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Leon Trotsky 19300900 Notes of a Journalist

Leon Trotsky: Notes of a Journalist

Published September 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 373-381]

Prognoses That Have Been Confirmed

At the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI, i.e., a year ago, it was mentioned that humanity had entered "with both feet" into the revolutionary zone. At the Sixteenth Congress of the Communist Party it turned out:

"The development of the economic crisis is leading [!] in individual [!!] countries to its further development — into a political crisis" (from Molotov's report).

However, the economic crisis came only a year and a half after the Sixth World Congress, only a few months after the Tenth Plenum; but this crisis, we are told, is only "leading to further development." How fortunate that there exist the words "further development" which can be used to plug the holes in some prognosis or other.

"The intensification [!] of elements [!!] of a new [!!!] revolutionary upsurge is an indisputable fact" maneuvers Molotov, the very one in whose word of honor the Tenth Plenum believed. "This puts the work of the Communist parties and the Comintern on a completely new footing. All this calls for an adaptation of the work of the Communist parties to the new [!] problems of the revolutionary struggle."

However, the Sixth Congress with its supplementary Tenth Plenum had already brought the Communist parties onto the rails of the third period and of revolutionary upsurge. How does it come about, then, that all that is required is to begin adapting "to the new problems of the revolutionary struggle"? Isn't it possible to explain it a little more precisely? Are the parties turning to the left or the right? Going forward or going back? Or are they simply turning on their own axes?

"In the period 1928-29, the upsurge took place only in the United States of North America, France, Sweden, Belgium, and Holland …" (Molotov).

However, just in the middle of 1929, France stood "in the front ranks of the revolutionary upsurge." How does it suddenly turn out then that it underwent not a revolutionary but — industrial-commercial upsurge? It does not become any easier from hour to hour.

Manuilsky at the Sixteenth Congress posed "the problem of the uneven development of the revolutionary processes in different capitalist countries, the problem of the advanced countries lagging behind the rate of development of these processes in such secondary countries as Spain or in such colonial countries as India."

However, the resolution of the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI bore witness that Germany, France, and Poland occupy the first place in the approaching revolutionary upsurge. The first two countries in any event cannot be called insignificant or colonial.

Manuilsky goes further and states directly, "In the advanced capitalist countries the sweep of the revolutionary movement has not yet assumed open revolutionary forms.”

But how did things stand at the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI?

Finally, the resolution of the Sixteenth Congress modestly and vaguely announces "the opening of the end of relative capitalist stability."

This means that the whole Tenth Plenum has gone awry. But, alas, the disasters and devastations that it caused in the ranks and at the top have not gone awry.

And these "leaders" are astonished that the number of members in the sections of the Comintern is declining and the circulation of the press falling.

That is the same as if the director of some collective farm in the Moscow region sowed in December and harvested in April, and was astonished that he had a "disproportion" between his "influence" (in the offices of the collective farm and in the regional committee) and the quantity of grain in the silos.

Molotov is this kind of director of this kind of administrative collective — called the "Third International."

The Wind Turns About

Molotov says of the decisions of the Sixth World Congress:

"In them there is given a fundamental analysis of world development and its perspectives, which received full [!] confirmation [!!] in the events that followed."

This is all the more comforting because the only world reporter to the Sixth Congress, Bukharin, was declared within a few months to be a bourgeois liberal.

The theses of the Sixth Congress, from the report of the "bourgeois liberal," announced "the growing Bolshevization of the party, the amassing of experience, internal consolidation, the overcoming of internal struggle, the overcoming of the Trotskyist opposition in the Comintern."

"The overcoming of internal struggle" sounds especially good in this triumphant melody. But Molotov conceals from us what took place after the Sixth Congress, i.e., after the happily achieved Bolshevization:

"Of the list of members and candidate members of the ECCI after the Sixth Congress, seven members are now outside the ranks of communism, having joined the camp of the renegades."

It transpires that, every time, it is necessary to begin from the beginning. The wind of "Bolshevization" turns about. And it further transpires that in the struggle against the "Trotskyist opposition" tomorrow's renegades did not occupy the last place. In a strange way, it was just they who played the leading role.

Stalin and Roy

"It is clear," said Molotov at the Sixteenth Congress, "that it is not such people as Roy, who defended the policy of a bloc with the national bourgeoisie and has now gone over to the camp of the right-wing renegades, who could create a communist party in India."

The bloc with the national bourgeoisie, which is the basis of Stalin and Molotov's tactics in China, is written into the program of the Comintern. Or can it be that it was Roy who wrote the program? Or did the present leader of the Comintern simply forget the program? Or is he intending to reexamine it?

The petty-bourgeois Indian democrat Roy considers, as is well known, that for the sake of the Indian revolution communists should construct neither a communist nor a proletarian party, but a popular-revolutionary party above classes, an Indian Kuomintang. Roy was expelled from the Comintern as a right-winger. Generally speaking, there is no place for proponents of a Kuomintang in a proletarian International. But the point is that Roy did not introduce his great idea about the incapacity of the party of the proletariat to lead a popular, that is, workers' and peasants', revolution into the Comintern — he got it from the Comintern. As early as 1927 Roy's idea enjoyed official acceptance. The following extract from the leading organ of the Comintern on Roy's views on the tasks of the revolution in India appeared in April 1927:

"Comrade Roy's book is devoted to the most central question of contemporary revolutionary politics in India — the question of the organization of a popular party representing the interests of the workers, the peasants, and the petty bourgeoisie. The necessity of such an organization flows from the present conditions of the national revolutionary movement in India."

And further:

"Hence the task of the proletariat is to organize all these petty-bourgeois classes and layers into a single popular-revolutionary party and lead it to the assault on imperialism. We recommend this book to the reader who wants to form a definite and clear conception of the contemporary state of the national revolutionary movement in India, for it gives the Leninist interpretation of contemporary revolutionary politics in India" (Kommunistichesky Internatsional, number 15, April 15, 1927, pp. 50 and 52).

And how could the Comintern organ say otherwise? Roy's idea was in fact the idea of Stalin.

On May 18, 1927, Stalin answered a question from the students of the Chinese university in Moscow on the leading revolutionary party in China thus:

"We have said and we still say that the Kuomintang is a party of a bloc of several oppressed classes… . When I said in 1925 of the Kuomintang that it was the party of the worker-peasant bloc, I did not at all have in mind the characteristics of the actual [?] state of affairs in the Kuomintang, the characteristics of those classes which in fact adhered to the Kuomintang in 1925. When I spoke of the Kuomintang, I had in mind the Kuomintang only as a model of a special type of popular-revolutionary party in the oppressed countries of the East, especially in such countries as China and India, as a special type of popular-revolutionary party which has to rely on the support of a revolutionary bloc of workers and the petty bourgeoisie of town and countryside."

And Stalin finished off his answer with the assertion that the Kuomintang must still in the future be "a special type of popular-revolutionary party in the countries of the East." The ridiculous, not to say unscrupulous, excuse that in 1925 Stalin was not speaking of the Kuomintang as it is, but of the Kuomintang as it ought to be, not of a fact but of an idea, is explained by the fact that Stalin had to justify himself to Chinese students after Chiang Kai-shek's coup, when it was already shown by experience that the Kuomintang contains not only oppressed classes, but also their oppressors. Stalin, however, did not hesitate. He merely separated the pure idea of the Kuomintang from the vile fact and asserted that this is the "type of popular-revolutionary party" for the countries of the East in general. This also meant the "Kuomintangization" of India.

Roy is nothing but a worthy disciple of Stalin.

On Straw in General and Lozovsky in Particular

Here is what Lozovsky said about France at the Sixteenth Congress of the Communist Party:

"… in France several trade unions … have set up a so-called unitary opposition with its own platform and with its own evaluation of the present situation and the immediate perspectives."

What is the most remarkable thing?

"The most remarkable thing about this 'Unitary Opposition' consists in the fact that it is a bloc of the right wing and the Trotskyists, and that this platform is also the platform of Trotsky's organ in France, La Vérité, at the head of which is Rosmer, the faithful follower of Trotskyism. The 'Unitary Opposition' is a creation of Trotskyists and shameless [!] right-wingers [!!]. That is how the 'left [?] Bolshevik' line of Trotsky and Company looks in practice. An organized opposition exists only in France."

"The most remarkable thing" is that in the above there is about 49 percent truth. The Left Opposition is in fact having great success in the French trade-union movement. But then there comes the other 51 percent, for in fact the Unitary Opposition, which follows the banner of the Communist Left, wages an irreconcilable struggle against the right-wing, semi-reformist opposition which covers itself with slogans of trade-union autonomy (Monatte, Chambelland) or directly supports the "Workers and Peasants Party" of Sellier and Company. There are no points of contact, whether political or organizational, between these two oppositions.

What in the world is "characteristic"?

"It is characteristic" — according to Lozovsky — "that wherever the Trotskyists have even the slightest influence, they come out together with the Amsterdamers against the Communists."

It is "characteristic" that there is not even 1 percent truth here.

Is there not perhaps something else "characteristic" ?

"The Trotskyists assert that at a time of crisis economic struggle is impossible."

Who are these "Trotskyists"? Where did they assert this? When? But let us not hold up the inspired Lozovsky:

"The 'left' Trotskyist Neurath found nothing better than …" etc. But doesn't Neurath belong to the Right Opposition in Czechoslovakia? Well.

What is Lozovsky short of?

"What we are short of in the independent revolutionary trade unions and trade-union oppositions is the ability to attract new layers of workers into struggle, to bind them with strong bonds to our organizations, to implant ourselves in the factories" (from the same speech).

In a word, everything would be fine for Lozovsky except that he is short of a few trifles: the ability to attract the masses, to organize them, and to penetrate into the factories.

Lozovsky is short of something else too, but from modesty he did not tell us.

Can you imagine a revolutionary straw man in action? And moreover in the role of a leader? You can't imagine it? That means you haven't seen or heard Lozovsky. Here is an inimitable passage from the same speech of his to the Sixteenth Congress, with our modest additions in brackets:

"The main thing now is to free the workers' movement of the colonial and semicolonial countries from the slightest influence of the bourgeoisie [even from the 'slightest'!], to introduce a sharp differentiation between the classes [just try and hide it!], to raise a wave of proletarian distrust in politicos of the type of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Wang Ching-wei, etc. [but who has been raising a wave of trust in them?]. The most important thing [aren't there too many 'most important things'?] is not to let the Menshevik-Trotskyist ideas of Roy [but isn't Roy a disciple of Stalin and Lozovsky?] and Ch'en Tu-hsiu [it was Lozovsky who gave him his Menshevik ideas!] get a hold among the working masses, but to organize the masses in the bold Bolshevik way [but isn't that just 'what we are short of' ?], realizing that the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry [precisely!] is a step on the road to the socialist revolution."

Straw is a very useful thing on a farm. But as a leader — well, need more be said?

Manuilsky Faced with a Problem

Not being able to hold his tongue, Manuilsky unexpectedly declared at the Sixteenth Congress, "The question of the nature of social fascism is a problem which has not yet been sufficiently worked out in the Communist International."

There you are! From the beginning they announced, confirmed, asserted, canonized, and cretinized, and now they are going to "work out" the question still more. Who, then, will deal with the "working out"? We have to propose Radek. Apart from him there is no one. Everyone else has taken off.

What is Social Fascism?

Radek must serve his novitiate. Toward this end he is writing verbose articles in Pravda on "the essence of social fascism." As Khemnitzer's philosopher once asked: "What is this, a rope?" And since the trouble is that the readers of the numerous articles on "social fascism" disastrously forget all the excellent arguments of the previous investigators, it is up to Radek to begin from the beginning. To begin from the beginning means to declare that Trotsky stands on the other side of the barricades. It is possible that Radek had to insert this sentence on the special request of the editorial board, as a moral honorarium for the publication of his article.

But all the same, what is the essence of social fascism? And how does it differ from true fascism? It appears that the difference (who would have thought it?) lies in the fact that social fascism is also "for carrying out the fascist policy, but in a democratic way." Radek explains in long Words why nothing remained for the German bourgeoisie but to carry out the fascistic policy through parliament "with an outward retention of democracy.'' So what is the point? Up until now Marxists have assumed that democracy is the outward disguise of the class dictatorship — one of its possible disguises. The political function of the contemporary social democracy is the creation of just such a democratic disguise. In no other way is it different from fascism which, with other methods, other ideology, in part also with another social base, organizes, insures, and protects the same dictatorship of imperialist capital.

But — Radek argues — it is possible to maintain decaying capitalism only with fascist measures. In the long run this is entirely correct. From this, however, does not flow the identity of social democracy and fascism, but merely the fact that the social democracy is obliged in the long run to clear the road for fascism, while the latter, coming to take its place, does not deny itself the pleasure of battering a considerable number of social democratic heads. Such objections, however, are declared by Radek in his article to be an "apology for the social democracy." This terrible revolutionary apparently thinks that to cover the bloody tracks of imperialism with the brush of democracy is a higher and more eminent mission than to defend the imperialist coffers with blackjack in hand.

Radek cannot deny that the social democracy clings to parliamentarism with all its feeble power, for all the sources of its influence and welfare are bound up with this artificial machine. But, protests the inventive Radek, "it is nowhere said that fascism requires the formal dispersal of parliament." Is that really the case? But it was precisely the political party that was called fascist that for the first time, in Italy, destroyed the parliamentary machine in the name of the praetorian guard of bourgeois class rule. This, it turns out, has no importance. The phenomenon of fascism is one thing and its essence is another. Radek finds that the destruction of parliamentarism does not require fascism, if this destruction is taken as a thing in itself. "What is this, a rope?"

But since he feels that this does not come off so smoothly, Radek adds with still greater ingenuity: "Even Italian fascism did not disperse the parliament right away [!].” What is true is true. And yet it did disperse it, without sparing even the social democracy, the finest flower in the parliamentary bouquet. According to Radek, it looks as though the social fascists dispersed the Italian parliament, only not right away but after reflection. We are afraid that Radek's theory does not quite explain to the Italian workers why the social fascists are now living in exile. The German workers, too, will not easily grasp who it really is in Germany that wants to disperse parliament: the fascists or the social democrats?

All of Radek's arguments, like those of his teachers, can be reduced to the fact that the social democracy in no way represents ideal democracy (i.e., evidently not the kind of democracy that Radek had rosy dreams about after his conciliatory embraces with Yaroslavsky). The profound and fertile theory of social fascism is not built on the foundation of a materialist analysis of the particular, specific function of the social democracy, but upon the basis of an abstract democratic criterion that is peculiar to the opportunists even when they want to or have to occupy a position on the most extreme wing of the most extreme barricade (during which time they turn their backs and their weapons the wrong way).

There is no class contradiction between the social democracy and fascism. Both fascism and the social democracy are bourgeois parties; not bourgeois in the general sense, but the sort that preserve a decaying capitalism that is ever less able to tolerate democratic forms or any fixed form of legality. This is precisely why the social democracy, notwithstanding the ebbs and flows of its fortunes, is condemned to extinction, giving way to one of two polar opposites: either fascism or communism.

The difference between blonds and brunets is not so great, at any rate substantially less than the difference between humans and apes. Anatomically and physiologically, blonds and brunets belong to one and the same species, may belong to one and the same nationality, one and the same family, and, finally, both may be one and the same scoundrel. Yet skin and hair color has a significance not only for state passports but in life generally. Radek, however, in order to earn the hearty applause of Yaroslavsky, wants to prove that the brunet is at bottom a blond, only with darker skin and black hair.

There are good theories in the world that serve to explain facts. But so far as the theory of social fascism is concerned, the only needs it serves are those of capitulators serving their novitiates.