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Prospects of Socialist Revolution - NEP, Lenin and Trotsky

A section related to NEP from V.A Sakharovs book -Lenin's political testament: the reality of history and the myths of politics

Sakharov V.A. (Valentin Aleksandrovich)

Comprehension by Lenin of the experience of the socialist revolution was carried out constantly. A number of important new provisions were formulated by him even before the transition to the new economic policy. The New Economic Policy highlighted their significance in a new way and made them more topical. At the same time, he forced the search for new solutions to those problems that seemed to have already been satisfactorily resolved.


Previously, the Russian Social Democrats conceived the victory of the socialist revolution, firstly, within the framework of the world revolution, which, although not presented as a one-time act, was seen as a dynamic process that did not stretch over decades. And the socialist transformations themselves were presented in the form of a rapid onset of the socialist way of life on non-socialist ones.


The imperialist war, which prevented the consolidation of the international bourgeoisie against the victorious socialist revolution, created favorable conditions for consolidating power and helping the rising revolution in other countries, including by armed means. It was from such ideas that V.I. Lenin in 1915-1916, formulating his conclusion about the possibility of the victory of socialism initially in one, separately taken country [319]. In accordance with these ideas, in October 1917 the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b) decided to take power: a revolution in Germany was taken into account, which, as it seemed, would begin in the near foreseeable future, and after the seizure of power, various measures were taken to bring it closer [320].


The possibility of a long-term development of a socialist republic in the conditions of a capitalist encirclement, as well as a political retreat to retain power in practical terms, was not considered and was not worked out even theoretically. This was reflected in the underestimation of the difficulties in the development of the socialist revolution.


The experience of the civil war, foreign military intervention, the war with Poland, the development of the revolutionary process in other countries made it possible and forced to look at many things differently than before, to evaluate many things in a new way. In a series of speeches at the end of 1920, Lenin began to develop new ideas about the prospects for a socialist revolution in Russia. Although the new assessments are inextricably linked with the previous ideas about the world revolution, but they already show a desire to clarify the previous assessments of the possibilities of the Russian revolution, not only waiting for help and support from the world revolution, but also capable of providing such assistance to it itself.. Lenin said (October 15) that the Soviet republics were able not only to defend themselves against internal and external counter-revolution, but, being the shock detachment of the world proletarian revolution, in the interests of its development they could go on the offensive with decisive goals[321]. These thoughts were developed in a speech on November 6, 1920:


“We have been winning for three years. This is a gigantic victory that none of us would have believed before." Going on an uprising, we " knew that our victory would be a lasting victory only when our cause conquered the whole world," therefore " we began our cause solely counting on a world revolution ... Now, after three years, it turns out that we are immeasurably stronger than they were before, but the world bourgeoisie is also still very strong, and despite the fact that it is immeasurably stronger than us, it can still be said that we have won, but with all this the danger has not disappeared, it exists and will exist until the revolution will win in one or some of the advanced countries ” [322].


The position formulated here about the victory of the world revolution as a condition for a lasting victory, and not victory in general, was new. It was not an accidental reservation, since soon in a speech at the Moscow provincial conference of the RCP (b) on November 21, 1920, V.I. Lenin again formulated this position:


“In order ... to win firmly(italics ours. - BC), we must achieve the victory of the proletarian revolution in all, or at least in several of the main capitalist countries. “After three years of bitter stubborn war, we see in what respect our predictions did not materialize and in what respect they were justified. They were not justified in the sense that a quick and lasting solution to this issue did not work out... At the same time, it turned out that if our predictions were not fulfilled simply, quickly and directly, then they were fulfilled insofar as they gave us the main thing, for the main thing was to preserve the possibility of existence proletarian power and the Soviet Republic, even if the socialist revolution drags on throughout the world, we now have not only a respite , but something much more serious ... we have a new period when our ... international existence in the network of capitalist states has been won back. Now we have to talk not only about one respite, but about serious chances for new construction for a longer time.”


Regarding help from the international working-class movement, Lenin said:


 it supported us “halfway”, because it weakened “the hand that was raised against us”, but even in this it “helped us” [323].


From then on, V.I. Lenin connects the prospect of a socialist revolution in Russia with the solution of the country's internal problems and the state of the party. he said on January 24, 1921


“No one will break us, neither external nor internal force, if we do not lead to a split, ” [324].


The transition to the NEP did not change these estimates. At the 10th Congress of the RCP(b) (March 1921), Lenin, noting the growth of the world revolution, declared that


 “the stake on the international revolution does not mean calculation for a certain period ... therefore, we must be able to adjust our activity in such a way to class relations within our country and other countries, so that we can maintain the dictatorship of the proletariat for a long time and, at least gradually, to heal the troubles and crises that beset us”[325].


In the next two years, the idea that the fate of the Russian socialist revolution is decided not in the class battles of the proletariat of the developed capitalist countries, but by the workers and peasants of the Soviet republics, the Soviet government, and the RCP (b), was constantly expressed and argued. Thus, closing the 10th All-Russian Conference of the RCP(b) (May 1921), Lenin said that


“now we exert our main influence on the international revolution with our economic policy ... In this field, the struggle has been transferred on a worldwide scale. We will solve this problem - and then we will win on an international scale for sure and finally” [326].


Lenin associated this victory on the home front with the implementation of the plan for the electrification of the country and 10-20 years of "correct relations with the peasantry “built on the basis of the NEP [327].


Lenin calculated that under favorable conditions, even with a delay in the world revolution, the Russian revolution would go far ahead in 10-20 years in strengthening its positions, in the socio-economic transformation of the country, and in cultural development [328].


During this time, Lenin hoped, even if there were no proletarian revolution in other countries, the Soviet republics would be prepared so that the socialist revolution could take the next step.

- to move from trade to commodity exchange, and from it, as it was believed, to socialism (product exchange) there was one step left [329].


The success of electrification made it possible to block the dangers emanating from the individualism of the small farmer and free trade, and the failure would mean the inevitable "return to capitalism." Therefore, electrification, together with the NEP, according to Lenin, ensured the victory of the Russian socialist revolution on a “worldwide scale, even if the proletarian revolutions dragged on” [330].


It became possible to take the prospect of a slowdown in the development of the revolution calmly, focus on solving internal problems and complete the “greatest political upheaval ... with slow, hard, difficult economic work” that required “whole decades” [331]. This was supposed to lead to an even greater weakening of the dependence of the socialist republics on the successes of the world revolution (which eventually will happen). The possible victory of the proletarian revolution in such countries as England, Germany, America, Lenin now considered only as a factor in shortening the period for fulfilling the plans for the socio-economic development of Russia [332].


Under these conditions, the question of relations between the Soviet republics and the capitalist countries arose in a new way. They were no longer limited to wars and "respite" between them. There was a need and an opportunity to use relations with them for the benefit of the revolution.


On December 23, 1921, at the 9th All-Russian Congress of Soviets, Lenin spoke of these new possibilities:


 “However, is such a thing generally conceivable that a socialist republic exists in a capitalist environment? It seemed unthinkable, either politically or militarily. That this is possible politically and militarily has been proved, it is already a fact.  And in terms of trade? What about economic turnover? But what about communication, assistance, exchange of services between a backward, ruined agricultural Russia and an advanced, industrially rich group of capitalist powers—is that possible? We were not recognized, we were rejected, relations with us were declared non-existent... but they still exist” [333].


The invitation of the Soviet republics to the international Genoa Conference [334], the conclusion of an agreement with Germany during its work, soon confirmed this assumption of Lenin. In this invitation, V.I. Lenin saw additional opportunities for long-term and successful maneuvering in the international arena and the prevention of a large-scale war with a coalition of bourgeois states [335].


Perhaps Lenin overestimated the degree of interest of the capitalist countries in economic cooperation with the Soviet republics, and this contributed to the revision of previous ideas about the dependence of the socialist revolution in Russia on the victory of proletarian revolutions in the developed capitalist countries. One way or another, but from about that time he was less and less inclined to talk about the dependence of the Russian revolution on the world one. Lenin came to the fundamental conclusion about the greater autonomy of the socialist revolution in Russia (as well as in other large countries rich in natural, material, and human resources) from the world revolution. In the system of his views and assessments, the significance of international and internal factors of the Russian revolution has undergone major changes.


The revolution in the developed capitalist countries has turned from a condition for the victory of the Russian revolution into a condition for accelerating this victory and easing the hardships associated with the revolution. He built new plans for the development of the Russian socialist revolution on the basis of releasing its internal potential, which, in his opinion, is capable of both strengthening the position of the dictatorship of the proletariat within the country and accelerating the maturation of the revolution in the world.


Without abstracting from the foreign policy conditions of development, relying on an analysis of the internal problems of building socialism in Russia on the basis of the NEP, Lenin gives a positive answer about the possibility of building socialism in the conditions of a continuing capitalist encirclement. The new views found a classic expression in the well-known thesis that from NEP Russia there will be socialist Russia. It is clear that this was a break with previous ideas about the rigid dependence of the Russian socialist revolution on the world proletarian revolution.


So, with the transition to peaceful construction in the conditions of a change in the previous ideas about the dependence of the Russian socialist revolution on the world revolution, the issues of ensuring the strengthening and growth of the socialist sector of the economy turned out to be in the center of attention. The very decision to move from the policy of "war communism" to the NEP did not pose new theoretical questions for the RCP(b).


It was about a political maneuver within the framework of the existing theoretical ideas about the socialist revolution. It was necessary to return to the previous plan for the use of state capitalism.  The tax in kind was considered by Lenin as “one of the forms of transition from a kind of “war communism”, forced by extreme poverty, ruin, and war, to a correct socialist product exchange. And the latter, in turn, is one of the forms of transition from socialism, with peculiarities caused by the predominance of the small peasantry in the population, to communism. He believed that the NEP did not mean a retreat from the tasks of building socialism, not moving away from socialism, but a step forward towards socialism, in comparison with what was in the period of the so-called "war communism"[336]. 


An important milestone in comprehending the experience accumulated by the revolution and developing the theory of the socialist revolution was Lenin's political report at the 11th Congress of the RCP (b). In it, Lenin presented to the party a new concept for the development of the socialist revolution in Russia in the conditions of a capitalist encirclement, using market mechanisms to overcome bourgeois relations within the country, capable of building up the base of its success in anticipation of a world proletarian revolution.


Opening the congress, Lenin gave an optimistic assessment of the prospects for the development of the Russian socialist revolution, provided that the unity of the party is preserved and strengthened, and the difficulties of development created by the capitalist environment are overcome, and the party's ability to concentrate all its forces on solving the most important tasks. He noted that the greatest difficulties in the development of the revolution are associated with the NEP[337], but it also contains the key to solving the problems of the socialist revolution, since the NEP allows you to find a measure of concession to the peasants, develop practical forms of interaction in the interests of further implementing the program of socialist transformations and establish a new balance of power between the socialist proletarian revolution, the peasant democratic movement and the bourgeois counter-revolution.


Lenin's report presented an internally logical picture of the problems being experienced and a system of measures capable of solving them in the interests of the socialist revolution. Lenin connected the transition to the NEP not only with the need to carry out a political maneuver and correct the mistakes made, but also with certain features of the Russian revolution. He emphasized that the NEP is a policy aimed at building socialism while preserving the peasant economy, which the socialist revolution has not yet been able to transform.


Lenin recalled that the Bolsheviks gained power in the country, began to carry out a socialist program, but their activities at first went "to a certain extent on the sidelines" from the processes that were taking place in the countryside, among the peasantry.  The peasantry, as a small commodity producer, politically accepted Soviet power, but it could not accept the economic reforms proposed by it, since it could only exist by obeying the laws of its social nature- the laws of the market, with the help of which the peasants had the opportunity to receive from society the product they needed in exchange for what they could produce on their farm.


Therefore, "the bonds between the economy, which was built in nationalized, socialized factories, factories, state farms, and the peasant economy was not." It still does not exist, Lenin believed, we are only approaching it.


In establishing this link, he saw the full significance of the NEP [338] as a tactical maneuver designed to ensure the economic alliance of the proletariat with a strategic ally - the peasantry [339]. These assessments have already been made before. However, V.I. Lenin now went further: he not only spoke of the need to conform the policy of the dictatorship of the proletariat to the interests and possibilities of the peasantry, but also revised the previous ideas about the place of the peasantry in the socialist revolution.


The policy of a lasting alliance with the middle peasants, adopted by the VIII Congress of the RCP (b) (March 1919), meant the establishment of a military-political alliance that did not go beyond the bourgeois-democratic revolution and did not establish their interaction in the struggle for socialism. There was no economic union of the proletariat and the middle peasantry then, and its creation was not put on the agenda. It was conceived in the future, but not at the expense of concessions to the peasantry as a small proprietor, but at the expense of its movement towards the proletariat on the basis of an improvement in its living situation as the socialist revolution develops, the success of large-scale industry, etc. [340]


The NEP meant a radical change in the very formulation of the question of the union - it was achieved through an initial concession to the peasantry on the part of the proletariat, and not through its adaptation to the demands of the proletariat. This meant that the NEP, conceived as a tactical maneuver towards a strategic ally, implied a certain change in views on the position of the working peasantry in the socialist revolution. This change manifested itself in Lenin's report in the form of the thesis that the peasantry would ultimately be their appraiser and "judge". “The peasant in his mass lives, agreeing:


“Well, if you don’t know how, we’ll wait, maybe you will learn.” But this credit cannot be inexhaustible. You need to know this and, having received a loan, still hurry up. You must know that the moment is approaching when the peasant country will not extend further credit to us, when it, if I may use a commercial term, will ask in cash. I repeat, we received a deferment and a loan from the people thanks to our correct policy, and these, to put it in NEP style, are bills, but the terms are not written on these bills, and when they are brought for collection, you will not recognize this with a certificate with the text of the bill »[341].


On the eve of the October Revolution and during the civil war (within the framework of the policy of "neutralizing the middle peasant" and even the policy of "alliance with the middle peasant") there could be no question that the peasantry was the force that would pass judgment on the socialist revolution, and the Bolsheviks would be forced to accept it.

During the adoption of the decision on the transition to the NEP at the Tenth Congress, Lenin said that the peasant counter-revolution was before us and that the struggle against it was going on according to the principle of "who - whom." The thesis about "bills" speaks of an understanding of the need to find a foothold for carrying out socialist transformations in the petty-bourgeois peasantry, as well as a completely new formulation of the question of the class struggle in the course of the socialist revolution. In connection with the thesis about V.I. Lenin speaks of the


"last and decisive battle" with the domestic bourgeoisie, growing out of the peasantry, which we are forced to accept in the near future and which we can win [342].


This is not at all the battle that he spoke about at the 10th Congress of the RCP (b):


this is no longer a battle with the peasant counter-revolution, but a battle for the peasantry, for it to recognize that the bills issued to the Bolsheviks by them were paid for by improving their, the peasants, life during and as a result of socialist transformations. This battle for the peasantry must be waged against the new bourgeoisie, which also strives to find support in it for the struggle against growing socialism. Correspondingly, the forms, means and methods of the class struggle against the bourgeoisie also change. Previously, this struggle was aimed at the political suppression of the bourgeoisie, which was not difficult, but ineffective because of the presence of a huge mass of petty-bourgeois peasantry. Now this struggle was aimed at ensuring the consent of the peasants to the further implementation of the socialist program by the Bolsheviks.


The new struggle takes the form of competition with the bourgeoisie in the economic field. The dictatorship of the proletariat is leading it, striving to prove to the peasantry that the Soviet government can organize the economic life of the country and satisfy the interests and needs of the peasantry no worse, but better than the bourgeoisie. Hence the demand to learn capitalist methods of management from the bourgeoisie, to learn how to manage. It is necessary to prove the ability to manage quickly; in a year, the peasantry will not wait long. Either the Soviet government will prove to the peasant that he can help them, “or they will send us to hell. It is absolutely inevitable.” [343]


Since the results of this competition with the bourgeoisie will test the successes of the Soviet government, it is not just a competition, but “a desperate, furious, if not the last, then close to that, struggle not to the stomach, but to the death between capitalism and socialism”, “still one form of struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat” [344], [345]. And this is understandable, because economic competition is only a way to win an economic, and hence political, victory over the bourgeoisie and destroy it as a class.


Victory in this struggle for the peasantry, paralyzing its anti-socialist potential for a time, would make it possible to use the democratic potential of the peasant movement on the side of the socialist revolution and thereby isolate and defeat the forces of internal counter-revolution. Lenin sees an opportunity to win this battle for the peasantry and through this to realize a peaceful version of the development of the socialist revolution. To pursue such a policy is a difficult task, but not a hopeless one since the experience of the civil war has taught both the proletariat and the peasantry how to measure and harmonize their interests.


Lenin believed that the Bolsheviks could pass this test, that the success of the struggle depended only on themselves. The


 "political power" and "economic strength" in the hands of the dictatorship of the proletariat are "quite sufficient to ensure the transition to socialism"[346].


Moreover, Lenin does not connect the question of the victory of the revolution with an assessment of the degree of backwardness or development of the country. For Lenin, this issue was resolved positively a long time ago - there are at least the necessary conditions for this in Russia. All other conditions for victory are available. Not a word about the world revolution as a condition for victory or a successful solution of the internal problems of the Russian socialist revolution. Moreover, Lenin believes that with the world bourgeoisie "there will be many more 'last and decisive battles'"[347]. And he does not predict the tragic outcome of these battles for the Russian socialist revolution. On the contrary, it expresses confidence in victory, therefore, Lenin positively resolves the issue of the victory of socialism in the conditions of a capitalist encirclement.


Lenin admitted that in the course of the “last and decisive battle” there could be not only victory, but also defeat as a result of an open struggle, and, moreover, a degeneration of the revolution was possible [348]. Lenin saw the main dangers for the revolution not in the external conditions of its existence, but in the internal problems of its development. The New Economic Policy, while removing or blunting some of these dangers, exacerbated others. In Soviet historical literature, there was a certain euphoria about the NEP, expressed in focusing on the opportunities it opens up and leaving the difficulties associated with it unattended. Lenin acted differently, he pointed not only to new opportunities for the development of the socialist revolution in Russia, but also to the dangers for it that the new economic policy brought with it.


Lenin speaks of the threat of a degeneration of the revolution. Trotsky often spoke about it (the threat of "Thermidor"), while radically disagreeing with Lenin on the question of its possible causes. In full accordance with the theory of "permanent revolution", Trotsky saw the reasons in the absence of a world proletarian revolution and, moreover, in the personal qualities of the leader[350].


Lenin developed directly opposite views on this matter. Not only did he not make the threat of a possible degeneration of the revolution dependent on the successes or failures of the world revolution, but, perhaps, objecting to Trotsky, he said that the danger of degeneration does not come from the personal qualities of the revolutionaries, but from the "giant masses." This danger arises if these masses believe that the policy pursued is not in their interests [351].


The last circumstance in the conditions of the NEP almost entirely depended on the ability of the Bolsheviks to manage. It was clearly lacking due to the lack of "culture of that layer of communists who governs." Lenin drew attention to the experience of history, which testified that "Thermidor" is inevitable if the level of culture of the victors is lower than that of the vanquished [352].


For the Russian socialist revolution, this was a real threat: no matter how low the culture of the new bourgeoisie was, the culture of the proletariat and the peasantry was much lower. Until they learn, the communist administrators will only nominally be leaders, while the real power will belong to those who really know how to manage, - those "specialists" who by no means shared the ideas of the socialist revolution, to whose help the Bolsheviks had to turn.


This problem was solved by creating our own qualified personnel. The task, although difficult, but solvable. If we evaluate Trotsky's proposals on the reorganization of the system of managing the national economy from these positions, we will have to admit that they just carried the threat of "Thermidor".


Neither at the 11th Congress nor later were Lenin's opponents able to oppose anything equivalent to the concept developed by him in terms of the significance of the conclusions and the level of their substantiation. Chief among them, Trotsky, continued to repeat his previous assessments and forecasts. This was shown by the last comparison between Lenin and Trotsky of their views and assessments, which took place at the end of 1922. Speaking at the Fifth Congress of the Russian Communist Youth Union (October 11-19, 1922), Trotsky defined his vision of the prospects for the development of the revolution and the existence of the Soviet republics. He stated that if capitalism resists the threat of revolution for 10 years, then this will mean that world capitalism is “strong enough to once and for all to suppress the proletarian revolution all over the world, of course, to suppress Soviet Russia as well” [353].


As can be seen, Trotsky quite definitely contrasts his assessments with Lenin's. For Lenin, holding the NEP for 10-20 years opens up the possibility of a transition to socialism, while for Trotsky, 10 years of the NEP is tantamount to the death of Soviet power and the revolution. But that's not all. According to Trotsky, the following perspective of the world revolution is obtained: either it will begin and win decisive victories in the next 10 years, or it will be removed from the agenda of the history of the development of mankind. Either all at once, or nothing and never.


As if accepting Trotsky’s challenge and engaging in polemics with him, Lenin, in greeting the Fourth Congress of the Comintern, drew a completely different perspective:


 “Soviet power ... is stronger than ever before ... Victory will be ours” [354].


In fact, he devoted his report at the congress (November 13) to substantiating this assessment. He, in particular, said:


“I believe that we can all, with a clear conscience, answer this question in the affirmative (about the benefits of a correct retreat. - BC), namely in the sense that the past year and a half positively and absolutely prove that we passed this exam. It was a kind of answer to the question about the ability of the Bolsheviks to show the peasantry their ability to manage. Lenin expressed confidence that the problems at hand (the accumulation of financial resources, above all) would be solved, had already begun to be solved.


"The most important, - Lenin considered,


The peasantry is satisfied with its position. This we can safely say...The peasantry is the decisive factor with us ... we do not have to fear any movement against us on their part. We say this with full consciousness, without exaggeration” (our italics. - BC). Noting the successes of Soviet power achieved on the basis of the NEP, and the mistakes made by the international bourgeoisie, Lenin states that "the prospects for the world revolution ... are favorable" and they can become "excellent" again [355].


The essentially anti-Trotskyist orientation of these assessments of Lenin is obvious.


At this Congress of the Comintern, Trotsky was able to oppose Lenin’s analysis of the possibilities for the development of the revolution under the NEP only with general arguments that indicate that he remained faithful to his previous views and was unable to conduct a reasoned discussion with Lenin on the essence of the problem. They are worth reproducing:


“After the conquest of power, the task of building socialism, above all economic socialism, arises as central and at the same time most difficult. The solution of this problem depends on causes of a different order and different depths: firstly, on the level of productive forces and, in particular, on the relationship between industry and peasant economy; secondly, from the cultural and organizational level of the working class that has won state power; thirdly, on the political situation, international and domestic: whether the bourgeoisie has been finally defeated or is still resisting, - whether there is a foreign military intervention, - whether the technical intelligentsia is sabotaging, etc., etc.”


In terms of relative importance, these conditions for socialist construction must be arranged in the order in which we have listed them. The most basic condition is the level of the productive forces; then follows the cultural level of the proletariat; and, finally, the political and military-political situation in which the proletariat finds itself after seizing power. But this is a logical sequence. However, in practice, the working class that has taken power, first of all, encounters political difficulties ... secondarily, the proletarian vanguard encounters difficulties arising from the insufficient cultural development of these working masses. And only in the third place does its economic construction run up against the limits set by the present level of productive forces. In the NEP, Trotsky saw only "a system of measures that would ensure a gradual rise of the country's productive forces even without the assistance of socialist Europe” [356], i.e. a policy that, in principle, makes it possible to develop "material" for a future socialist revolution, but nothing more. It is significant that even in this programmatic speech, Trotsky found no room for an analysis of the problem of the participation of the peasantry in the socialist revolution. Obviously, because Trotsky had nothing to say about this, since for him this problem boiled down to the struggle against the counter-revolutionary aspirations of the peasantry.


He was concerned about the defeat of the revolution in the countries of Europe, which created "the least favorable conditions for the Soviet Republic and its economic development" "in the ring of economic blockades.”


 “The main trump cards,” said Trotsky, “are clearly on our side, with the exception of one very significant one:  behind the back of private capital operating in Russia stands world capital. We still live in a capitalist environment. Therefore, the question can and should be raised: will not our nascent socialism, which still manages capitalist means, be ruined by world capitalism? And answers:  “If we assume, in fact, that capitalism will exist in Europe for another century or half a century, and that Soviet Russia will have to adapt to it in its economic policy, then the question is resolved by itself, because by this assumption we presuppose the collapse of the proletarian revolution in Europe and the advent of a new era of capitalist rebirth”[357], [358].

In assessing the prospects for the Russian socialist revolution, Trotsky merged with the Mensheviks (Social Democrats): if the socialist revolution in Europe is delayed (according to Trotsky, this is unlikely, but for the Social Democrats it is a matter of course), then the NEP will lead to the collapse of the socialist revolution in Russia. Both sides agree that this will happen through an inner rebirth ("thermidor"). It does not save the situation that Trotsky set long terms - 50-100 years. A month ago, he determined this period of 10 years. “Progress” is obvious, but it does not indicate the evolution of Trotsky’s views, but his masking of odious and unpopular conclusions in the Bolshevik Party, and also that these forecasts are emotional and dogmatic. Complete "hopelessness", one hundred percent "pessimism", from which Trotsky always tried to dissuade, but which constantly manifested itself, as it were, independently of his will.


In this speech at the Fourth Congress of the Comintern, Trotsky, for the first time since 1917, opposed the Leninist concept of the socialist revolution in Russia with his own system of views and assessments, although not yet worked out in detail, but fully formed in its main provisions and approaches [359].


N.A. Vasetsky assesses Trotsky’s report on the NEP at the IV Congress of the Comintern as


“the pinnacle in his political career in the post-war period. Above, from the point of view of the theoretical understanding of the NEP, he no longer rose” [360].


I think Vasetsky is right. But to this assessment it must be added that Trotsky's speech was also the culminating point in his disagreement with Lenin on the fundamental questions of the socialist revolution.


It is known that Trotsky later (for example, at the XV Conference [361]) objected to the opposition of his views, set forth at the Congress of the Comintern, to those of Lenin. At the same time, he referred to Lenin’s note sent to him on November 25, 1922:


“I read your theses on the NEP and find them, in general, very good, and some of the wording is extremely successful, but a small part of the points seemed to me controversial.”


However, there is nothing in Lenin's text that would make it possible to decipher it in the spirit of Trotsky, since Lenin does not specify either those positions that satisfied him or those that seemed to him controversial. But in this note, there is an indication of the valuable side of these theses:

“they will be successful in familiarizing the foreign public with our new economic policy” [362].


That's all. But if Lenin reduced the “successful” and “useful” part of Trotsky’s theses to propaganda, then, consequently, Lenin does not include theoretical assessments and political forecasts among them and, obviously, counts them among the “disputable” points. Thus, this attempt by Trotsky to find in Lenin a witness to the coincidence of their views on basic theoretical and political issues cannot be considered satisfactory.


Trotsky spoke at the Congress on November 13, 1922, immediately after Lenin, so Lenin could not answer him here at the Congress, but he used his first public speech for this - November 20, 1922 at a meeting of the Moscow Council, which became his last speech.  Lenin said that


 “we had no doubt that we must ... succeed alone ... We must calculate in a capitalist situation how we will ensure our existence; how we will benefit from our adversaries"[363]. The chance for success was given by competition between capitalist states, which opened up the possibility of maneuvering between them, so the task is to become a “strong, independent” state in the face of the capitalist world [364].


And then Lenin directly formulates his, perhaps, the most important anti-Trotskyist thesis:


Socialism is no longer a matter of the distant future... We have dragged socialism into everyday life, and this needs to be sorted out [365]. This is the task of our day; this is the task of our epoch. Let me end with an expression of confidence that no matter how difficult this task is, no matter how new it is ... not tomorrow, but in a few years, we will all solve this problem together at all costs, so that from NEP Russia there will be socialist Russia [366].


So,Lenin, revealing the new possibilities of the Russian revolution, in 1921-1922 further departed from the old assessments, demonstrating a creative attitude towards Marxism as a method of knowledge and a guide to action. By the very fact that he began to search for ways to solve the new tasks that confronted the revolution and obtained the first positive results, Lenin made a step forward in the field of the theory of socialist revolution.


He moved towards recognizing the great opportunities for the development of the Russian socialist revolution in adverse external conditions, the greater autonomy of its development by identifying additional internal opportunities and opportunities to use inter-imperialist contradictions.


Lenin substantiated a new vision of the world socialist revolution and the place of the Russian revolution in it: ahead of the world revolution, enriching it not only with new experience, but also with new theoretical conclusions.


The further Lenin went in his views on the path of the development of the socialist revolution in Russia and the more Trotsky believed in the correctness of his theoretical scheme, the more he politically diverged from Lenin, the more his political closeness to the Russian Mensheviks and the European Social Democrats and dogmatic attitude towards Marxism, the inability to approach it creatively, manifested itself.


By the end of 1922, Lenin and Trotsky came up with clearly formulated, completely different political concepts, opposing each other in the most important questions of the theory, strategy, and tactics of the revolution.




[319] See: Lenin V.I. Full coll. op. T. 26. S. 354; T. 27. S. 27; T. 30. S. 133; T. 31. S. 37; History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: In 6 vols. T. 2. M, 1966. S.521–526.


[320] Protocols of the Central Committee of the RSDLP(b). August 1917 - February 1918. M, 1958. S. 85–86, 89–90, 94, 100, 104; Lenin V.I. Full coll. op. T. 41. S. 348.


[321] Lenin V.I. Full coll. op. T. 41. S. 354–355.


[322] Ibid. T. 42. S. 1, 3.


[323] Ibid. pp. 21–25.


[324] Ibid. S. 261.


[325] Ibid. T. 43. S. 19.


[326] Ibid. S. 341.


[327] Ibid. pp. 330, 331, 383, 401, 404, 406.


[328] Ibid. T. 44. S. 60.


[329] Ibid. T. 43. S. 336.


[330] Ibid. pp. 382, ​​383.


[331] Ibid. S. 13, 384; T. 44. S. 326, 327; T. 45. S. 78; and etc.


[332] Ibid. T. 43. S. 228-229.


[333] Ibid. T. 44. S. 301.


[334] Ibid. pp. 581–582.

[335] Ibid. pp. 407–408; T. 45. S. 12.

[336] Ibid. T. 43. S. 219, 222.


[337] Ibid. T. 45, pp. 67–68, 72.

[338] Ibid. pp. 74, 75.


[339] Ibid. T. 44. S. 487; T. 45. S. 93.

[340] No wonder V.I. Lenin spoke of 100,000 tractors as a condition for the peasantry to accept the program of the socialist revolution.


[341] Ibid. T. 45, pp. 77, 81–82.


[342] Ibid. S. 83.


[343] Ibid. pp. 75–77, 79–84.


[344] Ibid. pp. 95, 96.


[345] In this case, not only economic (read - market) levers will be used (as is sometimes claimed), but also political and administrative ones - this is evidenced at least by Lenin's remarks (February 1922) on the Civil Code of the RSFSR ( Lenin V. 44, pp . 396-400, 401, 411-412).

[346] Ibid. S. 95.


[347] Ibid. pp. 83, 84, 85–86.


[348] Ibid. pp. 93–95.


[349] Ibid. pp. 80–84.


[350] Related to this was his thinly veiled criticism of Lenin, and later his open criticism of Stalin.


[351] Ibid. S. 94.


[352] Ibid. pp. 95–96.


[353] Fifth All-Russian Congress of the RKSM. Oct 11 – 19 1922 Stenograph. report. M.; L., 1922. S. 31–32.


[354] Lenin V.I. Full coll. op. T. 45. S. 277.


[355] Ibid. pp. 283, 285–288, 292, 294.


[356] Trotsky L.D. Works. T. XII. Basic questions of the proletarian revolution. Moscow, 1925, pp. 305-306, 312-313.


[357] Ibid. pp. 312, 323, 336.


[358] There is no reason to see in these conditions an accurate forecast of the fate of the Russian socialist revolution. First, in the course of the development of the world revolutionary process, the socialist revolution went far beyond the boundaries of the first Soviet republics, and a socialist society was built in many countries. Secondly, the reasons for the defeat of socialism in the USSR and other countries cannot be reduced to what Trotsky spoke about.


[359] R. Tucker believed that Trotsky developed Leninism (see: Tucker R. Stalin, Path to Power. 1879-1929. History and Personality. M., 1991, pp. 292-294). Comparisons between the positions of Lenin and Trotsky provide no basis for such statements.


[360] See: Vasetsky N.A. Trotsky. The experience of political biography. M., 1992. S. 171.


[361] XV Conference of the All-Union Communist Party (b). October 26 - November 3, 1926 Stenograph. report. M; L. 1927. S. 509-510.


[362] Lenin V.I. Full coll. op. T. 54. S. 314.


[363] Ibid. T. 45. S. 304, 306, 307.


[364] Ibid. pp. 301,307.


[365] What is meant by the words "socialism was dragged through every day" makes it possible to understand Lenin's earlier statement about the socialist sector in industry. In a report on the food tax on April 9, 1921, Lenin said that “we can by no means forget what we often observe - the socialist attitude of workers in state-owned factories, where the workers themselves collect fuel, raw materials and products, or when - the workers are trying to distribute the products of industry correctly among the peasantry, they are transporting them by means of transport. This is socialism” (Lenin V.I.Full coll. op. T. 43. S. 158, 355). The socialism that entered the daily life of the country. Lenin sees it where Trotsky sees no potential opportunity for the development of socialist production in the future, up to the victory of the world socialist revolution.


[366] Ibid. S. 309.


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