Tribute to Raj Narayan Arya

This tribute of comrade Raj Narayan Arya, was written by the eminent historian of the Trotskyist movement in India, Charles Wes Ervin. We publish this, in remembrance of comrade Raj Narayan, a veteran of the BLPI, and a prominent labor leader in North India. Lal Salaam comrade !

RAJ NARAYAN ARYA, a veteran of the Trotskyist movement of India, passed away in
Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, on June 9, 2014 at the age of 88. Born in a little rural village, he
joined the Bolshevik Leninist Party of India (BLPI), the first all-India Trotskyist party, when he
was 18, and he remained committed to revolutionary Marxism for the rest of his life. When he
was just 20, he pioneered the BLPI’s trade-union work in industrial Kanpur. He earned the
respect of the workers through his leadership of several jute and textile unions and his role in
major strikes, including an 80-day general strike in 1955. He was elected secretary of the
federation of textile unions in Kanpur.

Raj Narayan was only 22 when the BLPI merged with the Socialist Party of India (SP), an
ill-conceived and botched experiment in “entryism.” Raj Narayan was one of the first of the
former BLPI cadres to call for an exit from the SP. When his appeals to the Trotskyist leaders
went unheeded, he left the SP on his own in 1950. Though isolated in Kanpur, with no
resources, he resolved to start rebuilding a party.

That proved to be a long, hard struggle. He had to fight comrades who proposed opportunist schemes that required a watering down of the Trotskyist program. He became the standard bearer of “orthodox Trotskyism” in the Indian party.

Raj Narayan matured into a Trotskyist leader through these internal party struggles. He played a key role in ensuring the survival of the Trotskyist program and party in India – an achievement that has never been duly acknowledged. In this tribute I will delve into those behind-the-scenes struggles, using unpublished documentary sources, in order to wrap context around his life and give him the credit that is his due.
Although largely a self-taught Marxist, Raj Narayan made significant contributions to the Marxist understanding of India, particularly on the national question and role of caste. He produced a Trotskyist newspaper, Mazdoor Kisan Kranti, for ten years and published books and pamphlets. In the 1980s he started to translate Trotsky’s writings into Hindi. He authored and published a three-volume biography of Trotsky, the first of its kind in Hindi.

I met Raj Narayan Arya in 1974, during a yearlong sojourn in India, when I was researching the history of Indian Trotskyism. He invited me to come to his home in Kanpur. What I had anticipated would be a single interview turned into three days of discussions. He was a warm, soft-spoken, reflective man who was always fair in his assessments, even when talking about those who had led the movement astray. He had a large archive of party documents, which he invited me to peruse. I stayed up late every night, copying extracts from the letters and internal party documents longhand into
my notebook, as photocopy services were virtually non-existent in India in those days except in a few major cities.

After I returned to the US, we corresponded regularly. When I was writing my book on the BLPI in the 1990s, I sought his input often. He always answered my questions, corrected errors in my drafts, challenged some of my interpretations, and filled in gaps that no one else could.
When his health started to fail, I urged him to write his memoirs. He demurred. “My work for the movement was not that important.” That was Raj Narayan – always modest to a fault. He finally relented and sent me two long, handwritten letters with his life’s story. All the quotes in this tribute, unless noted otherwise, are from those letters.

Upbringing in a traditional village

Raj Narayan was born in a small village in the Ghazipur District of the United Provinces, about 30 miles northeast of Varanasi, near where the Gomati flows into the Ganges. His father, Sri Prayag Lal Srivastava, was a junior clerk for the District judge at Gorakhpur. As his name indicates, the family was Kayastha (upper-caste). In the ancient Hindu social order Srivastavas were literate scribes who worked for the government as record keepers. But his parents followed the teachings of the Arya Samaj, one of the Hindu reform movements that rejected the caste system.

“The Arya Samaj had a very deep influence on my life from childhood. Most of the people of my village were poor, lower-caste farmers, but my family treated them as equals. I had no notion of caste hierarchy.” Growing up in this typical village, Raj Narayan was oblivious to politics. Although the Arya Samajists tended to be nationalists, his father and uncles, being government employees, were loyal to the Raj. “Even the upper castes, in daily contact with cities and government officials, did not attach much importance to Congress, which was spearheading the freedom movement.”

He went to the village school, where instruction was in the local vernacular languages. In 1939 he graduated at the head of his class. His parents wanted him to continue at an English-medium school, since that was the ticket to a government job. They sent him to live with an uncle in Gonda, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas, where he attended the Government High School.

Glimpse of the bigger world beyond

In high school he was exposed to politics for the first time. “I was befriended by two classmates whose families were regular readers of English newspapers. In the mid-day recess I listened eagerly to their talk about recent events.” Like so many youth at the time, they worshipped Subhas Chandra Bose, the radical nationalist leader who had upstaged Gandhi and became President of the Congress in 1938. Bose saw the onset of the war in Europe as a golden opportunity to launch an all-out war for freedom. “I agreed with Subhas. I felt that satyagraha [Gandhian non-violent resistance] was ineffective. I no longer supported Gandhi.”

In 1940 Raj Narayan first heard about Trotsky from the newspaper reports of his assassination in Mexico: “The papers gave details of the cooperation of Lenin and Trotsky, and how Stalin seized power after Lenin, exiled Trotsky, and eliminated all of Lenin’s comrades in the ‘thirties. At that time I was interested only in the Indian struggle for independence. But these seeds were planted in my mind.”
In March, 1941 he attended a meeting of the Arya Samaj in Gonda. “Being disgusted with caste names, I dropped my caste name, Srivastava, and adopted the general name ‘Arya’ used by the Arya Samajists. Thus, I rejected idolworship, caste hierarchy, and male supremacy much before I became a Marxist.”

A harrowing first experience in politics

After graduating from high school with honors in 1942, he was admitted to the Kali Prasad Intermediate College in Allahabad on a scholarship. But his parents couldn’t afford the room and board. An uncle secured a place for him at the Kulbhaskar Ashram, which provided free room and board for boys from poor families. The ashram was connected to the Arya Samaj and was a beehive of political discussion.

In August, 1942 the Congress passed the historic “Quit India” resolution, calling for mass civil disobedience with the goal of getting the British to set a date for independence. The government arrested Gandhi and most of Congress high command. Street protests erupted in Bombay the next day. Hearing the news, the student union in Allahabad called for a protest march to the District Magistrate’s office. Raj Narayan decided to participate.

“As we approached the District Magistrate’s office, I saw the District Magistrate and the Superintendant of Police on horseback facing us. A dozen policemen had their guns pointed at us. There was a bang. A student fell just in front of me. I saw blood. The student leaders shouted ‘Lie down!’ But the boy at the front [of the march] who was holding the Congress flag remained standing. The District Magistrate rode towards him with revolver in hand and shot him dead. That was my first experience in politics.”

An unexpected rendezvous

A few days later a classmate, Keshava Prasad Lal (1925-2006), asked Raj Narayan if he wanted to meet “my leader.” He led Raj Narayan to the rendezvous. There he met Onkarnath Shastri (1908-2000), one of the first Trotskyists in India and a founder-leader of the BLPI. Raj Narayan had never met a Communist, much less a Trotskyist. “Shastri gave me a leaflet, titled ‘Turn this imperialist war into civil war!’ I didn’t understand the meaning of ‘civil war’ but I liked the fact that Trotskyists supported the Quit India movement, while the Communists didn’t.”

As the protests spread and intensified, the schools and colleges were closed indefinitely. Raj Narayan had to return to his village. When he arrived, he was astonished to find that his family, who had never taken any interest in politics, wanted to join the “Quit India” struggle. “We had a railway line near the village. We went there and cut the telegraph wire that ran along the tracks.” They were all caught. His father and uncle were sentenced to 18 months in jail. “I was tried, but given my youth, I got whipped with a cane and released.”

When he returned to college, he didn’t know how to contact the BLPI. Onkarnath Shastri had been arrested. Raj Narayan joined the student wing of the Congress Socialist Party at the college. In June, 1944 he graduated with high marks in chemistry and physics and entered Allahabad University.

Contact with the BLPI

Shortly later, he got an unexpected visit from a young BLPI member, Sitanshu Das (1926-2010), who had been jailed for distributing subversive flyers in Jamalpur (Bihar).

He had heard about Raj Narayan from another young Trotskyist who landed in the same jail. “He told us more about Trotskyism and gave us pamphlets that the Calcutta BLPI comrades had published. I read them eagerly.” Not long after that, two leaders of the BLPI – the Ceylonese expatriates Colvin de Silva (1907-89) and Leslie Goonewardene (1909-83) – visited Raj Narayan and his comrade-classmate. In July, 1945 the BLPI center in Calcutta dispatched Hector Abhayavardhana (1919-2012), another Ceylonese expat, to train the two new recruits and guide their work in the Congress Socialist student group at the university. They recruited an influential student leader who helped form a BLPI group on campus. Keshava Prasad was then dispatched to Kanpur to start a BLPI group there.

And so when Abhayavardhana left three months later, Raj Narayan was left pretty much on his own.
Raj Narayan received literature from the BLPI in Calcutta from time to time – leaflets and the party’s journal, Permanent Revolution. But that was his only link to the party. So, while he was learning his Trotskyism at a literary level, he had no real training in Leninist party organization and functioning. I have absolutely no doubt that he would have matured faster and risen to greater heights if he had the experience of working in a party organization.

Finding his calling

After earning his BSc in 1946, Raj Narayan wanted to pursue an MSc in zoology, but he couldn’t get the financial support he needed from his parents. “I decided to go to Kanpur and work with the workers.” He got a job as a lab technician at the Royal Ordnance Factory on the outskirts of Kanpur. “I was not in touch with the party center in Calcutta.” At that point the BLPI didn’t have the financial or organizational resources to send reinforcements to Kanpur or maintain a regular internal bulletin.

In 1947 the Ordnance union called a strike against layoffs. At dawn on April 8th Raj Narayan joined the picket line at the factory gate. He was one of the first to be arrested.
“In the jail I started introducing myself to all the workers. I came upon two workers, one a Socialist, the other a Communist, debating the August [Quit India] struggle. The Socialist was supporting the August Struggle, the Communist was defending the CPI for supporting the government. I asked the Communist worker how that support actually benefitted the Soviet Union. He was nonplussed. The union leaders, who were sitting nearby, wondered who I was. The Communist union leader said, ‘Oh, he must be a Trotskyist.’ So, for fun, he started calling me ‘Trotsky’. The workers in the jail spread the word that ‘the Ordnance Factory workers are following Trotsky’.”

When the strike ended, he went to the factory gates twice a day to talk to workers as they were arriving and leaving.

“I took up residence in the [factory workers] housing colony at Armapur Estate and began to take part in meetings of the union. I recruited several Bengali workers in my group.” When the British factory managers tried to get him thrown out, the union ranks rallied to the defense of “Trotsky.” He was elected to a new committee that the union had established to organize and mobilize the unemployed ordnance workers. The BLPI newspaper reported his successes.
Raj Narayan was a born leader. Totally lacking caste and class prejudices, he could mingle and talk freely with anyone. At age 21 he had found his calling.

First national conference of the BLPI

When Raj Narayan was released from jail after the Ordnance strike, he learned that the BLPI was preparing to hold its first national conference two weeks later. Though he hadn’t seen any of the pre-conference discussion bulletins, he packed his bag and took the train to Bombay to represent the Kanpur unit of the party.

Raj Narayan had never been to a party meeting before, much less a national gathering. For the next four days he listened to the party’s top leaders debate critical issues facing the party. It was exhilarating but also intimidating; “I was then still raw politically.” According to the minutes of the conference, he spoke only a few times and abstained on several votes. When he did vote, he followed the majority line.

The “biggest test” of his life Just one week after he returned home from the conference, the whole political situation changed dramatically. Mountbatten announced on June 3, 1947 that India would be partitioned and the “transfer of power” would occur in ten weeks, not in twelve months, as formerly announced. The announcement triggered panic and more pogroms. “The biggest test that I ever had to face as a Marxist was the communal madness.”

The communal poison was infecting the labor movement. In Kanpur Raj Narayan could see the ominous change at his factory. Local Hindu communalists were inciting the Hindu workers against the Muslims, saying that any Muslim worker who supported Pakistan should be expelled.

“I decided to intervene and take a public stand of class solidarity. I approached the president of the union, who was a Muslim, and got a notice signed for a public meeting at the factory gate. The Hindu communalists threatened to attack me if I held that meeting. On that day, the Muslim workers gathered around me and we walked to the gate together. I told the meeting that the Muslims who had opted for Pakistan had done nothing wrong. ‘They are welcome to live with us as long as they want. Let us say good-bye to them when they go.’ I reminded all the workers of our slogan, ‘Workers of the World, Unite!’ I said that workers everywhere are our brothers. This stand of mine calmed down the workers in the factory.”

Into the slums of “Red Kanpur”

In 1948 the BLPI asked Raj Narayan to leave his job at the Ordnance Factory and move into the city to work with a group of party contacts at the J. K. Jute Mills in Darshanpurwa. He took a teacher’s training course and got a job teaching science at a school, where was given a small place to live on the grounds. Every day, after he finished teaching, Raj Narayan went to the jute mill and held Marxist study classes.

The Congress ran the union. As an outsider, he couldn’t intervene in the factory committee. He took a bold step. “I suggested to the workers in the mill committee that they leave the INTUC [the Congress federation] and get their committee registered as an independent union under the Trade Union Act. They did that, and I was able to start working with this committee.”

After a while his father paid him a visit. He was upset that his son was spending all his time and money on political work and wasn’t interested in getting married.

“My father insisted that I marry, and so one month later I married the village girl that he had chosen for me. Her name was Kamala. She was 13 years old. He thought that with a wife, I would no longer be spending my pay on the party. He never realized the importance or significance of my political activity.” Their life was frugal. “We lived in a simple house without flush toilet facility.” True to his Arya Samaj upbringing, he treated his wife as his equal. With his support, she went to school and became a nurse.

An existential crisis in the party

In 1948 Raj Narayan attended the BLPI’s second national conference as delegate from Kanpur. The party was facing a new era. The mass anti-imperialist struggle was over, and the Socialist Party (SP) was pulling out of the Congress in opposition to the Nehru government. A faction in the BLPI argued that the Trotskyists should enter the SP, win over the radical workers to their program, and then exit and re-form the BLPI stronger than before.

Raj Narayan supported this proposal, known as the “entry tactic.” The SP leaders, not being babes in the woods, told the BLPI that they were “suspicious of this unity move.” They said the SP would not tolerate any factional activities. Reporting back to the party, the BLPI leaders reassured the ranks
that they would “form a secret nucleus in Bombay to guide us at every step, and if anything went wrong, they’d pull us out of the SP.” And so the BLPI folded its tent and the members joined the SP as individuals with no clear plan of action.

Call to end “this fatal step”

When he joined the SP in Kanpur, he found no signs of radicalization in the ranks. In fact, he found very little political activity at all. “There was not much to do.” As for guidance from the secret “nucleus” in Bombay, “I never heard from them.” So he improvised. “I wrote a pamphlet in Hindi, ‘Why we should have a revolutionary program,’ and gave it to the Socialist activists, but I failed to get a response.”

In 1950 he sent a confidential letter to the BLPI leaders in Bombay:

“It is fatal to build the SP and to create a rival…Occasional murmurs and discontents [in the SP ranks] cannot justify this fatal step. I have also mentioned the dangers of remaining within an alien class party, especially in a period of lull and for a long period…We are going to expose ourselves to the full blast of an alien class influence.”

Unbeknownst to him, a group of former BLPI members in Calcutta also had called for an exit from the SP. But the senior Trotskyist leaders refused to reconsider, insisting that “the struggle inside the SP will ultimately arise. In 1950 Raj Narayan resigned from the SP. About the same time the Calcutta dissidents – a group of about 20 cadres, including a number of trade unionists – also left the SP. The majority of former BLPI members, however, remained inside the SP in various stages of activity and inactivity.

Initial efforts to reunify the Trotskyists

At that point there were three Trotskyist groups functioning in India: the Calcutta group, which had just left the SP, and two small groups in Bombay. Raj Narayan decided to visit each one – a big commitment, given that he had a job, a 15- year old wife, growing trade-union responsibilities, and little money to spend on party work.

In June, 1950 he went to Calcutta for a month. He stayed with Keshav Bhattacharyya (1925-2013), one of the brainy Marxist leaders of the group of about 20 ex-BLPI members. They had revived the BLPI’s newspaper, Inquilab [Revolution]. They were very good at Marxist theory but terrible when it came to the practical tasks of party building, like holding regular meetings and conducting study groups for their contacts. They were basically a discussion group. They didn’t have even one full-time party organizer.

Raj Narayan next went to Bombay, where he met the leaders of the Mazdoor [Workers] Trotskyist Party and the Bolshevik Mazdoor Party. The former had never been part of the BLPI; the later was a splinter. They were already working towards Trotskyist unity. In June, 1952 Raj Narayan participated in the conference where they merged to form the Mazdoor Communist Party (MCP). He was elected to the Central Committee and helped write the Policy Statement. The MCP revived the BLPI newspaper, New Spark, and declared in the first issue, “Only the program of revolutionary Marxism – the Fourth International program – can provide the basis for the development of a party.”

Defection of the old BLPI leadership

The Socialists went into the 1952 general elections with sky-high hopes. They were buried in the Congress landslide victory. Stunned, the SP leaders merged with a breakaway party of Congressmen. The Trotskyists in the SP were now free to hoist their own flag. Instead, they resolved to “hold aloft the banner of the Socialist Party” and “rebuild the party of Democratic Socialism in India.”
Why would Trotskyists pledge to rebuild a reformist party? Evidently, they couldn’t bring themselves to abandon “entryism.” The leaders of the Fourth International didn’t help matters; the British, American, and Ceylonese Trotskyists applauded their decision to rebuild the old SP.

This was a symptom of how they were beginning to deviate from the course that Leon Trotsky had set for the Fourth International. In 1953 Raj Narayan went to the conference of the rump Socialist Party that was in the hands of the former BLPI leaders. He was astonished to find out that most had themselves become reformists.“To my surprise, I found that our leaders had become non-defencist. They ridiculed the idea of the defense of
the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state. They had lost faith in the world revolution. So there was a struggle, and they were expelled.” After the Shachtmanites departed, the remaining Trotskyists cast off the cloak of social democracy and renamed their group, “Socialist Party (Marxist).” Raj Narayan joined the SP(M) and took a place on its Executive Committee.

The lure of centrist regroupment

After the stunning Congress victory in the 1952 elections, the two largest parties to the left of the CPI – the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) – attributed their defeats to “left disunity” and issued a joint statement calling for a merger of all “non-Stalinist and non-Socialist parties” on the basis of “the tenets of Marxism Leninism.” A number of smaller parties jumped on the “left unity” bandwagon.

Raj Narayan wanted to press ahead with a Trotskyist unification. But his comrades in Bombay and Calcutta found this merger prospect enticing. “There appears in our comrades a craze for getting into some big party,” he wrote. “Even if there were only two of us [Trotskyists], we should call ourselves a party and work towards that goal.”16 Unfortunately, his comrades diverted their energies into this PWP-RSP merger initiative.The PWP and RSP staged a Marxist Unity Conference in January, 1955. 17 The Bombay Trotskyists (MCP), the Calcutta group (now called the Communist League), and the SP(M) participated, and Trotskyists were given six seats on the 20-member Provisional Central Committee, tasked with “evolving a procedure for bringing about a merger of the separate parties and groups represented in the conference.”

Raj Narayan didn’t get directly involved. At that point the textile mill owners in Kanpur were demanding greater productivity. The political parties that controlled the unions were at odds. Raj Narayan teamed with a senior local labor leader to bring all the textile unions into a single union – the Suti Mill Mazdoor Sabha. Raj Narayan was elected secretary. “The new union – the Sabha – called a strike for May 1st , 1955. The leaders were arrested and sent to jail. I, too, was jailed.” The strike lasted 80 days and blocked, for the moment, the employer offensive.

Meanwhile, the Left Unity initiative stalled. The Provisional Central Committee spent the next two years trying to draft a program that would satisfy all the motley parties. In a letter to his comrades Raj Narayan argued:

“The different parties were yet not clear about Stalinism fully, and even while criticizing Stalinism formally, followed its politics of the Government of Democratic Unity…they found large areas of agreement with the Social Democrat and the Stalinist opinions on Kashmir, Goa, Five Year Plans, India’s Foreign Policy and T.U. [trade union] and peasants’ movements.”

As the 1957 elections approached, the PWP and RSP decided to field their own candidates. The merger was put on hold. The Trotskyists had wasted more than two years trying to broker what could only have been an unprincipled lashup of centrist parties. Worse still, they had lost cadres and strength in the process. In Bombay, for example, while the Trotskyists were naively working for the merger, their “partners” were undermining them in the labor movement. “The cadre of the old MCP,” one leader lamented bitterly, “has been decimated, isolated and destroyed.”

A call for unity

At this point Raj Narayan stepped forward again and appealed to his comrades:
“Let us finally make up our minds that no bigger merger is possible in the foreseeable future and hence we shall no more run after mirages…Let us tell them [the rest of the Left] that instead of running after illusions of half-baked unity just now, we are consolidating Trotskyists to contribute in clarifying our stand and laying a sound basis of Left unity if it ever comes about. Our emphasis, therefore, should not be on agitation for bigger merger but on political discussions and clarifications of our stand and opposing our policies to that of the Congress and other Lefts. We should aim at promoting understanding and not unity.”
Initially the Bombay and Calcutta groups were reluctant to give up on a centrist merger.
But when nothing materialized, they resumed the process of Trotskyist unity. Raj Narayan attended the meeting in Calcutta in November, 1957, where the representatives of the three groups – the Bombay MCP, the Calcutta Communist League, and Raj Narayan for the SP(M) – agreed to form a new party, the Revolutionary Workers Party of India (RWPI). He was elected Convenor of the Provisional Coordinating Committee, which would prepare for a unity conference in March, 1958.

At this meeting there was a debate over whether the new party should be called Trotskyist. Raj Narayan and the Bombay group were strongly in favor, while the Calcutta group was opposed. According to the minutes, “While the Committee accepted in principle the need to associate the party openly with international Trotskyist movement, it was decided to postpone the issue till the merger conference.”
In the interim Raj Narayan was authorized to contact the Fourth International, which was then divided into two camps – the majority, following the line of the International Secretariat in Paris (IS), headed by Michel Pablo, and a minority, calling themselves the International Committee (IC).

Contact with the Fourth International

In March, 1958 Raj Narayan sent a letter to the IS, with a copy to the British section of the IC, setting forth the position of the Provisional Coordinating Committee:
“We deeply regret the split in the World Trotskyist movement and we shall try our best to prevent the Indian Trotskyist movement from splitting in its wake. We shall keep most friendly contact with each wing of the Trotskyist movement, individually and collectively, and we shall allow supporters of both wings within us. The merged party [RWPI] shall follow the line of either of these wings on its merit – according to its own majority view. We shall discuss the question of affiliation in due course amongst ourselves and whatever the result, we shall not allow the unity of the Indian Trotskyists to be broken up on this question.”

Two months later he sent another formal statement to the first international conference of the IC:
“Indian comrades shall never hesitate to express their opinion on all the points of controversy, but they are not prepared to divide themselves on such points. They consider that the differences are not so fundamental that separate existence of the two wings is necessary. I, therefore, appeal to this gathering on behalf of the Indian comrades to seriously consider and find out ways and means to heal up this wound and democratic organizational safety for future.”

An Indian version of “Pabloism”

In January, 1958, while Raj Narayan was making preparations for the unity conference, the Calcutta group dropped a bombshell. They wanted to postpone the unification. They claimed they had just reached “complete agreement” on merger with a “political front” of left parties in West Bengal, and “we would not like our own unity to stand in the way of this bigger unity.”26 Raj Narayan fired back: “We must not postpone the actual integration of the Trotskyist parties.

We must start functioning as one party, with a united centre, a united program, and a united organization.” The Calcutta group then insisted on having an internal discussion of “party perspectives.” The Calcutta comrades ridiculed the idea that only a Trotskyist party, fighting for the program of the Fourth International, can make a revolution.
“The course of events, especially the international events, will more and more compel the more conscious elements [in other left parties] as well as the different honest revolutionary groupings to adopt a fundamentally Trotskyist position…let us not close the door against them by insisting that they must openly swear by Trotskyism here and now….to swallow the whole thing hook, line and sinker. …On the contrary, by making unreasonable demands in the initial period we will be spoiling these excellent opportunities and in reality, hampering the growth of a vigorous and healthy Trotskyist movement in India.”

In other words Trotskyists should water down their program, get into a big centrist party, and eventually the objective forces of History will take care of the rest. That is pretty much what Pablo had been saying since 1950. After four months of tortuous exchanges in the internal bulletin, Raj Narayan and the Bombay group told the Calcutta comrades that they were going ahead with or without them. The Calcutta group offered a compromise: if the new party accepts “the principle of a bigger unity,” then they would “leave it to the new party to define the exact basis on
which unity with such elements may be attempted in future.” Raj Narayan agreed.

A promising new beginning

The Revolutionary Workers Party of India (RWPI) was launched in May, 1958. The Statement of Policy declared that the RWP “takes its stand wholly and unreservedly” upon “Leninism-Trotskyism,” but also will work for “the consolidation of all Marxist forces in India” on a three-point “basic program.” 30
The IS in Paris sent a congratulatory message to the conference, urging the RWPI to act as “part and parcel of the World Party of Socialist Revolution which is our Fourth International.” The delegates weren’t ready to reciprocate. Based on his previous communications with the IS and IC, Raj Narayan proposed that the RWPI not “align ourselves with either wing [of the Fourth International] organizationally and denounce or the other. We should rather be out of
both and help in uniting the two wings.”
Ernest Mandel of the IS wrote to Raj Narayan: “Your analysis of the split and its aftermath seems to me rather heavily weighted in favor of the International Committee and strongly one-sided.”32 Raj Narayan replied: “We feel that real unity can proceed only when the differences have been thoroughly discussed as within a single organization. To break the present stalemate it is necessary to create a third force to start a thinking uninfluenced by the accidental association and subjectivity…The Indians are in agreement with the SWP’s Militant, and not the IS, on the questions of Kerala, Tibet and the Sino-Indian border dispute. [However], no Indian comrade, including myself, has yet taken a stand on the split [of 1953].”

The RWPI got off to a good start. Many former cadres scattered around India rallied enthusiastically. Party branches were formed in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Calcutta, Nadia, Murshidabad, Barrackpur, Madras, Sholavandan, Madurai, Thevaram, Tuticorin and Kerala. The Bombay branch produced the party’s newspaper, The Militant, and political journal, New Perspectives, and staffed the small central office on Cleveland Road in Bombay. Raj Narayan contributed seminal articles on the national question in India and authored what became the party’s line on the Chinese incursion into Tibet.

A disastrous “Pabloist” merger

Shortly after the founding conference the Calcutta group informed the Central Committee that they had reached “basic agreement” with the Revolutionary Communist Party of India (RCPI). Given the background of this party, Raj Narayan was skeptical. The RCPI had originated in the late 1930s as a dissident Communist party that criticized aspects of Stalinism while rejecting the program of the Fourth International, in particular the Trotskyist analysis of the USSR. In 1948 the party split when a faction started what was a disastrous armed uprising in Bengal and Assam. This group, led by Sudhindra Nath Kumar, continued to use the name RCPI. This was the RCPI remnant that the Calcutta group said
was in “basic agreement” with Trotskyism.

Raj Narayan suspected that the Calcutta comrades, in their eagerness for merger, were downplaying the differences:

“We were very much dependent on the reports of our own comrades of Bengal on whether there would be an openminded discussion on the question of the USSR.”

In August, 1958 a delegation from the RWPI met with the RCPI in Calcutta. The RCPI proposed immediate unity;

the RWPI declined, stating that the differences on the USSR would have to be overcome first. The Calcutta comrades continued the discussions. A year later the RWPI Central Secretariat noted that “attitude toward the Soviet Union” still remained a bloc to merger.

In December, 1959 the RWPI and RCPI announced that they had reached agreement on a unity program.37 Raj Narayan, who had not been involved in the discussions, suspected that the Calcutta group had pushed through this deal. Whether or not that was the case, the IS in Paris hailed this unity of “revolutionary Marxists.” That is not surprising.

The unity program could have been written by Pablo himself. On the key question of Stalinism, the unity program pledged to support “those efforts of the leading parties of the Workers States” that were “ensuring continued better living conditions and wider democracy for the masses, wider socialization and complete elimination of bureaucracy.” That was a call for Khrushchevite reform, not political revolution to oust the Khruschchevs in Moscow, Peking, and Belgrade.

The RCPI blows up

The merged RCPI was an unstable bloc between the two sides. The Trotskyists kept their newspaper, the Militant, while the RCPI continued Janasadharan [Common People]. The Militant talked about permanent revolution; Janasadharan talked about “peaceful co-existence with capitalism” and “socialism in one country.” Before long the RCPI majority in the Political Bureau demanded that the Militant stop being a mouthpiece for Trotskyism.

The differences came to a head during the India-China border war in 1962. The Nehru government whipped up jingoist feelings towards the “aggressor” China. The Militant came out solidly for the defense of People’s China. The principal historic leader of the RCPI publicly supported the Nehru government. The Trotskyists demanded that the RCPI Political Bureau repudiate his stand. When they refused to do so, the Trotskyists protested and resigned. This merger was an unmitigated disaster. The Trotskyists hadn’t recruited anyone from the RCPI ranks and ended up losing a number of their own cadres. “They [the Indian Trotskyists] were disorganized,” Raj Narayan later wrote.

“They maintained contacts among themselves but they had no formal organization.”

Struggle over future course

In June, 1964 a meeting of Trotskyists was held in Bombay “to evolve the future organizational perspective.” Raj Narayan stood for the immediate formation of a full-fledged Trotskyist party. The majority of Trotskyists who participated in the conference took the same position.
Despite the fiasco with the RCPI, the Bengal Trotskyists wanted to continue entryism. This time around they set their sights on the new pro-Peking faction in the Communist Party, which they claimed was going to either “crystallize as a whole into a genuine revolutionary party or provide the necessary cadres for forging such an organization.” Therefore, they called for “total entry into the CP” and integration with this faction.

Raj Narayan rejected the Calcutta proposal: “once the two groups [in the CPI] split, they will become homogenous again and only the fools can think of making entry.” 43 But he also differed with those comrades “who put the blame for the failure of the Trotskyist movement in India on the entry tactic,” which is “one of the great contributions of Trotsky to Marxism.” Raj Narayan urged his comrades to re-think why the Trotskyist movement had made such little progress. In his view they had failed to apply the approach that Trotsky had set forth in the foundational document of the Fourth International – the “Transitional Program.”

“At the best, we put this item [transitional demands] in our party programs and let it remain there as a piece of adornment. Those of us who engaged in mass fronts and organizations busied themselves with day-to-day economic problems and struggles. Our trade unionists also contested cases of dismissal, permanency, promotion, bonus, wage increase and the like or led struggles on these issues. All that they can claim for themselves is that they were more militant, less compromising, and carried on their activity in a spirit of class struggle rather than that of class collaboration…

We preached Trotskyism, pure Marxism, and presented brilliant analyses of national and international
situations, and in this also we were nothing different from the rest. Here also we followed the traditional political practice. We did nothing by way of organizing movements on the basis of the Transitional Program.

The result was, as visualized by the founders of the Fourth International, a complete failure. We failed because we had not grasped the essence of Trotskyism…

We can grow only through mass movements and the only movements which can grow today are movements
based on Transitional demands…and such movements can be organized only when we act as an independent
group.”

The departure of the Calcutta entrists

While this debate was bubbling, the Communist Party split, and the pro-Peking faction became the CP(Marxist). The Paris secretariat of the Fourth International (the two wings had reunited in 1963) thought the CP(M) was more “left” than the official CP. They dispatched a senior representative to India. His advice: “all comrades who can do it should, in my view, enter the Left CP. The Left CP will be the real force in the left for a whole period, and we should make all our best [efforts] to work in it, or to associate or build it where it does not exist.”

With that stab in the back, the Bombay group, with the support of Raj Narayan, issued a call for a Trotskyist unity conference one month later. The Calcutta group bid them farewell and applied for membership in the CP(M). The CP(M) leaders, being savvy Stalinists, admitted only the Trotskyist trade unionists, who had mass bases in Titagarh and Baranagar. Left hanging, the remaining Trotskyist intellectuals started a journal, Jana Ganatantra (“Peoples Democracy”), in an attempt to influence the CP(M) and later the Maoist split. The group soon became moribund.

The Socialist Workers Party

Raj Narayan attended the founding conference of the Socialist Workers Party of India (SWPI) in August 1965. He was elected to the Central Committee and helped write the new program, which was based on the original BLPI program of 1942.

He started to contribute regularly to the SWP’s new journal, Marxist Outlook.
At the founding conference the delegates voted to seek affiliation with the newly re-united Fourth International. Raj Narayan supported that decision but on the condition that the SWP also call for an international discussion and resolution of all those issues that had separated the two wings since 1953, i.e., the policy of “deep entryism,” the supposed “decline” of Stalinism, the Sino-Soviet split, the lessons of Algeria, the character of the Cuban revolution, etc. The result was a five-page letter to the United Secretariat that read more like a polemic than an application. The new FI leadership, however, preferred to sweep all the “old differences” under the rug. So, as Raj Narayan
realized, the seeds for future discord were there from the start. In affiliating to the United Secretariat the SWP was opening itself up to revisionist neo-Pabloist politics and renewed factionalism that would corrupt and eventually destroy the organization.

The nemesis of the old Indian Trotskyists

In 1967 the SWP recruited an energetic former youth leader of the CP(M), Magan Desai, who had a following in Baroda (Gujarat). He became the SWP’s first and only full-time party worker. “At the next national conference of the SWP, Kolpe made the mistake of making him [Magan Desai] the General Secretary. He had not been in the party long enough to be known well. Then he started to take over the
party. He forced out Murlidhar Parija, who had been the general secretary first of the RWPI then the SWPI. He moved the party office from Bombay to Baroda. He took control of Marxist Outlook and then applied to the government authorities in Baroda to change the name to Red Spark under his ownership. He insisted on changing the party name to Communist League. He then started a vilification campaign against Kolpe. He [Kolpe] left the party. The older members of the party began to doubt his bona fides.

I met Magan Desai in Baroda in 1973 and can attest to this assessment. Desai denigrated veteran cadres like Raj Narayan as “worn out” and “parasites.”50 He was completely enamored with the American SWP. As I looked around his party headquarters, I could see that there was more than politics involved in this relationship. The SWP was sending large quantities of books, pamphlets, and newspapers for him to sell. Desai was using the proceeds to support himself and finance the party. In a party with a meager dues base these funds gave him power. Raj Narayan subsequently saw for himself: “I was persuaded to attend a party conference in Baroda in 1976, where I witnessed his cliquish ways.” The following year, “I too was expelled.”

Using the Transitional Program as his guide for trade union work

In 1978 Raj Narayan took a leading role in another landmark strike. The workers at the Swadeshi Cotton Mill were agitating for payment of overdue wages. About 150 were arrested, and the management closed the mill. The union leaders at the mill refused to organize support for the families of the jailed workers. “I mobilized worker activists of all political parties and unions of the Swadeshi Mill and organized a committee. In this work I was pitted against the entire trade union bureaucracy. But they could not find even a dozen workers to stand against our Mill Committee. We not only provided relief to the families, we also led delegations to the state and Central government offices demanding that the mill be re-opened and all the mills of that employer be nationalized.”

Raj Narayan, following the Transitional Program, organized democratic workers committees. “In my functioning as a trade unionist, I always went beyond the Executive Committee and discussed every question publically in open meetings, to which all activists, even ordinary workers, were invited.”
During this time, he earned a doctorate so he could teach at a higher level. He wrote his dissertation on “Marxist Critics of Shakespeare (1950-75)”. He subsequently became a senior lecturer in English at the Pandit Prithi Nath College, which was affiliated to Kanpur University.

Forming a new party in Kanpur

In 1980 he joined the Kanpur branch of the Revolutionary Socialist Party. He had good working relationships with these militants going as far back as 1946. He joined on the condition that he could freely voice his Trotskyist views and still publish the Mazdoor Kisan Kranti. He contributed articles to the RSP paper, Krantiyug [Revolutionary Age]. He eventually won over the local RSP leader and most of the cadres.

In 1991, when the RSP gave electoral support to the Janata Dal, a bourgeois party, he and his recruits split and took the name RSP(Marxist). They took an openly Trotskyist position. The RSP(M) functioned for ten years but folded when its local leader of longstanding died.

Translating Trotsky into the vernacular

In 1984 Raj Narayan embarked on an ambitious new project – translating Trotsky’s key writings into Hindi. He wrapped up Mazdoor Kisan Kranti, retired from his teaching job at the P. P. N. College, and resigned from the Suti Mill Mazdoor Sabha. He started a publishing house, Socialist Prakashan, to publish these in Hindi and Urdu.

Raj Narayan produced a three-volume biography of Trotsky in Hindi – the first of its kind – modeled after the classic trilogy by Isaac Deutscher. He also wrote a history of the Russian Revolution and a summary of the first four congresses of the Comintern in Hindi.

In this period he delved deeply into the origins and role of the caste system – a subject that had interested him since his youth. “In the 1980s I got a book by the Marxist historian, Ram Sharam Sharma, who documented the formation of the castes in ancient India. Later still, I found a thesis of the Fourth Congress of the Comintern on the Negro question and my view on the caste system became final.” He subsequently published two studies: Caste System Through History and Present Tasks: A Marxist View (1997) and Brahmin and Brahmanism: A Historical Survey (2001).

Personal setbacks.

In 1997 his wife died from cancer. It was a huge emotional blow. He wrote and published a book of poems in her memory. Then, in December, 2001 he had to return to Allahabad for a medical operation.
In 2003 Raj Narayan reached out to an old Trotskyist comrade, Somendra Kumar (1926-2006), who lived in
Samastipur (Bihar) and had developed his own local Trotskyist group. Together they started a newsletter, News and Views. But enthusiasm and dedication don’t deter Father Time. In 2007 he wrote, “I am almost 82 and almost immobile.” Somendra Kumar died that same year.

As his health continued to deteriorate, he moved in with his younger son, Sunil Kumar Srivastava, in Allahabad. Unfortunately, he had to jettison his archive – an irreplaceable loss of documentary history. Raj Narayan spent what energy he had on mentoring several younger trade-union militants in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “I am trying to catch younger people to pass on my experience. Anyway, we have to begin anew…I am trying to form a Coordination Committee of Trotskyists. The move is entirely in the hands of the younger generation. I am acting as a guide.” Raj Narayan sent them all his unpublished books and articles in Hindi with hopes that they’d publish them.

In 2011 he wrote, “I am nearly a physical wreck. I can’t read even old and familiar books, nor write a few pages.” By 2013 he was lamenting, “It is not possible for me now either to read something for an hour or write anything, even one page.” When he could no longer hold a pen, he started dictating his letters to his grandson, who keyed them into email messages to me. Modern capitalist technology had come to our rescue!

Despite all his infirmaries and political setbacks, his messages always were positive. He liked to say, “Hum honge kamyab ek din!” [We will succeed some day!]. “I hope the tender plant will grow strong” In March of last year I received what turned out to be his last email.
“I am not well. Very freezing cold since December 13th, right up to the first week of March. I developed chest congestion, dry cough, shook me badly for three weeks. I am weak both physically and mentally.”

Then, in his typical way, he changed the subject and spoke hopefully of the trade-union militants he had been mentoring.
“I have tried to train and educate these young men on a firm political basis. They have already published my Hindi translation of Trotsky’s Transitional Program for the Fourth International. I hope the tender plant will grow strong.”

In his letters he had always used the old Indian communist salutation, “Lal Salaam” (Red Salute). This is my Lal Salaam to a remarkable man who dedicated his life to the working class and the fight for a socialist revolution.

[Citation/reproduction of the content in this article:
citation: “Charles Wesley Ervin, “Raj Narayan Arya (1926-2014)” ]

On the Ninetieth Anniversary of Lenin’s death: new aspects of his Testament – Written by Francesco Ricci – PdAC

Originally published on http://www.litci.org/en

Lenin’s last struggle, the first battle against Stalinism

In the Central Committee of October 6, 1922 Lenin was absent. Stalin presents a text that strongly limits the state monopoly on foreign trade, which is approved. A few days later Lenin sends a letter to the CC with a hard criticism of its decision. On December 13, Lenin writes to Trotsky and, realizing that their positions on this issue converge, asks him to make a battle on their behalf at the next meeting of the governing body.

Giving a few steps back: Why Lenin does not participate in the meetings and merely writes letters? Because he is seriously ill and bedridden. He had suffered a first stroke. But since the last Party Congress he attended, the XI, in the spring of 1922 he starts a battle against the bureaucratization evils he perceives to be growing in the state of the Soviets. In this Congress, in a speech made ​​on 27 March, he states: “The machine refused to obey the hand that guided it.” (1) That is why, a few months later, in a private meeting he proposes to Trotsky to form a bloc “against bureaucracy in general and against the Organizational Bureau in particular.” (2) And Organizational Bureau meant the very heart of Stalin’s apparatus.

On the night between the 12th and 13th December another stroke paralyzes Lenin. He can’t attend the CC meeting, but, after getting better, he writes to the CC on 16 December informing its members he had reached a full agreement with Trotsky, who would defend their common view at the next meeting. In the CC of 18 December Lenin and Trotsky’s position is approved and the previous resolution is modified. Stalin notes with concern the movement of a Lenin whose disease couldn’t stop him completely. So, he passed a motion in this very CC by which the full responsibility for Lenin’s care would be trusted to him. His desire is to isolate him, so he asks the doctors to determine a limitation of the patient’s political activity to a few minutes a day in which Lenin could only dictate a few lines to the secretaries, but wouldn’t receive the answers to his letters, or talk of politics with the rare visitors allowed in his room.

The prohibition, as rightly note by the historian Jean Jacques Marie, is deprived of any medical basis: moreover, to prevent a revolutionary who spent his life immersed in politics from engaging in politics, actually meant to seek to destroy his strength, worsen his disease. In fact, the real Stalin’s concern is not Lenin’s illness but, as J. J. Marie writes: Stalin wants to have “his hands on the man who decided to start a struggle with Trotsky against him.”

Knowing the first victory won in the CC, on 21 December, Lenin dictates to Krupskaya a letter to Trotsky: “I suggest that we should not stop and should continue the offensive.” (4) The offensive which Lenin speaks of is the one against Stalin and the bureaucrats the secretary of the CC is organizing around himself.

But Stalin is quickly informed of the fact that Krupskaya left Lenin dictate a message to Trotsky. Then he phones her and insults her, threatening to send her to the disciplinary bodies by compromising Lenin’s treatment. Lenin will know this episode only three months later: this precision, as we shall see, is significant because, unlike several commentators’ opinions, the divergence between Stalin and his wife did not affect the Testament that Lenin began to dictate by those days.

The Testament

The story of the last Lenin’s struggle (to recover the expression with which Lewin titled his book on the subject) is generally neglected by Stalinist, social-democratic or bourgeois historians. Why? Because it is a stony ground for the theory of Lenin-Stalin continuity, essential to both yesterday bureaucrats, who claim Lenin for the justification of their crimes, and the bourgeoisie and their agents to liquidate the Communism and every project of destruction of social class societies.

What was later known as Testament are the notes that Lenin wanted to send to the XII Congress of the Bolshevik Party, scheduled for the following months (5). His last dictates to the secretaries, Maria Volodiceva and Lydia Fotieva start on December 23, 1922 and end on January 4, 1923, when he dictates a last important message. In the text, Lenin starts by giving reason to Trotsky against Stalin on the debate about the Gosplan (the State Commission for planning). Then he carries out an evaluation of the main leaders of the party.

Lenin highlights “the unlimited authority” that Stalinconcentrated in his hands. After saying that Stalin and Trotsky are “the two outstanding leaders of the present CC”, he adds that Trotsky is “personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C.” and indicates some limitations of the leader with whom he led a battle against bureaucracy (“excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work” and “excessive self-assurance”). But this is a trifle compared with the merciless judgment he makes of all other leading exponents of the ruling party.

He goes on. On January 4, an additional note on Stalin said: “Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc.”

It’s a blow aimed at proposing the removal of Stalin. Lenin does not seek compromising with Stalin, he indeed warns Trotsky against the maneuvers of the party secretary. And the battle continues. Now Lenin decides to take up the defense of the Georgian question against the chauvinistic policy supported by Stalin.

This is how Trotsky sums up the story in his autobiography: “Lenin names only six people there, and sums them up briefly, weighing each word. Unquestionably, his object in making the will was to facilitate the work of direction for me. He naturally wanted to do it with the least possible amount of friction. He talks about every one most guardedly, softening the most devastating judgments. At the same time he qualifies with reservations the too definite indication of the one whom he thinks entitled to first place. Only in his analysis of Stalin does one feel a different tone which in the later postscript to the will is nothing short of annihilating.” Then, Trotsky adds: “two more months passed during which the situation took definite shape. Lenin was now preparing not only to remove Stalin from his post of general secretary, but to disqualify him before the party as well.”

In order to “disqualify Stalin” and continue the battle Lenin then dictates two articles: “How we should reorganize the Workers and Peasants Inspection” and, in an even more explicit way, “Better fewer, but better.” Note that the Inspection that Lenin proposes to reorganize urgently was headed until a few days before by Stalin. This is also a shot against Stalin. The Politburo of the party discusses the opportunity to publish on Pravda the second of two articles. A leader close to Stalin had proposed to only print a copy and show it to Lenin … Finally the text is published on the 4th of March on Pravda.

Immediately after Lenin wrote to the Georgian leaders declaring solidarity with their position and against the Stalin’s position of “Great-Russia”, that is, against the denial of the right to self-determination of Georgia and the possibility to give life to a federated republic with Russia and not subordinate to it.

On this occasion Lenin turns to the leader he most estimates, the one he felt should replace him in case of his death: Trotsky. On March 5th, he dictates a letter to Trotsky asking him to do the same he did during the debate on the monopoly. “I would feel at ease if you agreed to undertake its defense. [of the Georgian question, editor]” (6). He also informed Trotsky, always through one of the secretaries, that he wanted to attack frontally Stalin in the upcoming Congress.

Meanwhile, he was also informed by Krupskaya, his wife and member of the party leadership, of the offenses Stalin had inflicted on her in December last year. At that point, a letter addressed to Stalin was written asking if he was prepared to make apologies, because “what has been done against my wife I consider having been done against me as well.”

On March 9th, while the battle is just beginning, Lenin is hit by another stroke, which deprives him of speaking.

From March 1923 to January 1924, the month of his death, Lenin doesn’t see Stalin. The relations between them are broken.

The fate of the testament

What about the testament of Lenin?

The text is not read at the XII Congress (April 1923). After Lenin’s death (January 21, 1924) Krupskaya brings the document to the CC and asks that the text should be read at the XIII Congress, which would take place in May 1924. But the leaders, at the suggestion of Stalin, Kamenev and Zinovev (which have formed a secret fraction), propose that it is kept confidential. Trotsky is outvoted. At the insistence of Krupskaya, it is decided that it would be read only to the heads of delegations. The meeting takes place on May 22, 1924, with the commitment of those present to keep the secret and not even take notes: the text is not delivered or read to the general audience of delegates.

It would be published abroad, first some fragments, then full, by the American militant Max Eastman, close to Trotsky, a year later. In Russia the will was published only in 1956, by Khrushchev, as a tool in the fight that had opened between the various fractions in dispute after the death of Stalin (1954), during the so-called “de-Stalinization.”

Many books have been written, starting from the considerations of Deutscher, a leading biographer of Trotsky, for a phase a Trotskyist leader (hostile to the constitution of the Fourth International in 1938), about the alleged hesitation of Trotsky. Why didn’t he claim the publication of the text? Why didn’t he launch immediately the battle against Stalin?

In fact, as all the best biographers have documented and in the more recent studies, Trotsky simply didn’t think it was tactically appropriate, with Lenin seriously ill, and even soon after Lenin’s death, to launch a frontal attack for the removal of Stalin. He tries to fight a preparatory political battle; he tries to accumulate the necessary forces. Hence his acceptance of a series of compromises in that he understands to be a battle that can’t be won by him alone and in one shot. Above all, he hopes that the revolution in Europe, in Germany, can break the Russian isolation, the main cause for the advance of the bureaucracy.

1994, a first falsification of the testament is discovered

Until the opening of archives in Moscow, following the collapse of the Stalinism at the end of the eighties, this is all that we knew of Lenin’s testament.

The same Trotsky explained how that single sentence in the text in which Lenin refers to him in relatively negative terms had to be considered in the context of the reasoning of Lenin, who designated him, nevertheless, as his successor at the head of the revolution.

In particular, in the article “On the suppressed testament of Lenin” (see bibliography at the end) Trotsky insisted on the distorted interpretation of that sentence made by the Stalinists who tried to turn it into a “synthesis” of the testament but not based on the original version.

Which sentence is this? One in which Lenin, having already spoken positively of Trotsky, comes to talk of two other leading members, Kamenev and Zinoviev. He emphasizes their “not accidental” behavior when they committed a serious political mistake in the course of 1917. However, Lenin adds that in any case these errors “ought as little to be used against them personally as the non-Bolshevism of Trotsky.”

This is the “original” version – or at least it was considered original even by Trotsky. Stalin instead circulated readings in which that sentence was reversed: both the mistakes of Kamenev and Zinoviev and Trotsky’s non-Bolshevik past could neither be underestimated nor forgotten because they would have consequences in the present time.

The fact is that Trotsky never publicly questioned the phrase (at least in the version that was believed to be original), although indubitably those words are inconsistent with the rest of the text, and especially with the context of the last Lenin’s battle. Why would Lenin return to the non-Bolshevik past of whom was considered by him, after 1917, “the best of the Bolsheviks,” the main leader with Lenin of the revolution? Why would he deliver a weapon into the hands of Stalin just as Trotsky was his main ally in the battle against Stalin and the bureaucracy?

For years it remained an unclear point. Until, with the opening of archives in Moscow, new documents have been found. Let’s see.

In 1994, the historian Yuri Buranov writes a book called Lenin’s will. Falsified and forbidden. From the Secret Archives of the former Soviet Union (see bibliography). In the book he takes up a theme that had already been dealt on Russian magazines in 1991 and which was also given space in the Italian newspaper La Stampa in articles by Giulietto Chiesa (correspondent of L’Unitá in Moscow for years).

In the articles of 1991 as well as in the book of 1994 Buranov explains that he found in the Soviet archives a manuscript page of December 23, 1922: the one that opens the text of Lenin then known as the testament, copied (as confirmed by the handwriting expert) by Nadiezhda Alliluyeva, one of the secretaries of Lenin and also Stalin’s wife.

The thing is interesting for several reasons: Alliluyeva was not on duty that day at Lenin’s room (as evidenced by the diaries of the secretaries: see bibliography). Volodiceva was on duty that day. The latter – as had already emerged from the interviews remained unpublished until 1989, made ​​in 1967 by the historian Aleksandr Bek – had admitted that, while Lenin dictated his testament, the secretaries immediately brought the text to Stalin.

When Volodiceva, by order of the manager of the secretaries, Fotieva, brings the first dictation of Lenin in the study of Stalin, she finds Alliluyeva, Bukharin and a couple of other leaders. Stalin reads the text and, visibly frightened, gives the order to burn it. However, he urges his wife to make a copy and keep it, while Volodiceva is ordered to write on the copy to be kept in the archives a couple of phrases that Lenin had not dictated. Is from this modified version that five copies which are usually known as the testament of Lenin​​ are made.

So the text found in the archives by Buranov, handwritten by Stalin’s wife, is a copy of the original text actually dictated by Lenin. This page differs by a sentence from the one published in the Works of Lenin, and widely regarded for decades as the original: whereas Lenin is said to agree with Trotsky on the question of the State Planning Commission [Gosplan, led by Stalin] (I agree, in this regard, with Comrade Trotsky), by Stalin’s order it was added: “Up to a certain point and under certain conditions.”

These few words, as can be understood, spill the meaning of the sentence: they not only relativize the agreement between Lenin and Trotsky on that important point (it was the beginning of the battle against Stalin) but they almost reveal a contrast between the two men that Lenin would solve with a partial compromise.

Buranov has thus demonstrated unequivocally that Stalin did falsify the testament, at least with regard to the page where it was found the copy of the original. But can one believe that the rest of the text, which was delivered on time by the secretaries to Stalin, dictated gradually by Lenin, has no other forgeries?

Canfora’s hypothesis

Several years later, Luciano Canfora, a historian with Stalinist training, and certainly not suspected of sympathy for Trotsky, raises a new question. The general aim of his research is to prove an alleged and non-existent difference between Stalin and Togliatti, to beatify the latter with the so-called “Italian road to socialism,” i.e. Stalinist reformism led by one of the worst Stalinists in history, Togliatti.

In fact, he published a book dedicated to the falsification of various historical texts. The book also deals with Lenin’s testament.

Summarizing the discoveries made by Buranov proving irrefutably that at least the wording of December 23 has been tampered with by Stalin, Canfora asks: and if the same thing, using the same method, i.e. adding a sentence to change the understanding, had been made ​​in other parts of the text?

Re-reading the testament, it is clear that the its most contradictory phrase is the one we mentioned above, about Trotsky’s non-Bolshevik past. That phrase has been (in the “original” or in its deformed version) now and for decades the workhorse of the Stalinists: the phrase by which they tried to obscure the true meaning of the testament.

Some linguists, experts in Russian, confirm to Canfora that just that phrase, in Russian, is ungrammatical, it disagrees from a syntactic point of view with the main clause.

Canfora’s reasoning is at this point very simple: we know that Stalin did falsify a phrase at the beginning of the text; we know that he had the opportunity, through the secretaries, to make other “fixes” to the text by Lenin (who was unaware that his pages would end directly on the desk of Stalin); we know that phrase, fundamental, is out of tune with the intentions of Lenin; we know that phrase, even from a linguistic point of view, does not agree with the text.

Canfora has no evidence, because it could not find copies of the other original pages of the testament. It’s possible that, despite falsifying it, Stalin has not made ​​a copy as he did previously. Or it is possible, if not probable, that the copies made ​​were lost in the archives or have been destroyed. The conclusion of the historian, I repeat, who has no sympathy for Trotskyism, is nevertheless: the near certainty, based on all the evidence, that Lenin had never dictated in his testament a sentence about Trotsky’s non-Bolshevik past.

Knowing what has Stalin made later: the systematic falsification of the whole revolutionary history to credit himself a primary role in the crucial moments that he has never had; the extermination of all the Bolshevik leaders; perhaps even, as some historians suspect, even without having the evidence, the poisoning of Lenin; knowing all this, it wouldn’t certainly be a surprise if Canfora’s hypothesis coincide with the true facts.

It is significant that neither the discovery of Buranov nor the hypothesis advanced by Canfora have found space in historical studies after their publications. To our knowledge, this issue has caused only a few journalistic interest, and mostly in Italy, even after the amplification given by Canfora after Buranov.

Of course, if even Canfora’s hypothesis was based on a confirming document, the find would neither change the course of history nor would add much to the crimes of Stalinism. But it would be further evidence, added to infinite others, that between Lenin and Stalin there was an unbridgeable abyss. On the one hand the revolution and the Bolshevik Party which was its architect; on the other the counter-revolution and the Stalinist bureaucracy responsible for it.

A curiosity: Canfora’s mistake

In closing, it’s worth reporting the fact, which apparently escaped to all those who reviewed the book by Canfora, that False history in turn contains an involuntary mistake, or at least a blunder, which is unforgivable in a book that exposes the historical falsifications.

In rebuilding the moment when the party leaders were brought to the attention of Lenin’s testament, Canfora relies on the reconstruction made by ​​the writer Emil Ludwig. He, citing Radek (at that time a close leader to Stalin), wrote of a “leap from his seat” allegedly given by Trotsky during a CC session when Stalin would be reading the testament and in particular at the time of the reading of the sentence about his non-Bolshevism. According to Ludwig, repeated by Canfora, Trotsky would have asked Stalin to reread that passage.

After correctly pointing out that actually the first reading of the testament was given in a closed session of the XIII Congress, in May 1924, Canfora takes the rest of Ludwig and Radek’s story for granted, and ventures in assumptions that perhaps Trotsky found that sentence suspect, but was not able to prove it. Probably, Canfora adds, Trotsky already knew the original text (without the offending sentence), as one of the secretaries of Lenin, Marija Gljasser, was politically close to him and could have given him the information.

But Canfora makes a mistake that could have been avoided if he had bothered to read Trotsky’s article, written in 1932 (see bibliography), dedicated to the story of the testament. Trotsky explains that Ludwig-Radek are lying to exaggerate the legend propagated by the Stalinists about the fact that the testament contains harsh accusations of Lenin to Trotsky’s non-Bolshevik past, whereas in the original text (well, we can say today, the text Trotsky supposed to be original) Lenin says that it should not be imputed to Trotsky his non-Bolshevik past. Trotsky adds that he has not “leapt from his seat” and that the entire reconstruction of Ludwig is false not only because (as also noted by Canfora) the testament was read at another time to the leaders, but because furthermore it was Kamenev who read it not Stalin. Trotsky said he actually gave a “leap from the seat,” but on another occasion. It was at a plenum of the Central Committee, in 1926, when various unpublished texts by Lenin so far were read (this time by Stalin). It was on this occasion that Trotsky interrupted Stalin while he was reading the letter of March 5, 1923 (which we mentioned above). In this letter Lenin invites Trotsky to defend the Georgian question in the next CC meeting. The letter ended with very affectionate words, which were rare in Lenin: “With the very best comradely greetings.” In reading, Stalin changed some words and read a drier and more official “communist greetings.” At this moment Trotsky (who remembered by memory this significant detail on Lenin’s letter to him) interrupted Stalin and asked him to read the exact words. Which Stalin was obliged to do, embarrassed, because those “With the very best comradely greetings” were addressed to the leader with whom Lenin decided to start his last struddle, the first made ​​by the Bolsheviks against the Stalinist degeneration.

Note

(1) VI Lenin, in Collected Works, vol. 33, p. 253.

(2) L. Trotsky, My Life, p. 441.

(3) J. J. Marie, Lénine, p. 271 (in French).

(4) VI Lenin, op.cit., Vol. 45.

(5) See VI Lenin, op.cit., Vol. 36.

(6) See. VI Lenin, op.cit., Vol. 45.

———————————————-

Bibliography

The book I have based on Moshe Lewin’s Lenin’s last struggle, 1968. This is the first text that sheds light on the matter, also based on the Diary of the Secretaries of Lenin (see below). Lewin’s book is more interesting for the accurate reconstruction of the facts than for author’s conclusions, not without a certain psychology.

The Diary of Secretaries of Lenin, are notes of service taken by Lenin’s collaborators, recorded between November 1922 and March 1923. It was published for the first time in 1963 in Russia by a history magazine, and then translated and published on Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique, of April-June 1967, edited by Lewin and Jean Jacques Marie. The text is also available on the Internet, http://www.persee.fr/web/revues.

Indispensable is also the article by Trotsky “On the suppressed Testament of Lenin”, 1932, published in July 1934 on the Trotskyist magazine New International then repeatedly reprinted by Pathfinder Press, New York. Italian edition is edited by Paul Casciola in a brochure for the Centro Studi Pietro Tresso: Lenin-Trotsky. In lotta contro lo stalinismo. La vera storia del Testamento di Lenin (1988). (Lenin-Trotsky. In the struggle against Stalinism. The true story of Lenin’s testament)

These books devote a few pages to the story: E.H. Carr, The death of Lenin. The interregnum, 1923-1924, Cambridge University Press, 1965; P. Broué, The Lost Revolution. Life of Trotsky,1879-1940, in particular in chapter 20, “The bloc with Lenin”, in chapter 22, “Lost opportunities” and in chapter 23, “Debate without Lenin”; Louis Fischer, The Life of Lenin, Harper & Row, 1964, in particular in the chapter L “Lenin’s last will and testament.”

The most recent discoveries about Stalin’s manipulation of the Testament are analyzed in Jurij Buranov, Lenin’s will. Falsified and forbidden; from the Secret Archives of the former Soviet Union, Prometheus Books, 1994. Buranov’s find was echoed by the Italian press in the article by Giulietto Church, published on La Stampa, July 12, 1991: “E’ un falso di Stalin il Testamento di Lenin” (Lenin’s testament is falsified by Stalin). (available on the newspaper’s website). Luciano Canfora resumes the information by Buranov and advances his hypothesis of further possible falsification in the book La storia falsa (The false story), Rizzoli, 2008.

The strength and the limitations of the revolutionary process in North Africa and Middle East

[Originally published by LIT-CI here ; link

The revolutionary process initiated in the late 2010 in North Africa and Middle East is still one of the centres of the world political situation.

As every revolution, it includes unprecedented combinations. As every complex process, it draws countless discussions. This text pretends to point out more general trends highlighting its already very evident limitations. We will also resume the discussions regarding this process.

Is there or is there not a revolution underway?

The discussion about what is going on in the region begins with the definition: is there or is there not a revolution underway? Right from the very beginning we assumed that this process was a revolutionary one which originated a polemic with the absolute majority of the left.

Trotsky postulated a classical definition of a revolution: “The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historical events… But at those crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new régime… The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.”(Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution) Most of the left cannot envisage a revolution underway in the region. They can see specific and momentary events, some “rebellions” as if they were some explosions of righteous anger, and then vanish. In this way, they miss out the global nature of what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East. When a revolutionary process begins, nothing remains the same; there are qualitative changes in the actual facts. And the actuality in that region is very different since the moment the revolutionary process began.

“Arab Spring.” And now what: Winter?

There is another discussion as to what is going on in that region. After almost four years, most of the world left – that never regarded these events as a revolution – consider the process as something finished for all practical purposes.

At first, these trends assumed the journalistic definition of “Arab Spring” to describe the democratic uprising that toppled such regimes as the Tunisian and Egyptian. Now they talk about “the end of the spring” and the beginning of “winter”.

However, a long and complex process as this one includes powerful and stubborn confrontations between revolution and counterrevolution, with ups and downs, with partial victories and defeats. This definition is richer than the simplified comparison with the sequence of seasons of the year.

There is a moment now marked by impasses and ebbs – quite different from the generalised ascent in 2011 – but there is also the opening of new battlefronts, such as those of the Kurds and the resuming of fight in Palestine and the rearrangements that these front cause.

There is a new moment in the civil war in Syria, with the military retreat of the opposition to Assad’s regime together with the military offensive of the government and the imperialist air attacks on the Islamic State.

In Iraq there is a new reality due to the Islamic State’s headway. There is a new civil war, this time it is a confrontation between two counterrevolutionary sectors: the Shiite administration linked to Iran against Islamic State. The struggle for oil fields control lies behind the civil war.

In Egypt, al-Sisi won the elections and launched a fierce attack on the workers increasing the fuel by 80%. It is quite likely that he will clash against a new outburst of strikes. The vicious invasion of Gaza by Israel was defeated by the Palestinian resistance and the global repudiation to the genocide of the Palestinian people.

The impasses of the moment reflect deep limitations

On the one hand, the revolution has heavy limitations to be rooted. In the first place because the working class still represent but a slight weight in the entire process. Secondly, because the revolutionary leadership is practically absent. This combination prevents the mass movement from making headway and opening a higher stage of the revolutions.

Taking advantage of these limitations, the imperialist counteroffensive and the violent repression by the dictatorships have more often than not forced the uprising to recede. But the counterrevolution also shows its own limitations. The continuity and the deepening of the economic crisis lead to increasing pauperisation of the masses. Day after day, the maintenance of the hated dictatorships renews the political radicalisation of the process. The result is the reactivation of the motivations of the revolution causing the ascent to be renewed after each defeat.

There has been neither definite defeat of the masses nor stabilisation in the region. The new Israeli defeat in its attempt to invade Gaza and the extension of the conflict to Turkey prove this.

To substitute the end of the revolution for the current moment of weakness and impasse is a catastrophic error, typical of petty-bourgeois impressionists.

Specific features of the revolutionary process

The development of the confrontations between the revolution and counterrevolution in these four years allows us to take note of some specific features and tendencies of this process.

There are factors in the region that make the conflicts deeper and more severe. In the first place, the biggest oil reserves in the world, strategic for imperialism, are to be found there.

Secondly, imperialist exploitation and oppression literally turn this rich oil region into a barrel of powder. After the peak of bourgeois nationalism as the Egyptian Nasserism and the Baath party (in Syria) in the 50’s of last century, there came a process of recolonisation by imperialism with the capitulation and association of local bourgeoisies. These corrupt and repressive bourgeoisies have an extremely luxurious life contrasted with the tremendous poverty of the majority of the population.

Thirdly, The Nazi fascist state of Israel is also to be found in the region. Even though it is true that Israel is a guarantee of the military domination of imperialism, it is also true that it is a factor of permanent political radicalisation, of conflicts and wars. Israel cannot coexist peacefully together with an Arab population opposing the usurpation of Palestinian territories.

Fourthly, the region was almost entirely dominated by despised dictatorships that ruled for decades before the revolutionary process. Vicious class antagonisms and national oppression in general cannot be solved within the framework of bourgeois democracy.

These structural elements have been very much affected by the economic crisis that began in 2007-2008. Unemployment increase, especially among the youth, as well as of the prices of basic consumption, made the discontent explode. Desperation and lack of perspective for a better future drove the masses to action.

It is no coincidence that the starting point of the entire process was the self-immolation of a door-to-door salesman in Tunisia when the police confiscated his fruit trolley. The protests that ensued spread throughout the country and set fire to the entire region.

Permanent revolution in the region

The process of permanent revolution in the region incorporates these factors. When workers and oppressed peoples of these countries fight against poverty they unconsciously challenge the exploitation and oppression by imperialism and the associated local bourgeoisies.

This economic, material background has not been solved by any of the bourgeois governments that have momentarily been imposed. The contrary is true: they merely worsened the political crises and the wars. The whole process is aggravated by the existence and actions of the State of Israel.

This is a revolution where the urban popular masses are the social subject, particularly the youth, the unemployed and precarious workers.

The proletariat is economically and socially important in several of these countries, such as Egypt and Iran. It is no coincidence that the of the 24,000-workers strike at the textile factory in Machala (Egypt) in 2006 inspired the foundation of the Movement 26th April, one of the engines of the revolutionary process that began in Egypt 2011.

In other countries, the influence of the working class is smaller. On the other hand, reformist leaderships are doing their best in order to avoid any independent proletarian role and so they broaden the backwardness in the level of awareness and in the organisation of the working class.

Urban popular masses are the social subject in these revolutions. In the midst of them, there were workers as individuals but not as an organised and leading class.

In most of the countries of the region, the democratic tasks became the central goals at first. This has nothing to do with the Stalinist stageist policy, where the permanent goal is to subordinate the proletariat to some sector of “democratic” or “nationalist” bourgeoisie.

This is all about the definition that for most of the countries, the centre of the programme at present is the fall of the dictatorships, clearing the path for the socialist revolution, in a similar way that Trotsky envisaged in the Spanish revolution, or in the Russian February revolution.

This allows the unity of action between those who fight these dictatorships, but at the same time imposes on us a constant struggle for proletarian hegemony of the revolutionary process and independent from the bourgeoisie. In the imperialist epoch, revolutions in backward countries start with minimum or democratic demands that the bourgeoisie is unable to comply, pushing the proletariat to lead these struggles, which can only be resolved with the seizure of power.

Another feature of the concept of permanent revolution is fundamental to understand the region and its international character: it is a whole region that is boiling, where processes interact with each other directly. The beginning of the Tunisian revolution quickly spread to neighbouring countries. Israel’s defeat in Gaza was celebrated throughout the region. The Kurdish struggle against IS affects the whole region, in particular Turkey and Syria.

Absence of revolutionary leadership

The mass movement leadership that emerged after the capitalist restoration in the European East are much more fragile because they are not strongly influenced by the proletariat. This is a general feature in the beginning of the century and in the region it is even more accentuated, not only because of the uneven presence of the proletariat from one country to another, but rather because of the lack of strong revolutionary organisations. All this often sterilises the heroic efforts of the masses in struggle.

The role of the traditional left organisations in the region, in particular of Stalinism, of capitulation to the bourgeois nationalism is a fundamental part of this situation.

Very often it is easier to seek religious, of race or of gender identities than of class. This results in fragmentation and in this particular region the Islamic religion predominates.

This region has been traditionally divided according to religious terms, which conceals particular bourgeoisie interests, mainly the dispute for oil resources.

The limits of the bourgeois democracy

In Latin America, a series of democratic revolutions defeated dictatorships in Argentina (1982), Brazil (1984), Uruguay (1985) bringing about a process that led to the establishment of bourgeois democratic regimes over most of the continent.

And yet, in the North Africa and the Middle East this did not happen. In the last four years the overthrow of dictatorships and the establishment of bourgeois democracies in most countries have not happened.

Convulsive processes with insurrections, civil wars, coups did take place but there was no establishment of bourgeois democracy. The same motives (oil, Israel) that originated the dictatorships make their fall more difficult. In Egypt, the Bonapartist regime was maintained even after the fall of Mubarak and Morsi.

In Libya, after the fall of Gaddafi, imperialism has been trying to rebuild the State, but so far they have not managed to stabilise any government, constantly challenged by militias from different groups.

In Iraq, the withdrawal of imperialist troops did not stabilise a national unity government as desired by imperialism, much less a bourgeois democracy. It was established a Shiite government aligned with Iran, with strong Bonapartist characteristics. The Sunni rebellion was capitalized by the Islamic state, and the country is experiencing a new civil war, now between two counterrevolutionary poles.

In Syria, the civil war goes on, now including the confrontation of the regime and imperialism with the Islamic State. In Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia a fierce repression managed to defeat the protests up to now.

The exception is Tunisia, where the Ben Ali’s administration was defeated as well as the dictatorial regime that used to rule the country.

Will these facts change due to the development of the situation as a whole? Yes, it can be. The revolutionary ascent can do lots of things. What we want to assert is that so far this has not been a generalised phenomenon.

Imperialist decadence imposes limits to its own intervention

American imperialism is hegemonic in economic, political and military terms. It is the only nuclear super power, which turns the possibility of a new world war remote at this stage.

But there is an element of reality that we need to analyse. The decline is of imperialism as a whole, not just the U.S. The resultant is that this hegemony is becoming more and more parasitic, with increasing subordination to the great financial capital.

Since its defeat in Vietnam in 1975, American imperialism has been losing its capacity to discipline the world in military terms. That defeat caused the “Vietnam syndrome”: the rejection by the American people of new wars that drive their children to death. While the American imperialism must coexist with bourgeois democracy, they need to respond to these pressures.

After the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, Bush started a counteroffensive to overcome this situation by using the alibi of “fighting against terrorism”. This, among other things, produced the invasion of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).

The defeat of Bush’s counteroffensive, particularly in Iraq, resumed powerfully this reflex in American people, this time as “Iraq Syndrome”. This factor is still one of the imperialism’s limitations to intervene in the region.

As a rule imperialism responds to this reality with air attacks, avoiding the exposition of their troops by land invasions, or even outsourcing occupation to other countries, as in the case of Haiti.

At present, for example, imperialism would be in far better military conditions to demolish the Islamic State compared to the attack on Saddam Hussein in 2003. It cannot do so due to political conditions at home that were favourable after the Twin Towers, but not now. So, they have to restrain themselves to air raids.

Bourgeois Islamic trends

Islamic nationalism has been on the ebb tide since the 70s, from Nasserism of Sadat and Mubarak to the Baath party of Saddam Hussein and al-Assad.

After the capitulation to imperialism, the governments from that origin began to implement neoliberal plans in the region. This included Egypt, Syria, Libya and Iraq with dictators who became the target of the wrath of the masses as well as other administrations in the region.

Taking advantage of the dictatorships’ crisis, several traditional bourgeois Islamic parties took office and experienced important crises, as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Ennahda in Tunisia. Perhaps this is what is now beginning to happen to Erdogan’s AKP in Turkey.

And yet, even if decadent, we cannot underestimate these trends due to their mass influence as well as the cyclical crises of their opponents.

Side by side with the people against the Syrian and Libyan dictatorships? Take no sides?

There is another big controversy with much of the left that arose with the outbreak of the revolutionary process in North Africa and the Middle East. When these demonstrations clashed with dictatorships as in Libya or Syria, a new issue was posed: stand with the fighting people or close to those hated dictatorships? This debate took even greater color when the fight has evolved to the military ground turning into civil wars in these countries.

Most of the left came out in defense of those dictatorships, denying the ongoing revolutions and reducing all to imperialist interventions to overthrow “anti-imperialist” governments. They purposely forgot all the capitulation to imperialism of those bourgeoisies, which abandoned their nationalist attitudes of the past to apply the neoliberal plans in their countries. The government of Assad and Gaddafi were supported directly by imperialism until the masses rebelled in these countries, and imperialism had to differentiate from them.

We suffered attacks in full Stalinist style and were accused of being “allies of imperialism” because we supported the peoples of these countries against their governments.

The Cuban and Venezuelan administrations, which supported these dictatorships, drew our attention to their attitude if great ascents dare to challenge them.

At this moment, the position of these trends once again collides with reality. Imperialist air raids against the positions of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria materialise an explicit alliance between Assad and the imperialist governments. According to the Lebanese paper Al Monitor, the U.S., “which lack reliable allies in Syria, may contemplate the regime as the only force capable of holding back the Islamic state in the north of the country”, so they can see no problem “in letting it occupy areas of Aleppo and its peripheries.”

That is why it is important to ask, “Who is the ally of imperialism at this moment?”

The trends dubbed Trotskyist, such as PTS and SoB put an equals sign between the Assad dictatorship and sectors that rose in arms against it and did not take any sides in this revolution. Remaining neutral in the face of something relatively obvious as the struggle of masses against despised dictators is certainly a very serious error.

Failing to see the difference between the fighting masses and their bourgeois or reformist leaders is a foul manner to start any analysis of any process. But even if it were wrong anywhere else, it is even more so in such complex process as that of the Middle East and North Africa, where there are no revolutionary leaderships.

Sectarians are not always ultra-left. In this case, these trends have adopted an opportunist posture. They end up by objectively helping the ruling dictatorships and placing as the left wing of the Castro-Chavista block to attack these revolutions.

Our demand of weapons for the Syrian rebels and weapons for the Kobane people is rooted in the Trotskyist tradition in the Spanish revolution, stained by these trends.

Militaries still in office in Egypt

In Egypt, the military regime obtained a victory with the election of Marshal al-Sisi in May 2014. It was the expression of the continuity of the military regime even after the collapse of the Mubarak and Morsi administrations. The recent absolution of Mubarak was just another piece of evidence of this continuity.

But the 54% abstention in the election of al-Sisi evidenced an important degree of erosion of the regime. An enquiry carried out before al-Sisi took over shows that there is quite a broad degree of discontent with the institutions as a whole. Egyptians are more dissatisfied (72%) than satisfied (24%) with the general situation of the country. The militaries had 88% of support of the population after the fall of Mubarak; 73% after the fall of Morsi and 56% with al-Sisi in the office. The Brotherhood, who used to have 53% of support before their collapse, now stand at 42%.

Once in the office, al-Sisi increased the price of fuels between 40% and 79% which caused an increase in several other prices and making dissatisfaction to accrue.

The working class, of great import in the country, carried out a wave of strikes in February this year (2014) that went as far as rushing the fall of Hazem el-Beblawi administration. Now, faced with this new attack, may manifest once more heavily.

A new civil war in Iraq

In Iraq, American imperialism was defeated by the Iraqi resistance and their troops had to retreat in 2011.

This was expressed in the character of the Shiite Prime minister Nuri Malaki’s government. It was not established as a mere puppet of imperialism, but as part of an agreement with the Iranian Shiite dictatorship. This alternative looked like the best thing to guarantee some stability and to weaken the Iraqi resistance, mainly the Sunni (Saddam Hussein’s ethnicity) something that, at that moment, was in American interest as much as in Iranian.

The U.S. policy was for a national unity administration that would include the Shiite, the Sunni and the Kurds, but Maliki, interested in the exclusive control over oil, carried out an administration of exclusion of the other sectors.

This facilitated the crisis and the Sunni rebellions that ended by being capitalised by ISIS (later on Islamic State), a counterrevolutionary bourgeois alternative. In a rapid offensive, ISIS defeated the Iraqi army fitted out by the U.S. – who fled in disgrace without a combat, and began their control of the Sunni territory of Iraq.

The fall of Maliki, who was substituted by a new administration led by al-Abadi, aims at resuming the imperialist proposal of a government of national unity (with a Sunni vice-president) in order to oppose the Islamic State.

But the civil war goes on. The threat of the division is still posed with the constitution of the Caliphate proclaimed by the Islamic State.

The Syrian impasse

The brutal offensive by Assad, supported by Hezbollah, and the activity of the Islamic State weakened the military resistance against the dictatorship. The death toll of the civil war is almost 200,000, plus six million dislodged people and three million living in other countries.

The presence of a fifth column – the forces of the Islamic State – turned the military situation extremely complicated. With the proclamation of the Caliphate, the IS began to challenge Assad’s government directly. As from that moment on, an imperialist air raid began in explicit alliance with Assad.

The Free Army of Syria, the Islamic Front and the Revolutionary Front had to fight the Syrian State supported by Hezbollah on the one hand and, on the other hand, the powerful army of the Islamic State. The military retreat of the opposition is due to this double cause.

And yet, in spite of its overwhelming military superiority, the regime did not manage to annihilate the revolution. Not even the area surrounding the capital – Damascus –is completely controlled by the Assad dictatorship.

The truth is that paying an increasing sacrifice, the anti-dictatorial forces keep up the struggle, controlling important areas, such as parts of Aleppo and Idlib, peripheral areas surrounding Damascus and in the neighbourhood of Homs. Recently they asserted that they had advanced in military terms between the southwest of Damascus, Dara and Kuneitra, and reopened the way toward Lebanon borders.

The leadership of this opposition is bourgeois and pro-imperialist. The so-called National Coalition for the Forces of the Opposition and the Syrian Revolution (CNFORS) openly supports the imperialist intervention in the region.

Even the sectors directly linked to the armed struggle have not been able to unite the struggle against the regime. The formation of the Council of the Command of the Revolution that unites the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) can be a step ahead from this point of view.

A new counterrevolutionary factor: the Islamic State

With their military headway in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State proclaimed the Caliphate, with a territory that goes from Diyala in the east of Iraq up to Aleppo in the North of Syria. In an attempt to establish a State with religious reference to Islamic caliphates of the 7th century, al-Baghadi proclaimed himself as the continuation of Mohamed.

Actually, this is not at all a religious war, despite the ideological Sunni background. The caliphate of the Islamic State is a dictatorship with fascist methods of terrorism in order to paralyse the opponents, and whose main target is to control a significant part of oil in the region.

By the control of oil fields, the IS would achieve a yearly revenue estimated at between US$ 600 and US$ 800 million, which can fund their need to heavy weaponry (essentially modern tanks and artillery). As the IS became strong enough to confront the Iraqi and Syrian states directly and now they are trying to build up a new state, imperialism must now face them.

The defeat of Israel in Gaza

The Nazi-fascist state of Israel invaded Gaza trying to take advantage of that moment of relative ebb of the Arab revolution. But the fiery Palestinian resistance and the increasing isolation all over the world determined their defeat.

Even with the support of the imperialist media, it turned impossible to avoid the repudiation of the global public opinion against the Palestinian genocide perpetrated by Israel. Radicalised demonstrations of Palestinian youths threaten to turn the protests into a third Intifada.

Israel had to withdraw without having destroyed the military structure of Hamas and was forced to start negotiations for the end of Gaza’s blockade. Israel defeat produced a crisis in that country’s administration and strengthened Hamas.

However, Hamas advanced in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority tending to the acceptation of the State of Israel and that it should be the Fatah who would control the accesses to Gaza. The crisis of Israel continues: now the Netanyahu administration had to dismiss ministers who did not agree with the proclamation of the Jewish character of the State of Israel and issued a summons to elections in order to deepen the racist guideline. The countries of the European Union who support Zionists but defend a negotiated solution, made a symbolic gesture in order to press Netanyahu to acknowledge the Palestinian State.

Libya: still in crisis

Since the collapse of the Gaddafi’s dictatorship, imperialism has been trying to recompose the Libyan State. They have not yet achieved their goal. There are still no Armed Forces that can have an upper hand over the different militias or an established political regime with a minimum of stability.

After successive administrations in crisis, last June 2014 elections gave rise to a civilian government opposed to the Islamic hegemony of the previous congress. The new administration had to function in Tobruk, near the borderline with Egypt until the old government, still installed in the capital Tripoli could be dissolved.

There are two governments now, two congresses disputing their legitimacy in the country. But, while the mass movement hasn’t built a leadership independent from the bourgeoisie to impose their government the counterrevolution cannot stabilise the country.

The progressive struggle of the Kurds

The Kurds are one of the most numerous oppressed people without a state of their own. Their population of about 40 million people is spread over the territories of four countries: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Theirs is a just struggle for the right to national self-determination and the creation of a single Kurdish nation. From this point of view, the struggle of the Kurds against the IS, the Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian governments is just and progressive in spite of their bourgeois and pro-imperialist leaderships that have to be faced by the exploited classes.

Kobane is a Kurdish city in Syria, next to the border with Turkey. The heroic resistance of the Kurds who live there against the siege made by the IS must be supported by revolutionaries around the world. In spite of the military superiority of the IS, the Kurdish resistance partially managed to force the occupation out of the neighbourhoods of the city. An extremely progressive agreement was reached between the General Command of the YPG (Kurdish militias) and the Free Syrian Army to fight the IS.

This battle polarised the entire region, destabilised Turkey and is making the first great defeat of the IS possible.

Turkey is getting destabilised

At present, Turkey is going through a turbulent integration in the conflict in the Middle East.

In 2013, Erdogan’s AKP, an Islamic bourgeois party, faced huge student demonstrations. Nevertheless, they were defeated and Erdogan (who was then Prime Minister) was elected president in August 2014. Right now the regional process joins the battle due to the Kurdish question. The AKP administration has a practical policy of alliance with the IS in Kobane in order to prevent the strengthening of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey.

For decades now, the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani – KurdistanWorkers’ Party) has been fighting an armed struggle for the Kurdish self-determination. Erdogan prevents Kurdish voluntaries from crossing the border to join the Kobane battle and stops any weapons from being sent.

The outcome of this was a Kurdish uprising in Turkey, accompanied by a significant mass movement and Erdogan encouraged fascist bands to attack Kurdish mobilisations against his government. The Syrian conflict is destabilising Turkey.

Tunisian exception

Tunisia is the country where the revolutionary process began in December 2010 and also the country where the first great victory was achieved with the fall of the dictator Ben Ali in January 2011.

The first elected government was that of the Islamic bourgeois nationalist Party of the Rebirth (Ennahda), similar to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This government was defeated by a people’s revolt followed by a general strike after a leader of the reformist opposition, Chokri Belaid, was murdered in 2014.

A Constituent Assembly was elected and it produced one of the most liberal constitutions in the region: it ensures religious freedom, without any lasharia (religious law) imposed, freedom of expression and legal equality between men and women.

In new elections, “Summons for Tunisia”, a secular bourgeois coalition with links to the old officials of the Ali dictatorship won. They ran as an alternative to the Islamism of Ennahda. The new government will have to face the same economic crisis that was one of the basic causes for the beginning of the revolutionary crisis four years ago. Unemployment is still about 16% of the population and 40% among the youth.

Unlike the rest of the region, in Tunisia a dictatorship fell and was replaced by a bourgeois democratic regime.

A revolutionary process with structural impasses and limitations

As we have seen, the impasses and limitations of the revolution in North Africa and Middle East have structural reasons related to the absence of revolutionary leaderships and the slight role played by the proletariat.

On the other hand, neither imperialism nor the local bourgeoisies have been able to provide a solution to the economic crisis and the poverty of the masses. They can neither annihilate the masses violently nor stabilise any government.

There have various attempts at defeating the masses violently. Imperialism has tried it by the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel has tried when its army invaded Lebanon in 2006 and more recently Gaza. Assad is now trying to do the same thing in Syria. None of these attempts proved successful so far.

On the other hand, neither has imperialism, as we have already seen, bet on democratic reaction in order to divert the mass movement towards bourgeois democracy.

The outcome is a convulsive process that cannot be stabilised either by the defeat or by partial victories. An extremely contradictory and complex reality and a great challenge for the revolutionary left. But above all, it is a region that is still one of the centres of the world revolution.

Letter to NSF

The following letter was sent addressing the meeting of the NSF at Bagh (POK) to discuss Permanent Revolution :

Greetings comrades,

I comrade Adhiraj Bose, from the New Wave Bolshevik Leninist group, send you my greetings from india. I regret to inform that local compulsions and visa rules have prevented me from joining your meeting on the 26th, while I cannot be there in person, I will strive nevertheless to contribute to the meeting through this writing.

Firstly, I would like to commend you for conducting this meeting on a question that is of most vital importance to the world working class. The greatest concrete challenges today is to overcome the crisis of revolutionary leadership, this of course means the task of building the revolutionary party. But the question then comes, what is a revolutionary party ? and within that the question remains, What is a revolution ?

In 1906 Trotsky when reflecting upon the dynamics of the failed Russian revolution of 1905 concluded that the question of the democratic revolution is not isolated from the socialist revolution. The experience of that revolution had proven for him, that the time of the progressive revolutionary bourgeoisie was over and the task of social revolution chiefly fell upon the shoulders of the working class. The proletariat would have to fulfill the questions posed by the democratic revolution not as part of a bourgeois democratic revolution, but in passing as part of the greater socialist revolution.

Thus, from this conclusion emerged the theory of permanent revolution. While Trotsky in Results and Prospects was only analyzing the concrete realities in Russia in 1906, the theoretical arguments themselves found resonance in much of the world which was at the time still in the throes of feudalism and colonialism. It was thought (and some in the left still adhere to this notion) that the democratic revolution is a task best left to the bourgeoisie, and that the working class would have no part in it or at best a secondary role in it. Trotsky’s detractors have time and again cited the overwhelming burden of the democratic tasks that the backward countries of the world faced, to demonstrate as if that these countries are not ready for the socialist revolution. Their false arguments were washed away by the tide of history that came with the Russian revolution of 1917.

The success of the Russian revolution in 1917 had proven the oneness of the democratic and socialist revolution. However, this lesson has over time been forgotten by most if not all of the would-be leaders of the working class leading to one disastrous turn after another.

Take our present epoch for instance, where not too long ago the Maoists in Nepal had overturned the power of the monarchy in Nepal and had opened the floodgates of revolution in that backward Himalayan nation. The hopes of the Nepali proletariat were never raised higher than they were in 2006, that their nation would be free from imperialist hegemony and finally tread the path of progress and freedom. The events after 2006 would prove otherwise, as the fire of the revolution of Nepal was extinguished by the path taken by the Maoists which have now led them to a dead end. Rule has passed from the monarchy to a republic of comprador bourgeoisies licking the shoes of imperialist india.

Nepali society remains in the throes of backwardness and poverty and for all practical purposes exists as a buffer state of India. At best, the bourgeoisie could transform it into a zone for resource extraction selling Nepal’s valuable Himalayan water and mineral resources for imperial exploitation. The Maoists have fallen themselves into the trap of the Stalinist two-stage theory and have dragged the Nepali working class and peasantry down with it.

That however, is not the only example we can cite. Let us come to the middle east, which has been engulfed in the fires of a trans-regional revolution. While the popular masses and the proletariat scored victories after victories beginning in Tunisia, then Egypt, then Libya and finally Syria, bulk of the world leaderships dilly dallied over which revolution to support and which not to not recognizing the essence of the class struggle. Now with defeat in sight, the cretins among these so-called left leaderships pick straws on who was right about what. At the root of this tragic crisis, is the confounded understanding that the democratic struggle is separate and even counter-posed to the socialist struggle !

The fact of the matter is, that mankind has already gone as far as capitalism can allow it to, but history and humanity move forward regardless. This was the decisive factor discovered by Marx and analyzed further by Lenin and Trotsky, is the contradiction that lies at the core of permanent revolution today. Where the bourgeoisie tries its best to drag back humanity to levels where it can keep its power and privileges, the proletariat tries to push on ahead, breaking the shackles which bind it to the dead and moribund past. Thus, it is that the democratic struggle today, is no longer a bourgeois democratic struggle, but comes as an intrinsic part of the socialist revolution. If we fail to realize this, then we are doomed to fall, and by that I mean fall to the lowest depths of barbarism. World war 1 and 2 and even the calamity in Iraq show clearly what kind of future capitalism has in store for us, if we allow it to continue. Therefore, the question posed before us is short and simple, but brutal, “Socialism or Barbarism”.

On the question of the united front tactic

In short the policy of united front-ism is one of ‘march separately but strike together’ . This in itself does not however, explain the various possible variations of the united front depending on the objective strength of forces involved. In principle the party of the working class creates united fronts where there is a need for joint interventions around shared interests. The most notable example of a united front at work was the united front of the Bolsheviks with the menshevik government to save the provincial government of Kerensky from Kornilov’s reaction.

In this instance, the party engaged in united front retained it’s own independent organizational existence even while siding with hostile forces. The overarching importance of the most urgent democratic tasks was realized which formed the basis for a united front. It was to save the february revolution that the Bolsheviks made an alliance with Kerensky against Kornilov, all the while knowing the reactionary nature of both forces involved. But it was the necessity for such a united front that compelled the formation of the united front tactic, one where the bolsheviks could fight off the forces of reaction.

A Bolshevist united front and Stalinist popular front :

The foremost consideration for any successful united front is the independence of the revolutionary force with the parties it is in a united front with. This is contrasted with the policy of a popular front where class compromise is sought around an opportunistic premise for advancing the organizational interest at hand. Stalinism presents before the working class the prospect of certain defeat through the popular front where it’s power is diluted into that of the national bourgeoisie. When Lenin joined hands with the government of Kerensky, the Bolsheviks did not dissolve themselves into the government, nor dilute their revolutionary programme for the sake of the alliance. It was over a particular agenda of defeating the reaction led by Kornilov that the cooperation was forged. However, when Stalin and the troika had ordered the Chinese communists to align with Chiang Kai Shek in the revolutionary upsurge of the mid-1920s, they dissolved themselves for sake of keeping that alliance intact.

It must be born in mind that numerical or organizational dimensions were secondary to the success of the united front. The Bolsheviks were in an inferior position of power in relation to their respective allies when they engaged in the united front. However, the reactionary regime was on the verge of collapse under pressure of war. Most importantly, the regime was fast losing or had already lost mass support. At the same time, the forces of revolution were gaining influence. In such a situation revolutionary help extended to bourgeois-democratic reactionaries ( like Kerensky ) would be like using a rope to hold up a dying man!

The successes of these actions have important lessons for us today when revolutionary bolsheviks seek to engage in a united front.

Few basic principles :

Before any united front is undertaken two key questions must be asked :

a) For what is there a need for a united front ? What benefits will it bring ?

b) What is the strength of our own forces ?

The answer to the first question will lay the ground for forging any united front with other organizations whether we agree on fundamental questions of theory or not. The answer to the second will help us understand how to approach the united front and how deeply we should commit our resources to it. Only once a clear understanding is reached by balancing between both these questions, can a revolutionary organization approach a united front with a firm footing. A united front based on light and weak foundations will end in a failure.

Once the basic questions have been answered, the next question must be that of particulars of engagement. :

a) Whom do we align with ?

b) To what extent to we align ?

Of course, it is impossible to answer these two questions without first answering the basic questions of the united front. In chapter 4 of the Communist Manifesto Marx laid the foundation for such an alliance as support for democratic struggles world over. For this purpose the communists would be willing to align with any force that is fighting for a democratic revolution. In saying this however, Marx never compromised the need for maintaining an independent character of the communist movement. This brings us to the second question on the extent of our engagement. That again depends primarily on two factors :

a) The class character of our allies

b) Our own objective(organizational) and subjective(theoretical) strength.

An important third factor in this of course would be the objective we intend to achieve through this united front. The nature of intervention whether it’s military or civil in nature, or whether we intend to in future to merge with a group if there are fundamental programmatic agreements, or whether we intend to wage a defensive struggle where the entire interests of the class are under jeopardy ( as would be with the case of a fascist threat ) . Each instance will come with its own imperatives and will determine the tactics of the united front in action.

Flexibility in tactics :

One of the hallmarks of Leninist thought has been the flexibility of its tactics in class struggle. Lenin characterized class war as a war fundamentally more complex than any other war hitherto fought, and not without reason. From this conclusion, he states in his work on guerrilla warfare that Marxists must be open to the use of the most varied tactics as the situation demands. Thus, revolutionaries must be prepared to go underground when faced with a emergency situation. When democratic organizing becomes impossible it is naive to retain any pretense of absolute internal democracy, a centralized organization with strict discipline becomes indispensable.

Such a flexibility must be shown in approaching the question of the united front as well. The working masses will not always possess revolutionary consciousness. Right up until the decisive eruption of revolution, we will be dealing with a population which albeit rebellious and militant may continue to harbor every possible illusion in the machinations of the bourgeois state. In such a situation revolutionaries must refrain from a sectarian attitude towards the organizations of the class. While sharply criticizing every opportunistic step which they may take to harm the interests of the class, the revolutionary force must be ready to work with these organizations whenever and wherever the interests of the class struggle are involved.

Here we are faced with a dialectical question. How to retain independence in perspective, discipline and organization while engaging in work with organizations whose character is decidedly non-revolutionary ? The whole success or failure of the united front for the revolutionary party is contingent on this question being answered correctly. There are no black and white alternatives given beforehand, since the issue is one of balance between forces involved.

Variations of the united front :

We may either enter a united front with a similar organization or express unity in action. This choice depends much on whom we plan on aligning with. The difference between these two variations can be demonstrated using the example of our tactics towards the forces involved in the Afghan war and our tasks in that country.

The foremost task of the present Afghan struggle much like China at the time of the Japanese invasion rested on the expulsion of the imperialist forces attempting to subjugate and exploit that country’s resources. The problem we face in pursuing this overarching goal, is that we will be sharing our battles with the most vile, most corrupt and reactionary of armies in the Afghan Taliban. Their agenda is to establish a repressive islamic state, which would perhaps in the long run make just as bad an agreement with world imperialism as the present quisling Karzai government. But the core tasks of bolsheviks is not to speculate idly on what possible future may befall Afghanistan, the core task is to understand the democratic tasks to fight for and chart the road for the socialist revolution in South Asia.

It is as obvious as daylight that there cannot be even the remotest of agreements with the Taliban on long term agenda. Given the chance, they would be as committed to the evisceration of the revolutionary party as the imperialists. However, our first commitment is towards fighting for the liberation of Afghanistan from the ongoing imperialist occupation. For this we are fighting the same enemy as the Taliban. Here we call for unity in action with the Taliban on the point of agreement over the fight against foreign imperialism. Our troops in the field would coordinate their attacks against ISAF troops and proxy Afghan National Army troops with the troops of the Taliban. However, we keep not only our own discipline in fighting, but retain our own propaganda, our own programmatic agenda for the future of Afghanistan as well as our long term hostility towards the idea of theocracy.

Of course, given the reality of our peripheral existence in the world and undoubtedly in Afghanistan, it would be next to impossible to build such an alliance even one only restricted to ‘unity in action’. Our actions must therefore, be oriented towards propaganda activities primarily and the cornerstone of this is the attack on imperialism. We would thus continue to work on the united front principle and express a ‘unity in action’ with the Taliban. At the same time, we warn the Afghan people of the dangers of allowing the Taliban to lead the anti-imperial struggle and condemn any agreement they make with any imperial force.

The same principles may not apply when and if we engage in a united front effort with an organization who share fundamental agreements in regard to programme. If we unite with organizations of the working class, with whom differences are of a peripheral nature but agreements are fundamental *( if we agree on the Socialist revolution and its path ), incidental differences on tactics and strategies to combat imperialism are secondary in nature. Here we engage in joint work with a view towards possible merger of forces over a common party building agenda on the basis of a programme for revolution. This would be a deep united front which may go beyond simply working together around single issues.

Conclusion:

The united front tactic gives a Bolshevik-Leninist force its power. Despite smaller numbers and organizational weakness, we can multiply our forces in conjunction with the resources of another force in conducting our intervention. Using this approach we retain our own discipline and our own political character and use the power of bolshevik theory to build our strength in the class struggle. Care must be taken however, that we never weaken the effort by compromising our stance even and especially with respect to those we align with. Our alignments with deeply hostile forces which are against our ideals are necessarily only be temporary and issue-specific. Once a front with such forces has accomplished its core objectives, we must be prepared with our own organizational strength to fight against them and stake our own claim to power.

Understanding 1947 (part 1)

The formation of India and Pakistan in 1947 is a crucial question for the Indian left. Few historical questions are as pertinent, and at the same time few are as divisive. The formation of the Indian republic raises a number of questions which concern the very foundations of capitalism in India and in that context turn a searchlight on the true historical character of the transfer of power which took place on the 15th of August 1947.

Some questions central to our understanding of the events preceding and taking place at the point of the transfer of power on 15th of August 1947 are :

a) Was India’s independence in 1947 a revolutionary event?
b) Were the events of 1947 and the year immediately preceding it ‘peaceful’? And was the independence struggle as a whole ‘peaceful’?
c) How did the transfer of power affect the development of capitalism in India and Pakistan? Did they both subsequently fall to foreign imperialism? If so why so? If not why not?

I will tackle these questions in sequence.

a) Was India’s independence in 1947 a revolutionary event?

Let us first understand what we mean by ‘revolution’. Real socio-economic revolutions that change the face of history only take place when an old worldwide mode of production has outlived itself. That is to say a mode of production affecting human society as a whole – like slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. When the foundations of such a system become wholly rotten, and when the precursors of a new mode of production are emerging ever stronger, revolutions break out that sweep away the ruins of the old system and usher in new societies based on the new forces of production and new relations between the people working with them.

Revolutions are an outburst of social energy channelling the creative forces of the new system to break the chains of the old mode of production, like slavery or serfdom. They are opposed in a life-and-death struggle by the decaying, destructive forces of the old system which seek to prolong its life. In short, a true social-historical revolution can only be an epoch-making change in economy and society bringing with it the change of one mode of production into another. A deep historical revolution of this kind is not simply a regime change from one kind of government to another be it democratic or dictatorial. Even the bloodiest rebellions or coups d’état fall short of this historical significance if they produce no change in the underlying mode of production. Fascist regimes still operate on a bourgeois capitalist economic basis, so Nazi Germany was no revolutionary creation. A true revolution is a process which overthrows the economic and political dominance of the old ruling class and replaces it with the rule of the formerly oppressed class – as happened when the slave-owning rulers of the ancient Roman Empire were ousted during the rise of feudal Europe, and the feudal rulers of old Europe were thrown aside in bourgeois revolutions such as those in England in 1649 and France in 1789.

For instance, in bourgeois revolutions, the ruling class of feudal lords were overthrown by the political mobilization of the oppressed proto-bourgeois serfs and traders. In their place the bourgeois class seized power and wielded it through its political representatives, be it the New Model Army in England or the Jacobins in France. These revolutions were the midwives of history and opened the way for the capitalist transformation of European society. Frequently however, the aftershocks of these world-shaking revolutionary events only involved the transfer of power from one group of special interests to another in the new ruling class. This is most certainly evident if we compare the so-called Glorious Revolution of England in 1688 to Cromwell’s revolution some decades earlier. The Stuart monarchy restored by parliament in 1660 was turfed out unceremoniously for wanting its pre-Cromwellian power back, and was replaced by a new, tame bourgeois monarchy imported from Holland.

As the revolutionary Soviet economist Eugene Preobrazhensky wrote in The New Economics in 1926, the bourgeoisie did not come to be the ruling class without first creating the economic pre-conditions for its power. For centuries, the bourgeoisie were city traders and bankers subordinate to the feudal elite, but over time they grew stronger and began to undermine the economic independence of the aristocrats, who were ultimately unable to prevent the bourgeoisie from directly claiming power. Parliament was its preferred mechanism for rule in place of aristocratic or absolute despotism. This gradual piecemeal trajectory of the bourgeoisie’s rise to power influenced the character of its revolutions, which were essentially national and became more and more cowardly with time – looking over their shoulders in fear at their ostensible allies in the working class and poor peasantry. There were clear limits to the Liberty, Equality and Fraternity they were prepared to introduce, and compromise with the defeated aristocracy to hold down the workers and poor people of town and country became the norm. Thus we see even today that the UK which was the first country to undergo a bourgeois revolution continues to harbour a monarchy which is a relic of its pre-capitalist past and constantly reminds us of the limits of capitalism’s ability to effect profound social transformations.

The socialist revolution presents a striking contrast to the bourgeois revolutions of old. Where the bourgeois revolutions open the way for the transformation of society along capitalist lines, the socialist revolution opens the way for the transformation of society towards the communist mode of production, in which those who work and produce the wealth also own the means of producing it, and associate freely and equally to plan and distribute this production. The two kinds of revolution are similar in that a socialist revolution the current ruling class i.e the bourgeoisie in capitalist society, is overthrown by the oppressed class in capitalist society, i.e the proletariat.

The economic basis for the existence and organization of the proletariat is not created by the proletariat but by its class enemy, the bourgeoisie. Large scale mass production and monopoly capital lays the foundation for the unification and political organization of the proletariat on a national and international scale, as well as for a future socialist economy. What the proletariat does create of its own, is its own independent political organs and the organs of power with which to overthrow the bourgeois in power. Imperialism is clinging on to outworn and unmanageable social relations in an age of transition to socialism, making the imperialist epoch a period of crisis, war and revolution. The global contradiction of the instruments of socialism existing, yet not being in the hands of working people in power, gives the socialist revolution an unprecedented social explosivity and the economic stakes involved are unparalleled, and makes the political tasks of the proletariat that much more complex. All this gives our revolution a much clearer political and social character than the bourgeois revolutions preceding it. There can be no compromise between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie like there was a compromise between the monarchy and the republican bourgeoisie in England.

In the 20th century however, we have witnessed a peculiar development brought about by the historic twist of a bourgeoisie incapable of consummating the bourgeois-democratic transformation of society. In Russia these contradictions were resolved by the socialist revolution which carried out the bourgeois-democratic transformation of Russian society in its march to complete the socialist transformation. While we insist that this is the case, we must be very clear that much of the bourgeois-democratic transformation involved in this process was stopped or reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s takeover of the state.

Since the emergence of imperialism in the late 1800s, however, we have witnessed a twist in this historical development of the forces of social production. Conditions in the world economy have contrasted so starkly with conditions in individual countries that bourgeoisies in backward countries have not been able to bring about a bourgeois-democratic transformation of their society at the national level. In Russia these contradictions were resolved by the socialist revolution which implemented historically necessary bourgeois-democratic reforms in Russian society as an integral part of its drive to carry out the socialist transformation. The extremely contradictory character of this process means that although this conclusion is inescapable if we are to understand the phenomenon of the Soviet Union, it is far from self-evident, and we must be very clear that much of the progressive bourgeois-democratic content of the transformation of society was stopped or reversed by the Stalinist counter-revolution in the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s takeover of the state.

The problem of understanding the challenges posed to the working class and its peasant allies by the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to bring about necessary democratic change was resolved by Leon Trotsky when he formulated the theory of Permanent Revolution in 1936. The theory makes it clear that the economic and political domination of the world by imperialism means that the bourgeoisie has lost its revolutionary potential and will never again be capable of leading let alone consummating a bourgeois-democratic revolution.

The implications of this conclusion are huge. It means that fundamental political, economic and social change will never ever be achieved by any political force under the leadership of a bourgeois political formation. Any working class party claiming otherwise is deceiving the class and leading it to inevitable failure, as did Stalinist Communist parties backing the leadership of bourgeois forces in Popular Fronts. This was demonstrated to catastrophic effect in China in the 1920s, where the Chinese CP supported the leadership of the Kuomintang under Chiang Kai-Shek, and by the similarly suicidal policies of the Communist party in Indonesia in the mid-1960s.

Since the second world war there has been almost universal left-wing backing for bourgeois or petty-bourgeois nationalist leaderships in anti-colonial and anti-imperialist liberation struggles, and in complete accordance with the theory of Permanent Revolution the vast majority of these movements have led to little more than career opportunities for these leaderships coupled with continued poverty and oppression for the working class and peasant masses. The degeneration of these non-proletarian leaderships and their opportunist and superficial socialist masks has been sometimes slow and gradual, but always complete and counter-revolutionary. Two powerful examples of disastrous betrayals lauded as successes by left-wing forces refusing to accept the perspective of the Permanent Revolution are Nicaragua and most particularly South Africa. Just how criminally betrayed the working masses in South Africa have been by the bourgeois leadership of the ANC, including the fake saint Nelson Mandela, was illustrated just last month on 16 August 2012 by the Marikana massacre. Over 34 demonstrating miners were shot dead in cold blood, most of them in the back. This slaughter continues the tradition of bloody class repression in South Africa, and is the black bourgeoisie’s own Sharpeville massacre.

In the light of these developments, the historical tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution clearly fall upon the working class and its peasant allies, who are compelled to embrace the bourgeois revolution as part of the socialist revolution. The two historical transformations thus move together in sync rather than as two distinct processes. At the same time, however, the specific tasks of the combined revolution in each country vary widely since the social and economic preconditions are different from context to context.

In the context of pre-independent India i.e the time of the Empire of India, the over arching
objective of the Indian struggle was to achieve independence from British rule. Along with this, the prime social objective would have to be the abolition of monarchism in the princely states and a radical redistribution of land under the slogan of land to the tiller. Furthermore, a bourgeois-democratic revolution would aim to abolish all social impediments to capitalist accumulation and development, such as caste divisions and landlordism. So the question of whether 1947 constituted a revolutionary transformation of Indian society basically boils down to the question of whether these necessary aims of the bourgeois revolution were achieved.

The transfer of power from the British Monarchy to the Indian parliament began on 15 August when the rule of the monarch ended and India came under the leadership of the governor general. This was accompanied by the partition of the Indian sub-continent between the Indian republic and the republic of Pakistan. Alongside these two large divisions there existed a series of princely states with six of the largest states asserting their independence from both Pakistan and India. These six states were Balochistan, Kashmir, Tripura, Junagadh, Travancore and Hyderabad. Four of these six states were annexed to India, while Balochistan was annexed to Pakistan and Kashmir is still being contested.

Abolition of Monarchy and self-rule

The transfer of power mandated that the princely states had the choice of either acceding to India or Pakistan — asserting their independence was not an alternative. The formal completion of the transfer of power occurred on 26 January 1950 with the abolition of the post of governor general and with it the complete withdrawal of the rule of the British Monarchy. In parallel with this development was the absorption of approximately 500 princely states into the Indian republic along with the abolition of their respective monarchies. In compensation for abdicating their powers to India however, they were granted privy purses. The princely states which sought to make a stand against either India or Pakistan were crushed, and Hyderabad, Kashmir and Balochistan were made an example of what would happen to monarchs trying to stake their independence. The privy purse concessions were eventually abolished by Indira Gandhi in the 70s.

Abolition of landlordism and land reform

The social changes effected after 1947 included the complete abolition of absentee landlordism and of zamindari in India, along with a distorted and incoherent effort at land reform. Although they were incoherent and distorted, however, the land reforms did pave the way for the penetration of bourgeois land laws into the countryside and the large-scale destruction of petty production there. In this way they initiated the present proletarianization-led development of Indian capitalism, in which tens of millions of small independent farmers are driven into debt and destitution, lose their property (i.e. become proletarianized, owning nothing but their power of labour), and are forced to migrate into the slums of the bloated cities and join the reserve army of the unemployed. This process is universally but falsely referred to as ‘urbanization’, a term that completely conceals the historical class dynamics of what is taking place.

Economic independence

Later on, the nationalization of leading banks under the pretext of ‘social control’ and the ‘Indianization’ of foreign owned companies ensured the security of nascent Indian capital against the forces of foreign capital and gave local capital a dominant role within the territories of the Indian republic. All of these changes took place in the first 3 decades after 1947 and under the political leadership of the Congress party which was the preferred political choice for the Indian bourgeoisie.

Given these changes, it seems that the Indian bourgeoisie through its foremost political representative the Indian Congress party was able to achieve most of its natural bourgeois goals. But such a view only scratches the surface of things without regard to the forces working under the surface.

Beneath the surface

Apologists of the Indian bourgeoisie argue for the ‘strength’ and ‘civility’ of these ‘gradual and peaceful’ changes, and put India on a pedestal as an inspiring example for other countries. Equally superficial apologists on the left try to use India’s historical successes, such as the successful eviction of the British and the social and political transformations that secured some basic bourgeois-democratic needs, to debunk the theory of Permanent Revolution. These views are not only unhistorical, but are outright reactionary and a million miles from the struggles of the oppressed masses, the working class and the poor peasantry against capitalism and imperialism.

All the progressive social transformations which have taken place in India from 1900 to the present have been achieved by the force of class struggle both within India and outside it. The Congress party for its part, was not formed with the aim of liberating India from colonial bondage but simply to act as a steam valve and mediator between the struggling Indian masses and the British imperialists. Up to the first world war their methods never moved beyond prayer and petition against the British. Only later do we see an economically burgeoning Indian bourgeoisie becoming bold enough to demand Tanganyika in East Africa as an exclusive colony under its administration. Along with this, we see the emergence of an organized proletariat in India along with large scale mass production, and the social impact of the Russian revolution which brought about profound changes in land relations and provided the inspiration for democratic struggles world wide.

The rising tide of class struggle forced the Indian Congress party to take a much more radical stance against the British, kicked forward by the actions of revolutionary communists like Bhagat Singh. The radicalization of peasant struggles and the emergence of a strong working class movement saw the growth of the Indian Communist party (CPI) and later on the emergence of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI) which peaked in 1946. All of this compelled the British safety valve which was the Congress party to orient itself much more towards the masses so that the Indian bourgeoisie and its British patrons would not be harmed in their propertied interests. Simultaneously however, the strengthening Indian bourgeoisie also demanded their pound of flesh from the British. The British were willing to grant any concession to the Indian bourgeoisie and its political representative the Congress party because of its formidable ability to pacify the Indian working class and peasantry. For its own part the Congress party, which cared chiefly for landed interests in India, didn’t hesitate to hijack the power of the peasant and proletarian struggles emerging in India to pressurize the British. The unsurpassed pacifier Gandhi was the supreme manifestation of this parasitical politics (as the other saintly Congress hero, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, has been in our own period).

Despite their best efforts the Congress party could not hold back the rising tide of class struggle which at its core demanded the immediate and realization of the overarching objectives of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, namely:

1)national liberation from colonial rule,
2)comprehensive land reform,
3)the eradication of landlordism, and
4)the abolition of the princely states and their monarchies.

Three major upsurges helped pave the way for the accomplishment of these goals between 1940 and 1947. The first of these was the Quit India movement which mobilized the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie primarily in Northern and Eastern India, in which large tracts of land were forcibly appropriated by the landless and poor farmers from the clutches of the rural elite. Following this was the formation of the Indian National Army by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the student led mobilizations in Bengal, which attacked the militarist foundations of the British empire. Finally, the peak of class struggle saw the naval uprising in 1946 in all major ports of the Indian empire, with a mass mobilization of workers, students and peasants across the sub-continent.

By this time, the British had lost the loyalty of the Congress party and the Indian bourgeoisie it represented, which had grown bold enough to go on its own. The Congress party for its part was on the verge of losing the support it among the peasants and students that Gandhi and his protege Nehru had so painstakingly built up. Although practically all bourgeois political formations in India sided with the British against the mutiny, it was only the Congress party actively colluded with the British in crushing the uprising in Bombay. Of course this ‘service’ would not come free.

The Congress however, were more afraid of a prospect which worried the British imperialists as much as it did them. What if the Indian masses were to rise up and expropriate the capitalist system itself? What if a socialist revolution accompanied the inevitable democratic revolution? The entire Asian continent would become non-capitalist if expropriations in China were followed by the once-Imperial Indian subcontinent.

The theory of Permanent Revolution has been confirmed time and again when bourgeois democratic revolutions have gone hand in hand with the socialist revolution in the absence of a revolutionary bourgeoisie. However, in the post world war period we have witnessed the peculiar development of deformed and deflected revolutions. This in itself is not beyond the understanding of revolutionary Marxism. Lenin in Two tactics of Social Democracy had foreseen the possibility of such a deformed revolution occurring in Russia, should the forces of the revolutionary working class and peasantry be inadequate to secure a complete victory over capitalism. In context of the permanent revolution this would imply that a Socialist revolution though initiated in the mould of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, would be halted midway by a compromise with reactionary elements in society preventing its further transition from the democratic to the Socialist level. Either that or, a healthy socialist revolution would be deformed by absence of worker’s democracy and the whole revolutionary process would become subjected to the rigid control of a counter-revolutionary bureaucratic clique ruling from the top.

Thus, depending on the objective situation a Socialist revolution may take place and yet be deformed. The result of such a deformed revolution would be a compromise with reactionary elements which would leave important democratic needs of the bourgeois revolution unsatisfied. However, even a deformed revolution would achieve some progressive goals and blunt the edge of the socialist revolution. A similar kind of situation holds in China, where a successful yet deformed socialist revolution leaves many of the fundamental needs of the socialist revolution unsatisfied, but still presents a formidable obstacle to the full counter-revolutionary world programme of imperialism.

In India’s case, the indigenous bourgeoisie was faced with a working class on the cusp of a revolutionary mobilization and its erstwhile British Imperialist protectors in retreat, and had to compromise with reaction to both stifle the revolution and ensure the very survival of India as a capitalist state. Likewise, the forces of British imperialism felt directly threatened by the rising tide of revolution across Asia and were ready to defend the social system of capitalism in the world’s largest continent at any price. Having lost their political hold over India, the British were forced to salvage whatever they could to preserve the remnants of an imperialist economic presence in the continent. So the two leading forces of reaction, the British and the Congress, schemed with minor bourgeois leaders like Jinnah of the Muslim League to bring about a partition of the sub-continent. This would constituted a deep enough compromise with the objective of complete anti-colonial emancipation to destroy the revolutionary process unfolding in the sub-continent and in Asia and to preserve their respective positions. This despicably divisive compromise created the republic of India and the republic of Pakistan at an untold cost in human suffering and backwardness for more than half a century to come. And into the bargain they blessed 500 or so princely states and their rotten monarchies, like so many pieces of dung scattered over the marble floor of a shopping mall.

The Indian bourgeoisie was more adept at securing its interests than its less capable counterparts in the chopped up political botchery of Pakistan. Following the withdrawal of British rule, most of the princely states were absorbed into the Indian republic and their monarchies abolished. This was because the Indian bourgeoisie was feeling the strength of the masses and felt compelled to make a series of concessions to the working class and peasantry in the form of industrial welfare, the nationalization of core industries, and the abolition of landlordism and of the monarchies in the princely states.

However, the core demands of a democratic revolution either remained untouched or were implemented in a deformed manner. Thus, land reforms were implemented but in a zigzag and piecemeal way leaving most of the peasant population destitute and pauperized while encouraging the fragmentation of land holding, a development which created one of the principal sources of primitive capitalist accumulation in the Indian republic. At the same time, independent India gave rise to a new land-owning bourgeoisie who made the most of the penetration of capitalist land laws into the countryside to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor peasantry. For the same reason, caste divisions were allowed to persist, notwithstanding their formal abolition in the Constitution. Thus, the Indian bourgeoisie left pre-capitalist fetters in place where they served its political goal of keeping power, while it removed them where it felt they hobbled its own freedom of movement. As was the case with the annexation of Goa.

To sum up, we must emphasize very strongly once more that the social and political strength which enabled the Indian bourgeoisie to complete certain elementary tasks of the bourgeois revolution was not its own. The strength surging through modern India does not belong to the bourgeoisie, which falsely lays claim to it, but to the bourgeoisie’s bitterest enemy the working class and its ally the poor peasantry.

In Pakistan, deliberately truncated at birth, some partial concessions were made to the peasantry in East Bengal (renamed East Pakistan after 1947) in the form of the abolition of Zamindari. Bourgeois-democratic reform stopped here, however. A powerful and influential semi-feudal elite was alarmed at the rapid progress India made in abolishing feudal relics, and huddled around the military institution in that country. The anachronistic and medieval leadership of the country found shelter under the auspices of a rising US imperialism, just like Saudi Arabia, and joined CENTCOM after the Kashmir war. This empowered the pre-capitalist elite and stunted the development of the capitalists of Pakistan as they took over less capital from the British than their Indian counterparts, and were correspondingly less powerful. After partition most of the industrialized and resource-rich provinces lay in India as did most of Britain’s military industries and Imperial infrastructure. India inherited naval power, which Pakistan did not have. All of these factors worked to cripple Pakistan, whose semi-feudal elite were horrified by the class struggle taking place worldwide and did whatever they could get away with to remain in power. The Pakistani bourgeoisie tagged along as willing running dogs to this militarist class of rulers, while acting as a safety valve to vent out peasant and petty bourgeois frustration from time to time. India simply exacerbated Pakistan’s hopeless situation and sped its absorption into British and American imperialism. This is still the case today. The mechanism of Partition continues to operate, with all its devastating consequences for the working people of the subcontinent.

It is now clear what the dynamics of 1947 truly were. The revolutionary process in India was born and grew not because of the bourgeoisie but in spite of it. The bourgeoisie was forced to take up a radical position and come closer to the line of revolution simply to save its own skin. This was an act of betrayal in which they had the fullest connivance of British imperialism acting behind the scenes to destroy the Indian revolution, and in a larger context to stop the Asian revolution from reaching India. The Indian bourgeoisie usurped power from the poor peasants and workers it pretended to represent, and has since then been wielding power with their manufactured consent. But to manufacture and keep this consent they had to make concessions. These led to some of the major changes demanded by the bourgeois revolution, but also prevented a complete combined revolution. At the same time a huge portion of the Indian subcontinent in Pakistan was thrown open to foreign imperialism and left perennially hostage to semi-feudal relics from the past. In other words, Indian independence in 1947 appears in many ways to be a deformed Socialist revolution, stunted at the democratic level. It has allowed the Indian bourgeoisie to become obscenely rich, and to bask in wealth and power nationally and internationally, while the masses of South Asia who create all its wealth languish in desperate poverty and crushing backwardness.

On the 71st anniversary of Comrade Leon Trotsky’s martyrdom

– Aayan Golzar

There is an oft quoted phrase that, “You can jail the revolutionary, but you can’t jail the revolution. You can kill the freedom fighter but you can’t kill the fight for freedom”. On the 71st anniversary of Trotsky’s assassination, these words ring more true than ever. All over the world today, there are revolutionary mobilizations breaking out, fromIndia in the east, through the Arab world tillEurope in the west. Not even the great citadel of world imperialism that is theUSA is spared the growing wrath of its working class who has now emerged after decades of hibernation. The Wisconsin struggle is indicative of just that! Though the great revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky was martyred on this day in 1940, his ideas remain an inspiration and the revolutionary spirit which he and the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin, had ignited in 1917, remain strong and immortal. Though Comrade Trotsky is no longer with us in body, he is with us in spirit, and his spirit lives in the multitudes that have come out in struggle all over the world.

71 years ago on this day in the year 1940, an agent of the NKVD assassinated Leon Trotsky, who was then the leader of the 4th international which he had founded merely a year before. The attack was made under Stalin’s orders and was part of his plan to destroy the last remaining great Bolshevik leader of the Russian revolution. This move was aimed at simultaneously destroying the 4th international internationally and paving the way for the continuance of the Stalinist counter revolution in the USSR. Even though the Stalinist bureaucracy succeeded in its immediate aims, they could not hold back the rising tide of world revolution world over. The Soviet Union would have long been destroyed by the policies of the Stalinists who were in bed with the likes of Hitler before the 2nd world war.  Throughout the decade of the 1930s the bureaucracy carried out a systematic purge of the best officers of the Red Army and subjected it to the most insidious kind of corruption. The trend of undermining the Soviet Union reached a high point with Stalin signing the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler. This led to the Soviet Union lowering its guard against the Nazis and letting the German war machinery literally roll over Eastern Europe up to Russia’s border. But despite all of this the workers state withstood the force of reaction. The Red Army which Comrade Trotsky had created for the defense of the Russian revolution and to fight through the civil war ultimately prevailed. With the victory of the Soviet Union and the expansion of the Russian revolution throughout Eastern Europe, the peoples of Asia rose up in struggle and overthrew the rule of the bourgeois in China, Vietnam and Korea within the same decade of the 40s. In India the workers and peasants were able to throw out the British colonialists, due in no small part to the efforts of the BLPI *(The Indian section of the 4th international) who led the naval mutiny. All of these victories were achieved despite of the hardcore counter-revolutionary leaderships the working class and its allies got throughout Asia and Europe. Even though the organization of revolution and that of the 4th international was undermined by severe repression from the forces of counter revolution, be it from imperialism, Stalinism or Fascism, the forces of Bolshevism under the 4th international fought for the world revolution and held high the banner of a Socialist revolution.

Many would be quick to point out the collapse of the 4th international in the decades to follow the 2nd world war and the continued existence of Bolshevism as a ‘fringe’ in the spectrum of the left, to mock and undermine the great sacrifice of Trotsky, and Bolsheviks world over. For them the notion of victory itself is so narrow that they could never comprehend of the high principled beliefs of Bolshevik revolutionaries’ world over. Our victory is not the victory of the party alone, nor of the 4th international or one of its sections winning an election. Bolshevism triumphs when the working class triumphs. The triumph of Bolshevism is the triumph of revolution. The True victory of Bolshevism is the victory of the revolutionary proletariat and its allies in achieving Socialism. Where ever there is a struggle for Socialism, there will be the forces of Bolshevism actively working towards aiding that struggle. Where ever there is the revolutionary proletariat, there will stand the 4th international and the force of Bolshevism fighting to lead it towards revolution. We are led in spirit by the principles of Bolshevism which were expressed through the work of Leon Trotsky and the sacrifices he and the Bolsheviks made for the World Socialist revolution. The principles of revolutionary internationalism, of worker’s democracy, and the permanent revolution!

The greatest obstacle as comrade Trotsky had pointed out in the transitional programme was that of absence of revolutionary leadership. This is truer than ever in this century. Our supreme task today presents itself in rebuilding the shattered organization of the world party of revolution that is the 4th international. On this 71st anniversary of Comrade Leon Trotsky’s martyrdom, let us all make a pledge to hold high the banner of revolutionary struggle and join in whole heartedly to the task facing us, that of rebuilding the 4th international !

Long live Leon Trotsky!

Long live Bolshevism!

Onwards to the Permanent Revolution!

Rebuild the 4th international!

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