V: Transition

After his expulsion from the French Communist Party (PCF) in 1924, Rosmer was involved in the launching of La Révolution prolétarienne, adopting the label of ‘Syndicalist Communist’, thus showing his continuing loyalty to the traditions of both Bolshevism and French trade unionism. To some extent in this period, Rosmer was clearly disoriented, unsure as to whether the Russian Revolution was merely temporarily on the wrong road or irrevocably lost. But precisely because of this, his writings provide valuable evidence of how the degeneration of the revolution was perceived by an authentic revolutionary; his 1926 judgement preferring Stalin to Zinoviev acquires tragic irony in retrospect. Two major articles from 1925 and 1926 represent this period.

The best overall treatment of Rosmer’s expulsion from the PCF is the 32-page pamphlet La République prolétarienne: Supplément au numéro 2: L’Exclusion du PCF de Rosmer, Monatte, Delagarde: Articles de Rosmer dans la ‘Révolution prolétarienne’ (Jan/May 1925) autour de la question du parti. See also A Rosmer, P Monatte and V Delagarde, ‘Open Letter to Members of the PCF’, from Cahiers du Bolchevisme, no 4, 12 December 1924, in H Gruber (ed), Soviet Russia Masters the Comintern, New York, 1974, pp61-6.

Other accounts of this period include Jedermann, ‘L’Exclusion de Monatte et de Rosmer’, et ‘La Lutte ouverte contre le “trotskysme”’, in La ‘Bolchevisation’ du PCF 1923-1928, Paris, 1971, pp70-83; E Fabrol, ‘Le PCF et Trotsky’, Prométhée, no 1, summer 1989, pp3-9, 19; E Fabrol, ‘L’Antichambre du stalinisme’, Prométhée, no 3, December 1989/January 1990, pp3-9. There is a general account of the opposition of Souvarine, Rosmer, etc, to Trotsky’s condemnation, in Helmut Gruber (ed), Soviet Russia Masters the Comintern, New York, 1974, pp28-33.

On Trotsky’s position, see LD Trotsky, ‘A Statement on Monatte and Rosmer’, 8 September 1925, The Challenge of the Left Opposition, 1923-1925, New York, 1975, pp316-8, and LD Trotsky, ‘Problems of the Comintern’, 18 January 1927, The Challenge of the Left Opposition, 1926-1927, New York, 1980, p203 (on the expulsion of Monatte and Rosmer from the PCF).

Alfred Rosmer

About the Final ‘Warning’ Given to Trotsky

The Myth of Trotskyism[1]

I

F it was possible, when the crisis erupted within the Russian Communist Party last winter, to wonder what it really meant and where it might lead to, today such doubt is no longer possible.

After a lull that was more apparent than real, at the first opportunity, at the first pretext, the discussion has resumed with increased brutality, and the aim of Trotsky’s opponents has been starkly revealed by the resolution — monstrous but hybrid, mean-minded, contradictory, incoherent, the model of a vulgar polemic — which was voted almost unanimously by the Central Committee on 17 January.

Now that we have had more than a year to follow and judge events, everyone can see the successive phases of the campaign being waged against Trotsky, and draw out its meaning.

For the conflict which broke out in the autumn of 1923 must not be reduced to a clash of personalities, or a quarrel between leaders: if it is about individuals, it is even more about the methods which these individuals represent.

To begin with, it was said that it was merely a temporary difference, which could easily be settled. Nonetheless, the turn which the discussion took showed the aim being pursued; this was not to concentrate all efforts and pool forces in order to resolve the crisis which was appearing brutally and dangerously in the country, but to block Trotsky’s influence. When we said so at the time, and we claimed that what was wanted was to get rid of Trotsky, and, at the same time, to get rid of the methods he advocated, we were told: ‘What nonsense! Who could dream of attacking Trotsky and detracting from his rôle? His strength is necessary for the revolution.’ Zinoviev himself stated: ‘Trotsky is mistaken, but his cooperation is indispensable. We cannot conceive of the Political Bureau without him. He remains one of the most authoritative leaders.’

Now today, less than a year after such statements — which were made insincerely, because they were necessary to delude the mass of workers — it appears that after all Trotsky can very well be done without, and that his cooperation is so little indispensable that he has been excluded from the Commissariat of War with which he was so fully identified. As for being a highly qualified leader, we are told that he is a Menshevik, who wants to revise Leninism, to substitute ‘Trotskyism’ for Leninism; he is said to be the hope of the counter-revolution, and that ‘the social fascists[2] of Avanti,[3] the mercenaries of the German bourgeoisie on Vorwärts, the Renaudels and Grumbachs of the Quotidien,[4] etc, are seeking to make common cause with him’. (This is said in so many words in the Central Committee’s resolution.)

Doubtless in the intervening period, Trotsky’s enemies have not remained inactive. They have manoeuvred endlessly, striving to conceal the real issues with various expedients. They have revived all the old internal discussions in the Russian party, and thrown them into the International. They are piling up article on article and resolution on resolution. The purpose of all this is to create such an atmosphere that when a meeting or congress is held, it is no longer free to discuss or to express its thought. The unanimity which is sought at any price, and which is obtained, is manifested in discontent, muffled criticisms and unease.

The origin of this serious conflict is from now on completely out of sight. It is buried and has disappeared beneath a heap of texts of all sorts. It is worth trying to dig it out and reconstruct it. That leads straightaway to the heart of things, to the reality of the crisis.

The 1923 Discussion, its Origin and its Causes

How did the 1923 discussion arise? Was it in an arbitrary and artificial manner because it suited a comrade who spoke with great authority to stir up a real upheaval in the party? By no means. The discussion was provoked by two causes which were profound and all too visible: the economic situation in the country (the condition of the workers and peasants), and the state of the party.

The economic situation was serious, and was causing acute discontent among both workers and peasants. Workers received their wages weeks and even months late, in a currency which was losing value every day. There were strikes, and even strikes led by Communists, by party members. The peasants could not buy anything because of the ridiculous ratio between the price of grain and that of manufactured objects. According to a sound Leninist method, Trotsky characterised this crisis by a striking image, that of the scissors whose blades are opened as wide as possible and which at all costs must be brought closer together. Thereafter everyone had this image before his eyes; all attention was constantly directed to this vital problem, and all wills exerted themselves in trying to solve it.

Trotsky indicated his solutions: the concentration of industry for a better organisation of factories and higher output, and a state plan to replace chaos with order and method.

Within the party, the ill lay in the extreme passivity of the members, and in the worrying bureaucratic development which resulted from this.

These are unquestioned and unquestionable facts.

A Picture of the Russian CP in 1923

The passivity reigning among the members and throughout the party bodies was such that one of the qualified leaders of the party denounced it in these terms at the general meeting of one of the largest branches in Moscow:

Comrades, it seems to me to be indispensable to draw a concrete picture of the concerns perturbing our party. There is no point speaking here of a priori premises, of differentiation, etc, etc: we must clearly pose the question of the origin of what is tormenting the body of our party and of the source of the discontent of the bulk of non-party workers, a discontent which we must all take into account, from the CC to the bureaux of the party cells: a countless number of faults have provoked a certain state of semi-crisis within our party, a state which is obvious above all as a result of the economic crisis which our country is currently passing through; these faults can all be classified under specific headings.

What is the root of the problem? Observe the life of a party cell, and, to begin with, the mechanics of how it works, for each cell has its own. To judge by the Moscow organisation, cell secretaries are normally appointed by district committees, and note that the districts don’t even try to get their candidates accepted by these cells, but simply appoint such and such a comrade. Generally, votes are taken according to a method accepted once and for all. The meeting is asked: ‘Who is against?’, and as people are more or less afraid to declare themselves opposed, the appointed candidate becomes elected secretary of the committee of the group. If we were to do a survey to establish how many times the voting has consisted of the questions ‘Who is for?’ and ‘Who is against?’, we should observe without difficulty that among us, in most cases, the elections of party officials are purely passive, because not only does the voting take place without prior discussion, but also according to the formula ‘who is against?’; and since one is not well looked on if one speaks against the ‘hierarchy’, the affair is settled automatically.

Now let’s speak of our party meetings; how are they conducted? I have myself spoken more than once in numerous meetings in Moscow, and I know how so-called discussion is practised in our party organisations: elections for the chairing of the meeting. One of the members from the district committee presents their list and asks: ‘Who is against?’ Nobody is against, of course, and the matter is settled. The same comrade then declares the bureau unanimously elected. After that comes the agenda; same procedure. In the course of recent years I can only remember isolated and extremely rare cases where the party meetings added new points to the agenda. In general the meeting finishes with the reading of a resolution prepared in advance, which is adopted as the rules require. The chair again asks: ‘Who is against?’, and nobody is against. The resolution is adopted unanimously. This is how our party organisations normally function. So how can we fail to understand those of our most active elements when they express their dissatisfaction about this question, for they cannot be content with such a way of operating.

Very often the lower layers of our organisations even put up the barrier: ‘No discussion’, ‘Who is against?’, etc, and this system reduces the internal life of the party to nothing. It goes without saying that the result is a great wave of discontent. I have quoted a few examples taken from our internal cells; the same thing can be observed in somewhat modified forms in all the other sections of the party hierarchy.[5]

Who spoke these words? Was it Trotsky or some other member of the opposition? No, it was Bukharin.[6]

The remedy is an unremitting struggle against the pernicious bureaucratism which is atrophying the party and degenerating it; it is the establishment of democracy in the party which will restore life and activity in all the party bodies, from top to bottom, and will enable the party to remain equal to its enormous task. That is what Trotsky is pointing to. Is anyone in disagreement? Nobody. Quite the contrary; they are arguing about who said it first. Everyone claims to have discovered it before Trotsky, and everybody is talking about the need for a radical change, a ‘New Course’ — to use Trotsky’s term — a new orientation. I could give 10 typical quotations. A single one will suffice. It is taken from Pravda’s reply, and is formulated as follows:

We don’t know a single member of the Central Committee who, in the course of the discussions, did not declare himself in agreement with the critique of the ‘old orientation’, a critique which the Central Committee resolution contains first and foremost. Trotsky could not name a single member of the CC who spoke in favour of the ‘old orientation’.

On 5 December, the Central Committee voted unanimously for a resolution embodying the new course.

The discussion should therefore have stopped at this point. Nonetheless, it was to resume with new enthusiasm and in the form of a violent polemic after the publication of a letter from Trotsky (written on 8 December, but which appeared in Pravda only on 11 December). Why? That is the question we have asked here, and to which we can find no reply. We did indeed believe that our comrade had not written his letter lightly, without serious reasons. But we could not discover these reasons. A comrade who is well known in the workers’ movement, and who led the fight for the opposition in a Moscow branch, has explained them to me.

The bureaucratic apparatus of the party, defeated and censured, was obliged to accept the Central Committee resolution. But it was already contemplating revenge. It immediately went out into the Moscow party branches and, taking on the job of publicising the CC resolution itself, it clearly showed its determination, not to implement it, but to bury it. Trotsky, informed of this sabotage which was endangering all the gains made in the discussion and the ‘New Course’ itself, decided to denounce it without delay. Being sick, he could not visit the branches. He wrote a letter which he demanded should be published in Pravda. Immediately the debate moved onto a completely new path.

Trotsky showed in his letter how and in what circumstances the old generation could degenerate. The old guard of the party, or more precisely the troika[7] took this suggestion of the danger of degeneration as a reference aimed at itself. Wounded, it lost its coolness and all sense of proportion. From this point on, it completely abandoned the object of the discussion, although this was of capital importance, and launched into a bitter polemic against Trotsky who, out of action due to illness, had to stand by impotently and watch the ‘monstrous distortion’ of what he thought and what he had written, and found himself prevented from bringing the debate back to its proper ground. Everything was discussed: factions, relations between old and young, and even a so‑called plot to arrest Lenin…

The bureaucrats were saved, and the ‘New Course’ was buried.

The Scissors

The debate on the economic crisis took on a less harsh turn. Just as the remedy to the crisis of the party proposed by Trotsky was accepted by the Central Committee in its entirety, so those he proposed to overcome the economic crisis did not find any opponents. Everybody recognised the necessity to concentrate industry and to draw up a general plan for production. Once these principles had been accepted, it remained only to undertake their practical application urgently. It did not seem that there was any cause there for violent controversy.

So why did the discussion drag on and on? Because while it was not possible to make a frontal attack on the essential principles of the necessary improvement of production, it was very possible to obstruct their application. Some did it by local demagogy; others by idleness, by inertia, or by routine. Now Trotsky wanted to achieve something. He was an embarrassment to them all. Hence the furious attacks against him and, as always when bad causes are being defended, the radical distortion of his thought and his proposals.

It is well known how this first phase of the debate ended. The opposition was, to begin with, very strong, and it controlled Moscow; it was undermined and then progressively weakened as the debate shifted away from the questions which had given rise to it and on to others which had been artificially raised and pushed to the fore. The International was mobilised. The recalcitrant branches, which refused to declare themselves blindly on key questions of which they knew little or nothing, had their meetings disrupted. Emissaries from Zinoviev were given this responsibility. By shouting very loudly ‘Down with factionalism!’, they manufactured factions. It was a golden age for narrow-minded and vulgar careerists who poisoned the working-class movement in the postwar period, and thus had the possibility of pushing themselves into the front ranks.

The Russian party, at its Thirteenth Congress, condemned the opposition as Menshevik, petit-bourgeois, counter-revolutionary, etc. The Communist International did the same at its Fifth Congress. There was no longer any mention of the original problem, of the observations on which, at the outset, everyone had been in agreement. Lenin’s death, which occurred in the thick of the debate, enabled them to be shoved into the background. The disappearance of the unchallenged leader of the revolution had brought the party 200 000 new members, workers. There was no longer any need to be concerned about the apparatus. In the economic sphere it had been possible, by means of short-term solutions, to achieve a temporary abatement of the crisis which was consolidated by monetary reform, with the essential result of a relative stabilisation of the cost of living. But a quotation will suffice to show that the problem of production remains entirely unresolved to this very day. It is, moreover, only too clear that a short-sighted policy will not enable it to be resolved.

The general situation has, in fact, just been characterised as follows by Rykov in his report to the Sixth Congress of the Trade Unions of the USSR in Moscow:

Our industry cannot at present satisfy the peasant market. There is a shortage of commodities. The remedy must be an expansion of industrial production. This may be insufficient, because of the weakness of our resources. Therefore this year, as last year, we may have to use part of our gold currency reserves for purchases abroad. Last year, we bought cotton. Other purchases will have to be made this year. Finally, if industry does not develop fast enough, we can envisage for a certain period the introduction of some foreign goods. This question is under consideration.[8]

This brief summary includes all the essential facts, and allows us to discover the origin of the crisis, to follow its development, and to draw out the characteristics of the two groups which formed. The one group, out of laziness, demagogy and routinism — for there is already a very dangerous governmental routine — advocates and defends superficial, short-term solutions which will be valid for a week or a month. To supplement their inadequacy, they will resort to the usual means at the disposal of any government. The others want to attack the problem frontally, following Lenin’s example. They are proposing radical measures, asking that they should be considered, and that they should be discussed with the intention of applying the decisions taken, and are calling on the entire party to put them into practice and to explain them to the workers and peasants, seeking above all to convince, and resorting to constraint only when persuasion has failed. That is also the example left by Lenin.

Behind all the noise of the debate, two concepts were coming into conflict. And if the workers were immediately sympathetic to the opposition, it is because they felt that the opposition expressed their aspirations to active participation in Soviet life.

Trotsky, for his part, has always been deeply aware of the necessity for serious achievements in the sphere of production. He faced up to the fundamental problems of the revolution. He concerned himself with the individual, family and social life of men, women and children.

It is an extraordinary thing that it is precisely for this that he is criticised. It is claimed that it is too early, that the time has not yet come for such achievements to be envisaged, that the revolution must still above all think about its defence, and devote all its strength to it.

Those who speak like this, who do not understand that the best way of defending the revolution is to consolidate it, and to ensure that its base becomes every day broader and more solid, are party people wrapped up in politics in the narrow meaning of the word. The party naturally plays a major rôle, especially in Russia, but for the revolution to survive, the trade unions must also exist and be capable of carrying out their functions, and the soviets likewise. Otherwise a dangerous distortion will erupt inside the party itself, which will no longer have any real life, and will fall into the passive state described by Bukharin, and finally find itself reduced to being nothing more than its own apparatus.

A few years ago, when these questions could be discussed in the International, when the respective rôles of the party, the unions and the soviets were considered, we generally came to the conclusion that the party seemed to be the most temporary organism, and that it was either the soviets or the unions which would take on the dominant rôle in the building of Communist society.

With Lenin, who was so attentive to reality and to revolutionary necessities, a balance was established between these different forces.

Now the party people have come out on top, and their day‑to‑day policies have triumphed. They manufacture congresses and unanimous decisions with great dexterity. Anyone who resists is immediately discredited as being right-wing, Menshevik, petit-bourgeois, (objectively) counter-revolutionary, etc. But where, in all this, is Communism?

October

Beaten at his party congress, beaten at the congress of the Comintern — the French ‘old Bolsheviks’ were there to add insult to injury — Trotsky nonetheless continued his work in the Political Bureau, in the Council of Labour and Defence, and in his Commissariat of War, carrying out his responsibilities with the high conscientiousness which characterises him, and nonetheless finding time to prepare and deliver, to various congresses and meetings, substantial speeches on the international situation and on various domestic questions.

Never had his authority been greater. There was even something exceptional and moving in the welcome he received as soon as he appeared at a meeting. It seemed as if the workers, obliged to condemn him by the party machine, were insisting on affirming loud and clear that they still considered him as their guide. The delegates to the congress of the Comintern were somewhat surprised by the demonstrative testimonies of loyalty which stressed a serious fact: the divorce between the party leadership and the rank and file. The French, embarrassed and disturbed in their ‘Bolshevik’ zeal, went to ask Stalin for an explanation…

Trotsky submitted to the party’s decision. He had not admitted his errors — as L’Humanité claimed, dishonestly, as though by chance — since he had not committed any. He considered the debate closed, and it can easily be understood that he had no desire to reopen it. After his defeat, the opposition had been decimated, and its most representative figures were dispersed to the four corners of Russia and of the world. Nobody had any interest in reopening the discussion, and Trotsky less than anyone else. Moreover, it could be rightly thought that the facts would be stronger than anything, and that they would do the job of modifying the absurd positions adopted in the course of the debate. Rykov’s statement, taking up a suggestion made by Ossinsky, is a striking example of this.

But The Lessons of October appeared, and genuine fury was unleashed by the troika. The book was a collection of studies and former articles by Trotsky, and was hence all material that was already known. Even the notorious Introduction merely took up ideas already expressed by Trotsky in the party press without having given rise to any scandal.

In fact, if Trotsky had completely ceased hostilities, it was not the same in the case of his opponents. They had pursued their campaign methodically and by use of insinuation. First of all, there had been a pamphlet by Kanachikov, entitled History of a Deviation. When this was mentioned to the Russian comrades, they said in embarrassment: ‘Don’t talk about it. It was a mistake. We’re going to withdraw it from sale.’ At that very moment, it was being reprinted. Then a special journal was set up to prove that Trotsky had never been a Communist. They noted in great detail all his disagreements with Lenin, and all the sentences that Lenin had been able to write against him since 1903. The two men had also been in agreement at times, in particular at decisive moments; of these no more mention was made.

The ground was well prepared and when The Lessons of October appeared, they seized the unexpected opportunity frenetically. They could not have imagined such a splendid excuse!

Trotsky had edited his book and written his Introduction with the sole concern of drawing out the lessons of the Russian October for Communists in all countries. At the time of the Fifth Congress of the Comintern, during an interview with Spanish comrades, he had already dealt with this subject. In his view, since the war, revolution had come knocking at the door in three countries: Russia in 1917, Italy in September 1920, and Germany in 1923. This made one victory and two defeats. Why? It was a problem, the greatest of all, which must be studied seriously. He also spoke that evening about American imperialism, not merely in order to note its increased strength, but to show the weak points where it could be hurt, and to draw out in detail a practical task for the Spanish comrades: liaison with Communists speaking the same language in South America, where the United States was in process of establishing its influence.

In writing his Introduction, he knew very well that he would offend the Russian comrades who did not share his evaluation of the situation in Germany, while agreeing with him on domestic questions. He was therefore disarming himself in advance in the face of the troika. That should suffice to show that there was no trace of calculation or manoeuvring in the publication of his book.

He was the first to be astounded by the furious attack that was unleashed. Admittedly, the account of the events which led to the Russian October scarcely showed Kamenev and Zinoviev in a favourable light. But is that any reason to abandon study of this period? And did they treat Trotsky tactfully when, in order to attack him immoderately, they had first monstrously to falsify his thought, words and writings?

But once again the opportunity was too good; it was what Zinoviev had hoped for, and he grabbed it and decided to clinch his victory. On this ground, Trotsky would be isolated, and could be destroyed. The first debate paled into insignificance alongside that which was going to begin, in which, moreover, Zinoviev and his friends would be the only ones to speak. Trotsky gave the reasons for his silence in the letter which we publish below.[9] They now said what they had hitherto not dared to say. In the field of military organisation, he seemed to be untouchable. He had always been presented as the man who had saved Petrograd from Yudenich, and who had raised, equipped and trained the victorious Red Army. Now all this was dismissed as mythical. The victories against Kolchak, Denikin, Yudenich, etc, had apparently been won, not by him, but against him. It was Stalin who said so. It was Gussiev who wrote it, in a pamphlet secretly prepared months previously, and served up at the appropriate moment.

These characteristics suffice to indicate the fury of the attack. As far as the position of Zinoviev and Kamenev was concerned, it was Bukharin who took on the job of justifying it. He did so in an anonymous and embarrassed reply in Pravda, which understandably he was not keen to sign. It was only, he claimed, a secondary disagreement lasting a few days, and, moreover, the comrades had recognised their mistake. And he entitled his reply ‘How Not to Write the History of October’. If he had been the only historian of October, we should have a very poor history. Does he think we are so ignorant? Enough documents have already been published for us to be quite certain about the nature and duration of this disagreement. There were others, which he knows about and which we know about too. And he knows very well that Lenin always said that this disagreement was no accident.[10]

As for the way in which Kamenev has recognised his error of 1917, our position is confirmed by the statement he made four years later, at the time of the adoption of the NEP by the party, when he said: ‘Well, weren’t we right in October?’

Lenin and Trotsky

In accordance with the usual tactic, the debate was shifted onto different ground, that of the disagreements between Lenin and Trotsky.

But even if the former controversies are recalled, it merely brings out the fact that they did not prevent the two men from working together and collaborating closely throughout the period of the revolution. This collaboration is not spoken of. However, it is more relevant than what can be discovered in trawling through the archives.

It is well known what importance Lenin attached to the national question. He brought it to the fore as early as the Second Congress of the Comintern. In 1923, various events had put this question on the agenda of the Russian Communist Party. Out of action due to illness, Lenin was nonetheless following the debate closely. Fearing that he would be unable to intervene himself, he thought about who could replace him. To whom did he turn? To Trotsky. He did so in the following terms:

5 March 1923

Dear Comrade Trotsky

It is my earnest request that you should undertake the defence of the Georgian case in the party CC. This case is now under ‘prosecution’ by Stalin and Dzerzhinsky, and I cannot rely on their impartiality. Quite to the contrary. I would feel at ease if you agreed to undertake its defence.[11]

I am reproducing this document because it is in the public domain. There are others. All indicate the absolute confidence shown by Lenin in Trotsky and the agreement between the two men on all essential current questions. Moreover, is it not a fact known by everyone in Russia that Lenin, prevented from working by ill-health, insisted that Trotsky should take his place on the Council of People’s Commissars and in the Council of Labour and Defence?

Revolutionary Perspectives and Revision of Leninism

The question of revolutionary perspectives is not a new one. Obviously it was constantly on the agenda of the International. Trotsky often dealt with it — at the Third and Fourth Congresses of the Comintern, when he was appointed to report back by the Russian party, and then, more recently, in various speeches and writings.

Those who wish to know Trotsky’s thought before they criticise it can take the trouble to read these texts — they have almost all been published in French; they will be struck by two things. First of all, there is an absolute continuity in the point of view. What Trotsky said in 1924 is what he said in 1921, in 1922, in full agreement with Lenin. Then they can grasp in action the way in which his thought is being distorted, on this point as on others. If there has been a revision of Leninism, they will see who is doing the revising.

The Third Congress of the Comintern met just after the insurrection of March 1921 in Germany. At the time, in relation to this insurrection, there existed in various sections of the International a strong tendency in favour of the tactic of the offensive at any price. Lenin and Trotsky considered this tactic extremely dangerous for the labour movement in all countries, with the sole result that leading Communist parties would be periodically massacred and decimated. They were instructed by the Russian party to oppose it exhaustively at the congress.[12] After debate, they had their position adopted: the so-called tactic of the offensive was definitively rejected.

Returning to this question in the course of a debate during the Fourth Congress, Trotsky expressed himself as follows:

I welcome the opportunity… to oppose — most resolutely — the mechanical, fatalistic and non-Marxist conception of revolutionary development which continues, despite the truly salutary work of the Third World Congress, to find a haven in the minds of some people, obviously convinced that they are Lefts.

At the Third World Congress, we were told that the economic crisis would endure without interruption and get worse until the proletariat seized power. This mechanistic outlook was at the bottom of the revolutionary optimism of certain ‘Lefts’. When we explained that conjunctural ups and downs are inevitable in the world economy, and that it is necessary to foresee them and take them into account tactically, these comrades imagined that we were engaged in a revision of well-nigh the entire programme and tactic of the International. In reality, we were engaged only in a ‘revision’ of certain prejudices.

The practical consequence of this evaluation was as follows:

For us the bourgeoisie is not a stone dropping into an abyss, but a living historical force which struggles, manoeuvres, advances now on its right flank, now on its left. And only provided we learn to grasp politically all the means and methods of bourgeois society so as each time to react to them without hesitation or delay, shall we succeed in bringing closer that moment when we can, with a single confident stroke, actually hurl the bourgeoisie into the abyss.

At this time — November 1922 — Trotsky foresaw the coming to power of the Labour Party in Britain[13] and the Left Bloc[14] in France. It seems that his opponents resent the fact that he foresaw exactly what was to happen in these two countries, and to attack him they assert that he stated that this reformist era would last for a long time. Now here is what he said on the subject:

In power, Clynes[15] or Caillaux-Blum[16] or Turati[17] would not be able to pursue a policy essentially different from the policy of Lloyd George, Bonar Law,[18] Poincaré or even Mussolini. But when they come to power the position of the bourgeoisie will be rendered even more difficult, even more inextricable than it is today. Their complete political bankruptcy — provided, naturally, we pursue correct tactics, that is, revolutionary, resolute and at the same time flexible tactics — can become laid utterly bare in a very brief span of time. In a ruined and completely disorganised capitalist Europe after the illusions of war and victory, the pacifist illusions and the reformist hopes can come only as the ephemeral illusions of the death agony of the bourgeoisie.[19]

The same debate is beginning again today, but with the key difference in the outcome that now it is the ‘ultra-lefts’ who are coming out on top, those ‘ultra-lefts’ who were defeated at the Third and Fourth Congresses of the Comintern, and who were more roughly treated by Lenin than by anyone else.

Trotsky persists in the method which consists of analysing the situation precisely and in detail, of determining the various trends working within the bourgeoisie, and of taking account of the facts so as to be in a position to elaborate the appropriate tactic for the struggle.

Now the two major facts dominating the present situation are the failure of October 1923 in Germany, and the massive development of American imperialism and the end of its policy of observation with regard to Europe.

For the ultra-lefts, these facts are unimportant. To take note of them implies that one no longer believes in the Revolution. It is enough to ignore them and to proceed by unsupported assertions. A revolutionary wave has been broken in Germany: so we must say that we are closer than ever to the Revolution. As for American imperialism, it is a harmless apparition which will soon vanish of its own accord. Everything that is not Communist is fascist. The practical conclusion from these maunderings is that there is no other tactic but the putsch. All forms of positive, fruitful work which prepare the working class for the struggle and arm it solidly against the bourgeoisie are sabotaged, for example, the action taken to achieve trade union unity. This self-styled Leninism is the most vulgar, clownish parody of Leninism. It is a simplified Communism, for the use of unsophisticated robots. And even if that is not the conscious intention, it can lead to nothing other than a putsch.[20]

The leadership of the Comintern seems to be aware of this danger. It wants to put on the brakes. But it is too late. It has been outflanked by the ‘ultra-lefts’ which it was responsible for putting in the leadership of its own sections. And the language it speaks is not always very different from theirs.

So who, on this key point, has revised Leninism? Who has provoked a brutal split in the tactic of the International? Who disowned the position taken by Lenin and Trotsky at the Third and Fourth Congresses? Who destroyed the fruitful work of these congresses?

One of the most notorious ‘ultra-lefts’, Béla Kun, was so roughly treated by Lenin at the Third Congress that it was believed that his rôle in the International was finished. He was definitively discredited. Now not only did he reappear at the Fifth Congress, but the leadership of the Comintern went so far as to give him the job of explaining what is Leninism, and producing propaganda for it!

Before closing this section on revolutionary perspectives, I want to give a short extract from a speech Sokolnikov has just delivered in Moscow on this subject. Sokolnikov is an opponent of Trotsky. He spoke as follows:

When studying the present situation in Europe, it must be said that in the countries of Central Europe there has been a lull, which means an undoubted setback for the possibility of the proletariat seizing power. Until now, as a result of the antagonism prevailing between Germany on the one hand and France on the other, the situation was such in Central Europe, that it appeared that power could pass immediately into the hands of the proletariat. Now that there has been a temporary agreement between France and Germany, not only has the latter country’s currency been stabilised, but also its entire economic situation, which has been followed by a certain industrial recovery. Wages are rising and workers, weary of the struggle, are repeating: ‘We shall wait and see what we get from the Dawes Plan;[21] perhaps we shall eat bread with butter on it, whereas hitherto we have eaten only crusts.’ Thus there has been a certain relaxation of tension in Central Europe; the differences between Germany and France have been temporarily assuaged, and as a result the hopes of a revolution in Germany are on the retreat.

If Sokolnikov were a member of the French Communist Party, it is certain that as soon as he had spoken those words he would have been expelled as a Menshevik, a defeatist, a right-winger, etc.

As soon as you abandon the territory of hysterical demagogy, you speak as Trotsky does. But the conditions in which you do so deprive this belated agreement of any value. Only incoherence remains.

The Attitude of the Counter-Revolution to the Crisis

It is said that Trotsky, by his attitude, is giving weapons to the bourgeoisie against the Russian Revolution; the counter-revolution is making common cause with him. That is stated in the resolution of the Central Committee.

As soon as a crisis breaks out in Soviet Russia, it is clear that the bourgeoisie is rejoicing. Not having succeeded by armed intervention, it can expect deliverance only from internal struggles which will weaken and then endanger the revolution.

Hitherto, it has always been disappointed, because Soviet Russia has emerged from debates and crises stronger and more united. If today its hope persists, it is solely because the crisis is continuing, and because it is resulting in a division and dispersal of forces. Now the revolution cannot allow itself the luxury of squandering its forces. It will only triumph for as long as it succeeds in pulling them together. That is what we tried to say, in a resolution, early in 1924, and if there had been an International it would have said the same thing as we were saying. Those who didn’t want to use such language, and who demanded, on the contrary, that the International should endorse the division of forces, are entirely responsible for the present situation. It is their policies which are reviving and maintaining, among the counter-revolutionary forces, the hope which they had lost.

Two European journals, among the most dogged and persevering enemies of Soviet Russia, express this attitude very well. The Morning Post writes in its editorial of 20 January: ‘In the best interests of European civilisation it is, perhaps, a satisfaction to learn at last definitely that the triumvirate has won.’

It does not side with Trotsky, but with the troika against Trotsky, in ‘the interests of European civilisation’.

The Daily Mail [22] notes with joy, on the same date, that ‘Trotsky’s summary ejection from the office of Soviet War Commissar shows that if “dog does not eat dog”, Bolshevik devours Bolshevik’.

But what is much more serious than the bourgeoisie’s estimate of our disputes, about which it can understand nothing, is the fact that reformist newspapers can write that in Soviet Russia, in order to increase production, it has been necessary to introduce piece-work, that coal is piling up on the ground at the pit‑heads, that it is necessary to buy wheat abroad when it had been hoped to export it, that the number of unemployed is substantial, that the murders of party representatives by peasants are increasing in number, and that finally it has just been decided, in order to balance the budget, to re-establish the vodka monopoly — as in the days of Tsarism.[23]

That is what can impress workers. That is what makes a dangerous weapon in the hands of the reformists, and it is insane to believe that it is enough to deny these facts in order to suppress the danger which they represent.

Neither Trotskyism nor Trotskyists

Trotskyism was invented against Trotsky, in order to fight him. His opponents have drawn up a detailed list of all the controversies which took place between Lenin and him since 1903. In vain, Trotsky replies that all that has been settled, has only an historical interest, and that it caused no problems for collaboration after 1917. It cuts no ice. Long articles are devoted to the theory of Permanent Revolution, and it continues to be asserted that Trotsky underestimates the rôle of the peasantry. The first point only interests those who have spare time and an interest in historical research. The second, however, is so immediately relevant that there will certainly be an opportunity to return to it. Stalin has just drawn attention to its seriousness, by defending the political concessions made to the peasantry, against criticisms emanating from working-class quarters. The peasants are irritated by an unbearable and stupid bureaucratism, and they want to be able to buy the manufactured items which they need. In the last resort, we are thus brought back to the problem of production, and to the struggle against the bureaucrats in the apparatus whose ‘official optimism makes you feel sick’, to quote Stalin’s words. It therefore seems difficult to make Trotsky responsible for this state of affairs.

We decided to put on our journal[24] the double label ‘Communist Syndicalist’. At a time when the conceptions which were at the very foundation of the International have been called into question, it is a good thing to make one’s position clear.

We are not Trotskyists, since there is no such thing as ‘Trotskyism’, and I am quite sure that our ‘Communist Syndicalist’ position will not please Trotsky, and that he will criticise it severely.

We are not pessimists about the Russian Revolution and its propagation throughout the world. Even if the revolutionary upsurge has slowed down for a time in Europe, the influence of Soviet Russia in the East remains enormous and is increasing, and this significant fact continues to have ever more consequences.

But when our Russian comrades offer us nothing — us to whom they have given and taught so much — but a reminder of their old outdated polemics, plus the monopoly of vodka; when, at a time when a new offensive led by British imperialism is unleashed against Soviet Russia, they find nothing more urgent to do than to divide their forces and tear themselves to pieces; when, in the International, they want nothing but instruments to be manipulated, then we are alarmed. And there is no need to be a Trotskyist to think that such policies are a crime against the revolution.

Alfred Rosmer

The Congress of the Russian Communist Party

The Liquidation of ‘Putschism’[25]

W

HAT was this Fourteenth Congress of the Russian Communist Party going to be like? It was the third without Lenin, and the second held since his death. Would it be a peaceful congress, with no opposition, which would have confined itself to noting the improvement in the general situation in Soviet Russia and congratulating itself on generalised Bolshevisation? Perhaps that is what was expected, both among members of the Communist parties and in bourgeois circles, for, contrary to what had occurred before the Thirteenth Congress, no debate or disagreement had appeared in public, and the various caravans of tourists who had ‘done’ Russia in 20 days during the autumn had, of course, seen nothing of the conflict which was smouldering.

It didn’t take long for them to find out, and the bourgeoisie, which had hoped for nothing, was fully satisfied. It had abundant material for sinister predictions and sensational headlines: ‘Leningrad against Moscow’, ‘The Split in the Russian Communist Party’, ‘On the Eve of Thermidor’;[26] an oil magnate, the head of Royal Dutch,[27] ventured, once again, to predict the end of Bolshevism by… the end of the year.

The French ‘old Bolsheviks’ have nothing to say. Those who were so vociferous in denouncing Trotsky and the 1924 opposition have now fallen silent. The French party has not called for a condemnation of the ‘pessimism’, the ‘defeatism’, the ‘liquidationism’, or the ‘Axelrodism’[28] of Zinoviev and Kamenev. The Fourteenth Congress took place without any intervention on their part! But don’t imagine that they have at last acquired a sense of the ridiculous, and don’t worry about what they will do: whatever may happen, they will always be on ‘the winning side’, in Herclet’s words.

A year ago, there was no point debating. Everything was going well and getting better. The Russian Communist Party — without Lenin — was more solid than ever: it had recruited at one stroke more than 300 000 workers, at the same time as it was getting rid of the ‘Mensheviks’ of the opposition. An exceptional harvest brought prosperity, a very relative prosperity, but nonetheless prosperity in comparison with the past. In the International, we observed the spontaneous generation of ‘Old Bolsheviks’. Zinoviev had them mass-produced, just as he expounded 100 per cent Bolshevism (this fine formulation is his own) at the congress.

In the course of the congress debates, the internal life of the party leadership during the past year was suddenly revealed; the antagonisms which had emerged were laid bare: there was a clash of leaders and differences of opinion on the peasant question and on the NEP.

Clash of Leaders

Let us first dispose of the first point, which is of some importance, but which nonetheless remains secondary.

We now know that the resolution concerning Trotsky, voted on by the Central Committee on 17 January 1925, a monstrous resolution which we commented on as it deserved in no 2 of La Révolution prolétarienne,[29] was nonetheless adopted against Zinoviev’s wishes. He simply demanded that Trotsky should be expelled from the party. The majority of the Central Committee had not entirely lost their reason, and, despite the violence of the attack and the improbable accumulation of epithets and accusations against ‘Trotskyism’, rejected this demand. Zinoviev, by persisting, brought about the disruption of the troika. Why such persistence? Because Zinoviev wanted to take advantage of the unique opportunity to get rid of Trotsky, whose presence in the Russian party, and even more in the International, is an embarrassment to him. He wanted to be able to carry on as he pleased, and with total control, his policy of ‘Bolshevisation’, that is, of generalised putschism, and of ultra‑left ravings.

Before we finish with the troika, now dissolved, it is useful to characterise it in order to indicate the rôle it has played in the development of the Russian Communist Party. It had only a negative reason for existing, namely to prevent Trotsky from exercising a preponderant influence in the leadership of the party. Having achieved this aim, it was intended to disappear, and its very composition condemned it to a transitory existence. Kamenev is the typical right-winger. As early as 1920, at the Ninth Congress of the party, nobody wanted him in the Political Bureau any longer; Lenin had to use all his authority to obtain his election. Not that he himself did not consider Kamenev as a right-winger. On the contrary, he agreed with the unanimous view of the congress on the question. But he said: ‘It is precisely because Kamenev is on the right, as we all know, that he must be in the Political Bureau.’[30]

Zinoviev is the supreme demagogue, incapable of any constructive effort or of any organisational work. When the history of the Comintern is written, it will be seen that he bears the main responsibility for the lamentable way it has worked. Not up to his job, he is always careful to surround himself entirely with mediocrities, for fear of being eclipsed and… replaced. It was he who aroused and maintained for so long the distrust of syndicalists and serious militants with regard to the Comintern, by the way he shouted his mouth off in speeches marked equally by the absence of ideas and the triviality of form, revealing his total failure to understand the labour movement in Europe.

Stalin is a man of very different quality. His temperament and determination are those of a revolutionary. Little known outside of Russia, he himself has a poor knowledge of what is going on outside Russia. He is one of the rare Russian militants who speaks no foreign language. That sets limits on his activity, which is mainly confined to the Russian party. He is too much of a tactician and too much of an apparatus man for his politics to be of the sort that would reassure us, but that should not prevent us from recognising that he spoke to the congress in the language of a man who was aware of the necessities of the present moment, and who is anxious to create a collective leadership bringing together all the forces of the party.

This time it was impossible to achieve unanimity at the congress; they made up for it after the congress. Molotov writes triumphantly that all the cells in Leningrad have disavowed the delegation which claimed to represent them at the congress. What does that prove? Nothing, except that a small apparatus has been broken by a bigger apparatus.

The history of Socialist parties shows that such unanimity is fatal to the workers’ movement; it merely conceals divergences and real difficulties beneath an imposed agreement and optimism. It is stifling.

We did not approve of these methods at the time of the Thirteenth Congress; and we do not approve of them today. As long as they persist, it will be possible to say that the crisis provoked by the grave problems posed by the development of the revolution at the time of Lenin’s death is still continuing and is, in fact, getting worse. The firm, perceptive and courageous stance of Krupskaya, who refused, at both the Thirteenth and the Fourteenth Congresses, to associate herself with the pernicious practices of the leadership, is a sure indication that something is not working in the Russian Communist Party.

Perhaps the immediate consequences are not, so far, alarming. We can easily imagine the leadership of the RCP without Zinoviev and Kamenev, and the revolution unfolding without them, just as it went forward without them, and indeed against them, in October 1917. Moreover, the congress debates, and in particular Stalin’s reply evoking the internal life of the party leadership, have shown that in reality it is on the question of Bolshevisation, or rather Superbolshevisation, that Zinoviev has been beaten. It is because he was held in check on this question in the Central Committee of the RCP right through last year that he tried to take public revenge at the congress. Against the leadership of the party, within which his influence was continuing to decline under Stalin’s systematic attack, he mobilised Leningrad and stood up as the champion of workers’ democracy, pitilessly denouncing the unfortunate distortions of the NEP.

The Peasant Question

The central problem remains. There is something apparently paradoxical in the present situation of the Russian Revolution. We are told that progress in the economic sphere has been considerable, that the prewar level of production is about to be reached, that industry itself, which for so long lagged behind, has had a vigorous stimulus and that, in every branch of industry, it is hoped soon to exceed the figures for 1913. And all that is indubitably true. Why, then, can they not confine themselves to recording these results with pleasure and why are they required to pose, at this precise moment, the question on which the very future of the revolution depends? It is because production and Communism have not developed in parallel.

The harvest gets bigger from year to year, but, at the same time, the influence of the kulak increases in the countryside, because he produces the most grain, and because he is the best equipped with tools to produce it.

The same danger begins to appear in the towns. It is Zinoviev who has revealed it. He does so in the following terms:

The kulak has his complement in the town. This is: i) the Nepman; ii) the new bourgeoisie; iii) the upper layer of specialists which is becoming an ever more important element in our economy; iv) the upper layer of our two‑and‑a‑half million office workers, among whom there are naturally certain elements who tend towards an alliance with the kulak; v) some of the bourgeois intellectuals; vi) the whole international capitalist milieu which supports the kulak in every possible way.

This picture is perhaps not altogether accurate, or even complete. But even if we take it as it is, we can imagine the current danger.

The NEP meant an endless watchful struggle between the Soviet power and the small, medium and large capitalists who have again been allowed to live. It should have been a stimulus for the revolution which, for the first time, could embark on the gigantic task of reconstruction. But the first condition for this was that Soviet Russia should remain capable of dominating private enterprise and incorporating its profits. But if instead of this the NEP is biting away at the gains of the revolution and every day cutting in a little further, then the revolution is in danger.

In Lenin’s way of thinking, the NEP was intended to ensure a respite of three years of which the revolution would have to take advantage in order to be able subsequently to take a further step towards Communist construction. In 1924, the three years had passed. The time had come to draw up a balance-sheet of the ground covered, and to see how far they had come.

The NEP was in itself a retreat, since it was recognised that the Communists were unable to take in hand the whole problem of production, and since private enterprise was deliberately being given its place. But it was the correct policy for the time, because it reconciled revolutionary capacity with the present facts of reconstruction.

Moreover, it should not be imagined that everything went smoothly in establishing this new policy. Even when it was found to be theoretically correct, it was painful to see the reappearance of the profiteer, the capitalist, the merchant and the manufacturer, first of all timid, then ever bolder and with them the rottenness that the bourgeoisie carries with it, of which Soviet Russia had been cleansed.

For these reasons, a critical examination of the situation was required in 1924. But it did not take place. There had been an undeniable improvement in the material situation of the workers and peasants; the harvest, which promised to be excellent, was going to make things even better. But instead of going to the roots of the situation, they began to manufacture absurd theories; it was claimed that the NEP was Socialism; the real virtues of the NEP were forgotten, and it was claimed to have others which it certainly did not possess, and things ended up with Bukharin’s extraordinary ‘Enrich yourselves’,[31] which, to French ears above all, were such an unfortunate echo of M Guizot.[32]

How did they get to this position? It will perhaps be remembered that one of the ‘errors’ attributed to the 1924 oppositionists was an underestimation of the peasantry and the failure to understand the importance of the link between town and country, thus preventing the NEP from being put into practice among the peasants. Now this irrevocable condemnation had scarcely been pronounced before the appearance of a genuine revolt of the peasants against the measures and men of the centre. It was still the scissors problem,[33] and many others along with it, which was recurring. Everybody began writing about the peasant question, which they had said, and perhaps even believed, was solved. The slogan was launched: ‘Turn to the countryside!’ And, under the pressure of circumstances which they no longer controlled, they ended up where they were bound to end up, directing the policy of Soviet power towards the well-off peasant, and even to the kulak, and no longer towards the poor peasant. Concessions of all sorts were made; in particular the use of agricultural labour was permitted, thus creating a new category of wage-earners, agricultural day-labourers, and landless peasants, gathered around well-off peasants who, in certain cases, have succeeded in reconstituting their former estates and have become influential people in the countryside. And thereupon some Communists began to celebrate the ‘kulaks’, significant characters, since they produced more and in better conditions than the poor and middle peasants, and Bukharin declared: ‘Enrich yourselves!’

The Question of the Working Class

In industry, the situation remains different, since almost all large industry is in the hands of state companies, and concessions granted to foreign capitalists represent in total only a tiny proportion of the immense wealth existing in the USSR. And it is curious to see Zinoviev refusing to adopt the slogan: ‘state industry is Socialism’. Under what conditions, one might ask, would it not be? Only one: that power was no longer in the hands of the workers, but that it had already passed to a new category of the privileged of whom, thus far, we have been told nothing. If there is a Communist Party which draws its strength from the initiative of all its members, from living and active trade unions, and from soviets conscious of their rôle as an organ of power, then it is certain that state industry is Socialism.

Zinoviev is simply exploiting the discontent of the workers to give a basis to his unprincipled opposition. But what, then, are the causes of the workers’ discontent? Why do they no longer feel that the factory where they work is their factory? Why, in short, can the very question be asked as to whether a state enterprise is Socialism? We for our part are better equipped to supply the answers to these questions, because we have already indicated them in the previous discussions. The workers no longer feel at home in the factory because they are no longer active agents of production, but rather passive elements, carrying out the orders they are given. A party in which there is no longer discussion, where the cells have to swallow unfalteringly the lesson they have been taught by a representative of the centre, on pain of being dissolved and dispersed, is not a strong party capable of playing the rôle it has given itself of leading the revolution. And when discussion is not allowed within the party, then it is pointless to speak of unions and soviets.

Various events which have occurred in the course of the last few months seem to indicate a sudden change of fortunes. The attention of the Russian Communists has turned to the unions. One of the party secretaries, Andreev, has denounced the inadequacies and weaknesses of their leaderships in an unrelenting report. Other party leaders have made similar judgements. It would be easy to show that the responsibility for this state of affairs, rightly considered alarming, can be traced back to the party leadership itself. But if the conclusion has been reached that strong active unions are necessary, and that they must play a major rôle in the organisation of production, it is for the moment enough to note the fact and rejoice.

The fact that in the last resort Soviet Russia remains alone, amidst a world which is capitalist and hence hostile, has made the task of Communist construction infinitely more difficult. But we must take the situation as it is, and chattering about revolution outside Russia, when the revolution is absent, achieves nothing except a waste of precious time. Likewise, it is entirely vain to pose the question as to whether Socialism is possible in a single country; that is truly defeatism. In Europe, capitalist rule is far from having regained its prewar solidity. It has been able to achieve a state of relative stability, as everyone today recognises. But it still has enormous difficulties to overcome, and we are far from certain it will succeed. At present, it has only the choice between financial crises, with formidable inflation, and economic crises which paralyse industry and produce huge armies of unemployed. All it can offer workers is the conditions of work and life they had in 1914 — with war at the end of the road.

The revolutionary forces therefore remain powerful within and outside Russia. How can Soviet Russia use and coordinate them?

A Sickness is Corroding the International

Zinoviev gave his usual report on the Comintern, a banal report decorated with stupid lies concerning ourselves. We shall have to return to the subject at the time of the meeting of the enlarged Executive. But we must note immediately that, for the first time, a significant part of the congress refused to approve this report, that quite sharp criticisms were formulated, and that the ultra-left danger was denounced; moreover, one of those who drew the attention of the Russian Communists to this danger was Manuilsky. Among other things, he said this: ‘But our most serious affliction is, at present, the inability of our young parties to apply the tactic of the united front. The needs of the masses have run up against this inability. Hence the crises which have arisen in Poland, Germany and France.’

It is Manuilsky who is speaking in these words, the man who carried out Zinoviev’s policy in France, who put the ultra-lefts in the party leadership, and who presented them as authentic representatives of the Comintern. And who was the first person to sabotage the united front, if not Zinoviev? Manuilsky today observes that a serious sickness is corroding the International. We can only reply to him: ‘You were the one who wanted it…’ As for the other Russian Communists who intervened at the congress to denounce Zinoviev’s indulgence of the ultra-lefts, we think they are waking up a bit late. Have they not understood what happened at the Fifth Congress?

For the first time, the congress of the RCP has decided to send an ‘information letter’ to the sections of the Communist International. It is easy to understand why. From this letter, we must above all pick out the following passage: ‘The CC of the RCP is absolutely unanimous in considering that it is undesirable to take the discussion of the Russian question into the ranks of the Comintern.’ An editorial in Pravda, commenting on the letter, likewise states: ‘That is why the CC of the RCP has unanimously stated that this discussion is undesirable in fraternal parties.’ So this year we shall not see those selfsame ‘Bolsheviks’ who, at Zinoviev’s bidding, denounced Trotsky and the oppositionists of 1923-24 as Mensheviks and counter-revolutionaries, now voting for stereotyped resolutions on Zinoviev’s ‘Axelrodism, defeatism and liquidationism’. It is belated wisdom, and the CC of the RCP has taken a long time to observe the correctness of an attitude which we, for our part, adopted and proposed early in 1924 — and which led to our expulsion.

H               H               H

Straight after the Thirteenth Congress of the Russian Communist Party and the Fifth Congress of the Comintern, the outlook was sombre. The party was divided and losing its best forces; the International, tormented by ultra-left ravings, was sliding towards Social Democracy. Today things are brighter. Will the Russian Communist Party be capable of reassembling the living forces of the revolution, drawing in workers and peasants and enabling them to be active and passionate factors in the task of Communist construction, while at the same time checking the slide in the International? Will it have the will? Will it be able to do it? We don’t know. We must be content to pose these questions, and to note that progress has been made since the previous situation. But we know already that the harm that has been done will survive. Lost time will not be regained. Nor will reputations.

[1].      La Révolution prolétarienne, February 1925.

[2].      The notion of ‘social fascism’ was developed, well before the ‘Third Period’, by Zinoviev in 1924 (cf P Broué, Histoire de l’internationale communiste, Paris, 1997, p381).

[3].      The paper of the Italian Socialist Party.

[4].      A Paris newspaper during 1923-36; the organ of the SFIO-Radical electoral alliance in 1924.

[5].      This statement by Bukharin is quoted in Max Shachtman’s ‘The Struggle for the New Course’, in LD Trotsky, The New Course, Ann Arbor, 1965, pp172-3.

[6].      In his speech to the Thirteenth Congress of the Russian Communist Party, Trotsky cited these statements by Bukharin. Correspondance Internationale, 19 July 1924, gave the text of Trotsky’s speech and Bulletin Communiste, 4 July, reproduced it (pp639ff). But look for Bukharin’s comments in the BC. You won’t find them. Doubtless they were considered too embarrassing. [Rosmer’s note]

[7].      I am using this term because it is current in the International. It indicates the triumvirate of Zinoviev, Stalin and Kamenev, who, having three votes out of seven settled in advance, have a preponderant influence in the Political Bureau. [Rosmer’s note]

[8].      It will be recalled that during the debates in 1923, Ossinsky had already proposed a similar measure. He was immediately described as a Menshevik, petit-bourgeois, ‘objective’ counter-revolutionary etc, etc. [Rosmer’s note]

[9].      LD Trotsky, ‘Letter to the Plenum of the Central Committee’, 15 January 1925, The Challenge of the Left Opposition, 1923-25, New York, 1975, pp304-8.

[10].     A reference to Lenin’s ‘Testament’; Collected Works, Volume 36, Moscow, 1966, p595.

[11].     VI Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 45, Moscow, 1970, p607.

[12].     We should note in passing the methods used at that time in the Comintern, in absolute contrast to those resorted to today. Lenin never dreamt of ‘preparing’ the sections in order to guarantee the unanimity of the congress in advance. The delegates came to Moscow, where they had time to defend their point of view in the course of a full debate. [Rosmer’s note]

[13].     The general election on 6 December 1923 gave Labour 191 seats against 259 Tories; on 22 January 1924, Labour formed a minority government.

[14].     In May 1924, the Bloc (or Cartel) des Gauches, based on an alliance of the SFIO and Radicals, was successful in the French elections, and Édouard Herriot became Prime Minister.

[15].     Joseph Robert Clynes (1869-1949) was the leader of the Gasworkers Union and later a right-wing Labour MP, an ally of Ramsay MacDonald.

[16].     Joseph Caillaux (1863-1944) was a French right-wing politician and Finance Minister; Léon Blum (1872-1950) was a leader of the SFIO and leader of the Popular Front government of 1936.

[17].     Filippo Turati (1857-1932) was the leader of the right wing of the Italian Socialist Party.

[18].     David Lloyd George (1863-1945) was coalition Prime Minister in Britain for the second half of the First World War. Andrew Bonar Law (1858-1923) was leader of the Conservatives in the House of Commons, and briefly ‘the unknown prime minister’ after Lloyd George had been ousted from power.

[19].     These extracts in fact come from a text called ‘Political Perspectives’ published in Bolshevik after the Fourth Congress (LD Trotsky, The First Five Years of the Communist International, Volume 2, New York, 1953, pp297-303).

[20].     A secondary but significant fact is characteristic of the method of working of our ‘Leninists’. To attack Trotsky on the question of perspectives and of American imperialism, they criticised a report he made to the congress of veterinary surgeons. They made the criticisms first, and then finally published the text of the speech. Now the text that they published was not that of the report to the veterinary congress. It was a speech delivered two weeks later, to a meeting called by the Society of the Friends of the Faculty of Sciences, as is indicated in the speech itself. So they have not even read the text which they are criticising and publishing. [Rosmer’s note]

[21].     A plan initiated in 1924 that was intended to solve the problem of German reparations payments.

[22].     Under the headline ‘TROTSKY OF THE EVIL EYES’.

[23].     The Tsarist authorities abolished the vodka monopoly during the First World War, before the revolution. But as Trotsky wrote: ‘The circumstance that the “drunkards’” budget was abandoned during the imperialist war does not alter the fundamental fact that the abolition of the system by which the country encouraged people to drink is one of the iron assets of the revolution.’ (LD Trotsky, ‘Vodka, the Church and the Cinema’, 12 July 1923, Problems of Everyday Life, New York, 1973, p31)

[24].     La Révolution prolétarienne, which was founded in January 1925 by Monatte, Rosmer, Delagarde, Chambelland, Louzon, Charbit and Godonnèche.

[25].  La Révolution prolétarienne, February 1926.

[26].     9 Thermidor Year II (27 July 1794) was the date of the overthrow of Robespierre; there was much discussion of possible Russian parallels.

[27].     An oil company, formed in Holland 1890; it joined with Shell in 1907 to form Anglo-Dutch Shell.

[28].     Zinoviev and other Leningrad party leaders called for the Soviet Communist Party to recruit more workers, which led the Moscow Pravda to denounce this as a recipe for a Menshevik-style broad labour party. Pavel Axelrod (1850-1928) was a leading Menshevik.

[29].     See the previous section of this chapter.

[30].     This remark does not appear in Lenin’s interventions at the Ninth Congress in Collected Works, Volume 30, Moscow, 1965, pp439-90.

[31].     See I Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed, London, 1970, p243.

[32].     François Guizot (1787-1874) was minister and chief adviser to the French king Louis-Philippe (1830-48). He used the phrase ‘enrich yourselves’ in 1847 in response to those who were demanding a reduction of the property qualification on the right to vote.

[33].     The widening gap between industrial and agricultural prices; see pages 95-100 above.