Footnotes to introduction to "The Two Trotskyisms Confront Stalinism"

Submitted by martin on 23 October, 2015 - 10:15

* This is an edited and expanded version of the introduction, as it will appear in the second edition of this volume.

1. Dual power would mean the working class maybe expressing itself through workers' councils (soviets) so strong that they vied directly with the government for political and social control - the disintegration, enfeeblement, and paralysis of the bourgeois state and the coming into being of a rising and strengthening working-class movement with authority comparable to that of the state, as in Russia before the October revolution.

2. In fact the policy adopted on Trotsky's initiative in mid 1939 of championing the independence of a "Soviet Ukraine" against Moscow rule implied that the USSR was an empire in the sense that pre-World-War-1 Austro-Hungary was, and in the 1930s the Trotskyists defined Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia as imperialist states - states with national minorities held against their will. Ukraine vanished from the SWP press during the war.

3. On the lines of Lenin's and Trotsky's arguments in World War 1, the strongest argument against "defending" or siding with Britain - the Britain of the labour movement and the trade unions - against the Nazis would be Britain's alliance with the USSR, the real Stalinist USSR, not the imaginary one that still for Cannon and his comrades shone with the glow of the October Revolution.

4. It is a strange fact of history that the serious and detailed critical accounts of Stalinist society available in the West in the 1930s were mostly limited to the works of Trotsky and his comrades, and those of disillusioned ex-sympathisers of the CP. In Britain, it was a “Right Book Club”, run by the publisher Hutchinson’s, a weak parallel to the very strong “Left Book Club” of Victor Gollancz and the Communist Party, that published Victor Serge’s book on Russia, Eugene Lyons’ Assignment in Utopia, and I Was A Soviet Worker by Andrew Smith (a sympathiser who went to the USSR). In the era of the great capitalist slump, there was eager sympathy for “the Russian experiment” among liberals and reform-socialists, and even some aristocratic Tories. There was a tremendous wide credulity for the Stalinist account of USSR society. The New Statesman and Tribune, like The Nation and The New Republic in the USA, were Stalinist propaganda sheets on everything connected with Russia.

5. The post-Hitler-Stalin-pact pro-German defeatism of the strong French Communist Party had, of course, been a factor in that.

6. The open letter, too - the appeal to Stalin as if to an errant comrade-in-arms - was a precedent. Similar appeals to Stalinists in power - in Yugoslavia, the USSR, China, etc. - would punctuate the later political history of the Orthodox like interjections from a victim of political Tourette syndrome.

7. Richard Overy, Russia's War, chapter 5; Antony Beevor, Stalingrad, pp.184-5, 385, 84-5; Antony Beevor, Berlin, p.113.

8. During World War Two the Communist Party USA would have over 100,000 members at its peak, and great strength in the trade unions.

9. And what of communists who want to overthrow the autocracy, but might not be willing to subordinate themselves meekly to Stalin in the war or join the Orthodox in their pledges of loyalty? If the Cannonites ruled in Russia, the "petty-bourgeois renegades" of the Workers Party would be outlawed? They wouldn't qualify for release from Stalin's jails?

10. The Militant's proposal of the Socialist United States of Europe as an immediate alternative to the war seemed to take the existing German empire as a given starting point, ignoring the conquered European peoples and their national rights and possible inclinations. That may have been rooted in Trotsky's 1915 "Peace Program", in which he argued that if Germany united Europe, then socialists should fight within that Europe for its transformation into a democratic federation. It is plain in hindsight that Trotsky underestimated the upsurge of nationalism that conquest would trigger in the forcibly "united" nations of Europe. The caricature of Trotsky's 1915 idea in the press of the Orthodox in World War 2 was an aspect of their blindness towards the national liberation movements that would develop in some of the Nazi-occupied countries

11. And so at the outbreak of war in 1939 did the Nazis. They issued an appeal to the working class of the world - in the form of a call from Robert Ley, gauleiter of Hitler's police-state "unions". In Britain that appeal was reprinted in the press of the anti-war but often confused Independent Labour Party.

12. This sort of mental operation would be a model for many other political rationalisations in the future, as for instance to explain how Mao Zedong's peasant army could make a working-class revolution in China, as they believed it had.

13. The lack of internal party critics with enough self-confidence to call the SWP leaders to order also contributed. It was sometimes said, approvingly, of Stalin's USSR in World War 2 that it had no disloyal "fifth column" because all the "fifth columnists" had been shot. James P Cannon, too, faced no revolt or "fifth column" in his ranks because, politically speaking, he had shot them.

14. These important critics from within Orthodox Trotskyism as it took shape themselves fell down before the contradictions and difficulties of the time. Goldman and some of his co-thinkers joined the Workers Party in June 1946. Goldman remained active until 1948, when he left the Workers Party, differing with them about the Marshall Plan of US aid to Europe (Goldman was for it). He then quit political activity. Morrow did not leave the SWP with Goldman. He was expelled in November 1946, and left politics at that point. Another significant critic, Louis Jacobs, distributed his document "We arrive at a line" in late 1944 and then dropped out of the SWP, writing occasionally for the WP press. Jean van Heijenoort, wartime secretary of the New York based Fourth International, dropped out too.

15. See Trotsky's Letter to Borodai of late 1928, in which he defined political reformability as the criterion of a workers' state, and Shachtman's discussion of Trotsky's later shift to nationalised property as the empirical criterion. The Fate of the Russian Revolution volume 1, pp.300-309.

16. At least one Trotskyist tendency, Lutte Ouvriere, argued right up until the end that Russia had one class character, and the structurally identical satellite states another.

17. In Posadas, the patterns of 1940-5 and of the war-revolution perspective of 1950-4 were upfront. After all, if War-Revolution would be a stage forward towards socialism, as the Fourth International in 1951-3 had believed, then serious socialists should indeed advocate it. Some time in the 1970s the author listened to a British Posadist exulting in the “transformations” and “regeneration” that had taken place in the USSR. He cited tremendous working-class gatherings and marches in Moscow. Hadn’t we heard? No. What had happened? What working-class demonstrations? It turned out that he was talking about the annual official Stalinist May Day march and military display.

18. In 1953 Cannon indicted Pablo, Mandel, etc. for thinking that the Russian state could project "a roughly revolutionary orientation" in the imminent Third World War, which would be a War-Revolution.

19. Alexander's accounts of Trotskyist movements in the two countries I know about in some detail because I have been active in them, the UK and Ireland, are not even a reliable chronology. Even such a "standard" work as Isaac Deutscher's biography of Trotsky fails, at least in its third volume, which tells the story of Trotsky's last exile, after 1929. Deutscher radically misrepresents Trotsky's views on Stalinism at the end of his life by "splitting" Trotsky into two, assigning views that were Trotsky's to other anti-Stalinists whom he fought with, and narrowing Trotsky down to something not too far from Deutscher's own critical pro-Stalinist politics.



Quotations from Trotsky, by page number

• 5, “totalitarian”: RB ch 5 • 5, “police measures”, W33-4 p.8 • 6, “savagery”, W38-9 p.325 • 6, stratum, RB ch 9 • 6, “lion's share”, “same as US bourgeois”, W39-40 p.144 • 6, “twelve to fifteen million”, W39-40 p.115 • 6, “no class ever”, W37-8 p.444 • 6-7, “all the vices” W38-9 p.325 • 7, “classic exploitation”, RB ch 4 • 7, “behind a cultured capitalism”, RB ch 5 • 7, “bureaucratic economy”, W32-3 p.224 • 7, “state belongs”, RB ch 9 • 7, “strangled”, W39-40 p.197 • 8, “quartermaster”, W39-40 p.76 • 8, “jackal”, W39-40 p.92 • 8, “against seizures”, UW • 8, “semi-slaves”, AO • 8, “during war with Finland”, W39-40 p.166 • 9, “in every case”, AO • 9, “extension”, UW • 10, Simone Weil, W37-8 p.331 • 11, “the first concentration”, RB ch 9 • 11, “ludicrous”, UW • 12, “sole master”, Stalin vol.2 p.240 • 12, “both class states”, W37-8 p.27 • 13, “only if”, W39-40 p.166 • 16, “as absurd”, W39-40 p.124 • 19, “history has known”, AO • 19-20, “silent condemnation”, “behind the Finnish question”, W39-40 p.144 • 21, “not a question”, W39-40 p.91 • 21, “shameful and criminal”, W39-40 p.92 • 27, “fascism inevitable”, W38-9 p.210 • 43, “to defend”, W30-1 p.229 • 44, “state property”, RB ch 9 • 72, “not any support”, W39-40 p.201 • W signifies the volumes of Trotsky's writings, RB Revolution Betrayed, UW The USSR in War, AO Again and Once More.

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