On the Politics of the Left Opposition in Germany

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Dear Comrade,

Many thanks for your letter. It helped me very much. Above all it reinforced my appraisal of the policy that the present Leninbund leadership is carrying out. It seems to me that on all the most important questions our views coincide with yours.

1. You demonstrate that the Leninbund is getting weaker. Of course, there are objective reasons that lead simultaneously to a weakening of communism in relation to the social democracy and to a strengthening of the right wing within communism. But you are. absolutely right when you see as one of the reasons for the weakening of the Leninbund its incorrect policy, particularly with respect to the Communist Party.

2. The Leninbund should feel and function like a faction within German communism and not like an independent party. Putting forth your own candidates in elections is a mistake. Persistent repetition of this mistake will destroy the Leninbund.

3. You enumerate a number of instances when on the basis of the current struggle of the workers you managed to force a local Communist organization to take one step or another, and at the same time brought you closer to the rank and file members of the official party. This is certainly the correct policy. The Communist Left Opposition in Germany must carry 0ut a united-front policy in relation to the official party. Otherwise the Opposition will remain a sect and fall into decay.

4. It goes without saying that the policy of a united front has its dangers, above all the danger of a gradual reconciliation with the ultraleft zigzag or a dissolution into centrism. Thus, the official Communist parties, carrying O\1t a policy of a united front with the social democracy, more than once moved into the social democratic camp. But it is impossible to devise a universal recipe against this danger. What is needed is a correct theoretical position, a serious international organization, a democratic regime within the Opposition, and so on.

5. You write that some of the leaders of the Leninbund argue the following: Because socialism in one country is impossible and because the European revolution is not on the agenda, the destruction of the October Revolution is inevitable, irrespective of the policy of the Communist Party in the USSR. It is worth noting that the Stalinists have for a long time now tried with all their might to attribute this monstrous argument to the Russian Opposition, but the Opposition has persistently kicked it onto the garbage heap. Who has determined in advance the dates for European revolution? Who has figured out ahead of time how many years the dictatorship of the proletariat can hold out in the Soviet republic, given the correct policy? I do not know. It is enough for me that a correct policy in the Soviet Union can strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat and prolong its isolated existence for more than three, five, or ten years. It is enough for me that a correct policy in the Comintern can bring the victory of revolution in Europe closer by three, five, or ten years. And this means that the dictatorship in Russia can survive until the dictatorship is established in Europe. To ensure this course is our fundamental task. The person who decides beforehand that this is impossible is a pathetic blabbermouth, not a revolutionary.

6. According to your words, these very same theorists say that the Soviet republic must move into a “third state,” i.e., the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.” In other words, these gentlemen see Thermidor as the only alternative. Is this really not clear? A “third state,” i.e., one that is neither imperialist nor proletarian, is a petty-bourgeois state. And Thermidor, in fact, means the danger of power passing from the hands of the proletariat into the hands of the petty bourgeoisie. The latter could, of course, really retain power for only several months or, more likely, several weeks. This third state would only be a short bridge to a fascist-imperialist Russia.

7. The “third-state” theorists are hiding Thermidor by naming it the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.” It is difficult to imagine worse political charlatanism.

Lenin advanced the hypothesis of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry as the formula for the coming revolution in Russia. This hypothesis had profound historical content. But the course of the revolution’s development led not to a democratic dictatorship but to a proletarian dictatorship. Lenin explained why the democratic dictatorship was not realized and why it could not come into existence as an independent regime. After the experience of the February revolution, and especially after October, Lenin refused to devote any attention to the philosophers of a third state, considering them nothing more than petty-bourgeois reactionaries or Thermidoreans.

8. You write that the theorists sermonize on the need for the German Opposition to separate itself from the Russian Opposition, and “not dance to its tune” and so on. This is also very symptomatic, since it shows that some petty-bourgeois theorists are converting the struggle against the bureaucratism, command, and administrative-financial direction of the Comintern into a struggle for the transformation of the German Opposition into a nationally exclusive faction. The Russian Opposition has neither the pretensions nor the means to be in charge of or give orders to the other Opposition sections. The relations between these sections can be defined only by ideological factors. Questions of national policy cannot, however, be approached otherwise than from an internationalist point of view. It is necessary to dance not to a Russian tune but to a Marxist tune. Or is it possible for the Russian Opposition to reject Marxism on the grounds that it is a “German” tune? Along this course, one can go very far astray. I am afraid that some leaders of the Leninbund have already gone much further astray than they imagine.

9. On the question of my work, I can answer briefly that I am now busy with the problem of the “third period.” I am devoting a special pamphlet to this question. I hope to demonstrate in it that the fundamentally mistaken theory and practice of the “third period” will inevitably prepare not only new defeats but also conditions for a new turn to the right by the Comintern leadership.

With communist greetings,

L. Trotsky