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A Discussion on Greece (Spring 1932)
|Written||1 March 1932|
Trotsky: I would like to raise some questions about the problem of “faction and party” so as to be able to draw some inferences for other countries from the Greek experience. Should we remain a faction or take steps toward a policy of independence vis-à-vis the party? A situation can be envisioned where the party might be weak and the faction strong, and thus able to make a bid to replace the party. However, all attempts to move in such a direction up till now have failed to produce any favorable results. We have seen the experience in Germany (Urbahns) and in Belgium (Overstraeten), as well as the attempts of the Right Opposition and the most recent experience of the SAP. What is the situation in Greece?
Two more questions on this: First, what current political questions divide the Archio-Marxists and the Communist Party; that is, how do the fundamental differences express themselves in practical work? Second, what experience has there been in the electoral field?
Answer: Suggests reading the written report that has been largely completed and then basing the oral discussion on it.
Trotsky: What is the Agrarian Party’s program?
A.: They call themselves “anticapitalist.”
Trotsky: Do they also call themselves “socialist”?
A.: They call themselves “Marxists.”
Trotsky: And what is their agrarian program?
A.: “Against Communism and against capitalism.” Actually they are representatives of the rich farmers.
Trotsky: What slogans do they propose? (With regard to taxes, banks, etc.)
A.: A debt moratorium on loans from the state and the agrarian bank, lowering taxes for the peasants — for a “peasants’ government.”
Trotsky: The feudalists after all were Turks, and they were driven out. But what about the church; does it control large landed estates?
A.: It does not have a lot of property. There were also big Greek landowners; however in 1918-19 their holdings were taken away by the land reform, which in return offered them large and lucrative compensation.
Trotsky: Who was the land distributed to? The refugees or the indigenous population?
A.: Both. There were 1,500,000 refugees. Among them, about 200,000 eventually received homesteading credits. However, large layers of farmers have considerable tax debts. They are all now threatened with the confiscation of their property.
A.: Reports further on the political slogans of the Communist Party.
The united front: On this question, a bitter struggle prevails between our organization and the official party. In general, the party rejects the united front, even at the trade union level. Its policy is the united front “from below” with separate leaderships for each strike and struggle (set up by the party, of course). On this question our struggle has intensified, especially during the last period.
Trotsky: In connection with Germany, or as a separate question?
A.: In our propaganda we connect up the events in Germany with the attitude of the party in Greece. We are now in the midst of a big crisis, and decisive battles are in the offing. Our congress raised the perspective that these struggles could culminate in a general strike.
Trotsky: And the party?
A.: After the liquidation of the third period, the party abandoned the slogan of the political strike and now merely views the task as struggling for direct, economic partial demands. In place of the united front, the party created a “People’s Committee,” in which only the party, its youth, and the red periphery organizations participate. The Opposition has proposed that workers’ congresses be held in every city, in which all tendencies in the working class should take part and where committees based on proportional representation should be established, which, as a higher form of the united front, would provide leadership for struggles.
Trotsky: These are soviets.
A.: As we have defined their tasks, they should move from leading partial strikes, the Unemployed movement, and actions around the housing question and price and production control toward taking the leadership of a general strike and becoming organs of dual power.
Trotsky: These are soviets. But it is perhaps better for the moment not to call them this. When we established the soviets in Russia, they were not at first organs of power. They had to develop into that. Now, however, the word “soviet” at once suggests the idea of immediate conquest and exercise of power.
A.: To our demands for workers’ congresses and struggle committees with representation of all tendencies, the party counterposes its “People’s Committee,” embracing only official party organizations. The Spartakos group is opposed to our slogan and has issued a manifesto advancing the slogan for a “workers’ and peasants’ government.” This is defined as an intermediate stage that would not yet represent the dictatorship of the proletariat but would rather prepare the way for it. It is supposed to tax the rich and cancel the peasants’ debts.
Trotsky: We could include this slogan, and at the same time raise the question of what bodies the workers’ and peasants’ government should base itself upon. On the “People’s Committee” or on the “Workers’ Congress”? How many members does the Spartakos group have?
A.: They say seventy-five. But this includes completely inactive, dispersed, and vacillating elements.
Trotsky: And the Factionists?
A.: Thirty. They have allied themselves with the Spartakists, although hardly a single one of them wants to work with them.
Trotsky: What kind of organ do they have?
A.: A monthly.
Trotsky: Are they going through a rapprochement with the party? Don’t they want to rejoin?
A.: Several of them have gone back to the party. However, as an organization they do not want to work with the party at all. We just recently proposed a united front to the party. So far, no answer has been received. It is unlikely that the offer will be accepted, especially since the bitterest enemies of our organization are in the new leadership, people who in the past even engineered the murder of our comrades.
Trotsky: To sum up: The Archio-Marxists are for a workers’ congress, to lead partial struggles toward a general strike. The Communist Party calls for a People’s Committee. But this is only a leading body. What is it supposed to do?
A.: The People’s Committee has attempted to organize demonstrations. All of ten people showed up. Since then the party has said nothing more about the People’s Committee.
Trotsky: Does the People’s Committee have a legal existence?
A.: Its manifesto had the address of the trade union organization. It contains the slogans for a “soviet Greece” and for a “workers’ and peasants’ government.” The latter slogan has been around since 1923-24. In those days it was advanced along the lines of the Kuomintang and the Bulgarian tactic. At present the party has not defined the character of this “workers’ and peasants’ government.”
Trotsky: And what is the position of our organization regarding this slogan?
A.: We can only view this slogan as purely formal, a substitute for the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Just raising such a slogan is not enough to achieve it. We need transitional slogans that lead toward this.
Trotsky: We can accept raising this slogan as a perspective, that is, in the following sense: We have a bourgeois government, but we want a workers’ government. So, we propose a workers’ congress. Then, we can say to the party: You are for a workers’ and peasants’ government. In order to achieve this we need bodies on which such a government can base itself, that is, a workers’ congress.
A.: In our most recent proposal for a united front, we suggested a joint platform for unity.
Trotsky: The slogan for a workers’ and peasants’ government, which would be foolish for Germany, is correct in Greece, where there is a peasant movement, a movement of debt-burdened refugees. It represents masses. And since the proletariat in Greece does not constitute a majority, the slogan for a workers’ and peasants’ government can become important — as a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but one that is comprehensible to the peasants. It is in fact more than a form. The role of the peasantry in Greece requires that the vanguard of the proletariat take it into consideration and formulate its own policy and measures accordingly. That was also the situation in Russia, yet we spoke about a workers’ and peasants’ government only after the conquest of power, and Lenin was not entirely certain about this characterization. But for us the decisive fact was that the proletariat had already won power and taken over the government.
A.: We explained in our congress that we are opposed to the workers’ and peasants’ government as an “intermediate form,” but that we consider it a synonym for the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Trotsky: The dictatorship of the proletariat has various stages. In Russia the first stage was marked by the coalition with the Left SRs (November 1917 to July 1918). That was the coalition with representatives of the peasantry. Two days following their resignation, the Left SRs organized a revolt against the Soviet government and were jailed. Subsequently, the Soviet government became more “Bolshevized.” There was a difference between the first and second stages. In this sense we can say that the term workers’ and peasants’ government was “honest,” for there had been a workers’ and soldiers’ congress and, moreover, a peasant congress. This peasant congress joined with the workers’ and soldiers’ congress, elected its committee, and sent its representatives to the executive committee of the workers’ and soldiers’ congress. That corresponded to the peasants’ way of thinking at the time.
A.: The party speaks of social fascism, archio-fascism, agrarian fascism, and monarcho-fascism.
Trotsky: Does any real fascist organization exist?
A.: There are fascist organizations that are politically insignificant, artificial imitations of Italian fascism. Recently, an organization of combat veterans and nationalists was formed. It is carrying out a certain amount of activity and focuses on attacking the Communists. But it does not call itself fascist and does not constitute a political organization in the full sense. It is an imitation of the Stahlhelme, from whom they have also borrowed their name. The group is based in Salonika, where they have already been able to break up trade union meetings.
Trotsky: You have said nothing about the national question. What about Macedonia and the minorities?
A.: Our congress passed a resolution opposing the slogan of independence for Macedonia, which was adopted by the party in 1925.
A.: This came after there had been a complete population exchange of Greeks, Turks, and Bulgarians. Bulgarian Macedonia had 90 percent Bulgarians, Greek Macedonia 90 percent Greeks, Serbian Macedonia the same. Excluding the Jewish minority, who live only in the cities, all of those in the countryside are Greeks from Asia Minor and the Black Sea area.
Trotsky: Why did the party raise the slogan for Macedonian independence?
A.: Manuilsky and Kolarov pressed for it. At the time, the Bulgarian party had made an alliance with Bulgarian nationalists, who called themselves “Macedonians,” and hoped to win them over. It was on this basis that the slogan for Macedonian independence was raised. But the “Macedonians,” under the leadership of Tsankov, immediately began to train their fire on the Communists.
Trotsky: Should it be a question of the independence of Macedonia as a whole?
Trotsky: I’m not certain whether it is correct to reject this slogan. We cannot say we are opposed to it because the population will be against it. The population must be asked for its opinion on this. The “Bulgarians” represent an oppressed layer. We must explain that the people have the right to decide for themselves. If the government rejects a referendum, then we must struggle against this decision. If the oppressed nationality rises up against the government, then we must support them. This is the kind of language we have to talk. And if the Macedonian Greeks declare their opposition to the Athens government, demanding their independence, should we dogmatically oppose it? I doubt it. But I am not familiar enough with the question, since I only came into contact with the Macedonian problem in 1913.
A.: The Comintern dumped this slogan, because it turned out to be unrealizable: Macedonia is not a uniform national whole.
Trotsky: But neither is Greece. Why couldn’t Macedonia likewise exist as an autonomous union with different nationalities? The population has to be polled about this.
A.: What are the forces which will support this?
Trotsky: It’s not our task to organize nationalist uprisings. We merely say that if the Macedonians want it, we will then side with them, that they should be allowed to decide, and we will also support their decision. What disturbs me is not so much the question of the Macedonian peasants, but rather whether there isn’t a touch of chauvinist poison in Greek workers. That is very dangerous. For us, who are for a Balkan federation of soviet states, it is all the same if Macedonia belongs to this federation as an autonomous whole or part of another state. However, if the Macedonians are oppressed by the bourgeois government, or feel that they are oppressed, we must give them support.
Is there a movement of Macedonians in Greece for autonomy?
Trotsky: In Sofia there is a Macedonian committee, which is, of course, supported by the government; however, in Vienna during 1929-30, there existed (and still exists?) a Macedonian newspaper that was published by a committee backed by the Comintern. What do you propose for the Balkans as a whole?
A.: A soviet federation.
Trotsky: And the party?
A.: A soviet Greece. They say nothing about a Balkan federation of soviet states. The party criticizes our slogan for a federation, because they claim we use it to hide the fact that we are opposed to a soviet Greece.
Trotsky: Prior to the war there were the Tesniaki (left Social Democrats) in Bulgaria, who supported a Balkan federation. At that time, this slogan played a big role. We took it up although what was proposed was a [bourgeois] democratic federation. It is now clear that no democratic power exists in the Balkans that could make such a federation a reality. Rather this is a task for the proletariat. The perspective of a workers’ congress, a peasants’ movement, a general strike, that is, the prelude to insurrection in Greece, will pose the question of the Balkan federation with greater force. “How can anyone imagine a victorious revolution in a Greece caught in this birdcage system of the Balkan states, hemmed in on all sides by dictatorship and fascism?” some will say. We will answer: “A revolutionary perspective is impossible without a federation of the Balkan states, which obviously will not stop here, but rather will extend into the federation of the United Soviet States of Europe.”
The Trade Union Question
A.: Our slogan on the trade union question is for trade union unity, with workers’ democracy and the right of factions. The party counterposes unity in the United General Confederation of Labor (the red trade union).
Trotsky: Which of the existing trade union federations is the strongest?
A.: They are almost equal in strength, but the Stalinist federation is more active. We participate in all the trade unions, but we are strongest in the United General Confederation.
Trotsky: Is the party’s influence in the United General Confederation stronger than ours?
A.: The party holds on to the leadership through artificial and violent means. Although we are in the leadership in several trade unions in the United Confederation, up to now we have not been able to get a single representative in the national leadership. We hold the leadership in the following United Confederation trade unions in Athens: textiles, cement, bakers, pretzel makers, blacksmiths. In the reformist federation we lead the cobblers, construction workers, carpenters, and barbers. The metal workers’ organization in Piraeus, which was under our leadership, and later won by the Stalinists, is now in the hands of the reformists, who are directly in league with the employers, the state, and the police. In Athens we have thirty-two fractions (minority groupings). Each of these fractions holds regular evening discussions, in which numerous sympathizers participate. Finally, there are still a number of independent trade unions that are not connected to any federation, mostly those that have been expelled from one or the other.
Trotsky: What position did the Archio-Marxists take on this question? What experience have they had, and what is their present stand?
A.: We approach this question from the standpoint of the relationship of forces.
Trotsky: How can our poor vote in the 1931 local elections in Salonika be explained?
A.: That question was discussed at the congress and it was established that there had been a wrong estimate of the relationship of forces. The information that we received from Salonika before the elections was that the party organ was selling 70 copies an issue, our organ 3,000 an issue. The party had almost no support in the trade unions. We held the leadership in six trade union organizations. The crowds at the party’s public election rallies never numbered more than 300, while we drew 1,000 to 1,500. The unemployed movement was also under our leadership. The results of the election were 2,300 votes for the party, 390 votes for us. The discussion at the conference revealed the following: (1) The information about newspaper sales was false; not all copies were sold, many were merely distributed. (2) The trade unions were not exactly mass organizations, and the sympathy toward us was more local and personal than political in character. Moreover, our influence was not as great as had been reported to us. (3) A considerable portion of our supporters is young, still without the right to vote; another section of workers couldn’t get voters cards. (4) The party got the votes of the passive elements, who do not attend rallies, cannot be mobilized by the party, and whose activity consists only in voting. Our influence, on the other hand, is precisely among the active elements of the proletariat. (5) Behind the party stands the authority of the Soviet Union and the Comintern.
Trotsky: Points 1 to 4 could explain the party getting 2,000 votes and our also only getting 2,000 or even 1,000. Therefore it is obvious, in view of the results, that the last reason cited is the decisive one. Only this can explain why the passive elements vote for the party and not for us. Why must we especially stress this reason? Because along with the local and national factors, the authority of the October Revolution and the Comintern enters in as a powerful component of the relationship of forces. There is experience to confirm this: Germany (Urbahns, the Brandlerites, and-most recently the SAP); Belgium (Overstraeten); in addition, the experience of a new Opposition group in Košice in Czechoslovakia.
That proves that the historical conditions still do not exist for a second party. In the prewar International, the left wing struggled for years as a small group. Mammoth events like the World War, the collapse of the Second International, the Russian Revolution, were necessary to create prerequisites for establishing a new International. In the present era, events have not yet taken place that in the eyes of the masses are of decisive enough importance to justify establishing a new party. For that reason, not only can we not establish a new party but rather we are caught up in the same receding wave as the official party, since we are viewed by the masses as a part of the Communist camp.
This fact is very important for Spain. There we have a new group that now has somewhat over 1,000 members and whose leadership has just declared that they do not want to continue tail-ending the party, but want to present their own slate in the elections. They will propose a united front to the party and following the anticipated refusal, put forward independent candidates. The danger facing the Spanish organization along this path is tremendous.
At the time of the elections the Greek comrades had already had their own organ for ten months, and for an even longer time a number of trade union newspapers. Until just recently, the Spanish organization only had a monthly theoretical journal. If our organization in Greece has 1,600 members out of a population of seven million, the Spanish organization, which arose in the exceedingly favorable conditions of a rising revolutionary wave, should have at least five times as many members. In short, running our own candidates against those of the Spanish Communist Party, which has grown at an incomparably greater rate than the Opposition and which has incomparably greater resources at its command, will lead to even less favorable results than was the case in Greece. The stand of our Spanish comrades is very rash and can compromise our organization for a long time.
The National Question
Trotsky: I would again like to raise the question of Macedonia and Epirus. So far as I understand, not much importance has been given to this question up to now. However, this question is very important for educating the Greek workers, for liberating them from national prejudices, for improving their understanding of the international situation in the Balkans and generally. Official statistics give the following information: There are 82,000 Macedonian Slavs among Macedonia’s 1,400,000 inhabitants; there are 19,000 Albanians among Epirus’s 300,000 inhabitants. The first question that comes to mind is: Are these figures accurate? Our first task is to take an attitude of total skepticism toward these figures. The statistics were drawn up in the year 1925, at the time of the resettlement, under the bayonets of military authority. What do they call “Greek”? Perhaps those who speak Greek because they have to but don’t consider themselves Greeks. If these figures are inaccurate, that fact must evoke dissatisfaction and hatred among the nationalist elements. If we say that the official statistics must be regarded with great skepticism, we will win a lot of sympathy. Most important, in this way we can win the confidence of the Bulgarian proletariat. Even before the war the Bulgarians were also very distrustful of the Greeks, since the Greeks are very nationalistic.
But even if there really were no more than 82,000 Slavs in Macedonia, this question would retain its great significance. Where does this minority of 82,000 live? Probably on the Bulgarian border. The small size of this national layer does not rule out autonomy. Thus in Russia there is the tiny country of Moldavia, near Romania, existing as an independent entity. The question will be asked: Do you want even more Balkanization? To this we answer: We are for the formation of large economic units. But this cannot occur against the will of the masses. If these masses want separation, we must say: Go through your experiment, you will come back to the soviet federation. However, insofar as the bourgeois government of the ruling nation prevents you from separating, we will defend you. The importance of posing the question in this way is best illustrated by the fate of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and czarist monarchy.
In Austria the semi-Marxists always came up with wise economic, pseudo-revolutionary arguments to prove the need for retaining the oppressed nations within the framework of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The result: Austro-Hungary disintegrated into its component parts. In Russia the Bolsheviks always championed the right of each nation to its autonomy. As a result, Russia survived as an economic entity. This was possible only because through their long years of struggle for the right of self-determination of nations, the Bolsheviks won the confidence of the nationally oppressed popular masses and, above all, of the proletariat. I believe that the Greek and international press must devote several articles to this question. The entire problem must be thoroughly studied and a small conference held with the Bulgarian comrades, so as to work out a uniform policy.
A.: This year large national revolutionary mobilizations against England occurred in Cyprus. We spoke out in defense of the population’s right of self-determination and explained the need for revolutionary struggles. We took the same position with respect to the Dodecanese, which are occupied by the Italians. The organization has concerned itself with the Macedonian question for several years. The party’s alliance with the Bulgarian nationalists severely undermined it. I will write about this.
Trotsky: In Cyprus and the Dodecanese it was oppressed Greeks, in Macedonia, oppressed Slavs. If Communists stand up for the oppressed Greeks, but do not support the oppressed Slavs against the Greek oppressor, mistrust of us can only grow. If I am not mistaken, Engels said in a polemic against Bakunin: Any revolutionary who holds out one little finger to pan-Slavism is lost.
The Agrarian Question
Trotsky: What are the Archio-Marxists’ slogans on the agrarian question?
A.: The conference drew up a series of demands: Cancel the debts of the refugees and those of the poor peasants (debts to the National Bank, usurers, outstanding unpaid taxes). Abolish the produce taxes (on harvests and livestock).
Trotsky: It is paid according to quantity of produce, and you want to repeal this tax for poor peasants?
A.: Yes. Our conference and our regional committees, moreover, put forward a series of partial demands, divided by category — wine, tobacco, and olive oil, which represent the most important products of Greek agriculture. The conference commissioned the members of the Central Committee to draft a separate report for each region. These reports are still in preparation. For some time we have had a general position on the agrarian question. However, only this year did we set very practical tasks for ourselves in this field.
We also opposed the Agrarian Party, since a peasants’ party, which would stand between or above the two principal classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, isn’t possible. A “neutral” Agrarian Party can only be an organ of the bourgeoisie. Many members of the Agrarian Party are former Communists who were demoralized by the policy of the official Communist Party and have since turned toward the new party, believing that it is also a revolutionary party.
Through systematic work and theoretical clarification, large sections of this party can be won to us. In certain peasant areas revolutionary sentiments can be seen. Our comrades who live in nearby towns are invited to villages to speak by peasant members of the Agrarian Party. Peasants from entire villages are called together and listen to our speakers with great sympathy. In a number of areas the peasants are actively working to distribute our newspaper. The situation is rather favorable for us, and it is not excluded that under the pressure of the peasants, who are a hundred times more to the left than the party leadership, as well as under the influence of our activity, the Agrarian Party may quickly disintegrate.
Our comrades are working out specific demands for each area that answer to the needs of the peasantry there. Moreover, in accordance with the decision of the conference, in the near future we will publish a special peasants’ paper. As for the Communist Party, it labels the Agrarian Party “agrarian fascism.” The Communist Party projects forming farm workers’ trade unions. We are not opposed to this idea, but it will not solve the peasant question, since the farm workers constitute a negligible percentage of the farming population and are found in only some areas. We put forward the slogan for forming associations of poor peasants.
A few more experiences: In Macedonia and Thrace the official party had a great influence over the peasant population at one time. Now, however, the party is visibly losing ground to the Agrarian Party; we have to struggle against the Agrarian Party all the more, so as to win back what the Communist Party has lost. The CP publishes a fortnightly newspaper for the peasants. The Agrarian Party has two daily newspapers and one monthly organ (that is, bourgeois newspapers that have taken up support of the Agrarian Party). In the last elections the Agrarian Party won a large vote. In some villages, where the CP is not running any candidates, and where we have workers native to the area who enjoy authority in the village, we want to run candidates in order to carry out communist propaganda. The Agrarian Party is very heterogeneous; they try to pull in everyone without regard to their ideas. In their magazine you can find articles from totally conflicting tendencies. The leaders of the same organization write for and against socialism, for and against small property.
Another serious problem in Greece is a lack of arable land. In some areas reclamation is being carried out. The dearth of land has produced a large migration from the countryside to the towns. This includes people looking for work, artisans, merchants, as well as lumpen proletarian elements.
Trotsky: Do the agricultural workers’ trade unions already exist? And the peasants’ associations?
A.: No, not agricultural workers’ trade unions. A few local peasants’ associations. (Reads from the [Archio-Marxist] magazine Daulos [Torch] the report of a regional committee and the struggle program advanced by the committee.)
Trotsky: The facts are very interesting and create the impression of a prerevolutionary situation. I have the impression that in the present circumstances our organization’s slogans are no longer adequate. This situation requires advancing, along with limited demands, general slogans that can give a common direction to the movement. One might be workers’ and peasants’ control of the banks. For example, let’s consider the question of remitting debts and granting credits. There are, of course, poor and rich peasants, and there must be control over whose debts are to be canceled and who is to be granted credit. There have to be organizations that can exercise this supervision — peasant committees. Peasant associations are semi-political organizations that we can utilize to increase our influence. Peasant committees are revolutionary bodies that turn against the state one day and become revolutionary organs of state power the next. These committees correspond entirely to workers’ soviets in the city. We must combine the question of debt remission and credit with the demand for control of the banks and for forming peasant committees. Peasants’ control! No secret diplomacy in the granting of credit! Open the books of all banks! But since the peasants cannot understand the books, they will turn to the workers in the city and ask their help. We must understand how to crown limited and local demands with demands of national scope and give the movement revolutionary perspectives.
The formation of the Agrarian Party is a symptom of a revolutionary crisis like the events in Bulgaria in 1924. It is true that it cannot be an independent class party. However, besides this correct theoretical evaluation, we have to have a correct policy toward this party, whose existence is now a fact. Our policy cannot be simply negative. We must initiate a sorting-out process in this party and show on the basis of the facts that it cannot be a substitute for a Communist Party, but that rather it must be replaced by a Communist Party. Our policy has already been defined by the demands we have raised. We propose common struggles on the basis of these demands. Either we will win over the revolutionary elements of this party or else unmask them in front of the peasants. The same holds true for the slogan for control of the banks and forming peasant committees.
In the elections we can also run not only local workers, but even revolutionary peasants as our candidates, asking them to embrace our demands and to commit themselves to fight for these demands. Even if peasants are members of the Agrarian Party, we can put them on our slates if they embrace our program, since the Agrarian Party is not a party but rather a collection of tendencies that must be broken up. Of course, that does not rule out the possibility that one or another peasant that we push to the fore will become corrupted after being elected and will betray us rather than be decisively won over to us. During the Duma elections the Bolsheviks again and again formed voting blocs with the Social Revolutionaries, a tactic that was severely criticized by the Mensheviks. To these criticisms, the Bolsheviks answered: Our bloc is based on the struggle for democratic demands. The liberal bourgeoisie is antidemocratic. We are prepared, along with the SRs, to clash with the liberal bourgeoisie and its Menshevik allies. The big difference between Russia and Greece is that in the latter feudalism no longer exists. However, what still exists is the bill presented by feudalism in the form of the debt owed by the refugees and poor peasants for the land they have occupied. The struggle to abolish this indebtedness is the struggle for the final elimination of feudalism.
Developments in the USSR
A.: A question about the meaning of the latest turn in Russia.
Trotsky: We have written many times that a retreat was unavoidable. The Stalinist bureaucracy proclaimed the program for thorough collectivization on the basis of a completely inadequate technical and economic foundation: It hoped to liquidate the kulaks by administrative measures. It forced the middle peasants to enter the collective farms and to acclaim this collectivization as a magnificent success. We said that the peasants would consume their basic agricultural capital, and the crisis would inevitably spread beyond this sector. Collectivization cannot be carried through without a technological foundation and without the necessary psychological preparation. The outcome is evident: The existing grain and livestock have fallen below minimum needs. In Moscow, Petrograd [Leningrad], and other big cities, there are already difficulties in maintaining the supply of food. In the provinces, on the other hand, there is famine. That is true also in the peasant villages (especially there, where grain must be brought in). The petty bourgeoisie is suffering as a result, but so is the working class. The number of collectivized peasants is now dropping. Independent peasants — who previously were said not to exist — are now beginning to be protected. Individual property and the free market are being encouraged, a process of differentiation is being generated among the collective farms and even more so among independent peasants. After ruining the kulaks by administrative violence, the bureaucracy is once again giving them the opportunity to thrive. We have always proposed controlling the kulaks, trimming their claws. The kulaks cannot be eliminated all at once, but they can be regulated and cut down to size until the technical and cultural bases have been laid for collectivization on a wide scale. Until February 1928, the kulaks were encouraged. The kulaks, who comprise 5 percent of the peasantry, owned 40 percent (official figure?) of the grain supply destined for the market and finally refused to deliver grain to the cities, which resulted in the threat of famine. This is when the Stalinist bureaucracy first launched its attack against the kulaks and transformed the grain requisitioning campaign into a campaign of annihilation against the kulaks. Now, they have returned to the old position, but on a new basis. This will have the greatest consequences for the collectivization, and for the five-year plan. The distribution of goods will be regulated not only by the plan but also by the free market. How far this will go remains to be seen, since it cannot be predicted how far the retreat will go. The introduction of the NEP was very carefully managed, and nevertheless it touched off an elemental growth of the free market. But at that time we had the party, which attentively followed and controlled all developments. At present, economically speaking, we are starting from a more advantageous position: Industry has grown, the socialist sector has become stronger. But the political factors are less favorable and they may get the upper hand over the economic factors: (1) The workers suffered greatly while industry was being built up, but they were told that this was the advent of socialism. We warned of the disillusionment that would inevitably be provoked by such phrases. Now, not only will the kulaks in the village accumulate capital but the Nepman in the city will also, and a new process of social differentiation will arise. The masses have become more critical politically and more demanding, but also more disillusioned. (2) For the peasants relinquishing their individual farms meant a catastrophic change in their way of living. Now a return to an independent peasant economy is starting. The peasants will say to themselves: “What they forbid yesterday, they permit today. Why then did they turn us out of our farms?” The authority of the state will be violently shaken, and, on the other hand, the class consciousness of the kulaks will be reinforced. (3)
However, the most important element is the party. Russia is a country with a vast, scattered petty-bourgeois population (110 million peasants). More than half of them are collectivized. We always predicted the inevitable differentiation and the danger of the kulakization of the collective farms; we always stressed that the collective farms represent only a transitional economic form, and that they have to be regulated. The new turn will accelerate the differentiation within the individual collective farms and among them. In order to observe all these molecular processes and sound a timely alarm, thousands and thousands of active leaders are needed. The bureaucracy and statistics cannot be substituted for this. There must be an independent revolutionary proletarian party, and this does not exist. The NEP meant continual latent class struggle. It was the task of the party to lay this bare. The party has now been displaced by the bureaucracy, which deceives the party and the proletariat about the situation and the tasks. In 1921 we told the party and the proletariat the absolute truth, that we had to retreat to capitalist methods; we made clear the dangers involved and warned against them. Even if we were obliged to arm the kulaks economically, we armed the proletariat politically and militarily. The party does not exist as a party now. Everything takes place in the dark. Nothing can be foreseen. Hence the great dangers.