Stalin on Trotskyism

Trotskyists persistently try to play down the great differences between the political outlooks of Lenin and Trotsky.  But in fact the experience of the Russian revolution and subsequent revolutionary upheavals throughout the world have confirmed Lenin’s revolutionary theory and practice as essentially correct while Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution” has been refuted by the harsh test of the development of actual events.  In the Soviet Union during the nineteen twenties there was protracted struggle within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) between the Leninist and Trotskytist lines.  Eventually, in 1927, the platform of Trotsky and his associates was voted upon by the whole membership of the Party.  Only, 4,000 votes were cast in favour of Trotsky’s platform while 724,000 votes were cast against it.  Here are reprinted extracts from one of Stalin’s many refutations of Trotsky and co,,  These extracts are taken from the article The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists written in 1924.

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There are two specific features of the October Revolution which must be understood first of all if we are to comprehend the inner meaning and the historical significance of that revolution.

What are these features?

Firstly, the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat was born in our country as a power which came into existence on the basis of an alliance between the proletariat and the labouring masses of the peasantry, the latter being led by the proletariat.  Secondly, the fact that the dictatorship of the proletariat became established in our country as a result of the victory of socialism in one country—a country in which capitalism was little developed—while capitalism was preserved in other countries where capitalism was more highly developed.  …

The dictatorship of the proletariat is not simply a governmental top stratum “skilfully” “selected” by the careful hand of an “experienced strategist”, and judiciously relying” on the support of one section or another of the population.  The dictatorship of the proletariat is the class alliance between the proletariat and the labouring masses of the peasantry for the purpose of overthrowing capital, for achieving the final victory of socialism, on the condition that the guiding force of this alliance is the proletariat.  …

Let us take Trotsky’s ‘Preface’ to his book The Year 1905, written in 1922.  Here is what Trotsky says in this ‘Preface’ concerning “permanent revolution”:

“It was precisely during the interval between January 9 and the October strike of 1905 that the views on the character of the revolutionary development of Russia which came to be known as the theory of ‘permanent revolution’ crystallized in the author’s mind.  This abstruse term represented the diea that the Russian revolution, whose immediate objectives were bourgeois in nature, could not however, stop when these objectives had been achieved.  The revolution would not be able to solve its immediate bourgeois problems except by placing the proletariat in power.  And the latter, upon assuming power, would not be able to confine itself to the bourgeois limits of the revolution.  On the contrary, precisely in order to ensure its victory, the proletarian vanguard would be forced in the very early stages of its rule to make deep inroads not only into feudal property but into bourgeois property as well.  In this it would come into hostile collision not only with all the bourgeois groupings which supported the proletariat during the first stages of the revolutionary struggle, but also with the broad masses of the peasantry with whose assistance it came into power.  The contradictions in the position of a workers’ government in a backward country with an overwhelmingly peasant population could be solved only on an international scale, in the arena of the world proletarian revolution.”  (my emphases—J. St.)

Lenin speaks of the alliance between the proletariat and the labouring strata of the peasantry as the basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat.  Trotsky sees a “hostile collision” between the “proletarian vanguard” and “the broad masses of the peasantry”.

Lenin speaks of the leadership of the toiling and exploited masses by the proletariat.  Trotsky sees “contradictions in the position of a workers’ government in a backward country with an overwhelmingly peasant population.”.

But what if the world revolution is fated to arrive with some delay?  Is there any ray of hope for our revolution?  Trotsky offers no ray of hope; for “the contradictions in the position of a workers; government … could be solved only “in the arena of the world proletarian revolution”.  According to this plan, there is but one prospect left for our revolution: to vegetate in its own contradictions and rot away while waiting for the world revolution.  …

1) “Capitalism has grown into a world system of colonial oppression and of the financial strangulation of the vast majority of the population of the world by a handful of ‘advanced’ countries”  (see preface to the French edition of Lenin’s Imperialism);

2) “this ‘booty’ is shared between two or three powerful world robbers armed to the teeth (America, Britain, Japan), who involve the whole world in their war over the sharing of their booty” (ibid.);

3) The growth of contradictions within the world system of financial oppression and the inevitability of armed clashes lead to the world front of imperialism becoming easily vulnerable to revolution, and to a breach in this front in individual countries becoming probable;

4) This breach is most likrly to occur at those points, and in those countries, where the chain of the imperialist front is weakest, that is to say, where imperialism is least consolidated, and where it is easiest for a revolution to expand;

5) In view ofthis, the victory of socialism in one country, even if that country is less developed in the capitalist sense, while capitalism remains in other countries , even if those countries are more highly developed in the capitalist sense—is quite possible and probable.

Such, briefly, are the foundation’s of Lenin’s theory of the proletarian revolution.  …

Letus take Trotsky’s pamphlet Our Revolution (1905).

Trotsky writes:

“Without direct state support from the European proletariat, the working class of Russia will not be able to maintain itself in power and to transform its temporary rule into a lasting socialist dictatorship..  This we cannot doubt for an instant.”

What does this quotation mean?  It means that the victory of socialism in one country , in this case Russia, is impossible “without direct state support from the European proletariat”, i.e., before the European proletariat has conquered power.

What is there in common between this “theory” and Lenin’s thesis on the possibility of the victory of socialism “in one capitalist country taken separately”?

It goes without saying that for the complete victory of socialism, for a complete guarantee against the restoration of the old order, the united efforts of the proletarians  of several countries are necessary.  It goes without saying that , without the support given to our revolution by the proletariat of Europe,  the proletariat of Russia could not have held out against the general onslaught , just as without the support given by the revolution in Russia to the revolutionary movement in the West the latter could not have developed at the pace at which it has begun to develop since the establishment of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia.  It goes without saying  that we need support.  …

What difference is there between Trotsky’s theory and the ordinary Menshevik theory that the victory of socialism in one country, and in a backward country at that, is impossible without the preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution “in the principal countries fo Western Europe”?

Essentially, there is no difference.

There can be no doubt at all.  Trotsky’s theory of “permanent revolution” is a variety of Menshevism.

Clearly, there is nothing in common.  …