Leon Trotsky on China


October 1928

The history of this work (''The Chinese Question After the Sixth Congress") is the following: When I wrote the criticism of the draft program, I wanted to include the call for a constituent assembly as one to be raised in China in the present period. Then I decided that it was better in a programmatic document for me to confine myself for the time being to a general description of the counterrevolutionary and nonrevolutionary epoch that has come about in China, i.e., the epoch of a certain political and economic stabilization of the bourgeoisie (a ''year of ,49" as Lenin put it 94). I thought that the only dispute over principles that could arise would be over whether the ''year of ,49" has begun or not. If it has, the call for soviets as a practical slogan falls by the wayside as a matter of course. This is precisely why, in addition to demonstrating the reactionary nature of the call for a ''democratic dictatorship," I also argued that a revolutionary situation did not exist in China and that there was a need for a policy that coincided with the inevitable intensification of the tendencies toward stabilization.

I admit that I was still apprehensive that if in passing I raised the call for a constituent assembly-especially important, in my opinion, for showing the character of the political change that had occurred-then Bukharin and Manuilsky would hasten to forbid a constituent assembly. So I decided to wait. But the discussion at the congress on the question of China showed that there could be no waiting. The fundamental features of my work had been written when I received the resolution of the ECCI. declaring the call for a national assembly to be opportunistic. At that point I very much regretted that I had not included the call for a constituent assembly in my programmatic work. In the meantime I wrote a number of comrades very briefly about the need to advance in China the democratic demand for popular representation. It could be that excessive brevity gave rise to a misunderstanding. I have already received several telegrams raising objections to this demand. Some comrades inform me by telegram that they have sent detailed letters on this question. I am forwarding my work without waiting for these letters, which, very likely, will have to be answered individually. I must say, some of the objections in the telegrams did seem quite incredible to me. For example, two comrades say that the call for a constituent assembly is ''not a class demand", and that, therefore, they reject it. Such an understanding of the class character of demands has an anarcho-syndicalist and not a Marxist character. To the extent that Chinese politics have switched from a revolutionary track to the track of bourgeois stabilization, with the question of a national assembly already having become the central question (tomorrow this will be conclusively revealed), to that extent the class interests of the proletariat, correctly understood, require that ''democratic slogans be carried out to the fullest extent. Don’t forget that in 1912 the Bolsheviks in the legal press called themselves ''consistent democrats." This pseudonym to pass the censors expressed all the same a very important political tendency of the party’s work at that time. Several telegrams advance the call for soviets instead of the call for a constituent assembly. This is not in the least a serious alternative. If it were, it would serve us well to reexamine either the entire question of the role of soviets or the question of the character of the period China is passing through. Otherwise we are only confusing the Chinese party and ourselves. But as I already said, I will have to speak about this a little more after receiving the letters, if the present work does not dispel some of the misunderstandings provoked, in part, by the brevity of my letter.

I believe that it is necessary to devote separate documents, like the one I was trying to do on China, to the most important countries (''The French Question After the Sixth Congress", ''The English Question . . . ", etc.). It would only be possible to carry out this work well by doing it collectively, for example, if Comrade Radek took responsibility for Germany, Holland, and Scandinavia, possibly England as well; Comrade Dingelstedt India; Comrade Rakovsky-France and possibly England, etc.

Other comrades could send me their observations on different questions or countries. It is necessary right now to pose all the questions raised in the Comintern fully in the concrete, but by separate countries-and in good time. From Comrades Smilga Palatnikov, Livshits, and our economists in general we expect concrete theses on the internal working of the ''present period,' domestically. Of course it goes without saying, I am naming comrades here only by way of example. But time is precious.

Warm greetings.


L. Trotsky


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