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Leon Trotsky 19351100 Advice on Canadian Farmers

Leon Trotsky: Advice on Canadian Farmers

November 1935

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 8, 1935-36, New York ²1977, p. 209-211]

How to Reach the Farmer?

Although the economic position of the European peasant is very different from that of the Canadian farmer, certain important features remain the same. For instance, although I have made no special study of Canadian politics, I am willing to assert that the so-called farmer parties of the prairies — now in retreat before Social Credit — have this in common with peasant parties everywhere: they do not and cannot represent the farmer if they are not connected with genuine revolutionary proletarian organizations. Examine their leadership and caucuses and tell me if they are not dominated by the petty bourgeois, the wealthier farmers, the lawyers, teachers, and storekeepers. Examine their financial connections and see if they do not lead directly to merchant capital.

Farmers a Composite Class

It is always this way; so-called “independent farmer parties” are or become anti-farmer Farmers cannot maintain an independent party, because they are not a homogeneous class. Like capitalism as a whole, they are a composite of different classes; they are the protoplasm from which all classes derive. If the exploited poor farmers are not connected with the workers’ parties they inevitably become connected with the bourgeois parties, by a hierarchy at whose top sits finance capital.

It was this basic truth which the Narodniks could not see, and which necessitated the long struggle of the Bolsheviks against them. It was and is the essence of Bolshevism to introduce the class struggle into the peasantry. The crime of Stalinism was to reintroduce the Narodnik illusion that the peasantry was a homogeneous mass, which could be politically unified. That illusion is especially dangerous in the more advanced countries, where there are more wealthy farmers directly connected with town finance.

Reach the Farmer Through the Worker

How can we win the farmhand and poor farmer to the support of the industrial worker? At the start, do not look for an auditorium full of peasants. One must begin by explaining the problems of the farmer to the workers. The revolutionary party must first itself analyze the existing farmer parties and expose the connections between their directive strata and their exploiters. It must not only understand and sympathize with the farmers’ troubles; it must point out to the lower layers the centrifugal forces which forever shattered all efforts at a unified and independent farmers’ organization (i.e., independent from the working class but therefore dependent on the bourgeoisie).

It is through its work in the mass proletarian organizations that the revolutionary reaches the farmer. In Canada especially, I am told, much of the population is in small towns where workers and farmers live side by side. Here the contact actually takes place; here is the opportunity to spread Bolshevik ideas, which can unite the exploited lower strata of the farms with the main historic fight of the proletariat. Through the workers we find the way to the farmer.

Work with Women and the Youth

Revolutionary” organizations which have no special place for women and the youth are not revolutionary. In life, the main burden falls on women. Both women and youth are the most exploited by the capitalists and the most misprized by reformists. There is a tendency to regard the youth as less important — perhaps because they do not vote! It is this attitude to them as well as to the colonial workers which is the test of the Bolshevik. It should be remembered that the youth are asked to do most of the fighting in the capitalists’ wars. We must educate our best youth comrades side by side with ourselves, especially in Bolshevik theory.

Above all, the women! As the Social Democrats are the aristocracy of the working class, working women, whether in home or factory, are the lowest paid, the most driven, the most exploited — they are the pariahs. And we — we are the party of the most exploited. So we are therefore the party of women and the youth.

Illegal and Mass Work

The centrist comes to the revolution with the idea that mass work is prosaic but “underground” work romantic. The two tasks must by synthesized — in fact,, they are the same. Illegal work is the work of remaining among the masses, not of retiring into a cellar. The passing over from fraction work in revolutionary trade unions to illegal work under war conditions is imperceptible. The trade union bureaucracy becomes the police spy system — that is all.

Why Are There Still Honest Workers in the Comintern after Germany?

Great historical defeats do not have their full meaning made clear to the worker immediately. Only in revolutionary periods do our ideas find an immediate reflection in the broad masses. Thinking and analyzing are not taught to the masses by capitalism. Not having that capacity, they must learn from events, by slogans adequate to them and hammered in. It is the fault of the sectarian that he does not understand this. He becomes disgusted with the workers’ movement given by history and wants his own little workers’ movement. Great defeats, especially when they are caused by the bankruptcy of their own leadership, do not make the workers more revolutionary but demoralize their organization for a long time. That is why, although the Left Opposition in Russia predicted the Chinese defeat that Stalinism caused, yet the defeat hurt the Left Opposition and strengthened Stalin’s bureaucracy in the Soviet Union.

That is why there are still honest workers in the Comintern. That is why we must explain the German defeat, patiently explain. How could we expect that we, the left wing of the world proletariat, who have suffered one defeat after another, could have become in such a period stronger and more powerful? We can and we will grow with the new awakening of the world proletariat, and the Fourth International will provide the leadership.