[Dossier] “The Crisis of the Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat” (previously unpublished)

  • Left Voice | 
  • January 1, 1917

NOTE: This is the third of three linked documents on Left Oppositionists in a Russian Prison. The brief introductory reading guide is here. The political introduction to the series of three is here. An academic article explaining the origin of the prison text is here.

We present, for the first time in English, translated from Russian and then from Spanish, the full text of “The Crisis of the Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat” (1932), one of the Notebooks found in Verkhneuralsk prison in Russia in 2018. The Notebooks belonged to a group of Trotskyists imprisoned there during the 1930s. We also include a summary of the introduction to the Notebook by Aleksandr Fokin, who transcribed and digitized the original manuscript. 

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 “The Crisis of the Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat” and the Peculiarities of Source Analysis of the Bolshevik-Leninist Documents of the 1930s

Aleksandr Fokin

… The discovery in 2018 of documents from the early 1930s in the Verkhneuralsk prison gives historians the opportunity to analyze texts written by Bolshevik-Leninists directly inside the prisons. For convenience, we refer to the texts that were discovered as “Notebooks of the Verkhneuralsk Political Prison” …

“The Crisis of the Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat” (original notebook)]

The discovery of these documents provoked a strong reaction from the media, which sensationalized to draw readers’ attention with blaring headlines more or less along these lines: “Stalin’s overthrow was being prepared in the Verkhneuralsk prison.”1GI translator’s note: This is exactly the title used by Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia’s second-largest newspaper. See Uliana Shevchenko, “Свержение Сталина готовилось в тюрьме Верхнеуральска,” February 7, 2018. There was also interest in the discovery in the professional community, which began to discuss the news actively on social networks. So, I decided to digitize the Notebooks in order to study, publish, and give my colleagues access to the information found. Since the number of Notebooks is quite large, it is not possible to prepare the entire set for publication. At this stage, there is a gradual deciphering of the texts and their publication. The first Notebook, “The Fascist Coup in German,” was published in the magazine Ab Imperio (Фашистский переворот, 2017). 

The critical issue researchers now confront is that storage of the Notebooks is not secure. At the moment, they are in the possession of the Federal Penitentiary Service (GUFSIN) of the Chelyabinsk region, and the leadership has not yet decided what to do with them. And since these materials are not officially archived, access is difficult and researching them is problematic. …

An initial study of the documents suggests that almost all of them are homemade “summaries” (although there are also texts written on separate sheets). The covers of printed publications were used to make their covers. For instance, the cover of the magazine The Communist International was used for the 6th and 7th editions of “The Crisis of the Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat,” which suggests that the prisoners had access to printed material, could receive information about events in Russia and beyond, and could use the editions at their discretion.

Although the authors of some of the Notebooks are mentioned (albeit with their nicknames, which requires additional deciphering work), the authors of “The Crisis of the Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat” are unnamed, as these texts are the product of collective creativity. However, it can be assumed that some prisoners, such as Viktor Eltsin, Trotsky’s former personal secretary, had a significant influence on the texts of the Notebooks. But even so, it is important to understand that the Bolshevik-Leninists in the Verkhneuralsk prison themselves did not regard the documents as reflecting the position of individuals, but as a common platform.

One can hypothesize that the creation of the Notebooks in general and “The Crisis of the Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat” in particular had two objectives. The first was obviously to criticize the Stalinist version of the future of the state as a deviation from Leninist principles and, in general terms, as representing the formation of a non-socialist system within the Soviet Union. Thus, we find throughout the work text that that combines criticism of the existing system with an exploration of how to resolve the main political and economic problems—that is, how an alternative model for the Soviet Union could be created. It is difficult to judge the extent to which the prisoners believed they would be able to implement their plans, and how in the 1930s they thought they would be able to deal with Stalin’s regime. Linked to this, the second hidden purpose of the present work is also revealed. Perhaps the preparation of the texts was an important tool to regroup the Bolshevik-Leninists. Active participation in a collective discussion of the drafts gave greater meaning to their lives in the Verkhneuralsk prison and allowed the prisoners to maintain a sense of a collective “we.”

The peculiarities of the text were preserved as much as possible in preparing the document for publication. …  Unfortunately, due to its poor state of preservation, some words could not be deciphered, and so they are indicated as “unintelligible” in the transcription.

I hope that publication of this document from the Notebooks of the Verkhneuralsk Political Prison will attract the attention of researchers and serve as an incentive to study the Left Opposition of the 1930s, which in turn will provide a more accurate picture of the political history of the Bolshevik-Leninists.

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Full Text of the Notebook

The Crisis of the Revolution and the Tasks of the Proletariat

Section I

The political line of the proletarian revolution

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Chapter I: The theory of permanent revolution and the problems of the construction of the USSR
  3. Chapter II: National socialism2SMC translator’s note: “National socialism” in this Notebook refers to “socialism in one country.” and the proletarian revolution
  4. Chapter III: The current crisis of the revolution and the strategic objectives of the proletariat

The strategic line of the proletarian revolution. Introduction

In the October insurrection, the democratic revolution was directly intertwined with the first stage of the socialist revolution.

The program of the Bolshevik Party, developed by Lenin at the Eighth Congress, considers the October insurrection as the first stage of the world revolution, from which it will not be separated. The fundamental principle of permanent revolution finds expression in this provision of our program: “This is the greatest difficulty of the Russian revolution, its greatest historical problem — the need to solve international problems … to effect the transition from our strictly national revolution to the world revolution.”3SMC translator’s note: The quote is actually from the Seventh Congress. See Lenin, “Political Report of the Central Committee,” Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), Section One, March 7, 1918. The characteristics of the tasks of the revolution posed by Lenin have been fully justified at all subsequent stages of its development. The main difficulties and contradictions of the revolution were based on the contradictions between the international character of the revolution and the national character of the internal social construction. That is why Lenin tirelessly repeated: “Our salvation from all these difficulties is an all Europe revolution.”4SMC translator’s note: Op. cit. And, “We are far from having completed even the transitional period from capitalism to socialism. We have never cherished the hope that we could finish it without the aid of the international proletariat.”5SMC translator’s note: Lenin, “Report on the Activities of the Council of People’s Commissars,” Third All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies,” January 14, 1918. These Leninist statements, which form the basis of the theory of permanent revolution, define the strategic line of Marxism and Bolshevism. It opposes the theory of socialism in one country, which enshrines the national revolution as something already completed by separating it from the international revolution, and is the strategic basis of national socialism.

Chapter I. The Theory of Permanent Revolution and the Problems of Socialist Construction in the USSR

1) The main starting point of the theory of permanent revolution is expressed in the following words of Lenin: “Since large-scale industry exists on a world scale, there can be no doubt that a direct transition to socialism is possible — and nobody will deny this fact …”6Lenin, “The Home and Foreign Policy of the Republic,” Report of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars, Ninth All-Russia Congress of Soviets, December 23, 1921. This eliminates the question of whether each individual country is mature enough for socialism. For a victorious transition to socialist revolution in any technically backward peasant country, it is only necessary that the proletariat of a given country, because of its historical-social role, be capable of leading a national-democratic revolution and overthrowing the power of the bourgeoisie. But from this initial position it is clear that the victorious revolutionary proletariat in Russia is only a link in an international chain and thus, in the present situation of the world economy and the international division of labor we are part of the chain of capitalist states as a link in the world economy and, consequently, “the correct evaluation of the revolution is only possible from an international perspective” (Lenin).

2) The dynamic equilibrium of the Soviet economy cannot be considered as the equilibrium of a closed and self-sufficient economy. “The economy of the USSR is developing under the pressure of the world economy; it has entered the system of the international division of labor and represents a very peculiar part, but even so, it does not cease to be a part of the world market” (Lenin). Internally, economic equilibrium is based on export and import work. The more the Soviet economy is involved in the system of the international division of labor, the more directly and immediately the elements of the Soviet economy, such as price and quality, become dependent on the corresponding elements of the world market. At the same time, the Soviet economy is in a constant struggle against the world capitalist system [unintelligible] which makes this fight worse. Under these conditions, the strength of our resistance to the economic and political-military pressure of world capital defines the motive for our economic development. However, we are not free to choose our own pace. It is determined, on the one hand, by the material conditions of production itself [unintelligible] and, on the other hand, by the need eventually to catch up with and overcome the advanced capitalist countries, as we have written in our platform: “In the long struggle between two irreconcilably hostile social systems — capitalism and socialism — the outcome will be determined in the last analysis by the relative productivity of labor under each system. And this, under market conditions, will be measured by the relation between our domestic prices and world prices.”7SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, “Platform of the Joint Opposition,” chap. 4, “State Industry and the Building of Socialism” (1927).  Only by relying on the advantages of the socialist planned economy can we maintain the dynamic proportionality of the entire economy and, at the same time, accelerate our own development in every possible way, ensuring the advantage of the socialist elements over the capitalists, skillfully using the resources derived from the condition of the world division of labor.

3) Given an interconnected world economy and the world division of labor, not a single country (not even the most advanced) has a diversified large-scale machine industry capable of building socialism in a closed national framework (an industry that guarantees the construction of socialism exists only on a world scale), and given that the proletariat is compelled, in the interest of increasing labor productivity while strengthening foreign trade relations, to allow — within certain limits — the development of capitalism at the national level (concessions, [unintelligible] … mixed, domestic market), the NEP emerged as a form of economic connection between large industry and a mass of small, scattered agricultural producers, something that imposes the entire system of the modern world economy.

So it turns out that: “Our social system is based only on the struggle of socialism and capitalism, but within certain limits and through their cooperation” (Trotsky). Under these conditions, the main task is “to find correct methods of directing the development of capitalism (which is to some extent and for some time inevitable) into the channels of state capitalism … to ensure the transformation into socialism in the near future … and strengthens its relations organized by the state as against the anarchy of petty-bourgeois relations” (Lenin8SMC translator’s note: Lenin, The Tax in Kind: The Significance of the New Policy and Its Conditions (1921).) — that is, to subordinate the petty-bourgeois element to state accounting and control, and to prepare the conditions for industrialization and collectivization, on the basis of electrification: “If we have no electrification, a return to capitalism is inevitable in any case” (Lenin9SMC translator’s note: Lenin, “Plan of the Pamphlet The Tax In Kind” (1921).).

4) All the main economic processes in the USSR are not [unintelligible] in relation to [torn edge of page] “and fall to one degree or another under the laws governing capital. This creates a kind of intertwining and mutual connection of internal and external contradictions, including the change of conjuncture” (Trotsky). The internal contradictions are inextricably linked with the external as in a node. Overcoming the first is impossible without resolving the second. The impossibility of building a self-reliant socialist economy reproduces the internal and external contradictions of socialist construction at each new stage in a growing volume and with increasing depth. Thus, all the contradictions in the development of the Soviet Union eventually lead to contradictions between the isolated workers’ state and the capitalist world around it. The complete overcoming of all these contradictions is possible only by following the path of world revolution.

5) The socialist construction of the USSR is based on a continuous and sharp class struggle on a national and international scale. The proletarian revolution, unlike all other revolutions, does not seek to perpetuate the domination of any class, but to eradicate all classes. Being a continuous process, it cannot remain in the formal stage, preventing society from finding its equilibrium — if it is going through a phase of descent, it must at the same time prepare the elements of the future upswing on a higher basis than it did in the previous upswing. All development takes place through continuous confrontations between different class groups, in a society undergoing reconstruction and in a phase of endless struggle, and the redesign of all social relations takes place. “As long as workers and peasants continue to exist, socialism will remain unworkable, and in practice and at every step there is irreconcilable struggle” (Lenin). However, the methods and forms of this struggle between the proletariat and the peasants must be different from those used by the proletariat against the capitalists and landlords.

They also take the form of an “alliance” [smychka10Trotsky, “What Is the ‘Smychka’?” (December 1928).] between these classes on the basis of the hegemony of the proletariat. This agreement is reached through certain concessions to the peasants: “In determining the methods of socialist transformation” (program of the CPSU) in the framework of the course towards the abolition of classes, and in order to strengthen the power of the proletariat. The way to overcome the peasantry as the “last capitalist class” is not through administrative methods … The way to overcome the peasantry as the ‘last capitalist class’ is not the way of administrative methods of appropriation, but the way of the [unintelligible] influence of large industry on the peasantry must be one of the measures aimed at the abolition of classes, that is, the means of the reconstruction and further development of a vigorous large industry, and the socialist transformation of the peasantry itself. “But this task [the complete elimination of the contradiction between town and country] — one of the basic tasks of socialism — would in turn require the utilization of the resources of the world market …” (Trotsky, “Problems of the Development of the USSR”11SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, “Problems of the Development of the USSR: Draft Theses of the International Left Opposition on the Russian Question” (April 4, 1931).). It is possible to solve this problem completely and finally only within the framework of world industry, that is, after the victory of the workers of the advanced countries. Before this victory, “the main question for us remains the correct establishment of the relationship between the proletariat and the peasantry, the correctness in terms of the abolition of classes” (Lenin).

6) As the capitalist system dominates the world arena, thousands of threads connect world capitalism with the small market economy that recreates capitalism all the time, on a large scale. Therefore, the development of the class struggle at the national level is closely related to and conditioned by the general course of the international class struggle. The question “who is who,” even from the point of view of internal relations only, is not resolved by the ratio of private to state economy within the USSR. It is resolved by the relationship between capitalism and socialism on the world stage. If the capitalist system can resist, even over the course of an entire epoch, then the tendencies of capitalist agriculture would be inevitable — under these conditions they would captivate the middle peasant, paralyzing the influence of the proletariat in the countryside and creating a political obstacle to socialist construction. All this would break the relationship between the proletariat and the peasantry and make the death of the dictatorship of the proletariat inevitable. Therefore, following Comrade Trotsky, this is what we say: “The proletarian revolution can only remain in the national framework for a time … In an isolated country, parallel to its successes, the contradictions generated both inside and outside its area inevitably grow. Were this isolation to continue, the proletarian state would have to die as a victim of the contradictions imposed on it. Its only salvation is the victory of the proletariat in the advanced countries. But from the point of view of the relationship of class forces on the world stage, we have no reason to think that the victory of the proletariat in other countries is a question for the distant future.

“Overthrowing the world bourgeoisie in a revolutionary struggle is a much more real and immediate task than reaching and overcoming the world economy without crossing the borders of the USSR” (Trotsky). In this historical stage, the death of the dictatorship of the proletariat is considered inevitable, or even the most probable, only for those “who believe in the firmness of capitalism or in its longevity. The Left Opposition has nothing in common with such capitalist optimism” (Trotsky12SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, Ibid.). That is why the Leninist Opposition does not consider a break with the peasantry objectively inevitable at this historical stage. That discontinuity, and therefore the collapse of the dictatorship of the proletariat at this historical stage, is not inevitable; it can only happen as a result of an inadequate political leadership.

7) Aware that a proletarian dictatorship can remain in the national framework only for so long, and that the main task is to transform the national dictatorship into an international one, the Leninist opposition has never ignored the need to reach an agreement with the middle peasants without weakening the struggle against the kulaks for even a minute, and by relying firmly only on the poor peasants — as we wrote in the 1927 Platform: “The domestic task is, by strengthening ourselves with a proper class policy, by proper relations of the working class with the peasantry to move forward as far as possible on the road of socialist construction. The internal resources of the Soviet Union are enormous and make this entirely possible. In using at the same time the world capitalist market for this same purpose, we bind up our fundamental historic calculations with the further development of the world proletarian revolution.”13SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, “Platform of the Joint Opposition,” chap. 4, “State Industry and the Building of Socialism” (1927).

The stages of the development of the revolution in the USSR are ultimately determined by the curves in the development of the world revolution, which the Leninist opposition has always considered as a unique process: “subordinating the interests of the duration of the struggle in one country to the interests of this struggle on a world scale” — this is the main Leninist slogan — “defining the strategic objectives of the socialist proletariat of the USSR, and at the same time it is one of the main statements of the theory of permanent revolution.”

Chapter II. National Socialism and the Proletarian Revolution

1) The emergence of a new type of national socialism in Russia has its ideological origins in the right-wing Bolshevism of 1905–17. In diverging with the Mensheviks on how to evaluate the role of the bourgeoisie in the democratic revolution, right-wing Bolshevism in 1905 strongly opposed the seizure of power by the proletariat and limited our revolution to bourgeois democratic questions. In 1917 (during the February-March period) all of the above, without exception, and even after Lenin’s arrival — Kamenev, Rekov, Zinoviev, and other right-wing Bolsheviks — fought relentlessly against Lenin, finally sliding into the position of the left wing of petty-bourgeois radical democracy, which forced Lenin even to ask himself: “‘Right-wing Bolshevism’; is there room for it in our Party?” (Leninskii Sbornik, No. 1114SMC translator’s note: Lenin, “From a Publicist’s Diary” (December 1917).).

2) The successor to right-wing Bolshevism in the field of ideas, along with today’s right-wingers, is Stalinist centrism. In China, India, Spain, and all the colonial and backward countries, and more recently in Japan, centrism fights against the strategic line of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and mainly in that way succeeds in making the tasks of the democratic revolution fail; preaches a reactionary slogan about the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasants, complemented by the theory and practice of the two-class party; separates the democratic revolution in the colonies from the rising international revolution and considers it in terms of the positions of the national revolution, while in reality it is part of an international chain and does not represent an end in itself. Stalinist centrism dissolves the proletariat into the petty bourgeoisie and subordinates it to the national bourgeoisie.

3) The theory of socialism in one country, proclaimed by the centrists in 1924 and built on the lack of understanding of the contradiction between the international character of the proletarian revolution and the national character of socialist construction in the USSR, is the strategic line of national socialism. This theory is based on the viewpoint of the peasantry as if [unintelligible] has [unintelligible] socialist qualities, that is, the aspiration to “be assimilated into socialism” — therefore, regardless of the fate of the proletariat in other countries — to overcome the internal contradictions in the country of the dictatorship of the proletariat and build a national socialist society, according to the theory of the national socialists, is ensured by the very fact of a pact with the peasantry. The only obstacle to the construction of national socialism, from the point of view of this theory, can be foreign military intervention.

Thus, if in 1905 the right-wing Bolsheviks did not conceive of the idea that the proletariat could come to power in Russia before it did in Western Europe, and in 1917 they promoted a democratic revolution in Russia as an end in itself, and rejected the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat, its ideological successors — the modern right and the centrist right — since 1924 have considered the conquest of power in the national framework, not as an initial act, but as the final act of the revolution, and declared that it was quite feasible to build an isolated socialist society in the USSR as an end in itself. The international revolution was no longer a necessary condition for their victory, but only an auspicious circumstance in their eyes.

4) The main characteristics of modern national socialism are:

  1. a) The restriction of the revolution to the national framework, breaking with proletarian internationalism, which requires “subordinating the interests of the struggle in one country to the interests of this struggle on a world scale” (Lenin);
  2. b) Separating the internal contradictions from the contradictions of the world economy and not understanding that the success of socialist construction develops along with its contradictions;
  3. c) Denial of Lenin’s position that we: “exist in the chain of capitalist states as a link in the world economy” and, related to this, the idea that one can take a course independent of the world economy and create a closed and self-reliant national economy.

The break with Lenin on these marginal issues has led socialism to a complete rearming, as for example in the evaluation of the driving forces of the revolution, which are no longer seen in terms of their link to the world revolution, as well as in relation to the evaluation of the middle peasantry, which, unlike Lenin, no longer considered it as “the last capitalist class in the country.”

5) National socialism, in full accordance with the theory of socialism in one country, considers the NEP as a historical stage that, directly, through cooperation with the peasants, creates the conditions for the full construction of a socialist society in one country, regardless of the fate of the proletariat in other countries. At first, the cooperation of the domestic functions of the peasants is now a continuous collectivization and the socialist artel15GI translator’s note: 

The artel (артель) was a form of peasant cooperative that emerged with the emancipation of the Russian serfs in the 1860s. After the 1917 revolution, it was integrated into the collectivized economy of the kolkhoz.
in the framework of the socialization 16GI translator’s note: обобществление of the peasant implements — a sufficient condition to overcome the internal contradictions and to root the peasantry in socialism. The tactic national socialism adopted with respect to the NEP blatantly contradicts the strategic line of the proletarian revolution and is totally subordinated to the strategic line of national socialism — the theory of socialism in one country. For Lenin, the NEP was always only a stage on the road to international revolution, only a fit with the pace of its development. Lenin’s tactic regarding the NEP consisted in preparing a series of slow and cautious siege actions, and then launching an offensive inside the USSR, bearing in mind that “the Port Arthur stronghold will be struck on a world scale because the forces of all the countries that will defeat it will mature” (Lenin).17GI translator’s note: 4] The Battle of Port Arthur was a decisive episode of the 1904–05 Russo–Japanese war. The city was a Russian colonial possession in China, the Tsarist empire’s only warm water port on the Pacific, and was therefore of strategic importance. The Japanese victory was a very important strategic blow.

The passage to the offensive does not at the same time annul the NEP and its methods; it only changes the forms of relationship with the peasantry, since it means strengthening the struggle against the peasant bourgeoisie and introducing collectivization and state farms: the rate of growth, which is determined by the ideal weight of large industry, the level of technology, and the scale of our links with the world economy. As internal economic processes work out their complex political expression, all the basic economic problems of the NEP are, in the first place, more complex political problems on which the fate of the workers’ state depends. The national socialists ignore this political content of the problems of the NEP.

6) National socialism in Russia, which became an instrument of social and political reaction against the socialist tendencies of October, has gone through two periods in its development. In conditions of relative equilibrium in the economy and politics, when the main contradictions of the revolution still “…thought” in terms of the so-called “period of recovery,” the course of national socialism found its tactical expression in politics according to the kulaks and the adaptation of the development of the state economy to the needs and requirements of the peasant bourgeoisie. Cooperation, as a pure form of organization, was declared a pillar of the road to socialism. The struggle against the theory of permanent revolution and “Trotskyism” was an ideological banner under which petty-bourgeois elements were mobilized and prepared to attack the socialist conquest of the October Revolution. To expose against the opposition, the “idea of the middle peasant” as the highest criterion of the policy of national socialism not only implied moving away from the proletarian position, but in fact undermined the proletarian alliance with the middle peasant. The policy of national socialism, in the interest of the alliance with the “middle peasant” (which, in fact, for national socialism is synonymous with kulaks), “objectively undermined the hegemony of the proletariat, while the Leninist Opposition tirelessly stressed that the alliance with the middle peasant was subject to the condition of strengthening the hegemony of the proletariat.

7) The second period of development of national socialism begins with the moment when the country came out of relative equilibrium and all the latent forces that had matured in the previous period under the cover of right-wing politics came to light and revealed the main contradictions of our revolution and the complete bankruptcy of the right-centrist course.

Not being able to return to the strategic line of the proletariat and rely directly on the proletarian vanguard, and through it on the broad layers of workers and poor peasants, not daring at the same time to make a sharp turn to the right for fear that the resistance of the proletariat would begin to manifest itself in 1928, the centrist wing of national socialism tried “to adapt itself to the proletariat, but without abandoning the principled basis of its policy or, what is most important, its omnipotence” (Trotsky18SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, “Problems of the Development …”). This was expressed in an attempt to resolve all the contradictions with a stroke of the pen in the national framework, but on the path of an ultra-left adventure.

The essence of this adventure is: a policy of adventurous pace of industrialization, the abolition of the NEP, administrative liquidation of classes in the countryside, and uninterrupted collectivization as methods of building a national socialist society in a four-year period. This put all economic policy above real resources and class relations.

In this case, it is a policy based on the same old theory of socialism in one country, but now raised to a new level, to a third pace: the course towards the liquidation of classes within a closed and self-reliant national economy. Thus it introduced into the kolkhoz all the contradictions of the present village, where they are reproduced on a new basis, denying the social differences within the kolkhoz and considering them a priori as socialist enterprises. Stalinist centrism hides within the [kolkhoz] the capitalist tendencies of agriculture and gives the poor peasants and rural proletarians as prey to the prosperous peasant of the kolkhoz.

Having lost its support among the kulaks and without finding it in the working class, Stalinist centrism is trying to create a base of support among the middle peasants of the kolkhoz, which according to the decisions of the Sixteenth Congress of the Communist Party should become “the support of the Soviet power in the countryside” and be assimilated into socialism on the economic basis of the petty-bourgeois economy, integrated in an administrative form on the basis of the socialization of the peasant implements.

“The bureaucratic forcing of the tempos of industrialization and collectivization, based upon a false theoretical position and not verified by the collective thought of the party, means a relentless accumulation of disproportions and contradictions, especially along the lines of the mutual relations with the world economy” (Trotsky19SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, Ibid.), on the one hand, and the relation between the city and the countryside, on the other. As a result of all the politics of centrism, we have a worsening of the relationship between the state and the proletariat, and between the proletariat and the peasantry, while the bureaucracy rises above the classes and general discontent grows.

8) The strategic line of national socialism, if we measure it by the test of events, has been a complete failure, putting the country of the proletarian dictatorship at risk of death, while at the same time serving as a brake on revolution in the backward and colonial countries — ruining and disorganizing the Communist International — paralyzing the communist movement throughout the world: “The International Left Opposition rejects and condemns categorically the theory of socialism in one country, created in 1924 by the epigones, as the worst perversion of Marxism, as the principal achievement of Thermidorian ideology. Irreconcilable combat against Stalinism (or national socialism), which has found its expression in the program of the Communist International,20GI translator’s note: This is a reference to the program adopted at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International in 1928 at the behest of Bukharin and Stalin, who Trotsky as “the great organizer of defeats.” is a necessary condition for correct revolutionary strategy, in the questions of the international class struggle as well as in the sphere of the economic tasks of the USSR.” (Trotsky21SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, Ibid.).

Chapter III. The Current Crisis of the Revolution and the Strategic Objectives of the Proletariat

1) All the upheavals of the Soviet system are based on the following great interwoven historical contradictions: “(a) the heritage of the capitalist and precapitalist contradictions of old czarist-bourgeois Russia, primarily the contradiction between town and country; (b) the contradiction between the general cultural-economic backwardness of Russia and the tasks of socialist transformation which dialectically grow out of it; (c) the contradiction between the workers’ state and the capitalist encirclement, particularly between the monopoly of foreign trade and the world market” (Trotsky22SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, Ibid.). All these contradictions, which are by no means ephemeral and episodic, have developed in the last nine years under the conditions created by an incorrect leadership policy and the resulting defeats of the world proletariat, since 1923.

The general cultural backwardness of the country, under the domination of small-scale production in the agricultural sector, created a profound contradiction between the material base and the socio-political superstructure of the proletarian dictatorship. On this basis, an entire bureaucracy was erected, strengthened, and manifested as a “superstructure built over the isolated and downtrodden state of the small producer” (Lenin23SMC translator’s note: Lenin, The Tax in Kind., the ignorance of the broad working masses, on the one hand, and as a tool in the struggle against the proletariat and the socialist tendencies of our revolution by the former layer of government officials, on the other, which represent the fragments of the developed ruling classes, which are the petty-bourgeois elements and high bureaucracy of the CPSU, which fell to some extent under the influence of bourgeois elements of the state apparatus, which escalated amidst the social, political, and leadership reaction of the party and the entire country. At the same time, “the Soviet bureaucracy, which represents [unintelligible] the upper stratum of the victorious proletariat with broad strata of the overthrown classes, includes [unintelligible] agency of world capital” (Trotsky)24SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, Ibid.).

The theory of socialism in one country responds to the social needs of the Soviet bureaucracy, which is becoming increasingly conservative in its aspirations for national rule and requires the final consecration of the revolution (providing a privileged position to the bureaucracy) as something supposedly sufficient for the peaceful construction of socialism.

A profound antagonism reigns between the creative forces of the revolution and the bureaucracy. The erroneous policy of the centrist bureaucracy, which is at odds with the historical interests of the working class, has long been one of the main sources of the growth of the bureaucracy. Taking advantage of a relationship of forces unfavorable to the proletariat, the centrist bureaucracy has crushed the [unintelligible] Leninist party, which was liquidated as an independent organization of the proletarian vanguard, established the political and economic oppression of the proletariat, the elimination of the trade unions as bodies for the defense of the interests of the workers and as a school of communism, and established a plebiscitary-Bonapartist regime in the parties, trade unions, and soviets; Thus strengthening the elements of dual power25GI translator’s note: The Soviet Trotskyists refer in this context to the contradiction between Soviet power, on the one hand, and the pro-capitalist tendencies in the countryside, on the other, as “dual power.” and with its policy, which vacillated between opportunism and adventurism, the central leadership led the country into an acute socio-economic crisis and profound political upheaval.

2) There can be only two ways out of the crisis in which the revolution finds itself, created by the nine-year domination of the party and Soviet bureaucracy under conditions of political and social reaction: I) either the bourgeois restoration, through a violent counterrevolutionary coup; or II) the complete restoration of the proletarian dictatorship, through a deep reform of the party, the unions, and the soviets. The struggle for this second way is the political content of the entire struggle of the Leninist opposition — as the Russian detachment of the International Left Opposition.

3) The main task of the proletariat in the economic field is to carry out a planned withdrawal from the position of adventurism in industry and agriculture. This withdrawal must have the following objectives: I) Creation of real economic plans that will ensure the constant growth of the economy on the basis of a dynamic equilibrium; II) Restoration of the peasants’ confidence in the proletariat and its state (smychka); III) Regrouping of forces in the city and the village so that the conditions for a future offensive are created. Only if these tasks are fulfilled can the proletariat consolidate its dictatorship and maintain the road to socialism until the victory of the proletariat in other countries.

4) The planned withdrawal from the adventurous position also implies a withdrawal in the sphere of town–country relations, towards market methods limited by planned regulation, which must be strict and increasing. But such a retreat towards market methods does not yet solve the problems of the relationship with the middle peasant in the political sphere. The confidence of the peasants in the results and the socialist efforts of the proletariat were undermined by a dangerous political leadership. It is impossible to predict whether the middle peasant, after what the centrist leadership has done with him in recent years, will be satisfied with concluding an agreement with the working class on the basis of the NEP, or whether the middle peasant will not agree with a “restoration of the NEP” and demand guarantees. This will be seen in practice, and the experience of the retreat itself will depend mainly on the power of the working class itself in the struggle against the Bonapartist counterrevolution, which will try to snatch away the average and poor peasant masses that are under the influence of the proletariat.

The Leninist Opposition, taking the lead to reverse this adventurous line, repeats once again, with respect to Lenin’s words, which should be the basis of our relationship with the peasantry: “We declare openly and honestly, without any deception to the peasants: in order to maintain the road to socialism, we, peasant comrades, will make a series of concessions to you, but only within these limits and to a certain extent, and of course we will judge for ourselves to what extent and with what limits. This is how the relationship between the proletariat and the peasantry is approached, that is, either the peasantry must make an agreement with us and we make economic concessions to them, or there is a struggle” (Lenin).

5) Under the pressure of the contradictions and difficulties aggravated by the present policy of the centrist leaders will force them to initiate a spontaneous withdrawal from this adventurous position. But this withdrawal, under the leadership of centrism, will inevitably change the entire policy, to be oriented towards the exit of the “political NEP,”26GI translator’s note: In other words, to rehabilitate the political rights of the class sectors that exploited labor, making a “political” translation of the economic concessions that the Soviet leadership had been forced to make that is, it will transfer the initiative to the hands of the Thermidorian-Bonapartist elements of the CPSU, which are already breeding a Bonapartist plan of agreements with the peasantry and world capital.

In order to cut off the path of retreat into the tracks of the “political NEP,” the Leninist opposition fights irreconcilably against the ruling centrist faction and puts forward a program of demands and slogans to ensure a way out of the current crisis of the revolution in the direction of the interests of the proletariat.

6) Today, as in the period when we wrote our platform: “There exist in this country two mutually exclusive fundamental positions. One, the position of the proletariat building socialism, the other, the position of the bourgeoisie aspiring to switch our development on to capitalist lines.” 27SMC translator’s note: Trotsky, “Platform of the Joint Opposition,” chap. 1, “Introductory” (1927).

The leading faction of Stalinist centrism, oscillating between these two positions [unintelligible] in the bloc with Besedovski:28GI translator’s note: Grígori Besedovski was an official of the Soviet embassy in Paris who in 1929 deserted and sought asylum in France, becoming known as an anti-communist émigré. “on two fronts,” and in fact mainly with the Leninist Opposition — leads to the fact that the relationship of forces is increasingly evolving in favor of the Thermidorian-Bonapartist forces.

The Leninist Opposition is the only representative of the position of the proletariat. Under difficult conditions, it continues to defend the strategic line of Marxism and Bolshevism against national socialism, and considers every step of our revolution from the perspective of the development of the international revolution, linking its basic historical evaluation to it and only to it.

First published on May 3, 2020 in Spanish in Ideas de Izquierda.

Translation: Scott Cooper

Notes[+]

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