Tuesday 9 January 2024, by Robert Paris

C.L.R. James


THERE IS A LOGIC IN HISTORY AND DESPITE ALL THE rich and strange episodes of historical evolution there is a consistent line which can be followed. We can see the future of the Third International in the role it plays in the Spanish revolution.


When Franco launched his attack on the Popular Front Government, that hybrid showed exactly what is to be expected from these political combinations of bourgeoisie and workers in a revolutionary period. Two Governments seeking to negotiate with Franco fell in quick succession, and but for the workers and peasants the Popular Front would have been swept off the stage. But instead of calling upon the workers to lead the peasants in the Socialist revolution, the Third International, in and out of Spain, has continued with an intensive propaganda for Spanish democracy. The drive of the revolution in Spain has thrown the bourgeois one by one out of the Popular Front Government in Madrid. In Catalonia, the industrialised section of Spain, the workers, though not knowing Marxian economics, had instinctively seized bourgeois property in the very first days of the counter-revolution – as clear an indication of the future course of proletarian revolutions as the stay-in strikes in France – and Companys could remain in the Government only by pretending to be a Socialist. The Third International, however, continues to hold up the revolution with its new love for democracy. The Stalinists today do not want a Red Spain. It will only fail. Worse still a Red Spain will start the revolutionary movement surging in Europe again. It would mean an upheaval in France. Not only do they not want a Red Spain, they will fight to prevent it. The Stalinist bureaucracy was willing to support non-intervention at first, just one stage beyond its German policy of letting Fascism come in. But the workers in Western Europe could not understand the neutrality of the Soviet Union; then came the tardy realisation of the fact that Fascism in Spain might weaken the free, strong and happy democratic France, which the Soviet bureaucracy needed so badly as an ally against Germany. Stalin and the bureaucracy decided to assist Spain.

Bourgeois democracy is doomed in Spain. It is the breakdown of parliamentary democracy which breeds Fascism. Before the actual conflict the Social Democratic workers can be rallied on the slogans of the defence of their democratic rights, yet to attempt to crush Fascism by the maintenance of parliamentary democracy is to lead the workers to ruin. The choice lies between the capitalist Fascist dictatorship, or the Socialist Workers’ State. If the workers are to win against Franco and his German and Italian allies, they can win only as the Bolsheviks won, on the slogans of the land for the peasants, the confiscation of bourgeois property, and the revolution of the Moors in Franco’s rear. The war must be a revolutionary war by workers and peasants organised in Soviets or other workers organisations. But the Soviet bureaucracy made the fight for a democratic Spain a condition of assistance; and the bureaucracy and its agents, though active against Franco, are now preventing Spanish workers and peasants from doing the very things that created Soviet Russia. They want no change in Europe. The Third International pushes yet another revolution to disaster. Blum also supports Caballero against Franco.

The United Front between Spanish Social Democracy, French Social Democracy and the Soviet bureaucracy controlling the Third International is established in defence of bourgeois democracy, i.e. Capitalism, in Spain. But the Soviet bureaucracy with more to lose is much the most reactionary of the three. In Catalonia the P.O.U.M., a centrist party, has taken a leading part from the early days of Franco’s attack. It had committed the error of joining the Catalonian Government, but it stood for the Socialist revolution, it issued revolutionary slogans. Such danger as there was of a Red Spain came from the P.O.U.M. leadership. P.O.U.M. was not Trotskyist but held the Trotskyist view of the Soviet bureaucracy and the Third International. The Stalinists in Spain instigated a murderous attack on P.O.U.M. as Fascist provocateurs. [1] Not content with using all their force to keep the revolution within the bounds of bourgeois democracy, they are and will henceforth be the implacable enemies of the Socialist revolution and all those who fight for it. The masses in Spain may push them further but they will resist and hamper and impede the progress of the revolution, and that today is their role in Europe.

Everywhere they are carrying on strenuous propaganda for unity, one large unified party. Stalin is ready to sink the identity of the Third International into the Second, if only he can get Trotsky and his great reputation out of the way. The lesser Trotskyists can be dealt with, their voices have no international significance. But Trotsky, the man of October, and his Fourth International bar the way. The Stalinists want him silenced. He may be murdered in Mexico. And once he is out of action the Stalinist struggle for the League of Nations and collective security calculates on being able to ignore the Fourth International, the workers can be led into the coming war for democracy and the defence of the U.S.S.R., and the Third International will assist the capitalists to crush colonial revolts, the sign-manual of the counter-revolution. Only the determined opposition of the capitalist bourgeoisie to forming or implementing a Soviet pact will prevent the Soviet bureaucracy and the Third International from this course, the traditional path of the Social Democracy. But the road has a gap, a gap across which at present there is no bridge – for while the workers’ bureaucracies of Western Europe are based on a capitalist system, the bureaucrats of the Soviet are based on a Socialist system. The Russians may get their alliances, and Cachin and Pollit will stand on the recruiting platforms side by side with Laval, Daladier, and Blum, Churchill, Lloyd George and Citrine. La Rocque will be there and Mosley also. For when war does begin, Fascists and Social Democrats will sink their different views of foreign policy and fight the common enemy of the system they support. But the policy of the Soviet bureaucracy will break owing to the very nature of the Soviet State. For British Capitalism may, despite all its efforts, be drawn into a war against Germany side by side with the Soviet Union. But all Capitalists, German and British, know what happened after the last war and what will happen after this one. They know that if Russia survives the confusion and ruin of the war as a Workers’ State, the Socialist revolution in Europe is half-way to victory before it has begun. For them, victor and vanquished, however the war ends, the Soviet Union must be destroyed. And as soon as the war enters a decisive phase, and one side has established a claim to domination, perhaps before, a capitalist coalition will destroy the common enemy. The two systems cannot live side by side for any extended period, still less can they fight side by side. Cannot Stalin and the bureaucracy see this? The wisest bureaucrat remains a bureaucrat, and the bureaucrats have their policy whose roots lie deep. They will follow it until it breaks in their hands. Today nothing can change that. What is of far more importance is the corrupting influence they exercise on the workers of Europe through the venal Third International.

Abyssinia taught the workers a great lesson, Spain taught them more. The advanced workers of the Social Democracy, slowly, as workers do, are beginning to see the real nature of Imperialism, to see what democracy, constitution, law and order means in the mouths of capitalists. The Edinburgh Conference of the Labour Party shows the ferment. But as the workers turn to the Left, instead of meeting a revolutionary party, firm and uncompromising in doctrine, clear in theory, but fighting for the clarification of ever greater masses of the workers on the common experiences of the United Front, they meet the Third International backed by all the resources of the Soviet State and the revolutionary traditions of October, driving them back to collective security, back to democracy, back to the illusions of Socialism through the Social Democracy. It is the crying shame and tragedy of our age. Only at the moment of violent repudiation of the Stalinist bureaucracy by the bourgeoisie will the policy of the International undergo any change. But that moment will be chosen by the Imperialist bourgeoisie who will use Stalinism or discard it at their will. It is to this that the Stalinist bureaucracy has led the Third International, in its time the greatest revolutionary force that history has ever seen.


But if all this is so, does there remain any justification for the theory of the Permanent Revolution which this book maintains? Under the ablest Marxist leadership would the position of international Socialism have been much better? Has the Revolution on the world-scale justified itself? Why should we still pursue this course? These questions must be answered.

Let us look rigorously at the Soviet Union today.

After nearly twenty years of unparalleled effort, turmoil and suffering, the Workers’ State presents a spectacle which is a caricature of Socialism. Grain production is little more than it was before the war, and the twelve millions of tons exported before 1914 is more than accounted for by the increase of population. Livestock is actually less than before the war, and the amount of food per head of the population is less than it was in 1913. The production of cotton goods is only twenty-one per cent more than it was in 1913, while the population is nearly forty per cent more. Housing accommodation is incomparably worse than it is in the advanced capitalist countries, and prospects are not good. As any municipal councillor knows, with a fast growing population and limited resources, housing schemes fall behind, old houses decay as fast as new ones can be built, and the excess of population, greater in the Soviet Union than elsewhere, throws the plans for re-housing still further behind. Road mileage is roughly one to three in comparison with advanced capitalist countries, railway mileage is less. We have paid full tribute to the industrial progress. But a society is founded on production and not on percentages of increase. There were 11,000 motor cars in the Soviet Union in 1926. This year the plan aims at building 161,000. This in percentages is a triumph. A chart will show how between 1929 and 1935 the production of cars in the U.S.A. has declined. But the Soviet propagandist does not state that the U.S.A. production declined from over five and a quarter million to over four million. The consumption of petroleum and related fuels in the U.S.A. in 1935 was 970,000 thousands of barrels, in Russia it was 168,000. Production in the U.S.A. was 1,020,500 thousands of barrels, in Russia it was 168,000. Steel production in the U.S.A. fell from 56.43 million in 1929 to 33.43 million in 1935. Russia hopes to produce sixteen million tons in 1936.

The Soviet Union remains a backward country, and it cannot be too often repeated that the level of law and justice can never rise higher than the technical level of production. The idiocy of Stalin’s overtaking and outstripping should not need to be demonstrated. Today a huge armament bill drains the country. Europe will go up in flames in a few years, perhaps months. When will Soviet Union production approach that of the U.S.A. far less rise to such a pitch as to give that standard of life to the worker without which all talk of Socialism is a mockery? “God grant that our children or perhaps: our children’s children will see Socialism in this country,” [2] said Lenin. He had confidence in collective ownership but he knew its limits. Long before the Soviet Union can approach even advanced capitalism, its fate will be decided by the results of the class-struggle in Europe.

The average worker is still dreadfully poor. True he has the seven-hour day, but excessive overtime makes this merely a nominal advantage. He has educational and cultural facilities far beyond anything that was dreamed of under Tsarism. But when the most generous allowance is made for all that the State provides him with, “the Socialised wage,” the worker’s average income is no more than sixty shillings a month. And he lives under a political tyranny without parallel in Europe. A hierarchy of bureaucrats exploit him, with superior wages, privileges, better houses, better education for their children, and such power in economics and politics as no other rulers in Europe wield. The whole country must think as the bureaucracy demands. Stalin will say that the Social Democracy cannot rule without Fascism and Fascism cannot rule without the Social Democracy, make it party policy, and the worker must swallow it. The secret police, whose budget was increased by thirty per cent in 1936, is supreme. Disobedience in production or politics can be punished by dismissal, with loss of housing and all other prospect of employment. The gross inequality is proved to be Socialism and the worker must accept it. The bureaucracy changes the divorce laws by decree, so great is its contempt for the worker. He must obey or perish. On August 11, Pravda reported the arrest of some young Communist workers who had been “impudent” enough to discuss the theory of Socialism in a single country. We could multiply instances of this revolting tyranny. Let us for a moment neglect the possibilities of victorious revolution that have been so ignorantly and wantonly thrown away. Let us admit that under the best leadership and administration they might have failed, and Socialist Russia left still solitary. Under the best internal administration the standard of production after twenty years in a hostile capitalist world could have been far higher, but even at the very least, there would still have been scarcity as compared to Britain or France, with the resulting social and political tension. But whereas Lenin aimed at making the Bolshevik Party, based on the working-class, the mediating factor between workers, peasants and bureaucracy, Stalin from the very start aimed at making the party the servant of the bureaucracy, and has systematically destroyed its working-class basis. Today it is no more than a militia of the Stalinist clique, and so long as he protects the privileges of the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy is well content. The new constitution is liberal in appearance. Actually it destroys the Soviets, the chief political gain of the revolution. It proves that, far from withering away, the State is more omnipresent than ever. It ensures the rule of the party by restricting nominations to the organisations it controls.

Finally there is the intellectual life which has grown out of this regimentation of a whole population. The hopeful visitor to Moscow is charmed by the independent attitude of the workers and the spirit of camaraderie that exists between all classes of society. Though it will diminish with time nothing, not even a return to Capitalism, will ever change that, as nothing, not even the return to Capitalism, will ever give the land – back to the landlords. It is the heritage of the revolution, and has passed into the life of the nation. Nearly a hundred and fifty years after 1789 something similar pervades the atmosphere of France, and even Fascism there will not be able to destroy it.

But it is Russian intellectual life which is one of the most dreadful features of the Stalinist regime, and bears the impress of his insecure position and his personal limitations. What other mind could have conceived the rewriting of the whole history of Russia from 1905 to the present day to prove that he and Lenin prepared the Russian Revolution, led it between March and October, and that the Red Army victories in the civil war were due to him? His laboured absurdities are hailed in the Russian press as models of Russian prose. If you wish to write model Russian, model your style on Stalin’s, is the recommendation of a literary journal. He is mentioned with Hegel and Spinoza in articles on philosophy. Trotsky, in an article written while Lenin was alive but ill, compared Lenin to Marx and has recorded the satisfaction that the dying leader felt at that comparison coming from a pen so profound and a character of such integrity as Trotsky’s. But Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin is the new hierarchy in the Soviet Union. Pravda of February 1, 1935, carried a report of a speech made by one Avdeyenko at the Seventh Congress of the Soviets. Molotov greeted it with joy in his summary.

“Centuries shall elapse and the Communist generations of the future will deem us the happiest of all mortals that have inhabited this planet throughout the ages, because it is we who have seen Stalin, the leader-genius, Stalin the sage, the smiling, the kindly, the supremely simple ...!

“When I met Stalin, even at a distance I throbbed with his forcefulness, his magnetism and his greatness. I wanted to sing, to shriek, to howl from happiness and exaltation.”

He concluded:

“Our love, our devotion, our strength, our heart, our heroism, our life – all these are thine, great Stalin! Here take them, all this is thine, chief of the great fatherland! Dispose of thy sons, capable of heroic feats in the air, under the earth, on the waters, and in the stratosphere ... Men of all time and of all nations shall call by thy name all that is beautiful, strong, wise and pretty. Thy name is and shall remain on every factory, every machine, every bit of land, and in the hearts of every man ... · When my beloved will bear me my child, the first word I shall teach him will be – STALIN!” (Frenzied applause)

That is the intellectual level of Stalin’s Socialism. All men in the Soviet Union are reduced to it. The articles of Rakovsky, Radek and Piatakov after the trial, when they stood in fear of their lives, tell the history of Stalin’s Russia as clearly as the official documents. These men, the revolutionaries of 1917, two of them among the most gifted men of this generation, cringed and crawled and grovelled in the dust before Stalin, called him the greatest and best and most brilliant of men, and called Trotsky mad dog, Fascist, and conspirator with German, Japanese and Fascist. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Romain Rolland, André Gide, Sir Charles Trevelyan and all these staunch supporters of Stalin’s Socialism should live there and enjoy this new society for a year or two. History would be enriched by some of the documents they would sign their names to.


All this is gloomy enough. But there is the other side. A semi-mediaeval country has been brought into the circle of the modern world, the accumulated dust and impediments and superstitions of centuries have been swept away, and this has been possible on so sweeping a scale by the economic revolution in October, 1917, and the changes it brought in its train. Much less has been done than the Stalinist megaphones persistently blare, but a basis has been laid, and scores of millions stirred out of the slough of backwardness and ignorance by the two five-year plans. The heritage of Tsarism, the historical developments we have described, have prevented the effort from being translated into corresponding widespread and concrete improvement in the living standards of the great millions. One-fifth of the budget devoted to unavoidable war-preparations, the increasing privileges of the bureaucracy, will continue to retard this. But the new towns that have sprung up, the construction and use of the turbo-generator, the aeroplane, the tractor and the motor-car, it is on these that a modern civilization rests. We have said enough to show how much the October Revolution has justified itself. But these things, valuable as they are, are not the ultimate significance of the Russian Revolution. It is not that which makes it the centre of attention of hundreds of millions of exploited people all over the world. Its significance lies in the attempt to build and maintain a Workers’ State, to lay the foundation of the Socialist society, resting on an economy in which private ownership was abolished. The solution of that problem, the biggest question-mark of our generation, is still hanging in the balance. It is not that there is inequality. That was to be expected. It is that the inequality is growing. The International Committee of Employees Bulletin, published in Moscow, for June 1936, shows that a typist gets 175 to 250 roubles a month, the head of a department 700 to 1,000; the workman’s pay is about 250 roubles, allowances and all included. A recent report of Ordjonokidze, Commissar of Heavy Industry, derides the very idea of equality of pay among the workmen and openly glorifies higher pay for better work. The Stakhanovite Movement is based on the same non-Socialist principle. Inequality is inevitable in a society based on a low economy. But it must be seen for what it is and fought, not discussed as Socialism. Chamberlain tells us that he has seen, at one of the great official parades, a Commissar’s wife wearing a dress that cost the pay of a Russian worker for four months. She could not have passed safely through the streets in Leninist Russia, far less mount the platform. Every honest visitor from Moscow brings back the same tale. The Stalin motor-plant will for 1936 make seven thousand limousines, triumphantly announces the Stalinist regime. For what and for whom? And there are the far more ominous financial indicators. Deposits in the Savings Banks rose from 1,700 million roubles in 1935 to 1,500 million in 1936. It is not the sixty shilling a month workman who is saving money. The public debt service rose from 1,300 millions in 1935 to 2,00 millions in 1936. The peasant on the basis of low production fights for his individual personal property and slowly but steadily is gaining. The Russian proletariat, after its Herculean efforts, seems to have exchanged one set of masters for another, while the very basis of the proletarian State is being undermined beneath its feet.

That is the position today. Where is it going to end? The Zinoviev-Kamenev Trial, and not so much the trial but the purge, shows us clearly. For it shows that in however disorganised and confused a form the international Socialist revolution is still alive in Russia and gathering strength.


Late in 1935 the campaign against Trotskyism had passed from the stage where Trotsky had made mistakes on every front, to be rectified only when Stalin came, to histories by Marshal Voroshilov in which Trotsky was shown to be the planter of counter-revolutionary nests in the Red Army during the civil war, which were exposed only by the vigilance of Comrade Stalin. And, inevitable concomitant of these ideological victories, went the organisational terror. No other way was now open to Stalin. There were in 1935 well over five million men in concentration camps in the Soviet Union. [3] The budget for 1936 showed the increase of thirty per cent in the funds for the secret police. Some such explosion as the Zinoviev-Kamenev trial was inevitable.

The Left Opposition had lost contact with Russia for two years. The repression of international Socialism in the first Socialist State was too great, a cruel irony of history. But its strength was seen by the violence with which it was denounced and the numbers of Trotskyists purged from the party. On June 5, 1936, Pravda announced the new constitution. This constitution destroyed the workers’ Soviets, giving power to a parliament which would consist of persons nominated by Soviet officialdom. It gave the vote to priests, white guards, ex-nobles and ex-merchants. Of all this Pravda approved. Classes had been abolished (or nearly abolished), and these were not dangerous. But against the Trotskyists Pravda breathed fire and slaughter.

“The struggle continues. Too weak for a direct attack, the remains of the counter-revolutionary groups, the White Guardists of all colours, especially the Trotskyists and Zinovievists, have not given up their base, spying, sabotaging and terrorist work. With a firm hand we will continue in the future to strike down and destroy the enemies Of the people, the Trotskyist reptiles and furies, however skilfully they may disguise themselves.”

The Left Opposition, now organised into sections working for the Fourth International, knew what this meant. At its conference in the last week in July 1936, it issued an appeal to the toilers of the whole world, demanding an international commission of enquiry into the charges against the Trotskyists in Russia. It was not too soon. Less than one month after, Stalin had murdered sixteen, including Zinoviev and Kamenev, for Trotskyism. The strength of the movement against the crimes and incompetence of the Stalinist regime was shown by the greatest purge in the history of Russia since 1918. [4] Thousands were arrested, many holding high official position and for months Pravda has been a curious compound of loyal addresses and mass arrests for Trotskyism. Two significant examples will suffice. Long after the trial, Pravda of Jan. 4th reported that (despite ten years of purgings), the Communist Party organisations of the great cities of Kiev and Rostov-Don had been captured by the Trotskyists; four Soviet generals were arrested, despite the critical international situation and the inevitable ruin to discipline and morale.

In the face of these things, the cry of “why did they confess?” loses significance. Furthermore, confessions are a feature of Stalinism. Friedrich Adler has proved, in The Witchcraft Trial in Moscow, that Abramovitch in a trial in 1931, confessed to committing crimes in Russia at a time when he was being photographed at a conference of the Second International. On June 9th, 1934, Izvestia published the decree by which, if a soldier left the country, not only the members of his family who knew about it would be punished, but “the other adult members of the family of the traitor, living with him or at his expense at the time of the treason are deprived of electoral rights and deported for five years to the distant regions of Siberia.” Under Stalin a child of twelve is liable to the death penalty. That is the published law of the land. What crimes against innocent relations would the G.P.U. not threaten in the secrecy of a prison?

A conspiracy of thousands to murder Stalin is an absurdity, but it is not impossible that some were guilty of plotting to change the regime. Stalin knew, however, that they had all broken with Trotsky, that the Trotskyists condemned the Stalinism of Zinoviev, and the rest. But he took the opportunity to slander the growing Fourth International abroad and the spectre which haunts him at home, the return to Leninism, which he calls Trotskyism. His position is desperate. A political crisis was inevitable. The second five-year plan was drawing to a close. There had been progress, but the great hopes raised in 1928-1929 and again in 1933, when the Second Plan began, were now seen to be only Stalinist lies. In October 1932 Manuilsky at the Twelfth Plenum of the E.C.C.I. had told the world “Do not forget that we shall enter class-less society only with the completion of the second Five-year Plan.“ The Russians had been choked with these promises. Now they were spitting them out. Where was Stalinism leading Russia? The discontented youth were responding to Trotskyism, the only alternative to Stalinism. Mass discontent might even be anti-Trotskyist but would rally in a crisis round the old associates of Lenin.

Stalin struck fiercely at all who might form a rallying point for the opposition that has forced its way into the party itself. And by this very means he only ensures that the dissatisfaction will next time be more organised. For no man is safe in Russia today. Radek lied faithfully for years, only to be struck at like the rest. And these experienced revolutionaries know now, and every thinking man in Russia, that Stalin is far more insecure than could possibly have been thought by those who were not Trotskyists. And the cleavage grows wider. Today the right of inheritance has been legally restored. But the advanced workers of Russia see these things clearly, as they must. Isolated as they are, the bureaucracy can scarcely hold them down. A revolution in Germany, relieving them of external pressure and giving them allies, would give them the chance to conquer Stalinism, lessen inequality, ensure that collective ownership remains. The battle in the Soviet Union has entered a new phase and will be solved, as Lenin knew it would be solved, by the revolution in the West. That battle must be won by the Russian workers. If the Soviet Union goes down, then Socialism receives a blow which will cripple it for a generation. And therefore, though seeing the Soviet Union as it is, the Trotskyists, uncompromising enemies of Stalinism, will defend the Soviet Union in peace-time as in war.


The economy of the Soviet Union is based on collective ownership and therefore, despite Stalinism, the Soviet Union must be defended. It is a basis for the international State, for the abolition of war, for possibilities of existence as yet undreamed of. Alone in the world today it is a force for peace. Tsarist Russia, with more territory, embroiled itself in imperialist competition on every frontier. The Soviet Union has a huge army, but for self-defence only. Britain, France, Japan and America, if they remain capitalist, have no choice but imperialist war after imperialist war. They know its dangers, yet move steadily to it. Never was a civilisation so glaringly and humiliatingly bankrupt. But a proletarian revolution, in Germany for instance, will at once remove another great country out of the imperialist scramble, broaden the basis of Socialism, drive the economy of both countries forward, relieve the internal tension, and strengthen the force for peace.

Permanent Revolution or permanent slaughter, Trotsky has written. What other prospect is there? The Tories accept the permanent slaughter. The international Socialists accept the Permanent Revolution. Liberals and Social Democrats are the comedians of the modern political world. They are on the side of the permanent slaughter, but want it dignified by the League of Nations or Collective Security or some such twaddle. Their special technique lies in being deceived. They were deceived by Grey before 1914, they were deceived by Lloyd George and Wilson in 1919, they were deceived by John Simon over Manchuria in 1931, they were deceived by Samuel Hoare, by Baldwin, by Anthony Eden. If Beelzebub stood on the Treasury Bench without troubling to disguise his horns and tail in coat and topper, and swore to them that this coming war would be a war fought for Christianity, they would rush to support it, to bewail after that they were deceived.

He is a credulous fool indeed who accepts this transparent subterfuge. They support the capitalist system. In imperialist war one must go either with the capitalists or with the revolution. They go with the capitalists, but seek moral justification for doing so. They see the war coming and they will fight for Capitalism. But to fight with Nazi Germany will be gall and wormwood for them. They could not justify that even to themselves; the Social Democrats will find it difficult to line up the workers to fight side by side with Fascists. Hence these gentlemen want an alliance with the democratic countries. But the British capitalists pursue their intrigues abroad unbothered by these noisy salvationists. British Capitalism knows that these moralizing politicians will come to heel. They always have, they always will. Here and there a few, out of personal integrity, will refuse to fight or save their consciences by some equally brave and futile gesture. Rut organised Liberalism and Radicalism and the Social Democratic bureaucracy rose with Capitalism and will stick to it and go down with it, doing their best to bring the workers in their train.

Despite Stalinism, despite everything, the Russian workers still love their revolution, and will fight for it and the revolution in the West or the East. Neutrality in the Spanish struggle was not the policy of the Russian proletariat but the policy of the Stalinist bureaucracy. As in the beginning so it is today. The Russian Revolution depends on the revolution in Western Europe. The Stalinists seek to kill Leninism. It cannot be done, for it draws its strength not from the memories of the October Revolution, but from the economic, social and political chaos of the modern world. Capitalism will solve this and live or perish before the Socialist Revolution. Cowards and cynics talk of an age of barbarism, as if mankind will destroy itself in the coming war for Hitler, for Mussolini, or for king and country. Let 80,000 civilians, one per cent of the population of Greater London, be massacred in war, and the revolution is on the order of the day, and the same applies to every other great European city. The result it is impossible to foretell, but the conflict is certain. Stalin may try to discipline the Russian proletariat and the Russian army to fight with this or that bourgeoisie. But the peril of war will imperil the bureaucracy. It will fight as the leader of a revolutionary people or it will go under. And the possibilities are that after months or years of war, Europe will have the unprecedented phenomenon of an army of a million highly-trained men, equipped with arms, trained in a revolutionary tradition, offering their help to the armies on the opposite side to wipe Capitalism off the face of Europe. The will and courage of a few men will make history within the given circumstances, but the people will be ready. If the ideological basis of the new International is so quickly ready it is due not only to the objective circumstances, but to the energy and determination and courage of one man who has given his life to the movement. But it would have come all the same. Fascism may win in France and Spain, and throw back humanity for decades. But if even it does, what then? The Liberals and the Social Democrats, cowering in Iceland or sitting under the trees in some desert island, will continue to write their theses on Democracy. But the proletariat will have to lift itself, as the Italian proletariat is already lifting itself today. It is a sea of blood and strife that faces us all, and shrinking from it only makes it worse. Turn the imperialist war into civil war. Abolish capitalism. Build international Socialism. These are the slogans under which the working-class movement and the colonial peoples will safeguard the precious beginning in Russia, put an end to imperialist barbarity, and once more give some hope in living to all overshadowed humanity.


[1] See The Red Flag, January, 1937.

[2] This immensely important statement is quoted by Trotsky in his History of the Russian Revolution, Appendix II, p. 1240, the single volume edition. It was made in the spring of 1920 at a congress of Agricultural Communes. Lenin was not a sanctimonious person, but his earnestness to impress his hearers that Russia’s economic and therefore social development would remain backward for many many years, and undoubtedly the cause of his slipping into the traditional expression.

[3] Walter Duranty, whose Stalinist sympathies must be borne in mind, wrote in the New York Times of Feb. 3rd, 1931, that in 1929–1930, the number of kulaks and others exiled was two million; and the “liquidation of the kulak” continued without relaxation for years after. Souvarine also relates that a brochure of B. Chirvindt, director of prisons, incautiously revealed the number of the various punishments meted out in 1929. It was 1,216,000 against 955,000 for the preceding year. This was for the republic of Russia alone, excluding the Ukraine, the Caucasus, etc., and excluding the penalties inflicted by G.P.U. The sentences of death had increased in year by 2,000 per cent. The reader can consult Bilan de la Terreur en U.R.S.S. (Faits et chiffres), Librairie du Travail, 17, rue de Sambre-et-Meuse. Paris X.

[4] “What, really, is the meaning of this new drive in the U.S.S.R.? Is it that ‘Trotskyism’ is more widespread and more serious than we had been led to suppose? That seems to be the implication of an article a day or two ago in Pravda by Mr. Roginsky, who prosecuted the wreckers at the recent trial.” New Statesman and Nation, Editorial paragraph, Nov. 18, 1936. For years in its various journals and in the writing of Trotsky, the Trotskyists abroad had been tracing this growth with unimpeachable evidence. The Moscow Trial itself is dealt with in Le Livre Rouge du Proces de Moscou by Sedov Trotsky (Paris) and Behind the Moscow Trial by Max Schachtman (New York). Both books are obtainable through the offices of Fight, the British Trotskyist Journal, 97 King’s Cross Road. See also, the Witchcraft trial in Moscow by Friedrich Adler, the Secretary of the Second International.

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