On Trotskyism (Part 1)

This book assesses such issues as – Trotsky’s incapacity for concrete analysis, the ‘economism’ he shares with Stalin, and his concepts of ‘permanent revolution’ as compared with those of Lenin and Mao, his views and those of Stalin, on the Chinese Revolution, the fundamental traits of Trotskyism and of the different Trotskyist organizations around today. We will publish part 2 and 3 soon.










[Notes - Part 1]


page vii



The following abbreviations occur in the text:
Alliance des Jeunes pour le Socialisme (France)
Central Committee
Chinese Communist Party
Confederation Generale du Travail (France)
Communist International
Committee for the Liaison of Revolutionary Students (France)
Communist Party of Greece
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Democratic Republic of North Vietnam
National Liberation Front (Greece)
Executive Committee of the Communist International
Greek National Democratic Union
Greek National Liberation Army
Fédération des Etudiants Révolutionnaire
German Democratic Republic
State Planning Commission (USSR)
State Political Administration of USSR 1922-4, when
changed to OGPU
Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire (France)
New Economic Policy
People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (USSR)
National Liberation Front (South Vietnam)
Communist International Organization (France)
United State Political Administration (USSR)
French Communist Party
Italian Communist Party; International Communist Party (France)
People’s Liberation Army (China)
Partido Obrera de Unificacion Marxista (Spain)
United Socialist Party (France)
Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik)
Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks)
Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic
page viii
Socialist Labour League (UK)
Socialist Workers’ Party
Union des Jeunesses Communistes (Marxiste-Léniniste)
Union Nationale des Etudiants de France


page 1



Trotsky and his successors have always denied the existence of ‘Trotskyism’. They profess to be the faithful disciples of Lenin. According to them the term was invented by the ‘Stalinists’ to designate a so-called theory of Trotsky’s with the intention of making it a target for their attacks, which are really directed against the revolution in the USSR and the world. Trotsky protested that his concept of the permanent revolution was taken from Marx and that Lenin ‘tacitly’ went over to it in his ‘April Theses’. Certain Trotskyists or Trotskysants, notably Isaac Deutscher and Alfred Rosmer, have argued that there is no difference between their mentor’s permanent revolution and Mao’s uninterrupted revolution by stages. Trotsky himself said, ‘I have never claimed and I do not claim to have created a special doctrine. In theory, I am a pupil of Marx. As for revolutionary method, I went through Lenin’s school.’(1)
    It would seem that Trotskyism’s defence implies its disavowal and the misrecognition of the theoretical contribution of Lenin. However, there is some truth in Trotsky’s denials. Deutscher has insisted on his attachment to ‘classical Marxism’. We shall show in what follows that this is a euphemism designating an approach that is at once dogmatic and empirical, the theoretical impotence implied by the dogmatism leading those who are afflicted by it to revert to empiricism. Bukharin said of Trotsky that he ‘excelled . . . in tracing general revolutionary perspectives’. In fact, that is where his talents as a ‘theoretician’ end. In contrast to Lenin and Mao he was never able to analyse a conjuncture in its specificity, or to determine the principal contradiction and the principal slogan. As he never established the laws of the revolution in a social formation by applying the universal principle of historical materialism in the practice of the class struggle, his contribution to this science was nil. Moreover, his few original ‘ideas’ are not his own, for above all he vulgarised those of others. What is more, he did not demonstrate much discernment in his borrowings, as we shall see in the case of ‘primitive socialist accumulation’. Even his most ardent supporters are embarrassed when they are asked to name the concepts he produced.

page 2


    For all these reasons, it is possible to speak of Trotskyism as an ideological current but only with difficulty as a body of doctrine, and not at all as a ‘guide to action’. Trotsky’s retractions on the subject of the ‘Thermidorian reaction’ are a perfect illustration of his complete theoretical impotence. As for the Trotskyists today, they practise the dogmatism of a dogmatism. In the era of the cultural revolution and of the thought of Mao Tse-tung, the third stage of Marxism, they are the fossils of a past epoch – Marxists of the first stage. In other words, they are not Marxists at all.
    The bourgeois propagandists and Trotskyist ideologues are united by a community of goods. The former provide the latter with their dens of research and documentation. Kremlinology, Pekinology and the publications of the US Consul-General in Hong Kong are the principal sources of Trotskyist diatribes against the socialist countries.(2) For their part, the Trotskyists are important purveyors of ‘theoretical’ hypotheses, historical schemas and falsifications that make it possible to attack Stalin and People’s China from an apparently ‘left-wing’ standpoint, which is an important resource for certain journalists who claim to be enlightened. This is a matter of a ‘pre-established harmony’, not a deliberate collusion. For different reasons both propagate the idea that the Communist Parties were only puppets manipulated by Moscow and Stalin, the source of all evil.
    One of the most curious arguments of Trotsky’s apologists consists of comparing their idol’s wit and sparkling prose with the heavy and inharmonious style of the auto-didact Stalin, concluding that the latter could not have been right against the former. As if a solid position in Marxist-Leninist science were a matter of literary talent. This idea runs like a black thread through every page of Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Trotsky. Deutscher insistently emphasises that Stalin did not command attention as a theoretician before 1924. In fact, from this point of view, it was Bukharin who enjoyed the most prestige after Lenin. Does this mean that he was right to support the kulaks, to proclaim to them the slogan ‘Get rich’ and to preach the construction of socialism ‘at a snail’s pace’? Such logic borders on the grotesque at times, as when Deutscher declares that Ch’en Tu-hsiu was a ‘theoretician’ much superior to Mao.
    The bourgeois publicists argue in the same way. Cadar, the anarcho-Trotskysant, attacks Mao for his ‘primary-school outlook’. His thought is not ‘refined’. It is incomprehensible to him that writers as ‘sophisticated’ as Althusser, Glucksmann or Sollers hold Mao in such high esteem. (3) L. Bianco (4) declares that Mao is not ‘a profound thinker’ but only a ‘mediocre theoretician’. It is true that for Bianco (p. 135) to be a ‘thinker’ is to be a ‘contemplative’. He observes that Mao has been able to ‘emancipate himself from dogma and see reality for what it is’, but it does not seem to occur to him that in order ‘to see reality for what it is’ singularly powerful theoretical spectacles are required, as well as the ability to lead the struggles of the masses who transform this reality in a revolutionary way (if you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself). Like Trotsky, what these authors are unable to conceive is the link

page 3

between theory and practice and the concrete forms of this link: the mass-line. Did not Trotsky claim to judge revolutionaries the world over from his offices at Prinkipo and Coyoacan, without even having led, as Stalin did, a true International rooted in the masses?
    If the result (his articles) sometimes sparkles like glass it is also just as fragile.
    Having style and a wide culture, he drew from it the conviction that his ideas were as profound and well-based as they were brilliantly formulated. With him, comparison is very often substituted for argument, and rhetoric for concrete thought. Hence it may be said that he was a victim of his strengths as much as of his weaknesses, the former giving him the illusion that he possessed precisely the powers he lacked: those of the political strategist and theoretician. Mao said: ‘The more one thinks one is superior, the more mediocre the results one gets.’ Those who have been close to Trotsky have noted his ambition, his pride, and indeed his arrogance. He placed himself high above the rest of humanity, conceding only one exception and that only in the single period from 1917 to 1924. In his writings Trotsky has the good taste not to stress the high opinion he had of himself. In contrast, he does not hide from us the contempt in which he holds the most eminent Bolshevik leaders. One day the texts in which he condemned, denigrated and ridiculed his communist adversaries or fellow combatants should be brought together into an anthology. The polemicist makes fun of his victims but the last laugh will be on him.
    I shall not use the same weapons. I shall submit his theses to a severe, but fair critical examination. It is easy to compile a voluminous ‘catalogue of errors’ out of extracts from his books, and there is a great temptation to pass over in silence his merits in so far as he accepted Lenin’s leadership during the first five years of the revolution: revisionist writers generally proceed in this fashion. For my part, I prefer to take on the Trotsky phenomenon face-to-face since, after all, despite all the exorcisms, it lives on.
    It is clear that Trotsky was endowed with great talents. As a brilliant publicist, enthusiastic speaker, organiser of the Red Army, he rendered eminent services to the revolution after joining the Bolshevik Party. The reverse of the medal was his extreme individualism, his pride, his arrogance and the fact that the rigour of his thought was that of a barrister, not that of a theoretician who derives his strength from his link with the masses and from his ability to lead them. His best-known works, ‘The New Course’, ‘The Revolution Betrayed’, ‘The Permanent Revolution’, are skilful and brilliant pleas ‘pro domo suo’, but they are of limited interest because they demonstrate at most that certain of the criticisms directed at him were unfounded. In fact, not everything that he said in his polemic with Stalin was false. But as we shall see, he was mistaken about the essentials. His rival had a decisive advantage over him which a comparison of their respective contributions to the debate makes plain: Stalin was a Leninist, a revolutionary leader in the second stage of Marxism; as his biographer says, Trotsky was a ‘classical’ revolutionary surviving in a post-classical world.

page 4


    These old controversies would be of only historical interest if the Trotskyists did not derive from them a part of their argument. In so far as they have a certain influence in the student movement and thrive on and foster the ideological confusion that reigns there, it is a contribution to hygiene to compare the main themes of their propaganda with the facts. These main themes start from ‘theoretical principles’; we shall examine their scientific status; that is, their ability to think reality with a view to its transformation. In addition they mobilise examples drawn from the history of the workers’ movement. Never having assumed the autonomous direction of a victorious revolution in the forty years that their organisations have existed on an international scale, the Trotskyists cannot rely on exemplary cases of the application of their principles. Their argumentation is therefore based on a critique of the experience of others.
    We shall see that in each case their version of history is a schema very remote from reality. The books in which Trotsky, his followers and those whom they have influenced, accuse (often correctly) the ‘Stalinist’ historians of having falsified history are innumerable. Should we be surprised if they themselves falsify it still more in their propagandist literature?(5)
    Lies and invective have taken the place of a serious refutation of Trotskyism for too long. The Soviet historical works present such an expurgated and one-sided version of the facts that they are useless to a public which has access to complementary, even contradictory, information. Aragon’s ‘L’Histoire de l’USSR’ is worse than the rest from this point of view. Suffice it to mention the cavalier way he conjures away the polemic on the Chinese revolution in 1927. It is important to clarify these problems, notably in the youth movement, an important sector of the popular revolutionary movement.
    In fact the opportunist degeneration of numerous Communist Parties, notably in Latin America and Europe from 1945 onwards, and then the adoption of the revisionist theses of the 20th Congress of the CPSU have contributed to give Trotskyism a ‘second wind’. Counter-revolutionary as it used to be (in the period 1929-45), it now tends to embody the revolt of the intellectual petty bourgeoisie in the ‘revolutionist’ mode. The constant and general advance of Trotskyist movements since 1960 is thus explained. The unprincipled attacks made by Khrushchev against Stalin’s person and the absence of a scientific self-criticism by the CPSU provided the Trotskyists with the possibility of presenting their ‘prophet’s’ appraisals of the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s as predictions of its evolution in the 1950s and 1960s. They are thus able to justify retrospectively their attitude in Stalin’s day while duping the young whose historical knowledge is meagre and who are consequently susceptible to seduction by explanatory schemas which have the merit of simplicity, if not of rigour.
    Profiting from this favourable conjuncture, they intrepidly proclaim that ‘”Trotskyism” . . . has once more become the touchstone . . . of all contemporary revolutionary movements’.(6)
    The appearance of Léo Figuères’s book, ‘Le Trotskyisme, cet antileninisme’, shows that henceforth the PCF is obliged to recognise this new situation. It faces up to it with its usual

page 5

methods. Léo Figuères entitles one chapter ‘Trotsky the populist’ but he avoids drawing the reader’s attention to the fact that this ‘first part’ of Trotsky’s ‘militant life’ of which he speaks relates to the period when Trotsky was less than nineteen years old! Referring to the Spanish Civil War, our author attributes the sins of the POUM to Trotskyism – whereas the leader of the Fourth International had jeered at those in the POUM as ‘impotent centrists’.(7) Lastly, Léo Figuères attributes to Trotsky an opinion he always refuted, namely that the bureaucracy is a ‘new class’. These few minor dishonesties (I have ignored even better ones) show well enough that such a book can only convince the ignorant or those who are already convinced. Criticising Trotskyism from a rightist standpoint, Figuères helps to give it a left-wing halo it scarcely deserves.
    The object of this book is not to weigh the historical role of Stalin or of Trotsky and his movement. I propose only:

  to isolate what I believe to be the essence of Trotskyism in order to show how it is opposed to Leninism, and how it is anti-dialectical and anti-scientific (and therefore non-revolutionary) when it is not counter-revolutionary.
to dissipate the legends and myths of its so-called historical argument by showing how the latter is contradicted by the facts, in other words by a scientific analysis of the class struggle in the period concerned.
      I take Stalin’s part solely within the limits of the debate between him and Trotsky. The critique of the latter is to be found in the writings of the former but the reverse is not true. No refutation of Trotsky can be conclusive unless it is accompanied by a critique of Stalin. The latter requires the concepts produced by Mao Tse-tung. Thanks to him and to the cultural revolution it is possible today to go beyond ‘Stalinism’ and consequently, on the theoretical and practical level, to weigh it up definitively against Trotskyism.


          Once beyond the point of departure constituted by the refutation of Trotskyism, it turns out that there are more questions than answers. The reader is warned in advance so that he may not be led astray by the occasionally overconfident tones of these pages. My aim has been to advance the debate, not to close it.


page 6

Chapter 1



This chronology provides some details on certain points of Trotsky’s career which are not dealt with in the pages which follow and offers a framework to help in understanding them. Everything which is not absolutely necessary for this purpose has been omitted.
1879  26 October
1903  July
1905  9 January
Birth of Lev Davidovich Bronstein.
First military activity in Odessa.
Arrest. Influenced for a while by
populism, he becomes a Marxist after
reading Lenin’s ‘The Development of
Capitalism in Russia’ in prison.
Escapes from deportation in Siberia
and arrives in London.
2nd Congress of Russian Social
Democratic Labour Party. The
outcome is a split. Sides with the
opportunist wing who are from then
on called Mensheviks (minority) and
against Lenin and the Bolsheviks
Makes his way to Munich, meets
Helphand (Parvus), German social-
democratic theoretician of Russian
origin. Borrowed from him elements
of his theory of the permanent
Bloody Sunday. ‘Forces of order’
fire on peaceful demonstration led
by the priest Father Gapon.
Arrives in Kiev; shortly afterwards
makes his way to St Petersburg.
General strike in St Petersburg.
The workers form a soviet (council)
of delegates and Trotsky is elected
president. Taking fright, Tsar
publishes ‘Manifesto’ promising
constitution, civil liberties and

page 7


      3  December
1906  19 September -
      2 November
1907  February
1908  October
1910  January
1912  January
universal suffrage but has no
intention whatsoever of keeping his
Police arrest all members of the
soviet. In response Moscow workers
rise under leadership of the
Bolsheviks, but are crushed by army
after ten days of fighting on
barricades. Numerous other risings.
Social democrats boycott Duma
Trial of Petersburg Soviet. Accused
condemned to deportation for life.
Trotsky escapes before convoy of
prisoners reaches destination.
3rd Congress of Social Democratic
Party in London. Trotsky denies the
seriousness of the differences
between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.
He adopts attitude of conciliator
‘above the melée’ but joins the
Mensheviks in their attach on Lenin
over the Bolshevik commandos’
guerilla activities, particularly
in the Caucasus under Stalin’s
leadership. Trotsky settles in
Vienna with journalism his main
Trotsky publishes first number of
Bolshevik and Menshevik leaders meet
in Paris and decide:
1 to expel the ‘Otzovists’
  (boycotters of the Duma), who
  condemned all legal activity,
  and the ‘Liquidators’, who
  opposed clandestine work.
2 to dissolve their organisations
  and amalgamate. However,
  Mensheviks break the agreement
  straight away. They refuse to
  expel Liquidators and maintain
  separate organisation. Lenin,
  on the contrary, keeps to his
  side of the agreement.
In his ‘Pravda’, Trotsky fails to
condemn Mensheviks’ splittist
attitude. Whatever his professions
of faith, it is not unity but his
position as the arbitrator between
the two camps he holds to be
Prague Conference of Bolsheviks,
who decide to break with Mensheviks.
page 8 
1912  August
1913  April
1914  5 August
1915  January
Trotsky denounces them violently.
In April 1912 his anger rises to
extremes when Bolsheviks bring out
daily paper called ‘Pravda’ in St.
Petersburg with Stalin as editor-
in-chief. After threatening to
‘take other measures’ if their
paper’s name is not changed, he
gives up publication of his own
On his initiative, Mensheviks,
Liquidators, Left Bolsheviks (or
Otzovists), the Jewish Bund and his
group meet at conference in Vienna
and form what is known as the
‘August Bloc’. The aim of this
manoeuvre is to lay the blame on
Lenin for the split. August bloc
necessarily breaks up very quickly.
Trotsky’s letter to Chkeidze
(Menshevik leader) stating that:
‘All Leninism at this moment is
based on lies and falsifications
and bears within the germ of its
own decomposition’.
Outbreak of First World War. Apart
from the Bolsheviks, the social
democratic parties of the bel-
ligerent powers betray the
commitments which they made at the
Congress of the Second International,
vote for war credits and come out
for ‘national defence’ and the ‘Holy
Alliance’ of capital and labour.
Together with Martov, Trotsky
becomes joint editor-in-chief of
‘Nashe Slovo’ in Paris. In this
paper he defends slogan ‘Neither
victory nor defeat’ which he
counterposes to Lenin’s revolu-
tionary defeatism or ‘transformation
of imperialist war into civil war’.
Lenin replied that supporters of
slogan ‘Neither victory nor defeat’
in fact side with bourgeois and
opportunists for ‘they do not
believe’ in possibility of inter-
national revolutionary actions of
working class against its respective
governments and do not wish to
contribute to development of these
Zimmerwald Conference (Switzerland)
of socialists opposed to the war

page 9


1916  April
      30 October
1917  8-15 March
      16 April
      17 May
      3 July
      23 July
      26 July
      24 August
      4 September
      9 September
(the majority pacifists). Manifesto
adopted at conference conforms to
Trotsky’s centrist position.
French police ban ‘Nashe Slovo’.
Trotsky deported to Spain from where
he makes his way to USA.
The people overthrow Tsarism.
Bourgeoisie cheats it out of victory
and sets up a provisional government
under presidency of Prince Lvov.
Soviet of workers’ and soldiers’
deputies which is dominated by
Socialist-Revolutionaries and
Mensheviks hand over power to it.
Lenin returns to Petrograd;
publishes ‘April Theses’.
Trotsky arrives in Petrograd.
Armed demonstrations demanding ‘All
power to the Soviets’. Outrun by
the masses, Bolsheviks just succeed
in preventing demonstration turning
into insurrection. Repression of
Bolsheviks. ‘Pravda’ banned.
Warrant issued for arrest of Lenin,
who goes into hiding. Trotsky
insistently demands that Lenin give
himself up, but of course his
‘History of the Russian Revolution’
does not breathe a word about this
Trotsky arrested.
6th Congress of Bolshevik Party.
Stalin presents Central Committee’s
political report. The Congress
admits Trotsky’s ‘Interdistrict’
organisation into the Party.
Trotsky elected to Central
General Kornilov tries to seize
power but troops he launches against
Petrograd are won over by Bolshevik
propaganda and join the people.
Trotsky freed.
Bolsheviks win majority in Petrograd
Soviet; Bolshevik Central Committee
decides on immediate preparation for
insurrection. Trotsky is opposed,
insisting that they should wait
until the 3rd Congress of Soviets.
In ‘History of the Russian
Revolution’ Trotsky silently passes
over this fact while minutely
exposing every error of Stalin and
other Bolshevik leaders.
page 10 
      17 October
      24 October
      25 October
      2 December
1918  28 January
      1 February
      18 February
      23 February
      24 February
      3 March
      13 March
      25 May
      11 November
1919  2-7 March
Hostile to the insurrection,
Zinoviev and Kamenev reveal Central
Committee’s decision on it in
Gorky’s paper ‘Novaya Zhizn’.
Lenin arrives in Petrograd and
makes his way to the Smolny
Institute, seat of the Soviet and
headquarters of the insurrection,
which he leads with help of Trotsky
and Antonov Ovseenko – members of
Bolshevik Party’s military
revolutionary committee. On night
of 24/25 all strategic points in
the capital are occupied.
Appeal drawn up by Lenin to ‘the
citizens of Russia’ announces
dismissal of Provisional Government
and seizure of power by Petrograd
2nd Congress of Soviets meets in
evening. Two-thirds of delegates
are Bolsheviks.
Opening of Brest-Litovsk peace
negotiations between representatives
of central powers and those of
Soviet government led by Trotsky,
Commissar for Foreign Affairs.
Decree on creation of Red Army.
Soviets (following Trotsky’s plan)
break off negotiations declaring
their intention to demobilise but
without signing peace.
Adoption of Gregorian calendar.
Germans break through front and
advance towards the capital without
meeting resistance.
New Red Army temporarily stops
Germans before Pakov and Narva (‘Red
Army Day’).
Trotsky resigns as Commissar for
Foreign Affairs.
Signature at Brest-Litovsk of new
German Diktat.
Trotsky appointed Commissar of War.
At French instigation, Czechoslovak
Legion and White Guards seize
Siberia and advance as far as Kazan.
Japanese and Americans land at
Vladivostock and English take Baku
and Archangel.
End of First World War.
1st Congress of Communist
Defeat of White armies of Yudenich

page 11


1920  January
      24 April
      21 July – 6 August
      12 October
1921  2-17 March
      8-16 March
      22 June – 12 July
1922  3 April
      26 May
      16 December
      25 December
1923  January-March
      15 October
      7 November
1924  16-18 January
      21 January
1925  15 January
      27-29 April
(south of Petrograd) and Denikin (in
Collapse of Whites in Siberia.
Poles, with Anglo-French support,
attack Soviet Russia and seize Kiev.
2nd Congress of Communist
Peace Treaty with Poland.
Defeat of Wrangel and end of Civil
Kronstadt rising.
10th Bolshevik Party Congress,
adoption of NEP; prohibition of
factions. Trotsky defeated on
trade-union question.
3rd Congress of Communist
Stalin elected Secretary-General.
Lenin’s first stroke.
Lenin’s second stroke.
Lenin’s ‘Testament’.
Lenin’s last articles.
Letter of forty-six oppositionists
criticising economic policy and
absence of democracy in Party.
Behind the scenes, Trotsky is their
Opening of public debate on Letter
of the Forty-six.
Publication of Trotsky’s ‘The New
Course’ attacking Bolshevik ‘Old
Guard’ whose bureaucratic
degeneration he fears and appealing
to youth.
Zinoviev calls for Trotsky’s
expulsion from the Party and for
his arrest. Stalin categorically
opposed to this.
13th Party Conference condemns
Trotsky and the Forty-six.
Lenin’s death.
Trotsky publishes ‘The Lessons of
October’ in which he tries to
discredit Zinoviev and Kamenev,
leaders of the Party together with
Stalin, by recalling their past
mistakes. His main achievement is
to arouse general outcry against
himself for ‘Literary debate’.
Trotsky resigns as Commissar of War.
Kamenev tries to make Stalin give
up his general-secretaryship by
proposing that he replace Trotsky.
14th Party Conference. First
page 12 
      18-31 December
1926  April
      14-23 July
      23-26 October
1927  31 March
      27 September
      21-28 October
      7 November
      15 November
      2-19 December
differences between Stalin on the
one hand, arguing that it is
possible to construct socialism in
one country, and Zinoviev and
Kamenev on the other, denying this
During the summer Zinovievists
attack Bukharinists whom they
accuse of defending kulaks. Stalin
supports Bukharin but rejects his
slogan to peasants, ‘Get rich’.
Bukharin makes a self-criticism on
this point.
14th Congress of Bolshevik Party:
Zinoviev and Kamenev defeated.
Trotsky makes no intervention.
Having taken no part in politics
for a year he has not even noticed
the birth of a new opposition.
Zinoviev and Kamenev form united
Opposition with Trotsky.
Trotsky presents Opposition
programme to Central Committee.
Zinoviev loses seat on Political
Trotsky and Kamenev expelled from
Political Bureau. Bukharin replaces
Zinoviev as head of International.
Trotsky attacks Political Bureau’s
Chinese policy.
Trotsky’s ‘Clemenceau declaration’.
Gives notice that in event of war
Opposition will do its utmost to
seize power in order to provide
better guarantee for defence of the
Trotsky expelled from Executive
Committee of International.
Trotsky and Zinoviev expelled from
Central Committee.
Opposition attempts to take part in
official demonstrations with its own
slogans: ‘Strike against the kulak,
the NEP-man and the bureaucrat!’;
‘Carry out Lenin’s Testament!’;
‘Preserve Bolshevik unity’.
Trotsky and Zinoviev expelled from
Bolshevik Party.
15th Congress of Bolshevik Party.
Opposition programme signed by only
6,000 of 725,000 members. Zinoviev
and Kamenev acknowledge that their
positions are ‘erroneous and anti-

page 13


1928 17 January
      6-11 April
1929  10 February
      16-23 April
      23-25 April
      24 October
      10-17 November
      27 December
1933  30 January
1935  15-18 January
1936  February
      17 July
      19-24 August
      27 September
Trotsky exiled to Alma Ata. The
kulaks having refused to hand over
their corn at fixed prices, famine
makes itself felt more and more in
the towns.
Central Committee calls for struggle
against kulak danger. Orders
requisitioning of stocks of corn.
Beginning of anti-rightist
Kuibyshev’s speech on accelerated
industrialisation. Moscow rightists
eliminated. Bukharin criticises
left-turn in ‘Remarques d’un
Trotsky exiled from USSR. Settles
in the Princes’ Isles near
Central Committee condemns right
14th Party Conference adopts First
Five-Year Plan.
Wall Street crash; beginning of the
great crisis.
Bukharin expelled from Political
Bureau; makes a self-criticism.
Stalin issues call for acceleration
of collectivisation and liquidation
of kulaks as a class.
Trotsky publishes ‘La Revolution
défigurée’ and ‘The Permanent
Revolution’; issues first number
of ‘Bulletin Oppozitsii’.
Trotsky warns against rise of Nazism
and criticises tactics of German
Communist Party.
Hitler in power.
First trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev,
accused of complicity in Kirov’s
Trotsky publishes ‘The Workers’
State and the Question of Thermidor
and Bonapartism’.
Expelled from France, Trotsky is
granted entry to Norway.
Publication of ‘The Revolution
Victory of Popular Front in France.
Beginning of Spanish Civil War.
First Moscow Trials. Zinoviev and
Kamenev condemned to death.
USSR gives aid to Republican Spain.
Yezhov replaces Yagoda as head of
page 14 
1937  January
      23-30 January
      3 March
      11 June
1938  2-13 March
      3 September
      30 September
1939  28 February
      22 August
1939  September -
      1940  August
1940  May-June
      20 August
Extraordinary 8th Congress of
Soviets adopts new constitution
‘the most democratic in the world’.
Trotsky arrives in Mexico.
Trials of Piatakov and Radek.
Stalin presents his report ‘Pour une
formation bolchevique’ to the
Central Committee.
Communiqué announcing execution of
Tukhachevsky and other Red Army
Trial of Bukharin and Rykov.
Founding Conference of the Fourth
Munich Agreement.
Yezhov replaced by Beria. End of
Great Purge.
End of Spanish Civil War.
Soviet-German Pact.
Trotsky writes ‘In Defence of
German invasion of France.
Assassination of Trotsky in his
house at Coyoacan by a supposed
agent of Soviet Secret Service.


page 15

Chapter 2




In May 1904 Trotsky had just been excluded from the editorial board of ‘Iskra’ at Plekhanov’s insistence. He continued, nevertheless, to collaborate with the Menshevik journal. At this time he made his way to Munich where he met the Russian social democrat, Alexander Helphand, whose nom de plume was Parvus. He was to remain with him until February 1905 and to fall strongly under his influence. Like him, while his sympathy went to the Mensheviks, he was to claim the role of arbiter, judge and pacifier of the two factions of the Russian Social Democratic Party, and in order to do this he was to keep himself apart from both sides. The ‘theory’ of the permanent revolution in its essential traits is due to Parvus. He was the first person to set out some of the ideas which continue to structure Trotskyist thought up to the present day.
    In a series of articles entitled ‘War and revolution’ he argued that the national state, the birth of which corresponded to the needs of industrial capitalism, was henceforth superseded. The development of a world market shattered this compartmentalisation by accentuating the interdependence of nations.
    At the beginning of the 1905 revolution Parvus wrote a preface to Trotsky’s book ‘Our Political Tasks’ in which he argued: ‘The Provisional Revolutionary Government of Russia will be a workers’ democratic government . . . As the Social Democratic Party is at the head of the revolutionary movement . . . this government will be social democratic . . . a coherent government with a social democratic majority.’
    Trotsky was to conclude quite naturally that such a government could not but carry out a specifically social democratic policy and would therefore immediately commit itself to the road of socialist transformation. In this he was as much opposed to the Mensheviks who, arguing the bourgeois-democratic character of the revolution, supported the big liberal bourgeoisie who were seeking a compromise with Tsarism, as to the Bolsheviks who, while distinguishing the democratic stage from the socialist stage, considered that the proletariat had to mobilise the peasantry in order to take up the leadership of the democratic revolution and to carry out its tasks

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radically, which by no means implied that social democracy would be in a majority in a government set up after a victory of the people.(1)
    At first sight it may seem that Trotsky’s theses are left-wing, those of Martov right-wing and those of Lenin centrist, but extremes converge and Martov agrees with Trotsky on more than one point. As we shall see further on, Lenin devoted an article to refuting the ideas of Trotsky which Martov had adopted on his own account.
    Trotsky, the eloquent tribune, was accepted as the head of the Petrograd Soviet by the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks precisely because he represented only himself and did not impede them in the pursuit of their policies. This was so true that, while both sides polemicised a great deal among themselves, afterwards they hardly ever bothered to refute his ideas.
    Before going on to discuss the ‘permanent revolution’ in the basis of an analysis of the concrete situation in 1905, let us recall that Trotsky was not long to remain proud of having been Parvus’s disciple. The latter revealed himself a social chauvinist in 1914, and in addition an arms dealer and shady speculator. That is why Trotsky traced his theory back to Marx although he did not dare to deny his debt to Parvus.
    It is true that Marx uses the term ‘permanent revolution’, particularly in ‘The Class Struggles in France’, but what he says about it is at such a level of generality that it cannot be relied upon to confer the palm of orthodoxy on Parvus and Trotsky, nor on Lenin and Mao. The former and the latter agree with Marx while differing among themselves. Besides, Marx was aware of the relatively general and abstract character of his definition of the permanent revolution since he apologises for not having the space to develop it.(2) It was only after 1905 that a differentiation occurs among those calling themselves Marxist over this concept. In any case, the reference to Marx is deceptive, for in the passages where the words ‘declaration of the permanent revolution’ appear, what is at issue is more reminiscent of the cultural revolution in China than the tactics advocated in 1905 by Trotsky. The latter explicitly invoked Lassalle, who had drawn from the events of 1848-9 the unshakable conviction that ‘no struggle in Europe can be successful unless, from the very start, it declares itself to be purely socialist’.(3) If Parvus is the father of Trotskyist theory, Lassalle is its grandfather. The notion of the permanent revolution peculiar to Parvus and Trotsky was an attempt to respond to the problems posed by the 1905 revolution. In what follows I shall endeavour to study the concrete situation at that time.


(A summary of ‘Que faire?’, pp. 16-24, UJC (M.L.) pamphlet no. 3, Paris, 1967, translated as ‘What Is To Be Done?’)

In 1905 the imminent revolution had to accomplish bourgeois democratic tasks, that is, to sweep away the Tsarist state and social basis – feudal property – which were holding back the development of capitalism. However, the bourgeoisie could not lead

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this revolution, given its alliance with the landowners and its infiltration into the state apparatus which it was gradually transforming from within. Hence the obvious paradox: the bourgeoisie had no interest in the bourgeois revolution; it inevitably preferred a compromise with Tsarism. In the countryside, however, the rural bourgeoisie, fettered as it was by feudal relations, had not developed freely. All the categories of peasants which were beginning to differentiate themselves still had a common interest in the overthrow of Tsarism.
    The proletariat and the peasantry were thus the principal revolutionary forces at this time. An alliance between these two classes was necessary to overthrow Tsarism in a revolutionary way. The proletariat had to lead this alliance: it alone had the organisational ability which made its hegemony possible and necessary. For the proletariat to lead the revolution meant: to win over the peasantry, to rely on the revolutionary initiative of the peasant masses, to prevent the bourgeoisie from gaining the leadership of the peasant movement and defeating it by an incomplete and bureaucratic agrarian reform (decreed from above). The slogan of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry expressed this alliance and this hegemony. Furthermore, proletarian leadership, guaranteeing the consistency of the revolution (its radical character), would institute the conditions that would prepare the socialist revolution. This slogan made it possible for the Bolsheviks to participate in a provisional revolutionary government which would exercise this dictatorship. Which parties would be long-term members of this government? This was an abstract question in the following sense: only practice could resolve the question, only the real development of the revolution could provide the elements of an answer. This precise question lost its meaning after the defeat of the revolution and the appearance of a new alignment of class forces. The point is essential. The slogan ‘revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ corresponded adequately to the objective situation of the 1905 revolution. It expressed with total accuracy the immediate tasks of the proletariat: the organisation of the peasants for the achievement of their joint dictatorship. It did not leave room for any ‘riddle’ (Trotsky). A slogan corresponds to the tasks of the moment. Like all slogans, the Bolshevik slogan in 1905 was an instrument of agitation and propaganda; it showed the workers the principal path that the revolution had to follow: the organisation of the peasants for the conquest of consistent democratic power; it oriented the proletarian revolution and freed the initiative of the peasantry. Trotsky, on the other hand, proposed to the proletariat that they should take over state power and afterwards make use of it to rouse the peasants: ‘Many sections of the working masses, particularly in the countryside, will be drawn into the revolution and become politically organised only after the advance-guard of the revolution, the urban proletariat, stands at the helm of the state.’(4)
    In 1917 the second revolution triumphed in the midst of imperialist war. The latter had accelerated social development. Capitalism had been transformed into state monopoly capitalism. In the countryside the process of differentiation had made headway.

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The Tsarist agrarian reform of Stolypin had strengthened the rural bourgeoisie. The war had united workers and peasants in uniform. It was mutinous soldiers who overthrew the Tsarist government. The revolution of February 1917 led to the installation of a dual power: on the one side, the provisional government representing the imperialist republican bourgeoisie; on the other, the soviets. These differed from the soviets invented by the masses in 1905 in that:

    (a)  they had arms;
    (b)  there were soviets of soldiers (mainly peasant conscripts), as Russia was at war.

Lenin explains in his ‘April Theses’ that the revolutionary situation presented specific features in relation to that of 1905. Democratic dictatorship became a reality in the soviets, although incompletely, since their power co-existed with that of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The immediate task was how to shift all power to the soviets. Hence the slogan put forward by the revolutionary democrats. Concretely, this revolutionary democracy had to resolve the agrarian question (an identical task in principle in 1905 and 1917) and tasks which were already socialist in the towns. It was the imperialist war which put these tasks of socialism on the agenda. The 1917 revolution was therefore a proletarian revolution which had to take the socialist road after carrying out the democratic tasks.
    Trotsky rewrites history. He isolates two moments: 1905 and 1917; he disregards the period that separates them (an episode no doubt of little use to his argument); and this is what the history of Bolshevism becomes. According to him, in 1905, Lenin formulated ‘a hypothesis’: revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. This hypothesis depended on an ‘unknown’: the political role of the peasantry. October 1917 reduced the unknown and Lenin’s hypothesis (which envisaged the possibility of a peasant party with a majority in the revolutionary government) was invalidated since it was the dictatorship of the proletariat alone which triumphed’ On the contrary, it was Trotsky’s ‘prognosis’ that was confirmed.
    October 1917 did not invalidate July 1905. The Leninist slogan was correct at that time because it corresponded to the tasks of the moment and was an adequate instrument of agitation and propaganda. The new Leninist slogan was correct in 1917 because it corresponded to the new tasks of the moment (war, differentiation in the countryside, development of monopoly capitalism, the current practical development which produced this unforseeable concrete form of dual power). Trotsky’s construction presupposes the identity of conditions in 1905 and 1917: indeed, in order to find in 1917 the confirmation of what he said in 1905, Trotsky has to assume that nothing changed between the two moments. Such is the basis of Trotskyist abstraction. The result: Trotsky is forced to falsify the meaning of Lenin’s 1917 texts. Lenin said in fact that democratic dictatorship was realised to some extent in 1917 (in the form of the soviets). Trotsky pretends to believe that if democratic dictatorship was achieved it was in the form of Kerensky’s imperialist regime:

If the democratic dictatorship had only been realised in our

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country in the form of Kerenskyism, which played the role of errand-boy to Lloyd George and Clemenceau, then we should have to say that history indulged in cruel mockery of the strategic slogan of Bolshevism.(5)

This is false. Lenin regarded the soviet form as the achievement democratic dictatorship.
    Trotsky tries in vain to dress Leninist theory in his cloak, relying on the apparent coincidence between his slogan in 1905 and Lenin’s in 1917. Lenin did not hesitate to describe ‘All power to the soviets!’ as the slogan, not of socialism, but of ‘advanced revolutionary democracy’; he did not allow himself to play with words and abstractions. The dictatorship of the proletariat was not an abstraction for him and he did not hesitate after the revolution to explain how the Soviet state was a workers’ and peasants’ state.
    By common consent of Trotsky and his successors the ‘permanent revolution’ is not a dated quarrel. Its importance lies in its current value. As a general theory formed on the basis of the lessons of October, it should constitute the universal path of Bolshevism. The ‘colonial['] revolutions – China yesterday, and Vietnam today – should demonstrate it brilliantly. The Trotskyists have acquired a stupefying theoretical ease in reducing specific experiences to applications of the theory of the permanent revolution. This ‘ease’ must be explained: it results from the very content of the theory. It was formed by reducing the concrete modifications in the Russian situation; it has developed in the same way.
    Let us take the example of China: for nearly twenty years the Chinese Communist Party mobilised the masses with the slogans of New Democracy, and the struggle against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. The victory of this new type of democracy, which accomplishes the radical agrarian revolution under the leadership of the proletariat, opens up the road to socialism. To achieve this victory, it was necessary to distinguish accurately the stages of the revolution: the fundamentally economic bourgeois stage and the socialist stage; to prepare in the first the conditions for the second. All this supposes a firm leadership of the struggle, which is capable at every moment of winning the largest possible number of allies by its slogans, and of isolating the principal enemy. The Trotskyists contemplate the result – socialist China – and make the following subtle remark: the revolution did not halt, it developed continuously. In short, it is quite clearly a permanent revolution. For twenty years the ‘Stalinist’ slogan was inadequate: it contained an ‘algebraic’ unknown, as Trotsky said about the Leninist slogan of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. Its solution is ‘arithmetic’, the socialist revolution. He who can do more can also do less. Once one has made the socialist revolution (the maximum) one will at the same stroke have made the democratic revolution (the minimum). From the fact that, at a determinate stage, the democratic revolution is transformed into a socialist revolution, the Trotskyists deduce that the socialist revolution is democratic in the first place. This little game of reciprocity exalts their revolutionism. Clearly, it is bankrupt, for it is necessary to prepare the stage in which the revolution is transformed; which supposes that the stages are distinguished. This is a particular condition for freeing the peasants’ initiative.

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    The agrarian revolution is a primordial task in countries dominated by imperialism. The process of the subordination of the landowning class to imperialism gives a new concrete meaning to the thesis: the agrarian revolution is basically a national revolution. Strategically, the Vietnamese example outstandingly bears this out: the principal enemy of a consistent democratic revolution is imperialism. A concrete imperialism: the American one, in Vietnam. The first stage of the uninterrupted revolution is therefore national democratic. Delivering blows at the same enemy as the world proletarian revolution, it forms a part of this revolution. This provides the best guarantee for the necessary leadership by the proletariat without which the national democratic revolution will not be consistent and cannot be transformed into a socialist revolution. This necessary leadership is not inevitable, as is shown by the victory of a non-democratic national revolution in Egypt or Algeria. Trotsky excluded all possibility of a revolutionary national victory led by the democratic petty bourgeoisie.(6) Life gives the lie to Trotskyist formalism.
    Proletarian leadership pre-supposes the liberation of the revolutionary initiative of the peasants as they set out for the conquest of power – and not after the workers’ seizure of power (Trotsky’s thesis). This leadership assumes methods of peasant organisation for the conquest of power. Baldly denying the peasants’ ability to organise an ‘independent party’, Trotsky excluded the possibility of organising them for the seizure of power. To recognise this condition clearly is to acknowledge the revolutionary democratic composition of the power to be won. The Trotskyists are unable to recognise the necessity (the correctness) of a democratic government (the NLF thesis) arising out of the ruins of the old, feudal and colonial or neo-colonial state apparatus. To recognise the necessity to devise forms of leadership which free the initiative of the peasant masses is to make possible the people’s war and its infinite capacity for revolutionary creativity.


Defining the general orientation of the struggle, the objective to which all the efforts of the social democrats had to be directed, Lenin declared in ‘Two Tactics‘: ‘the only force capable of gaining a “decisive victory over Tsarism” is the people, i.e. the proletariat and the peasantry . . . the “decisive victory” . . . means the establishment of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.’
    The task of this dictatorship is to accomplish ‘the changes urgently and absolutely indispensable to the proletariat and the peasantry’, that is, the Party’s ‘minimum programme’.
    ‘But of course’, Lenin added, ‘it will be a democratic, not a socialist dictatorship. It will be unable (without a series of intermediary stages of revolutionary development) to affect the foundations of capitalism.’(7)
    What does Trotsky say on the subject?

The very fact of the proletariat’s representatives entering the government, not as powerless hostages, but as the leading force,

page 21

destroys the borderline between maximum and minimum programme; that is to say, it places collectivism on the order of the day . . . For this reason there can be no talk of any sort of special form of proletarian dictatorship (or dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry).(8)

A few pages earlier, he has stressed: ‘The whole problem consists in this: who will determine the content of the government’s policy, who will form within it a solid majority?’(9)
    This is why Lenin could plausibly attribute to him the slogan, ‘No Tsar but a workers’ government’, which adequately sums up his position.(10)
    Expounding on the resolution of the 3rd Congress of the RSDLP, Lenin declared, on the contrary:(11)

The resolution deals with a provisional revolutionary government only, and with nothing else; consequently, the question of the ‘conquest of power’ in general, etc., does not at all come into the picture . . . because the political situation in Russia does not by any means turn such questions into immediate issues. On the contrary, the whole people have now raised the issue of the overthrow of the autocracy and the convocation of a constituent assembly. Party congresses should take up and decide not the issues which this or that writer has happened to mention opportunely or inopportunely, but such as are of vital political importance by reason of the prevailing conditions.

As for the participation of the social democrats in the provisional revolutionary government, the 3rd Congress had only decided that it could be entered, ‘subject to the alignment of forces and other factors which cannot be exactly predetermined’.(12)
    We see that Lenin was by no means inclined to make ‘prognoses’ or to build castles in the air. His sole preoccupation was to formulate the slogans which met the tasks of the moment by pointing out ‘the essential, the general’.
    Trotsky later explained: ‘I came out against the formula “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”, because I saw its shortcoming in the fact that it left open the question of which class would wield the real dictatorship.’(13)
    This argument is correct if Trotsky meant by it that Lenin did not fix in advance the composition of the government ‘which must exercise the democratic dictatorship’.(14) But it is false if he was suggesting that Lenin did not speak of the hegemonic role of the working class. The Bolshevik leader expressed his view on the subject more than once in ‘Two Tactics’: ‘We intend to guide . . . not only the proletariat, organised by the Social Democratic Party, but also this petty bourgeoisie, which is capable of marching side by side with us.’(15) And also: ‘The proletariat must be class conscious and strong enough to rouse the peasantry to revolutionary consciousness, guide its assault, and thereby independently pursue the line of consistent proletarian democratism.’(16)
    However, when Martov took up an idea of Trotsky’s, Lenin made it clear that ‘The question of the revolutionary classes, however, cannot be reduced to a question of the “majority” in any particular revolutionary government’.(17)
    Trotsky’s criticisms are therefore devoid of any basis. By holding fast to the prospect of a homogeneous social democratic

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government he overestimated the level of the Russian workers’ political consciousness while underestimating the revolutionary potential of the peasant masses, who in 1905 were not yet differentiated.
    In April 1917 the situation was profoundly different. Lenin observes ‘the deeper cleavage between the agricultural labourers and the poor peasants on the one hand and the peasant proprietors on the other’.(18) He emphasises ‘a struggle for influence within the Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies’.(19)
    The formula of ‘the democratic dictatorship’ was outdated in 1917 for two reasons:

    1.  It was realised in a way in the soviets: ‘The Soviet is the implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the soldiers; among the latter the majority are peasants. It is therefore a dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.’(20)
    2.  Under the leadership of the petty bourgeoisie the soviets had ceded power to the provisional government, that is, to the bourgeoisie.

In the particular conjuncture of 1917 it was against the political representatives of this petty bourgeoisie that the principal blow had to be struck, for it was deceiving the masses and consolidating the rule of the imperialist bourgeoisie. We know that Stalin generalised this particular case, while Mao has followed the opposite (and general) principle of winning over the intermediary forces while isolating the diehard reactionaries.
    The Trotskyists claim that Lenin ‘tacitly’ went over to Trotsky’s point of view in April 1917.(21) Lenin had already given them the lie in texts such as the following, which dates precisely from April 1917: ‘Trotskyism: “No Tsar but a Workers’ Government”. But it is in two parts. The poorer of the two is with the working class’;(22) and also this one which dates from 1918:

Things have turned out just as we said they would. The course of the revolution has confirmed the correctness of our reasoning. First with the whole of the peasants against the monarchy, against the landlords, against the medieval regime (and to that extent the revolution remains bourgeois, bourgeois-democratic). Then, with the poor peasants, the semi-proletarians, with all the exploited against capitalism . . . and to that extent the revolution becomes a socialist one.(23)

It is plain what credence is to be given to the legend hawked about by the Trotskyists that in 1917 Lenin was converted to Trotskyism and recognised that he had been mistaken in distinguishing the democratic stage from the socialist stage. As we have just shown, things were quite different. This is why they are forced to attempt to confer some credibility on their thesis by going even further along the road of falsification and fabricating a Lenin denying the ‘interpenetration’ (transcroissance) of one stage into the other. Thus Isaac Deutscher’s readers are informed: ‘His (Lenin’s) policy was based firmly on the premiss that the Russian revolution would confine itself to its anti-feudal objectives.’(24)
    Anyone who takes the trouble to check this will find that Lenin said exactly the opposite in ‘Two Tactics of Social Democracy’:

page 23

The revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry has a past and a future. Its past is autocracy, serfdom, monarchy and privilege . . . Its future is the struggle against private property, the struggle of the wage-worker against the employer, the struggle for socialism.(25)

Having introduced a first untruth into the minds of his unsuspecting readers, Deutscher makes them accept all the more easily a second (the important one for him) which seems to follow naturally: ‘In 1917 . . . Lenin changed his mind. In all essentials the thesis of the permanent revolution (though not, of course, its somewhat bookish nomenclature) was adopted by his party.’(26)
    Thus, to declare Trotsky correct, we must attribute to Lenin a crude opportunist error in 1905 which then enables us to falsify Lenin’s positions in 1917 in the opposite direction. Finally, let us admire the ‘of course’ which saves Deutscher from having to explain to us why Lenin did not take over the term ‘permanent revolution’ if it were true that it corresponded to a scientific concept. Was Lenin afraid of Marxist terms; was he afraid of Marxist works?
    All the false and nonsensical Trotskyist constructions are summarised in a short note of Ernest Mandel’s:

Between 1905 and 1917 the Bolshevik Party was educated in the spirit of achieving the ‘democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants’, i.e. in the spirit of a formula with its eye on the possibility of a coalition between a workers’ party and a peasant party . . . Only in 1917 did he (Lenin) realise that Trotsky had been correct back in 1905 when he predicted that the agrarian question could only be solved by the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialisation of the Russian economy.(27)

Lenin has long since refuted this interpretation of his political line in 1905 by showing that the problem of class alliances cannot be reduced to that of alliances between parties – which completely undermines Trotsky’s objection that there could not be an independent peasant party:

A ‘coalition’ of classes does not at all presuppose either the existence of any particular powerful party, or parties in general. This is only confusing classes with parties . . . The experience of the Russian revolution shows that the ‘coalitions’ of the proletariat and the peasantry were formed scores and hundred of times, in the most diverse forms, without any ‘powerful independent party’ of the peasantry.(28)

Mandel could have disputed this argument of Lenin’s. He decided that it was more prudent to pass it over in silence, hoping that his readers would not come across it in Lenin’s voluminous works. In fact, Mandel not only claims that Lenin’s policy was wrong, he falsifies this policy by arguing that it presupposed a coalition between parties. Mandel also repeats the old Trotskyist confusion between socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, between the character (the social content) of the stages and the class nature of the power.(29) This is what enables him to conclude that, after the ‘April Theses’, there was no better Trotskyist than Lenin.

page 24


With his pretension to be a better Leninist than Lenin, Trotsky vehemently denied that he wanted to ‘skip over the peasantry’ or that he underestimated its revolutionary potential. He accused Lenin of having criticised him on this point without having read his work. In reality, in the chapter of ‘Results and Prospects’ devoted to relations between the proletariat in power and the peasantry, he openly showed his contempt for the latter.(30) A few quotations will prove it:

Many sections of the working masses, particularly in the countryside will be drawn into the revolution and become politically organised only after the advance-guard of the revolution, the urban proletariat, stands at the helm of the state. Revolutionary agitation and organisation will then be conducted with the help of state resources. (pp. 202-3)
In such a situation, created by the transference of power to the proletariat, nothing remains for the peasantry to do but to rally to the regime of the workers’ democracy. It will not matter much even if the peasantry does this with a degree of consciousness no larger than that with which it usually rallies to the bourgeois regime. (p. 205)

Alluding to Lenin’s policy, he also wrote: ‘Lenin now proposes that the proletariat’s political self-limitation should be supplemented with an objective anti-socialist “safeguard” in the form of the muzhik as collaborator or co-director’.(31)
    In fact, according to Lenin, the proletariat ‘can become a victorious fighter for democracy only if the peasant masses join its revolutionary struggle’.(32)
    Let us note first of all that the chapter from which we have taken the first two quotations is entitled ‘The proletariat in power and the peasantry’. Trotsky says nothing about the alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry with a view to taking power.
    We can summarise Trotsky’s ideas before 1917 on this subject as follows:
    The proletariat emancipates the peasantry and conducts agitation and organisational work within it after the seizure of power.
    For Lenin, on the contrary, the revolutionary mobilisation of the peasantry is a condition of victory.
    The peasantry rallies to the proletariat with more or less as much fatalism and ignorance of its own interests as when it supports a reactionary regime.
    According to Lenin, ‘The proletariat cannot count on the ignorance and prejudices of the peasantry as the powers that be under a bourgeois regime count on and depend on them’.(33)
    For Trotsky there was no question of making concessions to the peasantry in order to ensure that the contradiction between it and the proletariat remained secondary, because he did not distinguish, in fact, between the democratic stage and the socialist stage of the revolution.(34) Rather, he considered that the transition to the socialist stage presupposes a conflict between the two classes.
    Lenin’s definition of the dictatorship of the proletariat makes it obvious how anti-Leninist this position is:(35)

    The dictatorship of the proletariat is a special sort of class

page 25

alliance between the proletariat (the vanguard of the workers), and the non-proletarian strata of those who labour (petty bourgeoisie, small employers, peasants, intelligentsia, and so forth) . . . for the complete overthrow of capitalism . . . for the definitive inauguration and consolidation of socialism.

In a country like Russia the ‘non-proletarian strata of those who labour’ were mainly the broad peasant masses. For Lenin, the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia was therefore a particular form of the class alliance between the proletariat and the working peasants and we know that before his death one of his main concerns was the strengthening of this alliance. Here, on the contrary, is what Trotsky wrote in 1922, in the preface to his ’1905′:

Precisely in order to guarantee its victory, the proletarian vanguard in the very earliest stages of its rule would have to make extremely deep inroads not only into feudal but also into bourgeois property relations. While doing so it would enter into hostile conflict not only with all those bourgeois groups which had supported it during the first stage of the revolutionary struggle but also with the broad masses of the peasantry with whose collaboration it – the proletariat – had come into power.


While formally declaring himself in agreement with Lenin about the law of uneven development, Trotsky never accepted all its implications, especially the following:

    1.  With wars breaking out among the imperialist countries for the division of the world, the revolution can triumph first in a relatively backward country (the weakest link) such as Russia, thanks to the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry, and can hold out, notably on account of the violent contradictions between its enemies.
    2.  This revolution is not necessarily the immediate prelude to world revolution but the latter will continue as it began with new victories in particular countries (where capitalism is weak) for a long historical period. The uneven ripening of the conditions for a revolutionary explosion excludes its simultaneous occurrence in every country.

From as early as 1906, Trotsky reckoned that a revolution in Russia would lead to an intervention of the European powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary in particular. This war would inevitably lead to a revolution in these countries and step by step to the triumph of world socialism.(36) This mechanism is one of the aspects of the permanence of the revolution.
    It was also necessary for the revolution to go immediately beyond the borders of Russia in another sense. For Trotsky, the revolution will be global or not at all. In fact, if it remained isolated in a predominantly agricultural country it would succumb very quickly to the blows of external intervention or internal counter-revolution.(37)

Without the direct State support of the European proletariat the working class of Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domination into a lasting socialistic dictatorship.(38)

page 26

    Left to its own resources, the working class of Russia will inevitably be crushed by the counter-revolution the moment the peasantry turns its back on it. It will have no alternative but to link the fate of its political rule, and, hence, the fate of the whole Russian revolution, with the fate of the socialist revolution in Europe.(39)

Trotsky did not believe that it would be possible to maintain workers’ power in Russia without external aid, especially because he was convinced that the logic of the proletariat’s revolutionary action would lead it into conflict with the peasantry.
    He returned to this question in 1917 in his pamphlet ‘Program of Peace’ (republished in 1924 in the collection ‘The Year 1917′). He declared in it that ‘a victorious revolution in Russia or England is inconceivable without revolution in Germany and vice versa’. To avoid any ambiguity he specified moreover that: ‘It would be futile to expect . . . for instance, that revolutionary Russia could hold its own in face of a conservative Europe’.(40)
    In 1926 he again recalled the position he held in October 1917: ‘it was clear to us that the victory of the proletarian revolution is impossible without the international world revolution’.(41)
    During the two years that followed the seizure of power, Lenin may have feared lest foreign intervention crush the young Soviet republic.(42) Later, his fears and doubts were allayed, whereas Zinoviev made a dogma of them five years after at the time of his dispute with Stalin over the possibility of building socialism in one country. As for Trotsky, he proved to be remarkably obstinate in error. In 1922 he no longer spoke of an impending ‘inevitable’ defeat of the proletarian power in the absence of a revolution in Europe, but he expressed the same idea in a more cautious form: ‘The contradiction between a workers’ government and an overwhelming majority of peasants in a backward country could be resolved only on an international scale, in the arena of a world proletarian revolution’.(43)
    In the same year, Trotsky wrote in the postscript to his pamphlet ‘Program of Peace’: ‘A genuine advance of socialist economy in Russia will become possible only after the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries of Europe.’
    History having decided, comment is unnecessary – more especially as Trotsky provided the best one in 1939 in his ‘Transitional Program’, in which we read: ‘The nationalisation of the means of production, a necessary condition for socialist development, opened up the possibility of a rapid growth of the productive forces.’
    While being very proud of his ‘prognoses’, Trotsky constantly altered his conception of the permanent revolution. 1905, 1917, 1922, 1929, 1939 – these dates mark not the stages of a deeper knowledge of the laws of revolution but the contortions of a ‘theoretician’ striving to make something stand up in a schema undermined, breached and ground to dust by inconsiderate opponents and merciless historical events.
    When, at the beginning of 1925, the dispute over socialism in one country broke out between Zinoviev and Kamenev on the one hand and Bukharin on the other, Trotsky kept apart from it. He seems even not to have been aware of anything for a year. He himself said later that he was caught unawares by the formidable conflict

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dividing the majority and the minority at the 14th Congress in December 1925. He distrusted Zinoviev, who had been the most virulent of his opponents and whom he considered to be the leader of the right wing. He did not believe his differences with Stalin to be serious. However, Zinoviev’s argument coincided with his own to a certain extent (except on the question of the alliance with the peasantry) and that is why Stalin had already refuted it in advance in the so-called ‘literary’ debate at the end of 1924.
    Given Trotsky’s argument that ‘the safety (of the proletarian state) rests solely on the victory of the proletariat in the advanced countries’, Stalin concluded that, according to his opponent, ‘there is but one prospect left for our revolution: to vegetate in its own contradictions and rot away while waiting for the world revolution’.
    He opposed to ‘this permanent hopelessness’ Lenin’s ideas on the construction of socialism in one country. Lenin said, among other things:(44)

Socialism is no longer a matter of the distant future or an abstract picture . . . difficult as this task may be, new as it is . . . and numerous as the difficulties may be that it entails, we shall – not in a day but in a few years - all of us together fulfil it whatever the cost, so that NEP Russia will become Socialist Russia.

Lenin also said:(45)

Indeed the power of the State over all the large-scale means of production, political power in the hands of the proletariat, the alliance of the proletariat with many millions of the small and very small peasants, the assured proletarian leadership of the peasantry etc – is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society . . . out of co-operatives, out of co-operatives alone, which we formerly ridiculed as huckstering and which from a certain aspect we have the right to treat as such now, under NEP? Is this not all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society? It is still not the building of socialist society but it is all that is necessary and sufficient for it.

In the same article, we read the sentence: ‘With most of the population organised in co-operatives, socialism . . . will achieve its aims automatically.’
    Trotsky did his utmost to interpret this text in a sense favourable to his theses. According to him, when Lenin said ‘We have all that is necessary and sufficient for the construction of socialism’, he was referring to the first political fruits. It would also be necessary to solve the problem of the culture that the Russian people lacked. Culture presupposes a ‘certain material base’. Therefore, (according to Trotsky’s Lenin), we need the victorious European proletariat to come to our aid with its superior technology.(46)
    This is an absolutely unwarranted deflection of Lenin’s arguments. In fact, in his article, Lenin was far from denying that the Russian people could raise the level of their culture and technology by their own efforts, otherwise he would have written ‘all that is necessary but not sufficient’.
    Trotsky was very careful not to enter into a polemic on this

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question during Lenin’s lifetime. When such a polemic did break out in 1925 between Zinoviev on the one hand and Stalin and Bukharin on the other, Stalin was easily able to prove that his view rigorously conformed to Lenin’s ideas. In ‘On Co-operation‘, Lenin defined what he meant by socialism: ‘Given social ownership of the means of production, given the class victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, the system of civilised co-operators is the system of socialism.’(47)
    It seems that by ‘building a complete socialist society’ Stalin understood fundamentally the same thing, i.e. ‘victory over the capitalist elements in our economy’, in the strict sense (linked to the private ownership of the means of production). As often as not Zinoviev did not attribute any other meaning to the ‘final’ victory of socialism and neither did Trotsky to the ‘completion of the construction of socialism’ which they denied was possible in one country. Taking up Lenin’s formula again, Stalin argued against them that it was possible to construct ‘the complete socialist society’ in the USSR. He denied, however, that this victory could be ‘final’, that is, guaranteed against external intervention as long as the proletariat had not taken power ‘in at least a number of countries’.(48)
    In ‘Leninism’, Zinoviev exercises his sleight of hand on quotations from Lenin. He does not distinguish between the final victory of socialism in so far as it implies the abolition of classes, the abolition of the state and the transition to communism on the one hand, and socialism as ‘the transition from a small, isolated, individual, market economy to a big collective economy’, as Lenin said, on the other. The Bolshevik leader did not believe that the former was possible without the world victory of the revolution but he held that it was possible to construct socialism in one country in the second sense, since for him Russia possessed ‘all that is necessary to build a complete socialist society’, which he defined as ‘Soviets plus electrification throughout the country’, or ‘the system of civilised co-operators’.
    According to Ernest Mandel, ‘all Trotsky stated . . . was the fact that a fully-fledged socialist society, i.e. a society without classes, commodities, money and state, could never be accomplished within the boundaries of a single state’.(49) We have seen that until 1918 Trotsky denied ‘that a revolutionary Russia . . . could hold its own in the face of a conservative Europe’; that, later, he did not believe that the socialisation of the means of production or the advance of a socialist economy were possible in one country. It was only after 1929 that historical experience forced him occasionally to come close to the position which Mandel attributes to him. Even then, it is quite simply false to say that this is ‘all Trotsky stated’. Let me provide even more proof. If we place ourselves in the framework of this controversy (1925-6) we can conclude:

    1.  that Stalin’s position largely conformed to Lenin’s views;
    2.  that it was confirmed in practice when the kulaks and the nepmen were liquidated as classes after 1928 and that consequently enormous progress was made on the economic and cultural levels;
    3.  that Stalin went further than Lenin and erred in arguing that the victory of the proletariat in several countries was enough to enable one to speak of a final victory of socialism.(50)

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In his book ‘The Permanent Revolution’ (1928-31), Trotsky once again beat a retreat. He set up his line of defence on positions which Zinoviev had earlier prepared for him. He was content from then on to deny the possibility of a final construction of socialism in one country. Events decided against him very rapidly, for it was clear (given the context) that his ‘final socialism’ was identical to Lenin’s ‘complete socialism’; that is to say, with the measure of socialism realised under Stalin. Let us look, therefore, at what Trotsky wrote at the time when the First Five-Year Plan was already being carried out:(51)

To aim at building a nationally isolated socialist society means, in spite of all passing successes, to pull the productive forces backward even as compared with capitalism. To attempt, regardless of the geographical, cultural and historical conditions of the country’s development which constitutes a part of the world unity, to realise . . . all the branches of economy within a national framework, means to pursue a reactionary utopia. If the heralds and supporters of this theory nevertheless participate in the international revolutionary struggle (with what success is a different question) it is because, as hopeless eclectics, they mechanically combine abstract internationalism with reactionary utopian national socialism.

Let the reader judge for himself: did the Five-Year Plans pull the productive forces backward even as compared with capitalism? Did the geographical, historical and cultural conditions prevent the realisation of all the branches of the economy within a national framework? The Trotskyists have never told us what they think about this example of their mentor’s ‘prognoses’. The most interesting thing about the passage that we have just quoted is that it offers us a striking example of the complete about-turns in which Trotsky, the rigid critic of Stalinist zigzags, was adept. In this passage he declares that internally the Soviet leaders were reactionary utopians but that internationally they participated in the revolutionary struggle. Some years later he was to argue the opposite: that as a degenerated workers’ state, the Soviet Union presents a two-fold character: it is progressive internally as it maintains socialist relations of production and develops the productive forces; it is reactionary internationally as it systematically betrays all revolutionary struggles.
    In ‘The Permanent Revolution’, Trotsky formulated another ‘prognosis’ which is extremely embarrassing for his disciples, who continue to denounce the evils of socialism in one country: ‘The theory of the kulak growing into socialism and the theory of the ‘neutralisation’ of the world bourgeoisie are . . . inseparable from the theory of socialism in one country. They stand or fall together.’(52)
    We consider contemporary Trotskyists to be more qualified than ourselves to comment on this text, which we shall leave to them to think about.
    However, it is necessary to emphasise a curious argument of Trotsky’s in this new dispute. After ‘Pravda’ had written that ‘the final victory of socialism, guaranteed against the intervention of the capitalist camp effectively (demanded) the triumph of the proletarian revolution in several advanced countries’, he claimed to

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prove that this was absurd, for if it were possible to build socialism in the USSR its final victory in that country and even in the world would ‘ipso facto’ be achieved because

The example of a backward country, which in the course of several Five-Year Plans was able to construct a mighty socialist society with its own forces, would mean a death blow to world capitalism, and would reduce to a minimum, if not to zero, the costs of the world proletarian revolution.(53)

Here the reader will recognise the Khrushchevite argument. When the USSR has caught up with the USA in ‘per capita’ production of consumption goods, the peoples of the world will choose socialism and vote accordingly. The only difference is that Khrushchev thought this overtaking possible given the Soviet Union’s faster rate of growth, whereas Trotsky thought it impossible. For both the link between the cause (economic success of the USSR) and the effect (more or less peaceful world revolution) is identical. This coincidence reflects a common theoretical basis. Neither of them realised that the development of contradictions in those partial totalities, in concrete social formations, is fundamentally explained by the action of internal causes and not by external influences.(54)
    In fact, Trotskyism is characterised particularly by the tendency to attribute an undue significance to the unity of the world market which is supposed to constitute the objective basis for proletarian internationalism. One of the obstacles to the building of socialism in one country is supposed to be the pressure of cheap commodities produced in the advanced capitalist countries; capitalism’s ability to subordinate all the other modes of production, even the socialist mode of production, if its technical basis is insufficiently developed at the start. ‘But, in elaborating the theoretical prognosis of the October Revolution, I did not at all believe that, by conquering state power, the Russian proletariat would exclude the former Tsarist empire from the orbit of the world economy’.(55)
    This, however, is what happened. The USSR lived in semi-autarchy for several decades. The impetuous industrial development of the USSR during the 1930s, at the very time of the great crisis, shows that the economy of a country under the dictatorship of the proletariat in which the means of production and foreign trade are nationalised, is no longer subject to the repercussions of the cyclical fluctuations of the world market nor any longer ruled by the economic law of capitalism (profit maximisation), but develops according to its own fundamental law.
    In the ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR‘ (p. 333), Stalin emphasised that after the Second World War the socialist camp appeared, ‘so that we now have two parallel world markets confronting one another’.
    The monopoly of foreign trade retained by proletarian power does not allow capitalism to become an integral part of the production of a country which is building socialism, or thereby to eat away the nascent socialist relations of production by virtue of its temporary technical superiority.
    Trotsky’s internationalism was really only a refusal to acknowledge the discontinuities of the world sociological space: distinct social formations, national particularities, unevenness in

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the development of the objective and subjective conditions for revolution and, finally, the possibility of a relatively separate socialist market contemporaneous with the capitalist market.
    However, on the practical level and only if we consider the immediate perspectives, he apparently agreed with Stalin that the construction of the economic basis of socialism in the USSR should not be subordinated to the vicissitudes of proletarian struggles in the advanced capitalist countries. Thus one might think he is picking an artificial quarrel with him, assuming him in the wrong from the start. In fact, it was nothing of the sort. As conceived by Trotsky, industrialisation was only a ‘sort of emergency measure until the advent of international revolution saved the situation’,(56) hence its vague and abstract character. This is all the more true since, as we have just seen, he considered ‘a genuine advance of socialist economy in Russia’ before ‘the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries of Europe’ to be impossible.
    Trotsky and his disciples have presented the thesis of socialism in one country as an expression of a narrow outlook, indeed of a messianic nationalism (Trotsky made analogous complaints about the Bolshevik Party before 1917) and even as proceeding from a deliberate wish to betray the world revolution. A reading of Stalin does not corroborate this accusation. Just one quotation will suffice:(57)

While it is true that the final victory of Socialism in the first country to emancipate itself is impossible without the combined efforts of the proletarians of several countries, it is equally true that the development of the world revolution will be the more rapid and thorough the more effective the assistance rendered by the first Socialist country to the workers and labouring masses of all other countries.

He follows this immediately by quoting a text from ‘On the Slogan of a United States of Europe‘ in which Lenin advocated armed intervention by the first socialist state to aid the people against their oppressors! The revisionists and Trotskyists are in league to hide these aspects of Lenin’s and Stalin’s thought. The least one can say about them is that they call into question the usual idea of socialism in one country.
    One would surmise that Stalin, who made so many mistakes in the construction of socialism in the USSR, is not free from all blame as leader of the International. Let us be more precise: he was not always capable of a correct combination of reinforcement of the socialist bastion and support for revolutionary peoples. We shall deal with this question later. Investigations and historical research are required to determine what were Stalin’s mistakes in this domain. The answer to this type of question has no connection with an examination of the thesis of socialism in one country which, as we have sufficiently demonstrated, is compatible as such (on the theoretical level) with the boldest and most intransigent internationalism. Besides, it is noteworthy that Stalin, who was its promoter, ‘later showed himself rather prudent and reserved in its accreditation’,(58) given that it was taken up by Bukharin who attached it to his idea of the construction of socialism ‘at a snail’s pace’. Stalin, on the contrary, soon came to emphasise the

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first term of the formula, ‘socialism in one country’, on the eve the attack on the kulaks and the First Five-Year Plan.
    The thesis according to which it was possible ‘to build a complete socialist society’ by counting on the forces of the USSR alone was explicitly presented by Stalin as necessary with a view to encouraging the people to commit themselves to this construction. For him it therefore had a practical value.
    The process of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the cultural revolution in China have led us to a more rigorous conception of the advance towards communism. We know that for Marx the latter comprises two stages: the lower is characterised by the principle, ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his work’. A certain inequality thus survives, along with the bourgeois right which is its corollary. In the ‘higher phase’ of communist society(59)

after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

By that time the state will have withered away, social classes will have disappeared along with the three fundamental inequalities bequeathed by capitalism: the differences between manual and mental labour, town and country, and agriculture and industry. A profound transformation in outlook, customs and ideology will have eradicated egoism and individualism.
    It is certain that the transition to the higher stage of socialism, communism, will only be able to take place on a world scale after the elimination of capitalist encirclement. This question (different from that debated in the 1920s) must be connected to the problematic of the class struggle after the suppression of private ownership of the means of production. Trotsky (like Stalin), hardly suspected it, and then only very confusedly.
    If we have said that Stalin was correct to think that it was possible to construct socialism in one country, we cannot go along with him when, in his report to the 18th Congress (1939), he envisaged the transition to communism in one country. He even argued in it that the state would survive ‘in the period of communism’, ‘if capitalist encirclement is not liquidated’. In 1946 Stalin reiterated this thesis according to which ‘communism in one country is perfectly conceivable particularly in a country such as the Soviet Union’.(60) On this point, Mao has expressed a diametrically opposite point of view: the transition to communism, he has said, will only be realisable after several generations when ‘the division of labour which is at the basis of class division’ (Engels) has been eliminated and when the state has consequently ‘withered away’ (Engels).
    In ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’, Stalin set out

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three conditions which must be fulfilled to prepare the transition to communism:

    1.  continuous expansion of production with priority for the means of production;
    2.  replacement of commodity circulation by a system of product-exchange which will raise collective-farm property to the level of national property (collective farmers will no longer be able to sell their surpluses on the market but will ‘receive products in much greater quantities from the State’);
    3.  cultural advancement so that members of society ‘are not tied all their lives, owing to the existing division of labour, to some one occupation’. For this, it is necessary, ‘to shorten the working day . . . that housing conditions should be radically improved, and that real wages of workers . . . should be at least doubled’.(61)

Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the last two conditions in fact amount to the first one. In short, to move to communism it is enough to increase production!
    As for the elimination of the three differences bequeathed by capitalism, Stalin interpreted Marx and Engels’s doctrine somewhat freely. We read in his last work, for example:(62)

The ground for antithesis between town and country, between industry and agriculture, has already been eliminated by our socialist system. This, of course, does not mean that the effect of the abolition of the antithesis between town and country will be that ‘the great towns’ will perish. (Engels, ‘Anti-Dühring[']) Not only will the great towns not perish, but new great towns will appear.

Stalin quoted Engels in order to contradict him. In fact, here is what we read in ‘Anti-Duhring’: ‘It is true that in the great towns civilisation has bequeathed us a heritage which it will take us some time and trouble to get rid of. But it must and will be got rid of.’ (p. 352.)
    In fact, Stalin denied that it was possible to make ‘all’ the differences between industry and agriculture, between manual and mental labour disappear because he did not think that the division of labour could be overcome. He declared: ‘The essential distinction between mental and physical labour . . . the difference in their cultural and technical levels, will certainly disappear. But some distinction, even if inessential, will remain, if only because the conditions of labour of the managerial staffs and those of the workers are not identical’.(63)
    Even if the cultural and technical level of the workers is very high, can we consider the distinction maintained between management personnel and workers ‘insignificant’?
    With such ideas it was impossible for Stalin to prepare the conditions for the transition to the higher stage of communism as the Chinese are doing even now. However, Stalin tackled the problem with at least the minimum of seriousness, which is precisely not the case with the present leaders in the Soviet Union who, since the 22nd Congress (1961), under Khrushchev, boast of constructing full-scale communism there. It is well known that in 1957 Molotov, the last of the ‘Stalinists’, opposed the thesis of the final completion of socialism in the USSR which was proclaimed by Stalin as early as

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1936 in his report on the Draft Constitution. Today the Chinese insist on the necessity for a people who want to construct socialism to rely above all on their own forces. This formula can be considered as an avatar of ‘socialism in one country’ which the Chinese only rarely mention. In a certain sense it fulfils the same function: ‘on s’engage et puis on voit’.(64) Rely on oneself, not on others. It is true that the Chinese situate the complete realisation of socialism further away than Stalin did in 1926. ‘In five or ten generations or even more’, they have written. In fact, they know, as Lenin did, that the nationalisation of the means of production is not enough.
    With the clarity and rigour that distinguishes him, Mao Tse-tung has recently defined the Marxist-Leninist position on this subject. He poses the problem correctly and thus puts paid to an old controversy:(65)

We have won great victories. But the defeated class will still struggle. These people are still around and this class still exists. Therefore, we cannot speak of final victory. Not even for decades. We must not lose our vigilance. According to the Leninist viewpoint, the final victory of a socialist country not only requires the efforts of the proletariat and the broad masses of the people at home, but also involves the victory of the world revolution and the abolition of the system of exploitation of man by man over the whole globe, upon which all mankind will be emancipated.

Back in 1962, Mao had said: (66)

The next 50 to 100 years or so, beginning from now, will be a great era of radical change in the social system throughout the world, an earth-shaking era without equal in any previous historical period. Living in such an era, we must be prepared to engage in great struggles which will have many features different in form from those of the past.

At the end of his life the old fighter, who has just carried off his greatest victory, reveals to us the prospective thunder and lightning of future revolutionary storms. Once again he invites us to throw off our illusions and to prepare ourselves for the struggle. New vanguards will be forged in the flames of their struggle, new developments in Marxism-Leninism will spring from their practice. This call and this message are directed to the entire world. China is a fragment of the international revolutionary movement and at the same time its principal Red base. The Chinese consider that Stalin’s thesis that it is possible to construct socialism in one country is an important contribution to the development of Marxism-Leninism. Is any other proof necessary to show that adherence to this thesis does not imply opposition to world revolutions?


At a lecture and debate on the crisis of the international communist movement bringing together Pierre Cot, Lelio Basso, Isaac Deutscher and Jacques Vergès, Vergès’s reply to a listener who asked him about the ‘permanent revolution’ in China had the merit of infuriating

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Pierre Frank(67) who hurled himself towards the platform, his face purple, his eyes popping and foam on his lips. After him, Deutscher calmly explained that he had examined the Chinese and Trotskyist ideas of the permanent revolution very closely, that he had resorted to the strongest ‘theoretical lenses’, without, however, discovering the slightest difference between them.(68)
    We do not believe that lenses of great ‘separating power’ are necessary to see the opposition between certain aspects of these two theories unless one is suffering from a very advanced intellectual myopia. I have shown above that Lenin did not ‘tacitly’ become Trotskyist in 1917. I shall now go into the differences between the Chinese uninterrupted revolution and Trotsky’s permanent revolution.
    Comparing these two concepts, we shall show that they are distinguishable and even opposed to one another. That is why we designate them by different terms, dismissing philological quibbles as irrelevant to the question that the Chinese language possesses only a single expression for both concepts,(69) or that in Russia a single word is translated sometimes by ‘stages’ and sometimes by ‘phases’. (Trotskyists like speaking about ‘phases’ but not ‘stages’.)
    For my part, I shall conform to the elementary logical principles stated by Pascal when he said ‘I never quarrel about a name as long as I am told what meaning is given it’.
    In their translation into foreign languages the Chinese are always careful to use the expression ‘uninterrupted revolution’ (by stages) to avoid any confusion with Trotsky’s ideas.
    1.  Trotsky wrote:

It is nonsense to say that stages in general cannot be skipped. The living historical process always makes leaps over isolated ‘stages’ which derive from the theoretical breakdown into its component parts of the process of development in its entirety . . . (70)

The third Chinese revolution . . . will not have a ‘democratic’ period . . . It will be forced . . . to abolish (from the start) bourgeois ownership in the towns and countryside.(71)

In contrast, Mao argues that the revolution is at once uninterrupted and that it passes through determined stages. These stages can neither be leapt over, nor can the tasks of a stage be embarked upon before those of the preceding one have been accomplished:(72)

Taken as a whole, the Chinese revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party embraces two stages, i.e. the democratic and the socialist revolutions . . . The second process can only be carried through after the first has been completed. The democratic revolution is the necessary preparation for the socialist revolution, and the socialist revolution is the inevitable sequel to the democratic revolution.

Mao emphasises that it is necessary to understand both ‘the difference and the connection’ between these two stages. The Trotskyists saw the connection but not the difference, while the opportunists of the Chinese Right (Ch’en Tu-hsiu) saw the difference but not the connection.
    Under the leadership of the Communist Party the Chinese people carried out the tasks of the democratic stage in a consistent and radical manner, thus ensuring the uninterrupted transition (the

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interpenetration, as Lenin said) of the revolution to the socialist stage.
    2.  The displacements of the principal contradiction are the objective basis for the distinction between the stages. A different system of class alliances corresponds to each one of them. During the democratic revolution the party of the proletariat, supported by the fundamental masses of workers and peasants(73) and regrouping under its leadership all the forces which can be united, especially the petty bourgeoisie and a part of the national bourgeoisie, carries to completion the struggle against imperialism, bureaucratic and comprador capital and feudalism. This stage goes beyond the liberation of China (1949) to the completion of agrarian reform (1952), when the principal contradiction becomes that between the working class and the bourgeoisie. The revolution has entered its socialist stage, during which the proletariat is principally in alliance with the poor peasants and the lower stratum of the middle peasants.

For Trotsky, the principal contradiction remains the same during the whole period of the transition from capitalism to socialism: the capital/labour contradiction.
    It follows that, for him, the bourgeoisie confronting the workers always and everywhere constitutes one reactionary mass. This being true for the entire world it is also therefore true for China.
    The Chinese Communists have been able to distinguish between two groups in the bourgeoisie of their country. One consisted of bureaucratic capital (the four great families who controlled the state apparatus) and comprador capital which acted as an intermediary between the international monopolies and the Chinese market. This group was the instrument of imperialism and the ally of the landlords. The other comprised the middle or national bourgeoisie which displayed a revolutionary character on the one hand and a tendency towards compromise with the enemy on the other. Imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capital were crushing and stifling the middle bourgeoisie. It had a vital interest in the elimination of semi-feudal relations in the countryside in order to enlarge the market, and in national independence to free it from imperialist dumping. It follows that at certain times and to a certain extent it was able to participate in the revolution. In other respects it was an exploiting class as it retained links with imperialism and feudalism and was economically and politically weak, so that there was a risk that it would go over to the side of counter-revolution, particularly after a period of successful popular struggle (for example 1927-31).
    Even when it was an ally of the proletariat it remained hesitant and vacillating; hence the necessity to adopt towards it a policy of unity and struggle, that is, to criticise it in order to induce it to prove more steadfast in the anti-imperialist struggle. Given the fact that China was a backward country it was necessary to maintain on the economic level a united front with the national bourgeoisie after the victory of the revolution. In the people’s democratic dictatorship then set up, this class constituted a part of the people.(74) The contradiction between it and the working class which it continued to exploit presented, in addition to an antagonistic component, a non-antagonistic component. This means

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that in the concrete conditions in China this contradiction could be solved peacefully by a policy of unity, criticism and education.(75)
    This is, in fact, what was done. The national bourgeoisie ceased to exist as a class in 1966, after a fairly long transitional period.
    It is hardly necessary to point out that, for the Trotskyists, any alliance with a fraction of the bourgeoisie, whatever the concrete conditions, is an abominable betrayal of principles, as is the formula ‘democratic dictatorship of the people’.
    Trotsky had learned from Lenin that the stages of a revolution are distinguished by the nature of the socio-economic formations on its agenda, not by that of the political power. In Russia, the democratic stage lasted from February 1917 to July 1918. Trotsky himself acknowledged that the period from November 1917 to July 1918 was democratic.(76) The Trotskyists today have forgotten this. Ernest Mandel does not understand that the democratic stage in China might have lasted until 1952, although the power established in 1949 was in its essence a dictatorship of the proletariat, for the latter had first to complete the democratic transformation before going on to socialist measures.
    3.  According to Trotsky:(77)

in a country where the proletariat has power in its hands as the result of the democratic revolution, the subsequent fate of the dictatorship and socialism depends in the last analysis not only and not so much upon the national productive process as upon the development of the international socialist revolution.

The reason for this is ‘The world division of labour, the dependence of Soviet industry upon foreign technology, the dependence of the productive forces of the advanced countries of Europe upon Asiatic raw materials’.(78)
    As I have shown, Trotsky was convinced that the dictatorship of the proletariat in an economically backward country would quickly be crushed by foreign intervention and internal counter-revolution unless help came from the victorious proletariat in one or several advanced countries. For forty years history has daily contradicted this prognosis of Trotsky’s which he presented, moreover, in the mode of ‘That’s how it is’, with no explanation of either how or why.
    The Chinese conceive the solidarity between their revolution and the world revolution quite differently:

    (a)  When they were still in the democratic and national liberation stage they were deeply conscious of the truth of the theory developed by Lenin and Stalin according to which, after the October revolution, ‘the liberation movements of oppressed nations play an integral part in the world socialist revolution’: because both have a common enemy, imperialism; because the leadership of the proletariat exercised through the Communist Party guarantees the transition to the socialist revolution after the complete victory of the democratic revolution; because the achievement of economic independence and ‘a fortiori’ the building of a socialist economy require relations of mutual assistance and solidarity with the socialist camp.

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    (b) The revolutionary struggles in the world undermine the rear of imperialism and are one of the factors that prevent it from attacking the socialist countries and contribute to its defeat when it ventures to do so. The Chinese communists have pointed out that the vast regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America dominated by imperialism are the nodal point at which the contradictions of the contemporary world converge, the storm centre where the revolutionary peoples have reaped numerous victories since 1945, where partisan armies are rooted in the masses and are becoming progressively stronger, and where, in the present circumstances, a people’s war has the best chance of victory. They have recalled what Stalin said in 1925:(79)

The colonial countries constitute the principal rear of imperialism. The revolutionisation of this rear is bound to undermine imperialism not only in the sense that imperialism will be deprived of its rear, but also in the sense that the revolutionisation of the East is bound to give a powerful impulse to the intensification of the revolutionary crisis in the West. Lin Piao’s theory of the encirclement of the cities of the world (imperialist countries) by the countryside of the world (dominated countries) means just this.

    Since 1963 the Chinese have said:(80)

We believe that, with the . . . struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in Western Europe and North America, the momentous day of battle will arrive in these homes of capitalism and heartlands of imperialism. When that day comes, Western Europe and North America will undoubtedly become the centre of world political struggles, of world contradictions.

The signs heralding this great future struggle became clear in 1967-8. The revolt of the youth and the revolutionary awakening of the broad masses in the imperialist metropolises themselves are new, universal phenomena which mark the entry of the world into a new historical era. The Chinese immediately saw the significance of these great struggles and gave them enthusiastic support.
    This turning-point in history must be connected with the war in Vietnam which has discredited reactionary ideologies (the Free World, American democracy, etc.) in the eyes of youth. For its part the cultural revolution showed youth the way forward. The formula in which Mao Tse-tung summed up the numerous principles of Marxism-Leninism, ‘It is right to rebel’, has become the motto of revolutionary youth throughout the world.
    Trotsky’s internationalism was based on the unity of the world market from which he deduced the necessary supremacy of the advanced capitalist countries. If he acknowledged that the imperialist chain could be broken at its weakest link, this could only happen, under pain of defeat, as an immediate prelude to the revolution in the more developed countries. His theory was therefore that of the strongest link.(81) On this basis he formulated a pious wish; he hoped that the revolution would triumph very quickly in these countries, otherwise all would be lost.
    The Chinese do not think that all is lost if the revolution is late in coming. They know, in the meantime, that history does not

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ask for our preferences and that it generally progresses by its bad side.(82) Their internationalism is based on the structuring of the system of international relations by the political class struggle on a global scale. They show that there are four fundamental contradictions, all equally important, which form a system (each one is present in the other three). These contradictions oppose:

    (a)  the oppressed nations to imperialism and social-imperialism;
    (b)  the proletariat to the bourgeoisie in the capitalist and revisionist countries;
    (c)  the imperialists to each other and to social-imperialism;
    (d)  the socialist countries to the imperialist and social-imperialist countries.

At the moment, the first is the most explosive.
    As for Trotsky, he granted an exorbitant privilege to the proletariats in the advanced countries in his idea of the world revolution. He understood neither the laws of revolution in the colonial and semi-colonial countries, nor did he concede that for a long time they could be in the vanguard of the struggle.
    The Chinese communists know that it is the peoples of the advanced capitalist countries who will deliver the final blow to imperialism. They also know that the final victory of socialism and the transition to communism will only be carried out on a world scale but they cannot accept formulations such as this one: ‘The maintenance of the proletarian revolution within a national framework can only be a provisional state of affairs . . . The way out for it lies only in the victory of the proletariat of the advanced countries’.(83)
    They would even be tempted to invert the formula: the security of the proletariat in the advanced countries depends on the victory of the peoples dominated by imperialism. This inversion had already been executed by Marx. He wrote to Engels on 10 December 1869:

I long believed that it would be possible to overthrow the Irish regime through English working-class ascendancy . . . more thorough study has now convinced me of the exact opposite. The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland.(84)

    4.  According to Mao Tse-tung, contradictions are the motor of history.

He has written:(85)

The law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the inverse. This law operates universally, whether in the natural world, or in human society, or in man’s thinking. Between the opposites in a contradiction there is at once unity and struggle, and it is this that impels things to move and change.

As Lenin had already pointed out in a note criticising Bukharin, contradiction and antagonism must not be confused. The former will exist in communist society. According to Mao, the development of these contradictions and their resolution will give rise to sudden qualitative changes, that is, to revolutions. The revolutionary process will continue indefinitely. There will be no end to history. Trotsky was totally unaware of this aspect of the theory of the uninterrupted revolution which is derived from the dialectical nature of the real.

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    In the debate cited at the beginning of this section, Vergès had no time to express himself as clearly as this, for the chairman allowed him only one sentence to reply to Frank and Deutscher. His reply was: ‘Marxist-Leninists are not the “Monsieur Jourdains” of Trotskyism.’

In fact, as Trotskyism has no hold on the real as a result of its original sin – the fact that it is cut off from the masses – its supporters console themselves by explaining others’ victories by an unconscious application of the only revolutionary doctrine: their own. They do not bring about the revolution but are very fond of distributing praise and blame. When they approve of Marxist-Leninists it is because they supposedly practise Trotskyism without knowing it. How else can they account for the logical scandal presented by their opponents’ revolutionary successes except by attributing them to the occult influence of their own ideas? ‘Since these mysteries are beyond us, let us pretend to shape them,’ they say, imitating Figaro.

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Chapter 3



The incapacity for concrete analysis which afflicted Trotsky throughout his militant life resulted from his failure to comprehend the materialist dialectic, an incomprehension even worse than Bukharin’s, although less flagrant, for, prudently, he ventured only rarely into the higher spheres of Marxist philosophy. When he did so, particularly at the time of his polemic against Burnham, the results reach no more than an elementary level. He disparages formal logic but knows nothing of the developments in symbolic logic since Hilbert, Peano and Russell. He assumes that to acknowledge the dialectic implies rejecting the principle of identity or its restriction to elementary and subordinate tasks. For him, ‘the dialectic and formal logic bear a relationship similar to that between higher and lower mathematics’.(1) Furthermore, formal logic is supposedly inapplicable, even approximately, to phenomena exhibiting appreciable quantitative changes. He would be at a loss to explain to us how mathematics (based on the principles of identity and non-contradiction) could be applied to nearly instantaneous physical transformations like those which occur at the moment of a nuclear explosion. In fact, Trotsky confused Aristotelian logic with the metaphysical inferences which are wrongly drawn from it by certain philosophers and which deny movement and change.
    He had so little idea of the dialectic that he imagined Marx’s mode of exposition in ‘Capital’ to be a vain display of philosophical pedantry. He was reduced to regretting that the creator of the theory of value was ‘the doctor of philosophy’ Marx and not ‘Bebel the turner’ who ‘could have formulated it in a more popular, simple and direct form’.(2)
    Trotsky was more serious when he argued as a politician. His conception of materialism is none the less very schematic. He conflated the instances of the social formation (economic, legal-political, ideological) and saw neither how these instances are articulated, how the contradictions proper to each of them can converge and fuse, nor that contradictions displace one another, a secondary contradiction being able to become temporarily the principal one at a given stage, pushing the principal contradiction ‘de jure’ into the background within the framework of a wider

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historical period.(3) It follows that the necessity for detours in the revolutionary struggle generally escapes him and even when he accepts it in principle he is unable to understand its nature and implications.
    It is Mao Tse-tung who has systematised this dialectical logic and produced its concepts but it was already active in Lenin’s writings, models of concrete analysis leading to the definition of a scientific strategy and tactics: cf. for example, ‘Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution‘. Trotsky, on the other hand, although in his own terms he ‘went through Lenin’s school’, was failed by history in the most important subject, political science. Lenin made a fundamental criticism of him when he said that ‘in all his theses, he looks at the question’ from the angle of ‘general principles’.(4)
    With a few examples we shall show in greater detail his inability to rise to the concrete in thought, which is neither the immediate empirical nor abstract principles cut off from practice.


It is well known that in 1917 the Bolsheviks seized power by inscribing on their banners this triple slogan: ‘Peace to the people, bread to the workers, land to the peasants’.
    However, the peace which they sought was ‘without annexations and indemnities’. The Germans were deaf to such a conception.
    Even before October the Russian soldiers had started to ‘vote for peace with their feet’. The trenches at the front were deserted. Lenin was therefore faced with this problem: how could the survival of proletarian power be ensured without an army at a time when German imperialism was preparing to take it by storm. He opted for the acceptance of the German conditions, disastrous as they were, thus giving up space in order to win time. He was then defeated in the Central Committee by a coalition composed on the one hand of the left wing of the party led by Bukharin, supporters of revolutionary war; and on the other hand, of Trotsky, whose point of view (which prevailed at the time) was summed up in the slogan: ‘Neither peace nor war’, or more precisely: ‘We interrupt the war and do not sign the peace – we demobilise the army’.(5)
    It was a bluff based on three postulates, all of which turned out to be false:

    1.  that the attitude of the Soviet government would incite the German proletariat to rise before the Kaiser’s troops attacked;
    2.  that Bolshevik power could not be sustained in Russia unless it received assistance from victorious proletariats in the countries of Western Europe: ‘The only way out of the current situation is to act on the German proletariat in a revolutionary way’; and lastly
    3.  formulated in a letter to Lenin at the end of January 1918: ‘We shall declare that we end (the Brest-Litovsk) negotiations but do not sign a peace. They will be unable to make an offensive against us’.(6)

The facts soon called this bluff, to Russia’s great cost. In short, Trotsky was incapable of analysing the concrete situation.

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    The army opposing them having evaporated, the Germans merely had to get into a train to go to Petrograd. This is what they did. They had to be halted by a hurried acceptance of their new conditions and these were much more onerous than the previous ones. However, by signing the peace, the Soviet government obtained a respite which enabled it to mobilise ‘a new army into which there was an influx of peasants eager to defend the expropriated lands’ (Bukharin).
    A few months later, the consequences of the Brest-Litovsk peace were erased.
    In retrospect, Lenin’s position seems obvious to us and Trotsky’s seems absurd. Even if this is an optical illusion, the face [fact?] remains that in those serious circumstances, when the future of the revolution was at stake, Trotsky’s formalism, i.e., proceeding from principles and not from reality, led to errors all along the line. These principles were, moreover, those of the permanent revolution, which can be summarised under the formula: ‘The Russian proletariat cannot possibly maintain itself in power unless it is aided by a triumph of the revolution in the West’. For Trotsky, the principal contradiction was always the fundamental contradiction of our whole epoch, namely the one between capital and labour. For him, the alternative was therefore: world revolution or world defeat of the proletariat. On the other hand, Lenin saw that in the conjuncture at the beginning of 1918, the principal contradiction was the one between the necessity of maintaining Soviet power and the temporary impossibility of making the peasant majority fight in its defence. The alternatives were therefore immediate peace at any price (an indispensable respite for the Bolsheviks) or the destruction of their power. Resolutely grasping the first alternative was the condition for all later success.


The same weaknesses, abstract dogmatism and incapacity for concrete analysis were even more apparent when Trotsky was confronted with economic problems, pedestrian perhaps but decisive for the survival of Soviet power. Better equipped than anyone to ensure the application of the line adopted by Lenin and the Central Committee, he became dangerous when he tried to arrive at his own solutions to these problems.
    During the Civil War, then as Commissar of Transport, Trotsky demonstrated remarkable abilities as an organiser and leader. He effectively combatted disorder and slovenliness, firing his subordinates with his own zeal, and in this way redressing very dangerous situations in a very short time. But this gives no one the right to conclude, as the Trotskyists do, that he was capable of stepping into Lenin’s shoes. The latter attacked him in his ‘Testament‘ for his ‘excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of things’.(7) From Lenin’s pen, this criticism has a precise significance which refers to a latent defect in the person at whom it is aimed. Lenin’s thoughts on this point are explicit when he made the same complaint about Piatakov, ‘unquestionably . . . of outstanding ability, but shows too much zeal

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for administrating and the administrative side of the work to be relied on in a serious political situation’.(8)
    In other words, ‘to show too much zeal for administrating’, means to claim to resolve problems which are posed at the highest central level without taking into consideration the repercussions of any decisions in the arena of the class struggle or its effects as to the strengthening or weakening of proletarian power.
    How right Lenin was can be confirmed by considering some of the positions adopted by Trotsky on the questions of the economic reconstruction of the USSR after the introduction of the NEP.
    In the period of ‘war communism’, he had advocated the militarisation of labour, which undoubtedly corresponded to a necessity in the conditions of the period. But, while Lenin called ‘war communism’ a ‘necessary error’ (that is to say, one imposed by the circumstances) but an error nevertheless in the sense that it was impossible to draw from it a universal norm applicable to one of the stages on the transition to socialism, and also in the sense that this policy had to be abandoned as soon as this became possible, Trotsky himself retained and generalised his ideas at the 10th Congress, the Congress at which the New Economic Policy had been announced.(9) According to Trotsky, forced labour ‘would reach its highest degree of intensity during the transition from capitalism to socialism’.(10) The militarisation of labour, he said, ‘is the basis of socialism’. He did not hesitate to assimilate this forced labour to that of slaves and to the serf’s corvée.(11)
    Elated with his success at putting transport back on its feet during the Polish campaign by using authoritarian, indeed bureaucratic methods, Trotsky aspired to erect into a rule what was only an expedient designed to meet a critical situation. He threatened ‘to shake up’ the elected leaders of the different unions as he had those in the transport unions. In other words he wanted to replace these elected leaders by others appointed by the state. He incurred a firm retort from Lenin but refused to be convinced and pushed blindness and obstinacy so far as to initiate a factional struggle against the Central Committee. During this controversy, Lenin showed that Trotsky was ‘forgetting the ABC of Marxism’ in wanting to keep the debate on ‘economic’ grounds. ‘Politics must have precedence over economics . . . without a proper political approach to the subject the given class cannot maintain its rule, and consequently, cannot solve its production problems.’ Now, ‘the political mistake expressed in the shaking up policy that permeates the whole of Trotsky’s pamphlet-platform . . . will lead to the downfall of the dictatorship of the proletariat’.(12)
    In short, it was a question of practising not economic administration but political economy, which can only be economically advantageous to the extent that it does not contain any political mistakes.
    It was these recent struggles which Lenin had in mind when he wrote in his letter to the Central Committee about Trotsky’s preoccupation with the administrative side of things. He was thereby attacking him for being incapable of analysing concretely and dialectically the conjuncture of the class struggle in all its breadth and complexity in order to define the tasks of the moment.

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    At the time of the dispute over planning under the NEP Lenin had been able to state, moreover, that Trotsky’s method of thinking consisted of deducing from the most general principles of socialism the ‘solutions’ to economic problems posed by life, without any mediation between the two levels (without any concrete theoretical analysis), which occasionally gives the impression that he is skipping from one subject to another.
    Lenin, on the other hand, knew that in the situation of total destitution and semi-barbarity of Russia in 1921, in which small peasant production was broadly predominant, ‘a complete integrated plan for us at the moment = a bureaucratic utopia’.(13) In the following section we shall see how Lenin, as opposed to Trotsky, was able to determine the link which had to be grasped in order to draw the whole chain to him – in other words, how to go about restoring to health a Russian economy drained by eight years of foreign and civil war in order to create the premises of effective planning.


In ‘The New Course’ (January 1924), Trotsky described what a planned socialist economy ought to be. He then introduced what he called a ‘complication’, namely the existence of the market. He laid down a certain number of secondary exigencies to overcome it.
    Now the very essence of the NEP as it was defined by Lenin includes a procedure and a deduction which were exactly opposite to those of Trotsky, namely:

    1.  that Trotsky’s ‘complication’ is its principal determination. It is the market which is the centre of gravity of the unity to be realised between industry and agriculture; henceforth it is the means through which the agricultural surplus has to be realised; industry works for and as a function of the peasant market;
    2.  that systematic planning – ‘de jure’ the principal determination of the socialist mode of production – is only relevant at this stage as a secondary determination.

How could a true centralised state plan be built on an immense, scattered, private, peasant market developing and reacting spontaneously on the basis of the laws of capitalism? Trotsky got around the difficulty by a new abstract demand: ‘An exact knowledge of the market conditions and correct economic forecasts’.
    This demand is abstract:

    1.  because Trotsky does not establish the means by which to realise it, except in part – this is the question of ‘the dictatorship of finance’ which we shall consider later;
    2.  because even if some realistic means were given, the minimum of knowledge and forecasts (without which planning is only a joke or a utopia) required a radical upheaval of the structure of agricultural production and of the agricultural market (the upheaval which historically took the form of collectivisation in 1929).

Now in 1924 Trotsky did not consider collectivisation and the abandonment of the NEP. He thought that it would be possible for the state economy to adapt itself to the peasant market by a few ‘corrections’ and ‘necessary modifications’ as its development

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proceeded. He did not explain how it would be possible to obtain this result.
    Trotsky moves from the deductive definition of the socialist mode of production to the problem of its ‘application’ pure and simple – conceived, what is more, in an ultra-modest fashion: some detailed adjustments, a progressive adaptation – and thus entirely liquidates the Leninist science of strategy and tactics. He annihilates the phases, stages, moments and successive displacements of the contradictions; hence the atemporal character of his analysis.
    The abstract character of his argument is also revealed in the absence of any consideration of the concrete conditions of ‘the current situation’, the absence of any analysis into levels and instances – the ‘de jure’ principal contradiction being the ‘de facto’ principal contradiction, it being presupposed that the instruments of social practice are adequate to their object.
    Trotsky called for a centralised plan as early as 1922-3: but who was going to do the planning? Not an ideal state apparatus, not an ideal Gosplan, but the bureaucratic apparatus inherited from Tsarism which Lenin pitilessly criticised. When the state apparatus was still largely in solidarity with the former state of the social formation, it could not be the principal link in the economic offensive of Soviet power.
    Trotsky’s position on the question of ‘the dictatorship of finance or the dictatorship of industry’ is a significant example of his method.
    In 1923 and 1924, a conflict developed between Gosplan and the People’s Commissariat of Finance (Narkomfin). The former demanded the acknowledgment of the subordination of finance to industrial planning; that is to say, the power to fix the policy of credits to industry as a function not of the needs of a sound monetary policy, but of the necessities of industrial development. Narkomfin, for its part, defended its autonomy.
    ‘De jure’, Gosplan’s position was the only correct one for a socialist economy. But the NEP was not socialism; it was only a preliminary phase laying the groundwork for the offensive to come. By allowing the market to operate in almost normal conditions, the Soviet power restored the spontaneous process of accumulation interrupted by the war; moreover, in this way, it prepared the elementary stock of information without which a plan is impossible.
    As the principal tool of the market, money plays a decisive role at this level. Its stabilisation appears as a fundamental objective in relation to which the others are subordinate, as the ultimate is in relation to preliminary circumstances.
    Now Trotsky entirely supported Gosplan’s claims, did not attribute any importance to the problem of money and was content to affirm without any justification that the stabilisation of money depended on the dictatorship of industry.
    The essence of the attitude of the Trotskyist opposition is visible here: an attitude of all or nothing which lays it down in principle that if the fundamental contradictions of socialism and the fundamental determinations of socialism are not put on the immediate agenda, anything else is simply unprincipled empiricism.
    In his refutation of the Trotskyist line in his report to the session of the expanded Executive on 3 April 1925, Bukharin

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exclaimed: ‘To demand the dictatorship of industry over finance is to fail to see that industry depends on its agricultural outlets.’
    The inflation in 1923 – indispensable at the time for the realisation of the agricultural surplus – would normally have worried the private peasant and prompted him in the following year, if the situation was not stabilised, to hoard stocks of agricultural products rather than a steadily depreciating currency. Now, as it was taking place on the basis of the market, accumulation was easily jeopardised. In a general way, to acknowledge the market as the meeting point of the two economies without giving attention to the practical conditions for the functioning of the market – in the first place, money – was to talk abstractly. Furthermore, since money was invested under the NEP, in the framework of the market and of the normal functioning of the law of value, with the role of an ‘indicator’ of the broad lines of the structure of production, consumption and reproduction, its depreciation seriously prejudiced the preparatory work of planning.(15)
    ‘De facto’, what the Opposition globally challenged in the name of ‘a general schema of socialism’, rigorous ‘de jure’ but presented as a ‘preliminary “de facto” demand’ (nothing can be done without centralised and planned accumulation for industry), was the very principle of a reformist (in the sense of non-revolutionary) stage; that is, one not bearing on what is essential in the long run and in a general theory of the modes of production. Now it is precisely the principle of a reformist phase (with all the incoherent, contradictory, apparently unprincipled aspects implied by such a phase) that was the great innovation theorised by Lenin under the name of the NEP – a phase of tactical retreat preparing the conditions necessary ‘de facto’ for the socialist offensive to come.
    It was this setting to work, at the level of the NEP, of the Leninist science of strategy and tactics as the revelation of the specific contradictions of the stage (contradictions which were not the principal contradictions in the phase of the NEP and even less those of socialism), that is denied in the Trotskyist explanation.
    In all questions of current political interest Trotskyism appears as a set of radical demands deduced from a general schema of the socialist mode of production – without consideration of stages and phases – and a refusal to accept any partial measures, as well as a systematic neglect of everything which relates to practical realisation.
    The principal characteristic of Trotskyism is the absence of a theory of contradiction, the absence of a theory of phases and stages and consequently the absence of a theory of strategy and tactics.


Marxist theory did not have any ready-made formula to solve the concrete problem which Stalin came up against in 1928. The kulaks, who were the only farmers to have appreciable surpluses at their disposal, were hoarding their grain and threatening to starve the towns, as they were dissatisfied with being unable to get enough industrial goods at the prices which they were being offered for it.

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On the other hand, the development of industry forecast by the First Five-Year Plan assumed an increase in the urban population and therefore an increased need for foodstuffs.
    There were two ways out of this vicious circle: one consisted of giving the kulaks a free rein, helping them to ruin the small peasants and to set up big capitalist farms with high productivity. Trotsky and his supporters (particularly Rakovsky) were absolutely convinced that Stalin would take this road. They obstinately clung to this prognosis even after the launching of the great offensive against the kulaks designed to liquidate them as a class. It was only at the beginning of 1930 that they began to take into consideration the historical upheavals taking place in the USSR. Even then, Trotsky considered that industrialisation and collectivisation were only a passing phase in Stalin’s policy. Precisely because Stalin was not the counter-revolutionary Trotsky saw him as, this road – that of the development of traditional forms of capitalism – was closed to him.
    The other was collectivisation and accelerated industrialisation. Speed was essential otherwise there was a risk that the tensions produced by a struggle against the kulaks would become too dangerous. In fact, the kulaks had succeeded in uniting the majority of the peasants around them. They let loose a White terror against communist cadres and the poor peasants who wanted to join the kolkhozy. This resistance had to be smashed immediately, otherwise it would have smashed the proletarian power. If the communists had joined in a war of attrition with the kulaks they, not their enemies, would have been worn down. What was needed was a quick decisive engagement. Collectivisation and industrialisation had to keep pace, moreover, even if this initially demanded sacrifices. The former made possible the extraction of the surpluses thanks to which one could invest; the latter provided tractors and agricultural machines which made the kolkhozy attractive and led to an even higher productivity.
    As we have suggested, the line followed by Stalin in this conjuncture resembled in more respects than one the line advocated by Trotsky in 1924, which does not, however, make the latter right retrospectively, as is claimed by his supporters whose thought is as atemporal as their master’s since the combined conditions in 1929 were not there in 1924. Declaring that Stalin had ‘plagiarised’ his programme (Lenin did as much to that of the Social[ist] Revolutionaries), Trotsky did not conclude from this that he should rally to the Central Committee as thousands of his supporters had at the time, but opted for a complete shift in his own ideas. In this way he continued to set himself apart from Stalin and preserved his ‘raison d’être’ as leader of ‘the Opposition’. He condemned the liquidation of the kulaks and argued that the kolkhozy were not viable and would collapse of their own accord because of their lack of modern machines. According to him the amalgamation of small farms with primitive equipment was equivalent to joining together small boats to make a liner. He did not understand that simple co-operation and the manual division of labour were enough to ensure a higher productivity to the kolkhozy. He argued, therefore, for the dissolution of the kolkhozy and the sovkhozy as unprofitable or even fictional. Thus, even if the bloc of Trotskyists and ‘rightists’

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which Stalin spoke of did not have an organised existence, it is nevertheless true that from then on Trotskyist criticisms coincided with the positions of the Bukharinists in their defence of the rural petty bourgeoisie. Isaac Deutscher writes that ‘the differences between the Right and Left Bolsheviks were becoming blurred and obliterated’.(16)
    The same Deutscher is struck by this rejection on Trotsky’s part of the revolution in the countryside: ‘He still thought . . . that . . . the “transition from capitalism to socialism” should proceed in an essentially peaceful and evolutionary manner. In his approach to domestic Soviet issues the author of “Permanent Revolution” was in a sense a reformist.’(17)
    Like all reformisms, Trotsky’s was both utopian and reactionary: utopian, because a gradual and peaceful transformation of structures has always proved impossible; reactionary, because by pursuing this utopia one ends up maintaining the ‘status quo’.
    Trotsky criticised Soviet planning for wanting to go too fast and for aiming at maximal and optimal results. In fact, the rise of fascism, with the threat of war which it involved, obliged accelerated industrialisation. It was necessary to advance by forced marches. It was a matter of the survival of the proletarian power. Stalin spelled it out in a speech in 1931:(18)

No, comrades, this is impossible’ It is impossible to reduce the tempo’ On the contrary, it is necessary as far as possible to accelerate it. This necessity is dictated by our obligations to the workers and peasants of the USSR. This is dictated by our obligations to the working class of the whole world . . . we are 50-100 years behind the advanced countries. We must cover this distance in ten years. Either we do this or they will crush us.

Ten years later, Hitler’s armies invaded the USSR.
    The political line adopted at the time of the launching of the Five-Year Plans and accelerated collectivisation led to great successes but included some negative aspects, the most pernicious effects of which were not those felt immediately. Let us mention briefly some of the mistakes made in this period:
  – The exaggerated importance given to material incentives, illustrated by the Stakhanovite movement. These workers often earned ten or fifteen times as much as their comrades.
  – The enormous widening of wage differentials to the advantage of a narrow privileged stratum at the top of the hierarchy, in total contradiction to the Marxist-Leninist principles actually applied until Lenin’s death.
  – The largely forced character of collectivisation.
  – The unilateral emphasis on the technical and material conditions of socialism to the detriment of the political and ideological conditions (economism).
    Some of these mistakes were culpable: others were avoidable but were not avoided owing to subjective weaknesses of the Soviet leadership; others were inevitable in the absence of a historical precedent; others, finally, were necessary, in other words imposed by the objective conditions.(19)
    Collectivisation, for example, must inevitably have appeared in the eyes of the peasants, even of the non-kulaks, as an externally imposed measure, for historical circumstances had not enabled the

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Soviet Communist Party to sink roots among the masses: to quote only one example, ‘a slight misunderstanding with the women collective farmers . . . over the cow’, which Stalin mentions, could have been avoided.(20) The women peasants who had to hand over their cows to the kolkhozy thought that they would be left without any milk for their children. In the end they should have been allowed to keep one per household. In the meantime a large part of their livestock had been sacrificed.
    The mistakes made during this struggle were combated very energetically by leading echelons of party and state. Even before the publication of Stalin’s ‘Dizzy With Success‘, urgent orders had been sent forbidding the imprisonment of poor and middle peasants for refusing to enter the kolkhozy. However, although the widespread coercion was the responsibility of local cadres who disobeyed their instructions, it was true, nevertheless, that they were driven into a corner, caught between the peasant resistance and the demands of the centre which had in 1929 fixed a rate of collectivisation too high to be reached in too short periods.(21) The end result was not the one sought, because Stalin’s Central Committee did not apply the mass line in the elaboration of its policy. Hence it followed that the orders which it issued underwent a diffraction at the base, the effect of a concrete situation which had not been taken into account. Only the mass line enables this type of error to be minimised. Despite their relative efficacy in the struggle against abuses, the ‘selkor’ (village correspondents) of the newspapers, the personal and collective petitions, and the system of reciprocal surveillance by the representatives of the party and those of the police services, could not provide a valid substitute for control by the masses themselves.
    Some of Trotsky’s criticisms at this time coincide formally with ours but they are an integral part of his analysis as a whole, which denounces the Stalinist state as a counter-revolutionary power and denies the necessary character of certain mistakes deriving from the unfavourable objective conditions inherited from the preceding periods. A comparison will clarify what we mean: in 1922 Lenin refused the Mensheviks the right to criticise the regime of war communism although the content of their criticism was the very same as that put forward by the Bolsheviks themselves. When the latter adopted the NEP their enemies gloated: ‘What you are saying now we have been saying all the time, permit us to say it to you again!’ they cried, and Lenin replied: ‘Permit us to put you before a firing squad for saying that.’(22)
    Stalin’s answer to the Trotskyists in the 1930s was somewhat, indeed very, similar; for even when they contained a grain of truth their criticisms from then on became those of anti-communists.
    We can be certain, moreover, that had they been in power and hypothetically chosen the socialist road, not only would they have made the same mistakes(23) (Trotsky had erected their ‘theoretical’ justification in advance),(24) but also would have proved to be inflexible and ruthless in pushing a pernicious policy to its logical conclusions, whereas Stalin did know how to stop in time on a slippery slope because he did not feel compelled, like Trotsky, to base each change of course in the storms of the class struggle on eternal principles. It is interesting to record that the forced

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labour camps, the excessive sacrifices demanded of the workers (Trotsky said that they must give their blood and nerves), the idea of squeezing the peasants to the limit to extract investment funds: all this was theorised at the beginning of the 1920s by Trotsky and his friends under the absurd name of ‘primitive socialist accumulation’.


Deutscher says of this concept: ‘The Marxist historian may indeed describe and analyse those decades, the Stalinist decades, as the era of primitive socialist accumulation; and he may do so in terms borrowed from Trotsky’s exposition of the ideas in 1923.’(25) Lenin described the expression ‘primitive socialist accumulation’, which was coined by Smirnov at the time of war communism and taken up by Bukharin in ‘The Economy of the Transition Period’, as a ‘very unfortunate’ expression and ‘a copy of schoolboy terms’. It was propagated by Trotsky in a different context from 1922 on. Preobrazhensky theorised it in ‘The New Economics’, published in 1925.
    Here is how the latter author justified the petinence of his analogy:(26)

Just as the functioning of manufactures and still more of factories with machine techniques, so also for enabling the complex of state economy to develop all its economic advantages and to place itself under a new technical basis, a certain minimum of previously accumulated means in the form of natural elements of production is needed.

Setting out Trotsky’s ideas on the same problem, Isaac Deutscher defines Marx’s view of primitive accumulation as follows:(27)

The era of primitive accumulation (was) the initial phase in the development of modern capitalism when normal accumulation of capital had hardly begun or was still too feeble to allow industry to expand from its own resources, that is from its own profits. The early bourgeoisie shrank from no violent, ‘extra- economic’ method in its striving to concentrate in its whole hands the means of production.

In 1922 Trotsky said: ‘The proletariat . . . is compelled to embark upon a phase which may be described as that of primitive socialist accumulation. We cannot content ourselves with using our pre-1914 industrial plant. This has been destroyed and must be reconstructed step by step by way of a colossal exertion on the part of our labour force.’ And again, the working class ‘can approach socialism only through the greatest sacrifices, by straining all its strength and giving its blood and nerves’.(28)
    These three quotations demonstrate that there is a theoretical contradiction underlying the comparison with the primitive accumulation discussed by Marx. The latter defined it like this: ‘The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production’.(29) Initially Marx had stressed the fact that ‘In themselves money and commodities are no more capital than are the means of production and of subsistence. They want transforming into capital.’(30)

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    This is an idea which constantly recurs in his ‘magnum opus’: ‘Capital is not a thing but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things.’(31)
    Marx gave the example of Mr Peel who took with him from England to Australia means of production worth £50,000 and 3,000 workers. Once he had reached his destination he was left without a servant to make his bed or to fetch him a glass of water. ‘Unhappy Mr Peel,’ Marx concluded, ‘who provided for everything except the export of English modes of production to Swan River!’(32)
    Trotsky, Preobrazhensky and Deutscher make the same mistake. They do not understand that primitive accumulation is only the historical process of the creation of capitalist relations of production and not simply the accumulation of ‘the natural elements of production’ (Preobrazhensky) or ‘industrial plant’ (Trotsky). For writers who pride themselves on their ‘classical Marxism’, this is not without irony.
    It is now clear that the historical analogy implied in the expression ‘primitive socialist accumulation’ is totally illegitimate.
    Our purpose is not to discuss in detail Preobrazhensky’s economic theory, that is, not the expression, but the concept. It is enough to point out that Trotsky proved much less consistent than Preobrazhensky on this question. Preobrazhensky argued that in a predominantly agricultural country the bulk of investment funds in the socialist industrial sector would come from the surplus agricultural product and that accelerated industrialisation could only be realised by means of a transfer of value from the countryside to the town. It is doubtful whether this form of exploitation was compatible with the raising of the peasants’ standard of living. Although basically sharing Preobrazhensky’s views, Trotsky feared that he would be accused of advocating the exploitation of the peasantry and refrained from openly adopting them. The concept of primitive accumulation was useful to him anew fifteen years later in ‘The Revolution Betrayed’.
    We have shown that Trotsky’s and Preobrazhensky’s notion of the primitive accumulation of capital was not a Marxist one. It is not surprising to discover that the primitive ‘socialist’ accumulation which they talk about is precisely not socialist.
    On the one hand, the socialisation of the economy cannot be likened to the separation of the producers from their means of production which, on the contrary, they come to own collectively through their control of state power. Of course, in so far as the units of production function as enterprises they reproduce the pattern of the double separation of the immediate producers from their means of production and of the units from each other. However, that is a problematic only attained by Charles Bettelheim in his latest works and one whose existence Trotsky did not even suspect. Moreover, the latter regarded the tendency to primitive accumulation as a law of the transition, which the example of China disproves.
    On the other hand, the comparison of the primitive accumulation of a supposed socialism with that of capitalism is significant and legitimate in a certain sense. The model of construction of socialism proposed by Preobrazhensky assumes that it will be

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realised mainly starting from the towns thanks to the resources freed by maintaining poverty in the countryside, and by relying on techniques and methods of labour organisation which have given the best results in the advanced countries, and copied as such. This sort of accumulation or expanded reproduction reproduces at the same time relations of production of the capitalist type. Like Preobrazhensky, Stalin thought that it was necessary to levy a ‘tribute’ on the peasants (cf. his report to the Central Committee in July 1928); just like the Trotskyist theoretician, he identified the construction of socialism purely and simply with the development of a large-scale modern industry based on giant, highly productive units. This ‘economistic’ idea prevailed for a long time, even to a certain extent in China. Today it is the common heritage of Trotskyists and revisionists as well as the common ground between them and the traditional bourgeois specialists.
    Stalin and Trotsky identified the construction of socialism with a mere increase in the productive forces, themselves reduced to machines, the human factor being eliminated. They did not see that after the abolition of the individual ownership of the means of production the essential remains to be done – to revolutionise the relations of production and all the social relations connected to them. They suspected even less the dialectical interaction between these transformations and the development of specifically socialist productive forces. Assembly-line work, the parcellisation of tasks, the conception of the machines, the capitalist organisation of production, presuppose a recalcitrant labour force which submits unwillingly and passively to wage slavery. Taylorism aims to extract the maximum from workers by making them simple appendages of machines devoid of will. The authoritarian relationships in the factory, the type of discipline which rules it, the gulf between intellectual and manual work are equally necessary conditions for exploitation. On the other hand, the productive forces proper to socialism are based on the initiative and creativity of the masses, their enthusiasm, their ingenuity, their self-discipline and their self-education. The Anchan Charter drawn up by Mao in 1960 takes the opposite course to that of Magnitogorsk, which was held up as an example to Soviet industry at the time of the First Five-Year Plan because this latter charter was inspired by capitalist organisation of labour.
    The experience of the Great Leap Forward and the cultural revolution enabled the guidelines of a different model to be established. In China the Maoist principle is applied – ‘Make the revolution and promote production’. The creation of ‘the material basis of socialism’ is subordinated there to the destruction of the social relations inherited from capitalism which are replaced by socialist relations. In turn, the socialist relations call forth new productive forces which are proper to socialism. Thanks to the people’s communes, the small rural industries, and the principles ‘stand on both feet’ and ‘self-reliance’, this process of ideological, political and economic revolutionisation is developing on a very wide basis and transforming the whole country.(33) In their practice, the Chinese workers consciously confirm the thesis already stated by Marx: ‘The working class itself is the greatest of all productive forces.’

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Chapter 4




Contrary to what is often thought, democratic centralism concerns questions of elaboration of the party line and leadership more than questions of organisation. A centralised party is necessary to unify and co-ordinate all the people’s struggles, to centralise and systematise them after studying the correct ideas of the masses, to mobilise the masses around slogans corresponding to the tasks of the moment, to assess constantly the experience gained in the struggles as a whole, and to educate the masses in the spirit of scientific socialism so that they can carry through the revolution to the end. None of these objectives can be achieved if this leadership is not carried out democratically.
    Trotsky’s positions on this issue varied considerably during his life. We see him oscillate from one extreme to another because of his inability to grasp the dialectical link uniting these pairs of opposites: the distinction between the party and the class and its fusion with it; the authority of the centre and its monitoring by the militants; the need for statutory rules and the fact that they must be subordinated to ‘revolutionary opportunity’, as Lenin said.
    In an essay written in Siberia in 1901, Trotsky set out his views on the rigorous centralisation which had to be imposed on a revolutionary movement: ‘If one of the local organisations . . . refuses to acknowledge the full powers of the Central Committee, (the latter) will cut off its relations with it and will thereby cut off that organisation from the entire world of revolution.’(1)
    At the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP, Trotsky’s interventions against the Economists were so violent that he seemed to be ‘Lenin’s cudgel’. The Economists complained about the Iskraists’ dictatorial and Jacobin attitudes. Trotsky declared that the party statutes should express ‘the leadership’s organised distrust of the members, a distrust manifesting itself in vigilant control from above over the party’.(2)
    Trotsky made a 180 degree turn during the Congress and sided with the Mensheviks. Later he violently attacked Lenin in a number of his writings.
    In the ‘Report of the Siberian Delegation’, he spoke of his

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‘disorganising centralism’ (op. cit., p. 49), his ‘egocentralism’ (p. 81), his ‘Wille zur Macht’ (= will to power, pp. 72 and 82), the ‘caricatural Robespierrade’ in which he indulged (p. 84), the way in which he conceived the Central Committee as ‘the Warder of Centralism’ (p. 83). In the pamphlet ‘Our Political Tasks’, he heaped abuse on Lenin, describing him notably as ‘the leader of the reactionary wing of our Party’. He also aimed other criticisms at him which Deutscher summarised as follows:(3)

By arguing that . . . socialist ideology was brought into the labour movement from outside, by the revolutionary intelligentsia, Lenin’s theory was an ‘orthodox theocracy’. His scheme of organisation was fit for a party which would substitute itself for the working classes, act as a proxy in their name and on their behalf, regardless of what the workers felt and thought.

Lenin is ‘a hideous caricature of a malevolent and morally repugnant Robespierre’.
    In trying to combine Jacobinism and Marxism, ‘Lenin was virtually abandoning socialism and setting himself up as the leader of a revolutionary wing of bourgeois democracy’.(4) Trotsky borrowed this characterisation of Lenin from Axelrod.
    Trotsky accused Lenin of wanting to substitute the party for the proletariat, the Central Committee for the party and finally the dictator for the Central Committee. The rejection of ‘substitutionism’ follows in Trotsky’s case from his ‘sociologism’, namely the idea that social classes can directly lead a political struggle without their action being mediated by parties. In ‘Results and Prospects’, he wrote: ‘Social Democracy envisages the conquest of power as the conscious action of the revolutionary class’. The dictatorship of the proletariat, he argued, at the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP, would only be possible on the day when the working class and the party ‘became almost identical’. This idea comes closer to left-wing German social democracy, to the Luxemburgist current.(5)
    Trotsky fought Lenin’s democratic centralism right ‘to the end’; that is, up to the moment when ‘volens nolens’, he himself joined the Bolshevik Party built by Lenin. In it he made a reputation for himself as an inflexible champion of discipline except when, outvoted, he himself resorted to the factional methods so often denounced as such by Lenin. This is one of the paradoxes of Trotskyism, which attacks bureaucratism in words but does not get beyond it.
    Trotsky in power was considered to be ‘the patriarch of the bureaucrats’.(6) A severe censor of every breach of internal party discipline, he acted as prosecutor along with Stalin at the 11th Congress (1922), calling for the expulsion of the leaders of ‘the Workers’ Opposition’. Two years before he had campaigned for the militarisation of the trade unions. In November 1920, he suggested that state officials should be substituted for the unions’ elected representatives. That is why Lenin criticised Trotsky’s tendency to adopt ‘the administrative point of view’. He denounced his dogmatic formalism, describing it as ‘bureaucratic project-hatching’. (7) He declared that ‘his policy is a policy of bureaucratic shake-up of the trade unions’.(8)
    Trotsky’s argument on the question of the trade unions amounted

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to this: the workers do not need a relatively autonomous organisation to defend themselves from the Soviet state since it belongs to them. Lenin replied that they required such an organisation because they were dealing not with a worker’s state but with a ‘worker-peasant’ state which was in addition ‘bureaucratically deformed’. That is why he said of Trotsky’s ‘pamphlet programme’ ‘The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions’: ‘From beginning to end . . . it is thoroughly permeated with the spirit of the “shaking-up-from-above” policy’,(9) that is, of administratively ‘removing, transferring, appointing, dismissing etc’ the union’s elected leaders. Lenin made repeated reference to ‘the useless and harmful bureaucratic excesses of Tsektran’(10) which was headed by Trotsky. In his ‘Testament’, Lenin criticised Trotsky for ‘the sin of excessive confidence and an exaggerated infatuation with the purely administrative side of things’.
    Thus the future enemy of the bureaucracy became that enemy since he could not be the leading bureaucrat.(11) His concern for ‘democracy’ dates from the precise moment when he realised that he was without any power or influence. He remained in the Political Bureau for several years but in complete isolation. He was defeated politically(12) by Stalin despite (or because of) his final unprincipled manoeuvres. An example will illustrate his style of operation.
    Lenin, who was ill and about to suffer another stroke, had asked Trotsky to denounce Stalin on the problem of Great-Russian chauvinism and to defend the small nations, particularly the Georgians: he had warned him against a ‘rotten compromise’ with Stalin. Isaac Deutscher explains his hero’s behaviour at the 12th Congress in terms of his ‘magnanimity’, ‘selflessness’, and ‘forgiveness’,(13) but what did magnanimity and forgiveness have to do with it when Marxist principles and the fate of communism were at stake? It may be concluded that Trotsky considered his relations with the Triumvirate (Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev) to be private relations and his conflict with them to be a personal conflict. So true is this that Trotsky later explained to his followers his procrastinations and conciliationist attitude just before and immediately after Lenin’s death as due to the absence of any serious political differences and to the fact that the attitude of the leading ‘troika’ appeared to him as an ‘unprincipled conspiracy’ against himself personally. He had to find political pretexts before launching his great offensive.
    He meant to choose his own ground and so his bargaining with Stalin was a misconceived, cunning manoeuvre. Trotsky was a poor tactician because he had understood nothing of Lenin’s political science, the science of ‘the conjuncture’, and ‘the current situation’ which is not empiricism or disregard of principles but the application of the latter to the concrete analysis of the concrete situation. As Trotsky did not have a theory of contradiction he could not have a theory of strategy and tactics.(14) His sociologism prevented him from conceiving correctly the nature and role of the party. Lastly, his intellectualism and his vanity prevented him from judging Stalin at his true worth.(15) Moreover, he could not reconcile himself to occupying anything less than first place after Lenin’s death.

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    For a while, Trotsky and his supporters claimed freedom for tendencies within the party while formally recognising the prohibition of factions proclaimed by the 10th Congress of the CPSU with Trotsky’s acceptance. In fact, their idea of what a tendency is (a group with its own leaders and platform) was such that it was impossible to distinguish it from a faction.(16) This is the reason why a division into contending factions is a tradition in Trotskyist organisations. It is one of the causes of their congenital weakness.
    Party unity can survive factional struggle but it cannot be reconciled to it. The two cannot be conciliated. Lenin thought that in certain precise circumstances (not always), it was preferable to reabsorb the malignant tumour constituted by a faction through principled struggle and on the basis of experience rather than cut it out, but this never led him to recognise factions and explicitly accord them rights. In ‘Once Again on the Trade Unions’, in which he denounced Trotsky’s factionalism, Lenin declared:

The Party is learning and is becoming steeled in the struggle against the new disease (new in the sense that we forgot about it after the October Revolution), i.e. factionalism. In essence it is an old disease, relapses of which are probably inevitable for several years to come, but the cure of which can and should now proceed much more quickly and easily.

Trotskyists believe that democratic centralism is the set of rules which must govern the internal functioning of a Marxist organisation. They do not see that this can only be a particular case of the mass line;(17) that politics, not considerations of an organisational nature, must be put in command. They tend to consider democracy as an end in itself. Trotsky even came to consider authority as an end in itself. Hence his oscillations from militarism to liberalism and vice versa. The source of his liberalism was a deep, unprincipled desire for conciliation and unity alternating with an equally unprincipled polemical violence.
    The pamphlets in which he inveighed against Lenin fell flat. As for his manoeuvres as a philistine conciliator, they were destined to fail. He was never so isolated as when he was at his most conciliatory.
    During the 1930s, Trotsky once more altered his purely administrative idea of democratic centralism. Henceforth, he acknowledged the legitimacy of factions and factional struggle in the party.
    During the struggles which rent the American Trotskyist organisation, he proposed the application of the following guarantees: ’1. No prohibition of factions; 2. No other restrictions on factional activity than those dictated by the necessity for common action.’(18)
    Given that agreements can be concluded between different parties to achieve united action it is clear that, according to Trotsky, factions can act as close but different parties. As a result, democratic centralism is entirely sacrificed to a bourgeois idea of democracy. In other words, democratic centralism is reduced to nothing. The Trotskyists’ claim to follow Lenin on this point proves only that their Leninism is an imposture. In fact, they still hold to the authorisation of factions which Trotsky finally

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accepted. In his pamphlet ‘De la bureaucratie’, for example, E. Germain states, ‘From the moment factions were forbidden in the Bolshevik Party, internal democracy could no longer be maintained.’(19)
    It is significant that this principle, intended to avoid splits, has never prevented them. We can count dozens of splits in Trotskyist organisations. The latter, usually sects of intellectuals cut off from the masses, have no notion of the ‘mass line’, the developed form of democratic centralism. It follows that their ‘centralism’ is not based on a correct line and that their ‘democracy’ is only liberalism. Trotsky’s attitude to Burnham and Schachtman shows what aberrations this can lead to. When his two American disciples stated that the USSR could no longer be considered a ‘Workers’ State’, Trotsky asked that they be allowed to act as an organised faction within the SWP (Socialist Workers’ Party): ‘If somebody should propose . . . to expel comrade Burnham, I would oppose it energetically.’(20)
    When the minority organised its ‘National Convention’, Trotsky advised the majority not to use it as a pretext for pronouncing expulsions. Shortly after, Burnham said:(21)

Of the most important beliefs which have been associated with the Marxist movement, whether in its reformist, Leninist, Stalinist or Trotskyist variants, there is virtually none which I would accept in its traditional form. I regard these beliefs as either false or obsolete or meaningless.

And he adds, ‘For several years I have had no real place in a Marxist Party’.
    Has not liberalism reached its lowest stage of putrefacation when a self-confessed counter-revolutionary is allowed to exert an undermining influence in an organisation which styles itself ‘revolutionary’ and Marxist? If the rejection of such liberalism is ‘Stalinist bureaucratism’, we can understand the generosity with which the Trotskyists hand out these epithets, unintentionally flattering for those on whom they are conferred.
    We have just alluded to the mass line, the developed form of democratic centralism. Here is how Mao Tse-tung defines it:(22)

In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily ‘from the masses to the masses’. This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action . . . And so on, and over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge.

It follows from this text and from all the others in which Mao formulates his idea of the mass line that democratic centralism presents a dialectical contradictory unity: ‘Within the ranks of the people, democracy is correlative with centralism and freedom with discipline. They are the two opposites of a single entity.’(23)
    The distinction between leaders and led, between those who elaborate the line and launch the slogans on the one hand, and those

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who must assimilate them and apply them on the other, like the discipline of militants in relation to higher instances, constitutes one of the poles of the contradiction; democracy and freedom are its other pole.
    Let us now consider the unity of these opposites. The legitimacy and authority of a leadership is not based on its election according to rules but on the correctness of its policy. The latter in turn depends on its ability to establish links with the masses, to learn from them and to systematise their ideas. In order to do this, it must submit to the supervision of the masses, encourage criticism and self-criticism and apply the maxim: ‘Hide nothing you know, keep nothing to yourself of what you have to say.’ ‘No-one is at fault for having spoken, it is for the listener to take advantage.’ Thus democracy is at the heart of centralism and vice versa, since it is necessary to centralise the ideas of the masses and to help the latter ‘to carry out all their correct ideas in the light of the circumstances’.(24) In other respects, an individual or a group wanting to make a revolution can only attain their end in the framework of a disciplined activity. This discipline is therefore the concrete form of their freedom. Conversely, if they are not free to formulate criticisms and to give their point of view, this discipline becomes servile and blind submission, it ceases to be revolutionary and is transformed into its opposite. This is why, even in the People’s Army, discipline is inseparable from the three democracies (political, economic and military).(25)
    Mao Tse-tung’s speech to the expanded Central Committee on 30 January 1962 is essentially given over to the question of democratic centralism. We shall quote from it at length because of its interest. ‘What is centralism? First of all it is centralising the correct opinions . . . (Now) without democracy, opinions will not come from the masses and it will be impossible to decide on the good line.’ In this respect:

When our leading organs decide on a line, guiding principle, policy or method, they are, so to speak, just a processing plant. Everybody knows that if a plant does not have raw materials in the full amount or proper quality, it cannot manufacture a good finished product. If there is no democracy, you don’t understand what’s going on at the lower levels, the situation is unclear, you don’t collect opinions from all sides, you don’t let ideas circulate, and you decide questions only on the one-sided or insincere materials of the upper level leading organs, then it will be difficult to avoid subjectivism, impossible to attain unified knowledge and unified action, and impossible to put centralism into effect.

In fact, ‘Without democracy there can be no genuine centralism and since everybody’s opinion is different, without unified knowledge, centralism cannot be established.’

Now there are some comrades who are afraid the masses will open up discussions and will offer opinions that do not agree with the leaders of the leading organs. As soon as a problem comes up for discussion they put a damper on the masses’ activism and don’t let anybody speak. This is a very poor attitude . . . Comrades, we are revolutionaries. If we truly make a mistake . . . we should

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seek the opinions of the masses of the people and of the comrades and do our own soul-searching. This soul-searching sometimes requires a number of times. Once won’t do. Nobody is satisfied. Twice, still no satisfaction. Do it three times or until nobody has any more opinions.

In his speech to the Central Committee on 24 September 1962, Mao declared:

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We permit mistakes. Haven’t you already made some’ We also allow you to correct mistakes. If we did not allow mistakes, we could not allow correction of mistakes . . . Last year I said you must also allow me to make my mistakes and allow me to correct my mistakes, and after I have corrected them, you will accept me!

In fact, on 30 January, Mao had said:

On 12th June last year . . . I talked about my own shortcomings and mistakes . . . The whole Central Committee makes mistakes and it is my responsibility both directly and indirectly because I am the Chairman of the Central Committee.

The press has recently said that after Mao’s death, China will have collective leadership. This is presented as a new departure. In fact, it concerns a principle applicable at all levels and one which Mao recalled in the speech which we have just quoted:(26)

The Party Committee’s leadership is collective leadership and not the individual say-so of the first secretary . . . Take the Standing Committee or Political Bureau of the Central Committee. It often happens that not everybody approves of what I say and regardless of whether I’m right or not, I obey them since they’re the majority.

Democracy on the one hand and centralised leadership on the other, are the means to an end, which is the elaboration and application of a correct political line. Mao tells us that ‘Democracy sometimes seems to be an end, but it is in fact only a means’.(27)
    Why is it necessary to guarantee to the minority the right to express itself, to reserve an opinion and to bring questions out into the open? Because, Mao tells us, ‘Throughout history, new and correct things have often failed at the outset to win recognition from the majority of people and have had to develop by twists and turns in struggle.’(28)
    Centralism too is a means which must be used because it is indispensable for all the reasons which we pointed out at the beginning of the chapter, but also so that the party of the proletariat can operate like an army in combat facing an enemy which also has a centralised leadership. Infringements of party discipline, for example, can only be judged in the last instance in terms of considerations linked to the concrete situation. Mao Tse-tung was right not to carry out certain instructions of the Central Committee of his party when he was struggling in the Chingkang Mountains. As far as respect for democracy as well as that for centralism is concerned, it is politics which, as everywhere, must be put in command. Lenin expressed this idea by saying that ‘formal democracy must be subordinated to revolutionary opportunity!’(29)
    In the same text, ‘Once Again on the Trade Unions’, he declared that, ‘factional pronouncements’ and ‘even a split’ were justified

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‘if the disagreements are . . . extremely profound and if a wrong trend in the policy of the party . . . cannot be rectified in any other way’.(30)


As we have already pointed out, in his earlier polemical writings against Lenin, Trotsky shared the sociological viewpoint of Axelrod, Parvus and Rosa Luxemburg.(31) He was inclined to think that the revolutionary party was identical with the conscious elements of the proletariat and ultimately with the class as such. He thought that the latter would be led to make the revolution by virtue of the laws which govern the development of social contradictions. The conditions of its existence would constrain the proletariat to pursue its objective interests consciously. Thus the role of the party would be limited to ‘shortening the road and making it easier’, from ‘objective fact’ to ‘its objective consciousness’.(32) Even so, the vocation of the party was to coincide with the class. This is why Trotsky, in agreement with the Mensheviks, thought that one could be a member of the party without militating in it. Thus he opposed the ‘substitutionism’ of Lenin who, he argued, sought to substitute the party for the class, the Central Committee for the party and the dictator for the Central Committee. In fact, what he took exception to in Lenin was his distinction between the party and the class and the accordance of a leading function to the former. Overestimating ‘the spontaneity’ or ‘self-activity’ of the masses and correspondingly underestimating the role of leadership, he had no choice but to reject as well Lenin’s thesis that scientific socialism, elaborated by intellectuals who are of bourgeois origin but have adopted a proletarian class position, is brought into the proletariat ‘from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers’.(33) Left to itself, the working class can neither go beyond the level of economic demands nor achieve a revolutionary class consciousness.
    Lenin was right, but he laid too much stress on a partial truth. In the context of his polemic with the Economists he had been led to ‘bend the stick’ the other way in order to straighten it again. He acknowledged it himself at the end of the 2nd Party Congress (1903), thus correcting certain possibly unilateral formulations in ‘What is To Be Done?’, particularly the famous quotation from Kautsky.(34)
    In his pamphlet ‘Briefly about the Disagreements in the Party‘, published in May 1905, Stalin emphasised another aspect of the reality taken as given in ‘What is To Be Done?‘ He wrote: ‘Here is what Lenin says: The working class spontaneously gravitates towards socialism, but the more widespread (and continuously revived in its most diverse forms) bourgeois ideology spontaneously imposes itself upon the working class still more.’(35) Stalin went even further since he acknowledged that in the long run the spontaneous movement of the proletariat would achieve revolution even without social democracy.(36) Clearly, this is a scholastic hypothesis. In fact, the existence of a proletarian movement always encourages the appearance of Marxist intellectuals. Dialectical and historical materialism would not have been possible without such a movement.

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    Stalin returned to this question in a vigorously polemical article published on 15 August 1905 in ‘Proletariatis Brdzola’. Lenin summed up the central part by noting the author’s ‘excellent presentation of the celebrated question of the “introduction of consciousness from without”‘. Stalin showed that (a) socialist consciousness corresponds to the class position of the proletariat, (b) only social-democratic intellectuals ‘possess the necessary means and leisure’, for the scientific elaboration of this consciousness, (c) this consciousness is introduced into the working-class movement from without by these intellectuals and the Social-Democratic Party, and (d) when making its propaganda, the party meets with ‘an instinctive striving towards socialism’ among the proletariat.(37)
    In all his later writings in the polemic against the Economists, Lenin constantly emphasised not the (real) spontaneous tendency of the proletariat to submit to the dominant bourgeois ideology when the latter is not fought by revolutionary Marxists, but its (just as real) spontaneous tendency to appropriate socialist theory and to embark on revolutionary action on its own initiative.
    As soon as the 1905 revolution broke out, Lenin emphasised ‘the amazingly rapid shift of the movement from the purely economic to the political ground . . . notwithstanding the fact that conscious Social-Democratic influence is lacking or is but slightly evident’. He exalted the proletarian revolutionary instinct which was breaking through ‘all obstacles’ such as the ‘backwardness of some of the leaders’.(38) He regarded it as highly significant that the Moscow workers in December 1905 were more advanced than ‘the conscious element’ represented by the social-democrats. They knew by themselves what had to be done. For Lenin:(39)

This is the greatest historic gain in the Russian revolution . . . the proletariat sensed sooner than its leaders the change in the objective conditions of the struggle and the need for a transition from the strike to an uprising. As is always the case, practice marched ahead of theory.

At the same time, Lenin went so far as to say that ‘The working class is instinctively, spontaneously social-democratic’.(40)
    Logically, our ossified Marxist-Leninists who swear only by ‘What Is To Be Done?’ (of which they remember only the famous quotation from Kautsky) should tax Lenin and Stalin themselves with ‘spontaneism’. That would be enjoyable. Unfortunately, they read very little more than a few texts, and always the same ones.
    Let us recall that after the May-June 1968 movement in France, the Trotskyists and ossified Marxist-Leninists attacked Mao’s mass line and those who wished to apply it in their practice, dubbing the latter with the ridiculous nickname ‘Mao-spontex’. They spoke of the inability of the working class, if left by itself, to go beyond trade-union consciousness. According to them, to elaborate the line by gathering the correct ideas of the masses in struggles in which one is a participant before leading them signifies bowing before the necessarily bourgeois (!) spontaneity of the proletariat. It is spontaneism, economism and reformism’ As for them, they reckon that communist intellectuals should elaborate the line and programme from books (Marxist classics, collections of statistics, etc) and then call on the masses to follow this self-appointed vanguard.

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    For forty years the Trotskyist sects (falling into the opposite mistake to that of Trotsky in 1904) have embodied the very essence of this sort of vanguard, the idea of which was so discredited during and after the movement of May-June that Ernest Mandel felt the need to take the precaution against the accusation of conceiving the party in terms of this model. ‘There is no self-proclaimed vanguard’, he tells us, because ‘the vanguard must win recognition as a vanguard’.(41) We would retort, but yes, M. Mandel, there is a self-proclaimed vanguard. In 1939, while he recognised that the Fourth International was not linked to the masses, Trotsky consoled himself, nevertheless, by saying, ‘We who are the vanguard of the vanguard’.(42) At any rate, the theoretician of the Fourth International stands on awkward ground. This vanguard must exist before being recognised, otherwise how could it win its recognition? A few pages later Mandel confirms our interpretation of his thought: ‘The proletarian army will never reach its historic objectives if the necessary education, schooling and testing of a proletarian vanguard in the working out and agitational application of the revolutionary programme in struggle has not taken place before the outbreak of the broadest mass struggles.’(43)
    One could not be clearer. The constitution of the vanguard and the elaboration of the programme must ‘take place before’ mass struggles and develop outside these struggles. The same applies to the education, training and testing of this curious ‘vanguard’. Leaders and programme are thus to be bestowed on the people who would only have ‘to recognise’ them.
    We should have to concede the correctness of Mandel and before him, Trotsky, if it were possible to deduce the laws of the revolution in a given country from general truths about its character (democratic or socialist) and its ultimate end, if it were possible to elaborate strategy and tactics from such deductions – that is, in the end, on the basis of bookish learning – if we could know the conjuncture of the class struggle and answer the question, ‘Who are our friends and who are our enemies?’ from given statistics based on class being and the mere objective interests of some social category, if we could elaborate, lastly, outside of and in place of the masses, the detailed plan of the transformations to be carried out in all the spheres of social life.(44)
    Now ‘the concrete analysis of a concrete situation is the living soul, the very essence of Marxism’. The carrying out of this analysis requires consideration of the class position (and not just the class being) of the different social strata, paying particular attention to the attitude of intermediary, wavering elements because victory cannot be won if the Left does not win over the Centre. It must also be based not only on the objective needs of the masses as we conceive them, perhaps wrongly, but also on their wishes, which is impossible without investigation and the latter presupposes links with the masses. If the answer to all these concrete questions about alliances, slogans, etc., could be provided by theory, then programme and line could be elaborated in an armchair. Lenin did not think so. To those who criticised him for not having defined ‘a priori’ the strategic line and particular tactics, he replied: ‘As if one can set out to make a great revolution and know beforehand how it is to be completed’ Such knowledge cannot be derived

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from books and our decision could spring only from the experience of the masses.’(45)
    The programme makers would also do well to reflect on the words which Mao Tse-tung spoke to the plenary session of the Central Committee on 30 January 1962:(46)

[']Until the period of resistance against Japan, we could not determine the general Party line or entire set of specific policies in accordance with the situation. Until the necessary kingdom of the democratic revolution of that time was recognised by us, we could not have freedom’.

Later, Mao related his conversation in 1960 with Edgar Snow: Snow ‘wanted me to talk about the long-term plans for China. I said: “I don’t know”. He said: “You’re being too cautious”. I said: “It’s not caution, I just don’t know, I don’t have the experience” (of the construction of socialism).’(47)
    As Marxists, Lenin and Mao knew that practice comes first, theory after, even if the latter contributes later to illuminate practice. That is why Marx said ‘One step of real movement is worth a dozen programmes’. The insurrection of Paris workers in June 1848 and the Paris Commune owed practically nothing to Marxism, whereas the latter owes much to them: to the former, the theory of the uninterrupted revolution and the interpenetration of the democratic stage and the socialist stage; to the latter, the concrete forms of smashing the state apparatus and of the dictatorship of the proletariat.(48)
    The Soviets were not inscribed in the programme of the Bolshevik Party and the latter had not launched them as a slogan. This historic initiative came from the masses alone. It was they who invented this form of organisation and power. Lenin declared on this subject:(49)

Had not the popular creative spirit of the Russian revolution . . . given rise to the Soviets as early as February 1917, they could not under any circumstances have assumed power in October . . . It was the creative spirit of the people, which had passed through the bitter experience of 1905 and had been made wise by it, that gave rise to this form of proletarian power.

We can now understand why in 1921 Lenin considered the translation of ‘What Is To Be Done?’ as ‘undesirable’. He demanded that it should at least be accompanied by ‘a good commentary’, ‘to avoid false applications’. In a new preface as early as 1907 Lenin pointed out that this text of 1902 contained expressions that were ‘more or less awkward or imprecise’ and that it should not be detached from ‘the determined situation which gave birth to it’.(50)
    Stalin was a better Leninist than certain of today’s anti-spontaneists when he wrote as follows: ‘Lenin taught us not only to teach the masses but also to learn from them . . . The ordinary people are often far closer to the truth than certain higher echelons.’ Michael Lowy knows this passage from Stalin as well as those we have quoted above but he is careful not to note it. On the other hand, he quotes another one (p. 190) and harps on it with the purpose of setting Stalin against Lenin. It concerns a leaflet in which Stalin wrote ‘Let us hold out our hands and gather around the party committees! We must not forget for one instant that only the

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party committees can provide us with proper leadership, that they alone know how to light up the road to “the promised land”, the socialist world.’ Whatever Lowy thinks, there is no contradiction here. One can and must insist both on the masses’ historical initiative and on the party’s leadership. This is what Lenin did, because both are necessary for the victory of the revolution.
    True Leninists accept with Mao that correct ideas in politics come from the practice of the masses in struggle illuminated by the beacon of the general principles of Marxism-Leninism borne by the party.
    One must study with the problems to be solved in mind. This is a condition for fruitful study. If practice is not combined with study, theory cannot be truly assimilated. The Marxist classics, statistical data from bourgeois economics and sociology are not enough to understand the concrete problems which the class struggle poses on the different fronts in which it proceeds. Books are not useless but practice must be the basis.
    ‘Our principal method is to learn to make war by making it’, we are told by Mao Tse-tung, who is adopting a truth already stated by Lenin in his ‘Philosophical Notebooks’: ‘In order to understand, it is necessary to begin empirically, to study, to rise from empiricism to the universal. In order to learn to swim, it is necessary to get into the water.’(51) It is by making the revolution that we succeed in establishing its laws after a great number of mistakes and defeats.
    ‘If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself,’ Mao teaches us.(52) To know society it is necessary to change it by participating in the revolutionary struggle of the masses. An important moment in this practice is the investigation. In his ‘Preface and Postscript to Rural Surveys‘, Mao declares: ‘Investigation is especially necessary for those who know theory but do not know the actual conditions, for otherwise they will not be able to link theory with practice . . . No investigation, no right to speak.’(53) It is clear that the investigation in question has nothing in common with the investigations of bourgeois sociology with their vaunted impartiality. The militant is objective to the exact extent of his partiality in favour of the people.
    An investigation cannot be undertaken unless one is linked to the masses, in their camp. In order to discover the masses’ state of mind one should not make a survey but talk to the well-informed representatives of these masses without hiding one’s views – quite the opposite. Mao made anti-religious propaganda while investigating the peasants’ attachment to superstitious practices. There is no investigation without practice. Reality is discovered by transforming it. When Mao visited Hunan in January 1927, he was a revolutionary who fearlessly championed the Peasant Leagues despite the reticent, not to say hostile attitude of the leaders of his party. At the same time, he was inspired with the desire to learn from the masses, to become their humble pupil. He knew how to listen and did not set himself up as a giver of lessons. ‘It has to be understood that the masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge.’(54)

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    The mass line is at once both a method of leadership and a method of knowledge since ‘without a really concrete knowledge of the actual conditions of the classes in . . . society, there can be no really good leadership’.(55) But only on condition that it is not debased by summing it up in a simplistic formula such as ‘correct ideas come from the masses’ (they come from practice, particularly that of the class struggle) which certain people take to mean: the ideas of the masses are always correct. Of course, there is always something correct even in the false ideas of the masses, but if one does not make this distinction, if one does not build on what is correct to combat what is false, one will fall into the ‘tailism’ which Mao denounced in a speech at a conference of cadres in Shansi-Suiyuan. In it he criticised the apparently left-wing policy adopted by Liu Shao-chi during the agrarian reform. Under the pretext of ‘Doing everything as the masses want it done’, Liu Shao-chi had gone ahead with a strictly egalitarian division of the land and capital goods, forgetting that the sole target of the agrarian reform should be the system of feudal exploitation. Mao reminded him that ‘the Party must lead the masses to carry out all their correct ideas in the light of the circumstances and educate them to correct any wrong ideas they may entertain’ (56)
    They are falsifying Mao’s teaching who claim support from it for a denial of the necessity for a vanguard, or ‘leading core of the whole people’ in Mao’s formula, which seems preferable to us because the core is in the people instead of being ahead and outside of it.
    In contrast to what the ossified Marxist-Leninists think, a revolutionary movement can be correctly oriented even if it does not have a Marxist Party at its head. We have cited the example of the rising in June 1848 and of the Commune and we could add that of Cuba. Mao says that ‘they (the poor peasants) have never been wrong on the general direction of the revolution’.(57) It is true, nevertheless, that in the absence of a Communist Party, the peasant revolution would have come to a halt in the best of cases in the bourgeois-democratic stage (agrarian reform) and would not have finally suppressed exploitation and oppression in the countryside. Without the leadership of the revolutionary proletarian Communist Party armed with Marxism-Leninism, the thought of Mao Tse-tung, the proletariat will not be able to liberate itself and in so doing the whole of humanity; it will not be able to pursue its struggle in a consistent way; that is, to the end, namely the abolition of classes and the establishment of a communist society.
    Those who invoke the example of Cuba to combat this truth proceed from the postulate that that country is a dictatorship of the proletariat which is constructing socialism. Nothing is less certain. According to Bettelheim, the transformation that has taken place in Cuba is not a ‘true revolution’ any more than those which have occurred in Guinea, Egypt, or Algeria. Neither Cuba nor any of these countries has really escaped imperialist (or social-imperialist) domination. For that, it would have been necessary for the proletariat to have taken power and set off on the socialist road, which it has not done.(58) Let us assume that it has, however, for the sake of the argument. Let us also assume that no involution will occur in the future, that the left of the party leads the masses in their struggle against the bureaucratised

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leaders who are taking the capitalist road and that the construction of socialism is thus being carried through to the end. In this case, one will be able to conclude that the party in power (whatever its origins and the serious mistakes it has committed) will be transformed through the struggle into a true proletarian communist party. This is almost a tautology.
    On 18 September 1968, the ‘People’s Daily’ published an article(59) entitled ‘Compass for the victory of the revolutionary people of all countries’, on the occasion of the Sixth Anniversary of Chairman Mao’s most important inscription for ‘Japanese worker friends’: ‘The Japanese Revolution will undoubtedly be victorious, provided the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism is really integrated with the concrete practice of the Japanese revolution’. The editorial in the ‘People’s Daily’ declared:

The party of the proletariat in all countries must firmly adhere to the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and at the same time, proceeding from life itself, maintain close contact with the masses, constantly sum up the experience of mass struggles and independently formulate and carry out policies and tactics suited to the conditions of each country.

For those in Western Europe who quote the thought of Mao Tse-tung as their authority, the problem is posed precisely in these terms: to proceed from reality or from books? To make use of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism in order to know reality through practice (‘the struggle’) or to use ‘reality’ in order to illustrate by examples the truths of Marxism-Leninism and have the illusion of posing concrete problems? There are certain people in France but also in Belgium, Italy and Germany who wish to proceed from ‘What Is To Be Done?’ and not from reality.
    The conclusion to the same article says, ‘It is our firm conviction that a truly revolutionary Japanese party armed with Marxism-Leninism is sure to come into being in the flames of revolutionary struggle.’
    The party will be born in the flames of the revolutionary struggle, not in the cigarette smoke of a room used for meetings by a few young or not so young petty bourgeois eager to proclaim themselves the party.
    We know how the ossified Marxists answer. They answer in an ossified way: the Chinese Communist Party was founded in this way by a dozen intellectuals representing fifty-seven members. This is to forget a ‘detail’: at that time in China there was neither a bourgeois-’worker’s’ party nor reformist trade unions misleading the majority of the working class. It will be accepted that this detail is important. In the meantime it is necessary to understand exactly what was this party founded in 1921. Half of the founder members reneged, the anarchist tendency was very strong among them, and of those who did not degenerate Mao said, ‘We were just a bunch of eager young men who wanted to make a revolution.’ He emphasised, moreover, that these eager young men were ‘blind’ and remained so ‘until the period of the war of resistance to Japan’. ‘If somebody says that there was a comrade, for example, any comrade in the Central Committee< or I myself, who completely recognised the laws of the Chinese Revolution in the beginning, he would be boasting, don’t you believe him for it didn’t happen.’(60)

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    It matters little that there are only a few Maoists at the beginning. They grow stronger if they actually work to fuse with the working class, if they participate in its struggles and do not restrict their activity to setting up and distributing a journal. On the other hand, it is very important that, in the present conditions, they do not claim to be the ‘true’ Communist Party and do not launch grandiloquent appeals destined to disappear into thin air when everyone knows that they do not represent anything very much, otherwise the workers will not take them seriously. Having been ‘had’ twice by traditional workers’ organisations, the workers demand that the Maoists prove themselves before giving them their confidence. In other words, for the Maoist organisation to be able to present itself as the leading core of the people, it is necessary for it really to be such, for the conscious workers (especially they) will not allow themselves to be taken in. This presupposes that certain conditions are met.

    1.  proletarianisation of the organisation and its leadership;
    2.  roots in the working class attested by effective ability to lead its struggles;
    3.  roots in all the other classes and strata of the people with the ability to mobilise them and to unify their struggles into a revolutionary perspective as a criterion;
    4.  unification of all proletarian revolutionaries and all true Maoists, that is, of all those who can be united.

Such an organisation will be able to lead the united front of all revolutionary classes and strata. It will have determined on the basis of practice the character of the present stage, the principal contradiction, the general political line and the system of particular lines. It will have helped the masses to elaborate particular programmes on the different aspects of their condition (work, security, housing, transport, etc.) and will synthesise them in a programme for a people’s regime. It will be capable of combining legal and illegal, and open and clandestine work. It will have at its disposal an armed organisation, however embryonic.
    The people will then flex ‘the three magic arms’ guaranteeing it victory: the party, the united front, the army. This stage was only reached in China in 1937.
    It is clear that the building of the party is a continuous creation, as is the elaboration of the programme, as can be seen from the constant changes which Lenin made to it.(61) Its official date of birth is a question of ‘revolutionary opportunity’ which must be appraised on the basis of the concrete situation. In stating the conditions pointed out above we were thinking above all of France and Italy. The premature birth of the party, in other words, its emergence as a self-proclaimed vanguard immediately claiming recognition of its status by fraternal parties and counting more on their aid than on its own forces, threatens to backfire by depreciating in the eyes of the masses the idea of a Maoist-Marxist-Leninist Party and by making more difficult the broad alliance of all those who appeal to the authority of the thought of Mao Tse-tung.
    On the other hand, the protracted building of a party presenting the characteristics we have pointed out sanctions more flexibility in the choice (or abandonment) of different forms of organisation,

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more effectively liberates initiative from below, and ensures the selection of cadres only on the basis of their success in practice. By combining legal and illegal methods, by setting when necessary the violence of the people against the violence of authority, one educates the militants, attracts the most combative workers and rejects petty bourgeois individualists and careerists. The elimination of poisoned blood and the infusion of fresh blood develop the organisation on a healthy proletarian basis, offering every guarantee against the dangers of sclerosis, opportunist degeneration and bureaucratism.


Reading the pamphlet, ‘De la bureaucratie’, by E. Germain (alias Ernest Mandel), we note that, in the chapter deceptively called ‘La théorie trotskyste de la dégénerescence de l’Etat ouvrier soviétique’ (Trotsky’s theory of the degeneration of the Soviet Workers’ State), the concepts of ‘Thermidor’ and ‘Bonapartism’ which are nonetheless the foundation of this theory are spirited away. In their place, we find a definition of the bureaucracy which can be summarised as follows: an organisation necessitates leaders, an apparatus and permanent officials and suddenly we have ‘budding bureaucrats’. Such is the genus. The specific difference is this: of all the leaders, those are thorough-going bureaucrats whom E. Germain dislikes. Other criteria are vaguely mentioned but this one is the most certain. Compared with the unstable equilibrium of Trotsky’s theoretical constructions this idea of bureaucracy has three advantages and one disadvantage: it is simple, pliable and irrefutable but it serves no purpose – or rather it serves all purposes, which comes to the same thing.
    It is true, nevertheless, that Germain resurrects an old idea of Trotsky’s which the latter had gone beyond in his own way. This is the characterisation of the Leninist idea of a party governed by democratic centralism as ‘substitutionist’: ‘(Lenin’s) methods . . . lead the Party organisation to substitute itself for the Party (in the vague and Menshevik sense of the term); then the Central Committee for the organisation, and finally, a single dictator to substitute himself for the Central Committee.’(62)
    Trotsky accused Lenin of distrusting the working class. He reckoned that it was able to intervene as such in the political arena and could not tolerate the leadership of a united and centralised party acting as its agent or ‘locum tenens’.(63).
    This denunciation of ‘substitutionism’ (libellous in regard to Lenin) has had threefold descendents: those who thought that the proletariat was incapable of becoming the dominant class adopted theories of the ‘new class’ of the Burnham or Djilas type; those who thought the opposite formed certain anarcho-Trotskyist ‘workers’-council’ currents; the intermediate position, that of the Trotskyists, was that bureaucracy is certainly inherent in the division between leaders and led but that there is a means by which its effects can be attenuated, namely worker’s democracy; that is, as we have seen, the legitimation of factions which reproduce the same division! However, Trotsky was not satisfied with such an

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elementary analysis of the bureaucratic phenomenon but had attempted to discover its social basis, to explain it in an outwardly Marxist manner in terms of the class struggle. Until Germain came along and turned the ‘science’ upside-down, Trotskyists described the dictatorship of the proletariat under Stalin as a workers’ state led by a Bonapartist bureaucracy. This amounted to a rejection of the Marxist-Leninist point of view according to which bureaucracy always serves and is monitored by the dominant class. Here is how Henri Weber, following Trotsky, justified this position in a pamphlet entitled ‘Mouvement ouvrier, Stalinisme et bureaucracie’: ‘Nevertheless, it can happen that the State bureaucracy rises above classes, erects itself into an autonomous power and temporarily installs its own unmonitored power exercised through the providential intermediary of some all-powerful man.’(64)
    At first sight, this thesis is in conformity with Marx’s analysis in the 18th Brumaire, in which he says, ‘Only under the second Bonaparte does the state seem to have made itself completely independent’.(65) In fact, if the state seems to be independent, that means that it is not so. With regard to ‘the bureaucratic caste’ which ruled Germany in 1872, Engels tells us in ‘The Housing Question‘ that the state seems to float above classes and to represent the interests of the whole society but that ‘In reality, however, the State as it exists in Germany is likewise the necessary product of the social basis out of which it has developed’.(66)
    Coming back to the question of Bonapartism in ‘The Civil War in France‘, Marx tells us:(67)

The State power, apparently soaring high above society, was at the same time itself the greatest scandal of that society . . . Imperialism is, at the same time, the most prostitute and ultimate form of the State power . . . which fully grown bourgeois society had finally transformed into a means for the enslavement of labour by capital.

It is clear that, for Marx, the function of the Bonapartist state was to exercise the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and to serve the interests of this class. Whereas, according to Trotsky, although the Stalinist Bonapartist regime is ‘the historic weapon of the working class’, it oppresses the latter, robs it on behalf of a privileged minority, organises production in the interests of this minority and follows a counter-revolutionary policy on the international plane.
    The analogy which Trotsky set up between the ‘Stalinist workers’ state’ and the Empire is artificial and even absurd, moreover, for the nature of the state apparatus varies radically according to the historically determined social formations in which it functions as an instrument for the perpetuation of the social relations, for the domination and repression of one class by another. Marx had already ridiculed this way of masking contemporary realities behind ‘superficial historical analogies’ which ‘forget principles’:(68) With so complete a difference between the material, economic conditions of the ancient and modern class struggles, the political figures produced by them can likewise have not more in common with one another than the Archbishop of Canterbury and the High Priest Samuel.
    Apparently Trotsky was unable to think through current problems except by means of ‘superficial historical analogies’.

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    Even when he applied it to bourgeois regimes, Trotsky used the term Bonapartism wrongly. In this category he included not only fascism but also the governments which he called ‘proto-fascist’, like those of ‘Doumergue and Flandin in France’.(69)
    When the Mensheviks called NEP a ‘Soviet Thermidor’ in 1921, he acquiesced and even claimed the credit. The comparison is absurd. Once in power, it is normal for the bourgeoisie to wish to bring the revolution to a halt in order to enjoy its victories in peace. The Thermidorians represented the ‘nouveaux riches’, the speculators and the acquirers of national wealth who did not want any new upheavals. The October Revolution, on the contrary, was the revolution of the proletariat not of the Nepmen and the kulaks. By making temporary concessions to them the proletariat ‘reculait pour mieux sauter’. NEP was not the consolidation of the gains of a class of exploiters. It was, quite the contrary, a withdrawal permitting the consolidation of the power of the proletariat, the most exploited class, whose emancipation liberates the whole of humanity. Later and up to 1935, Trotsky ceaselessly warned of the danger of a Thermidor while denying (against certain of his supporters) that it had already taken place. Trotsky and his friends analysed the political struggles throughout this period by drawing on this analogy. Until 1928 Trotsky saw Bukharin and Rykov as Thermidorians. In his ‘Letter to Friends’ in October 1928, he considered the possibility that the Thermidorian stage could be skipped. The USSR could pass directly to an 18th Brumaire with Voroshilov and Budenny in Napoleon’s boots! He also considered the possibility of a restoration of capitalism for which Stalin was preparing the way: ‘The film of the revolution is running backwards and Stalin’s part in it is that of Kerensky in reverse.’
    He wrote this just as Stalin was preparing to launch the collectivisation campaign and the Five-Year Plans. A poor show for a prophet (armed or not)!
    In 1929, in a polemic with some groupuscules claiming his authority, he defined Thermidor as a counter-revolution necessitating a civil war. He came to the conclusion that, real as this danger was, it had not yet materialised.(70) In fact, at this time, he thought that ‘Thermidor . . . indicated a transfer of power to another class’.(71)
    A few years later, he had to make a ‘painful revision’ of all his past ideas. He then decided that Thermidor had taken place as early as 1923 when Stalin defeated the left Opposition; Stalin’s government having taken on a Bonapartist character, the Soviet Union lived under a consulate. Such is the analysis presented in the pamphlet, ‘The Workers’ State and the Question of Thermidor and Bonapartism’ in 1935.
    Trotsky thus recognised that the USSR had been living under a Thermidorian regime for twelve years without his noticing it.
    These speculations on an inept historical comparison could only obscure the problems instead of posing them correctly, since they arose, as we have seen, from a fundamental theoretical mistake.(72)
    Later, in his book ‘In Defence of Marxism’, Trotsky acknowledged that the notion of caste which he applied to the Soviet ‘bureaucracy’ did not have a scientific character and was only a historical analogy (another one!) helping him provisionally to

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supply ‘the sociology of the present’. The term caste, he said, had a ‘makeshift’ character.(73)
    Thirty years later, the Trotskyists are still using this unscientific and provisional ‘concept’ which designates neither a class nor an instrument of a class: ‘Far from being its servant, bureaucracy has become mistress of the (entire) society’. They also describe the apparatuses of the social-democratic and revisionist parties as bureaucracies, here again without giving this word a class content; that is, without distinguishing between on the one hand the bureaucratic nature of these parties which lies in the fact that they represent bourgeois ideology and interests among the working class, and on the other hand, the bureaucratic deviations in a Marxist-Leninist party which reflect the class struggle in the party in which proletarian ideology must be ceaselessly consolidated.(74) H. Weber sees in working-class bureaucracy ‘a (privileged) sub-group of the proletariat assuming the leadership of trade-union and political struggles’ (p. 8). In order to speak of bureaucracy, Weber adopts a functionalist point of view, not the point of view of Marxist class analysis.
    Ultimately bureaucracy would be the product of the division between leaders and led. Its existence would not therefore be linked to a determinate class: the bourgeoisie. Taken to its logical conclusion this line of argument would end up in either the Rizzi-Burnham school or that of Chaulieu and the anarcho-Trotskyists of ‘Socialisme ou barbarie’.
    The degeneration of Burnham and Chaulieu-Cardan illustrates that it is impossible for the Trotskyists to be rigorous about their concept of bureaucracy and to continue to invoke Marx and Lenin.
    For Lenin, on the contrary, bureaucracy and the tendencies towards bureaucratism are rooted in capitalism and in the bourgeois and petty bourgeois mentality. ‘There is a petty bourgeois tendency to transform the members of the Soviets into “parliamentarians” or else into bureaucrats.’(75)
    How can this tendency be fought? ‘Those of us who are doomed to remain at work in the centre will continue the task of improving the apparatus and purging it of bureaucracy . . . the greatest assistance in this task is coming, and will come, from the localities’.(76)
    We see that Lenin talked about purging bureaucracy without suppressing the apparatus and this by virtue of the link with the masses: ‘The fight against the bureaucratic distortion of the Soviet form of organisation is assured by the firmness of the connection between the Soviets and “the people”, meaning by that the workers and the exploited people.’(77) Bureaucratism has a class nature which had a threefold origin in Lenin’s day:

    1.  the maintenance of Tsarist bureaucrats in the state administration as specialists necessary for their ‘administrative knowledge’;
    2.  the ideological survivals of capitalism (bureaucratic by nature) among the masses and even the leaders, even the revolutionaries;
    3.  the fact that economic and administrative functions in the first stages of the construction of socialism remain tied to the heritage of the previous society and induce a corresponding ideology, leads to a bureaucratic style of work among cadres.

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    The struggle against bureaucratism is thus a struggle between proletarian ideology and bourgeois or petty bourgeois ideology. It is a class struggle. To lead it to a successful conclusion, the initiative of the masses must be freed so that they can educate themselves on the political and technical level, so that they can do without bourgeois specialists and so that ‘the working class exercises leadership in everything’. ‘It is important for us to draw literally all working people into the government of the state. It is a task of tremendous difficulty. But socialism cannot be implemented by a minority, by the party. It can be implemented only by tens of millions when they have learned to do it themselves.’(78)
    The process of revisionist degeneration and of the restoration of capitalism, the principal agents of which are the bureaucratic cadres ‘who take the capitalist road’ has its structural roots in the discrepancy between the possession of power by the working class and its actual ability to exercise it, particularly in the economic and cultural domains. To reduce this discrepancy it is necessary to conduct the class struggle under socialism, the most explosive form of which was the cultural revolution. Like Stalin, Trotsky failed to understand what this class struggle after the expropriation of the propertied classes might have been.
    For Trotsky, the danger of the restoration of capitalism came from the contradiction between the forms of property and bourgeois norms of distribution granting extreme privileges to an upper stratum.(79) These norms themselves were caused by poverty and the necessity to resort to material incentives in order to develop industrial production (‘primitive accumulation’). Now every inegalitarian distribution necessitates a policeman. ‘Such is the starting point of the power of the Soviet bureaucracy. It “knows” who is to get something and who has to wait’. In the eventuality that it would hold on to power, it would not fail to restore private ownership of the means of production for its own benefit.
    ‘It is not enough to be the director of a trust; it is necessary to be a stockholder.’(80)
    The preceding is summarised in Figure 1, in which the arrows symbolise relations of cause and effect.
    It is true that material privileges contribute to the degeneration of the leaders (it is not the only cause) and to the perpetuation of a bourgeois mentality infected with egoism and careerism, even among the broad masses to whom the cadres give a bad example. Trotsky’s mistake was to see in this alone the sole source of the tendencies to the restoration of capitalism, which he defined moreover as a violent revolution conferring on directors the status of stockholders.
    In other words, he attributed an exclusive importance to the superstructural legal form of the relations of production, unaware of the problem of their content; he wrote for example, ‘The October Revolution has been betrayed by the ruling stratum but not yet overthrown. It has a great power of resistance, coinciding with the established property relations.’(81)
    We know today that the development of capitalism (in the USSR for example) is not reducible to a return to individual private ownership of the means of production. This may, perhaps, be its final

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result – but it is only an inessential aspect at the moment. On the contrary, the Trotskyists today who adhere to the words of ‘the master’ describe the USSR as a Workers’ State. They also use Trotsky’s problematic with regard to China. Everything that Trotsky said concerning the USSR appears to them to apply ‘a fortiori’ to China. As the latter is even poorer than Russia, the tendency to primitive accumulation and therefore to ‘robbing’ the masses must be all the more strongly in evidence there. The same schema thus unfolds. Not only is this schema not in accordance with the facts but the concept of ‘primitive socialist accumulation’ on which it is based is not Marxist. We showed in Chapter 3 that the analogy thus established with capitalist primitive accumulation is meaningless since capital is a relation of production and not a thing, a certain quantity of money, machines or goods. This analogy helps, moreover, to falsify the problems and even, paradoxically, to justify certain of Stalin’s mistakes, since he applied, in its essentials, Preobrazhensky’s schema in the construction of the material basis of ‘socialism’ in the USSR. What the Trotskyists do not understand is that, to the extent that there is such a thing as ‘primitive accumulation’ it is not socialist.
    We have seen what were the economic roots of bureaucracy according to Trotsky. Underdevelopment and scarcity made social inequalities necessary, all the more so since they engendered a strong tendency to primitive accumulation. The bureaucrats were those who knew who was to receive and who was to wait. They enforced the labour discipline necessary for an accelerated growth of production and they justified their privileges by exploiting the country’s cultural backwardness.
    The bureaucracy’s political roots were the revolutionary ebb-tide in Europe after 1923; the weariness of a Russian working class decimated and dispersed after the civil war; finally, the specific corrupting effects of power.(82)
    For all these reasons, Trotsky considered that the bureaucratic phenomenon was unavoidable to a certain extent. It derived, in

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fact, from ‘the iron necessity to give birth to and support a privileged minority so long as it is impossible to guarantee genuine equality’;(83) that is why:(84)

the tendencies of bureaucratism, which strangle the worker’s movement in capitalist countries, would everywhere show themselves even after a proletarian revolution. But . . . the poorer the society which issues from a revolution, the sterner and more naked would be the expression of this ‘law’ and the more crude would be the forms assumed by bureaucratism.

What would a Marxist Party do if it succeeded in asserting itself? It ‘would shuffle and cleanse the bureaucracy and place it under the control of the masses’.(85) Hence a few palliatives apart, the bureaucracy would continue to exist.
    Trotsky defined the dictatorship of the proletariat at the economic, not at the political level: it would reside entirely in state control of the means of production. For him the construction of socialism is unrelated to the class struggle; it is solely a question of economic development. This emerges clearly from this passage in ‘The Revolution Betrayed’ among others: ‘Soviet forms of property on a basis of the most modern achievement of American technique transplanted into all branches of economic life – that indeed would be the first stage of socialism’.(86)
    This idea is based on a confusion between property relations and the relations of production.(87) The USSR is a ‘Workers’ State’ in so far as the bureaucracy maintains the collective ownership of the means of production, ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat has found its distorted but indubitable expression in the dictatorship of the bureaucracy’.(88) Trotsky accounted for this paradox by means of the comparison with Bonapartism. In 1929, he still thought (but not for much longer) that the peasantry would be the social basis of this Bonapartism as it had been for Napoleon III: ‘The enriched muzhik or the muzhik who only seeks to get rich . . . is the natural agent of Bonapartist tendencies’;(89) and also: ‘The problem of Thermidor and of Bonapartism is in essence the problem of the kulak’.(90)
    But the facts obstinately refuse to comply with his schemas. Trotsky characterised his own destiny very well when he wrote that ‘a petit-bourgeois intellectual – alas’ – uses as his “tools” fleeting observations and superficial generalisations – until major events club him on the head’.(91)
    The expropriation of the kulaks and collectivisation clubbed him on the head and forced him to modify his analysis of ‘Stalinist Bonapartism’, which now became a reaction to the pressure of the surrounding peasants and the capitalist encirclement:(92)

The Soviet bureaucracy . . . was summoned to regulate the antagonism between the proletariat and the peasantry, between the workers’ state and world imperialism . . . Stalin’s ‘personal regime’ . . . is the product of the living struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the last instance . . . The objective function of ‘the Saviour’ is to safeguard new forms of ownership by usurping the political function of the dominant class.

Trotsky thus argued that the bureaucracy raised itself above the people by performing a balancing act between antagonistic classes

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‘in equilibrium’. Here again, we cannot ask Trotsky to be consistent. In some of his writings, he said that, faced with the bourgeois offensive, the proletariat was forced to relinquish power into the hands of the bureaucracy; in others, he argued that it was the bureaucracy itself which fostered the rise of the bourgeoisie. Similarly, Trotsky does not seem to have been sure whether the bureaucracy manoeuvred in the last instance to serve the proletariat or the bourgeoisie (there can be no doubt in the case of real Bonapartism). He acknowledged two ‘variants’:(93)

Upon the social foundations of the Soviet state, the economic and cultural uplift of the labouring masses must tend to undermine the very bases of bureaucratic domination. Clearly, in the light of this fortunate historical variant, the bureaucracy turns out to be only the instrument – a bad and expensive instrument – of the socialist state.

This thesis explains the naïve hopes placed by the Trotskyists of the Fourth International and by Isaac Deutscher in ‘democratisation’ after the 20th Congress. Higher living standards and a higher cultural level on the basis of ‘the socialist relations of ownership’, should surely guarantee the advance towards proletarian democracy and true socialism? The idea that Soviet culture was not perhaps completely proletarian, any more than the real relations of production, did not cross their minds.
    In ‘The Revolution Betrayed’, Trotsky specified the other variant towards which he leaned more and more at the end of his life: if the revolutionary interest did not overthrow the bureaucracy then the counter-revolutionary interest would do it. If neither of them monopolised power, the bureaucracy itself would restore capitalism for its own benefit:(94)

It must inevitably in future stages seek support for itself in property relations . . . Privileges have only half their worth, if they cannot be transmitted to one’s children. But the right of testament is inseparable from the right of property. It is not enough to be the director of a trust; it is necessary to be a stockholder.

However, in the same work, Trotsky maintained that the bureaucracy was ‘the instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat’ because ‘it is compelled to defend state property as the source of its power and its income’.(95) Was it or was it not ‘compelled’? Complete mystery remains. Whatever the case, it seems that a new slide in Trotsky’s ideas took place a few years later, since he then declares that ‘the overthrow of the bureaucracy is indispensable for the preservation of state property in the USSR’.(96) On the other hand, Trotsky insisted on talking about a ‘Bonapartist oligarchy’ and simultaneously a ‘Stalinist counter-revolution’.(97) Bonapartism, whether in its classical form analysed by Marx or in its fascist form, eliminates the parties and the traditional political personnel of the bourgeoisie but governs by serving the interests of this class. In ‘Stalinist Bonapartism’, on the other hand, although it is ‘the historic weapon of the working class’, ‘the dominant class’ (sic), serves the interests of imperialism of which it is ‘the most valuable agency’(98) and ‘transforms the Soviet social order in the interests of a privileged minority’.(99) Understand who can!

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    Trotsky’s frequent ‘volte-faces’ on the nature of the Soviet regime and his permanent conceptual wavering are explained by the fact that while he touched on (but did not see) real problems, he proved to be incapable of correctly formulating them in terms of specific contradictions in the transition to socialism. He confused the relations of production with their superstructural legal expression, property relations. Conflating the three instances of social formation (the economic, legal-political and ideological-theoretical levels), he defined the dictatorship of the proletariat by the state ownership of the means of production. In that case, the Asiatic mode of production of the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Peru etc, would have been socialist prototypes; modern Egypt would be a dictatorship of the proletariat.(100) Trotsky did not understand that in a country in which the state disposes of the means of production, the decisive question is to know who holds power. Confronted with the paradox of a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ in which the latter suffers the dictatorship, he extricated himself by resorting either to a medical metaphor which underlined the contingent character of the phenomenon (this dictatorship is ‘very sick!’)(101) or to the illegitimate historical analogy with Bonapartism which, on the contrary, linked it to a ‘sociological law’.
    Now under this latter regime, the state serves the bourgeoisie because it is dominant on the economic level. The proletariat, on the contrary, can only hold economic power on condition that it exercises political power. If it loses the latter, it loses everything.
    The perfectly clear meaning of Lenin’s texts on this subject has been obscured for half a century by Trotskyist, Stalinist and Khrushchevite ideologies. The Bolshevik leader had emphasised that the only differences between state capitalism in Germany and that set up in Russia in 1918 was that in the latter country, ‘the workers hold state power’. According to him, if you combine state capitalism along German lines with ‘the proletarian, Soviet state . . . you will get all the conditions necessary for socialism’.(102)
    The tendencies to bureaucratism which appear within the proletarian state apparatus – that is, the tendencies of certain leaders to cut themselves off from the masses, to behave like despotic overlords, to award themselves privileges – reflects the persistent influence of bourgeois ideology which also tends to deflect the economic, educational and international policy of the socialist state. A struggle develops between the leaders who thus take the capitalist road and the consistent revolutionaries who wish to advance towards socialism, a struggle which is sometimes latent, sometimes overt and sometimes explosive. This struggle between the two lines, between the two roads, is pursued unceasingly throughout the period of the transition to socialism. The elements who, disguised as Marxist-Leninists, are taking the capitalist road may seize power at any moment, that is, deflect the party and the state in a non-proletarian direction. This deviation can become irreversible and lead to the restoration of capitalism. That is why the principal contradiction after the abolition of private ownership of the means of production is the contradiction between the revolutionary masses and the leaders taking the capitalist road.

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If, from the principal aspect, the revolutionary masses become the secondary aspect of this contradiction, the class nature of the state changes, which entails the usurpation of power by a new bourgeoisie. The 20th Congress of the CPSU marked such a turning point, the causes of which obviously go back much further.
    The great proletarian cultural revolution made it possible to resolve in practice and in theory the problem posed by the pursuit of the class struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat by liberating the initiative of the masses through a broad democracy, so that they could follow affairs of state and overthrow the reactionary leaders. We know that the slogan of the last stage was ‘The working class must exercise leadership in everything’, in other words, not only in the factories (even this is impossible without struggles) but also in the educational institutions and party and government bodies.
    It is now clear that the analysis of the Soviet regime developed by Trotsky and based on the concepts of ‘bureaucratic centralism’, ‘Thermidor’, and ‘Bonapartism’, cast no light at all on the struggle between the two lines and consequently failed to bring out the laws of development of a social formation in transition to socialism. Thus all his predictions have been contradicted by events, one after another. His successors have not been any luckier. They concentrated the full blast of their criticism on Stalin and put their hopes in Tito and Khrushchev, from whom bitter disappointments awaited them. They did not understand the cultural revolution in which the masses have been seen struggling against the bureaucrats, because it shattered their theoretical moulds into a thousand pieces.


At the beginning of the Second World War, Trotsky gave a long interview to the ‘Saint Louis Post Dispatch’ (10, 17 and 24 March 1940) in which he gave the following reply to the question as to whether the dictatorship of the proletariat would mean the abandonment of the US Bill of Rights:(103)

Socialism would have no value if it did not bring with it not only the juridical inviolability but also the full safeguarding of all the interests of the human personality. Mankind would not tolerate a totalitarian abomination of the Kremlin pattern. The political regime of the USSR is not a new society but the worst caricature of the old. With the might and techniques and organisational methods of the United States; with the high well- being which planned economy could assure there to all citizens, the socialist regime in your country would mean from the beginning the rise of the independence, initiative and creative power of the human personality.

This was the right kind of language to reassure the most conservative bourgeois of Saint Louis. It is all a question of ‘the interests of the human personality’ (a purely individual category), or of ‘mankind’, which mankind, for once unanimous and without any class distinction, condemns ‘the totalitarian abomination’, namely, ‘the political regime of the USSR’. The latter, he tells us, is not

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a new society (a political regime which is not a society!) but ‘the worst caricature of the old society’. In other words, the dictatorship of the proletariat constructing socialism is a most abominable caricature of capitalism combined with feudal survivals from Tsarist Russia. Trotsky went further than Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who, in their book ‘The Decay of Capitalist Civilisation’ (1923), could not even then see a great difference between Bolshevism and Tsarism. At the end of his life, the positions of the father of the Fourth International coincided with those of the most frenetic anti-communists. Abandoning Marxist concepts, he took over their language, the ideological function of which is perfectly clear.
    Why did he speak of a ‘totalitarian regime’ not only in this interview, but also and at length in ‘The Revolution Betrayed’ (1936)? For the possibility it afforded him to rise above classes and to confound fascist states and communist states in the same virtuous censure as ‘symmetrical phenomena’ which ‘show a deadly similarity in many of their features’.(104) He thus flattered American imperialism, which was opposing both types of state at the time. According to Trotsky, moreover, only ‘a planned economy’ was lacking in the USA for ‘all citizens’ to enjoy a greater well-being. Let us note that even non-Marxist authors like Herbert J. Spiro or revisionists like Lucien Goldmann acknowledge the ideological function fulfilled by the notion ‘totalitarian regime’ particularly in cold-war propaganda after 1945:(105)

Attempts were made . . . to construct the ultimate in self-contradiction, an ‘ideology of freedom’ . . . a whole new conceptual vocabulary was forged . . . The key to this vocabulary is the term totalitarianism, which is meant to describe and to explain such diverse political systems as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

At the end of his life, Trotsky went over to this ‘ideology of freedom’, reaction’s war-horse in the post-war period. Even in 1936 the principal objective which he set for the revolution to overthrow ‘bureaucratic absolutism’ was the restoration of freedoms, especially those of the ‘Soviet parties’.(106) His writings contain seeds of the propaganda which amalgamates fascism and communism whose most delirious – because most matter-of-fact – expression is to be found in Lord Radcliffe’s report on ‘Security Procedures in the Public Service’ which states in Chapter 2: ‘For the sake of brevity we have followed the common practice of using the phrase “Communist” throughout to include Fascists.’(107)
    Of course, Trotsky did not follow his position through to its logical conclusion. He almost identified fascism and communism but without quite taking the leap. The most talented of his followers (Rizzi, Burnham, Schachtmann) did not have this scruple. Nevertheless, it appears from the very article which he wrote to refute Rizzi(108) that Trotsky would have taken over the latter’s theory if he had lived on after the Second World War. Here is how Isaac Deutscher summarises the most significant passage in this text:(109)

The final test for the working class, for socialism, and for Marxism was imminent: it was coming with the Second World War. If the war were not to lead to the proletarian revolution in the

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West, then the place of decaying capitalism would indeed be taken not by socialism, but by a new bureaucratic and totalitarian system of exploitation. And if the working classes of the West were to seize power (as in Czechoslovakia) but then were incapable of holding it and surrender it to a privileged bureaucracy, as the Russian workers had done, then it would indeed be necessary to acknowledge that the hopes which Marxism placed in the proletariat had been false . . . Then it would be necessary (this is Trotsky speaking) to establish in retrospect that . . . the present USSR was the precursor of a new and universal system of exploitation . . . If the world proletariat should actually prove incapable of accomplishing its mission . . . nothing else would remain but to recognise openly that the socialist programme, based on the internal contradictions of capitalist society, had petered out as a Utopia.

It seems to us that this is clear, and it becomes even clearer if it is noted that throughout this article, Trotsky used the expression ‘totalitarian regime’ indiscriminately to designate state monopoly capitalism and ‘Stalinist Bonapartism’. In this case one may wonder why until the very end Trotsky called for the unconditional defence of the USSR. We must understand what he meant by this . . . In a posthumous article published by the ‘Fourth International’ (October 1940), he wrote:(110)

Against the imperialist foe we will defend the USSR with all our might. However, the conquests of the October revolution will serve the people only if they prove themselves capable of dealing with the Stalinist bureaucracy as in their day they dealt with the Tsarist bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie.

Was this not treating the ‘bureaucracy’ as a class enemy? Was this not applying to the USSR Lenin’s ‘revolutionary defeatism’ of 1914? Turning one’s weapons not against the enemy without but against those holding power? Either these words were hot air (they were) or Trotsky was preparing the ground for the future recruiters of the Vlassov army. It is in this context that it is appropriate to set the Hitler-Trotskyist epithet used at that time by communists.
    At the time of the 1914-18 war, Lenin issued a call to the peoples of the world to turn the arms which the ruling classes had put into their hands for their mutual massacre against the power of those ruling classes in their own countries. When the Second World War broke out, Trotsky invited the peoples of the Soviet Union to ‘deal with the Stalinist bureaucracy as in their day they dealt with the Tsarist bureaucracy and the bourgeoisie’. Whatever J.-J. Marie may think, this is fundamentally the same policy.(111) It seems that Trotsky wanted to overthrow the bureaucracy with the intention (praiseworthy, of course, as an intention!) of better defending the USSR, but to imagine that the accession to power of the ‘Bolshevik-Leninist’ Opposition was feasible at that time is lunacy. In so far as the Trotskyist propaganda had any effect whatever, it could only incite opposition to Soviet power and weaken its capacity to resist aggression by creating a diversion.
    Today, Trotskyists regard the accusation of Hitlero-Trotskyism as a typical case of Stalinist slander for which they do not have strong enough words to express their indignation. Now Trotsky’s methods of amalgamation were identical to those of his great enemy.

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After Siqueiros’s attempt on his life, he wrote a letter to the Mexican attorney-general in which he accused all communist parties of being reserves of spies and murderers in the pay of the GPU. He also added the following detail:(112)

I do not exclude the possibility of the participation of Hitler’s Gestapo in the assassination attempt. Up to a certain point the GPU and the Gestapo are connected with each other; it is possible and probable that in special cases the same agents are at the disposal of both . . . It is completely possible that these two police forces co-operated in the attempt against me.

Conclusion: It is possible and probable that Siqueiros was a Hitlero-Stalinist agent; it is possible and probable that the Communists who agreed to work for Soviet agencies also put themselves at the disposal of the German agencies’
    We said above that Trotsky had nearly identified ‘Stalinist totalitarianism’ and Nazism, but occasionally the nuance becomes imperceptible. In an article entitled ‘The twin star: Hitler-Stalin’ (6 December 1939), he claimed to prove that Stalin was Hitler’s satellite! A little further on, he asserted that Stalin’s aim in Spain had been to ‘prove to London and Paris that he was capable of eliminating proletarian revolution from Spain and Europe with much greater efficiency than Franco and his backers’ (Hitler and Mussolini).(113)
    At a time when the Second World War had already broken out, to make the CPSU led by Stalin the principal enemy was to line up on the side of the counter-revolution. There was no third road. Merleau-Ponty, whose sympathy for Trotsky has never been denied, remarked that when he was killed the moment was approaching at which ‘political life would have become impossible for him’.(114) It is to be regretted that the assassin’s ice-pick prevented History itself from presenting Trotsky with the verdict on his last bankruptcy.


Relatively insecure in their dissertations on ‘bureaucracy’, Trotskyists are very confident in their denunciation of Stalin. It is more than a war-horse for them; it is a ‘raison d’être’. So much so that they need to accuse even the Khrushchevites who betrayed the thought of Lenin’s successor and stained his memory of ‘Stalinism’. Forced to indulge in perilous feats of pseudo-theoretical tightrope-walking in the matter of the ‘Bonapartist caste’, they can rely largely on bourgeois specialists when it comes to anti-Stalinist invective. To listen to them, Stalin is (as the English say) the ‘skeleton in the Maoists’ cupboard’: a ball and chain which they drag along, trying to hide it in the folds of their theoretician’s toga or in the pocket of their worker’s jacket. They dare not discuss him. The Trotskyists may rest easy: the Maoists will discuss him. They are the only ones who can tackle this problem from a proletarian point of view. Above-all, they are the only ones who can rely on the thought of Mao Tse-tung and the lessons of the cultural revolution, while the Trotskyists remain – in the best of cases – the prisoners of an ideological horizon which they share

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with Stalin. Even when they claim to criticise him they do not leave the terrain of his problematic, whereas Chinese revolutionary practice has enabled us to go beyond it on more than one point.
    Stalin was the leader of the international communist movement for some thirty years. During this period it won great victories and suffered some defeats but on the whole it emerged from it considerably strengthened. Hence Stalin himself was the target of heinous attacks on the part of the class enemy, including Trotskyists. After his death, the Khrushchevite revisionists were only able to rid themselves of the embarrassing ‘dogma’ of Marxism-Leninism (i.e. its revolutionary principles) by mounting a libellous campaign against him in which his name was almost entirely erased from the history books and his works were banned. We see in this one more presumption in his favour. To be attacked by the enemy is not a bad but a good thing. Does this mean that Stalin did not make mistakes prejudicial to the construction of socialism and the progress of the world revolution? Some think that adherence to Maoism implies the defence of everything that Stalin may have said or done and thus provides weapons to the Trotskyists and Khrushchevites. Even when they reluctantly admit that he did make some mistakes, they are more then discreet as to their nature and, as it were, never talk about them. Such is not the point of view of the Chinese communists, who seem to us to be better teachers where Maoism is concerned.
    They have stated unambiguously, ‘It is necessary to criticise the errors Stalin actually committed . . . from a correct stand and with correct methods.’ ‘While defending Stalin, we do not defend his mistakes.’ What they do not accept is solely the ‘complete negation’ of Stalin ‘en bloc’ which ultimately treated him as an enemy. They rebel against the gross insults which Khrushchev heaped on Lenin’s comrade-in-arms and successor, describing him as a ‘murderer’, ‘criminal’, ‘bandit’, ‘adventurer’, ‘Ivan the Terrible type of despot’, ‘the greatest dictator in Russian history’, ‘imbecile’, ‘idiot’, etc.(115) They showed that by thus slandering Stalin, Khrushchev was at the same stroke slandering the CPSU, the people of the Soviet Union, and the international communist movement. Moreover, how could one speak of a dictatorship of the proletariat when an ‘Ivan the Terrible type of despot’ is ruling? Besides, it is clear that since Khrushchev had participated in the leadership of the party and the state in Stalin’s time and had been the particularly zealous satellite and instrument of ‘the tyrant’, he should have begun by giving a thorough self-criticism explaining among other things, his base flunkeyism towards his leader, which seems especially hypocritical in the light of his ‘later about-face’.(116) Not only did he never make a self-criticism but he impudently took the credit for some of Stalin’s achievements (the atomic bomb and missiles, for example). As we shall see, Stalin was not afraid to acknowledge sometimes that he had been mistaken.(117)

The Communist Party of China has consistently held that Stalin did commit errors which had their ideological as well as social and historical roots . . . Some were errors of principle and some were errors made in the course of practical work; some could have been avoided and some were scarcely avoidable at a time when the dictatorship of the proletariat had no precedent to go by.

‘In handling relations with fraternal parties and countries, he made

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some mistakes. He also gave some bad counsel in the international communist movement’. (118) In the chapters on China and Greece, we shall give some examples of this. Let us merely recall that, according to the Chinese, the influence of Stalin’s mistakes was felt in China, ‘in the late 1920s, the 1930s and the early and middle 1940s’.(119) A long time, practically as long as the Chinese revolution. They add:(120)

But since some of the wrong ideas put forward by Stalin were accepted and applied by certain Chinese comrades, we Chinese should bear the responsibility. In its struggle against ‘left’ and right opportunism, therefore, our party criticised only its own erring comrades and never put the blame on Stalin. We merely asked (them) . . . that they should correct their mistakes. If they failed to do so, we waited until they were gradually awakened by their own practical experience . . . we held that these were contradictions among the people.(121)

In their own texts devoted to the question of Stalin, the Chinese have pointed out that he was a revolutionary, not a counter-revolutionary; that he was a friend, not an enemy. It is a principled answer which decides the essentials of the problem but which cannot take the place of a thorough historical investigation. Only the development of the Soviet people’s revolutionary struggles will create the conditions for such an investigation, without which one cannot obtain the elements necessary for a final answer.(122) This is why the Chinese declare:(123)

The question of Stalin is one of world-wide importance . . . It is likely that no final verdict can be reached on this question in the present century . . . But there is virtual agreement among the majority of the international working class and of revolutionary people, who disapprove of the complete negation of Stalin and more and more cherish his memory. This is also true of the Soviet Union.

This is a fact which some find astonishing and which should make them think. Even Western observers have been struck by the applause which spontaneously erupts in the USSR when, having escaped the censor’s scissors, Stalin’s silhouette appears for a fraction of a second in the showing of old newsreels. (124) In the conditions prevailing at present in the USSR these must be regarded as real political demonstrations which reflect a feeling very widely held in the Soviet Union, as one may be convinced by talking to men and women among the people. Their point of view differs greatly from that prevailing among the bureaucrats, technocrats and the other privileged members of the intelligentsia, who prefer to mix with foreign journalists. In Georgia, the population demonstrated violently against the denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress. As the police made common cause with them, non-Georgian troops had to be called in for the bloody suppression of the disturbances. An additional sign that the denunciation of Stalin is unpopular is the fact that Khrushchev did not publish his secret speech to the 20th Congress, even though he surreptitiously communicated it to his friends across the Atlantic.
    The advance of revolutionary struggles in the entire world is accompanied by a renewal of interest in Stalin’s writings. Claude Roy reports that a militant in ‘the Black Panthers’ replied to one

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of his questions by reading to him passages from Stalin’s ‘Foundations of Leninism‘ and Mao’s ‘Little Red Book‘.(125)
    As we shall see even better later on, the Chinese criticise everything to be criticised in Stalin and emphasise that revolutionaries disapprove not of the criticism but of the complete repudiation of this leader of the international communist movement Their argument hinges on this idea: Stalin was not an enemy but a great Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who certainly made mistakes but who remained on the side of the people with respect to the fundamental options, the defence of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the elimination of the kulaks and Nepmen, the construction of a powerful socialist economy, support for the world revolution, the defence of Marxism-Leninism. This is why ‘A comparison of the two shows that his merits outweighed his faults’.(126)
    The question of Stalin is not whether one must condemn or rehabilitate Stalin ‘en bloc’, the question over which writers in the USSR who are more polemicists than historians confront one another.(127) It is a question of summing up the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR and appraising the role of its principal leader on this basis, by proceeding analytically, taking care not to reject everything under the pretext that certain mistakes were serious.
    Mao Tse-tung has given us an example of this analytical method which refuses to ‘draw simple conclusions which are absolutely affirmative or absolutely negative’:(128)

The question concerning the lien [line] of the central leadership during the period from the Fourth Plenary Session to the Tsunyi meeting, for example, should be analysed from two aspects. It should be pointed out on the one hand that the political tactics and the cadres policy which the central leading body adopted during that period were wrong in their main aspects, but on the other hand that on such fundamental issues as opposing Chiang Kai-shek and carrying on the Agrarian Revolution and the struggle of the Red Army there was no dispute between ourselves and the comrades who committed the errors.

It is clear that long before writing ‘On the correct handling of contradictions among the people’, Mao did not confuse these with ‘contradictions between us and the enemy’. On the contrary, in this point as in all others, the Trotskyist and Khrushchevite critique of Stalin remains a prisoner of the ideological framework which engendered the latter’s mistakes.
    The Trotskyists reject the Chinese appraisal of Stalin. According to them, one must talk about his ‘crimes’, not his ‘mistakes’: the Soviet state which he led was therefore an enemy of the proletariat. But Marxists only know class enemies. Now, the bureaucracy is not a class for the Trotskyists. This embroils them in inextricable contradictions. They become extremely embarrassed when they are forced to acknowledge both the successes of the construction of socialism and the active solidarity which linked the USSR to the world’s revolutionary movements in Stalin’s time, all of which are, as if by chance, ‘Stalinist’. To be sure, as we have said, mistakes were made but the Trotskyists refuse to concede that decisions which had disastrous consequences could have occurred for some other reason than evil intent.

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    Such prejudice leads to absurd conclusions. The General Staff of the Red Army (headed by Tukhachevsky) – three marshall, twenty-seven generals, twenty thousand officers – were executed or deported for conspiring with the Hitlerites. We know today that Stalin acted wholly in good faith. German counter-intelligence had organised a plot to which President Benes was an unconscious accessory. It was he who sent Stalin a dossier compiled by his secret service which came to the conclusion that the Soviet military were traitors. The Nazis were at the bottom of this ‘information’ but the Czechoslovaks believed it to be authentic. Leon Blum disclosed that he had been informed of the relations between Tukhachevsky and Hitler’s agents as early as the end of 1936.(129) It seems likely that the French statesman had drawn on the same sources as Stalin and like him had put faith in them.
    One cannot see what interest Stalin and the bureaucracy could have in liquidating, on the eve of the war, the commander of the Red Army, or in leaving the latter totally unprepared at the moment of Hitler’s aggression.(130) Such examples cannot possibly be explained from the particular interests of the bureaucracy or Stalin’s will to power. It must be admitted that these were mistakes, and mistakes acknowledged to a certain extent, besides, by Stalin himself. At a reception celebrating victory on 24 May 1945, he stated:(131)

Our government made not a few errors, we experienced at moments a desperate situation in 1941-2, when our army was retreating . . . A different people could have said to the government: ‘You have failed to justify our expectations. . .’. The Russian people, however, did not take this path . . . Thanks to it, to the Russian people, for this confidence.

Some do not understand that it is possible to acknowledge the seriousness of Stalin’s mistakes and argue at the same time that they are secondary in relation to his merits. To see this more clearly, let us consider Lenin’s attitude to Bebel and Rosa Luxemburg. The latter had violently attacked Lenin over the question of democratic centralism, siding with the Mensheviks against him. After the October revolution she had made incorrect criticisms of the Bolsheviks’ policy of granting the oppressed nations of the ex-Tsarist empire the right to self-determination and distributing land to the peasants. She had, moreover, made some quite serious theoretical errors in her work ‘The Accumulation of Capital’. As for Bebel, he had sometimes revealed a fairly repugnant opportunism. There are echoes of this in the Marx-Engels correspondence on the Gotha and Erfurt Programmes. However, Lenin regarded both Luxemburg and Bebel as ‘great communists’. When, after their death, the revisionists tried to exhalt themselves by belittling them, Lenin upbraided them in these terms: ‘Sometimes eagles may fly lower than hens, but hens can never rise to the height of eagles’.(132) In fact, when the proletariat in Berlin rebelled in January 1919 and the revisionists led the counter-revolutionary repression, Rosa Luxemburg immediately sided with the workers. Taken prisoner like Karl Liebknecht, she was assassinated along with him by the ‘soldatesca’ on the orders of the Social Democratic Minister Noske. To say that Rosa Luxemburg’s merits outweighed her mistakes is to argue that she was on the right side

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of the barricades in the decisive battles. We must not argue any differently where Stalin is concerned.

In the USSR the denunciation of Stalin was ‘the critique of the personality cult’. This was only a euphemism to conceal and to bury away the real problems. It was not the excessive exaltation of a personality which damaged the USSR and the international communist movement. It has never been a bad thing to call for the study of Marx and Lenin, to argue that they were giants of theory; on the contrary, the opposite is true. It is necessary, in the first place, to condemn the mistakes made in the construction of socialism, in the resolution of the contradictions in Soviet society and in the relations with fraternal parties and countries. The Khrushchevites were content to criticise violations of socialist legality and the principle of collegial leadership.
    Even revisionists like Togliatti recognised the limits and the equivocal character of Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin. He pointed out:(133)

As long as we confine ourselves, in substance, to denouncing the personal faults of Stalin as the cause of everything we remain within the realm of the ‘personality cult’. First, all that was good was attributed to the superhuman qualities of one man: now all that is evil is attributed to his equally exceptional and even astonishing faults . . . The true problems are evaded . . . (the ones which concern the causes which led the USSR) to the point of degeneration.

While avoiding falling into the reverse cult of personality which Togliatti denounced, we must guard against the opposite mistake which might be called economistic or sociologistic – which consists of seeking the ultimate explanation of Stalin’s mistakes, as the Trotskyists do, in the economic underdevelopment of the USSR at its birth and in the destruction and partial dispersal of its working class as a result of the civil war. China was even less developed than Russia and its working class less numerous. Nor are the particular interests of the bureaucratic caste enough to explain the phenomenon. Stalin did struggle in his own way against the bureaucrats, and the representatives of the bourgeoisie in the privileged Soviet stratum were only able to usurp all power after his death. The core of Stalin’s mistakes is situated neither at the legal-political level (the Khrushchevite or Togliattist explanation) or at the level of the economic base (the Trotskyist explanation), but at the ideological-theoretical level. After the conquest of political power and the socialisation of the means of production, this level becomes the strategic domain in which everything is decided. It goes without saying that the historical and social conditions in which Stalin had to act played a role determinant enough to make certain of his mistakes inevitable, while others were not, in the sense that a leader like Lenin would not have fallen into them. As for showing how these effects in the superstructure were determined in the last analysis by the economic base, this can only be the work of future studies for which the Trotskyist schematisations are no substitute.(134)
    Nevertheless, it is possible to give some indications on this

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problem. Lenin had deliberately concentrated the Bolshevik forces in the towns to organise the working class. The latter provided the bulk of the troops who made the seizure of power possible. Recruitment in the countryside after the victory was only able to attract the more educated and ambitious well-off peasants. The rural implantation of communist cells remained, moreover, very scattered. So much so that at the time of collectivisation it was necessary to depend on groups of workers parachuted into the villages. The party being, for historical reasons, more or less cut off from the majority of the population (poor and middle peasants), its leaders were unable correctly to apply democratic centralism, the mass line, among the people and within the party (one is impossible without the other). The situation in this respect was made much worse at the time of collectivisation, which was largely forced. There can be no correct leadership without the mass line. It will be remembered that according to Lenin the downfall of the Bolshevik Party was inevitable if the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry was broken (cf. Chapter 2 above, n. 26). The subsequent evolution of the CPSU has shown that Lenin’s fears were only too well founded.
    The Chinese have clearly established the immediate causes of Stalin’s mistakes. They say:(135)

In struggles inside as well as outside the party, on certain occasions and on certain questions he confused two types of contradictions which are different in nature, contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and contradictions among the people, and also confused the different methods needed in handling them. In the work led by Stalin of suppressing the counter-revolution, many counter-revolutionaries deserving punishment were duly punished, but at the same time there were innocent people who were wrongly convicted; and in 1937 and 1938 there occurred the error of enlarging the scope of the suppression of counter-revolutionaries.

Given that Stalin did, in fact, make numerous and serious mistakes, it would be truly paradoxical if there were not some genuine revolutionary militants among those who were sent to the camps or to their deaths. Could these militants be prevented from expressing their disagreements? Certainly not, for servile submission is not the mark of a revolutionary. It is incontestable, moreover, that no one was able to develop a systematic criticism of Stalin’s mistakes without bringing repression down upon himself.
    It even happened that people who were far from being enemies and who in addition were never opposed to Stalin were oppressed all the same. There is an example of this in the ‘Peking Review’ of 24 September 1963 in which Anna Louise Strong recounts her troubles in the USSR in 1948 when she asked for authorisation to go to China, at the invitation of Chairman Mao Tse-tung: ‘Five months I kept asking for my Soviet exit visa. Then, just as Chinese friends arrived who might secure my journey, the Russians arrested me as a “spy” and sent me out through Poland. Five days in jail I wondered what I had stepped on. I never knew’.(136)
    After summing up the historical experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat on the basis of the thought of Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese communists have cast light on the other source of the

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mistakes of Stalin, whose failure lay(137)

in not recognising, on the level of theory, that classes and class struggle exist in society throughout the historical period of the dictatorship of the proletariat and that the question of who will win in the revolution has yet to be finally settled; in other words, if all this is not handled properly, there is the possibility of a come-back by the bourgeoisie.

Indeed, in his report on the Draft Constitution of the USSR presented to the 8th Congress of Soviets on 25 November 1936, Stalin declared that ‘all the exploiting classes have . . . been eliminated’ and the economic and political contradictions between the working class, peasant class and intellectuals, ‘are declining and becoming obliterated’.(138) That is why ‘The Draft of the New Constitution of the USSR proceeds from the fact that there are no longer any antagonistic classes in society; that society consists of two mutually friendly classes, the workers and peasants’.(139)
    In his report to the 18th Congress of the CP(B) on 10 March 1939, Stalin was just as categorical:(140)

The feature that distinguishes Soviet society today . . . is that it no longer contains antagonistic, hostile classes . . . liberated from the yoke of exploitation, (it) knows no such contradictions, is free of class conflicts, and presents a picture of friendly collaboration between workers, peasants and intellectuals.

In 1952, Stalin seemed to have renounced his conviction that Soviet society exhibited the image of a stable and perfect harmony. In ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR‘, he wrote:(141)

Of course, our present relations of production are in a period when they fully conform to the growth of the productive forces . . . But . . . there certainly are, and will be, contradictions, seeing that the development of the relations of production lags and will lag, behind the development of the productive forces.

If these problems were ignored, as they were by Yarashenko, ‘our relations of production might become a serious break on the further development of the productive forces’.
    Unfortunately, such considerations, correct but abstract, and belated besides, were not enough to dislodge individuals like Khrushchev who had already usurped power in certain sectors. The relations of production which Stalin spoke of here do not necessarily have a class character, since in the primitive commune as well as in the future communist society, ‘in order to produce, men enter into definite connections and relations with one another’.(142) Thus it is clear from the context that the contradictions to which Stalin was alluding do not have a class character.
    The fact that Stalin was unaware of the contradictions which can arise among the people and denied the persistence of the class struggle under socialism did not prevent these two types of contradiction from existing. Thus he was confronted by a reality which he could not think scientifically. Nevertheless, he had to tackle the difficulty in one way or another. The solution which he came up with necessarily derived from the presuppositions he had adopted. As the contradictions were not contradictions between the people and its class enemies any more than they were non-antagonistic contradictions among the people, they could not be inside Soviet society and had to result from the capitalist encirclement.

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    In a speech at the Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU on 3 March 1937, Stalin stated what seemed to him to be obvious, namely that ‘the bourgeois states would send to the rear of the Soviet Union twice and three times as many wreckers, spies, diversionists and murderers than to the rear of any bourgeois state’.(143)
    He explained (144) that ‘the Zinovievites and Trotskyites . . . have turned into a spying and diversive-terrorist agency of the German secret-police’:(145)

Restoration of capitalism, the liquidation of the collective and State farms . . . the territorial dismemberment of the Soviet Union, handing the Ukraine to the Germans and the Maritime Province to the Japanese . . . wrecking, diversion, individual terror against the leader of the Soviet power, espionage in favour of Japano-German fascist forces – such was the political platform of contemporary Trotskyism . . . It is clear the Trotskyists could not but conceal such a platform from the people, from the working class. And they concealed it not only from the Trotskyist rank and file as well, and not only from the Trotskyist rank and file, but even from the upper Trotskyist leadership.

Since practically nobody was ‘in the know’ it remains to be explained on whom Trotsky could have counted to carry out such a programme. But let us press on, for one paradox more or less does not matter. Further on, Stalin characterised Trotskyists in general as ‘an unprincipled band of wreckers devoid of ideas, diversionists, spies, murderers hired by foreign intelligence service organs’.(146)
    If these criminals were neither Trotskyist leaders nor members nor even fellow-travellers, in what sense can it be said that they were Trotskyists? The text which we quote leaves us in this quandary.
    Stalin acknowledged that the ‘Trotskyist saboteurs’ were few in number in relation to the Bolsheviks and the masses who supported them. But, he said, ‘to build the Dneprostroi requires tens of thousands of workers, but to blow it up requires perhaps a few score people, no more’. Conclusion: ‘We must see to it that there shall be none of these Trotskyist wreckers in our ranks’.(147)
    As he had emphasised at the beginning of his speech, moreover, that ‘the wrecking and diversionist-espionage activity of agents of foreign states, among whom a pretty active role was played by the Trotskyists, has affected in one degree or another nearly all our organisations – economic, administrative and party’,(148) his listeners must have taken his speech as an injunction to discover the saboteur or saboteurs, murderers, etc., concealed in their organisation.(149) There was no question, of course, of letting a single one escape with the benefit of the doubt, for it would be too dangerous. Neither was there any question of judging people by their actions. This would be the height of naïvité: ‘The real wrecker will show success in his work from time to time’,(150) and ‘the wreckers usually time their major wrecking work not for the period of peacetime but for the period on the eve of war or of wartime itself’.(151) In other words, if you showed any success in your work this proved that you were a particularly cunning wrecker and all the more

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dangerous; best to stop you immediately before you had the time to commit your ‘main act of wrecking’.
    As the enemy was a common criminal, it was the police who took charge of him and used highly persuasive methods to make him reveal the names of those who had recruited him and those whom he had himself recruited. Through this mathematically simple process, the number of arrests increased exponentially. It was no secret from anyone what ‘enlarging the scope of the suppression’ meant. Even in Stalin’s time, the official Soviet sources contained fairly clear information on the forced labour camps. The English version of ‘The forced labour code’ was available in London from 1936. In 1949, the official Soviet publications noted 120,000 detainees freed after the completion of the canal from Moscow to the Volga.(152) The coalmines at Vorkhuta, Karaganda and Tugurska mainly employed this type of labour force. The administrative arbitrariness which presided over its ‘recruitment’ emerges clearly from the Russian legislative texts themselves. These texts authorised the deportation of Soviet citizens under investigation, without judgment or time limit.(153)

In 1939, Stalin proclaimed in his report to the 18th Congress:(154) It cannot be said that the purge was not accompanied by grave mistakes. There were undoubtedly more mistakes than might have been expected. Undoubtedly, we shall have no further need of resorting to the method of mass purges.

It is undoubtedly to Stalin’s credit that he made a self-criticism in this way, but as well as revealing a tendency to understatement here, he was referring to the purge in the party of 1933-6 and not to the widespread arrests of 1936-8. On this last point, Stalin acknowledged certain mistakes implicitly and by what he did. Yezhov, who had led the purge of 1936-8, was arrested and Beria, his successor, freed many people who had been unjustly imprisoned.
    Thus, under Stalin, the different contradictions analysed rigorously by Mao Tse-tung were reduced to a single one: the one between the Soviet people and the spies, wreckers and murderers sent by the capitalist countries. There was also a single method to resolve it: police repression. The rank and file of the party and the broad masses intervened in this struggle only to approve the measures taken.(155)
    Nevertheless, in one of his speeches, Stalin did come close to a clear appreciation of the contradictions which faced him:(156)

It cannot be said that the policy of the party may not have come up against contradictions. Not only the backward people who always avoid what is new but also many prominent members of our party have systematically pulled the party backwards and striven in every possible way to put it on the ‘normal’ capitalist road of development. All these machinations of the Trotskyists and right elements directed against the party, and all their ‘activity’ to wreck the measures of our government have had only one aim: to nullify the policy of the party and to put a stop to the work of collectivisation and industrialisation.

Stalin acknowledged here that he had to struggle against political opponents and not only against common criminals, but he did not draw any theoretical or practical conclusions from this.
    It is true, nonetheless, that ‘enlarging the scope of the

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suppression’ caused a great waste of human resources which makes the French title of one of Stalin’s speeches sound rather strange: ‘L’Homme, le capital le plus précieux’ (Man, the most precious capital). In the Soviet camps, nothing was done to re-educate the internees ideologically. Their function was purely repressive. The common law was used to bully political prisoners, and the most unyielding of them were often executed. In consideration of which, Stalin could proclaim to the 18th Congress, ‘the remnants of the exploiting classes have been completely eliminated’.(157)
    As a result the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat was only conserved to ensure the defence of the country against the imperialists:(158)

We have abolished the exploiting classes; there are no longer any hostile classes in the country; there is nobody to suppress . . . the role and significance of . . . our military, punitive and intelligence organs . . . are no longer essential within the country but for the defence of the socialist land from foreign attack.

Consequently we can say that Stalin prepared the way for Khrushchev’s theory of the State of the whole people.
    This is why the latter was forced to accuse Stalin of exactly the opposite mistake. In his secret report to the 20th Congress, Khrushchev stated: ‘Stalin’s report at the February-March Central Committee Plenum in 1937 . . . contained an attempt at theoretical justification of the mass terror policy under the pretext that as we march forward to socialism, class war must allegedly sharpen’.(159)
    In his anti-Chinese book, ‘Le Problem chinois’, Garaudy invokes once again this legend invented by Khrushchev as a historical truth. He has the effrontery to claim that one of Lin Piao’s slogans ‘adopts (sic) as its ideological basis the so-called “Stalin Law” according to which the class struggle worsens after the seizure of power and the advent of socialism in proportion to the gains made’. Garaudy quotes Stalin as saying, ‘The growth of the power of the Soviet State will intensify the resistance of the last remnants of the dying classes’ (in ‘Results of the First Five-Year Plan, January 1933), and he denounces ‘this false principle which has done so much damage in the party and the state of the Soviet Union’.(160)
    Here he makes two mistakes (if we are generous and do not call them ‘lies’):

    1. The Chinese have never invoked the ‘Stalin Law’ of which Garaudy speaks as an ideological basis.
    2. Stalin did not only say or seem to say that the class struggle worsens after the ‘advent of socialism in proportion to the gains made’. He also said the opposite.

The sentence quoted by Garaudy concerns the situation immediately after the expropriation of the kulaks and refers to the last (and all the more violent) convulsions of this dying class. A few years later, the latter had already died, according to Stalin, along with the other exploiting classes.
    The report to which Khrushchev alludes is entitled (in French) ‘Pour une formation bolchevik’, and we have just quoted from it profusely to show that Stalin thought the opposite of what the ‘theoretician’ of the 20th Congress makes him say. It is true that in it we find the following passage:(161)

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The greater our progress, the greater our successes, the more embittered the remnants of the smashed exploiting classes will become, the more quickly they will resort to sharper forms of struggle, the more they will do damage to the Soviet state, the more they will clutch at the most desperate means of struggle as the last resort of the doomed. We must bear in mind that the remnants of the routed classes in the USSR are not alone. They have direct support from our enemies beyond the borders of the USSR.

Must we conclude that Stalin was contradicting himself? I do not think so. This passage is perfectly consistent with all the others I have quoted provided that it is put back carefully into the context of the report which gives it its true meaning.
    According to Stalin, the former ruling classes had been liquidated ‘as classes’, since the economic basis of the exploitation of man by man had been abolished. The individuals who were its agents continued to exist, nevertheless, as ‘remnants’. They were supported from without (capitalist encirclement). At the same time, they did not have an autonomous role but constituted one of the ‘reserves’ of Trotskyist wreckers, murderers and spies (the other reserve being recruited abroad). At the beginning of 1937, Stalin launched an appeal for the elimination of these criminal elements and one year later (as we have just seen) he felt in a position to announce their ‘final liquidation’.
    Thus one of the principal sources of what we may agree to call Stalin’s mistakes was not, as Khrushchev and Garaudy say, a belief in the worsening of the class struggle in proportion to the strengthening of the socialist state, but exactly the opposite: a misrecognition of the class struggle and the concrete forms which it assumes under socialism. This is why Stalin did not see enemies who had to be defeated ideologically and politically by the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses but only spies, murderers and wreckers to be dealt with by the police and the courts. In these conditions he could not prevent true communists being branded as fake saboteurs while false Bolsheviks who were true careerists of the Khrushchev type had access to key posts in the state.(162)
    It is now clear why Khrushchev, his acolytes and his successors have been forced to attribute to Stalin erroneous positions which were exactly the opposite to those which he actually held. They could not acknowledge the class struggle under socialism, the possibility that capitalism might be restored if the masses are not mobilised to make the revolution and defend the dictatorship of the proletariat or restore it in all the sectors where power has been usurped by leaders taking the capitalist road. Could they hold out for a single day if a broad democracy was established, if the 240 million people were transformed into 240 million critics? There is nothing the revisionist magnates dread so much as the cultural revolution. The aim of condemning Stalin’s methods is to ensure a minimum of security and stability for the leading stratum. At the same time, the latter have to propagate an ideology of the withering away of the class struggle in order to camouflage the dismantling of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the restoration of capitalism that they have achieved. In order to lay a solid basis for its dictatorship, the new bourgeoisie, like the old, needs to

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claim that its state represents the general interest. In the name of the latter those who revolt can be struck down. The masses are completely disarmed ideologically; Marxism-Leninism loses all practical revolutionary significance and in this way the perpetuity of the system is ensured. Such is the function of that theoretical chimera: ‘the state of the whole people’.
    The French revisionists should explain to us how it is that the Soviet state of the whole people was able to invade Czechoslovakia. Did not Marx say that a people which oppresses another cannot be free?

When one considers Stalin’s mistakes as a whole, one begins to wonder: how were such things possible, even under the dictatorship of the proletariat? The reply to this question conditions the one I shall give to the problem of the degeneration of this power into Khrushchevite despotism, into the dictatorship of a new bourgeoisie.
    The Chinese communists have also been very clear on this point. Khrushchevite revisionism, which undertook the restoration of capitalism in the USSR, did not emerge fully armed from the 20th Congress. The terrain had been prepared for it under Stalin:

After the establishment of socialist relations of production, the Soviet Union failed to carry out a proletarian cultural revolution in earnest. Bourgeois ideology ran rife, corrupting the minds of the people and almost imperceptibly undermining the socialist relations of production. After the death of Stalin, there was a more blatant counter-revolutionary moulding of public opinion by the Khrushchev revisionist group.

The 20th Congress and the elimination of the so-called ‘anti-party group’ in June 1957 were decisive stages in this process. ‘And (Khrushchev’s) group soon afterwards staged its “palace” coup to subvert the dictatorship of the proletariat and usurped party, military and government power.’(163)
    The cultural revolution which unfolds in the superstructural domain was unthinkable in Stalin’s time, among other things because for him it was without an object. In ‘Concerning Marxism and [in] Linguistics‘, he laid it down as a principle of historical materialism that the superstructure disappears with the economic base that engendered it.(164) But he believed that ‘in the main we have already achieved the first phase of communism, socialism’ in the USSR even before 1936, as he declared in his report on the Draft Constitution.(165)
    Since we are granting that Stalin made a number of serious mistakes which helped to prepare the way for Khrushchevite revisionism, must we acknowledge courage and lucidity in those who condemned him publicly in his lifetime? I do not think so at all, for the following reason.
    The proletariat needed a revolutionary scientific analysis, not a moralistic denunciation quite within the powers of the bourgeoisie. But Trotsky shared the theoretical premises from which Stalin’s mistakes sprang. Both reduced the construction of socialism to the development of the material productive forces; both denied the possibility of a bourgeoisie without private ownership of the means of production; neither recognised the distinction between

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antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions among the people and between the people and its enemies. Taking up the same terrain, posing the same false problems, they differed only in their solutions. For one, the enemy was the ‘Bonapartist bureaucracy’; for the other, ‘the agents dispatched by encircling capitalism’.
    In ‘The Revolution Betrayed’, Trotsky invoked a number of accurate facts relating to the trials, the camps, etc., but the ‘facts’ do not speak for themselves: otherwise, what need would there be for a science? Anti-communists pronounced the same ‘truths’ as Trotsky and for them they were a justification for anti-communism. Ernest Mandel has argued against us in a debate that the difference lay in the fact that the bourgeois publicists never criticised inequality. How naïve! To take only one example, Arthur Koestler waxes indignant in ‘The Yogi and the Commissar’ about the enormous disparities in income in the USSR. The ideological spokesmen of reaction have always considered it quite fair to attack revolutionaries for not carrying out their principles in practice. Isaac Deutscher himself conceded that ‘The Revolution Betrayed’ has been a mine of arguments for the ‘”Sovietologists” and propagandists of the cold war’.(166) No more than the latter can the Trotskyists presume on their precocious lucidity vis-à-vis Stalin because they lacked the first (and indissociable) conditions of a well-founded critique: revolutionary practice and scientific theory. The same goes for the other categories of opponents.
    Horrified by the violent police repression of all critical opinion even when it arose from contradictions among the people, numerous unstable intellectuals and disillusioned cadres denounced ‘Stalinism’, but in doing so they lapsed into a pre-Marxist position, adopting an ethical and humanist point of view.(167) They called for a freedom above classes; hence, in fact, the freedom for the bourgeoisie to oppress the workers ideologically and politically. Like Trotsky, Merleau-Ponty jeered at the ‘intellectuals in retreat’ and the ‘league of abandoned hopes’ but he himself demanded of them that they try to ‘map out in spite of everything a path leading to a humanism for all men’.(168) In fact, only the proletariat can, by liberating itself, liberate all humanity. It is not by abandoning the outlook of the revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat that one will be able to ‘map out a path leading to a humanism for all men’. The interest of ‘all men’ remains a hypocritical camouflage for bourgeois interests as long as classes continue and society has not effected its transition to the higher stage of communism.
    If these intellectuals were traitors, it is by no means for having criticised some policy or leader but for turning up on the other side of the barricade, against the people. Not all of them have become aware of this change in their class position and most did not wish it. However, it was inevitable not only because there is no third road but also for another reason that is rarely suspected: even the best among them, those who had participated in the revolutionary struggle in responsible positions, were only party officials; their links with the masses were mediated by the party apparatus. Once removed from this apparatus, they were cut off from the masses because in fact they had never been linked to them. It was possible not to follow Stalin slavishly in his mistakes without

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degenerating into a class enemy provided that one remained linked to the masses and learned with them to serve the people and further their fundamental interest, the liberating revolution. Mao Tse-tung and his comrades, who did not always agree with the leadership of their party or with Stalin, did just this. While applying themselves to correcting both the latter’s mistakes in practice, they were careful not to make trenchant judgments of them or to make any public condemnation, considering that this could only provoke splits and help the enemy without being of any use to the people.

Nevertheless, it is true that under Stalin the position of intellectuals, even those who strived to assimilate historical materialism, was not exactly an easy one. On the one hand, they more or less confusedly recognised (through their effects) the mistakes of Stalin which we have just discussed. On the other hand, they were more especially sensitive to certain deviations on the level of proletarian policy with respect to science and culture which Stalin, great Marxist-Leninist though he was, had not been able to avoid.(169) I am thinking particularly of the inept criticisms made of relativity theory, cybernetics and classical genetics after 1945. In these cases there was confusion between the scientific theories, not questionable as such, and the philosophical interpretations which were supposedly deduced from them by reactionary scientists or philosophers eager to pass off their idealist rubbish under a guaranteed scientific wrapping. Stalin and Zhdanov fell into the trap that Lenin had revealed in ‘Materialism and Empirio-Criticism‘. Lysenko, who had the benefit of their support although his ideas were, to say the least, debatable, was able to reduce his critics to silence at the extraordinary session of the Academy of Agricultural Sciences in August 1948 by proclaiming that the Central Committee had ‘examined and approved’ his report (!). After Stalin’s death, Khrushchev came to his aid (particularly in April 1957) and revived the marks of official support which he desperately needed after the costly failure of the attempts to sow winter corn in Siberia in accordance with his ideas.
    Michurin and his disciple Lysenko claimed to be developing Darwin’s theory, but in fact their doctrine was an avatar of Lamarckianism. They gave undue prominence to teleological explanations and denied the struggle for existence within the same (particularly vegetable) species. They argued, above all, for the heredity of characteristics acquired through environmental influence, rejecting the distinction between germen and soma. This teaching was not dialectical-materialist and advances in the science were made by a different route. Our steadily growing knowledge of chromosomes and genes, the great discoveries of molecular biology, more especially that of DNA, enable us today to glimpse the concrete possibility of modifying the hereditary patrimony of the species according to our needs. Nature is only governed by obeying it.
    Yet in 1962, Garaudy praised Lysenko for having put forward ‘the fruitful idea of transporting transformism onto the experimental level’.(170) In fact, the same relation existed between Lysenko’s ‘works’ and future discoveries in experimental transformism as between the transmutation of elements which the alchemists claimed

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to perform and those which take place in an atomic pile or particle accelerator.
    As a result of the controversy about Michurinism, communist scientists like Haldane (in England) and Prenant (in France) were estranged from the party and later degenerated more or less.
    In China, on the other hand, the Central Committee has never been seen to use its authority to settle a debate between scientists about questions within their sphere of competence and Mao Tse-tung has criticised those of his comrades who ‘interfere in certain matters in scientific and cultural work where interference is unwarranted’.(171)
    Intervening in the 1947 debate, Zhdanov had correctly emphasised the necessity for a class point of view and the party spirit in philosophy. It may be that, unfortunately, in doing so, he did not sufficiently warn against an immediately political (and therefore simplistic and non-dialectical) reading of contributions to the sciences and arts without consideration of the appropriate scientific or aesthetic criteria. It was at this time that the erroneous idea of distinguishing between a ‘bourgeois science’ and a ‘proletarian science’ gained ground – as if it was not obvious that the natural sciences taken in themselves can indiscriminately serve either of the classes, both of which have the same interest in knowing the laws of nature in order to dominate it. In 1950, Stalin put an end to these mistaken ideas by stating vis-à-vis the object of linguistics a truth which can be generalised (‘a fortiori’) to the objects of the other sciences:(172)

As a means of intercourse between the people of a society, language serves all classes of that society equally, and in this respect plays what may be called an indifference to classes. But . . . the classes are far from being indifferent to language. He also recalled that ‘no science can develop and flourish without a battle of opinions, without freedom of criticism’, because ‘this rule (has been) ignored and flouted in the most unceremonious fashion’.(173)

The Trotskyists and revisionists have enleagued to accuse the Chinese communists of being ‘Stalinists’, not in the sense in which this is actually true but in order to attribute to them the aim of ‘imposing on other parties the order of things, ideology, morals, forms and methods of leadership which were dominant during the period of the personality cult’.(174) But the most radical refutation of these methods is to be found in the practice of the Chinese Communist Party and in Mao’s writings, more especially in that entitled ‘On the correct handling of contradictions among the people’. There Mao states that the party ‘must necessarily let the people take part in political activities’, that that is how they can educate themselves, that differences must be resolved ‘through criticism or struggle’ and that it is permissible to criticise even Marxism.(175) It is clear that on all these points Mao takes an opposite view to the ideas and especially to the practice in force under Stalin. Is not the principle: ‘Cure the sickness to save the patient’ the opposite to that of curing the sickness by killing the patient which was tacitly applied in Stalin’s time as a result of confusion between methods which may be necessary in the struggle against enemies with those which are appropriate for disagreements

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with comrades or class brothers? When Mao writes, ‘Communists must always go into the whys and wherefores of anything, use their own heads and carefully think over whether or not it corresponds to reality and is really well-founded; on no account should they follow blindly and encourage slavishness’,(176) he is stating a principle which seems quite new to those who have long been activists in parties trained by Stalin. Just think: to exercise one’s critical faculties with regard to the decisions of the party’s leading bodies!
    In short, Stalin had not ensured the collective participation of the people in political activity. The ease with which the Khrushchevites usurped power has no other explanation.
    Mao Tse-tung has always fought attempts to introduce into China Soviet ideas about the army or the party in its internal functioning and its relations with the masses.
    The Soviet Red Army knew discipline but not democracy. Exorbitant material privileges were introduced into it to the advantage of the officers and especially the generals. Glittering decorations, gold-laced uniforms, rolling drums and other masquerades contributed to the glorification of the higher ranks, setting them above the simple soldiers. The memory of the strategists of Tsarist feudalism, the Suvarovs and the Kutuzovs were exalted. The factors considered primordial were military, material and technical competence, not proletarian political consciousness. The military hardly ever participated in productive labour; in these conditions, the Red Army was too much like a bourgeois army to correspond to its concept.
    For ten years, under Soviet influence, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army conformed to this model, but since 1960 it has reverted to the Yenan tradition in order to be a true People’s Army. For this it was necessary to turn against the ideas which had prevailed beforehand.
    Stalin tended to believe that, in the elaboration of the political line, one had to start from the leaders so as to return to the leaders. Mao’s emphasis is quite different: one must start from the masses so as to return to the masses. This means in particular that the party is under the control of the masses and not the opposite.
    To strengthen vigilance in the face of the secret machinations of the enemy, Stalin had instituted ‘ideological relations’ and a whole system of surveillance which, in practice, far from unmasking the careerists, afforded them new possibilities for getting rid of ‘intruders’ by means of gossip and informing. It was presumably by means of this sort that individuals like Khrushchev succeeded in climbing into the higher echelons of the party. When Liu Shao-chi and his deputy An Tse-wen introduced these Moscow methods into China in the 1940s, Mao opposed them.
    With the great proletarian cultural revolution, the novelty of Mao’s teaching stood out with the maximum of force and clarity and transformed itself into a hurricane which swept away the old ideas, the old customs, the old fetishes. This unprecedented revolution radiates its liberating ideology throughout the world. It has profoundly changed our image of socialism, which used to bear the imprint of the Russian experience with all its negative aspects uncriticised, and in a sense hitherto uncriticisable.





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(The following abbreviations occur in the notes that follow: CW = ‘Collected Works’; SW = ‘Selected Works’.) 


La Révolution défigurée, ‘De la Révolution’, p. 111.    [p. 1]


Cf., for example, the way they are used by Pierre Broué in ‘Le Parti bolchevique’, and by Livio Maïtan in his report on the cultural revolution in China to the 9th Congress of the Fourth International (Documents of the World Congress of the Fourth International, ‘Intercontinental Press’, vol. 7, no. 26, 14 July 1969).    [p. 2]


Cf. ‘Le Discours de la guerre’.    [p. 2]


‘Origins of the Chinese Revolution’, pp. 78-9.    [p. 2]


Even before the publication of ‘Lessons of October’ in October 1924, the journal ‘Bolshevik’, criticising Trotsky’s articles, correctly pointed out that ‘Comrade Trotsky evokes Lenin’s lifelong comrades, those who constituted the basic cadre of Bolshevism, only in so far as it is essential to recall their mistakes’. (Quoted by P. and I. Sorlin, ‘Lénine, Trotsky, Staline, 1921-1927′.)    [p. 4]


Pierre Naville, ‘Le Monde’, 5 April 1969.    [p. 4]


Figuères draws uncritically on the anti-Trotskyist literature of the Stalin era. In this case his source is the collection ‘Trotsky et le trotskysme’, published in 1937 by the PCF.    [p. 5]




For a party to ‘lead’ a revolutionary movement its authority does not have to be acknowledged by its allies. It is necessary and sufficient that its line be consistent and its slogans correct, in accordance with the interests and wishes of the masses, and apt to unite all those who can be united against the principal enemy. Its partners are then compelled to follow it to a certain extent. When they do not, they become isolated and their influence declines owing to the fact that the party
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  practises a policy of unity and struggle towards them, supporting them to the extent that they oppose the common enemy, criticising them in so far as they incline towards a compromise. For example, the policy of the anti-Japanese united front in China aimed less at unity with Chiang Kai-shek than at mobilising the broad masses around communist slogans. Cf. Han Suyin, ‘The Morning Deluge’, p. 391.
[p. 16]


Marx and Engels, SW, vol. 1, p. 282; Die Klassenkämpfe in Frankreich, Marx and Engels, ‘Werke’, Bd 7, pp. 89-90.    [p. 16]


’1905′, p. 55.    [p. 16]


Cf. Trotsky, The permanent revolution, in ‘The Permanent Revolution’, p. 60.    [p. 17]


Ibid., p. 60.    [p. 19]


Ibid., p. 77.    [p. 20]


Lenin, CW, vol. 9, p. 56.    [p. 20]


‘Results and Prospects’, p. 212.    [p. 21]


Ibid., p. 201.    [p. 21]


According to Trotsky this is the title of a pamphlet whose author was Parvus, ibid., p. 42.    [p. 21]


CW, vol. 9, p. 25.    [p. 21]


Ibid., p. 24.    [p. 21]


‘The Permanent Revolution’, p. 4.    [p. 21]


According to Lenin, this formula makes provision only for a rapport between the classes, not for a political institution that brings about that rapport, that collaboration. Cf. CW, vol. 9.    [p. 21]


CW, vol. 9, p. 46. By petty bourgeois Lenin meant small independent producers; particularly, therefore, peasant small-holders.    [p. 21]


Ibid., vol. 15, p. 60.    [p. 21]


Ibid., p. 373.    [p. 21]


Ibid., vol. 24, p. 47.    [p. 22]


Ibid., p. 49.    [p. 22]


27 April 1917; ibid., p. 142.    [p. 22]


Isaac Deutscher, ‘Stalin’, p. 284; Pierre Broué, ‘Le Parti bolchevique’, p. 83.  [p. 22]


CW, vol. 24, p. 150.    [p. 22]


Lenin, The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky, SW, vol. 3, p. 138.    [p. 22]


‘Stalin’, pp. 283-4.    [p. 22]


‘Two Tactics of Social Democracy’, CW, vol. 9, pp. 84-5.    [p. 23]


‘Stalin’, pp. 283-4.    [p. 23]


E. Mandel, ‘The Leninist Theory of Organisation’, p. 22.    [p. 23]


March 1909; CW, vol. 15, p. 371.    [p. 23]


Bourgeois transformations can be carried out by a feudal power (as was the case at the time of so-called primitive accumulation in England, and in Germany under Bismarck) or by a proletarian power (as was the case from October 1917 to July 1918 in Russia, and in China from 1947 to 1952).    [p. 23]


In numerous passages of the book he describes it as ‘backwards’, ‘primitive’, etc. Now the Chinese peasants were no less so, and yet Mao talks of them with the greatest admiration on account of their revolutionary spirit. ‘The eye of the peasant is clear,’ he has said. Judging by the number of peasant insurrections in

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  the second half of the nineteenth century (roughly 500 per decade) one can conclude that the Russian peasants were just as revolutionary.    [p. 24]


Our differences, article in ’1905′, p. 316.    [p. 24]


‘Two Tactics of Social Democracy’, CW, vol. 9, p. 60.    [p. 24]


Ibid., vol. 15, p. 374.    [p. 24]


Trotsky distinguished these two stages, ‘in principle’, ‘in theory’, just as he distinguished the minimum programme from the maximum programme. But apart from the fact that for him this distinction disappears at the moment of the seizure of power, it was not reflected in his propaganda and his choice of slogans: and with good reason. In his book ’1905′ he cited Lassalle, who had drawn from the events of 1848-9 ‘the unshakable conviction that no struggle in Europe can be successful unless, from the very start, it declares itself to be purely socialist’ (’1905′, p. 55). The experience of revolutionary struggles since the beginning of the century would rather warrant the opposite axiom.    [p. 24]


Quoted by Stalin in The October Revolution and the tactics of the Russian communists, in ‘Problems of Leninism’, vol. 1, p. 185. See also Lenin’s ‘Testament’, in which it is said: ‘Our party relies on two classes and therefore its instability would be possible and its downfall inevitable if there were no agreement between these two classes’ (CW, vol. 36, p. 594).    [p. 24]


‘The Permanent Revoultion’ and ‘Results and Prospects’, pp. 241, 247.    [p. 25]


Ibid., p. 247.    [p. 25]


Ibid., p. 237.    [p. 25]


Ibid., p. 247.    [p. 26]


Quoted by Stalin in The October Revolution and the tactics of the Russian communists, in ‘Problems of Leninism’, vol. 1, p. 193.    [p. 26]


Speech at the 14th Conference of the Communist Party of the USSR in a special number of ‘Cahiers du bolchevisme’, December 1926, p. 207, quoted by Léo Figuères, ‘Le Trotskysme cet anti-léninisme’, p. 160.    [p. 26]


At the same time he was relying on the victory of the proletarian revolution in one or several European countries. The defeat of the Red Army before Warsaw made him understand that henceforth the Soviet Union would have to rely above all on its own forces.    [p. 26]


Preface to ’1905′, 1st ed., 12 January 1922, pp. vi-vii.    [p. 26]


‘Speech to the Plenary Assembly of the Moscow Soviet’, 20 November 1922, CW, vol. 33, p. 443.    [p. 27]


Lenin, SW, vol. 3, p. 814. It concerned the article ‘On co-operation’ dictated on 4 January 1923; the latter was the most important of those in which Lenin touched on the problem of the construction of socialism in the USSR.   [p. 27]


‘The Third International after Lenin’, pp. 31-5.    [p. 27]


Lenin, SW, vol. 3, p. 816.    [p. 28]


‘Problems of Leninism’, pp. 158-162.    [p. 28]


‘New Left Review’, no. 47, January-February 1968, p. 42.    [p. 28]


Stalin was also wrong to argue that the possibility of constructing socialism in one country had always been acknowledged by the party.    [p. 28]
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‘The Permanent Revolution’, p. 22.    [p. 29]


Ibid., pp. 156-7.    [p. 29]


Ibid., pp. 26-27.    [p. 30]


Cf., below, ‘The fundamental traits of Trotskyism’.    [p. 30]


‘The Permanent Revolution’, p. 28. In ‘The Third International after Lenin’, Trotsky spoke of ‘the indissolubility of the economic and political ties between capitalist countries’, which is supposed to be the basis of his thesis that ‘the way out of these contradictions which will befall the proletarian dictatorship in a backward country, surrounded by a world of capitalist enemies, will be found in the arena of world revolution’ (op. cit., p. 40). According to him, the victorious proletariat cannot break these links and the danger to its power comes less from the threat of military intervention than from the ‘pressure of cheap commodities’; ‘a Ford tractor is just as dangerous as a Creusot gun’ (ibid., p. 48).    [p. 30]


Nicolas Krassó, Reply to Ernest Mandel, ‘New Left Review’, no. 48, 1968.    [p. 31]


‘Problems of Leninism’, p. 122. Nicolas Krassó’s critique of Trotsky contains some interesting ideas but – it seems to one – the author remains in the grip of certain Trotskyist prejudices. Thus he writes: ‘Stalin effectively wrote off the possibility of international revolutions, and made the construction of socialism in one country the exclusive task’ (‘New Left Review’, no. 44, July-August 1967, p. 79). Krassó admires, moreover, the ‘magnitude’ of Trotsky’s ‘achievement in correctly forecasting the basic nature of the October Revolution’. We have seen what must be thought of this.    [p. 31]


Giuliano Procacci (ed.), ‘Staline contre Trotsky’, p. 155.    [p. 31]


K. Marx, ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’ (Marx and Engels, SW, vol. 3). In current usage, ‘communism’ designates the higher stage and ‘socialism’ the lower stage.    [p. 32]


Interview in ‘The Times’, 25 September 1946, quoted by Fernando Claudin in ‘La Crise du mouvement communiste’, vol. 2, p. 684. Claudin is mistaken in arguing that Stalin had not formulated this thesis before 1946.    [p. 32]


‘Economic problems of socialism in the USSR’, in SW, pp. 357, 358.  [p. 33]


Ibid., p. 330. Let us notice that Stalin identified the difference between town and country with the difference between agriculture and industry’ (Ibid., p. 332.)    [p. 33]


Moscow 1969, p. 352.    [p. 33]


Napoleon, quoted by Lenin, SW, vol. 3, p. 823. The principle of ‘independence, autonomy and self-reliance’ is abominated by the Trotskyists. By holding firmly to it the Chinese have been able to lay the bases of a modern industrial system and powerfully to develop their economy without falling into the power of imperialism or social imperialism. This is the only country in the world with an internal and external debt equal to zero.    [p. 34]


Quoted in Lin Piao’s Report to the 9th Congress of the CCP.    [p. 34]


Ibid.    [p. 34]


French leaders of the Fourth International.    [p. 35]


This debate took place on 19 February 1964. The interventions have been published in the ‘Cahiers du centre d’études socialistes’, nos. 52, 53, January 1965.    [p. 35]

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Stuart Schram, ‘Documents sur la théorie de la “révolution permanent” en Chine’, Introduction. In contrast, Enrica Collotti-Pischel was correct to conform to the usage of the Peking translators, who distinguish in words what is distinguishable in meaning and entitled her book, ‘La Révolution ininterrompue’ (Paris, 1964) thus giving primacy to politics over philology.  [p. 35]


‘The Permanent Revolution’, p. 116.    [p. 35]


The facts have contradicted this prognosis of Trotsky.    [p. 35]


‘The Chinese revolution and the Chinese Communist Party’, SW, vol. 2, pp. 330-1.    [p. 35]


For Mao Tse-tung this term includes agricultural labourers, semi-proletarian poor peasants and middle peasants.    [p. 36]


Revolutionary classes as a whole at a given stage.    [p. 36]


Mao Tse-tung, ‘On the correct handling of contradictions among the people’, ‘Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-tung’.    [p. 37]


See Chapter 6, below.    [p. 37]


‘The Permanent Revolution’, pp. 155-6.    [p. 37]


Ibid., p. 156.    [p. 37]


‘The Polemic of the General Line of the International Communist Movement’, p. 203.    [p. 38]


Ibid., p. 202.    [p. 38]


If we add his underestimation of the peasantry, the accusation of Menshevism which Stalin made against him may be deemed less unfair.    [p. 38]


L. Althusser, ‘For Marx’, p. 98.    [p. 39]


‘The Permanent Revolution’, p. 9.    [p. 39]


Marx’s letter to Engels, 10 December 1869, quoted by Hélène Carrère d’Encausse and Stuart R. Schram in ‘Marxism and Asia’, p. 121.    [p. 39]


Mao Tse-tung, On the correct handling of contradictions among the people, in ‘Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-tung’, p. 358.    [p. 39]




‘In Defence of Marxism’, p. 49.    [p. 41]


Quoted by Karl Korsch in Die alte Hegelsche Dialektik und die neue materialistische Wissenschaft, ‘Der Gegner’, 1932.    [p. 41]


Considerations of these displacements makes it possible to pose the problem of periodisation in history correctly.    [p. 42]


The trade unions, the present situation and Trotsky’s mistakes‘ (Lenin, CW, vol. 32).    [p. 42]


Cf. Isaac Deutscher, ‘The Prophet Armed’, p. 375.    [p. 42]


Cf. ibid., pp. 378-9.    [p. 42]


Lenin, CW, vol. 36, p. 595.    [p. 43]


Ibid., p. 595.    [p. 44]


Isaac Deutscher, ‘The Prophet Armed’, p. 497.    [p. 44]


Ibid., p. 499.    [p. 44]


Ibid., p. 501.    [p. 44]


SW, vol. 3, pp. 573-5. [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s “Once Again on the Trade Unions. The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin,” pp. 83-84. — DJR] Elsewhere, Lenin declared that ‘Trotsky made a number of mistakes bearing on the very essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat’ (‘The trade unions, the present situation and Trotsky’s mistakes’, Lenin, CW, vol. 32, p. 22.).    [p. 44]
page 218 


Lenin, CW, vol. 35, p. 475.    [p. 45]


The paragraph which follows is a summary of the second part of ‘Considérations quasiment épistémologiques’, R. Linhart’s Introduction to ‘Documents des cahiers marxistes-leninistes’, 1965.    [p. 45]


Among the first measures taken by the popular power in China were those which aimed at creating a healthy currency and the stabilisation of prices. These results were achieved by March 1950.    [p. 47]


‘The Prophet Outcast’, p. 126.    [p. 49]


Ibid., p. 110. According to E. Mandel (‘New Left Review’, no. 47) the Opposition proposed as an alternative to collectivisation: a special tax on the rich peasants and the reduction of administrative expenses (!).    [p. 49]


‘Problems of Leninism’, vol. 2, pp. 423-4. [Transcriber’s Note: See Stalin’s “The Tasks of Economic Executives,” pp. 527-529. — DJR] Despite what Poulantzas asserts in ‘Fascisme et dictature’ (246), this argument does not imply any thesis of ‘the impossibility of the revolution in Europe for a long time’, but only that it was essential not to act as if its victory was certain. According to Stalin it was essential not to rely on it but to act in such a way as to face up to the least favourable eventuality: that of an impending war.    [p. 49]


‘La Proclamation programme des communistes bolcheviqes révolutionnaires soviétiques’, Lyon, 1969, considers that all Stalin’s mistakes belong to this latter category.    [p. 49]


Speech delivered at the First All-Union Congress of Collective-Farm Shock Brigaders, 11 February 1933, ‘Works’, vol. 13, p. 259    [p. 50]


Mosche Lewin, ‘La Paysannerie et le pouvoir sovietique, 1928-30′, as well as Merle Fainsod, ‘Smolensk à l’heure de Staline’, a work which uses the Smolensk archives covering the period 1917-38. See particularly pp. 205-12, Stalin and Molotov’s letter of 8 May 1933 (pp. 212-14) which condemned ‘the ill- considered and widespread arrests in the countryside’ and ‘Histoire de la collectivisation’, Chapter 12.    [p. 50]


Lenin to the 11th Congress, CW, vol. 33, p. 283 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s Eleventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.). — DJR], quoted by R. Linhart, La NEP: analyse de quelques caracteristiques de la phase de transition sovietique, ‘Etudes de planification socialiste’, no. 3, March 1966.    [p. 50]


This is also Deutscher’s view: ‘The Prophet Outcast’, p. 108.    [p. 50]


‘The Prophet Armed’, p. 515.    [p. 50]


‘The Prophet Unarmed’, p. 101.    [p. 51]


‘The New Economics’, pp. 81-2.    [p. 51]


‘The Prophet Unarmed’, p. 43.    [p. 51]


Quoted by Deutscher, ibid., p. 44.    [p. 51]


‘Capital’, vol. 1, p. 714.    [p. 51]


Ibid., p. 714.    [p. 51]


Ibid., p. 766.    [p. 52]


Op. cit. As Australia at that time was a virgin continent, the workers preferred to establish themselves as independent farmers on lands that did not belong to anybody instead of submitting to wage slavery in the service of Mr Peel.  [p. 52]


Cf. Charles Bettelheim, Due tipi di accumulazione, ‘Il Manifesto’, no. 5, May 1970. Published in French in ‘Les Temps modernes’, August-September 1970. [p. 53]

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Quoted by L. Trotsky in Rapport de la délégation sibérienne, ‘Spartacus’, January-February 1970, p. 88. (See also ‘The Prophet Armed’, p. 45.)    [p. 54]


I. Deutscher, ‘The Prophet Armed’, p. 76.    [p. 54]


Ibid., p. 90.    [p. 55]


Ibid., p. 92.    [p. 55]


In 1906, ‘Rosa practically identified party and masses’ (Irène Petit in ‘Politique aujourd’hui’, September 1972). Cf. also Nicolas Krassó, Trotsky’s Marxism, ‘New Left Review’, no. 44, July-August 1967. The passage quoted above concerning substitutionism is from ‘Nos tâum;ches politiques’, p. 128. On Trotsky’s spontaneism cf. ibid., pp. 125, 188.    [p. 55]


Deutscher, op. cit., p. 92.    [p. 55]


Once Again on the Trade Unions‘, SW, vol. 3, p. 579.    [p. 55]


The trade unions, the present situation and Trotsky’s mistakes‘, Lenin, CW, vol. 32.    [p. 55]


‘Once Again on the Trade Unions’, loc cit., pp. 566, 588.    [p. 56]


Central Commissariat of Transport.    [p. 56]


In 1922 and 1923 he had rejected Lenin’s insistent and repeated proposals that he should be appointed Vice-President of the Council of Peoples’ Commissars, and that because there had to be two others: Rykov and Kamenev.    [p. 56]


From the moment when Trotsky entered into opposition to the Central Committee with ‘The New Course’ (end of 1923) until his exile (end of 1927), he and his supporters were able to publish articles and speeches in the press. Despite or perhaps because of this, he was totally discredited in the eyes of communist militants and of public opinion at the end of this period. The masses have more judgment than is often thought and a polemicist’s talent is not enough to make a weak argument strong.    [p. 56]


‘The Prophet Unarmed’, p. 91.    [p. 56]


Cf. above ‘Planning and NEP’.    [p. 56]


Lenin himself was not mistaken. In numerous texts he expressed himself in extremely eulogistic terms about Stalin, ‘the marvellous Georgian’, and in his Testament he said of him that together with Trotsky he was the most prominent member of the Central Committee. In contrast, Trotsky held his rival in contempt and right until the end treated him as a ‘dull mediocrity’.    [p. 56]


At the 13th Congress (May 1924), Trotsky had acknowledged this, declaring: ‘The allegation that I am in favour of permitting groupings is incorrect . . . It is impossible to make any distinctions between a faction and a grouping’ (‘The Prophet Unarmed’, p. 139).    [p. 57]


In Mao’s texts there is no question of democratic centralism except ‘among the people’. A corollary of this is the supervision exercised over the Communist Party ‘by the working people and the party membership’, as well as other ‘democratic parties’ (On the correct handling of contradictions among the people, ‘Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-tung’, P. 380).  [p. 57]
page 220 


‘In Defence of Marxism’, p. 101.    [p. 57]


‘Cahiers Rouges’, no. 3, Paris, 1969, p. 35. The same E. Mandel repeats in ‘Actualité de la théorie léniniste de l’organisation . . .’ (1971) that the prohibition of factions announced by the 10th Congress at Lenin’s instigation ‘was a mistake’. The fact that from about 1929 the prohibition of factions served as a pretext for prohibiting the expression of differences on opinion proves Stalin wrong, perhaps, but not Lenin.    [p. 58]


‘In Defence of Marxism’, p. 97.    [p. 58]


Ibid., pp. 207, 211.    [p. 58]


Some questions concerning methods of leadership‘, SW, vol. 3, p. 119.  [p. 58]


‘On the correct handling of contradictions among the people’, loc. cit., p. 355.    [p. 58]


Mao Tse-tung, SW, vol. 4, p. 232 [Transcriber’s Note: See Mao’s “Speech at a Conference of Cadres in the Shansi-Suiyuan Liberated Area“. — DJR].  [p. 59]


Cf. Chapters 11, 12, 16 of ‘Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung‘, the Decision in Sixteen Points of 1966 (in J. Robinson, ‘The Cultural Revolution in China’, p. 84), as well as the rules of the Chinese Communist Party adopted by the 9th Congress.    [p. 59]


‘Talks and writings of Chairman Mao’, Translations on Communist China, no. 128, Joint Publications Research Service, 21 December 1970.    [p. 60]


Mao Tse-tung, ‘On the correct handling of contradictions among the people’, loc. cit., p. 354.    [p. 60]


Ibid., p. 374.    [p. 60]


SW, vol. 3, p. 580. [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s “Once Again on the Trade Unions,” p. 86. — DJR]    [p. 60]


Lenin, SW, vol. 3, p. 571.    [p. 61]


‘Nos tâum;ches politiques’, p. 128. However, Rosa Luxemburg did not always deny the necessity of an organised vanguard and a leadership. In 1906, she partially went back on the criticisms which she had directed at Lenin in 1904. Neither must it be forgotten that in 1919 she founded the German Communist Party and called for an International to function as a centralised party of the world revolution.    [p. 61]


‘Nos tâum;ches politiques’, p. 125.    [p. 61]


The ‘Communist Manifesto‘ evoked ‘a portion of the bourgeois ideologists who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole’ (Marx and Engels, SW, vol. 1, p. 117). [p. 61]


CW, vol. 6, pp. 490-1. Let us note, moreover, that the precepts concerning the necessity of a party of professional revolutionaries and the restriction of internal democracy were linked to the conditions of clandestine work. Lenin abandoned them as soon as the 1905 revolution made legal activity possible.    [p. 61]


‘Works’, vol. 1, p. 99.    [p. 61]


All on his own Ernest Mandel has discovered this idea of the brilliant Stalin, whom he has not read, since he does not give him his due. Cf. ‘The Leninist Theory of Organisation’.    [p. 61]


Stalin, ‘Works’, vol. 1, pp. 162-74 [Transcriber’s Note: See Stalin’s “A Reply to Social-Democrat“. — DJR]; [Lenin,] CW, vol. 9, p. 388 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s “‘The Struggle of the Proletariat’“. — DJR].    [p. 62]


CW, vol. 8, pp. 92-3 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s “The St. Petersburg Strike“. — DJR].    [p. 62]


Ibid., vol. 11, pp. 172-3 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s “Lessons of the Moscow Uprising“. — DJR].    [p. 62]

page 221



Ibid., vol. 10, p. 32 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s “The Reorganisation of the Party“. — DJR].    [p. 62]


Op. cit., supplement to ‘Rouge’, no. 167, p. 11.    [p. 63]


Quoted by Yvan Craipeau, in ‘Le Mouvement trotskyste en France’, p. 196.    [p. 63]


Ibid., p. 14. Mandel confuses agitation, which is carried out around a few slogans for action aimed at a large number of people, and propaganda, whose purpose is to inculcate many ideas to fewer people; that is, to educate politically the most advanced elements of the masses. Propaganda is concerned with popularising the programme (and the general principles of Marxism-Leninism).    [p. 63]


This is what the programme is. To draw up a mixture of more or less vague and abstract generalities is within the reach of every organisation that wants to suggest that it has solved all the problems. The political line is the ensemble of tasks, particular measures and methods of work aimed at achieving objectives in the immediate and middle term. An organisation always explicitly or implicitly has such a line orienting its practice. A programme, on the other hand, presupposes, if it is to be seriously established, that the organisation has reached a certain level in its development. Let us remember that Lenin was opposed to the programme which was drawn up by Plekhanov and adopted by the 2nd Congress because it was too general.    [p. 63]


Speech at the 8th Congress, CW, vol. 29, p. 155 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s Eighth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.). — DJR].    [p. 64]


An allusion to the materialist definition of freedom as knowledge of necessity.    [p. 64]


‘Talks and writings of Chairman Mao’, Joint Publications Research Service, 21 December 1970.    [p. 64]


It is on this point that Marx corrected the ‘Communist Manifesto’ after drawing lessons from the Commune.    [p. 64]


CW, vol. 27, pp. 89-90 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.). — DJR].    [p. 64]


Quoted by Michael Lowy, ‘La Théorie de la révolution chez le jeune Marx’, p. 180. Although Trotskyist, Lowy has a weakness for Luxemburgist spontaneism.    [p. 64]


CW, vol. 38, p. 205.    [p. 65]


On practice‘, SW, vol. 1, p. 300.    [p. 65]


SW, vol. 3, pp. 11-16.    [p. 65]


Ibid., vol. 3, p. 12. However, a unilateral interpretation of this thought of Mao’s should be avoided. He does not think that direct contact with the masses and immediate experience are the only sources of knowledge of social reality. Indeed, c few lines later he says, ‘Speaking generally, the infant bourgeoisie of China has not been able, and never will be able, to provide relatively comprehensive or even rudimentary material on social conditions, as the bourgeoisie in Europe, America and Japan has done; we have therefore no alternative but to collect it ourselves’ (p. 13).    [p. 65]


Ibid., p. 11.    [p. 66]


SW, vol. 4, p. 232.    [p. 66]


Ibid., vol. 1, p. 33.    [p. 66]


Cf. Remarques théoriques, ‘ProbIèmes de planification’, no. 14.    [p. 66]


Reprinted in ‘Peking Review’, 20 September 1968.    [p. 67]


‘Talks and Writings of Chairman Mao’, loc. cit.    [p. 67]
page 222 


After the seizure of power in October 1917, Lenin applied the agrarian programme of the Socialist Revolutionaries instead of his own, when he had spent his life studying the problems of the peasantry. This shows well enough the wholly relative value of a programme.    [p. 68]


‘Nos tâum;ches politiques’, p. 128.    [p. 69]


Isaac Deutscher, ‘The Prophet Armed’, pp. 93, 190, 470.    [p. 69]


H. Weber, ‘Mouvement ouvrier, stalinisme et bureaucratie’, p. 15.    [p. 70]


SW, vol. 1, p. 478.    [p. 70]


Ibid., vol. 2, p. 348.    [p. 70]


‘The civil war in France’, ibid., vol. 2, p. 219. (Translator’s note: Marx is using ‘imperialism’ here to mean the Bonapartist state.)    [p. 70]


‘The Eighteenth Brumaire’, ibid., vol. 1, p. 395.    [p. 70]


‘The Prophet Unarmed’, pp. 460, 462.    [p. 71]


‘The Prophet Outcast’, pp. 54-5.    [p. 71]


‘La Defence de l’USSR et l’opposition’.    [p. 71]


In his Introduction to the French edition of his ‘Stalin’, Isaac Deutscher states: ‘In my opinion, the Russian equivalents of the Jacobin, Thermidorian and Bonapartist phases of the Revolution were mixed in a strange way in Stalinism.’ ‘Curiouser and curiouser,’ said Alice!    [p. 71]


‘In Defence of Marxism’, p. 6.    [p. 72]


Mao says that it is necessary to draw a line of distinction ‘between revolution and counter-revolution, between Yenan and Sian. Some do not understand that they must draw this line of distinction. For example, when they combat bureaucracy, they speak of Yenan as though “nothing is right” there and fail to make a comparison and distinguish between the bureaucracy in Yenan and the bureaucracy in Sian.’ (Mao Tse-tung, ‘Methods of work of party committees‘, SW, vol. 4, p. 381.) (Translator’s note: The English edition, 1969, p. 381, includes the following note: ‘Yenan was the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China from January 1937 to March 1947; Sian was the centre of the reactionary rule of the Kuomintang in Northwestern China. Comrade Mao Tse-tung cited the two cities as symbols of revolution and counter-revolution.’)    [p. 72]


Lenin, ‘The immediate tasks of the Soviet government‘, SW, vol. 2, p. 728.    [p. 72]


Lenin, ‘The tax in kind‘, ibid., vol. 3, p. 658.    [p. 72]


Lenin, ‘The immediate tasks . . .’, ibid., vol. 2, p. 730.    [p. 72]


Lenin to the 7th Congress of the RCP(B), ibid., vol. 2, p. 661 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.). — DJR].    [p. 73]


In our view this is one factor but not the most important one, for this danger of restoration was real in China before the cultural revolution although the range of incomes was relatively very narrow. It still persists despite considerable progress in the sense of a radical equality carried into effect after this revolution.    [p. 73]


‘The Revolution Betrayed’, p. 240.    [p. 73]


Ibid., p. 238.    [p. 73]


Trotsky drew on a text of Rakovsky for the latter idea – ‘Les Dangers professionnels du pouvoir’, the French title of the ‘Letter to Valentinov’, published in ‘De la bureaucratie’, 1971.    [p. 74]

page 223



‘The Revolution Betrayed’, p. 55.    [p. 75]


Ibid., p. 55.    [p. 75]


‘The Soviet Union and the Fourth International’, p. 14.    [p. 75]


Op. cit., p.61. The USSR and the GDR have therefore reached this stage.  [p. 75]


Cf. Bettelheim, ‘La Transition vers l’économie socialiste’ [Transcriber’s Note: See The Transition to Socialist Economy. — DJR].    [p. 75]


‘The Class Nature of the Soviet State’ and ‘The Workers’ State and the Question of Thermidor and Bonapartism’, p. 48.    [p. 75]


La Révolution défigurée, in ‘De la Révolution’, p. 104.    [p. 75]


Lettre à Boris Souvarine, 25 April 1929, ‘Politique de Trotsky’, p. 316.    [p. 75]


‘In Defence of Marxism’, p. 45.    [p. 75]


‘The Class Nature of the Soviet State’, p. 58; Bonapartisme bourgeois ou bonapartisme sovietique, in ‘Politique de Trotsky’, pp. 25-6.    [p. 75]


‘The Soviet Union and the Fourth International’, p. 14.    [p. 76]


Op. cit., p. 240.    [p. 76]


Ibid., p. 236.    [p. 76]


‘In Defence of Marxism’, p. 55.    [p. 76]


‘Stalin’.    [p. 76]


‘In Defence of Marxism’, p. 28.    [p. 76]


‘Stalin’.    [p. 76]


On the nature of the relations of production and of State power in Egypt, see the masterly analysis by Mahmoud Hussein, ‘La Lutte de classes en Egypte de 1945 à 1968′, pp. 108-17 and pp. 163-86.    [p. 77]


To clarify how the dictatorship of the proletariat can exist when the working class has lost power, Trotsky compared such a state to a wrecked car which remains a car. This image only plagiarises Kautsky’s argument that democracy remains democracy despite the deformation it suffers from bourgeois domination and Hegel’s explanation that imperfect empirical states nevertheless incarnate the idea of the state just as ‘the ugliest man, the criminal, the sick man, the cripple, remain men nevertheless’. This example illustrates yet again the metaphysical (non-dialectical) character of Trotsky’s thought. On Kautsky’s Hegelian inspiration, see Karl Korsch, ‘Die materialistische Geschichtsauffassung’, Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1971, p. 76.    [p. 77]


Lenin, ‘“Left-wing” childishness‘, CW, vol. 27, p. 338; and also ‘The tax in kind’, CW, vol. 32, p. 324. Our attention was drawn to the implications of these texts as well as to other points discussed here by Jacques Ranciere. [p. 77]


‘The Age of Permanent Revolution: A Trotsky Anthology’, p. 228.    [p. 78]


‘The Revolution Betrayed’, p. 263. Trotsky did not talk about Hitlero-Stalinism in this text but it comes to the same thing.    [p. 79]


Herbert J. Spiro, ‘World Politics. The Global System’, p. 104. This author is probably alluding to Hannah Arendt’s ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’.    [p. 79]


‘The Revolution Betrayed’, pp. 272-3. He did so at the suggestion of Victor Serge, a writer who before his death became openly anti-communist and surreptitiously pro-American.    [p. 79]


April 1962, London, HMSO, Cmnd 1681, p. 3.    [p. 79]


‘The USSR in war’, republished in ‘In Defence of Marxism’.    [p. 79]
page 224 


‘The Prophet Outcast’, pp. 467-8.    [p. 79]


‘Fourth International’, vol. 1, no. 4, p. 140.    [p. 80]


Le Trotskysme vu par un maoiste . . . ou la queue de Staline, ‘La Vérité’, April 1972.    [p. 80]


‘Writings of Leon Trotsky (1939-40)’, p. 81.    [p. 81]


Ibid., p. 17.    [p. 81]


M. Merleau-Ponty, ‘Humanisme ou terreur’, p. 165.    [p. 81]


The references are to be found in On the question of Stalin, in ‘Polemic on the General Line of the International Communist Movement‘, p. 123. (On the question of Stalin is also to be found in ‘Peking Review’, no. 38, 24 September 1963.)    [p. 82]


The Chinese have quoted speeches of Khrushchev dating from the great purge of 1935-8, in which he declared: ‘We shall totally annihilate the enemies – to the last man – and scatter their ashes to the winds … We have annihilated a considerable number of enemies, but still not all. Therefore, it is necessary to keep our eyes open. We should bear firmly in mind the words of Comrade Stalin, that as long as capitalist encirclement exists, spies and saboteurs will be smuggled into our country.’    [p. 82]


‘Polemic on the General Line . . .’, pp. 119-20.    [p. 82]


Ibid., p. 121.    [p. 83]


Ibid., p. 123.    [p. 83]


Here we have a Marxist-Leninist position of principle diametrically opposed to the constant procedure of the Trotskyists. Even a theoretician like Lucien Goldmann is clearly aware of this methodological principle, because he approaches the problems of Marxism with a minimum of seriousness: ‘Hence it is in the economic, social and psychological structure of the group which undergoes the influence that the influence’s principal causes must be sought’ (‘The Human Sciences and Philosophy’, p. 93).    [p. 83]


‘Polemic on the General Line . . .’, p. 123.    [p. 83]


In fact, on the one hand, theory is linked to (indeed governed by) practice (so that a correct theoretical position with regard to Stalin presupposes a revolutionary practice); on the other hand, Marxist investigation illuminates the past in the light of the present, illuminating its hidden tendencies, their meaning and their truth. As Marx said, ‘The anatomy of man is a key to the anatomy of the ape.’ The investigations carried out in the framework of the cultural revolution by the Chinese masses with a view to judging correctly the historical role of Liu Shao-chi provides an example of the application of this principle.    [p. 83]


‘Polemic on the General Line . . .’, p. 117.    [p. 83]


Cf. Henri Pierre, ‘L’Express’, 17 May 1965. This fact has been confirmed to us by some friends who recently visited the USSR. They themselves had witnessed these reactions of the Russian public. If ‘Pravda’ censored Stalin’s name in publishing the Chinese message of congratulations on the occasion of the 53rd Anniversary of the October Revolution, it was obviously to prevent the attachment displayed by the Chinese to Stalin’s memory from enhancing their credit in the eyes of the Soviet people. (Cf. ‘Le Monde’, 11 November 1970.)    [p. 83]

page 225



Cf. ‘Le Monde’, 25 November 1969. Also, Eldridge Cleaver’s statement in ‘The Black Panther’, 8 November 1969.    [p. 84]


‘Polemic on the General Line . . .’, p. 121. Stalin’s works are not always rigorous on the scientific level. We find serious mistakes side by side with profound developments of Marxism-Leninism. However, one of his works may be considered a classic: ‘The Foundations of Leninism‘. It is the only one studied in China. Let us recall that as editor-in-chief of ‘Pravda’, Stalin prevented the publication of Lenin’s ‘Letters from Afar‘, apart from the first one. This was because after the February Revolution in 1917 he had taken up a ‘defensist’ position. Moreover, Stalin himself admitted in the ‘History of the Russian Revolution’, of which he was the co-author, that he was opposed to Lenin’s ‘April Theses’ for some ten days.    [p. 84]


Cf. Roy Medvedev, ‘Faut-il réhabiliter Staline?’    [p. 84]


Our study and the current situation‘, SW, vol. 1 [vol. 3], p. 164.    [p. 84]


Cf. the disposition of Léon Blum in vol. 1, p. 1929, of the official French report of the Commission of Enquiry into the events which occurred in France between 1933 and 1945, cited by R. Garaudy, ‘Mésaventures de l’antimarxisme’, p. 83.    [p. 85]


On this last point, cf. Major-General Pjotr Grigorenko, ‘Der sowjetische Zusammenbruch 1941′, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1969.    [p. 85]


Quoted by Isaac Deutscher, ‘Stalin’, p. 465.    [p. 85]


Quoted in ‘Polemic on the General Line . . .’, p. 122.    [p. 85]


‘The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism’, p. 120. There are two types of revisionism: one social-fascist and the other sociaI-liberal. Togliatti and the PCI in general belong to the latter type.    [p. 86]


Marx conceded that the political or ideological superstructure may be dominant despite determination in the last instance by the base. Cf. ‘Capital’, p. 81n. Cf. also Mao Tse-tung, ‘On contradiction’, SW, vol. 1, p. 336. ‘True, the productive forces, practice and the economic base generally play the principal and decisive role . . . but . . . in certain conditions, such aspects as the relations of production, theory and the superstructure in turn manifest themselves in the principal and decisive role’ [Transcriber’s Note: See Mao’s “On Contradiction“. — DJR]. Lastly, cf. Louis Althusser, On the materialist dialectic, ‘For Marx‘, p. 213.    [p. 86]


‘Polemic on the General Line . . .’, p. 121.    [p. 87]


Why I came to China at the age of 72, ‘Peking Review’, no. 38, 24 September 1963, p. 20.    [p. 87]


‘A Great Historic Document’, p. 18. The same criticism is directed at Stalin in ‘On Khrushchev’s Phoney Communism and its Historical Lessons for the World‘, p. 15. Cf. ‘Polemic on the General Line . . .’.    [p. 88]


The Draft New Constitution‘, pp. 5, 8.    [p. 88]


Ibid., p. 12.    [p. 88]


Reports and Speeches at the 18th Congress of the CPSU‘, p. 33.    [p. 88]


‘Economic problems of socialism in the USSR’, SW, p. 357.    [p. 88]


Marx, quoted by Stalin, ibid., p. 354.    [p. 88]


‘The Moscow Trial and Two Speeches by J. Stalin’, p. 253. Stalin’s ‘supposition’ seems less obvious if we consider that ‘spies, saboteurs and murderers’ and other agents of diversion manoeuvre less easily in a socialist society (the milieu hardly
page 226 
  being favourable to them) and penetrate it with more difficulty.    [p. 89]


Ibid., p. 250.    [p. 89]


Ibid., p. 255.    [p. 89]


Ibid., p. 260.    [p. 89]


Ibid., pp. 264-5.    [p. 89]


Ibid., pp. 249.    [p. 89]


When Mao argues that some counter-revolutionaries still exist, he is careful to add ‘of course . . . not . . . everywhere and in every organisation’, for he knows that this specification is not superfluous (On the correct handling of contradictions among the people, ‘Selected Readings from the Works of Mao Tse-tung’, p. 364).    [p. 89]


‘The Moscow Trial and Two Speeches by J. Stalin’, p. 262.    [p. 89]


Ibid., p. 263.    [p. 89]


M. Merleau-Ponty, The USSR and the camps, ‘Signs’, p. 264.    [p. 90]


Cf. ‘Recueil chronologique des lois et décrets du Présidium du Soviet suprême et ordonnances du gouvernement de la RFSSR au ler mars 1940′, vol. 9, OGIZ, 1941, quoted by Merleau-Ponty, op. cit. p. 263.    [p. 90]


‘Reports and Speeches at the 18th Congress of the CPSU’, p. 38.    [p. 90]


In ‘On Khrushchev’s Phoney Communism . . .’, the Chinese have written that Stalin ‘failed to rely upon the working class and the masses in the struggle against the forces of capitalism’ (p. 15).    [p. 90]


Published by ‘Scanteia’, 13 February 1946 and quoted by Merleau-Ponty, ‘Humanisme ou terreur’, p. 75.    [p. 90]


‘Reports and Speeches at the 18th Congress of the CPSU’, p. 19.    [p. 91]


Ibid., pp. 44-5.    [p. 91]


‘The Anti-Stalin Campaign and International Communism’, pp. 27-8.    [p. 91]


‘Le Problème chinois’, p. 185. The so-called ‘Stalin Law’ as formulated by Garaudy seems to be lifted from a passage in the Introduction to ‘The Permanent Revolution’ in which Trotsky declared that ‘In an isolated proletarian dictatorship, the internal and external contradictions grow inevitably along with the final successes achieved’ (‘The Permanent Revolution’, p. 9).    [p. 91]


‘The Moscow Trial . . .’, p. 262.    [p. 91]


There is a group of Marxist-Leninist-Stalinists who firmly maintain that Stalin did not refuse to recognise the continuation of the class struggle after the expropriation of the owning classes. This is a mark of attachment to the memory of the Soviet leader which does them honour. But to carry conviction, arguments are necessary. Theirs are somewhat confused. They appeal to the Albanians’ silence about this mistake of Stalin’s; but not content for their spokesmen to be . . . silent, they claim the Chinese are silent too, although they do speak. According to them, the editorials of the central organs of the CCP emanate from people who are not in any way qualified to express the point of view of their party. Even if we grant this, we cannot follow these militants in their conclusions for, besides, we would have to forget how to read, since Stalin’s texts are sufficiently eloquent in themselves.    [p. 92]

page 227



‘Red Flag’, no. 8, 1966, in ‘The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China’, p. 4. On 6 March 1970 ‘Peking Review’ published an article entitled Who transforms whom? criticising N. A. Kairov’s ‘Pedagogy’. The article in ‘Peking Review’ indifferently quotes the old (1948) or the new (1965) edition of it to show that its contents are revisionist and aim to transform society in the image of the new type of bourgeoisie which was already gaining in strength in the USSR before Stalin’s death. The latter was the last bulwark against the usurpation of central power by the bureaucratic state bourgeoisie. The period from the 20th to the 22nd Congress must be considered as the phase in which their class consolidated its power. Bettelheim traces this usurpation of power by the new bourgeoisie back to 1929. It will be possible to assess the strength of his arguments when the major study on which he is working at present appears.    [p. 93]


‘Concerning Marxism and [in] Linguistics’, pp. 3, 6.    [p. 93]


‘The Draft New Constitution’, p. 10.    [p. 93]


‘The Prophet Outcast’, p. 322.    [p. 94]


Victor Serge, for example, wrote: ‘Defence of man. Respect for man . . . be he the meanest of men – “class enemy”, son or grandson of a bourgeois, I do not care’ (‘Memoirs of a Revolutionary’, p. 282).    [p. 94]


‘Signs’, p. 260.    [p. 94]


To characterise Stalin as a ‘great Marxist-Leninist’ after all that we have said about his mistakes may seem contradictory, but no more so than Lenin’s appraisal of Bukharin – ‘a most valuable and major theorist’ who ‘has never made a study of dialectics and, I think, never fully understood it’ (Lenin, CW, vol. 36, p. 595 [Transcriber’s Note: See Lenin’s “Letter to the Congress“. — DJR]).    [p. 95]


Maurice Thorez and Roger Garaudy, Les Tâum;ches des philosophes communistes et la critique des érreurs philosophiques, supplement to ‘Cahiers du Communisme’, nos. 7-8, 1962, p. 14.    [p. 95]


‘On the correct handling of contradictions. . .’, p. 370.    [p. 96]


‘Concerning Marxism and [in] Linguistics’, p. 9.    [p. 96]


Ibid., p. 22.    [p. 96]


Open Letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to all Party Organisations and to all Communists in the Soviet Union (14 July 1963), ‘Polemic on the General Line . . .’, p. 526.    [p. 96]


That these are not empty words is clear from the evidence of the Swedish sociologist Jan Myrdal, who writes, ‘I found much anti-communist literature in the Chinese bookshops’ (Jan Myrdal, ‘Chinese Journey’, p. 134).    [p. 96]


SW, vol. 3, pp. 49-50 [Transcriber’s Note: See Mao’s “Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing“. — DJR].    [p. 97]