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Leon Trotsky 19350500 Why Are We Bolshevik-Leninists?

Leon Trotsky: Why Are We Bolshevik-Leninists?

A Friendly Explanation to Party Comrades

Spring 1935

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 14, New York 1979, p. 581-584]

The French people are approaching great dangers, but also enormous opportunities. The Socialist Party finds itself faced with grave responsibilities. The first condition for carrying them out is theoretical and political clarity. But political clarity does not fall from the sky. It most be acquired by conscious and collective efforts. For a large party this inevitably means by discussion.

The worst kind of pusillanimity is to be afraid of an open and loyal clash of opinions in the party. The greater the problems to be solved are, the more passionate is the confrontation of ideas and tendencies. Let no one say that factions are a harmful thing. No one has yet invented the means for avoiding and eliminating them. When there are serious differences, the party’s adherents inevitably group into different tendencies. True discipline in action can only come out of a loyal and frank confrontation of tendencies, each of which tries to persuade the rest of the party of the correctness of its program.

We Bolshevik-Leninists are a tendency: that of the extreme left of the Socialist Party. In order to better explain the place we occupy and the aim we pursue it is necessary to take a clear look at the overall political picture of the party. It is no secret to anyone that our party is not homogeneous, that it contains three principal tendencies: reformist, centrist, and Marxist.

Reformism, in our party as elsewhere, represents the past. It is the inheritance of a bygone era when capitalism was vigorous and on the rise, when parliamentary democracy seemed to be full of promise. In the past, despite its insufficiency and myopia, reformism was able to render the proletariat certain material services. Now, in the era of capitalism in decay, reformism is condemned to total impotence. That is why the reformist tendency, which is very strong in the leading apparatus of our party, among the parliamentary deputies, the mayors, the general and municipal council members, the union leaders, etc., is embarrassed to openly acknowledge its true program.

It is not easy to carry the reformist banner when the reforms go bankrupt. It is not easy to be a mouthpiece for parliamentary democracy when democracy decomposes in front of everyone’s eyes, rots, fouls the atmosphere and finds itself forced to abdicate more and more in favor of the supra-parliamentary, Bonapartist government.

It is also not easy to acknowledge one’s patriotism when the country condemns its best sons and daughters to permanent poverty, at the same time preparing a new carnage which would mean the extermination of several generations and the fall of our civilization.

Reformism is caught in a dead end. The most consistent reformists are quitting the camp of the working class and openly passing over lock, stock and barrel to the besieged camp of capital. The best example is that of the Neo-Socialists. Not all of them left us. Frossard stayed in the party up until recently in order to use it as a springboard at the favorable moment. There are others of the same type. The party of the working class cannot afford to include elements representing the enemy class which we need to fight. We must not wait until the Frossardists follow Frossard. They must be unmasked in good time and they must not be allowed to keep their comfortable timeserving posts living on the back of the proletariat.

We Bolshevik-Leninists believe that we exactly reflect the thinking of the revolutionary workers when we refuse to “understand” this indulgence and courtesy, very close to complicity with the renegades, toward traitors and candidates for treason. When we are talked to about unity in general, totalitarian unity, we answer: we are against unity with the traitors. We are for class-struggle unity.

But there are many camouflaged and even half-repentant reformists — the centrists. At the moment this is the broadest as well as the most diverse faction. The collapse of democratic and patriotic reformism forces many representatives of the workers’ movement to seek temporary refuge in the centrist tendency. The fundamental characteristic of this tendency is that it has lost its naive faith in democratic reforms, but still has all its fear of the proletarian revolution.

The centrist tendency lives by equivocation; it borrows revolutionary formulas from the Marxist vocabulary, but it removes from them all their practical consequences. It is ready to talk about revolution but not to prepare for it. The Bataille Socialiste tendency, headed by Zyromsky, is the incarnation of centrism in our party. The representatives of this tendency never reply to either our criticism or our proposals. They very often form a common front with the reformists against us. We accuse the centrists of becoming the right wing’s self-defense organization against the left wing.

We Bolshevik-Leninists are absolutely certain that many comrades, especially workers who are now passing through the centrist stage, will soon find their place in the revolutionary camp, but to help them go through this healthy evolution we intransigently refuse to make the slightest concession of principle to centrism, that is, to confusion and prostration.

Our intransigence is neither gratuitous nor arbitrary. It only reflects the intransigence of the class struggle. The proletariat has no other choice than to take the power in its hands through revolution or to rot along with the rotting capitalist system. Our motion simply gives clear expression to this fundamental fact. The march of events, which does not depend on our will, tells us: “You will win or you will die. But you will only win when you want to and know how to.”

We call ourselves Bolshevik-Leninists not because we want to blindly imitate the Russian Bolsheviks in a different situation and in different conditions; even less do we do so because we are capable of bowing to the commands of the Soviet bureaucracy. Not a bit! The tyranny of the top bureaucrats in Moscow over the Comintern was what broke its spine and now makes the Stalinist leaders play the truly reactionary role they do in the workers’ movement. The reason we call ourselves Bolsheviks is that the great party of Lenin has given us two imperishable lessons: the defeatist attitude during the war and the revolutionary conquest of power.

We call ourselves Leninists because, after Marx and Engels, their continuator, Lenin, is the greatest theoretician of the working class. It was he who masterfully applied Marxist theory to analyze our era, not only for Russia but for the entire capitalist world. Today there is no other road to Marx than Lenin’s. Every new event in any capitalist country demonstrates the correctness of the Leninist conception.

The Stalinist bureaucracy distorts Lenin’s thought as the Social Democracy distorted that of Marx. But the great events taking place in our country, the sharpening of the class struggle, the social war and the imperialist war methodically prepared by big business, this whole terrible chain of events forces every conscious worker to turn toward the source of Leninism.

Against reformist capitulation, against centrist softness, for the proletarian revolution — that is the slogan of the Bolshevik-Leninists.