‘Our Reply’ to Moshe Lewin

Tolety Jagmohana Rao

Sameeksha recently brought out a Telugu translation of Moshe Lewin’s book ‘Lenin’s last struggle’. While we seriously differ with the opinions expressed by the publishers in their foreword, we welcome the debate on ideological issues.

We are of the opinion that the weakness of the present communist movement in the main is ideological. It is not able to give a convincing ideological explanation to the disappearance of the socialist world. It is not able to draw up an effective programme to rebuild the socialist movement. Ideology is like a compass. It shows us where we are and where we are heading. When a man clearly sees his goal and the way to reach it, he will concentrate all his energies to attain that goal. Lack of a clear goal and way to attain it results in utter confusion and makes a man powerless. Any discussion to attain ideological clarity is welcome in the present times.

But we are not able to comprehend how the publishers felt that this Trotskyite book of slanders and falsifications would be helpful for this purpose. Lewin says that if history is studied under government supervision, as was done during the Stalin era, it could not be objective. Lewin studied history in a ‘free society’. Does he present an objective, impartial view of history?

There cannot be any ‘objective’, ‘impartial’ view of history in the era of fierce class struggles. Intentionally or unintentionally, a historian invariably presents his class view. So also in the case of historical persons. In the eyes of the British, Bhagat Singh is a traitor and murderer. In the eyes of Indians, he is a revolutionary and a patriot. Some feel that Nobel Peace Prize winner Gorbachev ended dictatorial rule in the Soviet Union and brought about democracy. Some consider him as a traitor who brought about a disaster for his country. Some think that Trotsky is a great revolutionary who fought against Stalin’s bureaucracy, a great visionary who predicted that Leninism would commit suicide and Stalin’s bureaucratic dictatorship would inevitably vanish. Some think that he is a degenerate in the communist movement who ganged up with fascists. Similarly Lewin’s history reflects his class view and cannot be objective.

Lewin says that during the last two years of Lenin’s life, relations between Lenin and Stalin became deeply antagonistic; Lenin and Stalin ‘openly became political enemies and anyone who came to know of this was eliminated by Stalin?’ (p. 69 of the Telugu version). Is this history or fiction?

The book mentions an incident in which Dzerzhinsky slapped a member of the Opposition and says that Lenin saw this as a proof that the political system had become sick and it could do lot of harm to the country. Did Lenin come to such a conclusion about the Party and the Political System on the basis of a single incident and the behaviour of a single member of the Party? Was Lenin such a fool?

Is this ‘objective’, ‘impartial’ history or a slander campaign against Stalin?

The publishers claim Moshe Lewin who thus falsifies history is one of the greatest historians and an authority on the Soviet Union. Prof. Sobhan Lal Datta Gupta says that this ‘classic’ will show the way to the crisis-ridden left forces in this country. This book is neither a classic nor can the writer who is blinded by anti-Stalinism show the way to the left forces in this country.

We agree with the publishers that the opinions of Marx, Engels etc., should not be considered as final truths. When we affirm our faith in Marxism today, it is not because we have blind faith in Marxism but because we do not find any other theory that can give a better explanation of the social phenomena. There is no doubt that Marxists should study changing physical reality and determine their course of action.

We stress the words ‘changing physical reality’. We often say that Marxism is not a dogma nor is it a formula. But we fail to understand the true meaning of these words. A rationalist may think that nature shows a smooth continuous progression and if we know enough details, this progress could be predicted. But Marxists do not think so. Marxism teaches us that we should mould our thought to the changing surface of events. That was the reason why Engels said that the dialectical method which leads to conclusions is more important than the conclusions themselves. When reality changes, our thinking, theories, also change. The new theory may be diametrically opposite to the old theory. What we said yesterday was yesterday’s truth. What we say today is today’s truth. Unless we understand this very clearly, we cannot understand any issue raised in this book, such as socialism in one country, Leninist party, bureaucracy, freedom for groups in the party, party discipline, democracy, dictatorship, Moscow trials etc. To isolate a phenomenon from time, space and circumstances and pass judgements on it would be wrong.

The questions of Georgia and the Monopoly on Foreign Trade raised in this book are of secondary importance. Hundreds of such issues came up before the Party and they were resolved on the basis of the collective wisdom of the party. The book raises these two issues because Lenin and Trotsky supposedly had identical views on these two issues. We do not think it is necessary to go into detail on these secondary issues.

Now we will discuss other important issues raised in this book.

Lenin’s Testament

What was propagated as ‘Lenin’s Testament’ was in fact not a testament. When Lenin was sick, he used to send notes to the Soviet Communist Party expressing his views on various issues, and this ‘testament’ is also such a note. These controversial letters were supposedly dictated by Lenin to his secretaries during the period 23-31 December 1922 after he suffered four paralytic strokes. Another letter was dictated on 4th January 1923. None of these letters was signed by Lenin.

In one of these letters, dated 24/25 December 1922 dictated to M.V., Lenin supposedly wrote: ‘Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, as his struggle against the C.C. on the question of the Peoples’ Commissariat for Communications has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is also perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C., but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.’

In another letter dated January 4, 1923, again dictated to M.V., Lenin supposedly said: ‘Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealings among us communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail. But I think that from that standpoint of safeguards against a split and from the standpoint of what I wrote about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky it is not a detail, or it is a detail which can assume decisive importance.’

Lewin says that there are three important directions in Lenin’s Testament: 1) We must fight against nationalism, particularly Russian nationalism 2) We must fight against bureaucracy at all levels. 3) Stalin must be removed from his post (of General Secretary)

Let us discuss these three issues.

Lewin says that ‘Lenin accused Ordzhonikidze and Stalin of acting like Great Russian bullies, of breaking the rules of proletarian internationalism and of falling into an imperialist attitude.’ He also says that ‘the criticism of Stalin’s national policy and of his treatment of the Georgians is sufficient explanation of Lenin’s change of mind and of his eventual decision that Stalin should be deprived of his post.’

Stalin wanted to build an economically, politically and militarily unified Soviet Union to counter the threat of another attack from the capitalist world. In December 1922 in the Declaration on the formation of the USSR, Stalin said: ‘...ruined fields, idle factories, shattered productive forces left by a heritage of war render inadequate the individual efforts of the individual republics to build up the economy... dangers of new attacks render inevitable the creation of a united front of the Soviet Republics in face of capitalist encirclement.’. The Russian Republic, Transcaucasian Republic, Ukrainian Republic and Belorussian Republic voluntarily came together and joined in a Union with equal rights. Every Republic had the right to secede freely. Trotsky tried to sabotage the formation of the USSR by raising the Georgian issue.

When the question of the right of nations to self determination or socialism comes up, Lenin unambiguously said that socialism should be the first priority. ‘.Let us examine the argument from the standpoint of theory: which should be put first, the right of nations to self-determination or socialism? Socialism should. Is it permissible, because of a contravention of the right of nations to self-determination, to allow the Soviet Socialist Republic to be devoured, to expose it to the blows of imperialism at a time when imperialism is obviously stronger and the Soviet Republic obviously weaker? No, it is not permissible – that is bourgeois and not socialist politics.’ (Lenin ‘The Revolutionary Phrase’, February 1918).

That was the stand of Lenin on the nationality issue and socialism and that was the stand of Stalin too.

The 1936 Constitution described the Soviet Union as a Federation of 16 independent republics. The Transcaucasian Federation which was formed in 1922 as a temporary Federation ended and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia joined the USSR as independent republics. All these republics had equal rights. The Russian Republic did not have any exclusive rights. Article 17 guaranteed the right to secede to every Republic in case it wants to do so. Perhaps there is no other country in the world which gave such a constitutional right to secede to the national republics. Only the Soviet Union, which says that all nations are equal and the suppression of one nation by others is wrong, gave this right to all republics. This right was given to prevent the danger of Russian chauvinism suppressing other nationalities. We also observe tremendous economic, social and cultural progress in the Republics, exceeding that of the Russian Republic proper in some cases, which would not have been possible if Stalin acted like a Great Russian Chauvinist, as he was accused by Lewin.


Although Trotsky used the term bureaucracy to denigrate the socialist system being built during Stalin era, the ‘credit’ for depicting the October Revolution as a bureaucratic revolution does not go to him. Immediately after the October Revolution, the Mensheviks criticized that this was a revolution for the party apparatchiks to use government cars for their own use, live in spacious apartments and dachas and build a centralized bureaucratic state, and that the idea of proletarian dictatorship was meaningless. Trotsky, who was with Lenin at that time, later on picked up this argument and used the same language against Stalin. Now let us examine the question of bureaucracy.

‘Whenever there was a state, there existed in every society a group of persons, who ruled, who commanded, who dominated.’ – Lenin, The State.

As long as the State exists there is bound to be a group of people to rule, command, dominate. As long as there exists a group of people who rule over others, there is also a danger of this group using this power for its own purposes. The bureaucracy which existed in the Soviet Union was not created by Stalin. It appears as a division of labour in socialist society. This bureaucracy disappears only when division of labour disappears i.e., when communist society is established. Till then, whether we like it or not, we must co-exist with bureaucracy. Lenin and Stalin never ignored the historical circumstances and reality and talked about a utopian socialist order without bureaucracy. They realized the danger emanating from bureaucracy and warned the party about it several times. They tried to control this bureaucracy by subjecting it to severe criticism from below. But as true Marxists, they realized that the Proletariat at that time was not in a position to rule without bureaucracy’s help and they tried to find ways and means of dealing with it. They felt that the struggle with bureaucracy is a complicated one, like struggle with the petty bourgeoisie, and it could not be eliminated by a revolution. To fight against bureaucracy certain objective circumstances should exist. There has to be economic development, large scale industry must be developed, the proletariat must increase in numbers, its political consciousness must increase. Education and culture must develop. All this will not happen in a day; it will take years.

Stalin said that the only way to fight bureaucracy is by increasing the political consciousness of the party members, by promoting democracy in the party. The party opened schools to give training to newly joined party members, to raise their political consciousness. During the period 1930-33 the number of party schools increased from 52,000 to 200,000. Trained party members' numbers increased from 10 lakhs* to 45 lakhs. Party membership rose from 15 lakhs (1929) to about 50 lakhs in 1937-38. Party members’ political consciousness increased as a result of these efforts and the ground was prepared for fighting bureaucracy in the party and government and promoting democracy.

* 1 lakh = 100 thousand in Indian numbering system

According to historian Yuri Zhukov, in the 1930s Stalin tried to fight bureaucracy by promoting democracy. The 1936 Constitution called for secret ballot and contested elections. Candidates were to be allowed not only from the Bolshevik Party but from other citizen’s groups as well, based on residence, affiliation (such as religious groups), or workshop organizations. This last provision was never put into effect. Contested elections were never held. The democratic aspects of the constitution were inserted at the express insistence of Stalin. Stalin yielded when confronted by the complete refusal of the Party’s CC, and by the panic surrounding the discovery of serious conspiracies, in collaboration with Japanese and German fascism.

Zhukov says that ‘those documents that were accessible to researchers did allow us to understand that already by the end of the 1930s determined efforts were being undertaken to separate the party from the State and to limit in a substantive manner the Party’s role in the country.’

Attempts were also made in 1944 and 1947 to promote democracy. In 1947 Zhdanov proposed that the 19th Party Congress should be held either in 1947 or 1948 but for reasons unknown the 19th Congress was held only in 1952.

Stalin died in March 1953 and within five months, in August, Khrushchev restored the bonuses to higher party officials and also paid arrears from May to August. After three weeks, the post of Party First Secretary was restored and Khrushchev became First Secretary. In May 1953 under the slogan of Soviet trade, a programme to expand the exchange of commodities was implemented. The powers of All Soviet Ministries were expanded in April 1953, in 1955 the powers of Union Republic Ministries and Directors of Enterprises were expanded. The bureaucracy extended its support to Khrushchev who was promoting its cause and obtained many benefits.

Zhukov concludes ‘...It is my firm belief that the true meaning of the 20th Congress lies precisely in this return of the Party apparatus to power. It was necessary to hide this fact. that necessitated distracting attention from contemporary events and concentrating them on the past with the aid of the ‘secret report’.’

After 1956 the bureaucracy gained the upper hand in the Soviet Union. Bureaucracy increased by three times. The powers of Directors and Managers were enhanced. The Hire and Fire system was introduced. All the benefits that accrued to the working class during Stalin era gradually were eliminated and the salaries and bonuses of bureaucrats increased. In the changed relations of production, labour power became a commodity in the Soviet Union. In 1976 there were 80 lakhs unemployed and lakhs of workers found work only for 120-180 days a year. The salaries of higher officials were about 15-20 times greater than those of ordinary workers. According to one estimate, by 1970 there were 13,000 millionaires. By 1976 the wealth of this new bourgeois class increased to 3-4 billion roubles. While this class was leading a luxurious life, ordinary Soviet workers’ living conditions deteriorated.

The May 1990 issue of Soviet Bhoomi (Telugu version of Soviet Land) stated that the total black money in circulation was between 20-30 thousand crore* roubles. Perhaps this was an underestimate. By 1990s, a need arose to provide legal right to the heirs of this illegally gotten wealth and to abolish the Soviet laws and introduce naked capitalism in the country. The new bourgeois class which was occupying important positions in the party till 1991 banned the communist party and the proletarian dictatorship turned into dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

* 1 crore = 10 million in Indian numbering system

From the above it is clear that Stalin fought the bureaucracy in the party and the government with the help of the ordinary members and the workers and he was able to control them to some extent. Stalinist bureaucracy is a term invented by Trotsky to denigrate the Soviet Government.

Third Issue – Regarding Lenin’s advice to remove Stalin from power.

This book belongs to the period of about 4-5 months when Lenin was seriously ill. Lewin tells us that Lenin started his last struggle against Stalin during this period. Before this period Lenin never expressed such thoughts against Stalin.

Lenin had been ill since December, 1921 and abstained from work during the period March 6-25 1922, when his health deteriorated. Lenin understood that his health would deteriorate further and at the 11th Party

Congress he caused the creation of the new post of General Secretary of the Party. In April 1922, on Lenin’s motion, the Plenum of the CC elected Stalin General Secretary of the CC. Only Stalin was a member of the Party Central Committee, Politbureau, Orgburo and Bolshevik Party Secretariat – no other person was working in so many responsibilities.

At this Congress, on 22nd March 1922, when Preobrazhensky criticized that Stalin ‘is a member of the PB, who at the same time is People’s Commission of two Commissariats. Is it conceivable that a person could be responsible for the work of two commissariats, and in addition work in the Politbureau, the Orgburo, and a dozen CC sub-commissions?’ Lenin answered:

‘...Preobrazhensky comes along and airily says that Stalin is involved in two different commissariats. Who among us has not sinned in this way? Which of us has not taken on several responsibilities at once? And how could it be otherwise? What can we do now to maintain the existing situation in the Commissariat of Nationalities, in order to sort out all the Turkestan, Caucasian and other questions... (they) are all political questions. They have to be settled. We need a man to whom representatives of any of these nations can go and discuss their difficulties in all detail. Where we can find such a man? I don’t think Com. Preobrazhensky could suggest any better candidate than Com. Stalin.. The same applies to Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. This is a vast business, but to be able to handle investigations we must have at the head of it a man who enjoys high prestige, otherwise, we shall become submerged in and overwhelmed by petty intrigues.’

Robert Service in his book ‘Stalin: A biography’ wrote: ‘They (Lenin and Stalin) had also reached an implicit agreement that Stalin had an imp­ortant job in the Central party apparatus to block the advance of Trotsky.’ This conclusion seems to be correct; otherwise in addition to the posts Stalin was holding at that time, Lenin would not have made him the General Secretary of the Party. Lenin continued to support Stalin on the Georgian issue till October 1922. Lenin’s opinion of Stalin supposedly changed during these 4-5 months. Let us examine this in detail.

Lenin suffered three paralytic strokes during the period May-Dec- ember 1922 and was unable to participate actively in the affairs of the Party and the State. When Lenin was on his sickbed, his wife Krupskaya became his ears and eyes. According to Robert McNeal who wrote Krupskaya’s biography, she disliked Stalin. She was with the opposition and only in 1927 she issued a statement that she completely broke her relations with the Opposition. Robert Payne who authored Lenin’s biography wrote that

Krupskaya took advantage of Lenin’s illness and used to give selected information against Stalin and in favour of Trotsky. ‘She started a war against Stalin’ – he wrote. When we discuss Lenin’s testament we should keep in mind Krupskaya’s role also.

On 18th December 1922 the CC Plenum decided that no political matters which are likely to upset Lenin should be brought to his notice. This responsibility was entrusted to Stalin. On 24th December Stalin, Kamenev, and Bukharin reviewed the situation and decided that Lenin may be allowed to dictate for 5-10 minutes; he should not expect replies; no visitors were allowed; no political matters which were likely to agitate him should be discussed with him by friends or household people.

Krupskaya acted against the Party’s decision and used to give Lenin documents. She used to discuss political matters with him also. When Stalin came to know about this, he reprimanded her on 22nd December. On 23rd December she wrote a letter to Kamenev about this incident. Lenin came to know about this incident after two months and on March 5th, 1923, he sent a strong letter to Stalin demanding his apologies or else to break off their relationship. Stalin immediately replied. In his reply Stalin defended himself but was ready to apologise and take back his words. But Stalin’s reply was not shown to Lenin and he never knew that Stalin apologized as demanded by him.

The 13th Party Congress delegates were informed of the so-called Lenin’s testament and the question of removing Stalin from the post of Party General Secretary was also discussed. In view of the criticism made by Lenin against him, Stalin offered to resign. All delegates, including Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev, unanimously requested Stalin to continue in his post. Stalin promised that he would take Lenin’s criticism into consideration and prove himself a worthy General Secretary. Stalin offered to resign again after a year, and two more times, but every time his request was refused by the Party.

When the Party took a decision on this matter, this matter should have been closed.

But Trotsky wanted to use this testament as a political weapon in his fight against Stalin. He or his followers leaked these documents to an American Trotskyist, Eastman, who published parts of the testament in his book ‘Since Lenin Died’. This book was not written naively; its purpose was to discredit the Government of the USSR and the CC of the RCP Eastman indulged in a whole range of slanders and distortions. The foreign bourgeois press used the book to start a vilification campaign against the Soviet Union and the communist party leadership, relying on the fact that ‘communist Eastman’, ‘a friend of Trotsky’, said that Russia was ruled by an irresponsible bunch of usurpers and deceivers. Eastman wrote that ‘when Lenin fell sick and was compelled to withdraw from the Government, he turned again to Trotsky and asked him to take his place as President of the Soviet of People’s Commissars and of the Council of Labour and Defence.’ ‘..Trotsky declined Lenin’s proposal that he should become the head of the Soviet government and thus of the revolutionary movement of the world’. (This was a lie. Lenin offered him the post of one of the four deputies to the President of the Soviet of People’s Commissars and of the Council of Labour and Defence, which Trotsky refused to take over.) Eastman characterized the RCP Congress as ‘ruthless’ and ‘callous bureaucracy’, the CC of the Party as a ‘band of deceivers and usurpers’.

Although Trotsky declared that he had nothing to do with Eastman’s book, as the Party suspected that the so-called testament documents were leaked to Eastman either by Trotsky or his followers, it demanded that Trotsky should issue a statement condemning Eastman. Accordingly, Trotsky made a statement on July 1st, 1925. Trotsky asserted that Eastman’s allegation that the Central Committee had ‘concealed’ from the party a large number of documents of extraordinary importance, written by Lenin during the last period of his life, was pure slander against the CC. Eastman’s assertions that the CC confiscated his (Trotsky’s) pamphlets and articles in 1923 or 1924, or at any other time were based on fantastic rumours. Eastman was again wrong in asserting that Comrade Lenin offered me (Trotsky) the post of Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, and of the Council of Labour and Defence. Trotsky said that Eastman’s book was objectively a tool of the counterrevolution, and could only serve the ends of the enemies incarnate of communism and of the revolution. Trotsky concluded his statement with the following words: ‘...If we assume that the malicious character of our leading party comrades alleged by Eastman is even partly correct, how is it possible that this party should have emerged from long years of illegal struggle? How could it stand at the head of millions of human beings, carry through the greatest revolution in history, and contribute to the formation of revolutionary parties in other countries?’

Did Trotsky tell the truth? Was Eastman not acting on behalf of Trotsky?

During the period of his deportation to Alma Ata, Trotsky wrote a letter to his friend N. I. Muralov on 11th September 1928 in which he gives a completely different picture: ‘...In 1923 Max Eastman sided with the opposition and openly defended it... Eastman is an absolutely irreproachable revolutionist whose entire conduct is proof of his ideals and political disinterestedness. Eastman’s entire behaviour proves that he was motivated exclusively by ideological reasons.. In the autumn of 1925 the majority in the Political Bureau foisted upon me a statement concocted by themselves containing a sharp condemnation of Max Eastman. Upon the decision of the leading group of the opposition, I signed the statement.’

That is Trotsky.

The New York Times published the full text of Lenin’s Testament in 1926. These documents were addressed to the 13th Party Congress, they were read to the Congress and the Congress unanimously decided that these papers should not be published, as Lenin also did not intend to publish these documents. The records of the discussions held in the Central Committee Plenum and the Central Control Commission were published and distributed to the Party members; they contained the speeches of the Opposition members and the replies of the Party representatives. The 15th Congress of the Party decided to publish the Testament in the Congress Bulletin.

This issue of Lenin’s Testament did not end there. It again became a political weapon in the hands of Khrushchev at the 20th Congress of the Party in 1956. Here again Khrushchev distorted Lenin’s words. Lenin merely expressed a doubt that he was ‘not certain whether he (Stalin) will be always able to use this power with the required care’. Khrushchev altered Lenin’s words to mean that ‘he is capricious and abuses his power.’ Khrushchev also brought Krupskaya’s letter to the notice of the Congress to ‘prove’ Stalin’s rudeness but failed to tell the Congress that the Party entrusted such a responsibility to Stalin. He also did not tell the Congress about Stalin’s apologies which were not shown to Lenin. Nor did he tell the Congress about Lenin’s request to Stalin on 17th March 1923 to obtain potassium cyanide for him.

Trotsky also made an allegation that Stalin might have killed Lenin by poisoning. Here again he gives a distorted picture. On 21st March 1923 in a letter addressed to the Politbureau, Stalin informed the Politbureau that Lenin called him on 17th March (that is after 10 days of the letter from Lenin to Stalin in which Lenin allegedly threatened to break off personal relations if Stalin did not apologise for his rude behaviour) and insisted that he (Stalin) should obtain potassium cyanide for him and that Krupskaya also insisted that Stalin should not refuse Lenin’s request, but he did not have the strength to accede to Lenin’s request. This note was written on General Secretary’s form and on top of the note Zinoviev, Molotov, Bukharin, Kamenev, Trotsky and Tomsky signed to the effect that they had seen the note.

Trotsky writes as if this incident occurred in February 1923 (i.e., before Lenin’s letter to Stalin). Had he told the truth that this incident occurred on 17th March 1923, then it would become clear that Lenin did not break off his personal relations and still considered Stalin his closest ally, since such requests are made only to persons who are very close. Here we must make a point. We have seen that Stalin’s apology letter was not shown to Lenin. Lenin who was in such a bad mood would have completely broken off personal relations with a person who did not even care to reply to his letter. On the contrary, we see that Lenin made his request to Stalin. Did Lenin not take that incident really seriously or was that letter also a forgery?

Lenin Testament a Forgery

V. A. Sakharov, who studied the documents and all possible available archives of the material on the question of Lenin’s testament, is of the opinion that the testament is a part of an intrigue and there were grounds to suspect that these documents were forged. None of the letters that are supposed to be part of Lenin’s Testament contains his signature and the authorship of these documents could not be proved by any scientific analysis. He also examined the diary of Lenin’s Secretariat and says that the notations were found to be not chronological, which gave suspicion that these notations were manipulated and inserted in the blank pages after the diary was written. He also found many discrepancies between the Secretariat diary and the diary maintained by the doctors who treated Lenin. He is of the opinion that such a secret appeal (to remove Stalin from the post of General Secretary) was not in the spirit of V. I. Lenin and it did not follow his political method of work. Secondly, Lenin had ample opportunity to openly appeal to the party with any suggestion he deemed expedient and necessary. Thirdly, it would have been illogical to postpone any decision on any question upon which the life of the party depended, or the future of the revolution – to some future time of decision at a party congress. He suspects that Trotsky, Lenin’s secretary Fotieva, Zinoviev and Bukharin could be the authors of these forged documents. He also says that none of the texts written by Lenin in their unchallengeable and original form has any anti-Stalin thoughts or expressions, and that this is exactly the opposite in that part of the contentions of the testament which is full of anti-Stalinism and is politically motivated. About the letter of Lenin to Stalin dated March 6, 1923 there is no signature nor is there any registration of this letter in the files of Lenin’s Secretariat. About Lenin’s letter to Stalin threatening breaking off personal relations, Sakharov says that all the history of this and its supposed delivery to Stalin is very contradictory. Stalin received this letter on March 6th; he replied immediately and the physical inability of Lenin to function normally happened on March 10. This would have allowed plenty of time to deliver an answer from one office to another. He concludes that there is a basis to state that Lenin was not the author of these documents and it was part of a conspiracy hatched by Trotsky and Zinoviev to distance Stalin out of the leadership with the help of the authority of Lenin and to change the political course of the Russian Communist Party.

Lenin – Trotsky

The forged document says that Trotsky was distinguished not only by his outstanding ability but he was personally perhaps the most capable man in the CC. Trotsky mythology asserts that during the period of Lenin’s leadership of the RCP, Trotsky’s relations with Lenin and the party were relations of ‘mutual confidence’ and that Trotsky’s conflict with the party only began following Stalin’s ascension to the party leadership. This picture is quite false. Trotsky was a Menshevik to start with and always remained a Menshevik. There were serious disagreements between Lenin and Trotsky since 1903. Their relations cannot be said to be of ‘mutual confidence’ but of ‘mutual distrust’.

In 1903, shortly after the 2nd Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in July-August, in his ‘Report of the Siberian Del­egation’ Trotsky charged Lenin ‘resembles Maximilian Robespierre, although only as a vulgar farce resembles historic tragedy.’ In August 1904 Trotsky published his pamphlet ‘Our Political Tasks’, in which he strongly attacked as ‘Jacobinism’ Lenin’s concept that a disciplined party was essential to lead the working people to carry through a socialist revolution and supported the idea of a workers’ party modelled on the lines of the social democratic parties of Western Europe. Trotsky commented: ‘Lenin’s method leads to this: the party organization at first substitutes itself for the party as a whole, then the CC substitutes itself for the organization, and finally a single ‘dictator’ substitutes himself for the CC.. Is it so difficult to see that any serious group. when it is confronted by the dilemma whether it should, from a sense of discipline, silently efface itself, or, regardless of discipline struggle for survival – will undoubtedly choose the latter course, and say: ‘perish that ‘discipline’ which suppresses the vital interests of the movement’. This evil-minded and morally repugnant suspicion of Lenin, this shallow caricature of the tragic intolerance of Jacobinism.. must be liquidated at the present time at all costs, otherwise the party is threatened by complete political, moral and theoretical decay’. Substitute Stalin for Lenin and we find the theoretical basis for Trotsky’s attack on Stalin.

‘The wretched squabbling systematically provoked by Lenin, that old hand at the game, that professional exploiter of all that is backward in the Russian labour movement, seems like a senseless obsession. The entire edifice of Leninism is built on lies and falsifications and bears within itself the poisonous elements of its own decay.’ – Trotsky, letter to Chkeidze, 1913.

The disagreement between Trotsky and the Bolsheviks was fundamental and was never eliminated. The fact is that he never really accepted the principle governing the relationship of Lenin’s Party with the masses.

Lenin was equally scathing about Trotsky. In August 1909 Lenin wrote that ‘Trotsky behaves like a despicable careerist and factionalist. He pays lip-service to the Party and behaves worse than any other of the factionalists.’ In 1910 Lenin said: ‘The resonant but empty phrases of which our Trotsky is a master. In 1903 he was a Menshevik; he abandoned Menshevism in 1904, returned to Mensheviks in 1905. One day Trotsky plagiarises from the ideological stock-in-trade of one faction; the next day he plagiarises that of another, and therefore declares himself to be standing above both factions. I am obliged to declare that Trotsky represents only his own faction.’

In his note dated January 1911, Lenin says: ‘...At the Plenary meeting Judas Trotsky made a big show of fighting liquidationists. He vowed and swore he was true to the party. Judas expelled the representatives of the CC from Pravda and began to write liquidationist articles. And it is this Judas who beats his breast and loudly professes his loyalty to the Party. Such is Judas Trotsky’s blush of shame.’

In 1914 Lenin said that Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any important question of Marxism. ‘Trotsky is fond of high-sounding and empty phrases. We were right in calling Trotsky a representative of the ‘worst remnants of factionalism’. Trotsky. possesses no ideological and political definiteness. There is much glitter and sound in Trotsky’s phrases, but they are meaningless. Trotsky is trying to disrupt the movement and cause a split. Trotsky avoids facts and concrete references. because they relentlessly refute all his angry outcries and pompous phrases.’

In May 1914 Lenin made a scathing attack on Trotsky in his essay ‘Disruption of Unity under Cover of Outcries for Unity’: ‘Trotsky is a representative of the ‘worst remnants of factionalism’. [This was stated in the paragraph above.] Although he claims to be non-factional, Trotsky is known to everybody who is in the least familiar with the working class movement in Russia as the representative of ‘Trotsky’s faction’.... Trotsky is very fond of giving, ‘with a learned air of an expert’, in pompous and sonorous terms, explanations of historical phenomena that are flattering to Trotsky.. Reading things like these, one involuntarily asks oneself: Is it from a lunatic asylum that these voices come?... Trotsky is trying to disorganize the movement and cause a split. Trotsky avoids facts and concrete references precisely because they relentlessly refute all his angry outcries and pompous phrases. The old participants in the Marxist movement in Russia know Trotsky very well and there is no need to discuss him for their benefit. But the younger generation of workers do not known him, and it is therefore necessary to discuss him, for he is typical of all the five coteries abroad, which, in fact, are also vacillating between the Liquidators and the Party.’ Lenin warned that the younger generation of workers must know thoroughly whom they are dealing with when people like Trotsky come before them making incredibly pretentious claims. Writing to Alexandra Kollontai on 17th February 1917 Lenin says: ‘.What a swine this Trotsky is – Left phrases and a bloc with the Right against the Zimmerwald Left. He ought to be exposed (by you) if only in a brief letter to Social-Demokrat’ (Collected Works, Vol. 35, p. 285).

As for differences between Lenin and Stalin, the matters dividing them were not of primary importance despite what was written by historians like Lewin. He had been a Bolshevik for 20 years, a member of Lenin’s Central Committee for 10 years, and had served directly under Lenin for 6 stormy years of Revolution. Stalin and Lenin had complete agreement about the basic policies. Neither questioned the desirability of the one-party state, its ideological monopoly or its right to use dictatorial methods. It appears they had also reached an implicit agreement that Stalin had an important job in the Central Party apparatus to block the advance of Trotsky and tighten the whole administrative order. Not once had there been a question of basic principle dividing them, and they had worked well together from the beginning. Even assuming that the testament was not a forgery but genuine, Lenin criticized Stalin about his personal traits, like rudeness etc. Lenin never questioned Stalin’s commitment to Bolshevism. On the other hand we see that Lenin sharply criticized Trotsky for years and even called him Judas and warned the young workers to be aware of him.

In the foreword, the publishers criticized Leninist Party principles, using such phrases as dictatorship, personal dictatorship, party dictatorship, lack of initiative on the part of the masses etc. This type of criticism is as old as Marxism. Bakunin opposed the political organization of the proletariat.

He said that organization and discipline both are shackles and if a proletarian party comes into existence, the power enjoyed by the leadership invariably makes the workers slaves. Just as Trotsky called Lenin and Stalin dictators, Bakunin said that the idea of freedom does not exist in Marx and that he was a dictator from head to foot. Trotsky said that the party works at two levels; while the upper level takes decisions the lower level knows about the decision. ‘The barrack regime cannot be the regime of our party. These methods bring about a situation that the party organization will replace the party, the CC will replace the party organization, and finally the ‘dictator’ will replace the CC. The Committees will do all the ‘directing’ while the people remain silent.’

The Communist Party, which proclaims as its aim the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, works in a state of war with a powerful enemy. Unless there is iron discipline the party cannot attain its objective. Lenin said the dictatorship of proletariat is also a war. The Soviet Union had to struggle for its survival in a hostile environment. In this state of war, iron discipline was necessary. Trotsky advocated freedom to form groups within the communist party which, objectively, only helps the enemy and disrupts the communist party.

1936-38 trials

The book alleges that to differ with the leadership was considered betrayal of the revolution and that all the old Bolsheviks who differed with Stalin were killed or exiled, which was not based on facts. During the period 1924-1927, there were debates within the party between the Bolsheviks and the Opposition and ultimately the party took a decision in 1927 on these two lines. Out of the total membership of 8,54,000 party members, 7,30,000 voted. 2,600 abstained from voting. The Bolsheviks got 7,24,000 votes and Trotsky got 4000 votes. That is Trotsky’s line was supported by 0.5% of the communist party. Even after the party rejected Trotsky’s line, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Pytakov, Radek etc. worked against the party and were expelled. On repenting they were taken back into the party and were assigned important jobs. Some of them were expelled more than once and after self-criticism were taken back into the party. This shows how patiently Stalin conducted his theoretical struggle with those who differed with the official line.

But the background for the 1937 trials was entirely different. Tro­tsky who was defeated in the party gave a call for overthrow of the Bolshevik Government. He also joined hands with Fascist Germany and Japan. Trotsky’s followers resorted to terrorism and conspiracy to overthrow the Bolshevik Government. They even agreed to hand over parts of the Soviet Union to Germany and dismember it. They were tried and executed for these heinous crimes. The confessions of Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin etc., prove this. Kamenev in his confession says that the party gave him ten years to reform and three times it had called him back from exile and assigned important jobs. There is a limit to everything. We have reached that limit. Zinoviev admitted that he embraced fascism through Trotskyism. Bukharin said for the crimes he committed one should be shot several times. The capitalist media and Trotskyists say that these trials were not fair. But the entire proceedings of the trials were filmed. Foreign press, Diplomats, representatives from workers etc. were present in the open court. Eminent lawyer D. N. Pritt and Joseph Davies, American Ambassador in Soviet Russia at that time who himself was a lawyer, were present. They were of the opinion that the trials were fair and the punishment meted out to the accused under Soviet Laws was just. Radek denied the allegations of torture. Bukharin ridiculed the suggestions made in the foreign media that the accused were hypnotized, Tibetan drugs were used to obtain confessions, etc.

These traitors were executed not for differing with Stalin on theoretical issues but on criminal acts of trying to overthrow a government of the people with the help of fascist Germany and Japan. Even Krupskaya, who had been with the Opposition, supported the executions of these traitors.

About Stalin’s personal dictatorship

We have seen above Trotsky’s criticism that the Leninist Party principles ultimately led to the concentration of power in the hands of a dictator. Trotskyists and capitalist media propagate that Stalin neglected the entire party and people and instituted a terrorist regime. No single person can exercise his dictatorship in a huge country. There must be a class behind the dictator. When we say Hitler was a dictator, we say that he exercised his dictatorial powers in the interests of the capitalist class. Which class did Stalin represent? Trotskyists immediately say that he was head of a bureaucratic class. We know that Stalin was struggling to keep bureaucracy under control throughout his life. The bureaucrats in the party were against Stalin. We know that Stalin did not spare the army before or after the war. He made a powerful enemy in Zhukov by demoting him. So we cannot say that he obtained his power from the army. Can a person exercise dictatorial powers without the support of any class? Everybody agrees that there was tremendous progress during Stalin era and the fruits of this progress reached the common man. A dictator is afraid of people. How can we call a leader who armed crores of people without any fear? We know how people fought during the Great Patriotic War with the name of Stalin on their lips. Would they fight like this if Stalin was a criminal who killed lakhs* of people and jailed crores of innocent citizens? Another allegation is that during Stalin era, the Party decided everything and the people were just puppets without any initiative in the hands of the party. Anna Louis Strong said: ‘...The characteristic of the people who built the new industries and farms was boundless initiative. When Americans speak of Soviet people as ‘regimented’ I always laugh. This zeal to create new filled not only the leaders. It was born in millions of plain citizens as they saw new road to life.’.

* 1 lakh = 100 thousand in Indian numbering system

She described the Stalin era as one of history’s grand dynamic eras, perhaps its greatest, which gave birth to millions of heroes and to some devils. As she says, ‘lesser men can look back on it now and list its crimes.’

Socialism in one country

This book says that the call to build socialism in one country reflects bureaucratic mentality. It is true that Marx and Engels talked about world revolution; it is also true that Engels in his Principles of Communism wrote that there is no possibility of socialist revolution happening in one country. Lenin said that during the era of imperialism victory of socialism was possible even in a single country. ‘Having organized socialist production’ that Proletarian State would stand against the rest of the capitalist world, attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, raising revolts in those countries against the capitalists, and in the event of necessity coming out even with armed forces against the exploiting classes'. As a true disciple of Lenin, Stalin did exactly this and during his lifetime the Socialist Camp came into existence because of his efforts. Trotskyists say that Socialism in one country was not Lenin’s slogan, that Lenin wanted to continue the New Economic Policy for some more years, wanted to build State Capitalism etc. Lenin’s writings prove that all this Trotskyist propaganda was baseless. ‘To wait until the toiling classes bring about a revolution on an international scale means that everybody should stand stock-still in expectation, this is nonsense...’ said Lenin. His article ‘On Cooperation’ also says that the Soviet Union had all that is necessary to building socialism and many of the comrades did not understand this. This book distorts Lenin’s teachings on socialism in one country and accuses Stalin of trying to building bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, which Lenin never wanted.

In conclusion we can say that during the era of imperialism, even now, chances of socialist revolution breaking out in a single country or a few countries are greater than a world revolution. Most likely these revolutions will break out in economically backward countries and they have to face severe constraints. They may remain incomplete or one-side revolutions but they will carry out for socialism and democracy to some extent. How long they will be able to face the onslaught of imperialism we do not know. It is wrong to say that as these countries could not complete their socialist construction, they should not revolt against imperialism. Such revolts, whether they are successful or not, will weaken imperialism gradually and will ultimately lead to a world revolution. History also tells us this. Slaves did not wait till all conditions were favourable for a complete victory of feudalism over slave system. Even with the revolt of Spartacus, which shook the foundations of the Roman Empire, and numerous other revolts, the slave system continued for some more centuries. Similarly with capitalism also. The fight for socialism may also take many centuries with its ups and downs. We must be theoretically and organizationally prepared for this.

Tolety Jagmohana Rao is a member of the Stalin Society, India

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