In this brilliant essay, written eight weeks into the Nazi war against the Soviet Union, John G. Wright, a close collaborator of Leon Trotsky, outlined the basic dynamics of the war and its impact on Soviet society. He stressed, “It is not Stalin’s Red Army that has successfully resisted the first two Nazi offensives. It is the Red Army of the October revolution. It is Trotsky’s Red Army, which was built in the fire of the Civil War, built not from the wreckage of the old Czarist armies but completely anew—unlike any other army in history.” The essay first appeared in the Fourth International journal.
As these lines are being written, the German imperialist attack upon the Soviet Union enters upon its eighth week. Seven weeks of Blitzkrieg have failed to bring the Nazi strategists those decisive military results which they had so confidently expected and claimed in advance. The “time-table” of the German High Command has been very seriously disrupted. They cannot now attain their most immediate objectives: seizure of raw materials, stocks of oil, etc., and above all, the crops of the Ukraine.
The armies of German imperialism still retain the offensive. The territories of the USSR have been deeply penetrated. Strategic centers, the industrial heart of the country, including Moscow itself, are under direct threat, and so is the whole of the Ukraine. But the Red Army has already accomplished what no other, including the vaunted army of French imperialism, once hailed as “best in the world,” was thus far able to do: the Red soldiers have withstood two furious offensives, and have twice checked the full force of the greatest military machine ever constructed in history.
Had such achievements, or even far lesser ones been recorded by any army in the “democratic” imperialist camp, the capitalist press would be shrieking at the top of its voice in frenzied and ecstatic acclaim. The grudging recognition accorded the heroic struggle of the Red Army constitutes an admission by the bourgeoisie that the October revolution is now being justified on the military arena as it justified itself in the economic field by the successes of industrialization.
The October revolution is demonstrating once again to the world the unprecedented power and resources lodged in it. Seven weeks of the Soviet-Nazi war bring still another overwhelming proof of how correct Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks were in leading the Russian masses in 1917 to the conquest of power and the building of the first workers’ state in history.
The present war is the second struggle of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack and internal counter-revolution. In the infancy of the Soviet regime, when its material resources were infinitely weaker, with the Russian masses exhausted by three years of imperialist slaughter, the national economy ravaged seemingly beyond repair and the relationship of forces such as to make all resistance appear futile, the Bolshevik methods of political and military struggle united the living forces among the Russian people, created a new army and disintegrated and disheartened its most powerful opponents in the imperialist camp. Under Lenin and Trotsky’s leadership, under the banner and program of socialism, the Soviet Union beat back the interventionist attacks and saved the Soviet Union in a civil war of three years’ duration. The world was thus presented with the first irrefutable proof of the historical justification and necessity of the proletarian revolution.
This revolution was guided so consistently and firmly, erected on such solid foundations, tapped such vast reservoirs of power, that it was enabled not only to withstand the ravages of six years of imperialist warfare and civil war, but also to lift the country from the depths of the post-war crisis despite military and economic blockade by the capitalist world. No other rising regime in history ever faced such obstacles, such difficulties, such adverse conditions. After Lenin’s death, the October revolution was profoundly weakened by the rise and ascendancy of a privileged, ruthless and malignant bureaucracy. The revolution lived on.
But it began to degenerate. Beneath all contempt are those renegade communists who refused to recognize the first stages of this degeneration, and who then seized upon its later stages as a pretext to desert the revolution. The surprising thing is not that the revolution degenerated but that it survived at all.
The Left Opposition, led by Leon Trotsky, carried on a struggle whose vital influence on the fate of the Soviet Union is now being completely revealed. When the Soviet Union hovered on the verge of internal collapse and counter-revolution as a result of the ruinous economic and international policies of the Stalin-Bukharin bloc (1925–1929), it was the program of the Left Opposition which saved the young workers’ state. Stalin and the bureaucracy were compelled to adopt, even if in a terribly distorted form, Trotsky’s program of industrialization and planned economy. The successes of that program—just as the military achievements of today—surprised not only the imperialist world but the Stalinist bureaucracy.
These economic successes were achieved at the cost of frightful sacrifices by the toiling masses. Most of these could have been avoided had a genuine proletarian leadership remained at the head of the regime instead of the reactionary bureaucracy. Nevertheless, these successes, achieved despite and against Stalin’s regime, constituted on the economic plane another irrefutable justification of the October revolution. They demonstrated in action the vast possibilities and the great future that socialism has in store for mankind.
Today, these same economic successes, gained by the Soviet masses on the foundations established by October, are manifesting themselves on the battlefront. Thus, under the most adverse conditions, debilitated by Stalinism, completely exposed to the full striking power of German militarism under conditions most advantageous to the latter, the strangled revolution is showing to the whole world that it still lives on.
Bolshevism (revolutionary socialism), Bolshevik theory and Bolshevik practice were put to the crucial test first, not in a number of advanced countries with advanced economy, but in one of the most backward countries of the world. All the adversaries of Bolshevism, all the apologists for capitalism conveniently forget this in their fraudulent “analyses” of the conquests of October.
We repeat, no conditions could be more unfavorable than these:
- a decimated working class;
- a ravaged and backward country;
- the stabilization of the mortal and active enemy, the world bourgeoisie, after the post-war crisis (thanks to the treachery of the Second International and the weakness and immaturity of the then newly-founded Third International) which meant:
- the complete isolation of the young workers’ republic.
When and where was any rising social system submitted to such a merciless environment? The rising capitalist class began under far more favorable conditions; it was able from the beginning to draw on the resources of the world.
But that is not all. In addition to all this, the new social order was compelled after 1924 to demonstrate its vitality under the supervision of a bureaucracy which adopted false and ruinous policies, which ruthlessly disregarded everything save its own privileges and power, and which suppressed and destroyed every creative, independent and critical voice.
Today the Soviet Union is confronted with the gravest crisis since its foundation. It is compelled to struggle through this crisis just as it passed through all the previous stages in its history, that is, under the most adverse conditions.
What Stalin Destroyed
The Soviet Union is now waging war without the aid of the institutions created by Lenin and the Russian revolution. Stalin and the bureaucracy have destroyed those institutions:
THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY. Lenin attached tremendous significance to the so-called Old Guard of Bolshevism. He regarded these men—the living embodiment of the experience of three revolutions (1905, February 1917, October 1917), of the struggle against World War I, of the Civil War, the post-war period of reconstruction (War Communism, the NEP, etc.)—as the only guarantee of correct policies. “If we do not close our eyes to reality, then it must be recognized,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Molotov and intended for the Central Committee in March 1922, “that at the present time the proletarian policy of our party is determined not so much by its social composition as by the enormous and unlimited authority of that thin layer which may be called the Old Guard. Even a minor internal struggle within this layer would suffice if not to undermine, then, in any case, to weaken its authority to such an extent that the decisions would thereafter no longer depend upon it.”
Stalin destroyed that entire generation of the Old Guard. All of Lenin’s closest collaborators—Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, Rykov, Serebryakov, I.N. Smirnov, Piatakov, Preobrazhensky and countless others—were murdered during the infamous Moscow Frameups (1935–1938). Thousands of others were destroyed, driven to suicide, imprisoned or jailed in bloody purges. This fate was suffered also by the generation which had raised Stalin to power and carried on its shoulders the brunt of the industrialization.
Stalin climaxed these crimes by the murder of Leon Trotsky last August.
Since February of this year, the Russian Communist Party has been demoted from its supposedly predominant position. The war discloses its non-existence. Not simply its local and regional units, but even the once all-powerful Politbureau, of which Stalin is General Secretary, has been completely shunted aside. No statement on the war has been issued in the name of that party which under Lenin held congress after congress under conditions of complete democracy in the very midst of the civil war.
THE YOUTH. The youth constitutes a driving force in every significant struggle. The original party of Bolshevism in Czarist illegality was composed predominantly of young workers. The role of the youth in October and in the Civil War hardly requires comment. The young soldiers of the Soviet Union are now bearing the brunt of the Nazi onslaught. All the more important, therefore, is the Communist Youth. But the Komsomols—the Russian YCL—were erased as a political organization in 1936. Even the Dean of Canterbury admits the real reason: Stalin removed “political power from the Komsomols, i.e., from the Young Communist League—when they were challenging the party itself as an organ of political power.” (The Soviet Power, page 305)
Stalin’s persecution of the youth matches in savagery the persecution of the Old Guard. In May 1940, over 70 percent of the youth leaders of the many times “reorganized” Komsomol were again purged. Not even a skeletal structure of Komsomols now remains in the agricultural areas. There is only the top apparatus welded to the petty bourgeoisie and the embryonic agricultural bourgeoisie of the “millionaire kolkhozi.”
THE SOVIETS. The October revolution revealed the Soviets—the Councils of Workers, Soldiers, Agricultural Laborers and Farmers—as the most natural, most efficient and most democratic form of government in the transition period between capitalism and socialism. Lenin hailed the Soviets as a million times more democratic than any bourgeois parliamentary republic. And this was true of the Soviets under Lenin and Trotsky. They played a central role in the Civil War, which could never have been won without them. They welded the alliance between the workers and the toiling peasantry against all the exploiters. The Soviets assisted and facilitated the work of the Revolutionary Military Council. The mobilization of draftees in the Civil War was carried out by them. The Soviets conducted a struggle against deserters; they collected foodstuffs, raw materials, supplies, etc.; they dealt with the violators of the revolutionary law and order, aided in crushing counter-revolutionary uprisings.
The very necessity today of explaining the crucial meaning and importance of Soviets in the life of a workers’ state is in itself an indication of Stalin’s terrible work of destruction. The Soviets have long been abolished and are no longer alive, even in name. Stalin’s “constitution,” which eliminated the Soviets, has itself been jettisoned. The Kremlin pays no attention to it. The “Supreme Council,” supposedly the highest power of the land, was not summoned during the war emergency. Even its Presidium has played no part in recent times.
THE TRADE UNIONS. Lenin and the Bolsheviks regarded the trade unions as a school of Communism, and as one of the institutions through which the workers ruled in factories and in the Soviets. Democracy in the trade unions was for Lenin an indispensable condition for the preservation and advancement of the workers’ state. The Tenth Congress of the Soviet Trade Unions took place in 1932. And since that time there has been no congress. The only body that has met since is the handpicked and repeatedly purged Executive Committee. The trade union bureaucracy, reconstituted after the bloodbath of 1935–1938, was purged again during 1940, and all authority in the industrial enterprises was concentrated in the hands of the directors. The trade unions were not even summoned to increase production in the war emergency. They issued no manifesto. The increases were demanded by ukase from the top. The work day has been prolonged to 11 hours.
The trade unions have been rendered as silent as the destroyed party, the suppressed Komsomols, the “Supreme Council of the Soviets,” not to mention the Third International together with its “helmsman,” Dimitrov.
It would carry us too far afield to enumerate all of Stalin’s crimes and abominations against the Soviet people. No “Fifth Column” could have caused greater havoc, could have done more to undermine and endanger the defensive position of the USSR than did Stalin’s regime.
Three years before the battle was joined, Stalin dealt the Red Army a far greater blow than any yet delivered by Hitler’s Panzer divisions. To grasp what Stalin did, one need only imagine the effect were the German High Command to announce that it had captured or killed 90 percent of the Soviet General Staff.
Stalin destroyed the General Staff he had himself appointed in 1935. He executed the flower of the Airforce and Naval command. He then proceeded to purge not less than 30,000 officers. Yet scoundrels are not lacking to acclaim that these were measures for “strengthening the USSR.” This process of beheading the Red Army is still continuing. And scoundrels continue to acclaim. Instead of freeing from the jails and concentration camps the thousands of devoted, experienced Red officers who organized, led, and mechanized the Red Army, Stalin keeps them imprisoned. Now, when the need for such men is most acute, he keeps them in prison and places the military struggle in charge of those whom he himself considers as incompetent.
At the very beginning of the conflict, he removed the three generals in charge of the Leningrad, Moscow and Kiev districts. If they were unfit after the struggle began, why were they appointed in the first place? Obviously, not for military but political reasons. A removal of commanders in the midst of conflict can serve to weaken and not strengthen the morale of troops. Should the German High Command be reshuffled, the Kremlin would be the loudest in pointing out the significance of such a move.
Those removed were replaced by Timoshenko, Voroshilov and Budenny. For Timoshenko, who was Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of all the Red Armies, this appointment is a demotion. This step cleared the road for Stalin’s assumption of supreme command a few days later. Budenny and Voroshilov have been out of active military service for the past year. Budenny remains the illiterate cavalry commander he was in the Civil War without any ability as a strategist. Voroshilov’s incapacity was acknowledged by his removal as Commander-in-Chief after the Finnish events in 1940. Stalin now places them in charge of the other two strategic sectors as a political measure: to guarantee Stalin’s personal control over the army. In war, as in peace, he carries on his politics in the Red Army.
To wage the war successfully, it is necessary to summon forth the maximum energies of the people, but Stalin has no confidence in the masses. Instead of relaxing his personal dictatorship and giving the masses room in which to develop their resources and abilities, he concentrates still more authority in his own hands. One of his first moves was to form a “Defense Council,” i.e., a War Cabinet of five men; the four in addition to himself, Berya (the demoted and then hastily reappointed head of the GPU), Molotov (the demoted Premier), Voroshilov (the demoted Commander-in-Chief), and one Malenkov, are all discredited nonentities. The members of this “Council” were chosen not for their outstanding abilities as organizers and leaders, but for the opposite reason. None could become Stalin’s rival. They remain what they always were: puppets without any popular backing who have no choice but to go along with Stalin.
Stalin’s ability as a military leader and strategist is a fiction. With the mass of the Red Army, the greater portion of whom, both men and officers, received their training under Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Uborevich and other heroes of the Civil War, the real organizers and mechanizers of the Army—Stalin’s status is, to put it mildly, not that of a military genius. The ranks must be profoundly disturbed by Stalin’s moves. They must ask themselves what happened to the “glorious” generals raised to power only a year ago, in May 1940? Why this constant shift of their commanders? Where are the officers who led and trained them? Why are they not released from the prisons?
Stalin knows that these and a thousand similar questions are being asked in the Red Army. The restoration of the political commissars in the army, after their complete disgrace and removal last year, Stalin’s assumption of the high command, his shifts of commanders, etc.—these are preventive measures. They represent Stalin’s desperate attempts to lace the Red Army into his totalitarian straightjacket and insure his control.
The Morale of the Rank-and-File
The problem of maintaining morale is the most vital of all military problems. This was positively demonstrated by the triumph of Trotsky’s Red Army against superior forces in 1918–1921. This was negatively demonstrated in the debacle of the French army last year. The Civil War in Spain shows us how initially high morale can be destroyed from within. Everyone testifies to the extraordinarily high morale of the Spanish workers in the first period of the fight against Franco, but the reactionary policies of the Popular Front regime—supported and abetted by the Kremlin—sapped that morale to nothingness.
The Red Army is made up of workers and peasants. The overwhelming majority of the soldiers now engaged in action are proletarian. The peasants, however, constitute the bulk of the reserve. The support of the proletariat is the strongest pillar of the Soviet army and of the Soviet Union. The outbreak of the war brought a resurgence of proletarian consciousness and militancy on a broad basis, but this awakening class spirit carried within itself a threat to Stalin’s personal power. That is why Stalin has acted, as always, to stifle proletarian enthusiasm.
By restoring all the reactionary practices of the Czarist army, from the creation of ranks to the military salute, Stalin opened an unbridgeable gulf between the officers corps and the rank-and-file. In place of conscious proletarian discipline, he has instituted a totalitarian police discipline inside the army, giving the officers absolute power over the lives and liberties of the men. Everything was done to enhance the prestige of the officers corps at the expense of the morale of the men. By eliminating the Communist Party nuclei in the army units, Stalin has further concentrated the power of the officers corps over the rank and file.
Stalin intends to continue his blood purge under wartime conditions above all in the Army. With this difference, of course, that the military tribunals and secret courts martial will supersede “public” trials and “public” methods. Beyond a shadow of doubt this is one of the chief functions of the “political commissars,” i.e., special GPU agents. The butchery of the GPU in Spain is to be repeated on a vaster scale in the USSR.
Conditions behind the lines serve still further to infuriate the soldiers. The Moscow papers report the flight of the bureaucrats from exposed points to safe refuge. The exodus of the families of bureaucrats towards the Urals while the inhabitants of Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev are exposed to air bombardments cannot fail to have its effect. In the industrial enterprises the workers are being driven beyond human endurance. The full weight of the Stalinist regime presses down upon the proletariat, piling burden upon burden upon them without giving them a single concession which would make their situation more tolerable.
Where every channel of self-expression is choked, where the GPU rules, the workers’ morale cannot remain at the heights.
The situation is even worse with regard to the peasants. The Soviet regime has always rested upon an alliance between the proletariat and the peasant masses. The stability of the regime greatly depends upon the support accorded it by the peasants. This is also true of the stability of the army, and especially of its predominantly peasant reserves.
The collectives conceal the profound class differentiation among the various sections of the rural population. Hidden within the collectives are not only agricultural laborers and poor peasants but also petty-bourgeois elements controlling the collectives and even budding bourgeois in the person of “millionaire kolkhozniks.” The agricultural aristocracy now controls the countryside.
No organized counter-weight to these reactionary bourgeois tendencies exists in the rural area. The committees of poor peasants, which existed during the Civil War, do not exist now. The party has become completely demobilized.
While Stalin shackles the progressive forces, all the reactionary elements in Soviet society are coming to the fore. The Russian Orthodox Church holds masses for victory in Moscow, its Archbishops bless the war, and these events are proudly featured in the Stalinist press the world over.
The Kremlin fosters nationalism; Stalin even attempts to revive a feudal spirit. Holy Russia has replaced in his propaganda the internationalist outlook which led to the creation of the Union of Soviet Republics.
Stalin’s foreign policy is unambiguously reactionary. Just as in the first period of the war Stalin staked all upon his alliance with Hitler, so now he stakes the salvation of his regime upon the aid of the bourgeois imperialist “democracies.” Now, as before, Stalin entirely disregards the independent role and needs of the world working class. Internationalism, the guiding line of Bolshevik policy, is as alien to Stalin as it is to any petty-bourgeois bureaucrat in the democratic capitalist countries.
In accordance with his policy of dependence upon imperialist democracy, the Moscow radio has dropped the slogan “Workers of the World Unite” for the slogan of “Democracy against Fascism.”
Stalin’s subservience to the Anglo-American imperialists has its most disastrous consequence among the German masses. Stalin aids Churchill and Roosevelt and Hitler by depicting the Soviet-German conflict not as a class war between two antagonistic social systems, but as an integral part of the holy crusade of the “democracies” against the German people. In this way, he helps rivet the German masses to Hitler’s war machine instead of driving a revolutionary wedge between the Nazis and the German workers.
What the Nazis Failed to Understand
Fully apprised of the terrible wounds that had been dealt to the Red Army by the Kremlin, the German High Command confidently expected to shatter its ranks. It failed to understand that the regime of the Kremlin is not identical with the Soviet Union.
It is not Stalin’s Red Army that has successfully resisted the first two Nazi offensives. It is the Red Army of the October revolution. It is Trotsky’s Red Army, which was built in the fire of the Civil War, built not from the wreckage of the old Czarist armies but completely anew—unlike any other army in history.
The name of Leon Trotsky is inseparably bound up with the formation, the life and victories of the Red Army. The Kremlin’s falsifications, lies, calumnies and crimes have as their aim to expunge from the memory of mankind Trotsky’s role in the building of the Red Army in the epic period of the Civil War. But no power on earth, least of all that of Stalin, will succeed in obscuring the fact that Leon Trotsky, in addition to all his other incalculable gifts and achievements, established himself as one of the greatest military leaders and strategists of all time.
Every great military leader reveals his stature above all as organizer. Lenin’s verdict was that “in the organization of the Red Army were most brilliantly realized the consistency and firmness of proletarian leadership in an alliance of workers with the toiling peasantry against all exploiters.”
In Lenin’s opinion this was the basic reason for the ability of the Red Army to defeat its formidable and far more powerful enemies.
The ideas, traditions and lessons of this army, born in the crucible of the revolution, were continued after Lenin’s death. Trotsky remained as Commissar of War until 1925. His successor, Frunze, one of the outstanding and most capable military leaders, carried on his policy and methods. When Frunze died under the most mysterious circumstances, Voroshilov was appointed in his place, but only as a figurehead. The real work of directing, mechanizing and modernizing the Red Army, drafting the plans of defense, constructing the defense lines both in Siberia and on the European frontier, was in the hands of those who had constituted Trotsky’s General Staff. That is to say, for 13 years after Trotsky’s removal the Red Army continued on the foundations he had laid down. The successes of industrialization still further strengthened the Red Army’s fighting power.
Stalin’s personal and destructive intervention in the Red Army begins only in 1937–1938. In the three years since then Stalin could not undo the achievements of two decades. It is these surviving forces that are making themselves felt today in battle.
The resistance to the Nazi armies has been achieved, like the previous success in industrialization, by a tremendous exertion on the part of the masses, at a terrible cost. On the part of the Kremlin there has been as usual only the maximum of interference, inefficiency, false and ruinous policies, ruthless oppression, lack of foresight, lack of leadership. Inside the USSR the war can only provide an impulse to rid the people and the Army from the dead hand of totalitarian control.
The working class of Russia proved itself powerful beyond anyone’s expectations. But its powers are not inexhaustible. It cannot alone withstand the assault of imperialism. Today more than ever before it needs the help of the world working class.
Bourgeois commentators are accustomed to separate political policy from military affairs and to oppose them to each other. They treat them as two independent departments of social activity without essential connections with each other. During wartime, they say, politics takes a subordinate place. Military considerations become predominant.
This view is not only contrary to fact but fatal as a guide to revolutionary policy. War does not demote politics to a secondary status in national or international life. It raises political questions to a new and higher level of importance. The military struggle is the main defensive arm of the regime, the people, or the social system engaged in combat. But the military forces involved are directed and controlled by political agencies. The policy of these agencies, therefore, becomes decisive in determining the methods of waging war and in deciding its outcome. War, as Trotsky said, is the most concentrated form of politics.
The present war is the second struggle of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack and internal counter-revolution. These two struggles have been and are being conducted under entirely different leaderships by entirely different methods and around diametrically different programs.
Since the Civil War of 1918–1921, the Soviet Union and the Red Army have become far stronger, materially speaking, but they have become far weaker from a social and political standpoint. The totalitarian regime of Stalin, which completely controls all organs of power and dictates the policies and means of struggle, is the greatest internal obstacle to the efforts of the Russian workers and peasants to defend their regime successfully against the imperialist robbers.
“War,” said Clausewitz, “is the continuation of politics by other means.” This maxim applies with full force to the Stalinist regime. Stalin, the uncrowned Czar in the Kremlin, expresses now the same conservative nationalistic outlook that has characterized all his political actions, beginning with the theory of socialism in one country, culminating in the 1935–1938 mass purges and the series of defeats and retreats on the international arena which paved the way for Hitler’s ascendancy in Germany and Europe and his assault upon the USSR.
The key measures which would strengthen the defensive power of the USSR, but which might threaten Stalin’s power, he rejects out of hand—indeed, never seriously considers. For these measures—release of all pro-Soviet political prisoners, revival of the Soviets, trade union democracy, etc.—are a threat to the bureaucracy. Stalin knows that to restore the workers and peasants to their rightful place in Soviet society entails the downfall of his regime.
The apologists for Stalin counterpose his “realism” to the “revolutionary romanticism” and “adventurism” of the Trotskyists.
It is now, however, clear to the whole world that the course pursued by Stalin in the past 15 years in the name of realism and under the charter of Socialism in One Country has led the Soviet Union to the brink of the abyss. In actuality, Stalinist “realism” is nothing but bureaucratic blindness based upon national conservatism. The Stalinist regime took as the guiding line of its policy the preservation and promotion of the privileges of a small bureaucratic caste, no matter what the cost to the international socialist revolution, proletarian democracy and the real needs of the Soviet people.
The distinguishing characteristic of Stalinism in all spheres of thought and action is its narrow horizon, so typical of the petty-bourgeoisie. Despite his bragging pretensions, Stalin has been content with little things. It did not matter to him what catastrophes were visited upon the rest of the world proletariat because of his ruinous politics, so long as his own rule was not directly and immediately imperiled. The salvation of his personal power—that is Stalin’s supreme law.
The war imposes great tasks upon the Soviet people. It imposes tremendous obligations upon the proletarian revolutionists. To comprehend these tasks and to solve them it is necessary to have the broadest perspectives; to act in the most daring and resolute manner. The present conflict involves the peoples of the entire world. The people of the first workers’ state are part of the vanguard of the world revolution. Only with this perspective can the Soviet Union be properly defended and the world revolution revived.
Why A Political Revolution Is Necessary
The advocacy by Trotskyists of the political overthrow of the Stalinist regime must be viewed within the framework of this perspective of international revolution. It formulates the deepest need of the Soviet peoples. It sets forth the goal of their instinctive striving—to find a way out of the blind alley into which Stalinism has flung them. In stressing the inevitability of the overturn of Stalinist totalitarianism, we provide these masses in advance with the fundamental answer to their most urgent problems.
It must be remembered that revolutions are not made by propaganda, agitation or slogans. They are brought about by the action of vast masses, impelled by burning necessity, to satisfy their needs against those who stand in their way. A political overturn effected by the Soviet masses, which would restore Soviet democracy and get rid of Stalin’s iniquitous regime, would provide the most potent defense of the USSR, would lead to the extension of October throughout Europe and Asia, and erase fascism from the earth.
Stalin’s regime weakens the Soviet Union in the fight against the imperialists. The sharp caste distinction and inequalities introduced by the Kremlin produce discontent and strengthen centrifugal tendencies within the Army. Instead of reinforcing its morale, the nationalist demagogy of the Kremlin serves to shatter the class cohesiveness of the Army. Such slurring over of the class struggle disarms the proletariat and the poor peasantry in the face of their class adversaries, and acts as a cover for the most reactionary sections and counter-revolutionary tendencies among the population.
A great danger looms from within the peasantry. They have neither forgotten nor forgiven the crimes of forced collectivization, the famines of 1931–1932, the Draconic decrees of 1940–1941 when the Kremlin reverted to forced grain collections. These repressive measures have served to estrange the peasants not only from the Stalin regime, but also from the working class.
We defend the Soviet Union even under Stalin. But that must not mean that we blind ourselves to the mortal danger which confronts the Soviet Union if Stalin remains in control.
All the efforts of the Trotskyists are directed toward defeating Hitler’s onslaught against the Soviet Union. It is necessary to free the Soviet Union from the dead hand of Stalinism in order to assure the victory of the first workers’ state.