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Leon Trotsky 19300130 Letter to Valentin Olberg

Leon Trotsky: Letter to Valentin Olberg

January 30, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 210 f., title: “Six Letters to Olberg”]

Dear Comrade Olberg,

In your letter you raise a number of fundamental questions that would take entire treatises to answer. But the fact of the matter is that the Opposition has already written a great deal on these questions in the past. I have no idea whether or not you have read all of this. It would be very good if you would jot down something about yourself, even if only a little bit: whether you have been in the movement a long time, where you have been in recent years, what Opposition literature you have read.

I must say that I am particularly surprised by what you say about the Anglo-Russian Committee: it is impossible to imagine reasoning which is more contrary to the principles of revolutionary class tactics and the entire history of Bolshevism. As you would have it, revolutionaries do not have the right to break with strikebreakers as long as the masses have not rebelled against them. This is the classic philosophy of "tail-endism." You refer to August 4. But you are defeating your own argument with this. Immediately after August 4 we proclaimed the necessity of breaking with the social-patriots and forming the Third International. Moreover, you should take note, in the former case it was a matter of an international party to which we had belonged for ten years; but in the latter case, that of the Anglo-Russian Committee, it was a matter of a temporary bloc with the British participants in the Amsterdam conference whom we proclaimed as the best of the Amsterdam group but who betrayed the general strike. If only several thousand workers had been involved in a rebellion, we should have been with those several thousand. But you are misrepresenting the situation: millions were dissatisfied; hundreds of thousands were in revolt The Minority Movement at that time involved several hundred thousand workers. The Anglo-Russian Committee destroyed this movement, just as it destroyed the Communist Party for a number of years. We "expressed criticisms." Yes, in Russian newspapers; but in Britain — before the eyes of the masses — we arranged joint banquets, passed foul, hypocritical, pacifist resolutions, supported the strikebreakers, and strengthened them against ourselves. How else do you explain that as a result of the mighty revolutionary movement of 1926 not only the Minority Movement in the trade unions but also the Communist Party were reduced to virtually nothing?

However, instead of repeating old ideas, it is better to send you a copy of one of my old articles written as long ago as September 23, 1927. In view of the enormous importance of this question for the entire policy of the Comintern, I ask you to familiarize those comrades who show an interest in the question with the contents of this article. After you are finished with it, please return it to me.

Just one comment: "We need not bear the odium of a split." What kind of a term is this? Revolutionaries must always take upon themselves, in the eyes of the masses, the honorable initiative, the revolutionary duty — not at all the "odium" — of a split with strikebreakers and traitors. The entire history of Bolshevism proceeded to the accompaniment of constant charges of splitting.

Do you read the Russian Biulleten Oppozitsii? Answers to some of the questions you have posed have been given there.

In any case, for a successful continuation of our correspondence, I await from you information of, so to speak, an autobiographical nature.