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Leon Trotsky 19300600 Notes of a Journalist

Leon Trotsky: Notes of a Journalist

Published June 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 264-273]

Zinoviev and the Perils of Printing

In this year's number 5 issue of Bolshevik, Zinoviev once more "merges" with the party — by the only method now available to him. Zinoviev writes:

"In 1922, Trotsky predicted that 'the real expansion of socialist economy will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the most important European countries.’ This prediction has not been confirmed, just as many other predictions of the author mentioned have not been. The real expansion of our socialist economy became possible before the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries of Europe; the real expansion is developing before our eyes."

The same Zinoviev, in the beginning of the same year 1922, accused Trotsky of "superindustrialization," that is, of proposing a too-rapid industrial expansion. How can this be reconciled?

The Opposition was accused of not believing in socialist construction and at the same time of wanting to rob the peasantry. If the former were true, why was it necessary to "rob" the peasantry? In reality, the Opposition was in favor of compelling the kulak and the upper layer of the peasantry in general to make sacrifices for socialist construction — in which the Opposition supposedly "did not believe." A fervent belief in socialist construction was displayed only by those who opposed "superindustrialization" and proclaimed the empty slogan "face toward the countryside." Zinoviev offered the peasantry, instead of clothing and a tractor, a smiling "face."

In 1930, as in 1922, Trotsky considers that "the real expansion of socialist economy will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the most important European countries." But it must be understood — and after all, this is not so difficult — that by socialist economy we really mean socialist economy and not the contradictory and transitional economy of NEP, and that by a real expansion we mean a development that will completely change the daily life and culture of the laboring masses, eliminating not only the "queues," wise Zinoviev, but also the contradiction between the city and the countryside. It is only in this sense that a Marxist can speak about a real expansion of socialist economy.

After fighting "Trotskyism" from 1923 to 1926, Zinoviev in July 1926 officially admitted that the basic core of the 1923 Opposition had been correct in its prognosis. And now, for the sake of merger with Yaroslavsky, Zinoviev once more rushes into all the old contradictions and warms over the old dishes.

It is worthwhile to recall, therefore, that this same Zinoviev both signed the platform of the Opposition and wrote a part of it dealing with this very question:

"When we say, in the words of Lenin, that for the construction of a socialist society in our country a victory of the proletarian revolution is necessary in one or more of the advanced capitalist countries, that the final victory of socialism in one country and above all a backward country is impossible, as Marx, Engels, and Lenin have all proven, the Stalin group makes the wholly false assertion that we 'do not believe' in socialism and in the building of socialism in the Soviet Union" [The Real Situation in Russia, p. 176].

Not badly stated, is it?

How explain these scurryings from falsification to repentance and from repentance to falsification? On this point the Opposition platform suggests an answer:

"In the same way now, the petty-bourgeois deviation within our own party cannot struggle against our Leninist views otherwise than by attributing to us things we never thought or said" [ibid., p. 175].

These last lines were not only signed by Zinoviev, but unless we are mistaken were written by him. Surely Joseph Gutenberg has not been a help to some people, especially when they have to "merge" with the other Joseph, who, to be sure, did not invent printing but very conscientiously works at destroying it.

Has France Entered a Period of Revolution?

The left turn in the Comintern began in 1928. In July, the "third period" was announced. A year later, Molotov declared that France, along with Germany and Poland, had entered a period of "most tremendous revolutionary events." All this was deduced from the development of the strike movement. No data were cited; only two or three examples from the newspapers were given. We have dealt with the question of the dynamics of the French labor movement on the basis of facts and figures. The picture given by Molotov, prompted by the words of others (the role of prompters, we assume, was played by Manuilsky and Kuusinen) in no way coincided with reality. The strike wave of the last two years had a very limited character, even though it showed an upward trend compared with the preceding year, which was the lowest of the decade. This restrained development is all the more remarkable because France, during 1928-29, went through an undeniable industrial upturn, certainly evident in the metal industry where the strike movement was the weakest of all.

One of the reasons for the fact that the French workers did not utilize the favorable conjuncture is undoubtedly the extremely superficial character of the strike strategy of Monmousseau and the other pupils of Lozovsky. It became clear that they did not know, the state of industry in their own country. As a result, they characterized the isolated, defensive economic strikes, primarily in the light industries, as offensive revolutionary political strikes.

This is the essence of the analysis we made of the "third period" in France. Up to now we have not seen a single article in which our analysis is submitted to criticism, although evidently a compelling need for such a criticism is felt. There is no other way to explain the appearance in Pravda of the very long article "On the Strike Strategy of Generalissimo Trotsky," which contains doggerel, quotations from Juvenal, and pointless jokes, but not a word about the factual analysis of the struggle of the French working class in the last decade and especially in the last two years. This article, obviously from the pen of one of the recent heroes of the "third period," is modestly signed "Radovoy (rank-and-filer).”

The author accuses Trotsky of seeing only the defensive strikes but not recognizing the strike offensive. Let us assume that Trotsky is guilty of that. But is this a reason to give up an aggressive struggle in the metal industry under the most favorable conditions and at the same time to designate small defensive strikes as an offensive?

The author accuses Trotsky of not distinguishing capitalism in the epoch of its rise from capitalism in the epoch of its decline. Let us assume that this is so. Let us forget the debate that occurred in the Comintern at the time of its Third Congress, when there was still genuine discussion of ideas, over the relation between the crisis of capitalism as a system and its cyclical crises. Let us assume that Trotsky has forgotten all of this, and that Radovoy has absorbed all of it. But does this answer the question of whether France during the last two years has entered a period of decisive revolutionary events? This is precisely what the Comintern has proclaimed. Has this question any significance? It would seem that it does. But what does the author of the witty article say on this point? Not one word. France and its labor movement are completely ignored. As a substitute, Radovoy argues that Trotsky is "Mister Trotsky" who serves the bourgeoisie. Is that all? Yes, nothing more than that

But a well-intentioned reader may object, not much can be expected from young Radovoy, and he still has a chance to learn. After all, it is not he who formulated trade-union policy in France. For that we have serious revolutionary strategists, tested in struggle — for example, the general secretary of the Profintern, Lozovsky.

Right we reply, and all this would be convincing if — if only Radovoy were not Lozovsky himself. The collection of cynical, light-minded arguments and sorry jokes cannot deceive us.

The leading general, under a modest pseudonym, is defending his own acts. He covers the calamities he inflicts on the labor movement with rhymes. He attacks the Left Opposition with brilliant vindictive irony: it can, don't you see, be completely seated on one sofa. Let Radovoy investigate. Are there any sofas in the jails that are filled with Oppositionists? Even if the Left Opposition were really as small as Lozovsky makes out, this would not frighten us at all. When at the beginning of the war the revolutionary internationalists of all of Europe met at Zimmerwald, they filled only a few stagecoaches. We were never afraid to remain in the minority. It is Lozovsky who was so afraid of being in the minority during the war that he defended in print the Longuetists, whom he tried in every way to unite with against us. During the October Revolution Lozovsky was afraid that the Bolshevik Party would be "isolated" from the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, and therefore he betrayed the party which he had temporarily joined, and united with its enemies in the most critical period. And now, after Lozovsky has joined the victorious Soviet power, his quantitative estimates are just as reliable as his qualitative ones.

Following the victory, for which he was not in the least guilty, Lozovsky, putting minus signs where he had previously marked pluses, declared in a triumphant manifesto at the Fifth Congress of the Comintern that the French Socialist Party "no longer exists." In spite of all our protests against this shameful light-mindedness, he held on to this assertion. When it became clear that the international social democracy nevertheless did exist, Lozovsky along with his teachers crawled on all fours through the policy of the Anglo-Russian Committee and was in a bloc with the strikebreakers during the greatest strike of the British working class. With what triumph — a triumph over the Opposition — did Lozovsky at a Central Committee plenum read the telegram in which Citrine and Purcell, after they had crushed not only the general strike but also the strike of the coal miners, generously agreed to talk with the representatives of the Soviet trade unions' central council.

After the destruction of the Chinese revolution and the disintegration of the Chinese workers' organizations, Lozovsky at a plenum of the Central Committee (where he came again as a guest because Stalin had not yet decided to bring him in as a member) reported fantastic gains of the Profintern. He said that there were three million workers organized in the trade unions of China. Everyone gasped. But Lozovsky did not blink an eye. He operates just as lightly with millions of organized workers as he does with rhymes for coloring articles. That's why Lozovsky's witticism about the sofa that can seat the whole Opposition does not in the least overwhelm us. Undoubtedly there are plenty of sofas and other furnishings in the offices of the Profintern, but unfortunately there is an absence of ideas. And it is ideas that win, because it is ideas that convince the masses.

But why did Lozovsky use the name Radovoy? We hear a distrustful or doubting voice. There are two reasons: personal and political. Personally, Lozovsky prefers not to expose himself to blows. In sensitive moments of ideological conflict he prefers modest anonymity, just as in the sharp decisive hours of the revolutionary struggle he inclines to solitary deliberations. This is the personal reason. There is also a political reason. If Lozovsky had signed his name, everyone would say: Is it possible that in questions of the trade-union movement we really have no one better than this? But seeing the signature of Radovoy under the article, the well-intentioned reader can say: We must admit that Radovoy is a sorry scribbler, but nevertheless we still have Lozovsky.

Another New Talent

Only a few months have elapsed since Molotov sent the order throughout the Comintern that the ideological struggle against "Trotskyism" must be considered at an end. Well? The publications of the Comintern, beginning with the publications of the Soviet Communist Party, are once again devoting innumerable columns and pages to the struggle against "Trotskyism." Even the most honorable Pokrovsky, who is burdened with the labors of instructing the youth, has been moved to the front trenches. This corresponds approximately to the period in the imperialist war when Germany resorted to the mobilization of forty-five- and fifty-year-old reserves. This fact alone suggests serious fears about the condition of the Stalinist front. Fortunately, the nestor of Marxist historiography has not only grandchildren but also great-grandchildren. One of them is S. Novikov, author of an article about the autobiography of L. D. Trotsky. This young talent immediately established a record by showing that it is possible to fill one and a half printed pages without presenting a single fact or formulating a single idea. Such an exceptional gift could have been developed only under the guidance of an experienced master. And the question springs to mind: Was it not Manuilsky in the hours he could spare from the Comintern who took Novikov under his wing, this blessed babe of the "third period"? Or perhaps Manuilsky did not have to nourish this young talent. Perhaps Manuilsky simply made use of — his own talents. We will not try the reader's patience. Novikov is Manuilsky, the very same Manuilsky who in 1918 wrote that Trotsky saved Russian Bolshevism from national limitedness and made it a world ideological current. Now Manuilsky writes that Stalin has saved Bolshevism from Trotskyism and by that has definitively strengthened it as an ideological current of the solar system.

But are we not mistaken in identifying little Novikov with the great Manuilsky? No, we are not mistaken. We came to this conclusion neither lightly nor by guessing, but by zealous investigation. To be exact, we read five lines at the beginning of the article and five lines at the. end. More than that, we hope, nobody will demand of us. But why should Manuilsky hide behind the signature of Novikov? somebody will ask. Isn't it clear that it is so people will think: If Novikov is so invincible, then how must Manuilsky himself be!

We will not repeat ourselves. Manuilsky's motives are the same as Lozovsky's motives for turning into Radovoy. The reputations of these people need refurbishing, like shiny pants need special cleaning.

Responsibility for the Turns Lies in — Trotskyism

It is known that the Opposition is swerving to the "right," that it is against socialism and collectivization. It is equally known that the Opposition is for compulsory collectivization. And since the selection and the training of the apparatus, as is also well known, were during recent years in the hands of the Opposition, it then of course is responsible for the turns. At any rate this is all they write about in Pravda. If you don't like it, don't read it, but don't interfere with the "general line."

We have previously quoted from the official platform of the Opposition published in 1927 in regard to collectivization. But let us go further back to the period of War Communism, when civil war and famine necessitated a rigorous policy of grain requisitions. What was the Bolsheviks' perspective on collectivization in those severe years? In a speech about the peasant uprisings that were caused by the requisitioning of grain, Comrade Trotsky said on April 6, 1919:

"These uprisings gave us the possibility to develop our greatest ideological and organizational strength. But alongside of this, we know, the uprisings were also a sign of our weakness, because they drew into their wake not only the kulaks but also — we must not deceive ourselves on this score — a certain part of the middle and intermediate peasantry. This can be explained by the general reasons that I have given — by the backwardness of the peasantry itself. We must not, however, blame everything on backwardness. Marx said on one occasion that a peasant not only harbors prejudice but also uses judgment, and that one can appeal from the peasant's prejudice to his judgment in order to lead him toward a new order on the basis of experience. The peasantry should feel, from the experience of deeds, that in the working class, in its party, in its Soviet apparatus, it has a leader, a defender. The peasant should understand that requisitioning was forced upon us, should accept it as something unavoidable; he should know that we are going into the countryside to determine for whom requisitioning is easier and for whom it is more difficult, that we differentiate, and that we seek the closest friendly bonds with the middle peasants.

"This is necessary because until the working class in Western Europe has gained power, until our left flank can lean on the proletarian dictatorship of Germany, France, and other countries, we are compelled to lean our right flank on the Russian middle peasant. But not only in this period; no, also after the decisive, inevitable, and historically destined victory of the working class throughout Europe, for us in our country there will remain the important and enormous task of the socialization of our agricultural economy, transforming it from a dispersed, backward peasant economy into a new collective communist economy. Can this greatest transition in world history be in any way completed against the wishes of the peasantry? In no way. Not measures of force will be needed, not measures of compulsion, but educational measures, measures of persuasion, of support, of example, of encouragement — these are the methods by which the organized and enlightened working class addresses the middle peasant" ["The Eastern Front," a speech in Samara, Collected Works, volume 17, pp. 119-20].

Yakovlev’s "General Line”

Every self-respecting bureaucrat has a "general line," sometimes full of unexpected turns. Yakovlev's "general line" has always consisted in serving the top command but also winking at the Opposition. He ceased winking when he understood that it was a serious matter, and for a responsible post not only the hands but the heart as well are demanded. Yakovlev has become people's commissar of agriculture. In this capacity he presented the Sixteenth Congress with a thesis on the collectivization movement. One of the basic reasons for the upturn in the agricultural economy, the thesis declares, is the "crushing of counterrevolutionary Trotskyism." It will not hurt therefore to recall how the present leaders of collectivization recently dealt with the question of the agricultural economy, and in the struggle against Trotskyism at that.

Describing the dispersed and backward character of peasant economy, Yakovlev wrote at the end of 1927: "These data are quite sufficient to characterize the drama of the small and tiny economy. On the cultural and organizational level of peasant economy inherited from czarism toe will never succeed in advancing socialist development in our country with the required speed" (On the Question of Socialist Reconstruction of Agricultural Economy, edited by Yakovlev, p. xxiv).

Two years ago, when 75 percent of the collectives still consisted of the poor, the present commissar of agriculture, Yakovlev, evaluated their socialist character in the following way:

"The question of the growth in the collectives of the communal rather than individual elements of capital, even at the present time, perhaps particularly at the present time, is still a question of struggle; in many instances private individual accumulation hides under the communal form,’’ eta (ibid., p. xxxvii).

Defending, against the Opposition, the right of the kulak to live and breathe, Yakovlev wrote: "The quintessence of the task is the socialist transformation of the peasant economy into a cooperative socialist economy … precisely this small and tiny economy that the middle peasant economy really is at bottom. This is our basic and most difficult task. In solving this task we may in passing, through our general policy and economic policy, solve the task of limiting the growth of kulak exploiting elements — (he task of an offensive against the kulak" (ibid., p. xlvi).

Thus Yakovlev made even the possibility of limiting the growth of the kulak elements dependent upon the solution of the "basic and most difficult task": the socialist transformation of peasant economy. As for the liquidation of the kulak as a class, Yakovlev did not even raise the question. This was two years ago.

In discussing the necessity for the gradual transition from commercial cooperation to productive cooperation, that is, to collective farms, Yakovlev wrote: "This is the only road of cooperative development that really secures — naturally, not in one, two, three years, maybe not in one decade — the socialist reconstruction of all of peasant economy" (ibid., p. xii). Let us note carefully "not in one, two, three years, maybe not in one decade."

Collective farms and communes," Yakovlev wrote in the same work, "are at the present time and will for a long time yet undoubtedly be only islets in the sea of peasant economy, since a precondition for their vitality is first of all a tremendous rise of culture" (Void., p. xxxvii).

Finally, in order to present the basis for the perspective of decades, Yakovlev emphasized that: "The creation of a mighty, rationally organized industry, capable of producing not only the means of consumption but also the means of production, imperative for the national economy — this is the precondition for a real cooperative socialist plan" (ibid., p. xliii).

This is how matters appeared in recent times when Yakovlev, as a member of the Central Control Commission, deported the Opposition to the East because of its program calling for an assault on the privileges of the kulak and the bureaucracy and calling for accelerated collectivization. In upholding the official policy, the course toward the "mighty peasant," "against the conscienceless and spiteful criticism on the part of the Opposition” — the actual words used in the article — Yakovlev thought that the collective farms "will for a long time yet undoubtedly be only islets" — not even islands, but islets! — "in the sea of peasant economy," whose socialist reconstruction would require more than a decade. If two years ago Yakovlev proclaimed, in contrast to the Opposition, that even the simple limitation of the kulak can only be a passing result of socialist reconstruction of the whole peasant economy taking decades, then today's commissar of agriculture undertakes "to liquidate the kulak as a class" in the course of two or three sowing campaigns. Incidentally, this was yesterday; today Yakovlev expresses himself much more enigmatically.

And it is this type who, incapable of seriously thinking anything through to the end, still less capable of foreseeing anything, accuses the Opposition of "consciencelessness," and on the basis of this accusation arrests, exiles, and even shoots — two years ago, because the Opposition pushed them onto the road of collectivization and industrialization; today, because it restrains the collectivizers from adventurism.

Here it is, the essence of bureaucratic adventurism.