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Leon Trotsky 19381114 The Twenty-First Anniversary

Leon Trotsky: The Twenty-First Anniversary

November 14, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 11, 1938-1938, New York ²1974, p. 108-111]

The February Revolution was brought about by workers and soldiers, i.e., peasants under arms. The mortal blow at czarism was struck by the workers of St. Petersburg. But they themselves did not yet know that the blow was mortal. It often happens that the oppressed cannot enjoy the fruits of their victory because they do not realize its significance. The power which the masses in revolt were unable to grasp fell into the hands of a coalition of liberals, Mensheviks, and "Social Revolutionaries," i.e., of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, us It was a classical "Popular Front" of that period.

Stalin wrote and said, "The Provisional Government must be supported, because. . . ." Lenin arrived from abroad and declared, "The least support for the Provisional Government is a betrayal." Stalin said at the March Conference of the Bolsheviks, "We must unite with the party of Tseretelli (Mensheviks)." Lenin declared, "Any thought of unity with the Menshevik defensists is a betrayal."

The real Bolshevik policy started after the arrival of Lenin (April 4, 1917), with his irreconcilable opposition to the February "Popular Front." The point of this opposition was to unite all the oppressed and exploited against the "democratic" imperialist bourgeoisie supported by the Mensheviks and "Social Revolutionaries" (social patriots). Lenin sought the unity of the revolutionary masses on the basis of class struggle, and not the unity of "socialist" phrasemongers with the liberal capitalists to deceive the masses. Anyone who did not understand the difference between these two forms of "unity" had to be swept out of the workers' movement with a broom.

In the critical months of the revolution, the parties of the "Popular Front," the liberals, Mensheviks, and "Social Revolutionaries," squeezed by the revolutionary masses, found no other means of defense but the vilest slander against the Bolsheviks. Accusations of relations with the German general staff, connections with the Black Hundreds and the pogromists (the fascists of the day), rained down as from a horn of plenty. The present riff-raff in the Kremlin and its international agents have invented nothing; they have only developed to gigantic proportions the base slander of Miliukov, Kerensky, and Tseretelli.

The October Revolution was the victory of Bolshevism, i.e., of the party of the workers and poorest peasants over the "Popular Front," i.e., the parties of the liberal bourgeoisie, the Mensheviks and the "Social Revolutionaries," who were in-dissolubly linked with the "democratic" imperialism of the Entente.

Now, every philistine who considers himself a "friend of the USSR" calls the February coalition of 1917 "counterrevolutionary." But the Cadets, Mensheviks, and "Social Revolutionaries" were counterrevolutionary only in relation to the Bolshevist, i.e., socialist, revolution, but not in relation to the monarchy, not in relation to the fascism of the day or the dictatorship of the generals. If you translate the political concepts of that time into contemporary ones, then you have to say that Lombardo Toledano is at best a caricature of Kerensky, and Laborde stands considerably further from Marxism than the Mensheviks did in the February Revolution.

The Kerenskys of the whole world were irreconcilable foes of the October Revolution. Its friends were the revolutionary workers of the whole world. At that time, paid friends did not yet exist. It was not possible to make a career out of friendship with the USSR. It was possible to travel to the USSR only illegally. Some people who attempted it perished by the shot of a border guard or drowned in the sea trying to sail across at night in a small boat. They were real friends!

To make Lombardo Toledano and his like into paid "friends" of the USSR it was necessary for the Soviet bureaucracy to oppress the masses and seize in its own hands power and control over all the riches of the country; it was necessary, in other words, for the proletarian revolution to be replaced by the Thermidorean reaction. In France the Thermidorean careerists who enriched themselves out of the revolution hated the honest Jacobins. And the present bureaucracy and its foreign friends hate genuine proletarian revolutionaries. To justify their hatred to the masses these careerists are forced to slander those who remain faithful to the program of the October Revolution. The Soviet bureaucracy pays for slander with support, publicity, and often with 24-carat gold. As a result it turns out that Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Bukharin, Radek, Pyatakov, Sokolnikov, Serebryakov, Smirnov – all comrades-in-arms of Lenin – Tukhachevsky, Yegorov, Bluecher, Muralov, Yakir, Mrachkovsky, Uborevich, Gamarnik – all heroes of the civil war – are traitors; and the faithful defenders of the October Revolution turn out to be the Moscow prosecutor Vyshinsky and the Mexican lawyer Toledano.

On the eve of the twenty-first anniversary, Soviet policy, both internal and external, and the policy of the Comintern, have revealed all their rottenness and falseness. Inside the country complete extermination of the Bolshevik Party has been necessary, and completely shameless deification of the leader to support the unstable regime of bureaucratic dictatorship. In external policy – after a series of pointless and humiliating capitulations – the USSR is more isolated than it has ever been. Finally, the international policy of "People's Fronts" has led to the ruin of the Spanish revolution and has brought France close to fascism. The Comintern stands before the international proletariat as a wretched, despised bankrupt.

As was to be expected, Moscow is trying to execute a new about-face. At the grandiose but completely forced demonstration of November 7 on Red Square, foreign journalists and diplomats were surprised when they heard long-forgotten cries in favor of world revolution. Stalin wants to terrorize his enemies with shouts. After having failed to do anything with crude cunning, he is trying to take the imperialists by fright. A miserable attempt by a disgraced schemer! For a revolutionary policy there must be revolutionary parties. There are none. It was not easy to transform the young sections of the Comintern, by means of bureaucratic pressure, deceit, slander, violence, bribery, and murder, into repellent cliques of out-and-out careerists. But this work has been accomplished in full. In fifteen years a revolutionary organization can be turned into a heap of muck. Such a heap of muck cannot be turned into the gold of revolution by mere wishing. After the "third period" of ultraleft grimaces we were faced with the spectacle of the "fourth period": shameful groveling before "democratic" imperialism. The attempt to create now a fifth period – of belated revolutionary gestures and bluff–will finish as an even cruder fiasco. The terrible dictator will soon begin to look like a back-garden scarecrow.

On the road of the Soviet bureaucracy and the Comintern here is no way out and not a ray of hope. The advanced workers must put an end to the Soviet bureaucracy and the Comintern. Only an uprising of the Soviet proletariat against the base tyranny of the new parasites can save what is still over in the foundations of the society from the conquests Of October. Only a proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries can help the workers of Russia to construct a genuine socialist society on the foundations laid by October. In this sense and in this sense only, we defend the October Revolution from imperialism, fascist and democratic, from the Stalin bureaucracy, and from its hired "friends."