<b>Markin comment from the American Left History blog (2006):
<strong>THE PROPHET ARMED-1879-1921; THE PROPHET UNARMED-1921-1929; THE PROPHET OUTCAST-1929-1940, THREE VOLUMES, ISAAC DEUTSCHER. VERSO PRESS, LONDON, 2003. </strong>
Isaac Deutscher’s three-volume biography of the great Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky although written over one half century ago remains the standard biography of the man. Although this writer disagrees , as I believe that Trotsky himself would have, about the appropriateness of the title of prophet and its underlying premise that a tragic hero had fallen defeated in a worthy cause, the vast sum of work produced and researched makes up for those basically literary differences. Deutscher, himself, became in the end an adversary of Trotsky’s politics around his differing interpretation of the historic role of Stalinism and the fate of the Fourth International but he makes those differences clear and in general they do not mar the work. I do not believe even with the eventual full opening of all the old Soviet-era files any future biographer will dramatically increase our knowledge about Trotsky and his revolutionary struggles. Moreover, as I have mentioned elsewhere in other reviews, while he has not been historically fully vindicated he is in no need of any certificate of revolutionary good conduct.
At the beginning of the 21st century when the validity of socialist political programs as tools for change is in apparent decline or disregarded as utopian it may be hard to imagine the spirit that drove Trotsky to dedicate his whole life to the fight for a socialist society. However, at the beginning of the 20th century he represented only the most consistent and audacious of a revolutionary generation of mainly Eastern Europeans and Russians who set out to change the history of the 20th century. It was as if the best and brightest of that generation were afraid, for better or worse, not to take part in the political struggles that would shape the modern world. As Trotsky noted elsewhere this element was missing, with the exceptions of Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and precious few others, in the Western labor movement. Here are some highlights of Trotsky's life and politics culled from Deutscher's works that militant leftists should think about.
On the face of it Trotsky’s personal profile does not stand out as that of a born revolutionary. Born of a hard working, eventually prosperous, Jewish farming family in the Ukraine (of all places) there is something anomalous about his eventual political occupation. Always a vociferous reader, good writer and top student under other circumstances he would have found easy success, as others did, in the bourgeois academy, if not in Russia then in Western Europe. But there is the rub; it was the intolerable and personally repellant political and cultural conditions of Czarist Russia in the late 19th century that eventually drove Trotsky to the revolutionary movement- first as a ‘ragtag’ populist and then to his life long dedication to orthodox Marxism. As noted above, a glance at the biographies of Eastern European revolutionary leaders such as Lenin, Martov, Christian Rakovsky, Bukharin and others shows that Trotsky was hardly alone in his anger at the status quo. And the determination to something about it.
For those who argue, as many did in the New Left in the 1960’s, that the most oppressed are the most revolutionary the lives of the Russian and Eastern European revolutionaries provide a cautionary note. The most oppressed, those most in need of the benefits of socialist revolution, are mainly wrapped up in the sheer struggle for survival and do not enter the political arena until late, if at all. Even a quick glance at the biographies of the secondary leadership of various revolutionary movements, actual revolutionary workers who formed the links to the working class , generally show skilled or semi-skilled workers striving to better themselves rather than the most downtrodden lumpenproletarian elements. The sailors of Kronstadt and the Putilov workers in Saint Petersburg come to mind. The point is that ‘the wild boys and girls’ of the street do not lead revolutions; they simply do not have the staying power. On this point, militants can also take Trotsky’s biography as a case study of what it takes to stay the course in the difficult struggle to create a new social order. While the Russian revolutionary movement, like the later New Left mentioned above, had more than its share of dropouts, especially after the failure of the 1905 revolution, it is notably how many stayed with the movement under much more difficult circumstances than we ever faced. For better or worst, and I think for the better, that is how revolutions are made.
Once Trotsky made the transition to Marxism he became embroiled in the struggles to create a unity Russian Social Democratic Party, a party of the whole class, or at least a party representing the historic interests of that class. This led him to participate in the famous Bolshevik/Menshevik struggle in 1903 which defined what the party would be, its program, its methods of work and who would qualify for membership. The shorthand for this fight can be stated as the battle between the ‘hards’ (Bolsheviks, who stood for a party of professional revolutionaries) and the ‘softs’ (Mensheviks, who stood for a looser conception of party membership) although those terms do not do full justice to these fights. Strangely, given his later attitudes, Trotsky stood with the ‘softs’, the Mensheviks, in the initial fight in 1903. Although Trotsky almost immediately afterward broke from that faction I do not believe that his position in the 1903 fight contradicted the impulses he exhibited throughout his career- personally ‘libertarian’, for lack of a better word , and politically hard in the clutch.
Even a cursory glance at most of Trotsky’s career indicates that it was not spent in organizational in-fighting, or at least not successfully. Trotsky stands out as the consummate free-lancer. More than one biographer has noted this condition, including his definitive biographer Isaac Deutscher. Let me make a couple of points to take the edge off this characterization though. In that 1903 fight mentioned above Trotsky did fight against Economism (the tendency to only fight over trade union issues and not fight overtly political struggles against the Czarist regime) and he did fight against Bundism (the tendency for one group, in this case the Jewish workers, to set the political agenda for that particular group). Moreover, he most certainly favored a centralized organization. These were the key issues at that time.
Furthermore, the controversial organizational question did not preclude the very strong notion that a ‘big tent’ unitary party was necessary. The ‘big tent’ German Social Democratic model held very strong sway among the Russian revolutionaries for a long time, including Lenin’s Bolsheviks. The long and short of it was that Trotsky was not an organization man, per se. He knew how to organize revolutions, armies, Internationals, economies and so on when he needed to but on a day to day basis no. Thus, to compare or contrast him to Lenin and his very different successes is unfair. Both have an honorable place in the revolutionary movement; it is just a different place.
That said, Trotsky really comes into his own as a revolutionary leader in the Revolution of 1905 not only as a publicist but as the central leader of the Soviets (workers councils) which made their first appearance at that time. In a sense it is because he was a freelancer that he was able to lead the Petrograd Soviet during its short existence and etch upon the working class of Russia (and in a more limited way, internationally) the need for its own organizations to seize state power. All revolutionaries honor this experience, as we do the Paris Commune, as the harbingers of October, 1917. As Lenin and Trotsky both confirm, it was truly a ‘dress rehearsal’ for that event. It is in 1905 that Trotsky first wins his stars by directing the struggle against the Czar at close quarters, in the streets and working class meeting halls. And later in his eloquent and ‘hard’ defense of the experiment after it was crushed by the Czarism reaction. I believe that it was here in the heat of the struggle in 1905 where the contradiction between Trotsky’s ‘soft’ position in 1903 and his future ‘hard’ Bolshevik position of 1917 and thereafter is resolved. Here was a professional revolutionary who one could depend on when the deal went down. (A future blog will review the 1905 revolution in more detail).
No discussion of this period of Trotsky’s life is complete without mentioning his very real contribution to Marxist theory- that is, the theory of Permanent Revolution. Although the theory is over one hundred years old it still retains its validity today in those countries that still have not had their bourgeois revolutions, or completed them. This rather simple straightforward theory about the direction of the Russian revolution (and which Trotsky later in the 1920’s, after the debacle of the Chinese Revolution, made applicable to what today are called 'third world’ countries) has been covered with so many falsehoods, epithets, and misconceptions that it deserves further explanation.
Why? Militants today must address the ramifications of the question what kind of revolution is necessary as a matter of international revolutionary strategy. Trotsky, taking the specific historical development and the peculiarities of Russian economic development as part of the international capitalist order as a starting point argued that there was no ‘Chinese wall’ between the bourgeois revolution Russian was in desperate need of and the tasks of the socialist revolution. In short, in the 20th century ( and by extension, now) the traditional leadership role of the bourgeois in the bourgeois revolution in a economically backward country, due to its subservience to international capitalist powers and fear of its own working class and plebian masses, falls to the proletariat. The Russian Revolution of 1905 sharply demonstrated the outline of that tendency especially on the perfidious role of the Russian bourgeoisie. The unfolding of revolutionary events in 1917 graphically confirmed this. The history of revolutionary struggles since then, and not only in ‘third world’ countries, gives added, if negative, confirmation of that analysis. (A future blog will review this theory of permanent revolution in more detail).
World War I was a watershed for modern history in many ways. For the purposes of this review two points are important. First, the failure of the bulk of the European social democracy- representing the masses of their respective working classes- to not only not oppose their own ruling classes’ plunges into war, which would be a minimal practical expectation, but to go over and directly support their own respective ruling classes in that war. This position was most famously demonstrated when the entire parliamentary fraction of the German Social Democratic party voted for the war credits for the Kaiser on August 4, 1914. This initially left the anti-war elements of international social democracy, including Lenin and Trotsky, almost totally isolated. As the carnage of that war mounted in endless and senseless slaughter on both sides it became clear that a new political alignment in the labor movement was necessary.
The old, basically useless Second International, which in its time held some promise of bringing in the new socialist order, needed to give way to a new revolutionary International. That eventually occurred in 1919 with the foundation of the Communist International (also known as the Third International). (A future blog will review the first years of the Communist International). Horror of horrors, particularly for reformists of all stripes, this meant that the international labor movement, one way or another, had to split into its reformist and revolutionary components. It is during the war that Trotsky and Lenin, not without some lingering differences, draw closer and begin the process of several years, only ended by Lenin’s death, of close political collaboration.
Secondly, World War I marks the definite (at least for Europe) end of the progressive role of international capitalist development. The outlines of imperialist aggression previously noted had definitely taken center stage. This theory of imperialism was most closely associated with Lenin in his master work Imperialism-The Highest Stage of Capitalism but one should note that Trotsky in all his later work up until his death fully subscribed to the theory. Although Lenin’s work is in need of some updating, to account for various technological changes and the extensions of globalization, holds up for political purposes. This analysis meant that a fundamental shift in the relationship of the working class to the ruling class was necessary. A reformist perspective for social change, although not specific reforms, was no longer tenable. Politically, as a general proposition, socialist revolution was on the immediate agenda. This is when Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution meets the Leninist conception of revolutionary organization. It proved to be a successful formula in Russia in October, 1917. Unfortunately, those lessons were not learned (or at least learned in time) by those who followed and the events of October, 1917 stand today as the only ‘pure’ working class revolution in history.
An argument can, and has, been made that the October Revolution could only have occurred under the specific condition of decimated, devastated war-weary Russia of 1917. This argument is generally made by those who were not well-wishers of revolution in Russia (or anywhere else, for that matter). It is rather a truism, indulged in by Marxists as well as by others, that war is the mother of revolution. That said, the October revolution was made then and there but only because of the convergence of enough revolutionary forces led by the Bolsheviks and additionally the forces closest to the Bolsheviks (including Trotsky’s Inter-District Organization) had prepared for these events by its entire pre-history. This is the subjective factor in history. No, not substitutionalism-that was the program of the Social Revolutionary terrorists, and the like- but if you like, revolutionary opportunism. I would be much more impressed by an argument that stated that the revolution would not have occurred without the presence of Lenin and Trotsky. That would be a subjective argument, par excellent. But, they were there.
Again Trotsky in 1917, like in 1905, is in his element speaking seemingly everywhere, writing, organizing (when it counts, by the way). If not the brains of the revolution (that role is honorably conceded to Lenin) certainly the face of the Revolution. Here is a revolutionary moment in every great revolution when the fate of the revolution turned on a dime (the subjective factor). The dime turned. (See blog dated April 18, 2006 for a review of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution).
One of the great lessons that militants can learn from all previous modern revolutions is that once the revolutionary forces seize power from the old regime an inevitable counterrevolutionary onslaught by elements of the old order (aided by some banished moderate but previously revolutionary elements, as a rule). The Russian revolution proved no exception. If anything the old regime, aided and abetted by numerous foreign powers and armies, was even more bloodthirsty. It fell to Trotsky to organize the defense of the revolution. Now, you might ask- What is a nice Jewish boy like Trotsky doing playing with guns? Fair enough. Well, Jewish or Gentile if you play the revolution game you better the hell be prepared to defend the revolution (and yourself), guns at the ready. Here, again Trotsky organized, essentially from scratch, a Red Army from a defeated, demoralized former peasant army under the Czar. The ensuing civil war was to leave the country devastated but the Red Army defeated the Whites. Why? In the final analysis it was not only the heroism of the working class defending its own but the peasant wanting to hold on to the newly acquired land he had just got and was in jeopardy of losing if the Whites won. But these masses needed to be organized. Trotsky was the man for the task.
Both Lenin’s and Trotsky’s calculation for the success of socialist revolution in Russia (and ultimately its fate) was its, more or less, immediate extension to the capitalist heartland of Europe, particularly Germany. While in 1917 that was probably not the controlling single factor for going forward in Russia it did have to come into play at some point. The founding of the Communist International makes no sense otherwise. Unfortunately, for many historical, national and leadership-related reasons no Bolshevik-styled socialist revolutions followed then, or ever. If the premise for socialism is for plenty, and ultimately as a result of plenty to take the struggle for existence off the human agenda and put other more creative pursues on the agenda, then Russia in the early 1920’s was not the land of plenty.
Neither Lenin, Trotsky nor Stalin, for that matter could wish that fact away. The ideological underpinnings of that fight center on the Stalinist concept of ‘socialism in one country’, that is Russia versus the Trostskyist position of the absolutely necessary extension of the international revolution. In short, this is the fights that historically happens in great revolutions- the fight against Thermidor (a term taken from the overthrow of Robespierre in 1794 by more moderate Jacobins). What counts, in the final analysis, are their respective responses to the crisis of the isolation of the revolution. The word isolation is the key. Do you turn the revolution inward or push forward? We all know the result, and it wasn’t pretty, then or now. That is the substance of the fight that Trotsky, if initially belatedly and hesitantly, led from about 1923 on under various conditions until the end of his life cut short by his assassination by a Stalinist agent in 1940.
Although there were earlier signs that the Russia revolution was going off course the long illness and death of Lenin in 1924, at the time the only truly authoritative leader the Bolshevik party, set off a power struggle in the leadership of the party. This fight had Trotsky and the ‘pretty boy’ intellectuals of the party on one side and Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev (the so-called triumvirate)backed by the ‘gray boys’ of the emerging bureaucracy on the other. This struggle occurred against the backdrop of the failed revolution in Germany in 1923 and which thereafter heralded the continued isolation, imperialist blockade and economic backwardness of the Soviet Union for the foreseeable future.
While the disputes in the Russian party eventually had international ramifications in the Communist International, they were at this time fought out almost solely within the Russian Party. Trotsky was slow, very slow to take up the battle for power that had become obvious to many elements in the party. He made many mistakes and granted too many concessions to the triumvirate. But he did fight. Although later (in 1935) Trotsky recognized that the 1923 fight represented a fight against the Russian Thermidor and thus a decisive turning point for the revolution that was not clear to him (or anyone else on either side) then. Whatever the appropriate analogy might have been Leon Trotsky was in fact fighting a last ditch effort to retard the further degeneration of the revolution. After that defeat, the way the Soviet Union was ruled, who ruled it and for what purposes all changed. And not for the better.
In a sense if the fight in 1923-24 is the decisive fight to save the Russian revolution (and ultimately a perspective of international revolution) then the 1926-27 fight which was a bloc between Trotsky’s forces and the just defeated forces of Zinoviev and Kamenev, Stalin’s previous allies was the last rearguard action to save that perspective. That it failed nevertheless does not deny the importance of the fight. Yes, it was a political bloc with some serious differences especially over China and the Anglo-Russian Committee. But two things are important here One- did a perspective of a new party make sense at the time of the clear waning of the revolutionary tide in the country. No. Besides the place to look was at the most politically conscious elements, granted against heavy odds, in the party where whatever was left of the class-conscious elements of the working class were. As I have noted elsewhere in discussing the 1923 fight- that “Lenin levy” of raw recruits, careerists and just plain thugs to fatten up the Stalin-controlled Soviet bureaucracy was the key element in any defeat.
Still that fight was necessary. Hey, that is why we talk about it now. That was a fight to the finish. After that the left opposition, or elements of it, were forever more outside the party- either in exile, prison or dead. As we know Trotsky went from expulsion from the party in 1927 to internal exile in Alma Ata in 1928 to external exile to Turkey in 1929. From there he underwent further exiles in France, Norway, and Mexico when he was finally felled by a Stalinist assassin. But no matter when he went he continued to struggle for his perspective. Not bad for a Jewish farmer’s son from the Ukraine.
The last period of Trotsky’s life spent in harrowing exiles and under constant threat from Stalinist and White Guard threats- in short, on the planet without a visa-was dedicated to the continued fight for the Leninist heritage. It was an unequal fight, to be sure, but he waged it and was able to form a core of revolutionaries to form a new international. That that effort was essentially militarily defeat by fascist or Stalinist forces during World War II does not take away from the grandeur of the attempt. He himself stated that he felt this was the most important work of his life- and who would challenge that assertion. But one could understand the frustrations, first the harsh truth of his analysis in the 1930's of the German debacle, then in France and Spain. Hell a lesser man would have given up. In fact, more than one biographer has argued that he should have retired from the political arena to, I assume, a comfortable country cottage to write I do not know what. But, please reader, have you been paying attention? Does this seem even remotely like the Trotsky career I have attempted to highlight here? Hell, no.
Many of the events such as the disputes within the Russian revolutionary movement, the attempts by the Western Powers to overthrow the Bolsheviks in the Civil War after their seizure of power and the struggle of the various tendencies inside the Russian Communist Party and in the Communist International discussed in the book may not be familiar to today's audience. Nevertheless one can still learn something from the strength of Trotsky's commitment to his cause and the fight to preserve his personal and political integrity against overwhelming odds. As the organizer of the October Revolution, creator of the Red Army in the Civil War, orator, writer and fighter Trotsky was one of the most feared men of the early 20th century to friend and foe alike. Nevertheless, I do not believe that he took his personal fall from power as a world historic tragedy. Read these volumes for more insights.
Leon Trotsky Peasant War In China and the Proletariat(September 22, 1932)
Written: September 22, 1932. First Published: The Militant, October 15, 1932, Pages 2-3; copy provided by Bolerium Books, San Francisco, California. Translated: The Militant. Republished: Fourth International, Vol.11 No.1, January-February 1950, pp.23-27. Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters. Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Comrades: After a long delay, we received your letter of June 15. Needless to say we were overjoyed by the revival and the renascence of the Chinese Left Opposition, despite the most ferocious police persecutions it had endured. Our irreconcilable attitude toward the vulgar democratic Stalinist position on the peasant movement has, of course, nothing in common with a careless or passive attitude toward the peasant movement itself. The manifesto of the International Left Opposition that was issued two years ago and that evaluated the peasant movement in the southern provinces of China declared: “The Chinese revolution, betrayed, defeated, exhausted, shows that it is still alive. Let us hope that the time when it will again lift its proletarian head is not far off.” Further on it says: “The vast flood of peasant revolts can unquestionably provide the impulse for the revival of political struggle in the industrial centres. We firmly count on it.” Your letter testifies that under the influence of the crisis and the Japanese intervention, against the background of the peasant war, the struggle of the city workers is burgeoning once again. In the manifesto we wrote about this possibility with necessary caution: “Nobody can foretell now whether the hearths of the peasant revolt can keep a fire burning through the whole long period of time which the proletarian vanguard will need to gather its own strength, bring the working class into the fight, and co-ordinate its struggle for power with the general offensive of the peasants against their most immediate enemies.” At the present time it is evident that there are substantial grounds for expressing the hope that, through a correct policy, it will be possible to unite the workers’ movement, and the urban movement in general, with the peasant war; and this would constitute the beginning of the third Chinese revolution. But in the meantime this still remains only a hope, not a certainty. The most important work lies ahead. In this letter I want to pose only one question which seems to me, at least from afar, to be the most important and acute. Once again I must remind you that the information at my disposal is altogether insufficient, accidental, and disjointed. I would indeed welcome any amplification and correction. The peasant movement has created its own armies, has seized great territories, and has installed its own institutions. In the event of further successes—and all of us, of course, passionately desire such successes—the movement will become linked up with the urban and industrial centres and, through that very fact it will come face to face with the working class. What will be the nature of this encounter? Is it certain that its character will be peaceful and friendly? At first glance the question might appear to be superfluous. The peasant movement is headed by Communists or sympathizers. Isn’t it self-evident that in the event of their coming together the workers and the peasants must unanimously unite under the Communist banner? Unfortunately the question is not at all so simple. Let me refer to the experience of Russia. During the years of the civil war the peasantry in various parts of the country created its own guerrilla detachments, which sometimes grew into full-fledged armies. Some of these detachments considered themselves Bolshevik, and were often led by workers. Others remained non-party and most often were led by former non-commissioned officers from among the peasantry. There was also an “anarchist” army under the command of Makhno. So long as the guerrilla armies operated in the rear of the White Guards, they served the cause of the revolution. Some of them were distinguished by exceptional heroism and fortitude. But within the cities these armies often came into conflict with the workers and with the local party organizations. Conflicts also arose during encounters of the partisans with the regular Red Army, and in some instances they took an extremely painful and sharp character. The grim experience of the civil war demonstrated to us the necessity of disarming peasant detachments immediately after the Red Army occupied provinces which had been cleared of the White Guards. In these cases the best, the most class-conscious and disciplined elements were absorbed into the ranks of the Red Army. But a considerable portion of the partisans strived to maintain an independent existence and often came into direct armed conflict with the Soviet power. Such was the case with the anarchist army of Makhno, entirely kulak in spirit. But that was not the sole instance; many peasant detachments, which fought splendidly enough against the restoration of the landlords, became transformed after victory into instruments of counter-revolution. Regardless of their origin in each isolated instance—whether caused by conscious provocation of the White Guards, or by tactlessness of the Communists, or by an unfavourable combination of circumstances—the conflicts between armed peasants and workers were rooted in one and the same social soil: the difference between the class position and training of the workers and of the peasants. The worker approaches questions from the socialist standpoint; the peasant’s viewpoint is petty bourgeois. The worker strives to socialize the property that is taken away from the exploiters; the peasant seeks to divide it up. The worker desires to put palaces and parks to common use; the peasant, insofar as he cannot divide them, inclines to burning the palaces and cutting down the parks. The worker strives to solve problems on a national scale and in accordance with a plan; the peasant, on the other hand, approaches all problems on a local scale and takes a hostile attitude to centralized planning, etc. It is understood that a peasant also is capable of raising himself to the socialist viewpoint. Under a proletarian rgime more and more masses of peasants become re-educated in the socialist spirit. But this requires time, years, even decades. It should be borne in mind that in the initial stages of revolution, contradictions between proletarian socialism and peasant individualism often take on an extremely acute character. But after all aren’t there Communists at the head of the Chinese Red armies? Doesn’t this by itself exclude the possibility of conflicts between the peasant detachments and the workers’ organizations? No, that does not exclude it. The fact that individual Communists are in the leadership of the present armies does not at all transform the social character of these armies, even if their Communist leaders bear a definite proletarian stamp. And how do matters stand in China? Among the Communist leaders of Red detachments there indubitably are many declassed intellectuals and semi-intellectuals who have not gone through the school of proletarian struggle. For two or three years they live the lives of partisan commanders and commissars; they wage battles, seize territories, etc. They absorb the spirit of their environment. Meanwhile the majority of the rank-and-file Communists in the Red detachments unquestionably consists of peasants, who assume the name Communist in all honesty and sincerity but who in actuality remain revolutionary paupers or revolutionary petty proprietors. In politics he who judges by denominations and labels and not by social facts is lost. All the more so when the politics concerned is carried out arms in hand. The true Communist party is the organization of the proletarian vanguard. But we must not forget that the working class of China has been kept in an oppressed and amorphous condition during the last four years, and only recently has it evinced signs of revival. It is one thing when a Communist party, firmly resting on the flower of the urban proletariat, strives through the workers to lead a peasant war. It is an altogether different thing when a few thousand or even tens of thousands of revolutionists, who are truly Communists or only take the name, assume the leadership of a peasant war without having serious support from the proletariat. This is precisely the situation in China. This acts to augment to an extreme the danger of conflicts between the workers and the armed peasants. In any event, one may rest assured there will be no dearth of bourgeois provocateurs. In Russia, in the period of civil war, the proletariat was already in power in the greater part of the country, the leadership of the struggle was in the hands of a strong and tempered party, the entire commanding apparatus of the centralized Red Army was in the hands of the workers. Notwithstanding all this, the peasant detachments, incomparably weaker than the Red Army, often came into conflict with it after it victoriously moved into peasant guerrilla sectors. In China the situation is radically different and moreover completely to the disadvantage of the workers. In the most important regions of China the power is in the hands of bourgeois militarists; in other regions, in the hands of leaders of armed peasants. Nowhere is there any proletarian power as yet. The trade unions are weak. The influence of the party among the workers is insignificant. The peasant detachments, flushed with victories they have achieved, stand under the wing of the Comintern. They call themselves “the Red Army,” i.e., they identify themselves with the armed forces of the Soviets. What results consequently is that the revolutionary peasantry of China, in the person of its ruling stratum, seems to have appropriated to itself beforehand the political and moral capital which should by the nature of things belong to the Chinese workers. Isn’t it possible that things may turn out so that all this capital will be directed at a certain moment against the workers? Naturally the peasant poor, and in China they constitute the overwhelming majority, to the extent they think politically, and these comprise a small minority, sincerely and passionately desire alliance and friendship with the workers. But the peasantry, even when armed, is incapable of conducting an independent policy. Occupying in daily life an intermediate, indeterminate, and vacillating position, the peasantry at decisive moments can follow either the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. The peasantry does not find the road to the proletariat easily but only after a series of mistakes and defeats. The bridge between the peasantry and the bourgeoisie is provided by the urban petty bourgeoisie, chiefly by the intellectuals, who commonly come forward under the banner of socialism and even communism. The commanding stratum of the Chinese “Red Army” has no doubt succeeded in inculcating itself with the habit of issuing commands. The absence of a strong revolutionary party and of mass organizations of the proletariat renders control over the commanding stratum virtually impossible. The commanders and commissars appear in the guise of absolute masters of the situation and upon occupying cities will be rather apt to look down from above upon the workers. The demands of the workers might often appear to them either inopportune or ill-advised. Nor should one forget such “trifles” as the fact that within cities the staffs and offices of the victorious armies are established not in the proletarian huts but in the finest city buildings, in the houses and apartments of the bourgeoisie; and all this facilitates the inclination of the upper stratum of the peasant armies to feel itself part of the “cultured” and “educated” classes, in no way part of the proletariat. Thus in China the causes and grounds for conflicts between the army, which is peasant in composition and petty bourgeois in leadership, and the workers not only are not eliminated but on the contrary, all the circumstances are such as to greatly increase the possibility and even the inevitability of such conflicts; and in addition the chances of the proletariat are far less favourable to begin with than was the case in Russia. From the theoretical and political side the danger is increased many times because the Stalinist bureaucracy covers up the contradictory situation by its slogan of “democratic dictatorship” of workers and peasants. Is it possible to conceive of a snare more attractive in appearance and more perfidious in essence? The epigones do their thinking not by means of social concepts, but by means of stereotyped phrases; formalism is the basic trait of bureaucracy. The Russian Narodniks used to accuse the Russian Marxists of “ignoring” the peasantry, of not carrying on work in the villages, etc. To this the Marxists replied: “We will arouse and organize the advanced workers and through the workers we shall arouse the peasants.” Such in general is the only conceivable road for the proletarian party. The Chinese Stalinists have acted otherwise. During the revolution of 1925-27 they subordinated directly and immediately the interests of the workers and the peasants to the interests of the national bourgeoisie. In the years of the counter-revolution they passed over from the proletariat to the peasantry, i.e., they undertook that role which was fulfilled in our country by the SRs when they were still a revolutionary party. Had the Chinese Communist Party concentrated its efforts for the last few years in the cities, in industry, on the railroads; had it sustained the trade unions, the educational clubs and circles; had it, without breaking off from the workers, taught them to understand what was occurring in the villages—the share of the proletariat in the general correlation of forces would have been incomparably more favourable today. The party actually tore itself away from its class. Thereby in the last analysis it can cause injury to the peasantry as well. For should the proletariat continue to remain on the sidelines, without organization, without leadership, then the peasant war even if fully victorious will inevitably arrive in a blind alley. In old China every victorious peasant revolution was concluded by the creation of a new dynasty, and subsequently also by a new group of large proprietors; the movement was caught in a vicious circle. Under present conditions the peasant war by itself, without the direct leadership of the proletarian vanguard, can only pass on the power to a new bourgeois clique, some “left” Kuomintang or other, a “third party,” etc., etc., which in practice will differ very little from the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek. And this would signify in turn a new massacre of the workers with the weapons of “democratic dictatorship.” What then are the conclusions that follow from all this? The first conclusion is that one must boldly and openly face the facts as they are. The peasant movement is a mighty revolutionary factor insofar as it is directed against the large landowners, militarists, feudalists, and usurers. But in the peasant movement itself are very powerful proprietary and reactionary tendencies, and at a certain stage it can become hostile to the workers and sustain that hostility already equipped with arms. He who forgets about the dual nature of the peasantry is not a Marxist. The advanced workers must be taught to distinguish from among “communist” labels and banners the actual social processes. The activities of the “Red armies” must be attentively followed, and the workers must be given a detailed explanation of the course, significance, and perspectives of the peasant war; and the immediate demands and the tasks of the proletariat must be tied up with the slogans for the liberation of the peasantry. On the bases of our own observations, reports, and other documents we must painstakingly study the life processes of the peasant armies and the rgime established in the regions occupied by them; we must discover in living facts the contradictory class tendencies and clearly point out to the workers the tendencies we support and those we oppose. We must follow the interrelations between the Red armies and the local workers with special care, without overlooking even the minor misunderstandings between them. Within the framework of isolated cities and regions, conflicts, even if acute, might appear to be insignificant local episodes. But with the development of events, class conflicts may take on a national scope and lead the revolution to a catastrophe, i.e., to a new massacre of the workers by the peasants, hoodwinked by the bourgeoisie. The history of revolutions is full of such examples. The more clearly the advanced workers understand the living dialectic of the class interrelations of the proletariat, the peasantry, and the bourgeoisie, the more confidently will they seek unity with the peasant strata closest to them, and the more successfully will they counteract the counter-revolutionary provocateurs within the peasant armies themselves as well as within the cities. The trade-union and the party units must be built up; the advanced workers must be educated, the proletarian vanguard must be brought together and drawn into the battle. We must turn to all the members of the official Communist Party with words of explanation and challenge. It is quite probable that the rank-and-file Communists who have been led astray by the Stalinist faction will not understand us at once. The bureaucrats will set up a howl about our “underestimation” of the peasantry, perhaps even about our “hostility” to the peasantry. (Chernov always accused Lenin of being hostile to the peasantry.) Naturally such howling will not confuse the Bolshevik-Leninists. When prior to April 1927 we warned against the inevitable coup d’tat of Chiang Kai-shek, the Stalinists accused us of hostility to the Chinese national revolution. Events have demonstrated who was right. Events will provide a confirmation this time as well. The Left Opposition may turn out to be too weak to direct events in the interests of the proletariat at the present stage. But we are sufficiently strong right now to point out to the workers the correct road and, in the development of the class struggle, to demonstrate to the workers our correctness and political insight. Only in this way can a revolutionary party gain the confidence of the workers, only in this way will it grow, become strong, and take its place at the head of the popular masses. Postscript, September 26, 1932 In order to express my ideas as clearly as possible, let me sketch the following variant which is theoretically quite possible. Let us assume that the Chinese Left Opposition carries on in the near future widespread and successful work among the industrial proletariat and attains the preponderant influence over it. The official party, in the meantime, continues to concentrate all its forces on the “Red armies” and in the peasant regions. The moment arrives when the peasant troops occupy the industrial centres and are brought face to face with the workers. In such a situation, in what manner will the Chinese Stalinists act? It is not difficult to foresee that they will counterpose the peasant army to the “counter-revolutionary Trotskyists” in a hostile manner. In other words, they will incite the armed peasants against the advanced workers. This is what the Russian SRs and the Mensheviks did in 1917; having lost the workers, they fought might and main for support among the soldiers, inciting the barracks against the factory, the armed peasant against the worker Bolshevik. Kerensky, Tsereteli, and Dan, if they did not label the Bolsheviks outright as counter-revolutionists, called them either “unconscious aides” or “involuntary agents” of counter-revolution. The Stalinists are less choice in their application of political terminology. But the tendency is the same: malicious incitement of the peasant, and generally petty-bourgeois, elements against the vanguard of the working class. Bureaucratic centrism, as centrism, cannot have an independent class support. But in its struggle against the Bolshevik-Leninists it is compelled to seek support from the right, i.e., from the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie, counterposing them to the proletariat. The struggle between the two Communist factions, the Stalinists and the Bolshevik-Leninists, thus bears in itself an inner tendency toward transformation into a class struggle. The revolutionary development of events in China may draw this tendency to its conclusion, i.e., to a civil war between the peasant army led by the Stalinists and the proletarian vanguard led by the Leninists. Were such a tragic conflict to arise, due entirely to the Chinese Stalinists, it would signify that the Left Opposition and the Stalinists ceased to be Communist factions and had become hostile political parties, each having a different class base. However is such a perspective inevitable? No, I don’t think so at all. Within the Stalinist faction (the official Chinese Communist Party) there are not only peasant, i.e., petty-bourgeois tendencies but also proletarian tendencies. It is extremely important for the Left Opposition to seek to establish connections with the proletarian wing of the Stalinists by presenting to them the Marxist evaluation of “Red armies” and the interrelations between the proletariat and the peasantry in general. While maintaining its political independence, the proletarian vanguard must be ready always to assure united action with revolutionary democracy. While we refuse to identify the armed peasant detachment with the Red army as the armed power of the proletariat and have no inclination to shut our eyes to the fact that the Communist banner hides the petty-bourgeois content of the peasant movement, we, on the other hand, take an absolutely clear view of the tremendous revolutionary-democratic significance of the peasant war. We teach the workers to appreciate its significance and we are ready to do all in our power in order to achieve the necessary military alliance with the peasant organizations. Consequently our task consists not only in preventing the political-military command over the proletariat by the petty-bourgeois democracy that leans upon the armed peasant, but in preparing and ensuring the proletarian leadership of the peasant movement, its “Red armies” in particular. The more clearly the Chinese Bolshevik-Leninists comprehend the political events and the tasks that spring from them, the more successfully will they extend their base within the proletariat. The more persistently they carry out the policy of the united front in relation to the official party and the peasant movement led by it, the more surely will they succeed not only in shielding the revolution from a terribly dangerous conflict between the proletariat and the peasantry and in ensuring the necessary united action between the two revolutionary classes, but also in transforming their united front into the historical step toward the dictatorship of the proletariat.