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Leon Trotsky 19390610 Ten Years

Leon Trotsky: Ten Years

June 10, 1939

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 11, 1938-1938, New York ²1974, p. 340-344]

The Biulleten Oppozitsii has been in existence for ten years. At the time it was founded, it was already clear that the Thermidorean reaction in the USSR would endure until it met with decisive resistance. Domestic resistance could hardly be counted upon inasmuch as the revolution had already in a large measure spent its fighting resources. The international situation, however, was or appeared to be far more favorable than it is today. Mighty labor organizations flourished in Germany. It was possible to hope that under the influence of the terrible lessons of the past, the German Communist Party would take the road of the class struggle and pull along the French proletariat. Two years after our publication was launched, the Spanish revolution, which might have become the starting point for a whole series of revolutions in Europe, erupted. In the minds of the editorial board of the Biulleten the fate of the USSR was always indissolubly linked with the fate of the world proletariat. Every revolutionary conflict opened at least a theoretical possibility of regenerating that which once had been the Communist International. But at each new stage of development a tombstone had to be placed over these expectations.

We have often been accused of having been too belated in declaring the Moscow International a corpse. We are not ready to recant on this score. It is better to delay a burial than to bury the not-dead. Whenever it is a question of contending living forces, one can foresee a priori the general trend of the movement; but it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to forecast its stages and time intervals. Only when it became revealed that no open indignation was aroused in the ranks of the Communist International after the latter had surrendered without a struggle the most important position in Germany did it become clear that no hopes remained for the regeneration of this organization. By virtue of this very fact, the hour struck — not for vacillation or hesitation, as was the opinion of the participants in the defunct London Bureau, but for systematic work under the banner of the Fourth International.

So, too, in relation to the Soviet state our hopes and expectations have undergone in ten years an evolution determined not by our subjective likes or dislikes but by the general course of development. Political prognosis is only a working hypothesis. It must be constantly checked, rendered more precise, brought closer to reality. It was utterly impossible to have measured a priori how strong would be the internal resistance of the Bolshevik Party to the onset of Thermidor. Despite the disillusion and the fatigue of the masses, this resistance evidenced itself. Proof of it are the countless "purges," the massacre of entire revolutionary generations. But, in the circumstances of the defeats of the world proletariat, the Thermidorean reaction in the USSR proved stronger than the resistance of Bolshevism. In 1929, when the Biulleten was launched, this variant in perspectives was already a probability. But to have chosen beforehand this variant as the sole possibility would have signified the surrender of a position without a battle, that is, treacherous capitulation. Only the complete and manifest strangulation of the Bolshevik Party along with the complete prostitution of the Comintern removed the ground from under the program of "reforming" the Soviet state, placing on the order of the day the antibureaucratic revolution.

We have often been and are still being indicted for not having to this very day declared the USSR not to be a workers' state. Our critics have refrained, however, from giving their definition of the Soviet state, if we leave aside the term "state capitalism" which is applied by them equally to the USSR, Germany, and Italy. We have rejected, and still reject, this term, which while it does correctly characterize certain features of the Soviet state, nevertheless ignores its fundamental difference from capitalist states, namely, the absence of a bourgeoisie, as a class of property-owners, the existence of the state -form of ownership of the most important means of production, and finally planned economy, made possible by the October Revolution. Neither in Germany nor in Italy does the foregoing exist. The proletariat, in overthrowing the Bonapartist oligarchy, will lean on this social foundation.

★ ★ ★

The last decade was a decade of defeats and retreats of the proletariat, a decade of victories of reaction and counterrevolution. This era has not terminated; the greatest evils and bestialities are still ahead. But the approaching denouement is presaged precisely by the extraordinary tension. In international relations this denouement means war. Abstractly speaking, it would have been far better had the war been forestalled by the proletarian revolution. But this did not occur and — we must say flatly — the remaining chances for it are few. The war is advancing far more speedily than the rate at which new cadres of the proletarian revolution are being formed. Never before has historical determinism assumed so fatalistic a form as it does nowadays. All the forces of old society — fascism and democracy, and social patriotism and Stalinism — stand equally in fear of war and keep heading towards it. Nothing will help them. They will make the war and will be swept away by the war. They have fully earned it.

The Social Democracy and the Comintern are concluding deals with democratic imperialism "against fascism" and "against war." But their "lesser evil" inescapably retreats before a greater evil. Should capitalism, with the aid of the two Internationals, succeed in maintaining itself for another decade, then the methods of fascism will no longer be adequate. Military conquests can achieve only a shift of poverty from one country to another, while at the same time narrowing the base upon which all countries rest. A super-fascism will become necessary, with such legislation as harks back to the time of Herod and the slaughter of innocent babes, so as to preserve the dictatorship of the trusts. In that event, the corroded Internationals will doubtless proclaim as a holy duty an alliance with fascism — a lesser evil in the face of a Herod threatening no longer civilization alone but the very existence of mankind. For Social Democrats and Stalinists there is not and there cannot be — either in China, Germany, Spain, France, or anywhere in the world — such conditions as would give the proletariat the right to play an independent role; the one thing that the workers are good for is to support one form of banditry against another. There are no limits within capitalism itself as to the depths to which it can sink; this is likewise true of its shadows: the Second and Third Internationals. They will be the first to be crushed by the war they are themselves preparing. The only world party unafraid of war and its consequences is the Fourth International. We should have preferred another way; but we shall take confidently also the path into which the present masters of the situation are shoving mankind.

★ ★ ★

The Biulleten does not stand alone. Publications of the same spirit appear in dozens of countries. Many articles of the Biulleten have been translated during the last decade into dozens of languages. True enough, there remain quite a few left philistines who turn up their noses loftily at our small publications and their small circulation. But we would not swap our Biulleten for the Moscow Pravda, with all its rotary presses and trucks. Machines may and will pass from one hand to another under the influence of ideas that sway the masses. Neither the Second nor the Third International has a single idea left. They only reflect the mortal fears of the ruling classes. The ideas that comprise the heritage of the Fourth International have a colossal dynamic force lodged in them. The impending events will annihilate all that is decrepit, putrescent, and outlived, clearing the arena for a new program and a new organization.

But even today, at the peak of reaction, we derive priceless satisfaction from the knowledge that we have observed the historical process with our eyes open; that we have analyzed realistically each new situation, foreseen its possible consequences, warned of its dangers, indicated the correct road. In everything essential our analysis and our prognosis have been confirmed by events. We did not achieve miracles. Generally speaking, miracles do not enter' into our field of specialty,. But together with our reader-friends we have learned how to think as Marxists in order when the hour strikes to act as revolutionists. The Biulleten enters into its second decade with an immutable faith in the triumph of its idea.

For almost nine years, the publication of the Biulleten was in the hands of L. L. Sedov. To this cause he gave the better part of his youth. Unwaveringly devoted to the cause of revolutionary socialism, Sedov did not flinch once throughout the hard years of reaction. He always lived in the expectation of a new revolutionary dawn. It did not fall to his lot to meet it himself. But like all genuine revolutionists he worked for the future. And the future will disappoint neither him nor us.

The publication of the Biulleten would have been impossible without the aid of loyal friends. To all of them we send our fraternal gratitude. We are banking firmly in the future on their help, which we need today more than ever before.