Written: January 15, 1925.
Source: The Errors of Trotskyism, May 1925.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2007. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.
The first item on the agenda of the forthcoming Plenum of the Central Committee is the question of the resolutions from local organisations on Trotsky’s “conduct.” Owing to my state of health, I will not be able to take part in the work of the Plenum, but I think I can contribute towards the elucidation of this question, by making the following remarks:
1. I considered and consider now that I could, in the discussion, bring forward a sufficient number of weighty objections on principle and in fact against the charge brought against me, that I am aiming to “revise Leninism” or “minimise” the role of Lenin. I refrained, however, from doing so, not only because of the state of my health, but also because in the atmosphere of the present discussion, every statement I made on this question, irrespective of its content, character and tone, would but serve as an impetus to intensify the controversy, to turn it from a one-sided to a two-sided controversy, and give it a more acute character.
Even now, weighing up the whole progress of the discussion, and in spite of the fact that throughout it, many untrue and even monstrous charges have been brought forward against me, I think that my silence was correct from the standpoint of the general interests of the Party.
2. However, under no circumstances can I admit the charge that I am advocating a special policy (“Trotskyism”) and that I am striving to revise Leninism. The conviction that is ascribed to me, to the effect that, not I came to Bolshevism, but Bolshevism came to me, is simply monstrous. In my introduction to “Lessons of October,” I frankly stated (p. 62), that Bolshevism prepared for its role in the revolution by its irreconciliable struggle, not only against the Narodniki and the Mensheviks, but against the “reconcilers,” i.e., to the tendency to which I belonged. Never at any time during the past eight years has it entered my head to regard any question from the point of view of “Trotskyism” which I have considered and consider now to have been politically liquidated long ago. Quite apart from whether I was right or wrong concerning any other questions that came before our party, I always endeavoured to solve them in accordance with the general theoretical and practical experiences of our Party. Throughout all this time, no one ever told me that any of my thoughts or proposals indicated a special tendency, i.e., “Trotskyism.” Quite unexpectedly for me this expression came out during the course of the discussion of my book on “1917.”
3. The question of the estimation of the peasantry in this connection is of the greatest political importance. I absolutely deny that the formula “permanent revolution,” which applies wholly to the past, in any way caused me to adopt a careless attitude towards the peasantry in the conditions of the Soviet Revolution. If at any time after October, I had occasion for private reasons to revert to the formula, “permanent revolution,” it was only a reference to Party history, i.e., to the past, and had no reference to the question of present-day political tasks. To my mind, the attempt to construct an irreconcilable contradiction in this matter is not justified either by the 8 years’ experience of the revolution, through which we have gone together, or by the tasks of the future.
Equally I refute the statements and reference to my alleged “pessimistic” attitude towards the progress of our work of Socialist construction in the face of the retarded process of the revolution in the West. In spite of all the difficulties arising out of our capitalistic environment, the economic and political resources of the Soviet dictatorship are very great. I have repeatedly developed and argued this idea on the instructions of the Party, particularly at international congresses, and I consider that this idea preserves all its force for the present period of historical development.
4. I have not spoken once on the controversial questions settled by the Thirteenth Congress of the Party, either on the Central Committee or on the Council of Labour and Defence, and I certainly have not, outside of the Party and Soviet institutions, ever made any proposal that would directly or indirectly raise questions that have already been decided. After the Thirteenth Congress, new problems arose, or to speak more clearly defined themselves of an economic, soviet and international character. The solution of these problems represented an exceptional difficulty. The attempt to put forward any kind of “platform” as against the work of the Central Committee in solving these questions, was absolutely alien to my thoughts, for the comrades who were present at the meetings of the Politbureau, the Plenum of the Central Committee, of the Council of Labour and Defence or of the Revolutionary Council of the U.S.S.R., this assertion requires no proof. The controversial questions settled at the Thirteenth Congress were again raised in the course of the last discussion, not only in no connection with my work, but is far as I can judge at the moment, with no connection with the practical questions of Party policy.
5. In so far as my introduction to my book “1917” has served as the formal ground for the recent discussion, I consider it necessary first of all to repudiate the charge that I published my book, as it were, behind the back of the Central Committee. As a matter of fact, my book was published (while I was undergoing treatment in the Caucasus) on exactly the same terms and conditions that all other books, mine or of other members of the Central Committee, or of members of the Party generally are published. Of course, it is the business of the Central Committee to establish some form of control over Party publications, but I have in no way and not in the slightest degree violated the forms of control which have been established up till now, and, of course, I had no reason to violate them.
6. The introduction to “Lessons of October” represents a further development of the ideas which I have frequently expressed in the past and particularly during the past year. Here I enumerate only the following lectures and articles: “On the Road to European Revolution” (Tiflis, April 11th, 1924), “Prospect and Problems in the East” (April 21st), “The First of May in the West and in the East” (April 29th), “A New Turning Point” (introduction to “Five Years of the Comintern”), “Through What Stage are we Passing?” (June 21st), “Fundamental Questions of Civil War.”
All the lectures enumerated above were prompted by the defeat of the German revolution in the autumn of 1923, and were printed in the Pravda, Isvestia and other publications. Not a single member of the Central Committee, nor indeed of the Politbureau ever pointed out to me anything wrong in these lectures, nor did the editor of Pravda make any comment on these lectures or make any attempt to point out to me anything with which he did not agree in them.
Of course, I never regarded my analysis of October in connection with the German events as a “platform” and never believed that anybody would regard it as a “platform” which it never was and never could be.
7. In view of the fact that in the charges brought against me, are several of my books including several of which have been published in several editions, I consider it necessary to state that, not only did not the Politbureau as a whole, nor any single member of the Central Committee ever indicate that any of my articles or books could be interpreted as “revision” of Leninism. Particularly does this apply to my “1905” which was published during the lifetime of Comrade Lenin, went through several editions, was warmly recommended by the Party press, was translated by the Comintern into foreign languages, and is now being used as the principle evidence in the charge of revising Leninism.
8. The purpose I pursue in putting forward these views, as I stated in the beginning of this letter, is but one, viz., to assist the Plenum to settle the question standing as the first item on the agenda.
With regard to the statement which has been repeated in the discussion to the effect that I am aiming to secure “a special position” in the Party, that I do not sumbit to discipline, that I refuse to perform work given me by the Central Committee, etc., etc., I categorically declare, without going into an investigation of the value of these statements, that I am ready to perform any work entrusted to me by the Central Committee in any post without any post and, of course, under any form of Party control.
There is no necessity, therefore, particularly to point out that after the recent discussion, the interests of our cause demands my speedy release. from the duties of the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council.
In conclusion, I think it necessary to add that I will not leave Moscow prior to the Plenum, so that if necessary it will be possible for me to reply to any questions or give any explanation that may be required.
(Signed) L. TROTSKY.