Trotsky on China


July 27, 1929

As befits all self-respecting bankrupts, the trio certainly could not fail to cover themselves from the permanent revolution side. Of this powder, there is an inexhaustible supply in Yaroslavsky's snuffbox. What is most tragic in all the new historical experience of the defeats of opportunism -- the Chinese revolution -- the three capitulators dismiss with a cheap oath in which they declare they have nothing in common with the theory of permanent revolution. It would be more correct to say that these gentlemen have nothing in common with Marxism on the fundamental questions of world revolution.

Radek and Smilga stubbornly supported the subordination of the Chinese Communist Party to the bourgeois Kuomintang, and this not only before Chiang Kai-shek's coup d'etat but also after. Preobrazhensky mumbled something vague, as he usually does on political questions. A remarkable fact: all those in the Opposition who had supported the subordination of the Communist Party to the Kuomintang have become capitulators. Not one of the Oppositionists who remained faithful to their banner carries this mark, a mark of notorious shame. Three-quarters of a century after the Communist Manifesto came into the world, a quarter of a century after the foundation of the Bolshevik party, these unfortunate "Marxists" thought it possible to defend the communists being in the Kuomintang cage! In reply to my accusation, Radek, as he now does in his letter of surrender, raised the fear of "the isolation" of the proletariat from the peasantry should the Communist Party leave the bourgeois guomintang. Shortly before that, Radek described the Canton government as a workers' and peasants' government, helping  Stalin to camouflage enslavement of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. How cover oneself from these shameful acts consequences of this blindness and stupidity, this betrayal of Marxism? How? With an indictment of the permanent revolution Yaroslavsky's snuffbox is at your service.

As early as 1928, having begun to look for arguments in order to capitulate, Radek associated himself immediately with the resolution of the February 1928 plenum of the ECCI on the Chinese question. This resolution described the Trotskyists as liquidators because they called a defeat a defeat and did not agree to describe the victorious Chinese counterrevolution as the highest stage of the Chinese revolution. In this February resolution the course toward armed insurrection and soviets was proclaimed. For anyone with the slightest political sense helped by revolutionary experience, this resolution offered itself as a sample of disgusting, irresponsible adventurism. Radek associated himself with it. Smilga was thoughtfully silent because what was the Chinese revolution to him when he had already begun to smell the "concrete" odor of the figures of the five-year plan?" ~ Preobrazhensky involved himself in the matter in a no less subtle manner than Radek, but from the opposite end. The Chinese revolution is defeated, he wrote, and will be for a long time. A new revolution won't come soon. In that case, is it worthwhile quarreling with the centrists over China? Preobrazhensky sent lengthy messages on the subject. Reading them at Alma-Ata, I had a feeling of shame. What had these people learned in the school of Lenin? I asked myself several times. Preobrazhensky's premises were completely the opposite of Radek's, yet their conclusions were identical: both would have liked very much for Yaroslavsky to embrace them fraternally, through the mediation of Menzhinsky. Oh, to be sure, it's for the good of the revolution. They aren't careerists; no, they aren't careerists -- they are simply people without hope, exhausted of ideas.

To the adventurist resolution of the plenum of the ECCI of February 1928, I had already counterposed at the time the course of mobilizing the Chinese masses around democratic slogans, including the slogan of a Chinese constituent assembly. But here the unfortunate trio rushed into ultraleftism; that was cheap and committed them to nothing. Democratic slogans? Never. "It is a gross mistake by Trotsky." Only Chinese soviets, and not a penny less. It is difficult to invent anything more stupid than this apology for a position. To use the slogan of soviets in a period of bourgeois reaction is to trifle, i.e., to make a mockery of soviets. Even at the time of the revolution, i.e., in the period of directly - building soviets, we didn't withdraw democratic slogans. We withdrew them only when the real soviets, which had already captured power, clashed, before the eyes of the masses, with the real institutions of democracy. In the language of Lenin (and not in the mishmash of Stalin and his parrots) that meant: not jumping over the democratic stage in the development of the country.

Without a program for democracy -- the constituent assembly, the eight-hour day, national independence for China, confiscation of the land, the right of nationalities to self-determination, etc. -- without this program for democracy, the Chinese Communist Party would find itself bound hand and foot and would be obliged passively to clear the ground for the Chinese Social Democracy which, helped by Stalin, Radek, and Company, might supplant it.

So: when he followed in the wake of the Opposition, Radek missed what was most important in the Chinese revolution, for he defended the subordination of the Communist Party to the bourgeois Kuomintang. Radek missed the Chinese counterrevolution, supporting the course to armed insurrection which followed the Canton adventure. Now, Radek jumps over the period of the counterrevolution and the struggle for democracy, keeping himself apart from the tasks of the transition period by the abstract idea of soviets outside of time and place. But in compensation, Radek swears he has nothing in common with permanent revolution. That is gratifying. That is comforting. It is true that Radek does not understand the motive forces of revolution; he does not understand its changing periods; he does not understand the role and meaning of the proletarian party; he does not understand the relation between democratic slogans and the struggle for power; but in compensation -- oh, supreme compensation! -- he takes no strong drink and if he comforts himself on difficlit days, it is not with the alcohol of permanent revolution but with innocent pinches from Yaroslavsky's snuffbox.

But, no, these "pinches" are not so innocent. On the contrary, they are very dangerous. They bear in themselves a very great threat for the coming Chinese revolution. The anti-Marxist theory of Stalin-Radek bears in itself a repetition, changed but not improved' of the Kuomintang experiment, for China, for India, and for all the other countries of the East.

 On the basis of all the experiences of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, on the basis of the teachings of Marx and Lenin, having thought the matter out in the light of these experiences the Opposition affirms:

A new Chinese revolution can overthrow the existing regime and hand power over to the mass of the people only in the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

"The democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry" -- substituting for the dictatorship of the proletariat leading the peasantry and carrying out the democratic program -- is a fiction, a self-deception, or, worse still, Kerenskyism or Kuomintangism.

Between the regime of Kerensky or Chiang Kai-shek on the one hand and the dictatorship of the proletariat on the other, there is not nor can there be any intermediate revolutionary regime, and whoever puts forward such a naked formula shamefully deceives the workers of the East and prepares fresh catastrophes.

The Opposition says to the workers of the East: The machinations of the capitulators gnawing within the party help Stalin to sow the seeds of centrism, to throw sand in your eyes, to stop up your ears, to befog your minds. On the one hand, you are weakened in the face of the regime of an oppressive bourgeois dictatorship because you are forbidden to develop the struggle for democracy. On the other hand, there is drawn for you a perspective of some kind of dictatorship, cheap and nonproletarian, thus facilitating the future reshaping of the Kuomintang, i.e., the future defeat of the revolution of the workers and peasants.

Such forecasters utter treacheries. Workers of the East, learn to distrust them, learn to despise them, learn to drive them out of your ranks!

Excerpted from "A Wretched Document," in Writings of Leon Trotsky (1929). Text from Biulleten Oppozitsii (Paris), nos. .3-4, September 1929. Translated by Fred Buchman.



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