, our Finnish comrades come here and say, “We want autonomy.” But what they get is a broadside, and the answer: “Wait for the Constituent Assembly.” But we say: “Any Russian socialist who denies Finland freedom is a chauvinist.”

We say that frontiers are determined by the will of the [local] population. Russia, don’t you dare fight over Kurland! Germany, get your armies out of Kurland! That is how we solve the secession problem. The proletariat cannot use force, because it must not prevent the peoples from obtaining their freedom. Only when the socialist revolution has become a reality, and not a method, will the slogan “Down with frontiers” be a correct slogan. Then we shall say: Comrades, come to us….

War is a different matter entirely. If need be, we shall not draw the line at a revolutionary war. We are not pacifists….  When we have Milyukov sitting here and sending Rodichev to Finland to shamefully haggle with the Finnish people,we say to the Russian people: Don’t you dare coerce Finland; no nation can be free that oppresses other nations. In the resolution concerning Borgbjerg we say: Withdraw your troops and let the nation settle the question itself. But, if the Soviet takes over power tomorrow, that will not be a “method of socialist revolution”, and we shall then say: Germany, get your troops out of Poland, and Russia, get your troops out of Armenia. If we did otherwise we should be deceiving people.

Comrade Dzerzhinsky tells us that in his oppressed Poland everybody is a chauvinist. But not a single Pole has said a word about Finland or Ukraine. We have been arguing over this so much since 1903 that it is becoming difficult to talk about it. Do as you please….Anyone who does not accept this point of view is an annexationist and a chauvinist. We are for a fraternal union of all nations. If there is a Ukrainian republic and a Russian republic, there will be closer contact and greater trust between the two. If the Ukrainians see that we have a Soviet republic, they will not secede, but if we have a Milyukov republic, they will. When Comrade Pyatakov said in self-contradiction that he is against the forcible retention of nations within the frontiers, he actually recognised the right of nations to self-determination. We certainly do not want the peasant in Khiva to live under the Khan of Khiva. By developing our revolution we shall influence the oppressed people. Propaganda among the oppressed mass must follow only this line.

Any Russian socialist who does not recognise Finland’s and Ukraine’s right to freedom will degenerate into a chauvinist. And no sophisms or references to his “method” will ever help him to justify himself.

Critical Remarks on the National Question




When they discuss the national question, opportunists in Russia are given to citing the example of Austria. In my article in Severnaya Pravda which the opportunists have attacked (Mr. Semkovsky in Novaya Rabochaya Gazeta and Mr. Liebman in Zeit), I asserted that, insofar as that is at all possible under capitalism, there was only one solution of the national question, viz., through consistent democracy. In proof of this, I referred, among other things, to Switzerland.

This has not been to the liking of the two opportunists mentioned above, who are trying to refute it or belittle its significance. Kautsky, we are told, said that Switzerland is an exception; Switzerland, if you please, has a special kind of decentralisation, a special history, special geographical conditions, unique distribution of a population that speak different languages, etc., etc.

All these are nothing more than attempts to evade the issue. To be sure, Switzerland is an exception in that she is not a single-nation state. But Austria and Russia are also exceptions (or are backward, as Kautsky adds). To be sure, it was only her special, unique historical and social conditions that ensured Switzerland greater democracy than most of her European neighbours.

But where does all this come in, if we are speaking of the model to be adopted? In the whole world, under present-day conditions, countries in which any particular institution has been founded on consistent democratic principles are the exception. Does this prevent us, in our programme, from upholding consistent democracy in all institutions?

Switzerland’s special features lie in her history, her geographical and other conditions. Russia’s special features lie in the strength of her proletariat, which has no precedent in the epoch of bourgeois revolutions, and in her shocking general backwardness, which objectively necessitates an exceptionally rapid and resolute advance, under the threat of all sorts of drawbacks and reverses.

We are evolving a national programme from the proletarian standpoint; since when has it been recommended that the worst examples, rather than the best, be taken as a model?

At all events, does it not remain an indisputable and undisputed fact that national peace under capitalism has been achieved (insofar as it is achievable) exclusively in countries where consistent democracy prevails?

Since this is indisputable, the opportunists’ persistent references to Austria instead of Switzerland are nothing but a typical Cadet device, for the Cadets always copy the worst European constitutions rather than the best.

In Switzerland there are three official languages, but bills submitted to a referendum are printed in five languages, that is to say, in two Romansh dialects, in addition to the three official languages. According to the 1900 census, these two dialects are spoken by 38,651 out of the 3,315,443 inhabitants of Switzerland, i.e., by a little over one per cent. In the army, commissioned and non-commissioned officers “are given the fullest freedom to speak to the men in their native language”. In the cantons of Graub\”unden and Wallis (each with a population of a little over a hundred thousand) both dialects enjoy complete equality.

The question is: should we advocate and support this, the living experience of an advanced country, or borrow from the Austrians inventions like “extra-territorial autonomy”, which have not yet been tried out anywhere in the world (and not yet been adopted by the Austrians themselves)?

To advocate this invention is to advocate the division of school education according to nationality, and that is a downright harmful idea. The experience of Switzerland  proves, however, that the greatest (relative) degree of national peace can be, and has been, ensured in practice where you have, a consistent (again relative) democracy throughout the state.

In Switzerland,” say people who have studied this question, “there is no national question in the East-European sense of the term. The very phrase (national, question) is unknown there….” “Switzerland left the struggle between nationalities a long way behind, in 1797–1803.”[3]

This means that the epoch of the great French Revolution, which provided the most democratic solution of the current problems of the transition from feudalism to capitalism,succeeded incidentally, en passant, in “solving” the national question.

Let the Semkovskys, Liebmans, and other opportunists now fry to assert that this “exclusively Swiss” solution is inapplicable to any uyezd or even part of an uyezd in Russia, where out of a population of only 200,000 forty thousand speak two dialects and want to have complete equality of language in their area!

Advocacy of complete equality of nations and languages distinguishes only the consistently democratic elements in each nation (i. e., only the proletarians), and unites them, not according to nationality, but in a profound and earnest desire to improve the entire system of state. On the contrary, advocacy of “cultural-national autonomy”, despite the pious wishes of individuals and groups, divides the nations and in fact draws the workers and the bourgeoisie of any one nation closer together (the adoption of this “cultural-national autonomy” by all the Jewish bourgeois parties).

Guaranteeing the rights of a national minority is inseparably linked up with the principle of complete equality. In my article in Severnaya Pravda this principle was ex pressed in almost the same terms as in the later, official and more accurate decision of the conference of Marxists. That decision demands “the incorporation in the constitution of a fundamental law which shall declare null and void all privileges enjoyed by any one nation and all infringements of the rights of a national minority”.

Mr. Liebman tries to ridicule this formula and asks: “Who knows what the rights of a national minority are?” Do these rights, he wants to know, include the right of the minority to have “its own programme” for the national schools? How large must the national minority be to have the right to have its own judges, officials, and schools with instruction in its own language? Mr. Liebman wants it to be inferred from these questions that a “positive” national programme is essential.

Actually, these questions clearly show what reactionary ideas our Bundist tries to smuggle through under cover of a dispute on supposedly minor details and particulars.

Its own programme” in its national schools!… Marxists, my dear nationalist-socialist, have a general school programme which demands, for example, an absolutely secular school. As far as Marxists are concerned, no departure from this general programme is anywhere or at any time permissible in a democratic state (the question of introducing any “local” subjects, languages, and so forth into it being decided by the local inhabitants). However, from the principle of “taking educational affairs out of the hands of the state” and placing them under the control of the nations, it ensues that we, the workers, must allow the “nations” in our democratic state to spend the people’s money on clerical schools! Without being aware of the fact, Mr. Liebman has clearly demonstrated the reactionary nature of “cultural-national autonomy”!

How large must a national minority be?” This is not defined even in the Austrian programme, of which the Bundists are enamoured. It says (more briefly and less clearly than our programme does): “The rights of the national minorities are protected by a special law to he passed by the Imperial Parliament” (§4 of the Br\”unn programme).

Why has nobody asked the Austrian Social-Democrats the question: what exactly is that law, and exactly which rights and of which minority is it to protect?

That is because all sensible people understand that it is inappropriate and impossible to define particulars in a programme. A programme lays down only fundamental principles. In this case the fundamental principle is implied with the Austrians, and directly expressed in the decision of the  latest conference of Russian Marxists. That principle is: no national privileges and no national inequality.

Let us take a concrete example to make the point clear to the Bundist. According to the school census of January 18, 1911, St. Petersburg elementary schools under the Ministry of Public “Education” were attended by 48,076 pupils. Of these, 396, i. e., less than one per cent, were Jews. The other figures are: Rumanian pupils—2, Georgians—1, Armenians—3, etc.[6] Is it possible to draw up a “positive” national programme that will cover this diversity of relationships and conditions? (And St. Petersburg is, of course, far from being the city with the most mixed population in Russia.) Even such specialists in national “subtleties” as the Bundists would hardly be able to draw up such a programme.

And yet, if the constitution of the country contained a fundamental law rendering null and void every measure that infringed the rights of a minority, any citizen would be able to demand the rescinding of orders prohibiting, for example, the hiring, at state expense, of special teachers of Hebrew, Jewish history, and the like, or the provision of state-owned premises for lectures for Jewish, Armenian, or Rumanian children, or even for the one Georgian child. At all events, it is by no means impossible to meet, on the basis of equality, all the reasonable and just wishes of the national minorities, and nobody will say that advocacy of equality is harmful. On the other hand, it would certainly be harmful to advocate division of schools according to nationality, to advocate, for example, special schools for Jewish children in St. Petersburg, and it would be utterly impossible to set up national schools for every national minority, for one, two or three children.

Furthermore, it is impossible, in any country-wide law, to define how large a national minority must be to be entitled to special schools, or to special teachers for supplementary subjects, etc.

On the other hand, a country-wide law establishing equality can be worked out in detail and developed through special regulations and the decisions of regional Diets, and town, Zemstvo, village commune and other authorities.

Trotsky on the Ukrainian question

In the light of the resurgence of national liberation movements throughout the world and in particular in the Indian sub-continent we believe that the present set of articles of Trotsky dealing with the question of Ukrainian independence from Soviet Russia act as a guiding framework for shaping our approaches towards national liberation movements in our time.

Leon Trotsky

Problem of the Ukraine

(April 1939)

The Ukrainian question, which many governments and many “socialists” and even “communists” have tried to forget or to relegate to the deep strongbox of history, has once again been placed on the order of the day and this time with redoubled force. The latest aggravatiqn of the Ukrainian question is most intimately bound up with the degeneration of the Soviet Union and of the Comintern, the successes of fascism and the approach of the next imperialist war. Crucified by four states, the Ukraine now occupies in the fate of Europe the same position that was once occupied by Poland; with this difference – that world relations are now infinitely more tense and the tempos of development accelerated. The Ukrainian question is destined in the immediate future to play an enormous, role in the life of Europe. It was not for nothing that Hitler so noisily raised the question of creating a “Greater Ukraine,” and likewise it was not for nothing that he dropped this question with such stealthy haste.* * *

A Question That Must Not Be Ignored

The Second International, expressing the interests of the labor bureaucracy and aristocracy of the imperialist states, completely ignored the Ukrainian question. Even its left wing did not pay the necessary attention to it. Suffice it to recall that Rosa Luxemburg, for all her brilliant intellect and genuinely revolutionary spirit, found it possible to declare that the Ukrainian question was the invention of a handful of intellectuals. This position left a deep imprint even upon the Polish Communist Party. The Ukrainian question was looked upon by the official leaders of the Polish section of the Comintern as an obstacle rather than a revolutionary problem. Hence the constant opportunist attempts to shy away from this question, to suppress it, to pass over it in silence, or to postpone it to an indefinite future.

The Bolshevik party, not without difficulty arid only gradually under the constant pressure of Lenin, was able to acquire a correct approach to the Ukrainian question. The right to self-determination, that is, to separation, was extended by Lenin equally to the Poles and to the Ukrainians. He did not recognize aristocratic nations. Every inclination to evade or postpone the problem of an oppressed nationality he regarded as a manifestation of Great Russian chauvinism.

After the conquest of power, a serious struggle took place in the party over the solving of the numerous national problems inherited from old Czarist Russia. In his capacity as People’s Commissar of Nationalities, Stalin invariably represented the most centralist and bureaucratic tendency. This evinced itself especially on the question of Georgia and on the question of the Ukraine. The correspondence dealing with these matters has remained unpublished to this day. We hope to publish a section of it – the very small section which is at our disposal. Every line of Lenin’s letters and proposals vibrates with an urge to accede as far as possible to those nationalities that have been oppressed in the past. In the proposals and declarations of Stalin, on the contrary, the tendency toward bureaucratic centralism was invariably pronounced. In order to guarantee “administrative needs,” i.e., the interests of the bureaucracy, the most legitimate claims of the oppressed nationalities were declared a manifestation of petty-bourgeois nationalism. All these symptoms could be observed as early as 1922-23. Since that time they have developed monstrously and have led to outright strangulation of any kind of independent national development of the peoples of the USSR.

The Bolshevik Conception of Soviet Ukraine

In the conception of the old Bolshevik party Soviet Ukraine was destined to become a powerful axis around which the other sections of the Ukrainian people would unite. It is indisputable that in the first period of its existence Soviet Ukraine exerted a mighty attractive force, in national respects as well, and aroused to struggle the workers, peasants, and revolutionary intelligentsia of Western Ukraine enslaved by Poland. But during the years of Thermidorian reaction, the position of Soviet Ukraine and together with it the posing of the Ukrainian question as a whole changed sharply. The more profound the hopes aroused, the keener was the disillusionment. The bureaucracy strangled and plundered the people within Great Russia, too. But in the Ukraine matters were further complicated by the massacre of national hopes. Nowhere did restrictions, purges, repressions and in general all forms of bureaucratic hooliganism assume such murderous sweep as they did in the Ukraine in the struggle against the powerful, deeply-rooted longings of the Ukrainian masses for greater freedom and independence. To the totalitarian bureaucracy, Soviet Ukraine became an administrative division of an economic unit and a military base of the USSR. To be sure, the Stalin bureaucracy erects statues to Shevchenko but only in order more thoroughly to crush the Ukrainian people under their weight and to force it to chant paeans in the language of Kobzar to the rapist clique in the Kremlin.

Toward the sections of the Ukraine now outside its frontiers, the Kremlin’s attitude today is the same as it is toward all oppressed nationalities, all colonies, and semi-colonies, i.e., small change in its international combinations with imperialist governments. At the recent 18th Congress of the “Communist Party,” Manuilsky, one of the most revolting renegades of Ukrainian communism, quite openly explained that not only the USSR but also the Comintern (the “gyp-joint,” according to Stalin’s formulation) refused to demand the emancipation of oppressed peoples whenever their oppressors are not the enemies of the ruling Moscow clique. India is nowadays being defended by Stalin, Dimitrov and Manuilsky against – Japan, but not against England. Western Ukraine they are ready to cede forever to Poland in exchange for a diplomatic agreement which appears profitable at the present time to the bureaucrats of the Kremlin. It is a far cry from the days when they went no further than episodic combinations in their politics.

Stalin, Hitler and the Ukraine

Not a trace remains of the former confidence and sympathy of the Western Ukrainian masses for the Kremlin. Since the latest murderous “purge” in the Ukraine no one in the West wants to become part of the Kremlin satrapy which continues to bear the name of Soviet Ukraine. The worker and peasant masses in the Western Ukraine, in Bukovina, in the Carpatho-Ukraine are in a state of confusion: Where to turn? What to demand? This situation naturally shifts the leadership to the most reactionary Ukrainian cliques who express their “nationalism” by seeking to sell the Ukrainian people to one imperialism or an-’ other in return for a promise of fictitious independence. Upon this tragic confusion Hitler bases his policy in the Ukrainian question. At one time we said: but for Stalin (i.e., but for the fatal policy of the Comintern in Germany) there would have been no Hitler. To this can now be added: but for the rape of Soviet Ukraine by the Stalinist bureaucracy there would be no Hitlerite Ukrainian policy.

We shall not pause here to analyze the motives that impelled Hitler to discard, for the time being at least, the slogan of a Greater Ukraine. These motives must be sought in the fraudulent combinations of German imperialism on the one hand and on the other in the fear of conjuring up an evil spirit whom it might be difficult to exorcize. Hitler gave Carpatho-Ukraine as a grft to the Hungarian butchers. This was done, if not with Moscow’s open approval then in any case with confidence that approval would be forthcoming. It is as if Hitler had said to Stalin: “If I were preparing to attack Soviet Ukraine tomorrow I should have kept Carpatho-Ukraine in my own hands.” In reply, Stalin at the 18th Party Cpngress openly came to Hitler’s defense against the slanders of the “Western Democracies.” Hitler intends to attack the Ukraine? Nothing of the sort! Fight with Hitler? Not the slightest reason for it. Stalin is obviously interpreting the handing over of Carpatho-Ukraine to Hungary as an act of peace.

For a Free, Independent Soviet Ukraine!

This means that sections of the Ukrainian people have become so much small change for the Kremlin in its international calculations. The Fourth International must clearly understand the enormous importance of the Ukrainian question in the fate not only of Southeastern and Eastern Europe but also of Europe as a whole. We are dealing with a people that has proved its viability, that is numerically equal to the population of France and occupies an exceptionally rich territory which, moreover, is of the highest strategical importance. The question of the fate of the Ukraine has been posed in its full scope. A clear and definite slogan is necessary that corresponds to the new situation. In my opinion there can be at the present time only one such slogan: A united, free and independent workers’ and peasants’ Soviet Ukraine.

This program is in irreconcilable contradiction first of all with the interests of the three imperialist powers, Poland, Rumania, and Hungary. Only hopeless pacifist blockheads are capable of thinking that the emancipation and unification of the Ukraine can be achieved by peaceful diplomatic means, by referendums, by decisions of the League of Nations, etc. In no way superior to them of course are those “nationalists” who propose to solve the Ukrainian question by entering the service of one imperialism against another. Hitler gave an invaluable lesson to those adventurers by tossing (for how long?) Carpatho-Ukraine to the Hungarians who immediately slaughtered not a few trusting Ukrainians. Insofar as the issue depends upon the military strength of the imperialist states, the victory of one grouping or another can signify only a new dismemberment and a still more brutal subjugation of the Ukrainian people, The program of independence for the Ukraine in the epoch of imperialism is directly and indissolubly bound up with the program of the proletarian revolution. It would be criminal to entertain any illusions on this score.

Soviet Constitution Admits Right of Self-Determination

But the independence of a United Ukraine would mean the separation of Soviet Ukraine from the USSR, the “friends” of the Kremlin will exclaim in chorus. What is so terrible about that? – we reply. The fervid worship of state boundaries is alien to us. We do not hold the position of a “united and indivisible” whole. After all, even the constitution of the USSR acknowledges the right of its component federated peoples to self-determination, that is, to separation. Thus, not even the incumbent Kremlin oligarchy dares to deny this principle. To be sure it remains only on paper. The slightest attempt to raise the question of an independent Ukraine openly would mean immediate execution on the charge of treason. But it is precisely this despicable equivocation, it is precisely this ruthless hounding of all free national thought that has led the toiling masses of the Ukraine, to an even greater degree than the masses of Great Russia, to look upon the rule of the Kremlin as monstrously oppressive. In the face of such an internal situation it is naturally impossible even to talk of Western Ukraine Voluntarily joining the USSR as it is at present constituted. Consequently, the unification of the Ukraine presupposes freeing the so-called Soviet Ukraine from the Stalinist boot. In this matter, too, the Bonapartist clique will reap what it has sown.

But wouldn’t this mean the military weakening of the USSR? – the “friends” of the Kremlin will howl in horror. We reply that the weakening of the USSR is caused by those ever-growing centrifugal tendencies generated by the Bonapartist dictatorship. In the event of war the hatred of the masses for the ruling clique can lead to the collapse of all the social conquests of October. The source of defeatist moods is in the Kremlin. An independent Soviet Ukraine, on the other hand, would become, if only by virtue df its own interests, a mighty southwestern bulwark of the USSR. The sooner the present Bonapartist caste is undermined, upset, crushed and swept away, the firmer the defense of the Soviet Republic will become and the more certain its socialist future.

Against Imperialism and Moscow Bonapartism

Naturally an independent workers’ and peasants’ Ukraine might subsequently join the Soviet Federation; but voluntarily, on conditions which it itself considers acceptable, which in turn presupposes a revolutionary regeneration of the USSR. The genuine emancipation of the Ukrainian people is inconceivable without a revolution or a series of revolutions in the West which must lead in the end to the creation of the Soviet United States of Europe. An independent Ukraine could and “undoubtedly will join this federation as an equal member. The proletarian revolution in Europe, in turn, would not leave one stone standing of the revolting structure of Stalinist Bonapartism. In that case the closest union of the Soviet United States of Europe and the regenerated USSR would be inevitable and would present infinite advantages for the European and Asiatic continents, including of course the Ukraine too. But here we are shifting to questions of second and third order. The question of first order is the revolutionary guarantee of I the unity and- independence of a workers’ and peasants’ Ukraine in the struggle against imperialist on the one hand, and against Moscow Bonapartism on the other.

The Ukraine is especially rich and experienced in false paths of struggle for national emancipation. Here everything has been tried: the petty-bourgeois Rada, and Skoropadski, and Petlura, and “alliance” with the Hohenzollerns and combinations with the Entente. After all these experiments, only political cadavers can continue to place hope in arty one of the fractions of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie as the leader of the national struggle for emancipation. The Ukrainian proletariat alone is capable not only of solving the task – which is revolutionary in its very essence – but also of taking the initiative for its solution. The proletariat and only the proletariat can rally around itself the peasant masses and the genuinely revolutionary national intelligentsia.

At the beginning of the last imperialist war the Ukrainians, Melenevski (“Basok”) and Skoropis-Yeltukhovski, attempted to place the Ukrainian liberation movement under the wing of the Hohenzollern general, Ludendorff. They covered themselves in so doing with left phrases. With one kick the revolutionary Marxists booted these people out. That is how revolutionists must continue to behave in the future. The impending war will create a favorable atmosphere for all sorts of adventurers, miracle-hunters and seekers of the golden fleece. These gentlemen, who especially love to warm their hands in the vicinity of the national question, must not be allowed within artillery range of the labor movement. Not the slightest compromise with imperialism, either fascist or democratic! Not the slightest concession to the Ukrainian nationalists, either clerical-reactionary or liberal-pacifist! No “People’s Fronts”! The complete independence of the proletarian party as the vanguard of the toilers!

For an International Discussion

This appears to me the correct policy in the Ukrainian question. I speak here personally and in my own name. The question must be opened up to international discussion. The foremost place in this discussion must beldng to the Ukrainian revolutionary Marxists. We shall listen with the greatest attention to their voices. But they had better make haste. There is little time left for preparation!

April 22, 1939

Leon Trotsky

Independence of the Ukraine

and Sectarian Muddleheads

(July 1939)

Original 1949 introduction by Fourth International

Leon Trotsky’s article, The Problem of the Ukraine, which we re-published in the November Fourth International, aroused widespread interest and discussion in revolutionary circles at the time of its appearance in May 1939. However, the only open opposition to Trotsky’s slogan of independence for the Ukraine came from the small sectarian Oehler group. Despite the political insignificance of this group, Trotsky seized the opportunity to further clarify his position His reply, first published in the Socialist Appeal, September 15th and 17th, 1939, proved to be a permanent contribution to the Marxist analysis of the national question. It sheds considerable light on the present-day relationship between the Great-Russian Soviet bureaucracy and the countries of Eastern Europe.

In one of the tiny, sectarian publications which appear in America and which thrive upon the crumbs from the table of the Fourth International, and repay with blackest ingratitude, I chanced across an article devoted to the Ukrainian problem. What confusion! The author sectarian is, of course, opposed to the slogan of an independent Soviet Ukraine. He is for the world revolution and for socialism—“root and branch.” He accuses us of ignoring the interests of the USSR and of retreating from the concept of the permanent revolution. He indicts us as centrists. The critic is very severe, almost implacable. Unfortunately—he understands nothing at all (the name of this tiny publication, The Marxist, rings rather ironically). But his incapacity to understand assumes such finished, almost classical forms as can enable us better and more fully to clarify the question.

Our critic takes as his point of departure the following position “If the workers in the Soviet Ukraine overthrow Stalinism and re-establish a genuine workers’ state, shall they separate from the rest of the Soviet Union? No.” And so forth and so on. “If the workers overthrow Stalinism” … then we shall be able to see more clearly what to do. But Stalinism must first be overthrown. And in order to achieve this, one must not shut one’s eyes to the growth of separatist tendencies in the Ukraine, but rather give them a correct political expression.

Pat Formulas Don’t Solve Concrete Tasks

“Not turning our backs on the Soviet Union,’’, continues the author, “but its regeneration and reestablishmerit as a mighty citadel of world revolution—that is the road of Marxism.” The actual trend of the development of the masses, in this instance, of the nationally oppressed masses, is replaced by our sage with speculations as to the ’best possible roads of development. With this method, but with far greater logic, one might say, “Not defending a degenerated Soviet Union is our task, but the victorious world revolution which will transform the whole world into a World Soviet Union,” etc. Such aphorisms come cheap.

The critic repeats several times my statement to the effect that the fate of an independent Ukraine is indissolubly bound up with the world proletarian revolution. From this general perspective, ABC for a Marxist, he contrives however to make a recipe of temporizing passivity and national nihilism. The triumph of the proletarian revolution on a world scale is the end-product of multiple movements, campaigns and battles, and not at all a ready-made precondition for solving all questions automatically. Only a direct and bold posing of the Ukrainian question in the given concrete circumstances will facilitate the rallying of petty-bourgeois and peasant masses around the proletariat, just as in Russia in 1917.

True enough, our author might object that in Russia prior to October it was the bourgeois revolution that unfolded, whereas today we have the socialist revolution already behind us. A demand which might have been progressive in 1917 is nowadays reactionary. Such reasoning, wholly in the spirit of bureaucrats and sectarians, is false from beginning to end.

Democratic Tasks Tied to Socialist Aims

The right of national self-determination is, of course, a democratic and not a socialist principle. But genuinely democratic principles are supported and realized in our era only by the revolutionary proletariat; it is for this very reason that they interlace with socialist tasks. The resolute struggle of the Bolshevik party for the right of self-determination of oppressed nationalities in Russia facilitated in the extreme the conquest of power by the proletariat. It was as if the proletarian revolution had sucked in the democratic problems, above all, the agrarian and national problems, giving to the Russian Revolution a combined character. The proletariat was already undertaking socialist tasks but it could not immediately raise to this level the peasantry and the oppressed nations (themselves predominantly peasant) who were absorbed with solving their democratic tasks.

Hence flowed the historically inescapable compromises the agrarian as well as the national sphere. Despite the economic advantages of large-scale agriculture, the Soviet government was compelled to divide up large estates. Only several years later was the government able to pass to collective farming and then it immediately leaped too far ahead and found itself compelled, a few years later, to make concessions to the peasants in the shape of private landholdings which in many places tend to devour the collective farms. The next stages of this contradictory process have not yet been resolved.

Has Stalin Convinced the Ukrainian Masses?

The need for compromise, or rather for a number of compromises, similarly arises in the field of the national question, whose paths are no more rectilinear than the paths of the agrarian revolution. The federated structure of the Soviet-Republic represents a compromise between the centralist requirements of planned economy and the de~ centralist requirements of the development of nations oppressed in the past. Having constructed a workers’ state on the compromise principle of a federation, the Bolshevik party wrote into the constitution the right of nations to complete separation, indicating thereby that the party did not at all consider the national question as solved once and for all.

The author of the critical article argues that the party leaders hoped “to convince the masses to stay within the framework of the Federated Soviet Republic.” This is correct, if the word “convince” is taken not in the sense of logical arguments but in the sense of passing through the experiences of economic, political and cultural collaboration. Abstract agitation iif favor of centralism does not of itself’ carry great weight. As has already been said, the federation was a necessary, departure from centralism. It must also be added that the very composition of the federation is by no means given beforehand once and for all. Depending on objective coilditions, a federation may develop toward greater centralism, or on the contrary, toward greater independence of its national component parts. Politically it is not at all a question of whether it is advantageous ’in general” for various nationalities to live together within the framework of a single state, but rather it is a question of whether or not a particular nationality has, on the basis of her own experience, found it advantageous to adhere to a given state.

In other words: Which of the two tendencies in the given circumstances gains the ascendancy in the corn~ promise regime of a federation—the centrifugal or the centripetal? Or to put it even more concretely: Have Stalin and his Ukrainian satraps succeeded in convincing the Ukrainian masses of the superiority of Moscow’s centralism over Ukrainian independence or have they failed? This question is of decisive importance. Yet our author does not even suspect its existence.

Do the Ukrainians Desire Separation?

Do the broad masses of the Ukrainian people wish to separate from the USSR? It might at first sight appear difficult to answer this question, inasmuch as the Ukrainian people, like all other peoples of the USSR, are deprived of any opportunity to express their will. But the very genesis of the totalitarian regime and its ever more brutal intensification, especially in the Ukraine, are proof that the real will of the Ukrainian masses is irreconcilably hostile to the Soviet bureaucracy. There is no lack of evidence that one of the primary sources of this hostility is the suppression of Ukrainian independence. The nationalist tendencies in the Ukraine erupted violently in 1917-19. The Borotba party expressed these tendencies in the left wing. The most important indication of the success of the Leninist policy in the Ukraine was the fusion of the Ukrainian Bolshevik party with the organization of the Borotbists.

In the course of the next decade, however, an actual break occurred with the Borotba group, whose leaders were subjected to persecution. The old Bolshevik, Skrypnik, a pure-blooded Stalinist, was driven to suicide in 1933 for his allegedly, excessive patronage of nationalist tendencies. The actual “organizer” of this suicide was the Stalinist emissary, Postyshev, who thereupon remained in the Ukraine as the representative of the centralist policy. Presently, however, Postyshev himself fell in disgrace. These facts are profoundly symptomatic, for they reveal how much force there is behind the pressure of the nationalist opposition on the bureaucracy. Nowhere did the purges and repressions assume such a savage and mass character as they did in the Ukraine.

Significant Attitudes of Ukrainians Abroad

Of enormous political importance is the sharp turn away from the Soviet Union of Ukrainian democratic elements outside the Soviet Union. When the Ukrainian problem became aggravated early this year, communist voices were not heard at all; but the voices of the Ukrainian clericals and National-Socialists were loud enough. This means that the proletarian vanguard has let the Ukrainian national movement slip out of its hands and that this movement has progressed far on the road of separatism. Lastly, very indicative also are the moods among the Ukrainian émigrés in the North American continent. In Canada, for instance, where the Ukrainians compose the bulk of the Communist Party, there began in 1933, as I am informed by a prominent participant in the movement, a marked exodus of Ukrainian workers and farmers from communism, falling either into passivity or nationalism of various hues. In their totality, these symptoms and facts incontestably testify, to the growing strength of separatist tendencies among the Ukrainian masses.

This is the basic fact underlying the whole problem. It shows that despite the giant step forward taken by the October Revolution in the domain of national relations, the isolated proletarian revolution in a backward country proved incapable of solving the national question, especially the Ukrainian question which is, in its very, essence, international in chracter. The Thermidorian reaction, crowned by the Bonapartist bureaucracy, has thrown the toiling masses far back in the national sphere as well. The great masses of the Ukrainian people are dissatisfied with their national fate and wish to change it drastically. ii is this fact that the revolutionary politician must, in contrast to the bureaucrat and the sectarian, take as his point of departure.

Sectarian Arguments Like Those of Stalinists

If our critic were capable of thinking politically, he would have surmised without much difficulty the arguments of the Stalinists against the slogan of an independent Ukraine: “It negates the position of the defense of the Soviet Union”; “disrupts the unity of the revolutionary masses”; “serves not the interests of revolution but those cf imperialism.” In other words, the Stalinists would repeat all the three argUments of our author. They will unfailingly do so on the morrow.

The Kremlin bureaucracy, tells the Soviet woman: Inasmuch as there is socialismin our country, you must be happy and you must give up abortions (or suffer the penalty). To the Ukrainian they say: Inasmuch as the socialist revolution has solved the national question, it is your duty to be happy in the USSR and to renounce all thought of separation (or face the firing squad).

What does a revolutionist say to the woman? “You will decide yourself whether you want a child: I will defend your right to abortion against the Kremlin police.” To the Ukrainian people he says: “Of importance to me is your attitude toward your national destiny and not the ‘socialistic’ sophistries of the Kremlin police; I will support your struggle for independence with all my might!”

The sectarian, as so often happens, finds himself siding with the police, covering up the status quo, that is, police violence, by sterile speculation on the superiority cf the socialist unification of nations as against their remaining divided. Assuredly, the separation of the Ukraine is a liability as compared with a voluntary and equalitarian socialist feDeration; but it will be an unquestionable asset as compared with the bureaucratic strangulation of the Ukrainian people. In order to draw together more closely and honestly, it is sometimes necessary first to separate. Lenin often used to cite the fact that the relations between the Norwegian and Swedish workers improved and became closer after the disruption of the compulsory unification of Sweden and Norway.

Ukraine Independence Revolutionary Slogan

We must proceed from facts and not ideal norms. The Thermidorian reaction in the USSR, the defeat of a number of revolutions, the victories of fascism – which is carving the map of Europe in its own fashion – must be paid for in genuine currency in all spheres, including that of the Ukrainian question. Were we to ignore the new situation created as a result of defeats, were we to pretend that nothing extraordinary has occurred, and were we to counterpose to unpleasant facts familiar abstractions, then we could very well surrender to reaction the remaining chances for vengeance in the more or less immediate future.

Our author interprets the slogan of an independent Ukraine as follows: “First the Soviet Ukraine must be freed from the rest of the Soviet Union, then we will have the proletarian revolution and unification of the rest of the Ukraine.” But how can there be a separation without first a revolution? The author is caught in a vicious circle, and the slogan of an independent Ukraine together with Trotsky’s “faulty logic” is hopelessly discredited. In point of fact this peculiar logic – “first” and “then” – is only a striking example of scholastic thinking. Our hapless critic has no inkling of the fact that historical processes may occur not “first” and “then” but run parallel tc each other, exert influence upon each other, speed or retard each other; and that the task of revolutionary politics consists precisely in speeding up the mutual action and reaction of progressive processes. The barb of the slogan of an independent Ukraine is aimed directly against the Moscow bureaucracy and enables the proletarian vanguard to rally the peasant masses. On the other hand, the same slogan opens up for the proletarian party the opportunity of playing a leading role in the national Ukrainian movementin Poland, Rumania and Hungary. Both of these political processes will drive the revolutionary movement forward and increase the specific weight of the proletarian vanguard.

My statement to the effect that workers and peasants of Western Ukraine (Poland) do not want fo join the Soviet Union, as it is now constituted, and that this fact is an additional argument in favor of an independent Ukraine, is parried by our sage with the assertion that even if they desired, they could not join the Soviet Union because they could do so only “after the proletarian revolution in Western Ukraine” (obviously Poland). In other words: Today the separation of the Ukraine is impossible, and after the revolution triumphs, it would be reactionary. An old and familiar refrain!

Luxemburg, Bukharin, Piatakov and many others used this very same argument against the program of national self-determination: Under capitalism it is utopian; under socialism, reactionary. The argument is false to the core because it ignores the epoch of the social revolution and its tasks. To be sure, under the domination of imperialism a genuine stable and reliable independence of the small and intermediate nations is impossible. It is equally true that under fully developed socialism, that is to say, with the progressive withering away of the state, the question of national boundaries will fall away. But between these two moments – the present day and complete socialism – intervene those decades in the course of which we are preparing to realize our program. The slogan of an independent Soviet Ukraine is of paramount importance for mobilizing the masses and for educating them in the transitional period.

What the Sectarian Ignores

The sectarian simply ignores the fact that the national struggle, one of the most labyrinthine and complex but at the same time extremely important forms of the class struggle, cannot be suspended by bare references to the future world revolution. With their eyes turned away from the USSR, and failing to receive support and leadership from the international proletariat, the petty-bourgeois and even working-class masses of Western Ukraine are falling victim to reactionary demagogy. Similar processes are undoubtedly also taking place in the Soviet Ukraine, only it is more difficult to lay them bare. The slogan of an independent Ukraine advanced in time by the proletarian vanguard will lead to the unavoidable stratification of the petty bourgeoisie and render it easier for its lower tiers to ally themselves with the proletariat. Only thus is it possible to prepare the proletarian revolution.

How to Clear the Road

“If the workers carry, through a succesful revolution in Western Ukraine …,” persists our author, “should our strategy, then he to demand that the Soviet Ukraine separate and join its western section? Just the opposite.” This assertion plumbs to the bottom the depth of “our strategy.” Again we hear the same melody: “If the workers carry through The sectarian is satisfied with logical deduction from a victorious revolution supposedly already, achieved. But for a revolutionist the nub of the question lies precisely in how to clear a road to the revolution, how to render an approach to revolution easier for the masses, how to draw the revolution closer, how, to assure its triumph. “If the workers carry through …” a victorious revolution, verything will of course be fine. But just now there is no victorious revolution; instead there is victorious reaction.

To find the bridge from reaction to revolution—that is the task. This is the import, by the way, of our entire program of transitional demands (The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International). Small wonder that the sectarians of all shadings fail to understand its meaning. They, operate by means of abstractions—an abstraction of imperialism and an abstraction of the socialist revolution. The question of the transition from real imperialism to real revolution; the question of how to mobilize the masses in the given historical situation for the conquest of power remains for these sterile wiseacres a book sealed with seven seals.

Superficial Reasoning

Piling one dire accusation indiscriminately on top of another, our critic declares that the slogan of an independent Ukraine serves the interests of the imperialists (!) and the Stalinists (!!) because it “completely negates the position of the defense of the Soviet Union.” It is impossible to understand just why, the “interests of the Stalinists” are dragged in. But let its confine ourselves to the question of the defense of the USSR. This defense could he menaced by an independent Ukraine only if the latter were hostile not only to the bureaucracy but also to the USSR. However, given such a premise (obviously false), how can a socialist demand that a hostile Ukraine be retained within the framework of the USSR? Or does the question involve only the period of the national revolution?

Yet our critic apparently recognized the inevitability of a political revolution against the Bonapartist bureaucracy. Meanwhile this revolution; like every revolution, will undoubtedly present a certain danger from the standpoint o defense. What to do? Had our critic really thought out the problem, he would have replied that such a danger is an inescapable historical risk which cannot be evaded, for under the rule of the Bonapartist bureaucracy the USSR is doomed. The very same reasoning equally and wholly applies to the revolutionary national uprising which represents nothing else but a single segment of the political revolution.

Independence and the Plan

It is noteworthy that the most serious argument against independence does not even enter the mind of our critic. The economy of the Soviet Ukraine enters integrally into this plan. The separation of the Ukraine threatens to break down the plan and to lower the productive forces. But this argument, too, is not decisive. An economic plan is not the holy of holies. If national sections within the federation, despite the unified plan, are pulling in opposite directions, it means that the plan does not satisfy them. A plan is the handiwork of men. It can be reconstructed in accordance with new boundaries. In so far as the plan is advantageous for the Ukraine she will herself desire and know how to reach the necessary economic agreement with the Soviet Union, just as she will be able to conclude the necessary military alliance.

Moreover, it is impermissible to forget that the plunder and arbitrary rule of the bureaucracy constitute an important integral part of the current economic plan, and exact a heavy toll from the Ukraine. The plan must he drastically revised first and foremost from this standpoint. The outlived ruling caste is systematically destroying the country’s economy, the army and its culture; it is annihilating the flower of the population and preparing the ground for a catastrophe. The heritage of the revolution can be saved only by an overturn. The bolder and more resolute is the policy of the proletarian vanguard on the national question among others, all the more successful will be the revolutionary overturn, all the lower its overhead expenses.

The Critic’s Ideal Variant

The slogan of an independent Ukraine does not signify that the Ukraine will remain forever isolated, but only this, that she will again determine for herself and of her own free will the question of her interrelations with other sections of the Soviet Union and her western neighbors. Let us take an ideal variant most favorable for our critic. The revolution occurs simultaneously in all parts of the Soviet Union. The bureaucratic octopus is strangled and swept aside. The Constituent Congress of the Soviets is on the order of the day.

The Ukraine expresses a desire to determine anew her relations with the USSR. Even our critic, let us hope, will be ready to extend her this right. But in order freely to determine her relations with other Soviet republics, in order to possess the right of saying yes or no, the Ukraine must return to herself complete freedom of action, at least for the duration of this Constituent period. There is no other name for this than state independence.

Now let us further suppose that the revolution simultaneously embraces also Poland. Rumania and Hungary. All sections of the Ukrainian people become free and enter into negotiations to join the Soviet Ukraine. At the same time they all express the desire to have their say on the question of the interrelations between a unified Ukraine and the Soviet Union, with Soviet Poland, etc. It is self-evident that to decide all these questions it will be necsary to convene the Constituent Congress of Unified Ukraine. But a “Constituent” Congress signifies nothing else but the Congress of an independent state which prepares anew to determine its own domestic regime as well as its international position.

The Road to Unity

There is every reason to assume that in the event of the triumph of the world revolution the tendencies toward unity will immediately acquire enormous force, and that all Soviet republics will find the suitable forms of ties and collaboration. This goal will be achieved only provided the old ahd compulsory ties, and in consequence old boundaries, are completely destroyed; only provided each of the contracting parties is completely independent. To speed and facilitate this process, to make possible a genuine brotherhood of the peoples in the future, the advanced workers of Great Russia must even now understand the causes for Ukrainian separatism, as well as the latent power and historical lawfulness behind it, and they must without any reservation declare to the Ukrainian people that they are ready to support with all their might the slogan of an independent Soviet Ukraine in a joint struggle against the autocratic bureaucracy and against imperialism.

The petty-bourgeois Ukrainian nationalists consider correct the slogan of an independent Ukraine. But they object to the correlation of this slogan with the proletarian revolution. They want an independent democratic Ukraine and not a Soviet Ukraine. It is unnecessary to enter here into a detailed analysis of this question because it touches not Ukraine alone but rather the general evaluation of our epoch, which we have analyzed many times. We shall outline only the most important aspects.

Democracy is degenerating and perishing even in its metropolitan centers. Only the wealthiest colonial empires or especially privileged bourgeois countries are still able to maintain nowadays a regime of democracy, and even there it is obviously on the downgrade. There is not the slightest basis for hoping that the comparatively impoverished and backward Ukraine will be able to establish and maintain a regime of democracy. Indeed the very independence of the Ukraine would not be long-lived in an imperialist environment. The example of Czechoslovakia is eloquent enough. As long as the laws of imperialism prevail, the fate of small and intermediate nations will remain unstable and unreliable. Imperialism can be overthrown only by the proletarian revolution.

The main section of the Ukrainian nation is represented by present-day Soviet Ukraine. A powerful and purely Ukrainian proletariat has been created there by the development of industry. It is they who are destined to be the leaders of the Ukrainian people in all their future struggles. The Ukrainian proletariat wishes to free itself from the clutches of the bureaucracy. The slogan of a democratic Ukraine is historically belated. The only thing it is good for is perhaps to console bourgeois intellectuals. It will not unite the masses. And without the masses, the emancipation and unification of the Ukraine is impossible.

The Charge of Centrism

Our severe critic flings at us the term “centrism” at every opportunity. According to him, the entire article was written so as to expose the glaring example of our “centrism.” But he does not make even a single attempt to demonstrate wherein precisely consists the “centrism” of the slogan of an independent Soviet Ukraine. Assuredly, that is no easy task.

Centrism is the name applied to that policy which is opportunist in substance and which seeks to appeur as revolutionary in form. Opportunism consists in a passive adaptation to the ruling class and its regime, to that which already exists, including, of course, the state boundaries. Centrism shares completely this fundamental trait of opportunism, but in adapting itself to the dissatisfied workers, centrism veils it by means of radical commentaries.

If we proceed from this scientific definition, it will appear that the position, of our hapless critic is in part and in whole centrist. He takes as a starting point the specific (accidental—from the standpoint of rational and revolutionary politics) boundaries which cut nations into segments, as if this were something immutable. The world revolution, which is for him not living reality but the incantation of a witch-doctor, must unequivocally accept these boundaries as its point of departure.

He is not at all concerned with the centrifugal nationalist tendencies which may flow either into the channels of reaction or the channel of revolution. They violate his lazy administrative blueprint constructed on the model of “first” and “then.” He shies away from the struggle for national independence against bureaucratic strangulation and takes refuge in speculations on the superiorities of socialist unity. In other words, his politics—if scholastic commentaries on other people’s politics may be called politics—bear the worst traits of centrism.

The sectarian is an opportunist who stands in fear of himself. In sectarianism, opportunism (centrism) remains unfolded in its initial stages, like a delicate bud. Presently the bud unfolds, one-third, one-half, and sometimes more. Then we have the peculiar combination of sectarianism and centrism (Vereecken); of sectarianism and low-grade opportunism (Sneevliet). But on occasion the bud shrivels away, without unfolding (Oehler). If I am not mistaken, Oehler is the editor of The Marxist.

July 30, 1939