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Leon Trotsky 19350400 Notes of a Journalist

Leon Trotsky: Notes of a Journalist

Published April 1935

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 7, 1934-1935, New York 1971, p. 238-242]

How the Stalinists Undermine the Morale of the Red Army

In recent months the Kremlin has again been busy — and with what furious zeal! — rewriting the history of the Red Army. The aim of the rewriting is to prove that, if not in form, then in essence, Trotsky fought in the camp of the White Guards against the Soviets. We are not at all exaggerating; Trotsky, it turns out, planted in the armies of the Eastern Front "White Guard nests" that would inevitably have destroyed the cause of the revolution if Stalin had not intervened in time and purged the army of Trotsky's agents. At the same time, Trotsky shot Communists fighting bravely in the ranks of the Red Army, and the affair would inevitably have ended in catastrophe had it not again been for the salutary intervention of Stalin who, it seems, had even then decided that Communists were to be shot in peacetime.

These interesting and to some extent "sensational" disclosures evoke some questions.

First: why were the disclosures made so late? Is it because young Soviet scholars have made a series of unexpected discoveries in the archives, or because a new generation has grown up that knows nothing of the past?

Second: what is the relation between the latest disclosures and the preceding ones? From the end of 1923, Trotsky was accused of "underestimating the peasantry" and of a passion for "permanent revolution." It now turns out that from 1917 Trotsky was in reality an agent of the Whites in the Red Army, which was created by Stalin. What then was the point in confusing the mind of the whole of humanity for many years with "underestimation of the peasantry" and other trifles when, in fact, all along it was a matter not of a revolutionary but of a counterrevolutionary?

Third: why did the Bolshevik Party for seven years (1918-25) keep at the head of the Red Army a man who was destroying it? Why did it not appoint Stalin, who created it? This cannot be explained only by Stalin's universally known modesty, for it was a matter of the life and death of the revolution. Nor can we consider that the party was uninformed; surely Stalin knew what he was doing when he was purging the Red Army of the counterrevolutionary nests planted by Trotsky and putting a stop to the shooting of Communists, reserving this task for himself alone. But since Stalin never acted except on the orders of the Political Bureau, that means the higher institutions of the party must also have been aware of what was going on.

True, the Political Bureau at that time consisted largely of counterrevolutionaries or apprentice counterrevolutionaries (Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev). But Lenin? Let us suppose he was a poor judge of events and people (his "Testament" allows such a conclusion to be drawn). But Stalin himself? Why did he not present the Central Committee and the party with the question of Trotsky's deadly work in the Red Army during the civil war?

A literate, intelligent Red Army man, looking at old books or newspapers would have to say to himself: "For seven years Trotsky was at the head of the Red Army and the Red Fleet He was appointed organizer and leader of the forces of the Soviet Republic. Trotsky took the oaths made by the Red Army men. It turns out that he was a traitor. His criminal acts caused hundreds of thousands of needless sacrifices. That means we were deceived. But who deceived us? The Political Bureau headed by Lenin. That means there were traitors and people covering up for betrayal in the Political Bureau.

"Now they tell me that the real creators and leaders of the Red Army were Stalin and Voroshilov. But can it be that I am being deceived again? They didn't tell me about Trotsky's betrayal till ten years after his removal. And when will they tell me about the betrayals of Stalin and Voroshilov? Whom can you trust at all?"

So speaks the thinking young Red Army man. The old soldier, who knows from experience how things went, will draw more or less the following conclusion: "When they accused Trotsky of 'underestimating the peasantry,' I thought that that may well have been true; it is a complicated question, and it is difficult to figure out But when they tell me that Trotsky planted White Guard nests in the Red Army, I say straight out: the present leaders are lying! And if they lie so barefacedly about the civil war, then probably they are lying about the underestimation of the peasantry too."

There can be only one result to the new campaign of sensational disclosures: damage to trust in the leadership, old or new, any leadership.

You have to ask yourself: why does the Stalin clique consider it necessary now — in 1935! — to engage in such two-edged disclosures, which are at least 50 percent self-disclosures? Trotskyism was destroyed in 1925, then destroyed again in 1927, irrevocably destroyed in 1928 (Trotsky exiled to Alma-Ata) and the "last remnants" of the "miserable fragments" again and again subjected to extermination after Trotsky's exile abroad, where he finally "revealed himself" as an agent of imperialism. It would seem to be time to get back to business. But no, the ruling gentry cannot sit calmly in their places; they find it necessary to worry; they sweat from the effort of thought; can't something more be thought up, something a little stronger, a little harder, a little more venomous, that will really and truly destroy this already seven-times destroyed Trotskyism?

Radek Writes Well

In Gogol's time the "gentry from Kursk" wrote well. In our time, when there are no more gentry, Radek writes well. But since Radek is a foreigner in all languages, it would be unfair to attack him from that side. He is neither profound nor grammatical but, all the same, the truth is apparent Betrayal peers through every word. One cannot be mistaken: even if he's not one of the Kursk gentry he does not spare his life for the leader.

"Nikolaev's shot" writes Radek, "most clearly illuminated the counterrevolutionary rot concealed in the ranks of our party" (Bolshevik, No. 3, p. 61). Here every word strikes home: it was precisely rot; it was precisely concealed; it was precisely in the party. And as for the shot, it precisely "most clearly illuminated" all this rot And, most amazing of all, Radek himself unexpectedly fell under the light of this most clear illumination — as a moralist, of course, and not as rot For who would allow a rotten publicist on to the pages of Bolshevik? Yaroslavsky, true, was removed from the editorship after years of service, but even the vigilant Stetsky will do.

In any case, Radek himself — this is precisely the aim of his article — proves in twenty pages of closely-packed text that, as far as he himself is concerned, his high revolutionary morals stand above all suspicion. And who should know better than Radek? Trotsky "openly crossed to the camp of counterrevolution." Zinoviev and Kamenev had recourse to "two-faced confession." But he, Radek, has confessed with all the four perfections. Whip him, boil him in oil — he, like Vas’ka Shibanov, will praise his master. But — homo sum — Radek prefers, of course, to arrange the truth-test without the oil. Some ill-wishers even assert that it is Radek's inclination to a peaceful way of life and his revulsion from boiling oil in all its forms that have produced in him such an intense feeling of truth to the leader, the leader's house porter and even the leader's dog (we apologize for the shadow of Molchalin that peeps through).

Such purely psychological hypotheses, however, are unconvincing. Radek's truthfulness has a sociological basis. A good part of the twenty pages is filled with quotations from Stalin, proving that any opposition is always bourgeois and always leads to counterrevolution. In the scriptures, it is put simply: "There is no power, except from the Lord." In the language of Radek and the other theoretical lackeys of the bureaucracy, the same thought is expressed in more contemporary terms: "Everything to the right or left of Stalin is bourgeois counterrevolution; the meridian of the proletariat passes through the bridge of the leader's nose.”

While Radek remains on the heights of general sociology (we mean the sociology of bureaucratic lackeys), his positions are almost inaccessible. Things become rather worse when Radek has to give answers to lower and more concrete questions, such as about the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev. In the government communique as well as in numerous articles in Pravda there was, as is well known, the direct and categorical assertion that Zinoviev and Kamenev had as their goal the restoration of capitalism and military intervention. We not only doubted this but even called the whole assertion a mixture of baseness, stupidity and caddishness. "The question is not," says Radek in defense of the leader, "whether capitalism is the ideal of Messrs. Trotsky and Zinoviev but whether the construction of socialism is possible in our country," etc. In a word, Radek blurts out that Zinoviev and Kamenev started no conspiracies to restore capitalism — contrary to what the official communique shamelessly asserted — but completely rejected the theory of socialism in one country, the very national-reformist theory that Stalin himself was still rejecting in 1924 and that Radek accepted only in the severe climate of Siberia in 1929. Q. E. D.

With the exception of such slips, it must be admitted that Radek writes very well, with a tremble in his pen. But for some reason, while reading his article you cannot help thinking, surely I've read this article a hundred times already. And for some reason, there even rises from the paper on which it is written a strange odor, like that of an old fur on which the house cat has brought up several generations of kittens.

Where Has Manuilsky Gone?

The proletarian masses of both hemispheres have suffered a cruel blow in recent months: a leader of international revolution is missing! Very recently, in the full flower of his strength and talents, he was still giving directives to sixty nations on the subject of the simultaneous passing through of periods (it was then, as it happens, precisely the unforgettable "third period"), writing florid articles, which, it is true, nobody read, and in his free time telling the other leaders anecdotes about national life, which met t with great success. And suddenly he is missing! Missing so completely you cannot find a trace. But since it is a case not of a needle but of a leader of the Comintern, his sudden disappearance threatens to evoke a whole series of cosmic consequences. But it was said long ago: le roi est mort, vive Bela Kun! [the king is dead, long live Bela Kun!].

All the same, minor consequences could not be avoided. Some sections were thrown into confusion by the lightning change of leaders. Some said: But wasn't Bela Kun killed on the Hungarian barricades? Others, on the basis of his name, asserted that this time a leader from the female sex had been appointed. But everything quickly turned to everyone's advantage. "One priest is as good as another," said the Spaniards. "This one won't be worse than Manuilsky," added the Italians. "Lozovsky seems to have disappeared too," observed the British with a sigh of relief. Nobody even remembered Kuusinen. So the history of humanity entered its fourth period. Meanwhile the earth continued to turn on its axis as if nothing special had happened.