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Leon Trotsky 19380309 Stalin's Article on World Revolution

Leon Trotsky: Stalin's Article on World Revolution

March 9, 1938

    [Writings of Leon Trotsky 1937-1938, New York 1970, p. 241-245]

In February, the world press paid no little attention to an article of Stalin's dealing with the question of the dependence of the Soviet Union on the support of the international proletariat. The article was interpreted as a refusal by Stalin of peaceful cooperation with the Western democracies in the name of international revolution. Goebbels's press proclaimed, "Stalin has thrown off his mask. Stalin has shown that his aims do not differ from Trotsky's," etc. The same thought was developed even in the more critical publications of the democratic countries.

Is it necessary today to refute this interpretation? Facts speak louder than words. If Stalin was intending to return to the path of revolution, he would not have exterminated and demoralized revolutionaries. In the last analysis, Mussolini is right when he says in the Giornale d'ltalia that nobody has hitherto struck such a blow at the idea of communism (proletarian revolution) and has exterminated communists with such bitterness as Stalin.

Viewed on a purely theoretical plane, as is not difficult, the article of February 12 is a simple repetition of the formulas Stalin introduced for the first time into usage in autumn 1924, when he broke with the tradition of Bolshevism: inside the USSR "we" have introduced socialism, inasmuch as we have liquidated the national bourgeoisie and organized the cooperation of proletariat and peasantry; but the USSR is surrounded by bourgeois states which threaten intervention and the restoration of capitalism; it is therefore necessary to strengthen the defense and secure the support of the world proletariat. Stalin has never abandoned these abstract formulas. He has only given them gradually a new interpretation. In 1924, the "help" of the Western proletariat was still occasionally understood as international revolution. In 1938,

it began to mean the political and economic cooperation of the Comintern with those bourgeois governments who might show direct or indirect help to the USSR in the event of war. True, this formula presupposes, on the other hand, a revolutionary policy of the so-called "Communist" parties of Germany and Japan. But precisely in these countries the importance of the Comintern is nearly zero.

Nevertheless, it was not by chance that Stalin published his "manifesto" of February 12. The article itself, and the echoes it evoked, were a very essential element in the preparations for the present trial. Renewing the campaign in the courts against the remnants of the old generation of Bolsheviks after a break of a year, Stalin naturally strove to produce the impression in the workers of the USSR and the whole world that he was acting not in the interests of his own clique but in the interests of international revolution. Hence the deliberate ambiguity of certain expressions in the article: without frightening the conservative bourgeoisie, they must put the revolutionary workers at ease.

Thus the assertion that Stalin threw off his peaceful mask in this article is completely false. In fact, he temporarily put on a semi-revolutionary mask. For Stalin, international policy is completely subservient to internal. Internal policy means for him, above all, the struggle for self-preservation. Political problems thus take second place to police ones. Only in this field does Stalin's thought work uninterruptedly and untiringly.

In 1936, while secretly preparing the mass purge, Stalin launched the idea of the new constitution, "the most democratic in the world." There really was no lack of eulogies on such a fortunate turn in the policy of the Kremlin! If a collection were published now of articles written by the patented friends of Moscow about the "most democratic constitution," many of the authors could do nothing but burn with shame. The ballyhoo about the constitution served several aims at once; but the chief one, completely prevailing over the others, was the manipulation of public opinion before the trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev.

On March 1, 1936, Stalin gave a notorious interview to Roy Howard. One little point of this conversation completely escaped notice at the time: the future democratic freedoms, said Stalin, were intended for all, but terrorists would not be spared. The same ominous reservation was made by Molotov in an interview given to the director of Le Temps, Chastenet. "The present generation," said the head of the government, "is making more and more unnecessary certain strict administrative measures taken in the past. However," added Molotov, following Stalin, "the government must remain strong against terrorists … " (Le Temps, March 24, 1936). "Terrorists"? But after the episodic murder of Kirov, with the connivance of the GPU, on December 1, 1934, there had been no terrorist acts. "Terrorist" plans? But nobody yet suspected anything about the Trotskyist "centers." The GPU found out about these "plans" and "centers" only from the testimony. Meanwhile, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and the others started to confess their fictitious crimes only in July 1936; Leon Sedov proved this at the time, on the basis of official material, in his Red Book (Paris, 1936).

Thus, in the interviews mentioned above, Stalin and Molotov mentioned terrorists by way of "foresight," i.e., inquisitional preparation of the coming confessions. The effusions about democratic freedoms were only an empty shell. The kernel was a barely noticeable reference to anonymous "terrorists." This reference was soon clarified by the shooting of several thousand people.

Parallel with the much-vaunted preparation of the Stalin "constitution" went a series of banquets in the Kremlin, in which members of the government embraced representatives of the workers' and collective farmers' aristocracy ("Stakhanovites"). It was proclaimed at the banquets that for the USSR there had begun at last the epoch of "happy life." Stalin was finally confirmed in the name of "father of the peoples" who loves man and tenderly cares for him. Every day the Soviet press published photographs showing Stalin in a circle of happy people, often with a laughing babe in his arms or on his knees. And I think I can be forgiven for mentioning that on seeing these idyllic photographs I said more than once to my friends, "Evidently something terrible is brewing."

The idea of the stage manager was to give the world a picture of a country which, after bitter years of struggle and deprivation, was finally entering the path of "the most democratic" constitution, created by "the father of the peoples," who loved people, especially children . . . and on this attractive backdrop suddenly present the diabolical figures of the Trotskyists, who are sabotaging the economy, organizing famine, poisoning workers, making an attempt soon on the life of "the father of the peoples," and handing over the happy country to the fascist tyrants to tear to pieces.

Supported by the totalitarian apparatus and unlimited material resources, Stalin thought up a unique plan: to ravish the conscience of the world, and with the approval of the whole of humanity to rid himself forever of all opposition to the Kremlin clique. When this thought was expressed in 1935-36 by way of warning, too many people explained it as "the hatred of Trotsky for Stalin." Personal hatred in questions of historical scale is an utterly paltry and despicable feeling. Furthermore, hatred is blind. But in politics, as in personal life, there is nothing more terrible than blindness. The more difficult the situation, the more necessary is it to follow the advice of old Spinoza, "Not to weep, not to laugh, but to understand."

In the course of the preparation for the present trial, "the most democratic constitution" managed to reveal itself as a bureaucratic farce, as a provincial steal from Goebbels. The liberal and democratic circles in the West began to stop being deceived. Distrust of the Soviet bureaucracy which had unfortunately often coincided with coldness toward the USSR began to seize wider and wider layers. On the other hand, sharp disappointment began to penetrate the workers' organizations. In practical politics the Comintern stands to the right of the Second International. In Spain, the Communist Party stifles the left wing of the working class by GPU methods. In France, the Communists became, in an expression of Le Temps, the representatives of "holiday-time chauvinists." This is also seen more or less in the United States and in a series of other countries. The traditional policy of class collaboration, in the struggle with which the Third International arose, now has become, in an exaggerated form, the official policy of Stalinism, with bloody GPU repression used in defense of this policy. Articles and speeches were used solely to mask this fact. That is why in the mouths of the accused are placed theatrical monologues about how they, the Trotskyists, were reactionaries, counterrevolutionaries, fascists, enemies of the working class, over a period of twenty years, and how finally in a GPU prison they had understood the saving character of Stalin's policy. On the other hand, Stalin himself, on the eve of a new bloody hecatomb, found it necessary to say to the working class, "If I am compelled to destroy the old generation of Bolsheviks, that is only in the interests of socialism. I have exterminated the Leninists on the basis of Lenin's doctrine."

This is the real point of the article of February 12. It has no other point. We are faced with an abbreviated repetition of the maneuver with the "democratic constitution." The first blackmail (let's call things by their names) was mainly aimed at the bourgeois democratic circles of the West. The newest blackmail had in view mainly the workers. The conservative authorities of Europe and America have in any case no need to worry. For a revolutionary policy a revolutionary party is necessary. Stalin does not have one. The Bolshevik Party has been killed. The Comintern is entirely demoralized. Mussolini is right in his own way: no one has yet struck the idea of proletarian revolution such blows as the author of the article of February 12.