Delivered: November 1926.
First Published: International Press Correspondence, 1927 (?).
Source: Archives of the Revolution, The New International, Vol. VIII No. 7, August 1942, pp. 217–221.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015.
Marxist.com version: HTML reworked, November 2019
The following speech was delivered by Trotsky at the Seventh Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International in November 1926. To cover up their theoretical and political degeneration, the Stalinists laid down a violent barrage of attacks upon Trotsky, the leader of the Left Opposition. In answer to his internationalist criticism of the Stalinist theory of “socialism in a single country,” the bureaucracy denounced him for an alleged “social-democratic deviation.” Trotsky’s masterful polemical reply at the Seventh Plenum was, of course, never given wide circulation in the official communist movement, appearing only in the esoteric International Press Correspondence.
Comrades! The resolution accuses the Opposition including me, of a social democratic deviation. I have thought over all the points of contention which have divided us, the minority of the CC from the majority during the period just past, that is, the period in which the designation “Opposition bloc” has been in use. I must place on record that the points of contention, and our standpoint with respect to the point of contention, offer no basis for the accusation of a “social democratic deviation.”
The question upon which we have disagreed most, comrades, is that which asks which danger threatens us during the present epoch: the danger that our state industry remains backward, or that it rushes too hastily forward. The Opposition – in which I am included – has proved that the real danger threatening us is that our state industry may remain behind the development of the national economy as a whole. We have pointed out that the policy being pursued in the distribution of national income involves the further growth of the disproportion. For some reason or other this has been named “pessimism.” Comrades, arithmetic knows neither pessimism nor optimism, neither discouragement nor capitulation. Figures are figures. If you examine the control figures of our planned economics you will find that these figures show the disproportion, or more exactly expressed, the shortage of industrial goods, to have reached the amount of 380 million roubles last year, while this year the figure will be 500 million, that is, the original figures of the planning commission show the disproportion to have increased by 25 per cent. Comrade Rykov states in his thesis that we might hope (merely hope) that the disproportion will not increase this year. What justification is there for this “hope”? The fact is that the harvest is not so favorable as we all expected. Were I to follow in the false tracks of our critics, I might say that Comrade Rykov’s theses welcome the fact that the unfavorable conditions obtaining at harvest time detracted from crops which were otherwise not bad, since, had the harvest been greater, the result would have been a greater disproportion. (Comrade Rykov: “I am of a different opinion.”) The figures speak for themselves. (A voice: “Why did you not take part in the discussion on Comrade Rykov’s report?”) Comrade Kamenev has here told you why he did not. Because I could not have added anything to this special economic report, in the form of amendments or arguments, that we had not brought forward at the April plenum. The amendments and other proposals submitted by me and other comrades to the April plenum remain in full force today. But the economic experience gained since April is obviously too small to give us room for hope that at the present stage the comrades present at this conference will be convinced. To bring up these points of contention again, before the actual course of economic life has tested them, would arouse useless discussion. These questions will be more acceptable to the party when they can be answered by the statistics based on the latest experience; for objective economic experience does not decide whether figures are optimistic or pessimistic, but solely whether they are right or wrong. I believe our standpoint on the disproportion has been right.
We have disagreed on the rate of our industrialization, and I have been among those comrades who have pointed out that the present rate is insufficient, and that precisely this insufficient speed in industrialization imparts the greatest importance to the differentiation process going on in the villages. To be sure, it is no catastrophe that the kulak raises his head or – this is the other aspect of the same subject – that the poorer peasantry no longer preponderates. These are some of the serious accompaniments of the period of transition. They are unhealthy signs. It need not be said that they give no cause for “alarm.” But they are phenomena which must be correctly estimated. And I have been among those comrades who have maintained that the process of differentiation of the village may assume a dangerous form if industry lags behind, that is, if the disproportion increases. The Opposition maintains that it is our duty to lessen the disproportion year by year. I see nothing social democratic in this.
We have insisted that the differentiation of the village demands a more elastic taxation policy with respect to the various strata of the peasantry, a reduction of taxation for the poorer middle strata of the peasantry, and increased taxation for the well to do middle strata, and an energetic pressure upon the kulak, especially in his relations to trading capital. We have proposed that 40 per cent of the poor peasantry should be freed from taxation altogether. Are we right or not? I believe that we are right; you believe we are wrong. But what is “social democratic” about this is a mystery to me (laughter).
Question of the Peasantry
We have asserted that the increasing differentiation among the peasantry, taking place under the conditions imposed by the backwardness of our industry, brings with it the necessity of double safeguards in the field of politics, that is, we were entirely unable to agree with the extension of the franchise with respect to the kulak, the employer and exploiter, if only on a small scale. We raised the alarm when the election inspectorates extended the suffrage among the petty bourgeoisie. Were we right or not? You consider that our alarm was “exaggerated.” Well, even assuming that it was, there is nothing social democratic about it.
We demanded and proposed that the course being taken by the agricultural cooperatives toward the “highly productive middle farmer,” under which name we generally find the kulak, should be severely condemned. We proposed that the tendency of the credit cooperatives toward the side of the well to do peasantry should be condemned. I cannot comprehend, comrades, what you find “social democratic” in this.
There have been differences of opinion in the question of wages. In substance these differences consist of our being of the opinion that at the given stage of development of our industry and economics, and at our present level of economics, the wage question must not be settled on the assumption that the worker must first increase the productivity of labor, which will then raise the wages, but that the contrary must be the rule, that is, a rise in wages, however modest, must be the prerequisite for an increased productivity of labor. (A voice: “And where is the money coming from?”) This may be right or it may not, but it is not “social democratic.”
We have pointed out the connection between various well known aspects of our inner party life and the growth of bureaucratism. I believe there is nothing “social democratic” about this either.
We have further opposed an overestimation of the economic elements of the capitalist stabilization and the underestimation of its political elements. If we inquire, for instance: What does the economic stabilization consist of in England at the present time? then it appears that England is going to ruin, that its trade balance is adverse, that its foreign trade returns are falling off, that its production is declining. This is the “economic stabilization” of England. But to whom is bourgeois England clinging? Not to Baldwin, not to Thomas, but to Purcell. Purcellism is the pseudonym of the present “stabilization” in England. We are therefore of the opinion that it is fundamentally wrong, in consideration of the working masses who carried out the general strike, to combine either directly or indirectly with Purcell. This is the reason why we have demanded the dissolution of the Anglo-Russian Committee. I see nothing “social democratic” in this.
We have insisted upon a fresh revision of our trade union statutes, upon which subject I reported to the CC. A revision of those statutes from which the word “Profintern” was struck out last year and replaced by “International Trade Union Association,” under which it is impossible to understand anything else than “Amsterdam.” I am glad to say that this revision of last year’s revision has been accomplished, and the word “Profintern” has been rejected in our trade union statutes. But why was our uneasiness on the subject “social democratic?” That, comrades, is something which I entirely fail to understand.
I should like, as briefly as possible, to enumerate the main points of the differences of opinion, which have arisen of late. Our standpoint in the questions concerned has been that we have observed the dangers likely to threaten the class line of the party and of the workers’ state under the conditions imposed by a long continuance of the NEP, and our encirclement by international capitalism. But these differences of opinion, and the standpoint adopted by us in the defense of our opinions, cannot be construed into a “social democratic deviation” by the most complicated logical or even scholastic methods.
It has therefore been found necessary to leave these actual and serious differences of opinion, engendered by the given epoch of our economic and political development, and to go back into the past in order to construe differences in the conception of the “character of our revolution” in general – not in the given period of our revolution, not with regard to the given concrete task, but with regard to the character of the revolution in general, or as expressed in the theses, the revolution “in itself,” the revolution “in its substance.” When a German speaks of a thing “in itself,” he is using a metaphysical term placing the revolution outside of all connection with the real world around it; it is abstracted from yesterday and tomorrow, and regarded as a “substance” from which everything will proceed. Now, then, in the question of the actual “substance” of revolution, I have been found guilty, in the ninth year of our revolution, of having denied the socialist character of our revolution! No more and no less! I discovered this for the first time in this resolution itself. If the comrades find it necessary for some reason to construct a resolution on quotations from my writings – and the main portion of the resolution, pushing into the foreground the theory of original sin (“Trotskyism”), is built upon quotations from my writings between 1917 and 1922 – then it would at least be advisable to select the essential from all I have written on the character of our revolution.
You will excuse me, comrades, but it is no pleasure to have to set aside the actual subject and to retail where and when I wrote this or that. But this resolution, in substantiating the “social democratic” deviation, refers to passages from my writings, and I am obliged to give the information. In 1922 I was commissioned by the party to write the book, Terrorism and Communism, against Kautsky, against the characterization of our revolution by Kautsky as a non-proletarian and non-socialist revolution. A large number of editions of this book were distributed both at home and abroad by the Comintern. The book met with no hostile reception among our nearest comrades, nor from Lenin. This book is not quoted in the resolution.
In 1922 I was commissioned by the Political Bureau to write the book entitled Between Imperialism and Revolution. In this book I utilized the special experience gained in Georgia, in the form of a refutation of the standpoint of those international social democrats who were using the Georgian rising as material against us, for the purpose of subjecting to a fresh examination the main questions of that proletarian revolution which has a right to tear down not only petty bourgeois prejudices, but also petty bourgeois institutions.
At Comintern Congresses
At the third congress of the Comintern I gave a report, on behalf of the CC, declaring in substance that we had entered on an epoch of unstable balance. I opposed Comrade Bucharin, who at that time was of the opinion that we should pass through an uninterrupted series of revolutions and crises until the victory of socialism in the whole world, and that there would not and could not be any “stabilization.” At the time Comrade Bucharin accused me of a Right deviation (perhaps social democratic too?). In full agreement with Lenin I defended at the third congress the theses which I had formulated. The import of the theses was that we, despite the slower speed of the revolution, would pass successfully through this epoch by developing the socialist elements of our economics.
At the fourth world congress in 1923 I was commissioned by the CC to follow Lenin with a report on the NEP. What did I prove? I proved that the NEP merely signifies a change in the forms and methods of socialist development. And now, instead of taking these works of mine, which may have been good or bad, but were at least fundamental, and in which, on behalf of the party, I defined the character of our revolution in the years between 1920 and 1923, you seize upon a few little passages, each only two or three lines, out of a preface and a postscript written at the same period.
I repeat that none of the passages quoted is from a fundamental work. These four little quotations (1917 to 1922) form the sole foundation for the accusation that I deny the socialist character of our revolution. The structure of the accusation thus being completed, every imaginable original sin is added to it, even the sin of the Opposition of 1925. The demand for a more rapid industrialization and the proposal to increase the taxation of the kulaks, all arise from these four passages. (A voice: “Form no fractions!”)
Comrades, I regret having to take your time, but I must quote a few more passages – I could adduce hundreds – in confutation of all that the resolution ascribes to me. First of all I must draw your attention to the fact that the four quotations upon which the theory of my original sin is based, have all been taken from writings of mine between 1917 and 1922. Everything that I have said since appears to have been swept away by the wind. Nobody knows whether I subsequently regarded our revolution as socialist or not. Today, at the end of 1926, the present standpoint of the so-called Opposition in the leading questions of economics and politics is sought in passages from my personal writings between 1917 and 1922, and not even in passages from my chief works, but in works written for some quite chance occasion. I shall return to these quotations and answer for every one of them. But first permit me to adduce some quotations of a more essential character, written at the same period:
For instance, the following is an extract from my speech at the conference of the Moscow Trade Union Council on October 28, 1921, after the introduction of the NEP:
We have reorganized our economic policy in anticipation of a slow development of out economics. We reckon with the possibility that the revolution in Europe, though developing and growing, is developing more slowly than we expected. The bourgeoisie has proved more tenacious. Even in our own country we are obliged to reckon with a slower transition to socialism, for we are surrounded by capitalist countries. We must concentrate our forces on the largest and best equipped undertakings. At the same time we must not forget that the taxation in kind among the peasantry, and the increase of leased undertakings form a basis for the development of the economics of commodities, for the accumulation of capital, and for the rise of a new bourgeoisie. At the same time the socialist economy will be built up on the narrower but firmer basis of big industry.
At a members’ meeting of the CP of the SU, on November 10 of the same year, in the Moscow district of Sokolniki, I stated:
What have we now? We have now the process of socialist revolution, in the first place in a state and in the second place in a state which is the most backward of all, both economically and culturally, and surrounded on all sides by capitalist countries.
What conclusion did I draw from this? Did I propose capitulation? I proposed the following:
It is our task to make socialism prove its advances. The peasants will be the judge who pronounces on the advantages or drawbacks of the socialist state. We are competing with capitalism in the peasant market ...
What is the present basis for our conviction that we shall be victorious? There are many reasons justifying our belief. These lie both in the international situation and in the development of the Communist Party; in the fact that we retain the power in our hands, and in the fact that we permit free trade solely within the limits which we deem necessary.
This, comrades, was said in 1921, and not in 1926!
In my report at the IV World Congress (directed against Otto Bauer, to whom my relationship has now been discovered) I spoke as follows:
Our main weapon in the economic struggle, as based on the market, is state power. Only shortsighted reformists are unable to grasp the importance of this instrument. The bourgeoisie knows it well. That is proved by its whole history.
Other tools in the hands of the proletariat are: the possession of the most important productive forces of the country, of all economic traffic, of all mines, of the undertakings working up raw materials. These are subject to the immediate economic control of the working class. At the same time the working class owns the land and the peasant gives hundreds of millions of poods of grain for it every year, in the form of taxation in kind.
The frontiers of the country are in the hands of the workers’ state; foreign goods, and foreign capital, can only be imported into the country to the extent approved by the workers’ state.
These are the instruments and means for building up socialism.
In a booklet published by me in 1923 under the title of Questions of Daily Life, you may read on this subject:
What has the working class actually attained and secured by its struggle up to now?
- The dictatorship of the proletariat (with the aid of the workers’ and peasants’ state led by the Communist Party).
- The Red Army as the material support of the proletarian dictatorship.
- The socialization of the most important means of production, without which the dictatorship of the proletariat would be an empty form, without meaning.
- The monopoly of foreign trade, a necessary premise for the building up of socialism in a country surrounded by capitalism.
These four elements, irrevocably gained, form the steel framework of our work. Thanks to this framework, every further economic or cultural success which we achieve – provided it is a real and not a supposed success – will necessarily become a constituent part of our socialist structure.
This same booklet contains another and even more definite formulation:
The easier the revolutionary upheaval has been – relatively speaking – to the Russian proletariat, the more difficult is its task of establishing the socialist state of society. But the framework of our new social life, welded by the revolution, supported by four fundamental pillars (see beginning of chapter) imparts to every sincere and sensibly directed effort in economics and culture and objectively socialist character. In the bourgeois state of society the worker, unconsciously and unintentionally, enriches the bourgeoisie more and more the better he works. In the Soviet state the good and conscientious worker, without thinking of it or troubling himself about it (if he is a non-political worker), performs socialist work and increases the means of the working class. This is the actual import of the October revolution and in this sense the New Economic Policy brings no change whatever.
Toward Capitalism or Socialism?
I could prolong this chain of quotations indefinitely, for I never have and never could characterize our revolution differently. I shall confine myself, however, to one more passage, from a book quoted by Comrade Stalin (Toward Capitalism or Socialism?). This book was published for the first time in 1925 and was printed originally as feuilleton in the Pravda. The editors of our central organ have never drawn my attention to any heresies in this book with respect to the character of our revolution. This year the second edition of the book was issued. It has been translated into different languages by the Comintern and it is the first time that I hear that it gives a false idea of our economic development. Comrade Stalin has read you a few lines picked out arbitrarily in order to show that this is “unclearly formulated,” I am thus obliged to read a somewhat longer passage, in order to prove that the idea in question is quite clearly formulated. The following is stated in the preface, devoted to a criticism of our bourgeois and social democratic critics, above all, Kautsky and Otto Bauer. Here you may read:
These judgments (formed by the enemies of our economics) assume two forms: in the first place they assert that in building up socialist economics we are ruining the country; but in the second place they assert thai in developing the forces of production we are really returning to capitalism.
The former of these two criticisms is characteristic of the mentality of the bourgeoisie. The second is peculiar to social democracy, that is, to the bourgeois mentality socialistically veiled. There is no strict boundary between these two descriptions of criticism, and very frequently interchange of arguments between them, without either of them noticing that he is using his neighbor’s weapon, in the enthusiasm of the old way against “communist barbarity.”
The present booklet hopes to serve the object of showing the unprejudiced reader that both are deceivers – both the openly big bourgeois and the petty bourgeois masquerading as socialist. They lie when they say that the Bolsheviki have ruined Russia ... They lie when they say that the development of productive forces is the road to capitalism; the role played by state economics in industry, in transport and traffic service, trade, finance and credit does not lessen with the growth of productive forces, but on the contrary increases within the collective economics of the country. Facts and figures prove this beyond all doubt.
In agriculture the matter is much more complicated. To a Marxist there is nothing unexpected in this. The transition from the “atomized” individual farming system of agriculture to socialist agriculture is only conceivable after a number of steps have been surmounted in technics, economics and cultivation. The fundamental premise for this transition is that the power remain in the hands of the class anxious to lead society to socialism, and becoming increasingly capable of influencing the peasant population by means of slate industry, by means of technical improvements in agriculture, and thereby furnishing the prerequisites for the collectivisation of agricultural work.
The draft of the resolution on the Opposition states that Trotsky’s standpoint closely approaches that of Otto Bauer, who had said that: “In Russia, where the proletariat represents only a small minority of the nation, the proletariat can only maintain its rule temporarily, and is bound to lose it again as soon as the peasant majority of the nation has become culturally mature enough to take over the rule itself.”
In the first place, comrades, who could entertain the idea that so absurd a formulation could occur to any one of us? Whatever is to be understood by: “as soon as the peasant majority of the nation has become culturally mature enough”? What does this mean? What are we to understand by “culture”? Under capitalist conditions the peasantry have no independent culture. As far as culture is concerned, the peasantry may mature under the influence of the proletariat or of the bourgeoisie. These are the only two possibilities existing for the cultural advance of the peasantry. To a Marxist, the idea that the “culturally matured” peasantry, having overthrown the proletariat, could take over power on its own account, is a wildly prejudiced absurdity. The experience of two revolutions has taught us that the peasantry, should it come into conflict with the proletariat and overthrow the proletarian power, simply forms a bridge – through Bonapartism – for the bourgeoisie. An independent peasant state founded neither on proletarian nor bourgeois culture is impossible. This whole construction of Otto Bauer’s collapses into a lamentable petty bourgeois absurdity.
We are told that we have not believed in the establishment of socialism. And at the same time we are accused of wanting to pillage the peasantry (not the kulaks, but the peasantry!).
I think, comrades, that these are not words out of our dictionary at all. The communists cannot propose to the workers’ state to “plunder” the peasantry, and it is precisely with the peasantry that we are concerned. A proposal to free 40 per cent of the poor peasantry from all taxation, and to lay these taxes upon the kulak, may be right or it may be wrong, but it can never be interpreted as a proposal to “plunder” the peasantry,
I ask you: If we have no faith in the establishment of socialism in our country, or (as is said of me) we propose that the European revolution be passively awaited, then why do we propose to “plunder” the peasantry? To what end? That is incomprehensible. We are of the opinion that industrialization – the basis of socialization – is proceeding too slowly, and that this places the peasantry at a disadvantage. If, let us say, the quantity of agricultural products put upon the market this year be 20 per cent more than last – I take these figures with a reservation – and at the same time the grain price has sunk by 18 per cent and the prices of various industrial products have risen by 16 per cent, as has been the case, then the peasant gains less than when his crops are poorer and the retail prices for industrial products lower. The acceleration of industrialization, made possible to a great extent by the increased taxation of the kulak, will result in the production of a larger quantity of goods, reducing the retail prices, to the advantage of the workers and of the greater part of the peasantry.
Struggle of Two Tendencies
It is possible that you do not agree with this. But nobody can deny that it is a system of views on the development of our economics. How can you assert that we do not believe in the possibility of socialist development, and yet at the same time that we demand the plundering of the mujik? With what object? For what purpose? Nobody can explain this. Again, I have often asked myself why the dissolution of the Anglo-Russian Committee can be supposed to imply a call to leave the trade unions? And why does the non-entry into the Amsterdam International not constitute an appeal to the workers not to join the Amsterdam trade unions? (A voice: “That will be explained to you!”) I have never received an answer to this question, and never will. (A voice: “You will get your answer.”) Neither shall I receive a reply to the question of how we contrive to disbelieve in the realization of socialism and yet endeavor to “plunder” the peasantry.
The book of mine from which I last quoted speaks in detail of the importance of the correct distribution of our national income, since our economic development is proceeding amidst the struggle of two tendencies: the socialist and the capitalist tendency.
The issue of the struggle depends on the rate of development of these tendencies. In other words, should state industry develop more slowly than agriculture; should the opposite poles of capitalist farmer “on top” and proletariat “at bottom” separate more widely and rapidly in the course of development – then the process would of course lead to the restoration of capitalism.
But our enemies may do their best to prove the inevitability of this possibility. Even if they go about it much more skillfully than the unfortunate Kautsky (or MacDonald), they will burn their fingers. Is the possibility just indicated entirely excluded? Theoretically it is not. If the ruling party were to commit one error after another, both in politics and economics, if it should thus hamper the development of industry now so promising, and if it were to relinquish control of the political and economic development of the peasantry, then, of course, the cause of socialism in our country would be lost. But we have not the slightest reason to adopt such premises for our prognosis. How to lose power, how to throw away the achievements of the proletariat, and how to work for capitalism, these are points which were made brilliantly clear by Kautsky and his friends to the international proletariat after November 9, 1918. Nobody needs to add anything on this subject.
Our tasks, our aims, and our methods are very different. What we want to show is the way to maintain and firmly establish the power once seized and the way in which the proletarian form of state is to be given the economic content of socialism.
The whole content of this book (A voice: “There is nothing about the cooperatives in it!”) – I shall come to the cooperatives – the whole content of this book is devoted to the subject of how the proletarian form of state is to be given the economic content of socialism. It may be said (insinuations have already been made in this direction): Yes, you believed that we were moving toward socialism so long as the process of reconstruction was going on, and so long as industry developed at a speed of 45 or 35 per cent year, but now that we have arrived at a crisis of foundation capital and you see the difficulties of extending foundation capital, you have been seized with a so-called “panic.”
I cannot quote the whole of the chapter on: The Rate of Development, Its Material Possibilities and Its Limits. It points out the four elements characterizing the advantages of our system over capitalism and draws the following conclusion:
Taken all in all, these four advantages – properly applied – will enable us to increase the coefficient of our industrial growth, not only to double the per cent of the pre-war period, but to triple this, or even more.
If I am not mistaken, the coefficient of our industrial growth will amount, according to the plans, to 18 per cent. In this there are, of course, still reconstruction elements. But in any case the extremely rough statistical prognosis which I made as an example eighteen months ago coincides fairly well with our actual speed this year.
You ask: What is the explanation of those frightful passages quoted in the resolution. I shall have to answer this question. I must first, however, repeat that no single word has been quoted from the fundamental works which I wrote on the character of the revolution between 1917 and 1922, and complete silence is preserved on everything that I have written since 1922, even on that written last year and this year. Four passages are quoted. Comrade Stalin has dealt with them in detail, and they are referred to in the resolution, so you will permit me to devote some words to them as well.
The workers’ movement is victorious in the democratic revolution. The bourgeoisie becomes counter-revolutionary. Among the peasantry the well-to-do elements, as well as a considerable section of the middle farmers, will become more “sensible,” quieted down, and go over to the counter-revolution, in order that they may snatch the power out of the hands of the proletariat and the poor peasantry ... The struggle would be almost helpless for the Russian proletariat alone, and its defeat would be inevitable ... were the European socialist proletariat not to hasten to the aid of the Russian proletariat.
I am afraid, comrades, that if anyone told you that these lines represented a malicious product of Trotskyism, many comrades would believe it. But this passage is Lenin’s. The Lenin portfolio contains a draft of a pamphlet which Lenin intended to write at the end of 1905. Here this possible situation is described: The workers are victorious in the democratic revolution, the well-to-do section of the peasantry go over to counter-revolution. I may say that this passage is quoted in the last number of the Bolshevik, on page 68, but unfortunately with a grave misrepresentation, although the quotation is given in inverted commas: the words referring to the considerable section of the middle farmers are simply left out. I call upon you to compare the fifth Lenin portfolio, page 451, with the last number of the Bolshevik, page 68.
I could quote dozens of such passages from Lenin’s works: Vol. VI, page 398; Vol. IX, page 410; vol. VIII, page 192. (I have not the time to read them, but anyone may look up the references for himself.) I shall only quote one passage from Vol. IX, page 415:
The Russian revolution (he is referring to the democratic revolution) cannot maintain and firmly establish its achievements by its own powers ... if there is no revolution in the West. Without this prerequisite a restoration of the old order is unavoidable, both in communalization and in the distribution of land, for the small farmer will always form a support of restoration of any form of property or ownership. After the complete victory of the proletariat, the small farmer will inevitably turn against the proletariat.
(A voice: “We have introduced the NEP.”)
True, I shall refer to that presently.
Let us now turn to that passage which I wrote in 1922, in order that we may see how my standpoint on the revolution in the epoch of 1904–05 had developed.
I have no intention, comrades, of raising the question of the theory of permanent revolution. This theory – both in respect of what has been right in it and of what has been incomplete and wrong – has nothing whatever to do with our present contentions. In any case this theory of permanent revolution, to which so much attention has been devoted of late, is not to the smallest extent among the responsibilities of either the opposition of 1925 nor the opposition of 1923, and even I myself regard it as a question which has long been settled ad acta.
But let us return to the passage quoted in the resolution. (This I wrote in 1922, but from the standpoint of 1905–06.)
After seizing power, the proletariat will come into hostile conflict with not only all those groups of the bourgeoisie which supported it at the commencement of its revolutionary struggle, but with the broad masses of the peasantry, with whose help it came into power.
Although this was written in 1922, it is put into the future tense: The proletariat will come into conflict with the bourgeoisie, etc., since pre-revolutionary views are being described. I ask you: Has Lenin’s prognosis of 1905–06, that the middle peasantry will go over to counter-revolution to a great extent, proved true? I maintain that it has proved true in part. (Voices: In part? When? Disturbance.) Yes, under the leadership of the party and above all under Lenin’s leadership, the division between us and the peasantry was bridged over by the new economic policy. This is indisputable. (Disturbance) If any of you imagine, comrades, that in 1926 I do not grasp the meaning of the new economic policy, you are mistaken. I grasp the meaning of the new economic policy in 1926, perhaps not so well as other comrades, but still I grasp it. But you must remember that at that time, before there was any New Economic Policy, before there had been a revolution of 1917, and we were sketching the first outlines of possible developments, utilizing the experience won in previous revolutions – the great French revolution and the revolution of 1848 – at that time all Marxists, not omitting Lenin (I have given quotations), were of the opinion that after the democratic revolution was completed and the land given to the peasantry, the proletariat would encounter opposition from not only the big peasants, but from a considerable section of the middle peasants, who would represent a hostile and even counter-revolutionary force.
Have there been signs among us of the truth of this prognosis? Yes, there have been signs, and fairly distinct ones. For instance, when the Machno movement in the Ukraine helped the White Guards to sweep away the Soviet power this was one proof of the correctness of Lenin’s prognosis. The Antonov rising, the rising in Siberia, the rising on the Volga, the rising in Ural, the Kronstadt revolt, when the “middle peasantry” expressed their opinions to the Soviet power by means of ships’ cannon – does not all this prove that Lenin’s forecast was correct for a certain stage of development in the revolution? (Comrade Moyssenyenko: “And what did you propose?”) Is it not perfectly clear that the passage written by me in 1922 on the division between us and the peasantry was simply a statement of these facts?
We bridged over the schism between us and the peasantry by means of the NEP. And were there differences between us during the transition to the NEP? There were no differences during the transition to the NEP. (Disturbance) There were differences in the trade union question before the transition to the NEP, whilst the party was still seeking a means of escape from the blind alley. These differences were of serious importance. But in the question of the NEP, when Lenin submitted the NEP standpoint to the X Party Congress, we all voted unanimously for this standpoint. And when the new trade union resolution arose as a result of the New Economic Policy – a few months after the X Party Congress – we again voted unanimously for this resolution in the CC. But during the period of transition – and the change wrought by it was no small one – the peasants declared: “We are for the Bolsheviki, but against the Communists.” What does this mean? It means a peculiarly Russian form of desertion from the proletarian revolution on the part of the middle peasantry at a given stage.
I am reproached with having said that it is “hopeless to suppose that Revolutionary Russia can maintain itself in opposition to a conservative Europe.” This I wrote in August, 1917, and I believe that it was perfectly right. Have we maintained ourselves against a conservative Europe? Let us consider the facts. At the moment when Germany concluded the peace treaty with the Entente, the danger was especially great. Had the German revolution not broken out at this point – that German revolution which remained incompleted, suffocated by the social democrats, yet still sufficing to overthrow the old regime and to demoralize the Hohenzollern army – had, I repeat, the German revolution, such as it was, not broken out, then we should have been overthrown. It is not by accident that the passage contains the phrase “in opposition to a conservative Europe,” and not “in opposition to a capitalist “Europe.” Against a conservative Europe, maintaining its whole apparatus, and in particular its armies. I ask you: Could we maintain ourselves under these circumstances, or could we not? (A voice: “Are you talking to children?”) That we still continue to exist is due to the fact that Europe has not remained what it was. Lenin wrote as follows on this subject:
We are living not only in one state, but in a system of states, and the continued existence of the Soviet Republic side by side with imperialist states is unthinkable as a permanency. In the end either one system or the other will win.
When did Lenin say this? On March 18, 1919, that is two years after the October Revolution. My words of 1917 signified that if our revolution did not shake Europe, did not move it, then we were lost. Is this not in substance the same? I ask all the older comrades, who thought politically before and during 1917: What was your conception of the revolution and its consequences?
When I try to recollect this, I can find no other formulation than approximately the following:
We believed: either the international revolution will hasten to our aid and then our victory is perfectly secure, or we shall perform our modest revolutionary work in the consciousness that even if we are defeated we have served the cause of revolution, and that our experience will be useful for later revolutions. It was clear to us that the victory of the proletarian revolution is impossible without the support of the international, the world revolution. Both before and after the revolution we believed: Now, or at least very soon, the revolution will break out in the other highly developed capitalist countries, or, should this not be the case, we are lost.
This was our conception of the fate of the revolution. Who said this? (Comrade Moyssenyenko: “Lenin!” A voice: “And what did he say later on?”)
Lenin said this in 1921, whilst the passage quoted from me dates from 1917. I have thus a right to refer to what Lenin said in 1921. (A voice: “And what did Lenin say later on?) Later on I too said something different. (Laughter) Both before the revolution, and after it, we believed that:
Now, or at least very soon, the revolution will break out in the other highly developed capitalist countries, or, should this not be the case, we are lost.
But in spite of this:
We exerted every effort to maintain the Soviet system at all costs, for we were aware that we were not only working for ourselves, but for the international revolution. We knew this, and we expressed this conviction both before the October Revolution and after it, and at the time when the Brest-Litovsk peace was concluded. And speaking generally, we were right.
This passage goes on to say that our path has become more intricate and winding, but that in all essentials our prognosis was correct. As I have already said, we went over to the NEP unanimously, without any differences whatever. (Comrade Moyssenyenko: “To save us from utter ruin!”)
True, just for that reason, to save us from utter ruin.
Comrades, I beg you to extend the time allotted for my speech. I should like to speak on the theory of socialism in one country. I ask for another half hour. (Disturbance)
Comrades, in the question of the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry ...
Chairman: Please wait till we have decided. I submit three proposals: firstly, to adhere to the original time allotted to Comrade Trotsky; secondly: a prolongation of half an hour; thirdly, a prolongation of a quarter of an hour. (On a vote being taken there is a majority for the half hour prolongation.)
Relations to the Peasantry
The next passage quoted from my writings has brought me the reproach that: Whilst Lenin said: ten to twenty years of correct relations with the peasantry, and our victory is assured on an international scale; Trotskyism, on the contrary, assumes that the proletariat cannot enter into any correct relations with the peasantry until the world revolution has been accomplished. First of all I must ask the actual meaning of the passage quoted. Lenin speaks of ten to twenty years of correct relations to the peasantry. This means that Lenin did not expect socialism to be established within ten to twenty years. Why? Because under socialism we must understand a state of society in which there is neither proletariat nor peasantry, or any classes whatever. Socialism abolishes the opposition between town and country. Thus the term of twenty years is set before us, in the course of which we must pursue a political line leading to correct relations between the proletariat and the peasantry.
It has been asserted, however, that Trotskyism is of the opinion that there can be no correct relations between the proletariat and the peasantry until the world revolution has been accomplished. I am thus alleged to lay down a law according to which incorrect relations must be maintained with the peasantry as far as possible, until international revolution has been victorious. (Laughter) Apparently it was not intended to express this idea here, as there is no sense in it whatever.
What was the NEP? The NEP has been a process of shunting onto a new track, precisely for the establishment of correct relations between the proletariat and the peasantry. Were there differences between us on this subject? No, there were none. What we are quarreling about now is the taxation of the kulak, and the forms and methods to be adopted in allying the proletariat with the village poor. What is the actual matter in hand? The best method of establishing correct relations between the peasantry and the proletariat. You have the right to disagree with individual proposals of ours, but you must recognize that the whole ideological struggle revolves around the question of what relations are correct at the present stage of development.
Were there differences between us in 1917 on the peasant question? No. The peasant decree, the “social revolutionary” peasant decree, was adopted unanimously by us as our basis. The land decree, drawn up by Lenin, was accepted by us unanimously and gave rise to no differences in our circles. Did the policy of “de-kulakization” afford any cause for differences? No, there were no differences on this. (A voice: “And Brest?”) Did the struggle commenced by Lenin, for winning over the middle peasantry, give rise to differences? No, it gave rise to none. I do not assert that there were no differences whatever, but I definitely maintain that however great the differences of opinion may have been in various and even important questions, there were no differences of opinion in the matter of the main line of policy to be pursued with regard to the peasantry.
In 1919 there were rumors abroad of differences on this question. And what did Lenin write on the subject? Let us look back. I was asked at that time by the peasant Gulov: “What are the differences of opinion between you and Ilyitsch?” and I replied to this question both in the Pravda and in Izvestia. Lenin wrote as follows on the matter, both in Pravda and Izvestia, in February, 1919:
The Izvestia of February 2, 1919, published a letter from a peasant named Gulov, who raises the question of the relations between our workers’ and peasants’ government and the middle peasantry, and states that there are rumors spread about to the effect that there is no harmony between Lenin and Trotsky, that there are great differences of opinion between them, and precisely in the question of the middle peasantry. Comrade Trotsky has already replied in his Letter to the Middle Peasants, published in the Izvestia on February 7. Comrade Trotsky states in his letter than the rumors of differences between me and him are the most monstrous and wicked lies, spread abroad by the landowners and capitalists or their willing and unwilling accomplices. I for my part fully endorse the declaration thus made by Comrade Trotsky. There are no differences between us, and with reference to the middle peasants there are not only no differences between me and Trotsky, but no differences in the whole Communist Party, of which we are both members. Comrade Trotsky explains in his letter, clearly and in detail, why the Communist Party and the present workers’ and peasants’ government, elected by the Soviets and composed of members of the party, do not regard the middle peasantry as their enemies. I give my signature doubly to everything said by Comrade Trotsky.
This was before the NEP. Then came the transition to the NEP. I repeat once more that the transition to the NEP gave rise to no differences. On the NEP question I gave a report before the IV World Congress, in the course of which I polemized against Otto Bauer. Later I wrote as follows:
The NEP is regarded by the bourgeoisie and the Mensheviki as a necessary (but of course “insufficient”) step toward the release of productive forces. The Menshevist theoreticians both of the Kautsky and the Otto Bauer variety, have welcomed the NEP as the dawn of capitalist restoration in Russia. They add: Either the NEP will destroy the Bolshevist dictatorship (favorable result) or the Bolshevist dictatorship will destroy the NEP (regrettable result.)
The whole of my report at the IV Party Congress went to prove that the NEP will not destroy the Bolshevist dictatorship, but that the Bolshevist dictatorship, under the conditions given by the NEP, will secure the supremacy of the socialist elements of economics over the capitalist.
Lenin on Socialism in One Country
Another passage from my works has been brought up against me – and here I come to the question of the possibility of the victory of socialism in one country – which reads as follows:
The contradictions in the position of the workers’ government in a backward country with an overwhelming agrarian population can only be solved on an international scale and in the arena of the proletarian world revolution.
This was said in 1922. The accusing resolution makes the following statement:
The conference places on record that such views as these on the part of Comrade Trotsky and his followers, in the fundamental question of the character and prospects of our revolution, have nothing in common with the views of our party, with Leninism.”
If it had been stated that a shade of difference existed – I do not find this even today – or that these views have not yet been precisely formulated (and I do not see the precise formulation). But it is stated quite flatly: these views “have nothing in common with the views of the party, with Leninism.”
Here I must quote a few lines closely related to Leninism:
The complete victory of the socialist revolution in one country is unthinkable, and demands the active co-operation of at least some advanced countries, among which we cannot count Russia.
It was not I who said this, but one greater than I. Lenin said this November 8, 1918. Not before the October Revolution, but on November 8, 1918, one year after we had seized power. If he had said nothing else but this, we could easily infer what we liked from it by tearing one sentence or the other out of its context. (A voice: “He was speaking of the final victory!”) No, pardon me, he said: “demands the active cooperation.” Here it is impossible to sidetrack from the main question to the question of “intervention,” for it is plainly stated that the victory of socialism demands – not merely protection against intervention – but the cooperation of “at least some advanced countries, among which we cannot count Russia.” (Voices: “And what follows from that?”) This is not the only passage in which we see that not merely an intervention is meant. And thus the conclusion to be drawn is the fact that the standpoint which I have defended, to the effect that the internal contradictions arising out of the backwardness of our country must be solved by international revolution, is not my exclusive property, but that Lenin defended these same views, only incomparably more definitely and categorically.
We are told that this applied to the epoch in which the law of the unequal development of the capitalist countries is supposed to have been still unknown, that is, the epoch before imperialism. I cannot go thoroughly into this. But I must unfortunately place on record that Comrade Stalin commits a great theoretical and historical error here. The law of the unequal development of capitalism is older than imperialism. Capitalism is developing very unequally today in the various countries. But in the nineteenth century this inequality was greater than in the twentieth. At that time England was lord of the world, while Japan on the other hand was a feudal state closely confined within its own limits. At the time when serfdom was abolished among us, Japan began to adapt itself to capitalist civilization. China was, however, still wrapped in the deepest slumber. And so forth. At this time the inequality of capitalist development was greater than now. Those inequalities were as well known to Marx and Engels as they are to us. Imperialism has developed a more “leveling tendency than has pre-imperialist capitalism, for the reason that financial capital is the most elastic form of capital. It is, however, indisputable that today, too, there are great inequalities in development. But if it is maintained that in the nineteenth century, before imperialism, capitalism developed less unequally, and the theory of the possibility of socialism in one country was therefore wrong at that time, whilst today, now that imperialism has increased the heterogeneity of development, the theory of socialism in one country has become correct, then this assertion contradicts all historical experience, and completely reverses fact. No, this will not do; other and more serious arguments must be sought: Comrade Stalin has written:
Those who deny the possibility of the establishment of socialism in one country must deny at the same time the justifiability of the October Revolution. (Stalin, Problems of Leninism, p. 215)
But in 1918 we heard from Lenin that the establishment of socialism requires the direct cooperation of some advanced countries, “among which we cannot count Russia.” Yet Lenin did not deny the justifiability of the October Revolution. And he wrote as follows regarding this in 1918:
I know that there are some ingenious people (this was written against the adherents of Kautsky and Suchanov), who think themselves very clever, and even call themselves socialists; these maintain that we should not have seized power until revolution had broken out in all countries. They are not aware that in speaking thus they are deviating from revolution and going over to the bourgeoisie. To wait until the working masses accomplish the international revolution is to wait till we are stiff and rigid, to wait till we are frozen to death. This is nonsense ...
I am sorry, but it goes on as follows:
This is nonsense. The difficulty of revolution is known to all of us. For the final victory can only be on an international scale, and can only be brought about by the joint exertions of the workers of all countries. (Lenin, Vol. 15, page 287, written on May 14, 1918.)
Despite this, Lenin did not deny the “justifiability” of the October Revolution.
And further. In 1921 – not in 1914, but in 1921 – Lenin wrote:
In the advanced capitalist countries there is a class of agricultural laborers, created by decades of wage work. It is only in countries where this class is sufficiently developed that the transition from capitalism to socialism is possible.
Here it is not a question of intervention but of the level of economic development and of the development of the class relations of the country.
In many of our works, and in all of our utterances in the press, we have emphasized that this is not the case in Russia, that in Russia the industrial workers are in the minority, and that the overwhelming majority are small farmers. Social revolution in such a country as this can only be finally successful under two conditions: firstly, the condition that it is supported at the right time by the social revolution in one or several more advanced countries ...
The other condition is the understanding between the proletariat and the majority of the peasant population ...
We know that only an understanding with the peasantry can save the socialist revolution in Russia, so long as social revolution has not broken out in other countries. This must be stated openly at all meetings, and in the whole press. (Lenin, speech at the Xth Party Congress of the RCP, 1921)
Lenin did not state that the understanding with the peasantry sufficed, enabling us to build up socialism independent of the fate of the international proletariat. No, this understanding is only one of the conditions. The other condition is the support to be given the revolution by other countries. He combines these two conditions with each other, emphasizing their special necessity for us as we live in a backward country.
And finally, it is brought up against me that I have stated that “a real advance of socialist economy in Russia is only possible after the victory of the proletariat in the most important countries of Europe.” It is probable, comrades, that we have become inaccurate in the use of various terms. What do we understand under “socialist economy” in the strict sense of the term? We have great successes to record, and are naturally proud of these. I have endeavored to describe them in my booklet, Toward Socialism or Capitalism, for the benefit of extent of these successes. Comrade Rykov’s theses state that we are approaching the pre-war level. But this is not quite accurate. Is our population the same as before the war? No, it is larger. And the average consumption of industrial goods per head is considerably less than in 1913. The people’s Supreme Economic Council calculates that in this respect we shall not regain the pre-war level until 1930. And then, what was the level of 1913? It was the level of misery, of backwardness, of barbarism. If we speak of socialist economy, and of a real advance in socialist economy, we mean: no antagonism between town and country, general content, prosperity, culture. This is what we understand under the real advance of socialist economy. And we are still far indeed from this goal. We have destitute children, we have unemployed, from the villages there come three million superfluous workers every year, half a million of whom seek work in the cities, where the industries cannot absorb more than 1,100,000 yearly. We have a right to be proud of what we have achieved, but we must not distort the historical perspective. What we have accomplished is not yet a real advance of socialist economy, but only the first serious steps on that long bridge leading from capitalism to socialism. Is this the same thing? By no means. The passage quoted against me stated the truth.
In 1922 Lenin wrote:
But we have not yet even completed the foundation of our socialist economy, and the hostile forces of expiring capitalism may even yet deprive us of it again This must be clearly recognized and openly admitted, for there is nothing so dangerous as illusions and dizziness, especially at great heights. And there is nothing “frightful,” nothing which can give the slightest cause for despair, in the recognition of this bitter truth, for we have always proclaimed and repeated that elementary truth of Marxism, that the joint efforts of the workers of some advanced countries are necessary for the victory of socialism.” (Lenin, Complete Works, Russian edition, Vol. XX/2, page 487.)
The question here is therefore not of intervention, but of the joint efforts of several advanced countries for the establishment of socialism. Or was this written by Lenin before the epoch of imperialism, before the law of unequal development was known? No, he wrote this in 1922.
There is, however, another passage, in the article on cooperatives, one single passage, which is set up against everything else that Lenin wrote, or rather the attempt is made so to oppose it. (A voice: “Accidentally!”) Not by any means accidentally. I am in full agreement with the sentence. It must be understood properly. The passage is as follows:
As a matter of fact, all the great means of production are in the possession of the state, the state power is in the hands of the proletariat: the alliance of this proletariat with the many millions of poor and poorest peasantry, the security of the leadership of this proletariat over the peasantry, etc.; is then this not everything which we require to enable us to build up out of the cooperatives, of the cooperatives alone, which we treated at one time in a step-motherly manner, as petty tradesman affairs and which we are now justified to a certain extent in so treating under the NEP – to build up out of the cooperatives alone the complete socialist state of society? This is not yet the establishment of the socialist state of society, but it is everything which is necessary and sufficient for this realization ...
(A voice: “You read much too quickly.” Laughter) Then you must give me a few minutes more, comrades. (Laughter. A voice: “Right!”) Right? I am agreed. (A voice: “That is just what we want.”)
What is the question here? What elements are here enumerated? In the first place, the possession of the means of production; in the second, the power of the proletariat; thirdly, the alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry; fourthly, the proletarian leadership of the peasantry, and fifthly, the cooperatives. I ask you: does any one of you believe that socialism can be established in one single isolated country? Could perchance the proletariat in Bulgaria alone, if it had the peasantry behind it, seize power, build up the cooperatives and establish socialism? No, that would be impossible. Consequently further elements are required in addition to the above: the geographical situation, natural wealth, techniques culture. Lenin enumerates here the conditions of the state power, property relations and the organizatory forms of the cooperatives. Nothing more. And he says that we, in order to establish socialism, need not proletarianize the peasantry, nor need we any fresh revolutions, but that we are able, with power in our hands, in alliance with the peasantry, and with the aid of the cooperatives, to carry our task to completion through the agency of these state and social forms and methods.
But, comrades, we know another definition which Lenin gave of socialism. According to this definition, socialism is equal to soviet power plus electrification. Is electrification cancelled in the passage just quoted? No, it is not cancelled. Everything which Lenin otherwise said about the establishment of socialism – and I have adduced clear formulations above – is supplemented by this quotation, but not cancelled. For electrification is not something to be carried out in a vacuum, but under certain conditions, under the conditions imposed by the world market and the world economy, which are very tangible facts. The world economy is not mere theoretical generalization, but a definite and powerful reality, whose laws encompass us; a fact of which every year of our development convinces us.
The New Theory
Before dealing with this in detail, I should like to remind you of the following: Some of our comrades, before they created an entirely new theory, and in my opinion an entirely wrong one, based on a one-sided interpretation of Lenin’s article on the cooperatives, held quite a different standpoint. In 1924 Comrade Stalin did not say the same as he does today. This was pointed out at the XIV Party Congress, but the passage quoted did not disappear on that account, but remains fully maintained even in 1926.
Let us read:
Is it possible to attain the final victory of socialism in one single country without the joint efforts of the proletariats of several advanced countries? No, it is impossible. The exertions of a single country suffice to overthrow the bourgeoisie – this is shown by the history of our revolution. But for the final victory of socialism, for the organization of socialist production, the efforts of one single country, especially of such an agrarian country as Russia, are not sufficient – for this the efforts of the proletariats of several advanced countries are necessary. (The Principles of Leninism, April 1924.)
This was written by Stalin in 1924, but the resolution quotes me only up to 1922. (Laughter) Yes, this is what was said in 1924: For the organization of socialist economy – not for protection against intervention, not as guarantee against the restoration of the capitalist order, no, no, but for “the organization of socialist production,” the efforts of one single country, especially such an agrarian country as Russia, do not suffice. Comrade Stalin has given up this standpoint. He has of course a right to do so.
In his book, Problems of Leninism, he says:
What are the defects of this formulation? They consist of the fact that it throws two different questions together: the question of the possibility of the establishment of socialism in one country, by its own unaided efforts – to which an affirmative reply must be given; and the question of whether a country in which the dictatorship of the proletariat has been established can be considered as completely secure against intervention, and consequently as completely secure against the restoration of the capitalist order, unless a victorious revolution has taken place in a number of other countries – to which a negative reply must be given. (Stalin, Problems of Leninism, page 44, 1926.)
But if you will allow me to say so, we do not find these two questions confused with one another in the first passage quoted, dating from 1924. Here it is not a question of intervention, but solely of the impossibility of the complete organization of a completely socialized production by the unaided efforts of such a peasant country as Russia.
And truly, comrades, can the whole question be reduced to one of intervention? Can we simply imagine that we are establishing socialism here in this house, while the enemies outside in the street are throwing stones through the window panes? The matter is not so simple. Intervention is war, and war is a continuation of politics, but with other weapons. But politics are applied economics. Hence the whole question is one of the economic relations between the Soviet Union and the capitalist countries. These relations are not exhausted in that one form known as intervention. They possess a much more continuous and profound character. Comrade Bucharin has stated in so many words that the sole danger of intervention consists of the fact that in the event that no intervention comes:
... we can work toward socialism even on this wretched technical basis (we can work toward it, that is true. – L.T.), that this growth of socialism will be much slower, that we shall move forward at a snail’s pace; but all the same we shall work toward socialism, and we shall realize it. (At the XIV Party Congress)
That we are working toward socialism is true. That we shall realize it hand in hand with the world proletariat is incontestable. (Laughter) In my opinion it is out of place at a communist conference to laugh when the realization of socialism hand in hand with the international proletariat is spoken of. (Laughter. Voices: “No demagogy!” “You cannot catch us with that!!”) But I tell you that we shall never realize socialism at a snail’s pace, for the world’s markets keep too sharp a control over us. (A voice: “You are quite alarmed!”) How does Comrade Bucharin imagine this realization? In his last article in The Bolshevik, which I must say is the most scholastic work which has ever issued from Bucharin’s pen (laughter), he says:
The question is whether we can work toward socialism, and establish it, if we abstract this from the international questions.
Just listen to this: “If we can work toward socialism, and establish it, if we abstract this question from the international questions.” If we accomplish this “abstraction,” then of course the rest is easy. But we cannot. That is the whole point. (Laughter)
It is possible to walk naked in the streets of Moscow in January, if we can abstract ourselves from the weather and the police. (Laughter) But I am afraid that this abstraction would fail, both with respect to weather and to police, were we to make the attempt. (Laughter)
We repeat once more: it is a question of internal forces and not of the dangers connected with abroad. It is therefore a question of the character of the revolution. (Bucharin, No. 19/20 of The Bolshevik)
The character of our revolution, independent of international relations I Since when has this self-sufficing character of our revolution existed? I maintain that our revolution, as we know it, would not exist at all but for two international prerequisites: firstly, the factor of financial capital, which, in its greed, has fertilized our economic development, and secondly, Marxism, the theoretical quintessence of the international labor movement, which has fertilized our proletarian struggle. This means that the revolution was being prepared, before 1917, at those cross-roads where the great forces of the world encounter one another. Out of this clash of forces arose the great war, and out of this the October Revolution. And now we are told to abstract ourselves from the international situation and to construct our socialism at home for ourselves. That is a metaphysical method of thought. There is no possibility of abstraction from world economics.
What is export? An internal or an international affair? The goods to be exported must be produced at home, thus it is an internal matter. But they must be exported abroad, hence it is an international transaction. And what is import? Import is international! The goods have to be purchased abroad. But they have to be brought into the country, so it is a home affair after all. (Laughter) This example of import and export alone suffices to cause the collapse of Comrade Bucharin’s whole theory, which proposes an “abstraction” from the international situation. The success of socialist construction depends on the speed of economic development, and this speed is now being determined directly and more sharply than ever by the imports of raw materials and machinery. To be sure, we can abstract ourselves from the shortage of foreign securities, and order more cotton and machines But we can only do that once. A second time we shall not be able to accomplish this abstraction. (Laughter) The whole of our constructive work is determined by international conditions.
If I am asked whether our state is proletarian, I can only reply that the question is out of place. If you do not wish to form your judgment on two or three words picked at random from an uncorrected stenographic report, but on what I have said and written in dozens of speeches and articles – and this is the only way in which we should form a judgment on one another’s views – if we do not wish to trip one another up with an uncorrected sentence, but seek to understand one another’s real opinions, then you must admit without hesitation that I join with you in regarding our state as a proletarian state. I have already replied by several quotations to the question of whether this state is building up socialism. If you ask whether there are in this country sufficient forces and means to carry out completely the establishment of socialism within thirty or fifty years, quite independent of what is going on in the world outside, then I must answer that the question is put in an entirely wrong form. We have at our disposal adequate forces for the furtherance of the work of socialization, and thereby also to aid the international revolutionary proletariat, which has no less prospect of gaining power in ten, twenty or thirty years, than we have of establishing socialism; in no way less prospect, but much greater prospect.
I ask you, comrades – and this is the axis upon which the whole question turns – what will be going on in Europe while we are working at our socialization? You reply: We shall establish socialism in our country, independent of what is going on all over the world. Good.
How much time shall we require for the establishment of socialism? Lenin was of the opinion that we shall not have established socialism in twenty years, since our agrarian country is so backward. And in thirty years we shall not have established it either. Let us take thirty to fifty years as a minimum. What will be happening in Europe during all this time? I cannot make a prognosis for our country without including a prognosis for Europe. There may be some variations. If you say that the European proletariat will certainly have come into power within the next thirty to fifty years, then there is no longer any question in the matter. For if the European proletariat captures power in the next ten, twenty or thirty years, then the position of socialism is secured, both in our country and internationally. But you are probably of the opinion that we must assume a future in which the European proletariat does not come into power? Otherwise why your whole prognosis? Therefore, I ask what you suppose will be happening in Europe in this time? From the purely theoretical standpoint, three variations are possible. Europe will either vacillate around about the pre-war level, as at present, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie balancing to and fro and just maintaining an equilibrium. We must however designate this “equilibrium” as inconstant, for it is extremely so. This situation cannot last for twenty, thirty or forty years. It must be decided one way or the other.
Do you believe that capitalism will find a renewed dynamical equilibrium? Do you believe that capitalism can secure a fresh period of ascendancy, a new and extended reproduction of that process which took place before the imperialist war? If you believe that this is possible (I myself do not believe that capitalism has any such prospect before it), if you permit it even theoretically for one moment, this would mean that capitalism has not yet fulfilled its historical mission in Europe and the rest of the world, and that present-day capitalism is not an imperialist and decaying capitalism, but a capitalism still on the upgrade, developing economics and culture. And this would mean that we have appeared too early on the scene.
Chairman: Comrade Trotsky has more than exceeded the time allotted him. He has been speaking for more than one and a half hours. He asks for a further five minutes. I shall take your vote. Who is in favor? Who is against? Does anybody demand that a fresh vote be taken?
Comrade Trotsky: I ask for a fresh vote.
Chairman: Who is in favor of Comrade Trotsky’s being given five minutes more? Who is against? The majority is against.
Comrade Trotsky: I wished to utilize these five minutes for a brief summary of conclusions.
Chairman: I shall take the vote again. Who is in favor of Comrade Trotsky’s time being extended by five minutes? Those in favor hold up their delegate’s tickets. Who is against? The majority is in favor. It is better to prolong the time than to count votes for five minutes. Comrade Trotsky will continue.
Comrade Trotsky: If it is assumed that during the next thirty to fifty years which we require for the establishment of socialism, European capitalism will be developing upward, then we must come to the conclusion that we shall certainly be strangled or crushed, for ascending capitalism will certainly possess, besides everything else, correspondingly improved technics of war. We are, moreover, aware that a capitalism with a rapidly rising prosperity is well able to draw the masses into war, aided by the labor aristocracy which it is able to create. These gloomy prospects are, in my opinion, impossible of fulfillment; the international economic situation offers no basis. In any case we have no need to base the future of socialism in our country on this supposition.
There remains the second possibility of a declining and decaying capitalism. And this is precisely the basis upon which the European proletariat is learning, slowly but surely, the art of making revolution.
Is it possible to imagine that European capitalism will continue a process of decay for thirty to fifty years, and the proletariat will meanwhile remain incapable of accomplishing revolution? I ask why I should accept this assumption, which can only be designated as the assumption of an unfounded and most profound pessimism with respect to the European proletariat, and at the same time of an uncritical optimism with respect to the establishment of socialism by the unaided forces of our country? In what way can it be the theoretical or political, duty of a communist to accept the premise that the European proletariat will not have seized power within the next forty to fifty years? (Should it seize power, then the point of dispute vanishes.) I maintain that I see no theoretical or political reason for believing that we shall build up socialism with the cooperation of the peasantry more easily than the proletariat of Europe will seize power.
No. The European proletariat has the greater chances. And if this is the case, then I ask you: Why are these two elements opposed to one another, instead of being combined like the “two conditions” of Lenin? Why is the theoretical recognition of the establishment of socialism in one country demanded? What gave rise to this standpoint? Why was this question never brought forward by anyone before 1925? (A voice: “It was!”) That is not the case, it was never brought forward. Even Comrade Stalin wrote in 1924 that the efforts of an agrarian country were insufficient for the establishment of socialism. I am today still firm in my belief that the victory of socialism in our country is only possible in conjunction with the victorious revolution of the European proletariat. This does not mean that we are not working toward the socialist state of society, or that we should not continue this work with all possible energy. Just as the German worker is preparing to seize power, we are preparing the socialism of the future, and every success which we can record facilitates the struggle of the German proletariat, just as its struggle facilitates our socialist progress. This is the sole true international view to be taken of our work for the realization of the socialist state of society.
In conclusion I repeat the words which I spoke at the Plenum of the CC: Did we not believe that our state is a proletarian state, though with bureaucratic deformations, that is, a state which should be brought into much closer contact with the working class, despite many wrong bureaucratic opinions to the contrary; did we not believe that our development is socialist; did we not believe that our country possesses adequate means for the furtherance of socialist economics; were we not convinced of our complete and final victory: then, it need not be said, our place would not be in the ranks of a Communist Party.
The Opposition can and must be estimated by these two criteria: it can accept the one line or the other. Those who believe that our state is not a proletarian state, and that our development is not socialist, must lead the proletariat against such a state and must found another party.
But those who believe that our state is a proletarian state, but with bureaucratic deformations formed under the pressure of the petty bourgeois elements and the capitalist encirclement; who believe that our development is socialist, but that our economic policy does not sufficiently secure the necessary redistribution of national income; these must combat with party methods and party means that which they hold to be wrong, mistaken or dangerous, but must share at the same time the full responsibility for the whole policy of the party and of the workers’ state. (The chairman rings.) I am almost finished. A minute and a half more.
It is incontestable that the inner party contentions have been characterized of late by extreme acuteness of form, and by the fractional attitude. It is incontestable that this fractional aggravation of the contention on the part of the Opposition – no matter by what premises it was called forth – could be taken, and has been taken by a wide section of the party members, to mean that the differences of opinion had reached a point rendering joint work impossible, that is, that they could lead to a split. This means an obvious discrepancy between the means and the aims, that is, between those aims for which the Opposition has been anxious to fight, and the means which it has employed for one reason or another. It is for that reason we have recognized this means – the fraction – as being faulty,and not for any reason arising out of present consideration. (A voice: “Your forces were inadequate; you have been defeated!”) We recognize this in consideration of the whole inner party situation. The aim and object of the declaration of October 16 was to defend the views which we hold, but to do this under the observance of the confines set by our joint work and our solidarity of responsibility for the whole policy of the party.
Comrades, what is the objective danger involved in the resolution on the social democratic deviation? The danger lies in the fact that it attributes to us views which would necessarily lead, not merely to a fractional policy, but to a policy of two parties.
This resolution has the objective tendency of transforming both the declaration of October 16 and the communiqué of the CC into fragments of paper that with satisfaction ... (A voice: “Is that a threat?”) No, comrades, that is no threat. It is my last thought to utter any threat. (A voice: “Why raise that again?”) You will hear in a moment. Only a few words more.
In our opinion the acceptance of this resolution will be detrimental, but in so far as I can judge of the attitude of the so-called Opposition, especially of the leading comrades, the acceptance of this resolution will not cause us to depart from the line of the declaration of October 16. We do not accept the views forced upon us. We have no intention of artificially enlarging the differences, or of aggravating them and of thus preparing for a relapse into the fractional struggle. On the contrary, each one of us, without seeking to minimize the existing difference of opinion, will exert every endeavor to adapt these differences within the confines of our continued work and our joint responsibility for the policy of the party.