Leon Trotsky‎ > ‎1930‎ > ‎

Leon Trotsky 19300822 Letter to the “October group”

Leon Trotsky: Letter to the “October group”

August 22, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 363-365, title: “Two Letters to China”]

Dear Comrade "N."

1. [This section is a correction to a geographical error made in "The Chinese Question After the Sixth Congress." Canton was represented as a city in Kiangsu. This error has already been corrected in the Chinese translation of the essay, so it is unnecessary to translate this section of the letter. — Chinese translator]

2. Today I finally received a copy of Comrade Ch'en Tuhsiu's letter of December 10, 1929. I feel that this letter is an extremely good document. Totally clear and correct attitudes are taken in answer to all the important questions; especially on the question of a democratic dictatorship, Comrade Tu-hsiu takes a completely correct stand. At the time you wrote to me explaining why you could not unite with Ch'en Tu-hsiu, your reason was that he still seemed to support the "democratic dictatorship" viewpoint. I feel this question to be a decisive one, because if you do not have a proletarian dictatorship leading the poor peasants, then it is the same as a democratic dictatorship, which in reality is only another name for a new Kuomintang policy, that's all! There can be no compromise on this question! But it is dear from the letter of December 10 that Comrade Ch'en's position is correct. Because of this, how can I explain and defend your position? What other differing opinions have you? None, I think, unless there are some unexpected difficulties. How can we get together on the question of a national assembly? What kind of role would the parliamentary system play in China? On fundamental questions we are in complete accord. As for the unexpected or more complicated questions, some are merely academic, while others are tactical questions. These questions will be decided as events unfold. Here, I must honestly tell you that your opinions on the national assembly and the parliamentary system cannot stand, in my view. It is true that Wo-men-ti hua says that this is Kautskyism, but there is no basis for this.

When we have such an outstanding revolutionary as Ch'en Tu-hsiu, who formally breaks with the party, is then thrown out of the party, and finally announces that his stand is 100 percent in accord with the International Opposition, how can we ignore him? Is it possible that you have many Communist Party members who are as experienced as Ch'en Tu-hsiu? He made many mistakes in the past, but he is already aware of them. To become aware of one's past mistakes is very valuable to revolutionaries and leaders. We have many young people in the Opposition who can and should learn from Comrade Ch'en Tu-hsiu!

3. You attack the Wo-men-ti hua group for incorrectly assessing the general political situation in China and denying the utility of slogans about striving for democracy. I have received a long letter from them, and it appears that the differences of principle about which you speak have all been eliminated. You wrote that they had revised the agenda of the conference. If this is so, they have revised it for the better and, moreover, are even closer to us. You attack them for their underhanded methods (such as bringing up old disputes and revising the agenda). Naturally, this problem carries its own meaning, but if they feel there are some mistakes, and everyone agrees to revise the agenda, that isn't such a terrible crime. Isn't it a fact that they are still doing all this revising in a Marxist spirit? The three other points that you raised (the most important being whether to work inside or outside the party) are really not questions of principle, for there has not been one Opposition section that has taken as its mission the creation of a second party. We must continue to look upon ourselves as factions within the party. Naturally, we must recruit new members into the Communist Party ranks, that is, into the Opposition. The correct mixture of work both inside and outside the party can only be attained through practical work. No matter what, our work outside the party must be of the following nature: comrades inside the party must look upon us as friends, not enemies. Let's look at the European experience. In that case, the Opposition in France and Germany has recently grown closer to the party, and yet there has been absolutely no lessening in the struggle between the party and the Opposition. This strategy has already obtained the very best results in France and is fast doing so in Germany.

4. Biulleten Oppozitsii, in its most recent issue, has given great space to the China question. It's too bad that, up to now, you have not sent any materials regarding China's peasant (soviet) movement, in order that we might adopt a correct stand. It is very important that we collect all information and carefully research all facts; otherwise we just might kill our opportunity to affect the whole situation.

Isn't there still a chance that the peasant war will converge with the workers' movement? This is an extremely important question. Theoretically, it doesn't discard the possibility of making gains while underground. That is, under the influence of the peasant insurrection, the revolution in the cities can intensify and quickly move forward. If this comes about, then the peasant insurrection takes on a different objective meaning. Naturally, our fundamental mission is to improve upon the ordinary peasant insurrection and, at the same time, to fuse with it. In addition, we must explain to the workers the true nature of peasant insurrections and what might be obtained through them in the future. Furthermore, we must devise a means to raise the workers' spirits through these insurrections. At the same time, we must visibly support the insurrectionists in their demands and programs, while opposing the landlords, officials, and bourgeoisie in their rumors, slanders, and repression. It is upon this foundation, and only this foundation, that we can expose the tricks of the Comintern organizations. They say that "soviet regimes" have been established in China — without a proletarian dictatorship! It has even reached the point where the workers refuse to actively participate in the movement. I expect that the "International" [International Left Opposition] will soon issue a manifesto on this question to inform China's Communist Party members.

5. It seems to be a fine time for me to send you a copy of The Permanent Revolution. You should receive it soon.

6. I am afraid that the address I have for Ch'en Tu-hsiu is no good. Please send him my regards, and tell him that I was very happy to read his letter of last December 10. I firmly hope we can work together in the future.

A warm handshake,