Guy A. Aldred Archive
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source: RevoltLib.com; 2021
The Communist International was founded in Moscow in 1919. The February Revolution of 1917 had recalled from exile and imprisonment a number of Anarchists who co-operated loyally with the Bolsheviks to effect the October 1917 Revolution. By the time that the Communist International was organised, the persecution of these Anarchists by the Bolsheviks had begun. That persecution continued all the time that Trotsky was an outstanding member of the revolutionary movement in Russia. Lenin, of course, was as much a party to this persecution as Trotsky. This fact has to be borne in mind when one considers that a distinction is made by the Trotskyists between the first five years of the International and the latter period dating from 1924. It is claimed that from 1919 to 1923 the Communist International was a virile, growing movement and that its authority and prestige rose in every land under the guidance of Lenin and Trotsky. In the course of the next nine years the Moscow International degenerated to a zombie.
The workers in all countries were prepared to half consider its existence a fact down to January 1933. But we must regard the second period from 1924 as a nine year crisis of uninterrupted decline. During this period the Trotskyist wing was amputated from the official movement much against the victim’s will.
As late as January 1933 the avowed intention of the Trotskyist faction was to reform the Third International and to work in conjunction with the Communist Party in the various countries. The defeat of the German working-class movement and the triumph of Hitlerism caused the Trotskyists to break with their past policy of acting as a faction of the official party and to announce their intention of building up a new Communist International, and new Communist Parties in every country in the world. This included the Soviet Union.
On August 27th and 28th, 1933, the Paris Conference was held of the Left Socialists and Communist Oppositional organisations. Fourteen groupings were represented. This Conference had an unsettling effect on the bodies that sent delegates. The Communist League of America, or International Left Opposition, at its Plenum, on September 17th, 1933, passed a lengthy resolution, divided into seven paragraphs, of no consequence. The Lovestone Group of the U.S.A, found itself isolated. The Gitlow Group, the Workers’ Communist League, opposed Lovestone’s policy of approach to Stalin. Jitlek and Hais led their Czechoslovakian sections back to Social Democracy, whilst the Neurath Group of Czechoslovakia moved from the International Communist Opposition to the International Left Communist Opposition. The Swiss Brandler section inclined towards the Left Opposition, but the French P.U.P, moved towards Social Democracy.
Irrespective of their turn, whether towards the Left or towards the Right, the Trotskyist sections declared for a 4th International in September, 1933, on the grounds of the degeneration of the 3rd International. In a full declaration of attitude they took their stand on the following points : —
REJECTION OF THE 5th AND 6th WORLD CONGRESSES OF THE C.I. Actually, in 1921, Paul Levi openly broke with the Comintern on the grounds of objections to Leninism, which showed that the objection to the World Congress’ decision should not begin with the 5th Congress. The history of the betrayal of the Munich uprising and the creation of the K.A.P.D. after the corruption and failure of the Sparticist movement and the K.P.D. during the 1920 events in Germany, show that the Trotskyist movement is somewhat belated in its historical concepts.
PERMANENT CHARACTER OF THE WORLD REVOLUTION. This sound proposition is the historic teaching of Socialism, and was never questioned until the period of the Russian Revolution and the urgent Russian need to nationalise that revolution.
RECOGNITION OF THE SOVIET UNION AS A WORKERS’ STATE; AND THE CONDEMNATION OF STALINISM FOR UNDERMINING THAT STATE BY ITS METHOD OF: (a) ECONOMIC OPPORTUNISM, 1923–28; (b) ECONOMIC ADVENTURISM, 1928–32. To be sound, it should also be stated that the Soviet Union is not a Workers’ State. Also, the economic opportunism begins with Lenin and goes back to 1921 and the N.E.P.
REJECTS THE STALIN THEORY OF THE JOINT DEMOCRATIC DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT AND THE PEASANTRY, ON THE GROUND THAT THIS SACRIFICES THE SOCIALIST REVOLUTION TO THE INTERESTS OF THE PEASANTS. Although this theory has been developed to extreme counter-revolutionary lengths by Stalin, it was implied in Lenin’s own policy, and probably only means that a real Socialist revolution in Russia was impossible.
DEMANDS PARTY DEMOCRACY.
The workers of the world were not much impressed or disturbed by the Anarchist persecutions. Down to the time of Trotsky’s fall and exile, the Communist International commanded a tremendous enthusiasm in all proletarian centres of the world. This does not mean to say that it enoyed the unanimous support of the thinking Communists of the world. The Anarchists of Russia and even in other countries tended to favour the peasantry as opposed to the proletariat. Many Socialists thought that this fact justified their persecution. To my mind, a Social Revolution that continues Siberia and a system of exile and imprisonment is a political, and not a Social Revolution. In course of time it is bound to degenerate to little more than a Palace Revolution. Stalin replaced the Czar as Hitler replaced the Kaiser.
If it is necessary to perpetuate the imprisonment of even counter-revolutionaries the perpetuation argues the strength of the counter-revolution. That in its turn argues the non-success of the revolution. Peasant Anarchist philosophy may well be beyond justification, but the strange historic fact remains that the government that persecuted the peasant Anarchists founded its revolution in a compromise with the peasants and developed a systematic peasant policy of proletarian retreat.
The terrible massacre of the Kronstadt sailors by Trotsky in March 1921, whom Trotsky had previously termed the flower of the Revolution, and the support of Trotsky by Zinoviev and Dibenko, was a shameless and shameful affair. The fortress and city were bombarded for ten days and it cannot be pretended that the sailors were moved by peasant ideas or that they were other than genuine Socialists or Communists. Trotsky’s conduct was defended and even applauded in the Communist press of the world by Radek, who immediately after the October 1917 Revolution boasted a luxurious apartment and maid-servant. Radek’s apology no longer carries weight for time exposed him as a panderer. He defended Trotsky’s own exile and expulsion and the persecution of Rakovsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev. Radek’s 1921 apology was made worthless by his subsequent record and castigation by Trotsky. If we are to accept Radek’s apology for Kronstadt in 1921, then we must accept Radek’s apology for Stalinism and the Stalinist persecution of Trotsky from 1927 on to the time of his assassination. Radek’s own trial and “ confession “ put him out of court entirely as a witness.
The Kronstadt massacre was succeeded a month lator by the massacre of the Moscow Anarchists when Trotsky shelled their headquarters and finally abolished their propaganda. All this was justified on the ground that Anarchists were counter-revolutionists. Stalin has popularised this cry so thoroughly that no genuine revolutionist takes it seriously. Robespierre assassinated the French Revolution and finally himself by this very same parrot cry of counterrevolution. Men do embrace counter-revolutionary philosophy and they do pursue counter-revolutionary policies; but it does not follow that we must therefore give heed to every clamorous cry of counter-revolution when it is dictated by the hysterical needs of an aspiring bureaucrat, whose aim is to arrest the development of the revolution and to build his sect, or his party, or his clique into the edifice of power.
There were Communist elements, of a definite Anti-Parliamentarian kind, who found no place in the Communist lnternational or else were allowed merely a subsidiary and altogethcr temporary representation at the opening sessions. It may be claimed therefore that the Communist International like the triumph of Leninism in Russia contained in itself the seeds of Stalinism and of later degeneration. That was not obvious at the beginning because the success in Russia of Lenin and Trotsky was an historical success just as the failure of Stalin is an historical failure. The function of Trotskyism is to direct proletarian attention to that failure and in that way to call our attention to the real object and nature of Communist agitation and struggle. For the purpose of comparison, and for this purpose only, and not because we accept the cry, “ Back to Lenin,” those of us who were Communists before the Russian Revolution of 1917, and remain Communists, now that revolution has passed into history, agree that the Stalin leadership registered the decline of the International to stagnation and death. We differ from Trotskyism in that the Trotskyists think that there was a time when the Communist International really lived as a healthy expression of the workers’ struggle. We claim that the Communist International enjoyed only a feverish existence as the after-birth of the Russian Revolution. It was doomed to disaster and to death from the moment of its foundation for its very organisation made it impossible for it to function except as the ramification of the Russian Revolution.
The pet fallacy of Stalinism, “Socialism in One Country,” meaning literally, “Capitalism and Dictatorship in Russia,” was foreshadowed in every thesis of the Communist International. This fact was not realised by the sections that belonged to the Communist International and it may, therefore, be perfectly true that Trotsky reacted to ideas of Socialism, which were quite foreign to the understanding of Stalin. It is also correct to realise that large sections of the Communist comrades in Russia believed in the proletarian struggle and considered that the Communist International expressed that struggle. To these elements the difference between the two periods of the Communist International will be absolutely real. It is our duty to consider exactly what happened during the evolution of the Stalin leadership.
The Spanish crisis found the Communist International powerless to act because there was no Communist party and no Spanish proletarian policy. Stalinism confronted the fact of the Spanish Revolution with the same blankness of vision as was exhibited by the Second International in August 1914. In every other portion of the globe, even in places where the Comintern had boasted of its mass parties, or its parties on the road to embracing masses, the local section of the International, at the moment of the local crisis, writhed in the agony of impotence.
With insignificant exceptions, not one of the authentic leaders of so-called World Communism during the first years of its organised existence (1919–1924), was to be found in its ranks in January 1933. This comparison includes, and primarily relates to, the leaders of the Russian Party. Everywhere the Communist parties had become sieves into which ever new sections of the working-class were poured by the developing and permanent Capitalist crisis, only to be lost through the holes of bureaucratism and false bourgeois politics. Thirteen years after the founding of the Third International, the overwhelming majority of its greatly reduced membership had not been in the Party ranks for longer than two years; the old members had been lost or expelled.
This condition and development of the Communist International was not a private dispute but one that concerned the whole working-class. It raised several most important questions. There was the question of Anarchism and the class struggle, opposition to a burcaucracy claiming to be exercising the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. There was the fact that to-day there existed a definite Anti-Parliamentary movement that believed in the liquidation of the party in the revolutionary workers’ struggle to emancipation and at the point of crisis. There was the question of Leninist-Trotskyism versus Stalinism. Arising out of that there was the further discussion : Is the question one of Stalinism or Leninism or is it one of Bolshevism or Communism? If it can be shown that Stalinism proceeds naturally from Leninism, then of course the issue is not what kind of Bolshevism does the worker support, but rather how quickly should Bolshevism be buried as a Social Democratic negation of Communism. The question of Marxism even arose. We were compelled to consider, whether, in certain phases, Stalinism was not the logical development of Marxism; whether even Marxism itself was not, in certain phases, a negation of Communism.
These questions were not the questions of proletarian despair, but of proletarian struggle and progress. That they arose in this fashion dates the difference in outlook, and even, too, the nature of the struggle that divides the proletariat of today from the proletariat to whom Marx and Engels addressed themselves in their striking and historic Manifesto of 1848.
We no longer discuss bourgeois parties and bourgeois literature, but we consider the history of the proletarian movemenet itself; and even then not the proletarian movement reconciling itself to Capitalism but the proletarian movement in various stages of insurrection. Strangely enough the literature of this movement is very largely in the English language. We follow the story of the rise, progress and decline of Trotskyism. The decline of Trotskyism differs historically from the decline of Stalinism. Trotskyism pours its genius like a stream into the waters of the proletarian revolution but Stalinism is but the fossil remains of a great revolution.