This book was written by Leon Trotsky at the height of the Russian Civil War. While it is a polemical response to German social-democrat Karl Kautsky, it is also represents the Bolshevik defense of the extraordinary means the young workers’ republic had to take in order to defend itself from the almost two dozen armies that were on its soil trying to turn back the revolution. We have kept true to the form of the style of English used in this edition of the book, making only some spelling corrections and, of course, using the contemporary title, Terrorism or Communism.
The capitalist world enters a period of industrial upswing. Booms alternate with depressions – an organic law of capitalist society. The current boom nowise indicates the establishment of equilibrium in the class structure. A crisis frequently helps the growth of anarchist and reformist moods among the workers. The boom will help fuse the working masses.
Comrades, the internal causation and lawfulness of historical development was formulated for the first time by Marxist theory. The theory of Marxism, as Marx himself wrote in the introduction to his work Critique of Political Economy, established approximately the following proposition with regard to revolution: No social system departs from the arena until it has developed the productive forces to the maximum degree attainable under the given system; and no new social system appears on the scene unless the economic premises necessary for it have already been prepared by the old social system. This truth, which is basic for revolutionary policy, unquestionably retains all its meaning as a guide for us to this very moment. But more than once has Marxism been understood mechanically, unilaterally and therefore erroneously. Wrong conclusions may likewise be drawn from the foregoing proposition.
The essence of Marxism consists in this, that it approaches society concretely, as a subject for objective research, and analyzes human history as one would a colossal laboratory record. Marxism appraises ideology as a subordinate integral element of the material social structure. Marxism examines the class structure of society as a historically conditioned form of the development of the productive forces.
Lenin is no more. We have lost Lenin. The dark laws that govern the work of the arteries have destroyed his life. Medicine has proved itself powerless to accomplish what was passionately hoped for, what millions of human hearts demanded.
That Lenin arrived in Petersburg and had come out against the war and against the Provisional Government at workers’ meetings, I learned from American newspapers at Amherst, a concentration camp for German prisoners in Canada. The interned German sailors began to take an immediate interest in Lenin, whose name they had come across for the first time in the news dispatches. These were all men avidly waiting for the war to end; it would open for them the gates of this prison camp. They listened with utmost attention to every voice raised against the war. Up to this time they had known of Liebknecht. But they had been told time and again that Liebknecht was a paid agent of the Entente. Now they learned of Lenin. They learned from me of Zimmerwald and Kienthal. Lenin’s anti-war speeches won many of them over to Liebknecht.
We are reprinting on this 29th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky‘s brief sketch of the great Sverdlov, the incomparable Bolshevik organizer. It is well to acquaint our readers with this heroic figure, who epitomized the type of revolutionist who made possible the 1917 revolution and the subsequent victory over the counter-revolution.
"Every worker had a vague idea that inside those grey greatcoats, soldiers’ hearts were beating in time with his own wishes. The task of the proletariat for 1917 was to draw the army into a revolutionary front against the tsar, the landlords, the bourgeoisie and the war."
On 21 March 1917 (3 April according to the new calendar), the first of Lenin's Letters from afar was published in Pravda, which was at that time edited by Joseph Stalin and Lev Kamenev. In these letters Lenin outlined the main characteristics of the Russian revolution and laid the basis for the political reorientation of the Bolshevik party. This was the political basis for the coming to power of the Bolsheviks only 7 months later.
"Lenin was prepared for his struggle on an international scale not only by his profound knowledge of Marxism and his experience of the revolutionary party organization in Russia, but also by his intimate acquaintance with the workers’ movement throughout the world."
"Lenin is no more, but Leninism endures. The immortal in Lenin, his doctrine, his work, his method, his example, lives in us, lives in the party that he founded, lives in the first workmen’s State whose head he was and which he guided."