Trotsky’s Diplomacy and a Certain Party Platform
|Written||8 December 1911|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1974, Moscow, Volume 17, pages 360-364.
Trotsky’s Pravda, No. 22, which appeared recently after a long interval in which no issue was published, vividly illustrates the decay of the petty groups abroad that attempted to base their existence on their diplomatic game with the non-Social-Democratic trends of liquidationism and otzovism.
The publication appeared on November 29, New Style, nearly a month after the announcement issued by the Russian Organising Commission. Trotsky makes no mention of this whatsoever!
As far as Trotsky is concerned, the Russian Organising Commission does not exist. Trotsky calls himself a Party man on the strength of the fact that to him the Russian Party centre, formed by the overwhelming majority of the Social-Democratic organisations in Russia, means nothing. Or, perhaps it is the other way round, comrades? Perhaps Trotsky, with his small group abroad, is just nothing so far as the Social-Democratic organisations in Russia are concerned?
Trotsky uses the boldest type for his assertions—it’s a wonder he never tires of making solemn vows—that his paper is “not a factional but a Party organ”. You need only pay some little attention to the contents of No. 22 to see at once the obvious mechanics of the game with the non- Party Vperyod and liquidator factions.
Take the report from St. Petersburg, signed S. V., which advertises the Vperyod group. S. V. reproaches Trotsky for not having published the resolution of the St. Petersburg Vperyod group against the petition campaign, sent to him some time ago. Trotsky, accused by the Vperyod group of “narrow factionalism” (what black ingratitude!), twists and turns, pleading lack of funds and the fact that his paper does not appear often enough. The game is too obvious: We will do you a good turn, and you do the same for us—we (Trotsky) will keep silent about the fight of the Party people against the otzovists and, again, we (Trotsky) will help advertise Vperyod, and you (S. V.) give in to the liquidators on the question of the “petition campaign”. Diplomatic defence of both non-Party factions—isn’t that the sign of a true Party spirit?
Or take the florid editorial grandly entitled “Onward!”. “Class-conscious workers!” we read in that editorial. “At the present moment there is no more important [sic!] and comprehensive slogan [the poor fellow has let his tongue run away with him] than freedom of association, assembly, and strikes.” “The Social-Democrats,” we read further, “call upon the proletariat to fight for a republic. But if the fight for a republic is not to he merely the bare [!!] slogan of a select few, it is necessary that you class-conscious workers should teach the masses to realise from experience the need for freedom of association and to fight for this most vital class demand.”
This revolutionary phraseology merely serves to disguise and justify the falsity of liquidationism, and thereby to befuddle the minds of the workers. Why is the slogan calling for a republic the bare slogan of a select few when the existence of a republic means that it would be impossible to disperse the Duma, means freedom of association and of the press, means freeing the peasants from violence and plunder by the Markovs, Romanovs, and Purishkeviches? Is it not clear that it is just the opposite—that it is the slogan of “freedom of association” as a “comprehensive” slogan, used independently of the slogan of a republic, that is “bare” and senseless?
It is absurd to demand “freedom of association” from the tsarist monarchy, without explaining to the masses that such freedom cannot be expected from tsarism and that to obtain it there must be a republic. The introduction of bills into the Duma on freedom of association, and questions and speeches on such subjects, ought to serve us Social-Democrats as an occasion and material for our agitation in favour of a republic.
The “class-conscious workers should teach the masses to realise from experience the need for freedom of association”! This is the old song of old Russian opportunism, the opportunism long ago preached to death by the Economists. The experience of the masses is that the ministers are closing down their unions, that the governors and police officers are daily perpetrating deeds of violence against them—this is real experience of the masses. But extolling the slogan of “freedom of association” as opposed to a republic is merely phrase-mongering by an opportunist intellectual who is alien to the masses. It is the phrase-mongering of an intellectual who imagines that the “experience” of a “petition” (with 1,300 signatures) or a pigeon-holed bill is something that educates the “masses”. Actually, it is not paper experience, but something different, the experience of life that educates them; what enlightens them is the agitation of the class-conscious workers for a republic—which is the sole comprehensive slogan from the standpoint of political democracy.
Trotsky knows perfectly well that liquidators writing in legal publications combine this very slogan of “freedom of association” with the slogan “down with the underground party, down with the struggle for a republic”. Trotsky’s particular task is to conceal liquidationism by throwing dust in the eyes of the workers.
It is impossible to argue with Trotsky on the merits of the issue, because Trotsky holds no views whatever. We can and should argue with confirmed liquidators and otzovists; but it is no use arguing with a man whose game is to hide the errors of both these trends; in his case the thing to do is to expose him as a diplomat of the smallest calibre.
It is necessary, however, to argue with the authors of the theses of the platform that got into No. 22 of Pravda. The error they are committing is due either to their not being familiar with the December 1908 resolutions of the RSDLP, or to their not having rid themselves completely of some liquidationist and Vperyod waverings of thought.
The first thesis says that the regime established on June 3, 1907, represents, “in fact, the unrestricted domination of the feudal-type landed nobility”. It goes on to point out that they are “disguising the autocratic and bureaucratic nature of their domination with the pseudo-constitutional mask of a State Duma that actually possesses no rights”.
If the landowners’ Duma “actually possesses no rights”—and that is true—how, then, can the domination of the landowners be “unrestricted”?
The authors forget that the class character of the tsarist monarchy in no way militates against the vast independence and self-sufficiency of the tsarist authorities and of the “bureaucracy”, from Nicholas II down to the last police officer. The same mistake, that of forgetting the autocracy and the monarchy, of reducing it directly to the “pure” domination of the upper classes, was committed by the otzovists in 1908–09 (see Proletary, supplement to No. 44), by Larin in 1910, it is now being committed by some individual writers (for instance, M. Alexandrov), and also by N. R-kov who has gone over to the liquidators.
The analysis of the domination of the feudal landowners assisted by the bourgeoisie, given in the December (1908) resolutions, strikes at the roots of this error.
The second thesis refers to the minimum programme of the RSDLP, and in this connection “a particularly prominent place” is given to many demands, such as the demand for freedom of association and for the confiscation of the landed estates, but no mention is made of a republic. In our opinion, this is wrong. While we fully admit that it is absolutely necessary to agitate for freedom of association, we consider that the slogan calling for a republic must be given the greatest prominence.
The third thesis: “The necessity of new revolutionary action on the part of the masses”, without which our demands cannot be achieved.
This last statement is absolutely true, but it is only half the truth. Marxists cannot confine themselves to a reference to the “necessity” of new action on the part of the masses; they must first show the causes that give rise (if they do give rise) to a new revolutionary crisis. Unless there is such a crisis, “action”—which, indeed, is always “necessary”—is impossible.
The authors are actuated by the best of revolutionary intentions, but there is some defect in their method of thought. The December (1908) resolutions deduce the “necessity” of new action by a process of reasoning that is not so simple, but that is, however, more correct.
The fourth thesis: “The possibility of such new revolutionary action on the part of the masses in the more or less Immediate future, and relentless criticism ... of the counter revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie”, etc.
Criticism is always necessary, irrespective of “the possibility of action”, even at a time when action on the part of the masses is definitely impossible. To tie up the possibility of action with criticism means confusing the Marxist line, which is always obligatory, with one of the forms of the struggle (a particularly high form). That is the first error. And the second error may be described by the saying: “Don’t halloo until you are out of the wood”. It is pointless to talk of the possibility of action, this must be proved by deeds. In a platform it is sufficient to note that a revival has set in, and to emphasise the importance of carrying on agitation and paving the way for the action of the masses. Events will show whether the action of the masses will become a fact in the near or not so distant future.
The fifth thesis is splendid, for it stresses the immense importance of the State Duma as a platform from which to carry on agitation.
We do not know who the authors of the platform are. But if (judging by certain indications) they are Russian Vperyod-ists they should be warmly congratulated on having got rid of one error of the Vperyod group. They are Vperyod-ists with the conscience of Party people, for they give a straight forward and clear answer to one of the “vexed” questions. The Vperyod group, however, is deceiving the Party in the most unscrupulous manner; for it is defending and screening otzovism, and to this day, December 1911, it has not given a straight answer to the question of participation in the Fourth Duma. To treat such a group as Social-Democratic is a mockery of Social-Democracy.
- The petition campaign refers to a fuss created by the liquidators and Trotsky for agitational purposes around a petition drawn up by the St. Petersburg liquidators in December 1910. The petition, which demanded freedom to organise unions, to hold meetings, and to strike, was to be sent to the Third Duma in the name of the workers. However, the petition campaign was not a success among tile workers, only 1,300 signatures having been collected. The Bolsheviks exposed the “liquidationist” character of tile petition campaign, and the Resolution of the Sixth (Prague) All-Russia Conference of the RSDLP “The ‘Petition Campaign’” defined the attitude of the Bolsheviks (see pp. 479–80 of this volume).
- Lenin is referring to the resolution put forward by the St. Petersburg otzovists at the extended meeting of the St. Petersburg Committee prior to the December All-Party Conference, 1908 (the Fifth Conference of the RSDLP). The resolution was published in the supplement to No. 44 of Proletary, on April 4 (17), 1909. A critical analysis of this document made by Lenin appears in the same supplement, in an article entitled “A Caricature of Bolshevism”
- M. Alexandrov—the Bolshevik M. S. Olminsky. Here and else where, Lenin is referring to his pamphlet The State, Bureaucracy and Absolutism in the History of Russia, St. Petersburg, 1910.