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More on Trotsky (better)

Posted by: Barry Stoller on December 04, 1999 at 17:32:29:

Looking at Lark's hysterical post here a bit more closely...

: From Bernard Crick's "Socialism", Chapter 4: 'Marx and Marxism:Theory and Practice', 1987, Open University Press:

Lenin had said that the party embodied the consciousness of the working class, Stalin crudified this into his notorious 'Aside from the influence of the party there is no conscious activity of the workers'. (there can be no Christians without the Church). Myth has it that Trotsky, hating Stalin and hunted by Stalin, was Lenin's true heir if the famous 'Testament' of Lenin had ever been published. But Consider his words, in the Soviet Party Congress of 1924:

The party in the last analysis is always right, because the party is the single historic instrument given to the proletariat for the solution of its fundamnetal problems. I have already said that in front of one's own party nothing could be easier than to acknowledge a mistake, nothing easier than to say: all my criticisms, my statements, my warnings, my protests - the whole thing was a mere mistake. I, however, comrades, cannot say that, because I cannot think it. I know that one cannot be right against the party. One can be right only with the party, for history has created no other road for the realisation of what is right. The English have a saying: 'Right ot wrong, my country' With far greater histroic justification we may say: right or wrong, on seperate particular issues, it is my party'
[Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: a Political Biography]"

I knew that quote was familiar.

Indeed, Crick presents it OUT OF CONTEXT.*

Yes, those words belong to Trotsky. Returning to Deutscher (and the proper context), shortly following Lenin's death in 1924, Trotsky was charged by Stalin of 'crimes of conscience,' i.e. actively criticising Stalin and his bureaucratic henchmen. This was, as it turned out, a dress reheasal for the notorious 'show trials' twelve years later. Trotsky spoke UNDER DURESS:

These words [quoted above] of the leader of the opposition [to Stalin] resembled less the words a patriotic Englishman might use than those of a medieval heretic, confessing his hersy, rueful and yet stubborn in his conviction, able to see salvation beyond the Church and yet none in the Church either. Stalin sarcastically dismissed the statement, saying that the party made no claim to infallibility.(1)

As Deutscher pointed out, Stalin knew that Trotsky---speaking under duress---simultaneously mocked the VERY IDEA of a 'crime of conscience.' Indeed, Trotsky considered OPEN DISSENT within the party to be MOST VALUABLE.** For christsakes, Trotsky lead the Left Opposition.

Let's have one more look at Trotsky's stance regarding factionalism and inter-party dissent before we consign Crick to the dustbin where he belongs:

But does not the criticism of the [Left] Opposition reflect upon the authority of the U.S.S.R. in the international labor movement?

We would never think of posing such a question. This very posing of the question of authority is worthy of the papal church, or feudal generals. The Catholic Church demands an unquestioning recognition of its authority on the part of the faithful. The revolutionist gives his support, while criticisizing, and the more undeniable is his right to criticize, all the greater is his devotion in struggling for the creation and strengthening of that in which he is a direct participant.(2)

Which leads us to the CURRENT interpretation and practice of Trotsky's stance regarding factions and inter-party dissent as CODIFIED by the Fourth International's Organizational Rules and Guidelines:

Proportional weight must be given to politically representing the views of the minority and the majority in factional struggles.(3)

How's THAT grab ya, Lark?


* A nother instance of taking Trotsky out of context occurs in the Randian screed Who Is Ayn Rand?: 'It is relevant here to remember the statement of Trotsky: "Who does not obey shall not eat"' (Paperback Library 1967, pp. 42-3). Yes, Trotsky said that---ABOUT STALIN: 'The old principle: who does not work shall not eat has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat. Exactly how many Bolsheviks have been expelled, arrested, exiled, exterminated, since 1923, when the era of Bonapartism opened, we shall find out when we go through the archives of Stalin's political police' (Revolution Betrayed, Doubleday, Doran & Co. 1937, p. 283).

** And what of the (in)famous 1921 'Draft Resolution on Party Unity' introduced at the Tenth Party Congress which prohibited factions OUTSIDE the party? Trotsky: 'This forbidding of factions was...regarded as an exceptional measure to be ababdoned at the first serious improvement in the situation [initiation of the N.E.P., recovery from the Civil War, etc.]' (Revolution Betrayed op. cit., p. 96).



1. Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography, Oxford University Press 1967, pp. 278-9.

2. Trotsky, 'Speech at the Joint Plenary Session of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission, 1927,' The Stalin School of Falsification, Pioneer Publishers 1937, p. 174, emphasis added.

3. Spartacist number 54, Spring 1998, p. 33.

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