Written: Summer 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 38, 5 August 1933, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.
At the present time the social democracy is everywhere passing through an acute crisis. In a number of countries more or less important Left wings have already separated themselves from the social democratic parties. This process flows from the whole situation. That it has not yet taken on a more developed character is due to the mistakes of the Stalinist bureaucracy. It puts a brake on the internal differentiation in the ranks of reformism and closes the door of Communism to the revolutionary wing. The appearance of independent socialist parties as well as autonomous organizations, is a vote of direct and deserving defiance to the address of the C.I.
The Stalinist bureaucracy calls the independent socialist organizations “Left social Fascists”, the most dangerous of all. That was especially its attitude towards the S.A.P. unexpectedly, after the 5th of March, and with extraordinary attention the C.I. met with the British “Left social Fascists” as represented by the Independent Labor Party (the I.L.P.), once more revealing how great its confusion is in face of the decomposition of the social democracy, which unfortunately coincides with its own decomposition.
The International Left Opposition faces a new task: to accelerate the evolution of the Left Socialist organizations toward Communism, by injecting its ideas and its experience into this process. There is no time to lose: if the independent socialist organizations remain in their present amorphous state for a long period of time they will disintegrate: the political tasks of our epoch are so acute, the pressure of hostile classes so powerful – to this it is necessary to add the intrigues of the reformist bureaucracy on the one hand, and the Stalinist bureaucracy on the other – that only a powerful ideological bond on the unshakable basis of Marxism can assure the revolutionary organization the ability to maintain itself against the hostile currents and to lead the proletarian vanguard to a new revolutionary epoch.
The new situation facing the Left Opposition, unfolding new opportunities, poses new tasks to it. Up till now we have recruited members chiefly on the basis of individual select on. This was an absolutely inevitable stage, to that degree where the conservative centrist bureaucracy made impossible the direct and immediate influence of our ideas on the Communist parties in their entirety. It would evidently be a very big mistake to think that we have drawn from the official parties all that can be drawn from them. On the contrary, the passage of entire units and local organizations to the Left Opposition, etc., is still ahead of us. But our influence on the mass workers organizations cannot be achieved according to an order dictated beforehand. With a vigilant eye we must follow the live processes in all the workers organizations, so as to be able at the opportune moment to concentrate our attention in that field which promises of the most success.
The independent socialist organizations or the Left Oppositionist factions within the social democracy are either avowedly centrist organizations or they contain within their ranks strong centrist tendencies or survivals. Their positive side lies in that under the influence of historic blows received by them they develop in a revolutionary direction. For us to seriously approach these organizations on a clear principled basis will signify a new chapter in the development of the Left Opposition and thereby of the rebirth of revolutionary Marxism in the world workers movement. A great international revolutionary organization inspired by the ideas of the Left Opposition would become a center of attraction for the proletarian elements, of the official Communist parties.
It must not be overlooked that this path taken in its whole can open up the possibility for the creation of new Communist parties. The question is already resolved, so far as Germany is concerned – not by us but by the march of events – in a complete and final manner. The differences that existed on this subject in our ranks, particularly with the German comrades, have either disappeared completely or are reduced to secondary nuances. Everything that has been produced by the bureaucracy after March 5th – articles in the Stalinist press, the resolution of the Presidium of the E.C.C.I. on April 1st, the course of the C.P.G. as characterized in the anti-Fascist Congress at Paris – fully confirm the prognosis of the definitive and inevitable disintegration of the C.P.G. What has just been said can evidently be extended to Austria where the C.P. on a police order, disappeared without the sign of resistance from the face of the earth. “The oldest party of the C.I.”, which so ingloriously disappeared from the scene, will not revive again! The threatening perspective of complete elimination of the old Communist parties. But at the same time the sections of the Left Opposition should manifest a much greater initiative than up till now, outside of the official parties, in the whole extent of the workers movement.
The transition from one stage of struggle to another and higher one has never been effected without internal friction. Some comrades, homesick for the mass organizations, evince a desire to gather fruits that are still unripe. Others fearing for the purity of the principles of the Left Opposition receive all attempts to approach the larger mass organizations with distrust. “What good can be expected from Nazareth?” How can one approach organizations at the head of which are Centrists? We are quite ready, they say, to unite with the rank and file workers, but we do not see any sense in approaching the Centrist leaders, etc., etc. Such a purely formal manner of posing the question is erroneous. They are greatly affected by propagandist sectarianism.
The 3rd International was itself recruited from 9/10ths of centrist elements who evolved to the Left. Not only individuals and groups but also entire organizations and even parties with their old leaders or a part of their old leadership placed themselves under the banner of Bolshevism. This was absolutely inevitable. The further march of developments depended on the policy of the C.I. of its internal regime, etc. In the camp of the workers movement today, if the Fascist, nationalist and religious organizations are deducted, one can observe the predominance of the reformist and the centrist; in this latter category we include official C.I. for good cause. It is clear that the rebirth of the revolutionary workers movement will take place at the expense of Centrism. Moreover, not only individuals and groups but entire organizations will place themselves anew under the Communist banner. The further development of re-education will depend on the general direction of politics, of the regime and finally on the march of historic events.
We have many times repeated in our literature how heterogeneous Centrism is: Centrism comprises all the transitory degrees between reformism and Marxism or – which is not the same thing – between Marxism and reformism. It is impossible to understand the centrist movement solely through its declarations and documents of today: we must keep before us the history of its development and the direction of its movement.
The Centrism of the Stalinist faction is characterized by a policy of convulsions and zig-zags or by a standstill and it is the most conservative of all the Centrist formations that have ever existed in the workers movement. This is explained by the fact that this time Centrism has found a powerful social support in the. Soviet bureaucracy: the apparatus of the western parties are mere appendages. While the Stalinist bureaucracy in the U.S.S.R. is forced to defend the workers state against the bourgeoisie for the sake of its special interest, in the West it has become the instrument for the disorganization and the weakening of the proletarian vanguard. Without the slavish dependence on the Soviet bureaucracy the official parties of the West would have long since found a way to the correct road or they would have crumbled like dust, ceding their place to healthier organizations.
The personnel of the official parties maintain themselves today exclusively by faith in the U.S.S.R, and its leadership. Many honest Communists have a religious fear of criticism and new arguments to keep them from losing “faith” in the leadership of the U.S.S.R. It is that and only that which can explain the fact that grown-up people, often sincere revolutionaries, throughout years supported such monstrous things, which are a mockery of Marxism, of the advanced workers and of human thought. Those who free themselves from the fetishism of the Soviet bureaucracy usually sink into a state of indifference. As is known, the Communist parties have lost, in the last years, an incomparably greater number of members than the Left Opposition has won over.
The Centrism of social democratic origin is characterized by .a movement from Right to Left – in a political situation which renders difficult all temporizing positions. The members of the independent socialist organizations are deprived, in their majority, of that revolutionary guide, that has more or less succeeded in gaining members for the Communist parties. But on the other hand, the independent socialists, not corrupted by fetishism to the Soviet bureaucracy, are free from conservatism are passing through an internal crisis, are honestly seeking for answers to questions posed by our epoch, are evolving to the side of Communism. At this time they are much more amenable to the ideas of authentic Bolshevism, according, to all indications, than the members of the Stalinist faction.
Such is the odd combination of historic conditions, in a certain sense “unforeseen”, which opens up new opportunities of activity and progress to the Bolshevik-Leninists. We must utilize it to the end.
Last updated on: 22 October 2015