Tag Archives: Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky: The Workers’ Militia And Its Opponents (1934)

As we’ve been going through the always inspiring and illuminating writings of Bolshevik revolutionary and founder of the Red Army Leon Trotsky searching for works that can illustrate the need for multiracial union-based workers defense squads to beat back the rising tide of fascism in the US, we have been learning and re-learning so much that it is amazing.  So many of the 1930s-era arguments against the creation of a workers militia to smash fascism are being repeated almost word-for-word every day on Twitter!  We know that in the USA, thanks to advertising and television and its inducement of short-attention-spans in way too many workers here, the idea that something written about political events of 70 years ago could remain relevant in 2017 seems absurd.  You want “NEW!” and “IMPROVED!” political science, right?  But just as the works of Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein are still considered to be among the finest examples of scientific writing on their subjects to date, so it goes with political science.  And as it is absolutely necessary for a doctor or a physicist to study the history of developments in her field of expertise in order to more fully understand the modern approaches and discoveries, in political science we can obtain a wealth of vitally important information from the writings of the top revolutionaries of the past two centuries and apply that information directly to today’s political challenges.  It may come as a surprise, but the fundamental class structure of a capitalist state hasn’t changed much in the past 175 years or so: we still have the working class majority, a smaller petit-bourgeoisie (middle class small business owners) and a relatively tiny capitalist class to whom the majority of the national wealth is funneled year after year.  The actors change but the roles do not; petit-bourgeois politicians and businesspeople have the same complaints and roles in 2017 as they had in 1917 – with relatively minor differences in scenery and plot.  It’s like seeing a modern production of a Mozart opera, in which the clothing of the 1700s is replaced by hip-hop fashion: it looks very different but the music and lyrics remain the same.  And we are sure that our very perceptive readers will find themselves surprised to hear Trotsky, writing in 1934 (in this case) making incisive comments which, if the names of the old politicians were replaced with current US politicians, you would imagine the article was written last week.

In political science, the famous warning that “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” carries full force.  We assure those of you who laugh at us for using the events of 1934 as a warning in 2017 that you ignore these works at your peril.  The options for modern politicians – working class, petit-bourgeois and bourgeois – have NOT changed in the past century.  If the working class does not overthrow capitalism in 2017, and the fascists are allowed to grow, the result will be largely the same as what occurred in Germany in 1933.  The USA has a whole slew of would-be Hitlers jockeying to reprise his role in the 2017 production of “The Collapse of Bourgeois Democracy”.  The working class has its own contingent of feckless, class-collaborationist fake-socialists and pro-capitalist trade union “leaders” eager to show what they can bring to the roles of Scheidemann and Noske.  Today’s anarchists have their Bakunins, Berkmans, Makhnos and Goldmans; and the revolutionary socialists have their own up-and-coming Stalins, Kollontais, Lenins, Maos, Guevaras, and Trotskys.  All of these actors will be vying for the hearts and minds of the masses of workers, without whom there will be no play. 

“History repeats itself: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” We do not intend to fall into the same traps that our ancestors fell into; more than that – we do not intend to lead YOU into those same traps YOUR ancestors fell into!   So that we do not do so, we must study the development of the various class forces in the past who were faced with essentially the same collapse of bourgeois democracy and essentially the same rise of fascism we are facing today around the capitalist world.  In Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s the Communist Party refused to make a united front with the Social Democrats and form armed workers brigades capable of smashing Hitler’s gangs, paving the way for the rise of Nazi Germany.  Fascism then rose in France as well, paving the political road to the wartime Nazi-collaborationist Vichy government.  Why did bourgeois democracy fail throughout Europe in the 1930s?  Was the rise of fascism inevitable?  Is it inevitable now?  By studying the historical record of the workers movement as it struggled to overcome the obstacles hurled into its path during the interwar period of 1918 -1939 we can answer these questions. These tragic errors of the 20th century need not – and must not be – repeated in the 21st century.

— IWPCHI

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THE WORKERS’ MILITIA AND ITS OPPONENTS

From Whither France?, 1934

To struggle, it is necessary to conserve and strengthen the instrument and the means of struggle — organizations, the press, meetings, etc.  Fascism [in France] threatens all of that directly and immediately.  It is still too weak for the direct struggle for power, but it is strong enough to attempt to beat down the working-class organizations bit by bit, to temper its bands in its attacks, and to spread dismay and lack of confidence in their forces in the ranks of the workers.

Fascism finds unconscious helpers in all those who say that the “physical struggle” is impermissible or hopeless, and demand of Doumergue the disarmament of his fascist guard.  Nothing is so dangerous for the proletariat, especially in the present situation, as the sugared poison of false hopes.  Nothing increases the insolence of the fascists so much as “flabby pacificism” on the part of the workers’ organizations.  Nothing so destroys the confidence of the middle classes in the working-class as temporizing, passivity, and the absence of the will to struggle.

Le Populaire [the Socialist Party paper] and especially l’Humanite [the Communist Party newspaper] write every day:

“The united front is a barrier against fascism”;
“the united front will not permit…”;
“the fascists will not dare”, etc.

These are phrases.  It is necessary to say squarely to the workers, Socialists, and Communists: do not allow yourselves to be lulled by the phrases of superficial and irresponsible journalists and orators.  It is a question of our heads and the future of socialism.  It is not that we deny the importance of the united front.  We demanded it when the leaders of both parties were against it.  The united front opens up numerous possibilities, but nothing more.  In itself, the united front decides nothing.  Only the struggle of the masses decides.  The united front will reveal its value when Communist detachments will come to the help of Socialist detachments and vice versa in the case of an attack by the fascist bands against Le Populaire or l’Humanite.  But for that, proletarian combat detachments must exist and be educated, trained, and armed.  And if there is not an organization of defense, i.e., a workers’ militia, Le Populaire or l’Humanite will be able to write as many articles as they like on the omnipotence of the united front, but the two papers will find themselves defenseless before the first well-prepared attack of the fascists.

We propose to make a critical study of the “arguments” and the “theories” of the opponents of the workers’ militia who are very numerous and influential in the two working-class parties.

“We need mass self-defense and not the militia,” we are often told.

But what is this “mass self-defense” without combat organizations, without specialized cadres, without arms?  To give over the defense against fascism to unorganized and unprepared masses left to themselves would be to play a role incomparably lower than the role of Pontius Pilate.  To deny the role of the militia is to deny the role of the vanguard.  Then why a party?  Without the support of the masses, the militia is nothing.  But without organized combat detachments, the most heroic masses will be smashed bit by bit by the fascist gangs.  It is nonsense to counterpose the militia to self-defense. The militia is an organ of self-defense.

“To call for the organization of a militia,” say some opponents who, to be sure, are the least serious and honest, “is to engage in provocation.”

This is not an argument but an insult.  If the necessity for the defense of the workers’ organizations flows from the whole situation, how then can one not call for the creation of the militia?  Perhaps they mean to say that the creation of a militia “provokes” fascist attacks and government repression.  In that case, this is an absolutely reactionary argument.  Liberalism has always said to the workers that by their class struggle they “provoke” the reaction.

The reformists repeated this accusation against the Marxists, the Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks.  These accusations reduced themselves, in the final analysis, to the profound thought that if the oppressed do not balk, the oppressors will not be obliged to beat them.  This is the philosophy of Tolstoy and Gandhi but never that of Marx and Lenin.  If l’Humanite wants hereafter to develop the doctrine of “non-resistance to evil by violence”, it should take for its symbol not the hammer and sickle, emblem of the October Revolution, but the pious goat, which provides Gandhi with his milk.

“But the arming of the workers is only opportune in a revolutionary situation, which does not yet exist.”

This profound argument means that the workers must permit themselves to be slaughtered until the situation becomes revolutionary.  Those who yesterday preached the “third period” do not want to see what is going on before their eyes. The question of arms itself has come forward only because the “peaceful”, “normal”, “democratic” situation has given way to a stormy, critical, and unstable situation which can transform itself into a revolutionary, as well as a counter-revolutionary, situation.  This alternative depends above all on whether the advanced workers will allow themselves to be attacked with impunity and defeated bit by bit or will reply to every blow by two of their own, arousing the courage of the oppressed and uniting them around their banner.  A revolutionary situation does not fall from the skies.  It takes form with the active participation of the revolutionary class and its party.

The French Stalinists now argue that the militia did not safeguard the German proletariat from defeat.  Only yesterday they completely denied any defeat in Germany and asserted that the policy of the German Stalinists was correct from beginning to end.  Today, they see the entire evil in the German workers’ militia (Roter Frontkampferbund) [i.e., Red Front Fighters: Communist-led militia banned by the social- democratic government after the Berlin May Day riots of 1929].  Thus, from one error they fall into a diametrically opposite one, no less monstrous. The militia, in itself, does not settle the question.  A correct policy is necessary. Meanwhile,the policy of Stalinism in Germany (“social fascism is the chief enemy”, the split in the trade unions, the flirtation with nationalism, putschism) fatally led to the isolation of the proletarian vanguard and to its shipwreck.  With an utterly worthless strategy, no militia could have saved the situation.

It is nonsense to say that, in itself, the organization of the militia leads to adventures, provokes the enemy, replaces the political struggle by physical struggle, etc.  In all these phrases, there is nothing but political cowardice.

The militia, as the strong organization of the vanguard, is in fact the surest defense against adventures, against individual terrorism, against bloody spontaneous explosions.

The militia is at the same time the only serious way of reducing to a minimum the civil war that fascism imposes upon the proletariat.  Let the workers, despite the absence of a “revolutionary situation”, occasionally correct the “papa’s son” patriots in their own way, and the recruitment of new fascist bands will become incomparably more difficult.

But here the strategists, tangled in their own reasoning, bring forward against us still more stupefying arguments. We quote textually:

“If we reply to the revolver shots of the fascists with other revolver shots,” writes l’Humanite of October 23 [1934], “we lose sight of the fact that fascism is the product of the capitalist regime and that in fighting against fascism it is the entire system which we face.”

It is difficult to accumulate in a few lines greater confusion or more errors. It is impossible to defend oneself against the fascists because they are — “a product of the capitalist regime”. That means, we have to renounce the whole struggle, for all contemporary social evils are “products of the capitalist system”.

When the fascists kill a revolutionist, or burn down the building of a proletarian newspaper, the workers are to sigh philosophically: “Alas! Murders and arson are products of the capitalist system”, and go home with easy consciences. Fatalist prostration is substituted for the militant theory of Marx, to the sole advantage of the class enemy. The ruin of the petty bourgeoisie is, of course, the product of capitalism. The growth of the fascist bands is, in turn, a product of the ruin of the petty bourgeoisie. But on the other hand, the increase in the misery and the revolt of the proletariat are also products of capitalism, and the militia, in its turn, is the product of the sharpening of the class struggle. Why, then, for the “Marxists” of l’Humanite, are the fascist bands the legitimate product of capitalism and the workers’ militia the illegitimate product of — the Trotskyists? It is impossible to make head or tail of this.

“We have to deal with the whole system,” we are told.

How? Over the heads of human beings? The fascists in the different countries began with their revolvers and ended by destroying the whole “system” of workers’ organizations. How else to check the armed offensive of the enemy if not by an armed defense in order, in our turn, to go over to the offensive.

L’Humanite now admits defense in words, but only in the form of “mass self-defense”. The militia is harmful because, you see, it divides the combat detachments from the masses. But why then are there independent armed detachments among the fascists who are not cut off from the reactionary masses but who, on the contrary, arouse the courage and embolden those masses by their well-organized attacks? Or perhaps the proletarian mass is inferior in combative quality to the declassed petty bourgeoisie?

Hopelessly tangled, l’Humanite finally begins to hesitate: it appears that mass self-defense requires the creation of special “self-defense groups”. In place of the rejected militia, special groups or detachments are proposed. It would seem at first sight that there is a difference only in the name. Certainly, the name proposed by l’Humanite means nothing. One can speak of “mass self-defense” but it is impossible to speak of “self-defense groups” since the purpose of the groups is not to defend themselves but the workers’ organizations. However, it is not, of course, a question of the name. The “self-defense groups”, according to l’Humanite , must renounce the use of arms in order not to fall into “putschism”. These sages treat the working-class like an infant who must not be allowed to hold a razor in his hands.  Razors, moreover, are the monopoly, as we know, of the Camelots du Roi [French monarchists grouped around Charles Maurras’ newspaper, Action Francaise, which was violently anti-democratic], who are a legitimate “product of capitalism” and who, with the aid of razors, have overthrown the “system” of democracy.  In any case, how are the “self-defense groups” going to defend themselves against the fascist revolvers? “Ideologically”, of course. In other words: they can hide themselves.  Not having what they require in their hands, they will have to seek “self-defense” in their feet.  And the fascists will in the meanwhile sack the workers’ organizations with impunity.  But if the proletariat suffers a terrible defeat, it will at any rate not have been guilty of “putschism”.  This fraudulent chatter, parading under the banner of “Bolshevism”, arouses only disgust and loathing.

[NOTE: “The Third Period”: According to the Stalinist schema, this was the “final period of capitalism”, the period of its immediately impending demise and replacement by soviets. The period is notable for the Communists’ ultra-left and adventurist tactics, notably the concept of social-fascism.]

During the “third period”  of happy memory — when the strategists of l’Humanite were afflicted with barricade delirium, “conquered” the streets every day and stamped as “social fascist” everyone who did not share their extravagances — we predicted: “The moment these gentlemen burn the tips of their fingers, they will become the worst opportunists.”  That prediction has now been completely confirmed.  At a time when within the Socialist Party the movement in favor of the militia is growing and strengthening, the leaders of the so-called Communist Party run for the hose to cool down the desire of the advanced workers to organize themselves in fighting columns.  Could one imagine a more demoralizing or more damning work than this?

In the ranks of the Socialist Party sometimes this objection is heard: “A militia must be formed but there is no need of shouting about it.”

One can only congratulate comrades who wish to protect the practical side of the business from inquisitive eyes and ears.  But it would be much too naive to think that a militia could be created unseen and secretly within four walls.  We need tens, and later hundreds, of thousands of fighters.  They will come only if millions of men and women workers, and behind them the peasants, understand the necessity for the militia and create around the volunteers an atmosphere of ardent sympathy and active support.  Conspiratorial care can and must envelop only the technical aspect of the matter.  The political campaign must be openly developed, in meetings, factories, in the streets and on the public squares.

The fundamental cadres of the militia must be the factory workers grouped according to their place of work, known to each other and able to protect their combat detachments against the provocations of enemy agents far more easily and more surely than the most elevated bureaucrats.  Conspirative general staffs without an open mobilization of the masses will at the moment of danger remain impotently suspended in midair.  Every working-class organization has to plunge into the job.  In this question, there can be no line of demarcation between the working-class parties and the trade unions.  Hand in hand, they must mobilize the masses.  The success of the workers’ militia will then be fully assured.

“But where are the workers going to get arms” object the sober “realists” — that is to say, frightened philistines — “the enemy has rifles, cannon, tanks, gas, and airplanes. The workers have a few hundred revolvers and pocket knives.”

In this objection, everything is piled up to frighten the workers.  On the one hand, our sages identify the arms of the fascists with the armament of the state.  On the other hand, they turn towards the state and demand that it disarm the fascists. Remarkable logic!  In fact, their position is false in both cases.  In France, the fascists are still far from controlling the state.  On February 6, they entered in armed conflict with the state police.  That is why it is false to speak of cannon and tanks when it is a matter of the immediate armed struggle against the fascists. The fascists, of course, are richer than we.  It is easier for them to buy arms.  But the workers are more numerous, more determined, more devoted, when they are conscious of a firm revolutionary leadership.

In addition to other sources, the workers can arm themselves at the expense of the fascists by systematically disarming them.

This is now one of the most serious forms of the struggle against fascism.  When workers’ arsenals will begin to stock up at the expense of the fascist arms depots, the banks and trusts will be more prudent in financing the armament of their murderous guards.  It would even be possible in this case — but in this case only — that the alarmed authorities would really begin to prevent the arming of the fascists in order not to provide an additional sources of arms for the workers.  We have known for a long time that only a revolutionary tactic engenders, as a by-product, “reforms” or concessions from the government.

But how to disarm the fascists?  Naturally, it is impossible to do so with newspaper articles alone.  Fighting squads must be created.  An intelligence service must be established.  Thousands of informers and friendly helpers will volunteer from all sides when they realize that the business has been seriously undertaken by us.  It requires a will to proletarian action.

But the arms of the fascists are, of course, not the only source.  In France, there are more than one million organized workers.  Generally speaking, this number is small.  But it is entirely sufficient to make a beginning in the organization of a workers’ militia.  If the parties and unions armed only a tenth of their members, that would already be a force of 100,000 men.  There is no doubt whatever that the number of volunteers who would come forward on the morrow of a “united front” appeal for a workers’ militia would far exceed that number.  The contributions of the parties and unions, collections and voluntary subscriptions, would within a month or two make it possible to assure the arming of 100,000 to 200,000 working-class fighters.  The fascist rabble would immediately sink its tail between its legs.  The whole perspective of development would become incomparably more favorable.

To invoke the absence of arms or other objective reasons to explain why no attempt has been made up to now to create a militia, is to fool oneself and others. The principle obstacle — one can say the only obstacle — has its roots in the conservative and passive character of the leaders of the workers’ organizations.  The skeptics who are the leaders do not believe in the strength of the proletariat.  They put their hope in all sorts of miracles from above instead of giving a revolutionary outlet to the energies pulsing below.  The socialist workers must compel their leaders to pass over immediately to the creation of the workers’ militia or else give way to younger, fresher forces.

A strike is inconceivable without propaganda and without agitation.  It is also inconceivable without pickets who, when they can, use persuasion, but when obliged, use force.  The strike is the most elementary form of the class struggle which always combines, in varying proportions, “ideological” methods with physical methods.  The struggle against fascism is basically a political struggle which needs a militia just as the strike needs pickets.  Basically, the picket is the embryo of the workers’ militia.  He who thinks of renouncing “physical” struggle must renounce all struggle, for the spirit does not live without flesh.

Following the splendid phrase of the great military theoretician Clausewitz, war is the continuation of politics by other means.  This definition also fully applies to civil war.  It is impermissable to oppose one to the other since it is impossible to check at will the political struggle when it transforms itself, by force of inner necessity, into a political struggle.

The duty of a revolutionary party is to foresee in time the inescapability of the transformation of politics into open armed conflict, and with all its forces to prepare for that moment just as the ruling classes are preparing.

The militia detachments for defense against fascism are the first step on the road to the arming of the proletariat, not the last. Our slogan is:

“Arm the proletariat and the revolutionary peasants!”

The workers’ militia must, in the final analysis, embrace all the toilers.  To fulfill this program completely would be possible only in a workers’ state into whose hands would pass all the means of production and, consequently, also all the means of destruction — i.e., all the arms and the factories which produce them.

However, it is impossible to arrive at a workers’ state with empty hands.  Only political invalids like Renaudel can speak of a peaceful, constitutional road to socialism. The constitutional road is cut by trenches held by the fascist bands. There are not a few trenches before us.  The bourgeoisie will not hesitate to resort to a dozen coups d’etat aided by the police and the army, to prevent proletariat from coming to power.

[NOTE: Pierre Renaudel (1871-1935): Prior to WWI, socialist leader Jean Jaures’ righthand man and editor of l’Humanite. During the war, a right-wing social patriot. In the 1930s, he and Marcel Deat led revisionist “neo-socialist” tendency. Voted down at the July 1933 convention, this tendency split from the Socialist Party. After the fascist riots of February 6, 1934, most of the “neos” joined the Radical Party, the main party of French capitalism.]

A workers’ socialist state can be created only by a victorious revolution.

Every revolution is prepared by the march of economic and political development, but it is always decided by open armed conflicts between hostile classes.  A revolutionary victory can become possible only as a result of long political agitation, a lengthy period of education and organization of the masses.

But the armed conflict itself must likewise be prepared long in advance.

The advanced workers must know that they will have to fight and win a struggle to the death. They must reach out for arms, as a guarantee of their emancipation.

[Source: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1944/1944-fas.htm#p1   Corrected and emphasis added in bold type by IWPCHI]

 

Fascism: What it Is and How to Fight It

Fascist scum surround small group of antifascist protestors at Univ. of VA, Charlottesville on 11 Aug 2017.

In the aftermath of the monstrous fascist mobilization in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend, we are searching the archives of Marxism for the most important writings on the subject of how to effectively fight the fascist menace.  The New York Times reports that the fascists, emboldened by their “victory” in Charlottesville are now planning to run for political offices across the nation, primarily under the banner of the Republican party.

We have sought from the inception of our organization to impart to the workers of the US the vital importance of organizing a revolutionary vanguard party of the working class as the indispensable weapon of self-defense of the workers against the capitalist system and against its fascist attack dogs.  Without a political party of our own, the working class is left to stand by, impotently begging the paid agents of the capitalist class in both the Republican and Democratic parties to “do the right thing” for the workers.  This cowardly posture of “speaking truth to power” effectively eliminates the working class – the vast majority of the population in any capitalist country – to sitting on the political sidelines as the “rightful rulers” of the capitalist class rob us blind and pave the road for a fascist regime in which the workers organizations will be completely destroyed.  Under fascism, there will be no future for the trade unions or for any working class revolutionary organization of any kind.  Unless we build a revolutionary workers party that has as its ultimate goal the overthrow of the capitalist class and its decrepit, dying capitalist economic system which is the growth medium in which fascism thrives, the working class is doomed to destruction.  The experiences of workers in Italy and Germany under their fascist regimes provide ample evidence of this reality.

All that being said, we must make clear that the Trump administration, though it has fascists in its top positions is NOT A FASCIST GOVERNMENT!  If the Trump government was fascist, we would not be able to write and publish this article, and anti-fascists would not be able to march against the fascist hordes as they did in Charlottesville this past weekend.  We would all be in concentration camps – or dead!   It is imperative that workers understand the qualitative difference between a conservative, worker-hating capitalist political party and its state and a fascist party and its state.  The Trump administration is a neo-fascist bourgeois government, not a FASCIST government.  We can see even now the tremendous splits that have taken place within the Trump administration over the events in Charlottesville.  Even the hideous Confederacy-apologist Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has come out publicly denouncing the fascist mobilization in Charlottesville: this would not happen in a fascist government.

But the fascists are inside the Republican party and are preparing to take it over.  They are supported financially by the most right-wing elements of the US capitalist class who are tired of having their hands tied by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights when they would like to just go out and smash every union and socialist/communist/anarchist political organization in the land!  It is this powerful but still minority fascist fringe of the US capitalist class that is pushing the nation towards fascism.  They have a large portion of the ruling class, the cops and courts and military on their side.  BUT THEY HAVE NOT TAKEN POWER YET.  If we confuse the semi-fascist Trump with the REAL fascist threat we will be directing our defensive attacks at the puppet rather than at the master.  We saw who the fascists are this weekend.  They are the usual scum: the Klan, the Nazis organized by David Duke and all of that syphilitic gutter scum attached to them like lampreys on a shark.  THESE ARE THE FASCISTS WE MUST CONFRONT AND DEFEAT.  They are organizing their ignorant hordes of lumpen and petty-bourgeois thugs to rampage across the campuses and cities and towns across the USA this fall.  We can and we must organize now to overwhelm them numerically whenever and wherever they appear, and we must ignore the appeals from their allies in the Democratic and Republican parties and among the clergy of all denominations who tell us to “turn the other cheek” against those who seek to kill us!  The working class must be organized through the trade unions into massive, highly disciplined battalions trained and led by union members who are military veterans to defend ourselves effectively in a military fashion against the nazi gangs.  If we do this – and ONLY if we do this can we send these fascist scum scurrying back to the holes they emerged from! The next time these filth try to organize a torchlight parade they must be crushed by the full weight of the integrated working class!  The next time they try to launch a provocation in broad daylight as they did in Charlottesville they must be met with the full weight of the entire integrated working class, led by strong, determined trade union contingents and they must be crushed!  They must have their heads acquainted with the pavement and be sent crawling home to lick their wounds.  This is the only “debate” the fascists understand!

Workers must come to understand the scientific, revolutionary Trotskyist definition of what fascism is and what it isn’t and what must be done to stop it.  If we do not understand fully what we are up against, where it comes from and who supports it we are powerless to stop it.  So in the interest of furthering your education on the subject of fascism, we offer these insights from the revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky.  If you have questions or comments on this material you can post your comments here and we will be happy to respond; otherwise contact us directly at iwpchi@gmx.com.

Workers of the World – Unite to Smash Fascism!

-IWPCHI

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Excerpts from Leon Trotsky’s writings on fascism and how to fight it.  We have lightly edited Trotsky’s polemics in order to bring them up-to-date for the present situation in the US without (we hope) dulling in the slightest way their surgically sharp edge. Our edits are in brackets [ ].  — IWPCHI

“The [people of the United States] for a long time thought that Fascism had nothing whatever to do with them. They had a republic in which all questions were dealt with by the sovereign people through the exercise of universal suffrage. But on [August 11th and 12th, 2017], several thousand Fascists […]  armed with [shields, clubs and firearms descended on Charlottesville, Virginia]. What does tomorrow hold?

Of course in [the United States], as in certain other European countries (England, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, the Scandinavian countries), there still exist parliaments, elections, democratic liberties, or their remnants. But in all these countries the class struggle is sharpening, just as it did [in the 1920s and 1930s] in Italy and Germany. Whoever consoles himself with the phrase, “[The United States] is not Germany”, is hopeless. In all countries the same historic laws operate, the laws of capitalist decline. If the means of production remain in the hands of a small number of capitalists, there is no way out for society. It is condemned to go from crisis to crisis, from need to misery, from bad to worse. In the various countries the decrepitude and disintegration of capitalism are expressed in diverse forms and at unequal rhythms. But the basic features of the process are the same everywhere. The bourgeoisie is leading its society to complete bankruptcy. It is capable of assuring the people neither bread nor peace. This is precisely why it cannot any longer tolerate the democratic order. It is forced to smash the workers by the use of physical violence. The discontent of the workers and peasants, however, cannot be brought to an end by the police alone. Moreover, it is often impossible to make the army march against the people. It begins by disintegrating and ends with the passage of a large section of the soldiers over to the people’s side. That is why finance capital is obliged to create special armed bands, trained to fight the workers just as certain breeds of dog are trained to hunt game. The historic function of Fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.

“The Fascists find their human material mainly in the petty bourgeoisie [small businesspeople]. The [small business owner] has been entirely ruined by big capital. There is no way out for it in the present social order, but it knows of no other. Its dissatisfaction, indignation and despair are diverted by the Fascists away from big capital and against the workers. It may be said that Fascism is the act of placing the petty bourgeoisie at the disposal of its most bitter enemies. In this way big capital ruins the middle classes and then with the help of hired Fascist demagogues incites the despairing petty bourgeois against the worker. The bourgeois régime can be preserved only by such murderous means as these. For how long? Until it is overthrown by proletarian revolution.
[Source: Leon Trotsky, “Whither France?”, November, 1934]

” The capitalists arrive at Fascism not at their own whim, but through necessity: they cannot any longer preserve the private ownership of the means of production save by directing an offensive against the workers, save by strengthening the oppression, by sowing misery and despair around them. At the same time, fearing the inevitable resistance on the part of the workers, the capitalists, through the medium of their agents, arouse the petty bourgeoisie against the proletariat and, while accusing the latter of prolonging and aggravating the crisis, they finance Fascist gangs to annihilate the workers. Should the resistance of the workers to the offensive of capital increase on the morrow, should the strikes become more frequent and important, Fascism […] will not evaporate but instead grow with redoubled force. The growth of the strike movement will impel the mobilization of strikebreakers. All the ‘patriotic’ thugs will participate in the movement. Daily attacks against the workers will be put on the order of the day. To close our eyes to this is to walk toward certain defeat.

“‘Do you mean to say […] that there must be no resistance?” No. It is necessary to resist.

“We are [not] adherents of that school which thinks that the best means of safety lies in silence, retreat and capitulation. ‘Don’t provoke the enemy!’ ‘Do not defend yourselves!’ ‘Don’t arm yourselves!’ ‘Roll over on your backs and play dead!’  Theoreticians from among this school of strategy should be sought not among ourselves but among the editors of [the bourgeois and fake-socialist press].  It is necessary for the workers to resist if they do not wish to be annihilated. But in that case no reformist and pacifist illusion is permissible. The struggle will be ferocious. It is necessary to foresee beforehand the inevitable consequences of resistance and to prepare for them.

“By its present offensive the bourgeoisie invests with a new and incommensurably more acute character the relation between the economic conditions and the social situation of capitalism in decay. Just so, the workers must invest their defence with a new character which corresponds to the methods of the class enemy. In defending ourselves against the economic blows of capital, we must know how to defend at the same time our organizations against the mercenary gangs of capital. It is impossible to do this save by means of the workers’ militia.

“In particular we must say to the trade unions: comrades, your branches and your publications will be pillaged, your organizations reduced to dust, if you do not immediately proceed to the formation of trade-union defence squads (“trade-union militia”), if you do not demonstrate by actions that you will not surrender a single inch of Fascism without a struggle.”

[Source:  Leon Trotsky, “Once Again, Whither France? Part I” March, 1935

“The armed organization of the proletariat [scientific term for ‘working class’], which at the present moment coincides almost entirely with the defence against Fascism, is a new branch of the class struggle. The first steps here too will be inexperienced and maladroit. We must expect mistakes. It is even impossible to escape completely from provocation. The selection of the cadres will be achieved little by little and this all the more surely, all the more solidly, as the militia is closer to the factories where the workers know one another well. But the initiative must necessarily come from above. The party can and must provide the initial cadres. The trade unions must also take to this same road – and they will inevitably take it. The cadres will become fused and strengthened all the more rapidly as they meet with an increasing sympathy and increasing support within the workers’ organizations, and afterwards within the masses of the toilers.

“What are we to say about those gentlemen who, in the guise of sympathy and support, vilify and poke fun at or, worse yet, depict to the class enemy the detachments of working-class self-defence as detachments of ‘insurrection’ and of ‘putsch’? […] It is impossible to give these gentlemen any other name save that of direct enemies of the proletarian revolution.”

[[Source: Leon Trotsky, “Once Again, Whither France? Part II” March, 1935

— IWPCHI

100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution: February 1917 – The Collapse of Czarism

We had originally intended to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Great October Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 by publishing articles month-by-month describing that month’s events as captured by one of the great Bolshevik leaders of 1917 Leon Trotsky in his incomparable “History of the Russian Revolution”.  For a number of reasons both technical and personal we have been unable to do this; however we hope to catch up with events in the next few days so we can get back on track with this series.

This installment goes back to February of 1917 and shows that the support for the Tsarist regime had completely collapsed long before Lenin, Trotsky and the other leading exiles had even returned to Russia.  The army, demoralized by the complete inability of the regime to supply it with even the most basic necessities at the front, had largely ceased to obey the orders of the generals.  The urban intelligentsia too sought nothing less than a constitutional monarchy with some kind of parliamentary system.  The working class and peasantry, bled white by the war, had become completely insurrectionary.  There was not a square foot of soil of Russia on which the Tsar and his regime could find firm footing or a place of safe refuge, as we shall see.

Contrary to the lying propaganda which we have always been subjected to by the anti-communist US Govt and its hireling historians, the Russian Revolution was not some kind of secret coup plot hatched by the Bolsheviks under Lenin’s tutelage.  The Russian Revolution occurred because it was simply no longer possible for the people of Russia to go on living in the old ways under the old regime for one day longer.  No small workers party – as the Bolshevik Party was in February 1917 – can magically stage a successful overthrow of any government without the support of at least a large section of the working class and the military – and in the case of Russia, the peasantry as well.  It was precisely the fact that the Bolsheviks alone among all the many contending political parties in Russia possessed the well-thought out revolutionary Marxist programme for the overthrow of Tsarism and the establishment of an egalitarian socialist workers republic that was necessary to obtain the support of the long-suffering Russian workers, soldiers and peasants.   Without a revolutionary Leninist vanguard party possessed of a truly revolutionary Marxist/Leninist programme it would have been impossible for the Bolshevik Revolution to occur; and it is as true today as it was in 1917 that until the workers of the United States organize themselves into a revolutionary socialist Leninist/Trotskyist vanguard party and successfully overthrows the rule of the US capitalist class – the most bloodthirsty regime on the planet today – we will remain trapped in the human slaughterhouse of imperialist capitalism until the next World War brings the entire human race to the brink of destruction.  The creation of a revolutionary socialist vanguard party of the working class right here in the USA is the most important task of our lifetimes.

This chapter of Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution” describes how power was steadily stripped out of the hands of the Tsar and his ruling clique in February-March of 1917 by the insurgent workers, soldiers and peasants of Russia, with the Bolshevik Party playing just a small but very important and influential role among only a thin layer of the most politically advanced workers and soldiers.  The entire book can be read online at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/hrr/index.htm  Our text is taken from this online version.  Enjoy!

— IWPCHI

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Chapter 6
The Death Agony
of the Monarchy

 

The dynasty fell by shaking, like rotten fruit, before the revolution even had time to approach its first problems. Our portrayal of the old ruling class would remain incomplete if we did not try to show how the monarchy met the hour of its fall.

The czar was at headquarters at Moghilev, having gone there not because he was needed, but in flight from the Petrograd disorders. The court chronicler, General Dubensky, with the czar at headquarters, noted in his diary: “A quiet life begins here. Everything will remain as before. Nothing will come of his (the czar’s) presence. Only accidental external causes will change anything …” On February 24, the czarina wrote Nicholas at headquarters, in English as always: “I hope that Duma man Kedrinsky (she means Kerensky) will be hung for his horrible speeches-it is necessary (war-time law) and it will be an example. All are thirsting and beseeching that you show your firmness.” On February 25, a telegram came from the Minister of War that strikes were occurring in the capital, disorders beginning among the workers, but measures had been taken and there was nothing serious. In a word: “It isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last!”

The czarina, who had always taught the czar not to yield, here too tried to remain firm. On the 26th, with an obvious desire to hold up the shaky courage of Nicholas, she telegraphs him: “It is calm in the city.” But in her evening telegram she has to confess: “Things are not going at all well in the city.” In a letter she says: “You must say to the workers that they must not declare strikes, if they do, they will be sent to the front as a punishment. There is no need at all of shooting. Only order is needed, and not to let them cross the bridges.” Yes, only a little thing is needed, only order! But the chief thing is not to admit the workers into the city-let them choke in the raging impotence of their suburbs.

On the morning of the 27th, General Ivanov moves from the front with the Battalion of St. George, entrusted with dictatorial powers – which he is to make public, however, only upon occupying Tsarskoe Selo. “It would be hard to imagine a more unsuitable person.” General Denikin will recall later, himself having taken a turn at military dictatorship, “a flabby old man, meagrely grasping the political situation, possessing neither strength, nor energy, nor will, nor austerity.” The choice fell upon Ivanov through memories of the first revolution. Eleven years before that he had subdued Kronstadt. But those years had left their traces; the subduers had grown flabby, the subdued, strong. The northern and western fronts were ordered to get ready troops for the march on Petrograd; evidently everybody thought there was plenty of time ahead. Ivanov himself assumed that the affair would be ended soon and successfully; he even remembered to send out an adjutant to buy provisions in Moghilev for his friends in Petrograd.

On the morning of February 27, Rodzianko sent the czar a new telegram, which ended with the words: “The last hour has come when the fate of the fatherland and the dynasty is being decided.” The czar said to his Minister of the Court, Frederiks: “Again that fat-bellied Rodzianko has written me a lot of nonsense, which I won’t even bother to answer.” But no. It was not nonsense. He will have to answer.

About noon of the 27th, headquarters received a report from Khabalov of the mutiny of the Pavlovsky, Volynsky, Litovsky and Preobrazhensky regiments, and the necessity of sending reliable troops from the front. An hour later from the War Ministry came a most reassuring telegram: “The disorders which began this morning in certain military units are being firmly and energetically put down by companies and battalions loyal to their duty … I am firmly convinced of an early restoration of tranquility.” However, a little after seven in the evening, the same minister, Belyaev, is reporting that “We are not succeeding in putting down the military rebellion with the few detachments that remain loyal to their duty,” and requesting a speedy dispatch of really reliable troops-and that too in sufficient numbers “for simultaneous activity in different parts of the city.”

The Council of Ministers deemed this a suitable day to remove from their midst the presumed cause of all misfortunes – the half-crazy Minister of the Interior Protopopov. At the same time General Khabalov issued an edict – prepared in secrecy from the government – declaring Petrograd, on His Majesty’s orders, under martial law. So here too was an attempt to mix hot with cold – hardly intentional, however, and anyway of no use. They did not even succeed in pasting up the declaration of martial law through the city: the burgomaster, Balka, could find neither paste nor brushes. Nothing would stick together for those functionaries any longer; they already belonged to the kingdom of shades.

The principal shade of the last czarist ministry was the seventy-year old Prince Golytsin, who had formerly conducted some sort of eleemosynary institutions of the czarina, and had been advanced by her to the post of head of the government in a period of war and revolution. When friends asked this “good-natured Russian squire, this old weakling” – as the liberal Baron Nolde described him – why he accepted such a troublesome position, Golytsin answered: “So as to have one more pleasant recollection.” This aim, at any rate, he did not achieve. How the last czarist government felt in those hours is attested by Rodzianko in the following tale: With the first news of the movement of a crowd toward the Mariinsky Palace, where the Ministry was in session, all the lights in the building were immediately put out. (The government wanted only one thing – that the revolution should not notice it.) The rumour, however, proved false; the attack did not take place; and when the lights were turned on, one of the members of the czarist government was found “to his own surprise” under the table. What kind of recollections he was accumulating there has not been established.

But Rodzianko’s own feelings apparently were not at their highest point. After a long but vain hunt for the government by telephone, the President of the Duma tries again to ring up Prince Golytsin. The latter answers him: “I beg you not to come to me with anything further, I have resigned.” Hearing this news, Rodzianko, according to his loyal secretary, sank heavily in an armchair and covered his face with both hands.

My “God, how horrible! … Without a government … Anarchy … Blood …” and softly wept. At the expiring of the senile ghost of the czarist power Rodzianko felt unhappy, desolate, orphaned. How far he was at that moment from the thought that tomorrow he would have to “ head” a revolution!

The telephone answer of Golytsin is explained by the fact that on the evening of the 27th the Council of Ministers had definitely acknowledged itself incapable of handling the situation, and proposed to the czar to place at the head of the government a man enjoying general confidence. The czar answered Golytsin: “In regard to changes in the personal staff in the present circumstances, I consider that inadmissible. Nicholas.” Just what circumstances was he waiting for? At the same time the czar demanded that they adopt “the most decisive measures” for putting down the rebellion. That was easier said than done.

On the next day, the 28th, even the untamable czarina at last loses heart. “Concessions are necessary,” she telegraphs Nicholas. “The strikes continue; many troops have gone over to the side of the revolution. Alex.”

It required an insurrection of the whole guard, the entire garrison, to compel this Hessian zealot of autocracy to agree that “concessions are necessary.” Now the czar also begins to suspect that the “fat-bellied Rodzianko” had not telegraphed nonsense. Nicholas decides to join his family. It is possible that he is a little gently pushed from behind by the generals of the staff, too, who are not feeling quite comfortable.

The czar’s train travelled at first without mishap. Local chiefs and governors came out as usual to meet him. Far from the revolutionary whirlpool, in his accustomed royal car, surrounded by the usual suite, the czar apparently again lost a sense of the close coming crisis. At three o’clock on the 28th, when the events had already settled his fate, he sent a telegram to the czarina from Vyazma: “Wonderful weather. Hope you are well and calm. Many troops sent from the front. With tender love. Niki.” Instead of the concessions, upon which even the czarina is insisting, the tenderly loving czar is sending troops from the front. But in spite of that “wonderful weather,” in just a few hours the czar will stand face to face with the revolutionary storm. His train went as far as the Visher station. The railroad workers would not let it go farther: “The bridge is damaged.” Most likely this pretext was invented by the courtiers themselves in order to soften the situation. Nicholas tried to make his way, or they tried to get him through, by way of Bologoe on the Nikolaevsk railroad; but here, too, the workers would not let the train pass. This was far more palpable than all the Petrograd telegrams. The Czar had broken away from headquarters, and could not make his way to the capital. With its simple railroad “pawns” the revolution had cried “check” to the king!

The court historian Dubensky, who accompanied the Czar in his train, writes in his diary: “ Everybody realises that this midnight turn at Visher is a historical night … To me it is perfectly clear that the question of a constitution is settled; it will surely be introduced … Everybody is saying that it is only necessary to strike a bargain with them, with the members of the Provisional Government.” Facing a lowered semaphore, behind which mortal danger is thickening, Count Frederiks, Prince Dolgoruky, Count Leuchtenberg, all of them, all those high lords, are now for a constitution. They no longer think of struggling. It is only necessary to strike a bargain, that is, try to fool them again as in 1905.

While the train was wandering and finding no road, the Czarina was sending the Czar telegram after telegram, appealing to him to return as soon as possible. But her telegrams came back to her from the office with the inscription in blue pencil: “Whereabouts of the addressee unknown.” The telegraph clerks were unable to locate the Russian czar.

The regiments marched with music and banners to the Tauride Palace. A company of the Guards marched under the command of Cyril Vladimirovich, who had quite suddenly, according to Countess Kleinmichel, developed a revolutionary streak. The sentries disappeared. The intimates were abandoning the palace. “Everybody was saving himself who could,” relates Vyrubova. Bands of revolutionary soldiers wandered about the palace and with eager curiosity looked over everything. Before they had decided up above what should be done, the lower ranks were converting the palace of the Czar into a museum.

The Czar – his location unknown – turns back to Pskov, to the headquarters of the northern front, commanded by the old General Ruszky. In the czar’s suite one suggestion follows another. The Czar procrastinates. He is still reckoning in days and weeks, while the revolution is keeping its count in minutes.

The poet Blok characterised the Czar during the last months of the monarchy as follows: “Stubborn, but without will; nervous, but insensitive to everything; distrustful of people, taut and cautious in speech, he was no longer master of himself. He had ceased to understand the situation, and did not take one clearly conscious step, but gave himself over completely into the hands of those whom he himself had placed in power.” And how much these traits of tautness and lack of will, cautiousness and distrust, were to increase during the last days of February and first days of March!

Nicholas finally decided to send – and nevertheless evidently did not send – a telegram to the hated Rodzianko stating that for the salvation of the fatherland he appointed him to form a new ministry, reserving, however, the ministries of foreign affairs, war and marine for himself. The Czar still hoped to bargain with “them”: the “many troops,” after all, were on their way to Petrograd.

General Ivanov actually arrived without hindrance at Tsarskoe Selo: evidently the railroad workers did not care to come in conflict with the Battalion of St. George. The general confessed later that he had three or four times found it necessary on the march to use fatherly influence with the lower ranks, who were impudent to him: he made them get down on their knees. Immediately upon the arrival of the “dictator” in Tsarskoe Selo, the local authorities informed him that an encounter between the Battalion of St. George and the troops would mean danger to the czar’s family. They were simply afraid for themselves, and advised the dictator to go back without detraining.

General Ivanov telegraphed to the other “dictator,” Khabalov, in Petrograd ten questions, to which he received succinct answers: We will quote them in full, for they deserve it:

Ivanov’s questions: Khabalov’s replies:
1. How many troops are in order and how many are misbehaving? 1. I have at my disposal in the Admiralty building four companies of the Guard, five squadrons of cavalry and Cossacks, and two batteries the rest of the troops have gone over to the revolutionists, or by agreement with them are remaining neutral. Soldiers are wandering through the towns singly or in bands disarming officers.
2. Which railroad stations are guarded? 2. All the stations are in the hands of the revolutionists and strictly guarded by them.
3. In what parts of the city is order preserved? 3. The whole city is in the hands of the revolutionists. The telephone is not working, there is no communication between different parts of the city.
4. What authorities are governing the different parts of the city? 4. I cannot answer this question.
5. Are all the ministries functioning properly? 5. The ministers have been arrested by the revolutionists.
6. What police forces are at your disposal at the present moment? 6. None whatever .
7. What technical and supply institutions of the War Department are now in your control? 7. I have none.
8. What quantity of provisions at is at your disposal? 8. There are no provisions my disposal. In the city on February 5 there were 5,600,000 pounds of flour in store.
9. Have many weapons, artillery and military stores fallen into the hands of the mutineers? 9. All the artillery establishments are in the hands of the revolutionists.
10. What military forces and the staffs are in your control? 10. The chief of the Staff of District is in my personal control. With the other district administrations I have no connections.

Having received this unequivocal illumination as to the situation, General Ivanov “agreed” to turn back his echelon without detraining to the station “Dno.” [1] “Thus,” concludes one of the chief personages of the staff, General Lukomsky, “nothing came of the expedition of General Ivanov with dictatorial powers but a public disgrace.”

That disgrace, incidentally, was a very quiet one, sinking unnoticed in the billowing events. The dictator, we may suppose, delivered the provisions to his friends in Petrograd, and had a long chat with the Czarina. She referred to her self-sacrificing work in the hospitals, and complained of the ingratitude of the army and the people.

During this time news was arriving at Pskov by way of Moghilev, blacker and blacker. His Majesty’s own bodyguard, in which every soldier was known by name and coddled by the royal family, turned up at the State Duma asking permission to arrest those officers who had refused to take part in the insurrection. Vice-Admiral Kurovsky reported that he found it impossible to take any measures to put down the insurrection at Kronstadt, since he could not vouch for the loyalty of a single detachment. Admiral Nepenin telegraphed that the Baltic Fleet had recognised the Provisional Committee of the State Duma. The Moscow commander-in-chief, Mrozovsky, telegraphed: “A majority of the troops have gone over with artillery to the revolutionists. The whole town is therefore in their hands. The burgomaster and his aide have left the city hall.” Have left means that they fled.

All this was communicated to the Czar on the evening of March 1. Deep into the night they coaxed and argued about a responsible ministry. Finally, at two o’clock in the morning the Czar gave his consent, and those around him drew a sigh of relief. Since they took it for granted that this would settle the problem of the revolution, an order was issued at the same time that the troops which had been sent to Petrograd to put down the insurrection should return to the front. Ruszky hurried at dawn to convey the good news to Rodzianko. But the czar’s clock was way behind. Rodzianko in the Tauride Palace, already buried under a pile of democrats, socialists, soldiers, workers’ deputies, replied to Ruszky: “Your proposal is not enough; it is now a question of the dynasty itself. . . . Everywhere the troops are taking the side of the Duma, and the people are demanding an abdication in favour of the Heir with Mikhail Alexandrovich as regent.” Of course. the troops never thought of demanding either the Heir or Mikhail Alexandrovich. Rodzianko merely attributed to the troops and the people that slogan upon which the Duma was still hoping to stop the revolution. But in either case the Czar’s concession had come too late: “The anarchy has reached such proportions that I (Rodzianko) was this night compelled to appoint a Provisional Government. Unfortunately, the edict has come too late …” These majestic words bear witness that the President of the Duma had succeeded in drying the tears shed over Golytsin. The czar read the conversation between Rodzianko and Ruszky, and hesitated, read it over again, and decided to wait. But now the military chiefs had begun to sound the alarm: the matter concerned them too a little!

General Alexeiev carried out during the hours of that night a sort of plebiscite among the commanders-in-chief at the fronts. It is a good thing present-day revolutions are accomplished with the help of the telegraph, so that the very first impulses and reactions of those in power are preserved to history on the tape. The conversations of the czarist field-marshals on the night of March 1-2 are an incomparable human document. Should the czar abdicate or not? The commander-in-chief of the western front, General Evert, consented to give his opinion only after Generals Ruszky and Brussilov had expressed themselves. The commander-in-chief of the Roumanian front, General Sakharov, demanded that before he express himself the conclusions of all the other commanders-in-chief should be communicated to him. After long delays this valiant chieftain announced that his warm love for the monarch would not permit his soul to reconcile itself with an acceptance of the “base suggestion”; nevertheless, “with sobs” he advised the Czar to abdicate in order to avoid “still viler pretensions.” Adjutant-General Evert quite reasonably explained the necessity for capitulation: “I am taking all measures to prevent information as to the present situation in the capital from penetrating the army, in order to protect it against indubitable disturbances. No means exist for putting down the revolution in the capitals.” Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolajevich on the Caucasian front beseeched the Czar on bended knee to adopt the “supermeasure” and renounce the throne. A similar prayer came from Generals Alexeiev and Brussilov and Admiral Nepenin. Ruszky spoke orally to the same effect. The generals respectfully presented seven revolver barrels to the temple of the adored monarch. Fearing to let slip the moment for reconciliation with the new power, and no less fearing their own troops, these military chieftains, accustomed as they were to surrendering positions, gave the czar and the High Commander-in-Chief a quite unanimous counsel: retire without fighting. This was no longer distant Petrograd against which, as it seemed, one might send troops; this was the front from which the troops had to be borrowed.

Having listened to this suggestively circumstanced report, the Czar decided to abdicate the throne which he no longer possessed. A telegram to Rodzianko suitable to the occasion was drawn up: “There is no sacrifice that I would not make in the name of the real welfare and salvation of my native mother Russia. Thus I am ready to abdicate the throne in favor of my son, and in order that he may remain with me until he is of age, under the regency of my brother, Mikhail Alexandrovich. Nicholas.” This telegram too, however, was not dispatched, for news came from the capital of the departure for Pskov of the deputies Guchkov and Shulgin. This offered a new pretext to postpone the decision. The Czar ordered the telegram returned to him. He obviously dreaded to sell too cheap, and still hoped for comforting news – or more accurately, hoped for a miracle. Nicholas received the two deputies at twelve o’clock midnight March 2-8. The miracle did not come, and it was impossible to evade longer. The czar unexpectedly announced that he could not part with his son – what vague hopes were then wandering in his head? – and signed an abdication in favor of his brother. At the same time edicts to the Senate were signed, naming Prince Lvov President of the Council of Ministers, and Nikolai Nikolaievich Supreme Commander-in-Chief. The family suspicions of the czarina seemed to have been justified: the hated “Nikolasha” came back to power along with the conspirators. Guchkov apparently seriously believed that the revolution would accept the Most August War Chief. The latter also accepted his appointment in good faith. He even tried for a few days to give some kind of orders and make appeals for the fulfillment of patriotic duty. However the revolution painlessly removed him.

In order to preserve the appearance of a free act, the abdication was dated three o’clock in the afternoon, on the pretense that the original decision of the Czar to abdicate had taken place at that hour. But as a matter of fact that afternoon’s “decision,” which gave the sceptre to his son and not to his brother, had been taken back in anticipation of a more favorable turn of the wheel. Of that, however, nobody spoke out loud. The Czar made a last effort to save his face before the hated deputies, who upon their part permitted this falsification of a historic act – this deceiving of the people. The monarchy retired from the scene preserving its usual style; and its successors also remained true to themselves. They probably even regarded their connivance as the magnanimity of a conqueror to the conquered.

Departing a little from the phlegmatic style of his diary, Nicholas writes on March 2: “This morning Ruszky came and read me a long conversation over the wire with Rodzianko. According to his words the situation in Petrograd is such that a ministry of the members of the State Duma will be powerless to do anything, for it is being opposed by the social-democratic party in the person of a workers’ committee. My abdication is necessary. Ruszky transmitted this conversation to Alexeiev at headquarters and to all the commanders-in-chief. Answers arrived at 12.30. To save Russia and keep the army at the front, I decided upon this step. I agreed, and they sent from headquarters the text of an abdication. In the evening came Guchkov and Shulgin from Petrograd, with whom I talked it over and gave them the document amended and signed. At 1 o’clock in the morning I left Pskov with heavy feelings; around me treason, cowardice, deceit.”

The bitterness of Nicholas was, we must confess, not without foundation. It was only as short a time ago as February 28, that General Alexeiev had telegraphed to all the commanders-in-chief at the front: “ Upon us all lies a sacred duty before the sovereign and the fatherland to preserve loyalty to oath and duty in the troops of the active army.” Two days later Alexeiev appealed to these same commanders-in-chief to violate their “loyalty to oath and duty.” In all the commanding staff there was not found one man to take action in behalf of his Czar. They all hastened to transfer to the ship of the revolution, firmly expecting to find comfortable cabins there. Generals and admirals one and all removed the czarist braid and put on the red ribbon. There was news subsequently of one single righteous soul, some commander of a corps, who died of heart failure taking the new oath. But it is not established that his heart failed through injured monarchist feelings, and not through other causes. The civil officials naturally were not obliged to show more courage than the military – each one was saving himself as he could.

But the clock of the monarchy decidedly did not coincide with the revolutionary clocks. At dawn of March 8, Ruszky was again summoned to the direct wire from the capital: Rodzianko and Prince Lvov were demanding that he hold up the czar’s abdication, which had again proved too late. The installation of Alexei – said the new authorities evasively – might perhaps be accepted – by whom? – but the installation of Mikhail was absolutely unacceptable. Ruszky with some venom expressed his regret that the deputies of the Duma who had arrived the night before had not been sufficiently informed as to the aims and purposes of their journey. But here too the deputies had their justification. “Unexpectedly to us all there broke out such a soldiers’ rebellion as I never saw the like of,” explained the Lord Chamberlain to Ruszky, as though he had done nothing all his life but watch soldiers’ rebellions. “To proclaim Mikhail emperor would pour oil on the fire and there would begin a ruthless extermination of everything that can be exterminated.” How it whirls and shakes and bends and contorts them all!

The generals silently swallowed this new “vile pretension” of the revolution. Alexeiev alone slightly relieved his spirit in a telegraphic bulletin to the commanders-in-chief: “The left parties and the workers’ deputies are exercising a powerful pressure upon the President of the Duma, and there is no frankness or sincerity in the communications of Rodzianko.” The only thing lacking to the generals in those hours was sincerity.

But at this point the Czar again changed his mind. Arriving in Moghilev from Pskov, he handed to his former chief-of-staff, Alexeiev, for transmission to Petrograd, a sheet of paper with his consent to the handing over of the sceptre to his son. Evidently he found this combination in the long run more promising. Alexeiev, according to Denikin’s story, went away with the telegram and … did not send it. He thought that those two manifestos which had already been published to the army and the country were enough. The discord arose from the fact that not only the Czar and his counsellors, but also the Duma liberals, were thinking more slowly than the revolution.

Before his final departure from Moghilev on March 8, the Czar, already under formal arrest, wrote an appeal to the troops ending with these words: “Whoever thinks now of peace, whoever desires it, that man is a traitor to the fatherland, its betrayer.” This was in the nature of a prompted attempt to snatch out of the hands of liberalism the accusation of Germanophilism. The attempt had no result: they did not even dare publish the appeal.

Thus ended a reign which had been a continuous chain of ill luck, failure, misfortune, and evil-doing, from the Khodynka catastrophe during the coronation, through the shooting of strikers and revolting peasants, the Russo-Japanese war, the frightful putting-down of the revolution of 1905, the innumerable executions, punitive expeditions and national pogroms and ending with the insane and contemptible participation of Russia in the insane and contemptible world war.

Upon arriving at Tsarskoe Selo, where he and his family were confined in the palace, the czar, according to Vyrubova, softly said: “There is no justice among men.” But those very words irrefutably testify that historic justice, though it comes late, does exist.


The similarity of the Romanov couple to the French royal pair of the epoch of the Great Revolution is very obvious. It has already been remarked in literature, but only in passing and without drawing inferences. Nevertheless it is not at all accidental, as appears at the first glance, but offers valuable material for an inference.

Although separated from each other by five quarter centuries, the Czar and the King were at certain moments like two actors playing the same rôle. A passive, patient, but vindictive treachery was the distinctive trait of both – with this difference, that in Louis it was disguised with a dubious kindliness, in Nicholas with affability. They both make the impression of people who are overburdened by their job, but at the same time unwilling to give up even a part of those rights of which they are unable to make any use. The diaries of both, similar in style or lack of style, reveal the same depressing spiritual emptiness.

The Austrian woman and the Hessian German form also a striking symmetry. Both Queens stand above their Kings, not only in physical but also in moral growth. Marie Antoinette was less pious than Alexandra Feodorovna, and unlike the latter was passionately fond of pleasures. But both alike scorned the people, could not endure the thought of concessions, alike mistrusted the courage of their husbands, looking down upon them – Antoinette with a shade of contempt, Alexandra with pity.

When the authors of memoirs, approaching the Petersburg court of their day, assure us that Nicholas II, had he been a private individual, would have left a good memory behind him, they merely reproduce the long-ago stereotyped remarks about Louis XVI, not enriching in the least our knowledge either of history or of human nature.

We have already seen how Prince Lvov became indignant when, at the height of the tragic events of the first revolution, instead of a depressed Czar, he found before him a “jolly, sprightly little man in a raspberry-coloured shirt.” Without knowing it, the prince merely repeated the comment of Gouvernor Morris writing in Washington in 1790 about Louis: “What will you have from a creature who, situated as he is, eats and drinks and sleeps well, and laughs and is as merry a grig as lives?”

When Alexandra Feodorovna, three months before the fall of the monarchy, prophesies: “All is coming out for the best, the dreams of our Friend mean so much!” she merely repeats Marie Antoinette, who one month before the overthrow of the royal power wrote: “ I feel a liveliness of spirit, and something tells me that we shall soon be happy and safe.” They both see rainbow dreams as they drown.

Certain elements of similarity of course are accidental, and have the interest only of historic anecdotes. Infinitely more important are those traits of character which have been grafted, or more directly imposed, on a person by the mighty force of conditions, and which throw a sharp light on the interrelation of personality and the objective factors of history.

“He did not know how to wish: that was his chief trait of character,” says a reactionary French historian of Louis. Those words might have been written of Nicholas: neither of them knew how to wish, but both knew how to not wish. But what really could be “wished” by the last representatives of a hopelessly lost historic cause? “Usually he listened, smiled, and rarely decided upon anything. His first word was usually No.” Of whom is that written? Again of Capet. But if this is so, the manners of Nicholas were an absolute plagiarism. They both go toward the abyss “with the crown pushed down over their eyes.” But would it after all be easier to go to an abyss, which you cannot escape anyway, with your eyes open? What difference would it have made, as a matter of fact, if they had pushed the crown way back on their heads?

Some professional psychologist ought to draw up an anthology of the parallel expressions of Nicholas and Louis, Alexandra and Antoinette, and their courtiers. There would be no lack of material, and the result would be a highly instructive historic testimony in favor of the materialist psychology. Similar (of course, far from identical) irritations in similar conditions call out similar reflexes; the more powerful the irritation, the sooner it overcomes personal peculiarities. To a tickle, people react differently, but to a red-hot iron, alike. As a steam-hammer converts a sphere and a cube alike into sheet metal, so under the blow of too great and inexorable events resistances are smashed and the boundaries of “individuality” lost.

Louis and Nicholas were the last-born of a dynasty that had lived tumultuously. The well-known equability of them both, their tranquillity and “gaiety ” in difficult moments, were the well-bred expression of a meagreness of inner powers, a weakness of the nervous discharge, poverty of spiritual resources. Moral castrates, they were absolutely deprived of imagination and creative force. They had just enough brains to feel their own triviality, and they cherished an envious hostility toward everything gifted and significant. It fell to them both to rule a country in conditions of deep inner crisis and popular revolutionary awakening. Both of them fought off the intrusion of new ideas, and the tide of hostile forces. Indecisiveness, hypocrisy, and lying were in both cases the expression, not so much of personal weakness, as of the complete impossibility of holding fast to their hereditary positions.

And how was it with their wives? Alexandra, even more than Antoinette, was lifted to the very heights of the dreams of a princess, especially such a rural one as this Hessian, by her marriage with the unlimited despot of a powerful country. Both of them were filled to the brim with the consciousness of their high mission: Antoinette more frivolously, Alexandra in a spirit of Protestant bigotry translated into the Slavonic language of the Russian Church. An unlucky reign and a growing discontent of the people ruthlessly destroyed the fantastic world which these two enterprising but nevertheless chicken-like heads had built for themselves. Hence the growing bitterness, the gnawing hostility to an alien people that would not bow before them; the hatred toward ministers who wanted to give even a little consideration to that hostile world, to the country; hence their alienation even from their own court, and their continued irritation against a husband who had not fulfilled the expectations aroused by him as a bridegroom.

Historians and biographers of the psychological tendency not infrequently seek and find something purely personal and accidental where great historical forces are refracted through a personality. This is the same fault of vision as that of the courtiers who considered the last Russian Czar born “unlucky.” He himself believed that he was born under an unlucky star. In reality his ill-luck flowed from the contradictions between those old aims which he inherited from his ancestors and the new historic conditions in which he was placed. When the ancients said that Jupiter first makes mad those who whom he wishes to destroy, they summed up in superstitious form a profound historic observation. In the saying of Goethe about reason becoming nonsense – “Vernunft wird Unsinn” – this same thought is expressed about the impersonal Jupiter of the historical dialectic, which withdraws “reason” from historic institutions that have outlived themselves and condemns their defenders to failure. The scripts for the rôles of Romanov and Capet were prescribed by the general development of the historic drama; only the nuances of interpretation fell to the lot of the actors. The ill-luck of Nicholas, as of Louis, had its roots not in his personal horoscope, but in the historical horoscope of the bureaucratic-caste monarchy. They were both, chiefly and above all, the last-born offspring of absolutism. Their moral insignificance, deriving from their dynastic epigonism, gave the latter an especially malignant character.

You might object: if Alexander III had drunk less he might have lived a good deal longer, the revolution would have run into a very different make of czar, and no parallel with Louis XVI would have been possible. Such an objection, however, does not refute in the least what has been said above. We do not at all pretend to deny the significance of the personal in the mechanics of the historic process, nor the significance in the personal of the accidental. We only demand that a historic personality, with all its peculiarities, should not be taken as a bare list of psychological traits, but as a living reality grown out of definite social conditions and reacting upon them. As a rose does not lose its fragrance because the natural scientist points out upon what ingredients of soil and atmosphere it is nourished, so an exposure of the social roots of a personality does not remove from it either its aroma or its foul smell.

The consideration advanced above about a possible long life of Alexander III is capable of illuming this very problem from another side. Let us assume that this Alexander III had not become mixed up in 1904 in a war with Japan. This would have delayed the first revolution. For how long? It is possible that the “revolution of 1905” – that is, the first test of strength the first breach in the system of absolutism – would have been a mere introduction to the second, republican, and the third, proletarian revolution. Upon this question more or less interesting guesses are possible, but it is indubitable in any case that the revolution did not result from the character of Nicholas II, and that Alexander III would not have solved its problem. It is enough to remember that nowhere and never was the transition from the feudal to the bourgeois régime made without violent disturbances. We saw this only yesterday in China; today we observe it again in India. The most we can say is that this or that policy of the monarchy, this or that personality of the monarch, might have hastened or postponed the revolution and placed a certain imprint on its external course.

With what angry and impotent stubbornness charisma tried to defend itself in those last months, weeks and days, when its game was hopelessly lost! If Nicholas himself lacked the will the lack was made up by the Czarina. Rasputin was an instrument of the action of a clique which rabidly fought for self-preservation. Even on this narrow scale the personality of the Czar merges in a group which represents the coagulum of the past and its last convulsion. The “policy” of the upper circles a Tsarskoe Selo, face to face with the revolution, were but the reflexes of a poisoned and weak beast of prey. If you chase a wolf over the steppe in an automobile, the beast gives out at last and lies down impotent. But attempt to put a collar on him and he will try to tear you to pieces, or at least wound you.  And indeed what else can he do in the circumstances?

The liberals imagined there was something else he might do. Instead of coming to an agreement with the enfranchised bourgeoisie in good season and thus preventing the revolution — such is liberalism’s act of accusation against the last czar – Nicholas stubbornly shrank from concessions, and even in the last days when already under the knife of destiny, when every minute was to be counted, still kept on procrastinating, bargaining with fate, and letting slip the last possibilities. This all sounds convincing. But how unfortunate that liberalism, knowing so accurately how to save the monarchy, did not know how to save itself!

It would be absurd to maintain that czarism never and in no circumstances made concessions. It made them when they were demanded by the necessity of self-preservation. After the Crimean defeat, Alexander II carried out the semi-liberation of the peasants and a series of liberal reforms in the sphere of land administration, courts, press, educational institutions, etc. The czar himself expressed the guiding thought of this reformation: to free the peasants from above lest they free themselves from below. Under the drive of the first revolution Nicholas II granted a semi-constitution. Stolypin scrapped the peasant communes in order to broaden the arena of the capitalist forces. For czarism, however, all these reforms had a meaning only in so far as the partial concession preserved the whole – that is, the foundations of a caste society and the monarchy itself. When the consequences of the reform began to splash over those boundaries the monarchy inevitably beat a retreat. Alexander II in the second half of his reign stole back the reforms of the first half. Alexander III went still farther on the road of counter-reform. Nicholas II in October 1905 retreated before the revolution, and then afterward dissolved the Dumas created by it, and as soon as the revolution grew weak, made his coup d’état. Throughout three-quarters of a century – if we begin with the reform of Alexander II – there developed a struggle of historic forces, now underground, now in the open, far transcending the personal qualities of the separate Czars, and accomplishing the overthrow of the monarchy. Only within the historic framework of this process can you find a place for individual Czars, their characters, their “biographies.”

Even the most despotic of autocrats is but little similar to a “free” individuality laying its arbitrary imprint upon events. He is always the crowned agent of the privileged classes which are forming society in their own image. When these classes have not yet fulfilled their mission, then the monarchy is strong and self-confident. Then it has in its hands a reliable apparatus power and an unlimited choice of executives –because the more gifted people have not yet gone over into the hostile camp. Then the monarch, either personally, or through the mediation of a powerful favorite, may become the agent of a great and progressive historic task. It is quite otherwise when the sun of the old society is finally declining to the west. The privileged classes are now changed from organisers of the national life into a parasitic growth; having lost their guiding function, they lose the consciousness of their mission and all confidence in their powers. Their dissatisfaction with themselves becomes a dissatisfaction with the monarchy; the dynasty becomes isolated; the circle of people loyal to the death narrows down; their level sinks lower; meanwhile the dangers grow; new force are pushing up; the monarchy loses its capacity for any kin of creative initiative; it defends itself, it strikes back, it retreats; its activities acquire the automatism of mere reflexes. The semi Asiatic despotism of the Romanovs did not escape this fate.

If you take the czarism in its agony, in a vertical section, so to speak, Nicholas is the axis of a clique which has its roots the hopelessly condemned past. In a horizontal section of the historic monarchy, Nicholas is the last link in a dynastic chain. His nearest ancestors, who also in their day were merged in family, caste and bureaucratic collectivity – only a broader one – tried out various measures and methods of government order to protect the old social régime against the fate advancing upon it. But nevertheless they passed it on to Nicholas a chaotic empire already carrying the matured revolution in its womb. If he had any choice left, it was only between different roads to ruin.

Liberalism was dreaming of a monarchy on the British plan. But was parliamentarism born on the Thames by a peaceful evolution? Was it the fruit of the “free” foresight of a single monarch? No, it was deposited as the result of a struggle that lasted for ages, and in which one of the kings left his head at the crossroads.

The historic-psychological contrast mentioned above between the Romanovs and the Capets can, by the way, be aptly extended to the British royal pair of the epoch of the first revolution. Charles I revealed fundamentally the same combination of traits with which memoirists and historians have endowed Louis XVI and Nicholas II. “Charles, therefore, remained passive,” writes Montague, “yielded where he could not resist, betrayed how unwillingly he did so, and reaped no popularity, no confidence.” “He was not a stupid man,” says another historian of Charles Stuart, “but he lacked firmness of character … His evil fate was his wife, Henrietta, a Frenchwoman, sister of Louis XIII, saturated even more than Charles with the idea of absolutism.” We will not detail the characteristics of this third – chronologically first – royal pair to be crushed by a national revolution. We will merely observe that in England the hatred was concentrated above all on the queen, as a Frenchwoman and a papist, whom they accused of plotting with Rome, secret connections with the Irish rebels, and intrigues at the French court.

But England had, at any rate, ages at her disposal. She was the pioneer of bourgeois civilisation; she was not under the yoke of other nations, but on the contrary held them more and more under her yoke. She exploited the whole world. This softened the inner contradictions, accumulated conservatism, promoted an abundance and stability of fatty deposits in the form of a parasitic caste, in the form of a squirearchy, a monarchy, House of Lords, and the state church. Thanks to this exclusive historic privilege of development possessed by bourgeois England, conservatism combined with elasticity passed over from her institutions into her moral fibre. Various continental Philistines, like the Russian professor Miliukov, or the Austro-Marxist Otto Bauer, have not to this day ceased going into ecstasies over this fact. But exactly at the present moment, when England, hard pressed throughout the world, is squandering the last resources of her former privileged position, her conservatism is losing its elasticity, and even in the person of the Labourites is turning into stark reactionism. In the face of the Indian revolution the “socialist” MacDonald will find no other methods but those with which Nicholas II opposed the Russian revolution. Only a blind man could fail to see that Great Britain is headed for gigantic revolutionary earthquake shocks, in which the last fragments of her conservatism, her world domination, her present state machine, will go down without a trace. MacDonald is preparing these shocks no less successfully than did Nicholas II in time, and no less blindly. So here too, as we see, is no poor illustration of the problem of the rôle of the “free” personality in history.

But how could Russia with her belated development, coming along at the tail end of the European nations, with her meagre economic foundation underfoot, how could she develop an “elastic conservatism” of social forms-and develop it for the special benefit of professorial liberalism and its leftward shadow, reformist socialism? Russia was too far behind. And when world imperialism once took her in its grip, she had to pass through her political history in too brief a course. If Nicholas had gone to meet liberalism and replaced one with Miliukov, the development of events would have differed a little in form, not in substance. Indeed it was just in this way that Louis behaved in the second stage of the revolution, summoning the Gironde to power: this did not save Louis himself from guillotine, nor after him the Gironde. The accumulating social contradictions were bound to break through to the surface, breaking through to carry out their work of purgation. Before the pressure of the popular masses, who had at last brought into the open arena their misfortunes, their pains, intentions, passions, hopes, illusions and aims, the high-up combination of the monarchy with liberalism had only an episodic significance. They could exert, to be sure, an influence on the order of events maybe upon the number of actions, but not at all upon development of the drama nor its momentous climax.


Notes

1. The name of this station is also the Russian word meaning “bottom.” [Trans.]

100th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution: Trotsky on the Doomed Tsar and Tsarina

We present here the background to the great Russian Revolution of 1917 on its hundredth anniversary – as told by one of its chief organizers: Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution” is not only a great read: it is also an almost unique first-person account of a great revolution as told by one of its chief organizers.  It is almost unique among the histories of any revolution.  Most revolutionary leaders never lived to write their own history of the revolutions they led.  So from that standpoint alone, Trotsky’s “History” is of inestimable value – especially to workers who want to know the truth about the Bolshevik Revolution.

As part of our series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the very first successful communist-led workers revolution we present to our readers this excerpt from “The History of the Russian Revolution” by Leon Trotsky.  In it we will get a glimpse of the wonderful regime that was brutally destroyed by the extremists of the Bolshevik Party, led by Lenin and Trotsky.  This chapter that describes the repulsive chaRracters of the Tsar and Tsarina are among our favorite written works in any genre of literature.  This version of the book comes from the Marxists.org website at https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/hrr/ch04.htm   In the US we are taught to have sympathy for the executed Tsar and his family.  The hideousness of the regime is fully explored in this essay; workers who study the history of the disgusting Romanov dynasty will come to understand after reading this essay that this Tsarist regime deserves absolutely no sympathy at all.  Enjoy!

—IWPCHI

Leon Trotsky

The History of the Russian Revolution

Volume One: The Overthrow of Tzarism


Chapter 4
The Tzar and the Tzarina

 

This book will concern itself least of all with those unrelated psychological researches which are now so often substituted for social and historical analysis. Foremost in our field of vision will stand the great, moving forces of history, which are super-personal in character. Monarchy is one of them. But all these forces operate through people. And monarchy is by its very principle bound up with the personal. This in itself justifies an interest in the personality of that monarch whom the process of social development brought face to face with a revolution. Moreover, we hope to show in what follows, partially at least, just where in a personality the strictly personal ends – often much sooner than we think – and how frequently the “distinguishing traits” of a person are merely individual scratches made by a higher law of development.

Nicholas II inherited from his ancestors not only a giant empire, but also a revolution. And they did not bequeath him one quality which would have made him capable of governing an empire or even a province or a county. To that historic flood which was rolling its billows each one closer to the gates of his palace, the last Romanov opposed only a dumb indifference. It seemed as though between his consciousness and his epoch there stood some transparent but absolutely impenetrable medium.

People surrounding the tzar often recalled after the revolution that in the most tragic moments of his reign – at the time of the surrender of Port Arthur and the sinking of the fleet at Tsushima, and ten years later at the time of the retreat of the Russian troops from Galicia, and then two years later during the days preceding his abdication when all those around him were depressed, alarmed, shaken – Nicholas alone preserved his tranquillity. He would inquire as usual how many versts he had covered in his journeys about Russia, would recall episodes of hunting expeditions in the past, anecdotes of official meetings, would interest himself generally in the little rubbish of the day’s doings, while thunders roared over him and lightnings flashed. “What is this?” asked one of his attendant generals, “a gigantic, almost unbelievable self-restraint, the product of breeding, of a belief in the divine predetermination of events? Or is it inadequate consciousness?” The answer is more than half included in the question. The so-called “breeding” of the tzar, his ability to control himself in the most extraordinary circumstances, cannot be explained by a mere external training; its essence was an inner indifference, a poverty of spiritual forces, a weakness of the impulses of the will. That mask of indifference which was called breeding in certain circles, was a natural part of Nicholas at birth.

The tzar’s diary is the best of all testimony. From day to day and from year to year drags along upon its pages the depressing record of spiritual emptiness. “Walked long and killed two crows. Drank tea by daylight.” Promenades on foot, rides in a boat. And then again crows, and again tea. All on the borderline of physiology. Recollections of church ceremonies are jotted down in the same tome as a drinking party.

In the days preceding the opening of the State Duma, when the whole country was shaking with convulsions, Nicholas wrote: “April 14. Took a walk in a thin shirt and took up paddling again. Had tea in a balcony. Stana dined and took a ride with us. Read.” Not a word as to the subject of his reading. Some sentimental English romance? Or a report from the Police Department? “April 15: Accepted Witte’s resignation. Marie and Dmitri to dinner. Drove them home to the palace.”

On the day of the decision to dissolve the Duma, when the court as well as the liberal circles were going through a paroxysm of fright, the tzar wrote in his diary: “July 7. Friday. Very busy morning. Half hour late to breakfast with the officers … A storm came up and it was very muggy. We walked together. Received Goremykin. Signed a decree dissolving the Duma! Dined with Olga and Petia. Read all evening.” An exclamation point after the coming dissolution of the Duma is the highest expression of his emotions. The deputies of the dispersed Duma summoned the people to refuse to pay taxes. A series of military uprisings followed: in Sveaborg, Kronstadt, on ships, in army units. The revolutionary terror against high officials was renewed on an unheard-of scale. The tzar writes: “July 9. Sunday. It has happened! The Duma was closed today. At breakfast after Mass long faces were noticeable among many … The weather was fine. On our walk we met Uncle Misha who came over yesterday from Gatchina. Was quietly busy until dinner and all evening. Went padding in a canoe.” It was in a canoe he went paddling – that is told. But with what he was busy all evening is not indicated. So it was always.

And further in those same fatal days: “July 14. Got dressed and rode a bicycle to the bathing beach and bathed enjoyably in the sea.” “July 15. Bathed twice. It was very hot. Only us two at dinner. A storm passed over.” “July 19. Bathed in the morning. Received at the farm. Uncle Vladimir and Chagin lunched with us.” An insurrection and explosions of dynamite are barely touched upon with a single phrase, “Pretty doings!” – astonishing in its imperturbable indifference, which never rose to conscious cynicism.

“At 9:30 in the morning we rode out to the Caspian regiment … walked for a long time. The weather was wonderful. Bathed in the sea. After tea received Lvov and Guchkov.” Not a word of the fact that this unexpected reception of the two liberals was brought about by the attempt of Stolypin to include opposition leaders in his ministry. Prince Lvov, the future head of the Provisional Government, said of that reception at the time: “I expected to see the sovereign stricken with grief, but instead of that there came out to meet me a jolly sprightly fellow in a raspberry-coloured shirt.” The tzar’s outlook was not broader than that of a minor police official – with this difference, that the latter would have a better knowledge of reality and be less burdened with superstitions. The sole paper which Nicholas read for years, and from which he derived his ideas, was a weekly published on state revenue by Prince Meshchersky, a vile, bribed journalist of the reactionary bureaucratic clique, despised even in his own circle. The tzar kept his outlook unchanged through two wars and two revolutions. Between his consciousness and events stood always that impenetrable medium – indifference. Nicholas was called, not without foundation, a fatalist. It is only necessary to add that his fatalism was the exact opposite of an active belief in his “star.” Nicholas indeed considered himself unlucky. His fatalism was only a form of passive self-defence against historic evolution, and went hand in hand with an arbitrariness, trivial in psychological motivation, but monstrous in its consequences.

“I wish it and therefore it must be —,” writes Count Witte. “That motto appeared in all the activities of this weak ruler, who only through weakness did all the things which characterised his reign – a wholesale shedding of more or less innocent blood, for the most part without aim.”

Nicholas is sometimes compared with his half-crazy great-great-grandfather Paul, who was strangled by a camarilla acting in agreement with his own son, Alexander “the Blessed.” These two Romanovs were actually alike in their distrust of everybody due to a distrust of themselves, their touchiness as of omnipotent nobodies, their feeling of abnegation, their consciousness, as you might say, of being crowned pariahs. But Paul was incomparably more colourful; there was an element of fancy in his rantings, however irresponsible. In his descendant everything was dim; there was not one sharp trait.

Nicholas was not only unstable, but treacherous. Flatterers called him a charmer, bewitcher, because of his gentle way with the courtiers. But the tzar reserved his special caresses for just those officials whom he had decided to dismiss. Charmed beyond measure at a reception, the minister would go home and find a letter requesting his resignation. That was a kind of revenge on the tzar’s part for his own nonentity.

Nicholas recoiled in hostility before everything gifted and significant. He felt at ease only among completely mediocre and brainless people, saintly fakers, holy men, to whom he did not have to look up. He had his amour propre, indeed it was rather keen. But it was not active, not possessed of a grain of initiative, enviously defensive. He selected his ministers on a principle of continual deterioration. Men of brain and character he summoned only in extreme situations when there was no other way out, just as we call in a surgeon to save our lives. It was so with Witte, and afterwards with Stolypin. The tzar treated both with ill-concealed hostility. As soon as the crisis had passed, he hastened to part with these counsellors who were too tall for him. This selection operated so systematically that the president of the last Duma, Rodzianko, on the 7th of January 1917, with the revolution already knocking at the doors, ventured to say to the tzar: “Your Majesty, there is not one reliable or honest man left around you; all the best men have been removed or have retired. There remain only those of ill repute.”

All the efforts of the liberal bourgeoisie to find a common language with the court came to nothing. The tireless and noisy Rodzianko tried to shake up the tzar with his reports, but in vain. The latter gave no answer either to argument or to impudence, but quietly made ready to dissolve the Duma. Grand Duke Dmitri, a former favourite of the tzar, and future accomplice in the murder of Rasputin, complained to his colleague, Prince Yussupov, that the tzar at headquarters was becoming every day more indifferent to everything around him. In Dmitri’s opinion the tzar was being fed some kind of dope which had a benumbing action upon his spiritual faculties. “Rumours went round,” writes the liberal historian Miliukov, “that this condition of mental and moral apathy was sustained in the tzar by an increased use of alcohol.” This was all fancy or exaggeration. The tzar had no need of narcotics: the fatal “dope” was in his blood. Its symptoms merely seemed especially striking on the background of those great events of war and domestic crisis which led up to the revolution. Rasputin, who was a psychologist, said briefly of the tzar that he “lacked insides.”

This dim, equable and “well-bred” man was cruel – not with the active cruelty of Ivan the Terrible or of Peter, in the pursuit of historic aims – What had Nicholas the Second in common with them? – but with the cowardly cruelty of the late born, frightened at his own doom. At the very dawn of his reign Nicholas praised the Phanagoritsy regiment as “fine fellows” for shooting down workers. He always “read with satisfaction” how they flogged with whips the bob-haired girl-students, or cracked the heads of defenceless people during Jewish pogroms. This crowned black sheep gravitated with all his soul to the very dregs of society, the Black Hundred hooligans. He not only paid them generously from the state treasury, but loved to chat with them about their exploits, and would pardon them when they accidentally got mixed up in the murder of an opposition deputy. Witte, who stood at the head of the government during the putting down of the first revolution, has written in his memoirs: “When news of the useless cruel antics of the chiefs of those detachments reached the sovereign, they met with his approval, or in any case his defence.” In answer to the demand of the governor-general of the Baltic States that he stop a certain lieutenant-captain, Richter, who was “executing on his own authority and without trial non-resistant persons,” the tzar wrote on the report: “Ah, what a fine fellow!” Such encouragements are innumerable. This “charmer,” without will, without aim, without imagination, was more awful than all the tyrants of ancient and modern history.

The tzar was mightily under the influence of the tzarina, an influence which increased with the years and the difficulties. Together they constituted a kind of unit – and that combination shows already to what an extent the personal, under pressure of circumstances, is supplemented by the group. But first we must speak of the tzarina herself.

Maurice Paléologue, the French ambassador at Petrograd during the war, a refined psychologist for French academicians and janitresses, offers a meticulously licked portrait of the last tzarina: “Moral restlessness, a chronic sadness, infinite longing, intermittent ups and downs of strength, anguishing thoughts of the invisible other world, superstitions – are not all these traits, so clearly apparent in the personality of the empress, the characteristic traits of the Russian people?” Strange as it may seem, there is in this saccharine lie just a grain of truth. The Russian satirist Saltykov, with some justification, called the ministers and governors from among the Baltic barons “Germans with a Russian soul.” It is indubitable that aliens, in no way connected with the people, developed the most pure culture of the “genuine Russian” administrator.

But why did the people repay with such open hatred a tzarina who, in the words of Paléologue, had so completely assimilated their soul? The answer is simple. In order to justify her new situation, this German woman adopted with a kind of cold fury all the traditions and nuances of Russian mediaevalism, the most meagre and crude of all mediaevalisms, in that very period when the people were making mighty efforts to free themselves from it. This Hessian princess was literally possessed by the demon of autocracy. Having risen from her rural corner to the heights of Byzantine despotism, she would not for anything take a step down. In the orthodox religion she found a mysticism and a magic adapted to her new lot. She believed the more inflexibly in her vocation, the more naked became the foulness of the old régime. With a strong character and a gift for dry and hard exaltations, the tzarina supplemented the weak-willed tzar, ruling over him.

On March 17, 1916, a year before the revolution, when the tortured country was already writhing in the grip of defeat and ruin, the tzarina wrote to her husband at military headquarters: “You must not give indulgences, a responsible ministry, etc. … or anything that they want. This must be your war and your peace, and the honour yours and our fatherland’s, and not by any means the Duma’s. They have not the right to say a single word in these matters.” This was at any rate a thoroughgoing programme. And it was in just this way that she always had the whip hand over the continually vacillating tzar.

After Nicholas’ departure to the army in the capacity of fictitious commander-in-chief, the tzarina began openly to take charge of internal affairs. The ministers came to her with reports as to a regent. She entered into a conspiracy with a small camarilla against the Duma, against the ministers, against the staff-generals, against the whole world – to some extent indeed against the tzar. On December 6, 1916, the tzarina wrote to the tzar: “… Once you have said that you want to keep Protopopov, how does he (Premier Trepov) go against you? Bring down your fist on the table. Don’t yield. Be the boss. Obey your firm little wife and our Friend. Believe in us.” Again three days late: “You know you are right. Carry your head high. Command Trepov to work with him … Strike your fist on the table.” Those phrases sound as though they were made up, but they are taken from authentic letters. Besides, you cannot make up things like that.

On December 13 the tzarina suggest to the tzar: “Anything but this responsible ministry about which everybody has gone crazy. Everything is getting quiet and better, but people want to feel your hand. How long they have been saying to me, for whole years, the same thing: ’Russia loves to feel the whip.’ That is their nature!” This orthodox Hessian, with a Windsor upbringing and a Byzantine crown on her head, not only “incarnates” the Russian soul, but also organically despises it. Their nature demands the whip – writes the Russian tzarina to the Russian tzar about the Russian people, just two months and a half before the monarchy tips over into the abyss.

In contrast to her force of character, the intellectual force of the tzarina is not higher, but rather lower than her husband’s. Even more than he, she craves the society of simpletons. The close and long-lasting friendship of the tzar and tzarina with their lady-in-waiting Vyrubova gives a measure of the spiritual stature of this autocratic pair. Vyrubova has described herself as a fool, and this is not modesty. Witte, to whom one cannot deny an accurate eye, characterised her as “a most commonplace, stupid, Petersburg young lady, homely as a bubble in the biscuit dough.” In the society of this person, with whom elderly officials, ambassadors and financiers obsequiously flirted, and who had just enough brains not to forget about her own pockets, the tzar and tzarina would pass many hours, consulting her about affairs, corresponding with her and about her. She was more influential than the State Duma, and even that the ministry.

But Vyrubova herself was only an instrument of “The Friend,” whose authority superseded all three. “… This is my private opinion,” writes the tzarina to the tzar, “I will find out what our Friend thinks.” The opinion of the “Friend” is not private, it decides. “… I am firm,” insists the tzarina a few weeks later, “but listen to me, i.e. this means our Friend, and trust in everything … I suffer for you as for a gentle soft-hearted child – who needs guidance, but listens to bad counsellors, while a man sent by God is telling him what he should do.”

The Friend sent by God was Gregory Rasputin.

“… The prayers and the help of our Friend – then all will be well.”

“If we did not have Him, all would have been over long ago. I am absolutely convinced of that.”

Throughout the whole reign of Nicholas and Alexandra soothsayers and hysterics were imported for the court not only from all over Russia, but from other countries. Special official purveyors arose, who would gather around the momentary oracle, forming a powerful Upper Chamber attached to the monarch. There was no lack of bigoted old women with the title of countess, nor of functionaries weary of doing nothing, nor of financiers who had entire ministries in their hire. With a jealous eye on the unchartered competition of mesmerists and sorcerers, the high priesthood of the Orthodox Church would hasten to pry their way into the holy of holies of the intrigue. Witte called this ruling circle, against which he himself twice stubbed his toe, “the leprous court camarilla.”

The more isolated the dynasty became, and the more unsheltered the autocrat felt, the more he needed some help from the other world. Certain savages, in order to bring good weather, wave in the air a shingle on a string. The tzar and tzarina used shingles for the greatest variety of purposes. In the tzar’s train there was a whole chapel full of large and small images, and all sorts of fetiches, which were brought to bear, first against the Japanese, then against the German artillery.

The level of the court circle really had not changed much from generation to generation. Under Alexander II, called the “Liberator,” the grand dukes had sincerely believed in house spirits and witches. Under Alexander III it was no better, only quieter. The “leprous camarilla” had existed always, changed only its personnel and its method. Nicholas II did not create, but inherited from his ancestors, this court atmosphere of savage mediaevalism. But the country during these same decades had been changing, its problems growing more complex, its culture rising to a higher level. The court circle was thus left far behind.

Although the monarchy did under compulsion make concessions to the new forces, nevertheless inwardly it completely failed to become modernised. On the contrary it withdrew into itself. Its spirit of mediaevalism thickened under the pressure of hostility and fear, until it acquired the character of a disgusting nightmare overhanging the country.

Towards November 1905 – that is, at the most critical moment of the first revolution – the tzar writes in his diary: “We got acquainted with a man of God, Gregory, from the Tobolsk province.” That was Rasputin – a Siberian peasant with a bald scar on his head, the result of a beating for horse-stealing. Put forward at an appropriate moment, this “Man of God” soon found official helpers – or rather they found him – and thus was formed a new ruling class which got a firm hold of the tzarina, and through her of the tzar.

From the winter of 1913-14 it was openly said in Petersburg society that all high appointments, posts and contracts depended upon the Rasputin clique. The “Elder” himself gradually turned into a state institution. He was carefully guarded, and no less carefully sought after by the competing ministers. Spies of the Police Department kept a diary of his life by hours, and did not fail to report how on a visit to his home village of Pokrovsky he got into a drunken and bloody fight with his own father on the street. On the same day that this happened – September 9, 1915 – Rasputin sent two friendly telegrams, one to Tzarskoe Selo, to the tzarina, the other to headquarters to the tzar. In epic language the police spies registered from day to day the revels of the Friend. “He returned today 5 o’clock in the morning completely drunk.” “On the night of the 25-26th the actress V. spent the night with Rasputin.” “He arrived with Princess D. (the wife of a gentleman of the bedchamber of the Tzar’s court) at the Hotel Astoria.”…And right beside this: “Came home from Tzarskoe Selo about 11 o’clock in the evening.” “Rasputin came home with Princess Sh- very drunk and together they went out immediately.” In the morning or evening of the following day a trip to Tzarskoe Selo. To a sympathetic question from the spy as to why the Elder was thoughtful, the answer came: “Can’t decide whether to convoke the Duma or not.” And then again: “He came home at 5 in the morning pretty drunk.” Thus for months and years the melody was played on three keys: “Pretty drunk,” “Very drunk,” and “Completely drunk.” These communications of state importance were brought together and countersigned by the general of gendarmes, Gorbachev.

The bloom of Raputin’s influence lasted six years, the last years of the monarchy. “His life in Petrograd,” says Prince Yussupov, who participated to some extent in that life, and afterward killed Rasputin, “became a continual revel, the durnken debauch of a galley slave who had come into an unexpected fortune.” “I had at my disposition,” wrote the president of the Duma, Rodzianko, “a whole mass of letters from mothers whose daughters had been dishonoured by this insolent rake.” Nevertheless the Petrograd metropolitan, Pitirim, owed his position to Rasputin, as also the almost illiterate Archbishop Varnava. The Procuror of the Holy Synod, Sabler, was long sustained by Rasputin; and Premier Kokovtsev was removed at his wish, having refused to receive the “Elder.” Rasputin appointed Stürmer President of the Council of Ministers, Protopopov Minister of the Interior, the new Procuror of the Synod, Raev, and many others. The ambassador of the French republic, Paléologue, sought an interview with Rasputin, embraced him and cried, “Voilà, un véritable illuminé!” hoping in this way to win the heart of the tzarina to the cause of France. The Jew Simanovich, financial agent of the “Elder,” himself under the eye of the Secret Police as a nightclub gambler and usurer – introduced into the Ministry of Justice through Rasputin the completely dishonest creature Dobrovolsky.

“Keep by you the little list,” writes the tzarina to the tzar, in regard to new appointments. “Our friend has asked that you talk all this over with Protopopov.” Two days later: “Our friend says that Stürmer may remain a few days longer as President of the Council of Ministers.” And again: “Protopopov venerates our friend and will be blessed.”

On one of those days when the police spies were counting up the number of bottles and women, the tzarina grieved in a letter to the tzar: “They accuse Rasputin of kissing women, etc. Read the apostles; they kissed everybody as a form of greeting.” This reference to the apostles would hardly convince the police spies. In another letter the tzarina goes still farther. “During vespers I thought so much about our friend,” she writes, “how the Scribes and Pharisees are persecuting Christ pretending that they are so perfect … yes, in truth no man is a prophet in his own country.”

The comparison of Rasputin and Christ was customary in that circle, and by no means accidental. The alarm of the royal couple before the menacing forces of history was too sharp to be satisfied with an impersonal God and the futile shadow of a Biblical Christ. They needed a second coming of “the Son of Man.” In Rasputin the rejected and agonising monarchy found a Christ in its own image.

“If there had been no Rasputin,” said Senator Tagantsev, a man of the old régime, “it would have been necessary to invent one.” There is a good deal more in these words than their author imagined. If by the word hooliganism we understand the extreme expression of those anti-social parasite elements at the bottom of society, we may define Rasputinism as a crowned hooliganism at its very top.

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“Anarchists”, “Antifa” Liberals Unable to Distinguish Between Fascists and Right-wing Blowhard Yiannopoulos

Is Milo Yiannopoulos a “fascist”? What about Steve Bannon? Or Donald Trump?

How one defines “fascist” is critically important. When you define every right-wing person who hates immigrants a “fascist” then your ability to identify actual fascists disappears. You also single out these mere disgusting conservatives for extreme punishment of the sort communists and anarchists traditionally reserve for the actual fascists of the Ku Klux Klan or Nazis. This is wrong and it destroys the credibility of the revolutionary socialist and anarchist left in the eyes of the workers whose support we seek. It also plays right into the hands of the capitalist class and their fascist attack dogs by helping to camouflage the real fascists. The working class needs to be able to clearly distinguish between its pro-capitalist conservative political opponents and the fascist threat which is like a knife held to the throat of the working class.

Trotskyists seek scientific precision when making political characterizations of their opponents

Revolutionary Marxists employ scientific terminology to describe political phenomena just as natural scientists employ their own precisely-defined terminology to describe the elements of the natural world from sub-atomic particles to black holes. Revolutionary Marxism/Leninism/Trotskyism utilizes a more precise scientific method than the bourgeois scientists do: the scientific method of dialectical materialism. By carefully analyzing political movements and their leaders not, as with bourgeois political science, as discrete and fully-formed entities but as evolving phenomena, revolutionary Trotskyists seek to precisely characterize the class origins and trajectory of political movements. Our method is derided by vulgar bourgeois political scientists as being “too dogmatic”. In fact, bourgeois political scientists despise the dialectical materialist method of the revolutionary Marxists because it enables us to tear off the masks from the political movements arrayed against the working class that pretend to be on the side of the workers of the political movements – which pro-capitalist bourgeois political scientists have carefully created and maintained in the service of their capitalist masters. Scientific terminology is as indispensable to revolutionary Trotskyists as it is to mathematicians, physicists or surgeons because without that agreed-upon scientific terminology scientific inquiry and experimental work is impossible. It is as desirable to be precise when discussing politics before we act just as it is when surgeons utilize the precise scientific terminology of modern medicine, biology and anatomy before they operate. Utilizing precise scientific language when operating in the political world is far more important than using precise scientific terminology when preparing a surgical procedure on a single human being because in politics, not single lives but billions of lives are at stake. No one ridicules the surgeon for being “too dogmatic” when he’s preparing to perform open-heart surgery on a friend or relative. Political science requires the same kind of precision and for the same reasons. The wrong terminology, mistaken identification of the illness and inadequate description of the operation to be performed and the methods to be used often results in the loss of the patient. In political science, terminological imprecision results in massive human suffering and in deaths of millions of people. Words matter. Outside of the revolutionary Trotskyist movement, political terminology is bandied about in the same way that a 3-year-old handles a loaded gun: we are unfortunately witnessing that today in the case of our wayward anarchist and “antifa” friends who are going around calling mere repulsive conservatives “fascists”.

What is dialectical materialism and why is it important?

Marxism is even more reality-based than bourgeois science. Dialectical materialism is the scientific philosophy that the entire superstructure of revolutionary Marxism is based upon; it seeks to comprehend the material reality of the universe in toto, encompassing every aspect of a phenomenon and recognizing that nothing is permanent – everything is in a state of development and transition, from atoms to the universe itself. Bourgeois science tends to study things as discrete phenomena and struggles to conceive of the material world as something that is not permanent and unchanging (this is more true for some scientific disciplines than for others). This is a most serious problem for bourgeois political scientists and economists who, on top of the fact that they do not utilize the dialectical method of analysis of phenomena, which itself leads them into making enormous errors in their work, they are charged with the responsibility of covering up the truth about the fundamental nature of capitalist society. A major part of their job is to convince the workers of the world that the capitalist economic system and its corresponding political system is the highest form of human society possible; that it is “the best of all possible worlds”.

Marxists do not see the world in stark “black-and-white” terms as bourgeois political scientists do. We understand that the collective state of mind of the working class and the capitalist class and all of human society the world over are in a constant state of flux. We also recognize that there exist intermediate forms of matter that fluctuate from one state to another and back again – solid to liquid to gas to liquid to solid – and that this happens in the political world as well. During the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Cossacks – who had long been the Czar’s brutal anti-Semitic pogromists periodically unleashed to attack Jews and communists – became during the revolution some of the most heroic elements of the vanguard of the first successful workers revolution in world history – led by the communists of the Bolshevik Party, many of whose top leaders were Jews. Many of the Czar’s own top military officials also went over to the side of the Bolsheviks and helped create the Red Army. The Marxist worldview recognizes that there is only one constant in the material world: change. In political science we see the long historical view of the evolution of human society and understand that there are long periods of relative political stability that are broken up by periodic upheavals and revolutions after which the new social landscape is hardly recognizable in comparison with the social structure that existed before. We also recognize the capabilities of human beings to change their political beliefs over time. And this doesn’t just happen on the right-wing side of the political spectrum: Mussolini, who was the originator of fascism in Italy, began his political career as a revolutionary Marxist.

Bourgeois political scientists use vague, non-class-based terminology to hide the true nature of capitalist system

Imprecision in political science as well as all of the sciences in the capitalist world is part of the narrow worldview of the capitalist class which permeates all of human society under the capitalist mode of production. Bourgeois political scientists speak in very imprecise, non-class-based terms when they describe the political world around them. When Marxists speak of “fascism” and “fascists” our use of the term is precisely defined to describe a specific type of political philosophy and political fauna that arise out of the capitalist system in times of acute political and economic crisis. The bourgeois political world, mocking the precise scientific terminology of Marxism as being “hopelessly dogmatic” – has adopted terms that assist the pro-capitalist ideologists hide the true nature of the capitalist system from the eyes of the working class. For example: “The people” is used by bourgeois ideologists – and their fake-left “tails” – instead of the Marxists’ far more precise “working class” and “capitalist class” to describe “the masses”. “The people, united, will never be defeated” is a popular political slogan of the pro-capitalist bourgeois ideologues and the fake left. Why is it a pro-capitalist slogan? Because “the people, united” means “all classes united”: the rich and the poor, capitalist and worker, peasant and landlord. And when the exploited working class or peasantry “unites” politically and militarily with their exploiters – the capitalists and landlords – the workers and peasants will ALWAYS be defeated!

Simply by substituting the phrase “the people” for “the workers”, the bourgeois apologists for the capitalist system prepare the working class and peasantry psychologically to fall under the yoke of “reasonable” pro-capitalist political leadership: the working class and peasantry are politically disarmed by this simple, very popular and very deadly political formula! The Democrats love to chant “the people, united will never be defeated”. But change the words to “the workers, united, will never be defeated” and watch their big smiles turn to worried frowns! They know the difference between these two slogans – and so do their capitalist masters. There is a world of difference in terms of the political content of the two opposed slogans. One – “the people, united” – supports class-collaboration with the political representatives of the capitalist class and defends the capitalist system; the other – “the workers united” is a call for working class solidarity against the capitalist system. You can tell if you are a bourgeois liberal or not just by whether you can or can not discern the deep political difference between the two slogans. Bourgeois liberals insist revolutionary Trotskyists are just “being dogmatic” when we denounce the use of the term “the people”. They do that because they know we are unmasking them by revealing the true class nature of their favorite political slogan, which is in fact nothing more than a stratagem for leading the workers to walk blindly into the mousetrap of pro-capitalist politics!

Bourgeois ideologists speak of a vague, broad “middle class” that to the much more precise terminology of a Marxist is actually composed of three separate classes, the majority of which is merely the slightly more well-to-do section of the working class who make enough money to be able to afford to purchase their own homes. The vague, unscientific, vulgar terminology of the bourgeois political scientist obscures rather than clarifies the real class relationships that compose human society in the capitalist era. This is done – consciously or unconsciously – to confuse and divide the working class into antagonistic, imaginary sub-classes. In bourgeois political discourse we see that the term “working class” is barely even used; “middle class” is the term used to describe working class people who “rise” mysteriously into this “middle class”… the moment they become indentured servants for life to the banksters by draping themselves in the heavy chains of a home loan! In “third world” countries, hundreds of millions of dirt-poor peasants live in houses they built for themselves but no one describes the “homeowners” in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro as “middle class” – not even the epigones of vulgar bourgeois political science. Only the revolutionary Marxists (who today are known by the name of “Trotskyists”) consistently employ a truly scientific terminology in their political science. We do it because it is literally a matter of life or death.

Terminological precision is necessary in order to win the working class to a revolutionary socialist program dedicated to the overthrow of the capitalist system

The primary reason why scientifically precise political terminology is important in the eyes of revolutionary Trotskyist political scientists is because only the revolutionary Trotskyists actually seek – not to “peacefully coexist” with a capitalist system that became thoroughly reactionary more than a century and a half ago – but to overthrow it. The Trotskyists seek not to prolong the life of capitalism one more day but to overthrow the world’s capitalist system and replace it with a global alliance of egalitarian socialist workers states. The Trotskyists understand that if you want to change something you must first understand precisely what it is that you wish to change and determine what social forces can be enlisted on the side of the working class and what social forces can be expected to form up the ranks of the enemy capitalist class and its allies. Goals, in order to be achieved, must first be formulated with extreme precision and a program devised that is equally precise so that we can get to there from here. If we try to travel from Chicago to Paris but we neglect to purchase either a plane ticket or passage on an ocean-going vessel we will have a very difficult journey ahead of us.

Precise definition of the obstacles that lay ahead of us is necessary before we head out on this or any major endeavor. A revolutionary working class leader who can not detect the sometimes subtle shades of difference between “ally”, “neutral” and “mortal enemy” can only lead the working class into defeat; so precision is necessary when we analyze the class forces as they appear on the battle field: are they friends or enemies of the working class – or are they representatives of the undecided middle or petit-bourgeois class who will join either the side of the workers or the side of capitalist reaction depending on which side seems most likely to prevail in the event of a social revolution? Are the largely working-class ranks of these political movements or even military formations in a state of transition? How will they react to an appeal to join the ranks of the revolutionary workers party?

Before we analyze any political movement or leader we must determine their class origins and their political trajectory. Petit-bourgeois origins of fascism.

We live in a class society based on the capitalist mode of production. What determines, to a Marxist ones class identity depends not on whether or not you own a house but upon your relationship to the capitalist means of production: are you an owner of factories or a worker in a factory? Capitalist class society is fundamentally divided into two primary classes: the capitalist, exploiting class known by its precise Marxist name of “bourgeoisie”; and the exploited working class. In between these two classes lies not an amorphous and ambiguously-defined multi-class “middle class” but an intermediate class revolutionary Marxists call the “petit-bourgeoisie”. “Petit-bourgeoisie” is a term that was coined by the revolutionary French political scientists of the 1700s; it is a combination of the terms “petit” meaning “little or small” and the term “bourgeoisie” meaning wealthy capitalist or businessman. In modern times “petit-bourgeoisie” is equivalent to “small businessperson” who owns a business that exploits a number of workers who are not of his or her own family. This may all seem way off-topic but it is not, because in the Marxist analysis of capitalist society and of the phenomenon of the rise of fascism it is the petit-bourgeoisie that is the critical source of recruits to the fascist movement.

This “petit-bourgeoisie” is defined by Marxists as an intermediate and highly politically unstable class whose members have either risen from the ranks of the working class or are “de-classed” elements who have fallen out of the ranks of the bourgeoisie. The stereotypical petit-bourgeois generally admires and aspires to being wealthy someday and to eventually rise into (or back into) the ranks of the “big-bourgeoisie”, and simultaneously loathes the big bourgeoisie which rips off the small businesspeople at every opportunity and often threatens to wipe out the small businesspeople entirely. A good example of the “petit-bourgeoisie” is the owner of a small family-run grocery store that has been in a community for a hundred years and is now facing the destruction of its long-popular local business by the arrival in the community of a massive big bourgeoisie operation like WalMart. This is just one example: the petit-bourgeoisie includes not just small businesspeople but all manner of “self-employed” workers and artisans as well, from handymen to artists, actors and musicians. The petit-bourgeois is trapped between her admiration of the ruthless “self-made” billionaires like Donald Trump (or the multi-millionaire hip-hop or movie star with “her own” ridiculous jewelry, clothing and fragrance lines) and the hopeless struggle to survive in competition against rivals whose enormous purchasing power enable them to achieve economies of scale and to survive the inevitable periodic economic crises of the capitalist system.

The struggle of the petit-bourgeoisie to survive independently in an era of brutal competition from the big bourgeoisie creates anger and resentment in the petit-bourgeois. As his sales decline he “has to” cut wages to his workers or make unwanted cutbacks in his own standard of living. The small businessman is caught between the two fires of the working class and the big bourgeoisie, both of whose good will the small business person needs in order to survive.

He seeks political assistance from the local representatives of the major political parties: is there some way he can ban these big capitalist enterprises from coming into his town and ruining the small local businesses? But the major political parties are owned and operated by the big bourgeoisie and are discovered to be in the pay of the capitalist class! What can the petit-bourgeois do?

It is in this environment that the petit-bourgeois is driven to take sides in the great struggle between the capitalist and working classes. The petit-bourgeois has sympathy for the working class from which he and his family likely originated; yet he also admires the big bourgeoisie and wants to become a big success like, for example, the billionaire Walton family of WalMart fame. He might like to pay his workers higher wages but believes he can not afford to do so and still be able to live at the standard of living he feels he deserves – rightly or not. The formation of a union in his store would only, in his eyes, hasten the day of his company’s collapse. (Whether or not this is true means nothing under capitalism; capitalists big and small are “free” to do whatever they want with “their” money – stolen as it is from the working class. The capitalists deny that they bear any responsibility for unemployment, homelessness or any of the other social ills endemic to their system).

Vacillating petit-bourgeoisie must ultimately choose between giving support to working class or to the fascists

The revolutionary Marxists and the fascists offer the petit bourgeois two diametrically opposed ways out of this blind alley: the revolutionary socialists offer workers socialist revolution where the endless struggle for economic survival for the petit-bourgeois will itself cease and she will perhaps be given the money necessary to continue operating their small businesses from the new socialist government; the fascists “offer” a militarized capitalism where the rights of the citizenry are sharply curtailed, dissidents are imprisoned, trade unions are outlawed and revolutionaries and other “social undesirables” are put to death. For the more greed-inspired petit-bourgeois, this choice is not as easy as it would appear to be to you, a decent and honest worker.

As the class struggle heats up as a result of the declining standard of living forced upon the working and petit-bourgeois classes by the big bourgeoisie, the working class begins to organize itself in opposition to the big bourgeoisie and its predatory capitalist system. Those workers and petit-bourgeois who are anti-racist and pro-union gravitate towards the champions of workers rights and internationalism – the revolutionary Marxists-Trotskyists; those workers and petit-bourgeois who are racist and who hate unions and “reds” gravitate towards the ranks of the fascists.

The rise of Donald Trump indicates the start of a period of sharpened class struggle and increasing polarization of society between extremes of revolutionary socialism and fascism.

This is where the capitalist world stands in 2017. The political landscape in the US and Western Europe especially is becoming increasingly polarized between the pro-working class and anti-working class parties whose extremes are represented by the revolutionary internationalist Trotskyists and anarchists on the left and the union-hating ultra-nationalists financed more and more by the big bourgeoisie (Klan and Nazis) on the right. In between these two polar opposite camps in this transitional period are now appearing all kinds of intermediate characters whose semi-formed political ideologies borrow freely from both the fascist and the communist ideologies, depending on which way the political winds are blowing at any given time.

One of the most definitive qualities of the petit-bourgeoisie – this “middle class” caught between the two fires of the capitalists and the working class – is precisely this “flag in the wind” character of their politics. When the unions, led by the revolutionary Trotskyists are growing stronger, the petit-bourgeoisie presents a friendly face toward the workers and begins to place its hopes in a workers revolution to save the petit-bourgeois from economic ruin. If the revolutionary upsurge becomes powerful more and more of the petit-bourgeois join the ranks of the revolutionary workers parties. But when the unions are in decline – as they are now across the United States and Europe – and it looks like there is no pro-working-class revolutionary socialist solution to the problems of the petit-bourgeoisie on the horizon then the small businessman or woman looks to the racist, nationalist and even fascist parties for a “way out” of the economic and political impasse of collapsing capitalist society.

Capitalist class and their politicians scapegoat immigrants, refugees, religious and ethnic minorities in order to maintain their class rule by dividing and conquering the working class. Fascists are the capitalists’ weapons of last resort in this struggle.

In the United States in 2017 the long-running decline of the workers unions and the revolutionary political parties of the working class has led the petit-bourgeoisie – and the big bourgeoisie – into despair. The phenomenal emergence of the planned socialist economy of Maoist China as the world’s next economic superpower (which will blow past the United States within the next 10 years or maybe less) the capitalist world is thrown into political chaos. The greed-based capitalist economies can only increase their profits by driving down the wages of the workers of the “first world” to the level of those workers in the brutally exploited “third world”. In every capitalist country we see attack after attack on social programs and on the high wages won over centuries of struggle by the trade unions. The capitalist class and its media try to pretend that it is not the capitalist system that is responsible for driving down the workers’ standard of living. To make their getaway complete the capitalists use the old ruse from the famous story of the thief who escapes capture by pointing to another person and shouting “Stop, thief!” The capitalists look for scapegoats they can point the workers towards in order that they, the capitalists can get away with their stolen booty. “Stop, thief!” the capitalist screams, and points to… the immigrant workers. “Stop, thief!” the capitalist hollers again, and points to… the refugees. “Stop, thief!” the capitalist yells again and this time points to… the Chinese. “Look! They are all stealing your jobs!” shouts the capitalist – and as soon as the workers, led by the fascists, are off attacking their innocent immigrant, refugee Muslim or Jewish brothers and sisters… the capitalist gathers up all the workers’ money and heads to his bank, chuckling all the way.

In this way the capitalists whip up racist anti-immigrant and anti-refugee campaigns to cover up the fact that it is indeed the capitalist system itself that is to blame for the endlessly declining standard of living of the working class. With even the capitalists’ own economic institutes producing scientific study after scientific study PROVING that it is the capitalist system itself that is at the root of all economic problems, the capitalist class begins to spread outright lies through its media outlets to confuse the working class and keep the workers fighting each other instead of uniting to overthrow the capitalist class that is systematically robbing all the workers blind.

Yiannopoulos, Bannon and their kind are merely right-wing conservative demagogues, transitional figures between bourgeois democracy and fascism – they are not “fascists”

The fascists feed on the capitalists lies that immigrants are at the root of the economic decline of the working class. They are only too willing to help the big bourgeoisie smash the communists and trade unionists whose demands for higher wages and increased social spending can only come out of the pockets of the bourgeoisie – big and “petit”. With the union movement in decline, the petit-bourgeois licks his finger and holds it up into the air and determines that the wind is indeed blowing strongest from the direction of the fascist parties; and so she begins to overcome her disgust for the more vulgar political ideas of the fascists and moves closer, step by step, to the fascist camp.

To facilitate this transition of the petit-bourgeoisie towards the fascist camp all kinds of transitional figures emerge as if on cue. Sensing that they can profit from the indecision and confusion that reigns among the middle-class and large sections even of the working class, these people freely borrow elements of the political program of the communist left and the fascist right and duct-tape together a ramshackle political “program” that is a more palatable version of a supposedly “neutral” middle ground between the two extremes. This is the milieu of the “alt-right” swamp inhabited by such shady characters as Milo Yiannopoulos, Steve Bannon, Alex Jones and a whole slew of half-bright right-wing ideologues. Their “fascism-lite” program is a bridge between what had once been the “traditional” conservatism of, say, a George Bush pere and the more extreme and even fascist right wing. These transitional figures may express elements of the fascist program from time to time – but that alone does not make them “fascists”. We must recognize them as what they are and calibrate our responses to them accordingly. Should a sleazy right-wing provocateur like Milo Yiannopoulos or Steve Bannon get the same treatment from anti-fascist worker-militants as an outright Klansman like David Duke? This is the question.

Fascists represent not merely a political but a mortal threat to the physical existence of workers movement.

Fascism represents a mortal threat to the lives of the workers all over the world. Fascist political parties and leaders find ready financing from the ranks of the capitalist class and, in Europe, from the monarchist remnants of the old aristocratic ruling families as well. These people fear the power of the working class and would rather drown the working class of their own countries in blood rather than allow the workers to seize power. The capitalist class and the aristocrats know all too well that they have committed massive crimes against the workers of the entire world, and they live in mortal terror of what will happen to them if the revolutionary workers ever erase that “thin blue line” of police that protects them.

Fascists are hired by the capitalists and the aristocrats precisely to draw a line in workers blood when an upsurge of worker militancy threatens the continued existence of the capitalist system. When the typical methods of police brutality no longer suffice to keep the working class in check, the capitalists finance, arm and unleash their fascist wolf packs. The fascist stormtroopers are not politicians looking to discuss politics: they are psychologically deranged xenophobes who seek not merely to discriminate against workers of color, immigrants, gays, religious minorities and militant workers of all political persuasions, but to physically exterminate us! Fascist ideology represents a qualitative leap beyond “mere” intolerance into organized mass pogroms against every racial and religious group they despise. The Nazis do not seek to merely “deport” immigrants and Muslims: they want to impose a “final solution” – the complete physical extermination – of people they identify as being social undesirables”. There is a world of difference between a right-wing bourgeois politician who espouses a disgusting program to deport immigrants and a fascist who wants to hunt down Mexican workers as they cross the border and shoot them dead the moment they cross the line!

Yiannopoulos, Bannon and Trump are not “fascists” – they should not be treated as such.

As revolutionary Trotskyists we uphold the free speech rights of right-wing blowhards like Milo Yiannopoulos, Steve Bannon and yes even Donald Trump; we might protest their appearance wherever they wish to speak; we would debate them in public if the opportunity arose – in order to expose their political bankruptcy and (in Trump’s case) murderous criminality. But we do not physically attack them or try to deny them their free speech rights – because they are not actually “fascists”. Milo Yiannopoulos, for example, is a gay, white man who brags at his public appearances about having sex with black men – which alone would make him a target of the fascists, not one of their leaders. He has repeatedly sued various newspapers and magazines that have called him a “white supremacist” and has won retractions from several of them. This is not the kind of thing an actual fascist or white supremacist would do. Many of his political statements skewering the “political correctness” campaigns of the campus liberals are quite accurate. His criticisms of the Democratic Party as well often hit their mark – and that is why the bourgeois liberals hate him. He calls Donald Trump his “Daddy” – he’s quite pathetic, really. Many of his opinions are objectionable and amount to bigotry, like his hatred of Muslims. But none of this right-wing bloviating amounts to a fascist program of the physical extermination of his political opponents. Having read several of his speeches he’s given in the past year on various US college campuses, we must conclude that Milo Yiannopoulos is simply not a fascist. It is not easy for an openly gay man to join the ranks of the Klan or Nazis (although there were many gay men in Hitler’s retinue in the early days of National Socialism). But they didn’t remain in the fascist ranks for long because Hitler had most of his gay followers either executed or put in concentration camps. “Good luck” to Milo if he wants someday to “transition” into becoming a fascist!

The “antifa” who think Yiannopoulos is a fascist are simply wrong. They’ve been led astray by their leaders’ lack of a coherent revolutionary Marxist political program and their vague understanding of what fascism is and what it isn’t.  They go crazy and mobilize their members to rampage across the Berkeley campus to stop a pathetic self-hating gay conservative while completely ignoring the fact that imperialist pig  John Yoo – “the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice” who “discovered” the “legal justification” for US imperialism’s use of torture against suspected terrorists – trains young lawyers as a professor of law on the very same campus!  Yoo deserves to be driven off campus, not Milo.  Yiannopoulos needs to be debated – or ignored.

For the record, Donald Trump is also not a fascist – even though he has expressed concepts that are borrowed – probably, like most of his “philosophy”, semi-consciously – from the fascist program, like his calling illegal Mexican immigrants “rapists and murderers”. Trump is a disgusting, right-wing capitalist (and now as President, US imperialist) pig – but he is not a fascist! Not yet anyway. If Donald Trump was a fascist, we would not be able to write articles advocating the overthrow of the US capitalist class: we’d either be dead or we’d be in a prison or a concentration camp! If Donald Trump was a fascist, anarchists, communists,illegal immigrants and Muslims (Anti-Islamism being the 2017 version, in the USA, of Hitlerite anti-Semitism) would be getting rounded up and thrown into concentration camps to die – or just be summarily executed – and that would be that! Fascism is orders of magnitude worse than mere “right-wing conservatism” or even the majority of the people who self-identify as “alt-right”. The “alt-right” are in a transitional phase of development; these “alt-righters” must be kept under close observation so when they actually move into the fascist camp they can be treated accordingly. In the meantime they must be combatted politically, not physically! An intelligent, rational revolutionary socialist workers party programme can win these “middle of the road” and even many right-wing workers over to the side of the revolutionary working class. To simply write off whole sections of the working class as eternally compromised because they voted for Trump is absolutely asinine. We need to present the working class with a programme that truly represents their interests and which presents a realistic prospect for a prosperous future for all the working class in a post-capitalist world. The fascists can only promise workers a future of global war, hate, bloodshed and misery under capitalism! If revolutionary Trotskyists do our jobs properly we will win the vacillating “petit-bourgeoisie” and undecided workers to our side – and the fascists and their “alt-right” movement will evaporate like piss on hot asphalt.

For the actual fascists – whose “debating methods” are guns, knives and the lynch rope – we deny that they have any “right” to speak at all!

We seek to physically drive the fascists out of human society permanently! We understand that fascists do not want to be part of the great human race and that fascists represent a MORTAL, DEADLY THREAT to human civilization itself! Fascist meetings and rallies and public speaking tours should be disrupted if they can’t be prevented from happening in the first place and the fascists themselves, personally, as the great Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky advised, “should have their heads acquainted with the pavement”! The mass murder of workers by Mussolini and Hitler’s fascists – and by the Japanese fascists in the 1930s and ’40s must never be allowed to happen again!

As revolutionary Trotskyists we seek to lead the working class to the Marxist/Leninist understanding that the working class will never enjoy the right to the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, health care and education) nor will basic human rights (womens’ and LGBTQ rights, an end to all racial, sexual and religious discrimination and bigotry) ever be made secure under the capitalist system – which is fundamentally based on the exploitation of the working class and which employs racism, religious bigotry and sexuality to divide and conquer the working class. We want to provide the clear-sighted and principled revolutionary Trotskyist political leadership that is necessary in order for the working class to successfully overthrow capitalism and to replace it with a worldwide alliance of racially integrated, egalitarian socialist workers republics. To achieve that goal we must have a clear understanding of who our mortal enemies are; we can not go off running around calling every right-wing jerk who blurts out a stream of bigoted invective a “fascist” and go and lead workers to launch physical attacks against them! This kind of political gangsterism and adventurism confuses the working class: when everyone is labeled “fascist” then no one is a fascist! The ability of workers to distinguish between run-of-the-mill right-wing assholes and the far more deadly fascist foe is entirely lost, and the politically miseducated working class becomes an even easier target for the fascist gangs.

Lack of coherent, revolutionary Marxist programme leads “Anarchistsand “Antifa” astray

In the recent protests against Milo Yiannopoulos we see the political confusion of the anarchists of the “antifa” movement leading them into launching physical attacks on Yiannopoulos as if he was an actual fascist. Yiannopoulos is a transitional figure of the “alt-right” who lies somewhere between right-wing conservatism and fascism. He does not advocate the extermination of immigrants or other “undesirable” elements of the working class. Yiannopoulos is not a fascist: he is an “opening act” for the fascists! Yiannopoulos and his ilk are preparing the road for the rise of fascism; they are creating “safe spaces” inside universities and major cities in which the fascists may operate. But they are NOT “fascists”!

One of the tremendous weaknesses of the “anarchist” movement is the total absence of any political party structure that includes a collectively agreed-upon revolutionary Marxist political programme. This political nebulosity and confusion allows all kinds of heterogeneous political characters to pass themselves off as “anarchists”. Unlike the revolutionary Trotskyists who have a well-thought-out and openly proclaimed political programme which every member of a Trotskyist political party must agree to uphold before they can become even a prospective party member, in the anarchist “movement” it’s “everybody into the pool!” There are pro-capitalist anarchists, anti-abortion anarchists, anti-communist anarchists; you name it, the anarchist movement’s got it. Because the anarchists deny the obvious necessity of the formation of a cohesive political party around a revolutionary party programme, they allow all kinds of cretins into their ranks who simply like to pretend to be revolutionaries. If you ask one hundred anarchists what their political programme is you’ll get one hundred different answers. The only thing all anarchists agree on is their puerile opposition to any kind of “state” – especially a revolutionary socialist “worker’s state”! This fundamental political bankruptcy of the anarchist movement is the primary reason why whenever anarchists are placed in a position of political power they always wind up supporting the capitalist state as “the lesser evil” in comparison to a workers’ state (we’ve just seen this phenomenon once again with “anarchist” leaders in Iceland’s Pirate Party). History has shown the absolute necessity for the working class to establish a workers’ state in order to create the basis for the initial establishment of socialism and for the suppression of the overthrown capitalist class which will not simply concede defeat and walk away the minute they are deposed. Because the anarchists refuse on principle to build a workers state to defend and consolidate the gains of the successful workers revolution they will NEVER be able to lead a successful workers revolution, period! This is why real worker-revolutionaries should reject the lame “politics” of the anarchists.

The anarchist and “antifa” leaders that are going all out to stop the conservative bigot Yiannopoulos and his supporters as if they were all fascists are simply exposing their political bankruptcy for all the workers of the world to see – and are falling into a political trap laid by the right-wing bigots behind Breitbart “News”.  They are leading their members blindly into this set-up; and they and their naive members will suffer arrest, jailings, fines and the probable destruction of their organizations – all because they can’t tell the difference between a Nazi and a dollar-store right-wing blowhard! And these crazy youth who fantasize about just going around “punching a fascist in the face”? Look: if you can’t tell the difference between a real fascist and a bozo like Yiannopoulos do the revolutionary workers movement a favor and just take up MMA instead. You’re just going to give anarchism and the “antifa” movement a reputation as being “those idiots who go around punching people in the face”. That is not righteous revolutionary activism, it’s thugishness and a profound embarassment to the workers movement!

We must warn the working class of the mortal danger that fascism represents and we must put the “alt-right” on notice that the working class is keeping them under strict observation – and the moment they cross over the line to fascism they will become recognized as such and will become the mortal enemies of the organized working class and will be treated the same way we treat the fascists: they will “have their heads acquainted with the pavement”!

We defend those antifa activists who bravely defend the working class from actual fascists; but we will not defend those politically confused pseudo-anarchists who “call themselves” “antifa” but who physically attack people who are NOT fascists! We will be happy to patiently explain to any honest “antifa” or anarchist activist how to tell the difference between a fascist and a right-wing blowhard “opening actfor the fascists like Yiannopoulos.

Workers have the right to physically confront the fascists wherever they raise their heads. The police in a capitalist state have always and will always “protect and serve” their capitalist masters and their fascist gangs.

Pro-capitalist liberals of the Democratic Party and the fake-left groups howl when they see workers and students out in the streets defending themselves and society from fascist and neo-fascist mobilizations. The liberals want workers to rely not on their own organized strength – which the Democrats and their capitalist patrons fear above all else! – but on the police forces of the capitalist state to stop the fascists “if they get out of hand”; they also defend the “free speech rights” of the fascist scum.

As revolutionary Trotskyists we know that the police can never be depended upon to stop the fascists as the role of the police in a capitalist state is to protect and serve the capitalist class and their investments. And the capitalist class own and operate the fascist parties so that they may use them to smash the most powerful opponents of unrestrained exploitation of the working class by the capitalist class: the trade unions and the revolutionary socialist and anarchist parties. Time and time again we have seen, in capitalist countries all over the world, police agencies chock full of fascists and proto-fascists. In Chicago, many of the police are so racist they can’t even restrain themselves from using vile racist slurs on the police radio system when they KNOW they are being monitored by their superiors!

The FBI did a study in 2006 (17oct2006_fbi_doc-26-white-supremacist-infiltration) that exposed the degree to which fascists and white supremacists had “infiltrated” the police agencies of the United States. Dozens of police departments north and south were discovered to harbor gangs of fascist white supremacists (a fact which every black and Hispanic worker or cop in the US has known for ages).  The Southern Poverty Law Center, also in 2006, published proof that the US military is also packed with white supremacist Nazi elements – and has done almost nothing about it. The US military harbors and trains thousands of white supremacist lunatics and provides them with practice opportunities against “real world” targets all over the globe.   Once they are done slaughtering people for the US capitalist class overseas and their tours of duty are over, many of these lunatics return home and get jobs working for local and state police agencies.  Is is any wonder, then, that time and again we have seen these fascist-ridden police departments deployed to protect the Klan and Nazis, and once the Klan and Nazis’ provocation is over… THE COPS ATTACK THE ANTI-KLAN/NAZI PROTESTORS!  The fascist-ridden police departments of the US are world-infamous for their brutal murders of unarmed black and Hispanic citizens. These are the kind of “neutral” arbiters of “public order” we have prowling the streets of US cities with badge and guns – not the “Officer Friendly” fantasy the liberals and fake-leftists want workers to rely on for “protection” from the Klan and Nazis!  These are the Nazi-ridden police departments run – in almost every major US city – and defended by the “lesser eveil Democratic Party!

The police in a capitalist state are NOT “neutral arbiters” between the workers and the fascists but are one of the “special bodies of armed men and women” who exist to defend the class privileges and stolen wealth of the capitalist class and to keep the working class “in their place”. That means that when the capitalist class decides to unleash their fascist attack dogs to smash the workers movement the police can ALWAYS be expected to “protect and defend” the interests of the capitalists by “protecting and defending” the fascists!

Not small groups of activists but millions of workers organized in workers’ defense guard battalions based on the trade unions must be created to effectively smash the fascist threat in the egg!

The working class must create workers defense guards to defend the working class from the mortal danger that the fascist threat represents – whenever and wherever it appears. It is not a job for small groups of anarchists or socialists to “substitute themselves” for the integrated working class in defending human society from the fascists. Anarchists and socialists must go out and organize workers of all races, creeds and colors wherever they are: at work, at union meetings, at their places of worship, and urge them to join with us in confronting the fascist threat because it is particularly the minority workers who will be the first targets of the fascists if they become emboldened enough to operate openly in our cities. Only the effective mobilization of millions of workers into integrated workers defense guard battalions can effectively counter and crush the fascist movement in the egg. These battalions must be based on the organized power of the trade unions who are also among the top targets of the fascists. This has been done before quite effectively here in the US and around the world and it can and must be done again. Fascism? NEVER AGAIN!

It is tragic that honest political activists are led by political charlatans into physically attacking right-wing creeps who pose no serious threat to anyone – exposing those activists to brutal police attacks, arrests, jailing, and perhaps even death at the hands of racist (and often fascist) cops and prison guards! We must carefully choose our enemies so as not to squander our limited, precious and noble real antifascist activists on attacks against conservative windmills! We must organize and prepare ourselves to defend our working class sisters and brothers against our deadliest enemies: the real fascists whenever and wherever they appear. We must also not seek to substitute handfuls of heroic and self-sacrificing antifa and revolutionary socialist activists for the huge numbers of union workers of all races, creeds, colors – and political persuasions – who must be organized and brought into the streets to confront and crush the actual fascists whenever and wherever they raise their heads! We need to organize MILLIONS of worker-activists, especially in the potential bastions of working class power – the trade unions – into disciplined battalions of worker-militants in order to crush the fascist movement in the egg. Only the revolutionary Trotskyists have a class-struggle programme time-tested and successful that can not merely combat all the many forms of fascism from the Black Hundreds of Bolshevik Russia to the Ku Klux Klan but which can put an end once and for all to the capitalist system that creates, nurtures, organizes, finances and unleashes the fascist hordes to smash the workers movement. Every successful workers revolution in world history has had at its head a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries with a revolutionary program for the overthrow of the old regime and for the creation of a workers government. We need to build a Trotskyist vanguard party now to lead the next wave of workers revolutions – in the US and around the world – so all future generations can live in a world where xenophobic fascism no longer exists! JOIN US!

To smash fascism once and for all time we say: capitalism must die so that the working class may live!

IWPCHI

For Trotskyist Political Revolution to Defend and Extend the Gains of the Cuban Revolution! A Response to Ross Wolfe

We republish our response to Ross Wolfe’s

Fidel Castro on the Frankfurt School

— a disgusting anti-communist rant slandering late Stalinist revolutionary leader Fidel Castro which he published on his sometimes interesting but ultimately reactionary blog “The Charnel-House”.

Pretending to be a form of Trotskyism, “State-capitalists” are those who, like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the USA, espouse the belief that the USSR, China and all the Stalinist/Maoist workers states (which Trotsky accurately described as “deformed workers states” that should be defended at all costs as historic gains of the workers’ movement) are in fact a new form of capitalist state that should be completely overthrown.  When the USSR collapsed it was one of the greatest defeats the working classes of the world ever suffered; the “State-capitalists” – along with the capitalist classes and the fascists of the world – celebrated its self-immolation.  We warn the workers of the world: those who call themselves “state-capitalists” are among the greatest enemies of the working class and have always proven in the end to be among the staunchest defenders of capitalism as the “lesser evil” in comparison to Stalinism.  They pretend to be Trotskyists but are unalterably opposed to Trotsky’s concept that the USSR was a bloc of bureaucratized, deformed workers states that had overthrown capitalism and therefore should be defended by the Trotskyists worldwide; he called for only a POLITICAL revolution to oust the bureaucracy in favor of a more democratic socialist workers republic.

Ever since the historic workers and peasants revolution led by Lenin’s Bolsheviks in 1917 whether or not they defended the USSR  has been a litmus test for all so-called “Marxist” workers parties.  “Those who can not defend old conquests will never make new ones” is a quote attributed to Trotsky in relation to this controversy.  When the USSR collapsed all the phony “workers parties” in the world celebrated this historic defeat for the workers of the world.  They pretend today that the “Defense of the USSR” is a moot point; in fact, as even such a relatively minor event as the death of Fidel Castro shows, any party’s response to “The Russian Question” (as it was known until the collapse of the USSR) enables us to make a very accurate characterization of the extent of their revolutionary Leninist/Trotskyist principles (or, more often, the lack thereof).

Unfortunately we do not have time to go into this in more detail.  We recommend that you read Trotsky’s  “In Defense of Marxism” (IDOM) which is a series of articles and letters Trotsky wrote attacking the Burnham/Schactman faction in the then-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the US.  Trotsky succinctly describes the reasons why the USSR had to be defended by revolutionary Marxist/Leninists in  “Again and Once More Again on the Nature of the USSR”

which is included in IDOM.

— IWPCHI

Thank you Ross Wolfe, et al, for once again confirming Trotsky’s warning to workers not to follow the “state-capitalist” road. It leads to outright political disorientation and to counterrevolutionary collaboration with the capitalist class.

Castro was a Stalinist, yes. Like most people on the planet he was not a “red diaper baby”. He was forced to embrace Stalinism when the United States made it clear that there would be no acceptance of the Cuban revolution by the US capitalist class and their allies. Yet Castro must be considered to have been one of the great – if massively contradictory – revolutionary leaders of the 20th century. The Cuban Revolution transformed Cuba from being the “whorehouse of the Caribbean” to being one of the most egalitarian and civilized nation states in the entire Western Hemisphere – indeed, in the world! Even the most cursory comparison between Cuba and Haiti or the Dominican Republic – or even Puerto Rico or vast swathes of the USA – proves the superiority of even a backward Stalinist bureaucratic regime to the typical brutal satrapies of the capitalist nation-states of the region – or even that capitalist monstrosity of monstrosities the United States itself! Anyone who cannot see the tremendous gains the Cuban workers and peasants made under the – (perhaps it would be more precise to call it “Khruschevized”) – Castro regime as compared to what they suffered under the Batista regime is absolutely blind!

Attempting an analysis of the deeply contradictory nature of a phenomenon such as a Stalinized workers state is where the dialectical materialist method proves its indispensability. An analysis of the contradictory nature of a Stalinist workers state cries out for the nuanced and very comprehensive analysis only made possible through use of the dialectical materialist method as taught by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. The death of Castro provides a litmus test of every “Trotskyist”‘s ability to utilize this method of analysis in the same way that a successful solo crossing of the Atlantic by sailboat using only the most essential manual tools for navigation proves the skill of a sailor. You, Ross Wolfe and Ashmeet Teemsha – and all your “State-Capitalist” co-thinkers – have once again failed the test comprehensively. By now you should have learned that your “state-capitalist” analysis of the USSR and its progeny is rotten through-and-through. That you have not done so demonstrates your profound inadequacy as proletarian leadership material. Your chosen vessel – let’s call it “Burnham’s Folly” (with its obviously rotten, worm-eaten hull) – has never made , will never make – it CAN NOT MAKE its pretended destination!

Like all Stalinists, Castro was a man of many contradictions. Pursuing revolutionary socialist reconstruction of the Cuban economy one year and then breaking bread with the Pope the next. Praising Allende one year and standing side-by-side with his murderer and the butcher of the Chilean working class Pinochet later. This is where the anti-Marxist and nationalistic ideology of Stalinism leads: to make unprincipled blocs with the class enemy in all its forms over and over again.

But to claim that Stalinism is entirely counterrevolutionary – as Trotsky patiently explained – is absurd even on the face of things. Capitalism was indeed overthrown in Cuba and a Stalinist bureaucracy erected to defend then gains of that revolution which was, unlike the USSR’s, deformed at birth. The Castroists pursued the typical course of the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union which the Cuban Stalinist bureaucracy was modeled after: a zig-zag course full of unprincipled compromises and the occasional outburst of honorable internationalist impulses, as demonstrated in the heroic Cuban effort in Angola. To call Castro and his regime “counterrevolutionary” through and through and to refuse to recognise and defend the very real gains of the Stalinized Cuban Workers and Peasants’ revolution is to make a mockery of Marxist analysis. It is to place oneself FAR OUTSIDE the revolutionary Trotskyist movement and on a trajectory identical to that of arch-counterrevolutionary James Burnham.

In what way are your anti-Castro and anti-Stalinist statements to be distinguished from those of the most virulently anticommunist capitalists, or even the fascists? “Fidel Castro, Sta­lin­ist butcher and en­emy of the work­ers, is dead. [Good fucking riddance.”] The work­ing class won’t be happy un­til the last bur­eau­crat is hung with the in­test­ines of the last cap­it­al­ist.” This is not Trotskyism. It is pure, rabid, emotional anticommunism. Anti-Stalinism taken to an absurd length; where the well-engineered and time-tested tools that enable one to make a rational, carefully considered dialectical materialist analysis are tossed aside and replaced with cheaper, poorly crafted non-dialectical tools that can only create outrageously hysterical emotional outbursts. Using those cheap tools to craft your “analysis” of the Cuban revolution and one of its principal leaders, you find yourselves standing on a creaky platform of your own construction among your co-thinkers in the anti-communist Cuban gusano exile community in places like Miami, Florida; your words and theirs almost identical. You try to win these rotten elements over to your side politically by utilizing their entirely subjective and pro-capitalist analysis of Cuba in place of a scientific, Trotskyist dialectical materialist analysis. And you poison the minds of the workers by pretending to be Marxist revolutionaries – Trotskyists even! – while howling along with the anticommunist mobs chanting slogans indistinguishable from those of even the fascists.

Immediately after Castro died, we warned the working class to keep an eye out for those who are seeking to utilize the death of Fidel Castro as an opportunity for slandering him and the Cuban deformed Stalinist workers state, as these people thereby expose themselves as the mortal enemies of the working class they truly are. You have taken up your rightful position as such enemies of the working class and this lesson must never be – will never be – forgotten by young proletarians who are seeking to lead the workers of the world to the long-delayed (principally by fake-Marxist “leaders” like you!) final victory over the capitalist class. In the last analysis, today’s State Capitalist “Marxists” will prove to be as counterrevolutionary as were all the “state-caps” that came before them. You are headed down the road of the repulsive anticommunist James Burnham, not the road of Lenin and Leon Trotsky. You are well on your way to a rapprochement with “the lesser evil” capitalist class and their bribed lackeys. Some of you made that deal long, long ago and are deliberately trying to destroy the workers movement by spreading your anti-Trotskyist poison. The working class has no use for “leaders” like you! Be on your way! And “good fucking riddance”!

Workers: Defend the Cuban Revolution! For Trotskyist political revolution in Cuba to Defend and Extend the Gains of the Cuban Revolution Throughout the Americas!

Independent Workers Party of Chicago

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Leon Trotsky Gives the Best Explanation Ever of Dialectical Materialism

We present to our readers what is probably the best, most concise and easy to follow explanation of what exactly is the essence of Marxist dialectics – the philosophy of dialectical materialism.  Suffice it to say that any worker who tries to comprehend political science without the benefit of the materialist Marxist dialectic will find herself in a world of confusion – like the bourgeois philosophers, economists and political scientists themselves.

What is the use of studying Marxism and Marxist dialectics?  It is quite simply a matter of life and death for the working class.  For example:  revolutionary Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyists understand that capitalist society is a class society and is divided primarily into two classed: the capitalist class of exploiters and the working class of the exploited.  The class interests of these two classes are irreconcilably counterposed to each other.  There can be no “peace” between these two classes since the capitalists must ruthlessly exploit the workers in order to maintain their massive wealth, and the capitalist class state maintains an enormous repressive apparatus of cops, courts, jails and the military to crush the workers every time the workers try to fight for their rights.

When a political party rejects the Marxist dialectical method of reasoning, it loses its compass and can no longer find its way in the world; it can no longer serve as a revolutionary leadership for the working class.  A tragic example of this can be found in the Colombian Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo (FARC–EP),  (FARC for short).  This formerly formally “Marxist” political party has just concluded a “peace” agreement with the murderous Colombian capitalist class.  They have told their members that “peace” between the exploiters and exploited is possible under capitalism and they have declared to the world that they have achieved a “peace” agreement with the same politicians and government that has murdered tens of thousands of workers and peasants in the past century.  In fact the ex-Marxist renegades of FARC who, up until a few years ago, felt it was absolutely necessary to organize a revolutionary army in order to defend themselves from the Colombian capitalist class death squads and military forces has now become so disoriented since they have abandoned the Marxist dialectical method of reasoning that they are ordering their members to SURRENDER THEIR WEAPONS TO THE U.N. as part of this “peace” swindle!  Needless to say, the Colombian capitalist class has absolutely no intention of giving up THEIR weapons – or the weapons in the possession of their death squads either!   The last time FARC tried to obtain a “peace” agreement with the Colombian capitalist class and run candidates in “free and democratic elections, dozens of their leaders and at least 4 to 6 THOUSAND of their sympathisers and party members were murdered by the Colombian military and death squads organized and financed by the capitalists and big landlords! FARC has learned nothing from this tragic failure of their party leadership, and in 2016, having abandoned revolutionary Marxism (and by extension the Marxist dialectical method of reasoning that would have prevented them from making the same hideous mistake twice in just thirty years), they have betrayed the Colombian workers and peasants once again.  THAT is what happens to fake “Marxists” – and, more tragically, to the workers who follow them – when they abandon the Marxist method of dialectical materialism! (We have repeatedly tried to warn FARC away from concluding a “peace” agreement with the capitalists and away from agreeing to disarm, to no avail.)

There is really no need for an introduction or explanation of this material except to say that it is part of the series of Trotsky’s letters and essays that make up the book “In Defense of Marxism” which was published (and continues to be published) by Pathfinder Press;  our version comes from the Marxist Internet Archive and was proofread and checked with our edition of “In Defense of Marxism” (3d edition), Pathfinder Press, 1981.  We have edited it slightly; where excisions have been made we place the following: […].

— IWPCHI

Leon Trotsky: The ABC of Materialist Dialectics

[…]

The dialectic is neither fiction nor mysticism, but a science of the forms of our thinking insofar as it is not limited to the daily problems of life but attempts to arrive at an understanding of more complicated and drawn-out processes. The dialectic and formal logic bear a relationship similar to that between higher and lower mathematics.

I will here attempt to sketch the substance of the problem in a very concise form. The Aristotelian logic of the simple syllogism starts from the proposition that “A” is equal to “A.” This postulate is accepted as an axiom for a multitude of practical human actions and elementary generalizations. But in reality “A” is not equal to “A.” This is easy to prove if we observe these two letters under a lens – they are quite different from each other. But, one can object, the question is not of the size or the form of the letters, since they are only symbols for equal quantities, for instance, a pound of sugar. The objection is beside the point; in reality a pound of sugar is never equal to a pound of sugar – a more delicate scale always discloses a difference. Again one can object: but a pound of sugar is equal to itself. Neither is this true – all bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, color, etc. They are never equal to themselves. A sophist will respond that a pound of sugar is equal to itself “at any given moment.” Aside from the extremely dubious practical value of this “axiom,” it does not withstand theoretical criticism either. How should we really conceive the word “moment”? If it is an infinitesimal interval of time, then a pound of sugar is subjected during the course of that “moment” to inevitable changes. Or is the “moment” a purely mathematical abstraction, that is, a zero of time? But everything exists in time; and existence itself is an uninterrupted process of transformation; time is consequently a fundamental element of existence. Thus the axiom “A” is equal to “A” signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is, if it does not exist.

At first glance it could seem that these “subtleties” are useless. In reality they are of decisive significance. The axiom “A” is equal to “A” appears on one hand to be the point of departure for all our knowledge, on the other hand the point of departure for all the errors in our knowledge. To make use of the axiom “A” is equal to “A” with impunity is possible only within certain limits. When quantitative changes in “A” are negligible for the task at hand then we can presume that “A” is equal to “A.” This is, for example, the manner in which a buyer and a seller consider a pound of sugar. We consider the temperature of the sun likewise. Until recently we considered the buying power of the dollar in the same way. But quantitative changes beyond certain limits become converted into qualitative. A pound of sugar subjected to the action of water or kerosene ceases to be a pound of sugar. A dollar in the embrace of a president ceases to be a dollar. To determine at the right moment the critical point where quantity changes into quality is one of the most important and difficult tasks in all the spheres of knowledge including sociology.

Every worker knows that it is impossible to make two completely equal objects. In the elaboration of bearing-brass into cone bearings, a certain deviation is allowed for the cones which should not, however, go beyond certain limits (this is called tolerance). By observing the norms of tolerance, the cones are considered as being equal. (“A” is equal to “A.”) When the tolerance is exceeded the quantity goes over into quality; in other words, the cone bearings become inferior or completely worthless.

Our scientific thinking is only a part of our general practice including techniques. For concepts there also exists “tolerance” which is established not by formal logic issuing from the axiom “A” is equal to “A,” but by dialectical logic issuing from the axiom that everything is always changing. “Common sense” is characterized by the fact that it systematically exceeds dialectical “tolerance.”

Vulgar thought operates with such concepts as capitalism, morals, freedom, workers’ state, etc. as fixed abstractions, presuming that capitalism is equal to capitalism, morals are equal to morals, etc. Dialectical thinking analyzes all things and phenomena in their continuous change, while determining in the material conditions of those changes that critical limit beyond which “A” ceases to be “A”, a workers’ state ceases to be a workers’ state.

The fundamental flaw of vulgar thought lies in the fact that it wishes to content itself with motionless imprints of a reality which consists of eternal motion. Dialectical thinking gives to concepts, by means of closer approximations, corrections, concretizations, a richness of content and flexibility; I would even say a succulence which to a certain extent brings them close to living phenomena. Not capitalism in general, but a given capitalism at a given stage of development. Not a workers’ state in general, but a given workers’ state in a backward country in an imperialist encirclement, etc.

Dialectical thinking is related to vulgar thinking in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion. Dialectics does not deny the syllogism, but teaches us to combine syllogisms in such a way as to bring our understanding closer to the eternally changing reality. Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradictions, conflict of content and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc., which are just as important for theoretical thought as is the simple syllogism for more elementary tasks.

Hegel wrote before Darwin and before Marx. Thanks to the powerful impulse given to thought by the French Revolution, Hegel anticipated the general movement of science. But because it was only an anticipation, although by a genius, it received from Hegel an idealistic character. Hegel operated with ideological shadows as the ultimate reality. Marx demonstrated that the movement of these ideological shadows reflected nothing but the movement of material bodies.

We call our dialectic, materialist, since its roots are neither in heaven nor in the depths of our “free will,” but in objective reality, in nature. Consciousness grew out of the unconscious, psychology out of physiology, the organic world out of the inorganic, the solar system out of nebulae. On all the rungs of this ladder of development, the quantitative changes were transformed into qualitative. Our thought, including dialectical thought, is only one of the forms of the expression of changing matter. There is place within this system for neither God, nor Devil, nor immortal soul, nor eternal norms of laws and morals. The dialectic of thinking, having grown out of the dialectic of nature, possesses consequently a thoroughly materialist character.

Darwinism, which explained the evolution of species through quantitative transformations passing into qualitative, was the highest triumph of the dialectic in the whole field of organic matter. Another great triumph was the discovery of the table of atomic weights of chemical elements and further the transformation of one element into another.

With these transformations (species, elements, etc.) is closely linked the question of classification, equally important in the natural as in the social sciences. Linmeus’ system (18th century), utilizing as its starting point the immutability of species, was limited to the description and classification of plants according to their external characteristics. The infantile period of botany is analogous to the infantile period of logic, since the forms of our thought develop like everything that lives. Only decisive repudiation of the idea of fixed species, only the study of the history of the evolution of plants and their anatomy prepared the basis for a really scientific classification.

Marx, who in distinction from Darwin was a conscious dialectician, discovered a basis for the scientific classification of human societies in the development of their productive forces and the structure of the relations of ownership which constitute the anatomy of society. Marxism substituted for the vulgar descriptive classification of societies and states, which even up to now still flourishes in the universities, a materialistic dialectical classification. Only through using the method of Marx is it possible correctly to determine both the concept of a workers’ state and the moment of its downfall.

All this, as we see, contains nothing “metaphysical” or “scholastic,” as conceited ignorance affirms. Dialectic logic expresses the laws of motion in contemporary scientific thought. The struggle against materialist dialectics on the contrary expresses a distant past, conservatism of the petty bourgeoisie, the self-conceit of university routinists and … a spark of hope for an after-life.

=== FINITO===

 

 

The Origins of Exposing Government Secrets: The Russian Revolution Leads to Publication of Secret Treaties of “Democratic Europe”

As you can imagine, we love the Russian Revolution of 1917, which was one of the most successful and bold of all time and which initially attempted, heroically and against daunting odds, to bring the concept of a workers revolutionary government from the realm of theory into practice.

The Russian Revolution triumphed because Tsarism had completely discredited itself among the people of Russia.  The nation was exhausted by its participation in WWI, which, by late 1917, saw Russian peasants and workers being conscripted and sent to the front without weapons, or even shoes.  Alone among the opposition to the Tsarist government, the Bolsheviks promised the country that if they took power, the first act of the revolutionary socialist government would be to declare an end to the bloodbath the capitalists of the world had plunged the workers into since 1914.  And the Bolsheviks kept their word – to the horror and shock of the capitalist world, who were making quite massive profits from the bloodbath in Europe.

Another promise the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky made – and kept – was their promise upon seizing power to publish the full text of all the secret treaties that had been worked out between the “democratic” Allied powers for the redivision of the nations of the “third world” depending on which side “won” the war.  Of course, the “Great Democracies” denied that such treaties existed, but the Bolsheviks blew those lies to smithereens when they placed before the eyes of the entire world these priceless gems of bourgeois “diplomacy”, revealing its greedy, bloodthirsty and racist nature.  The damage done to human civilization by this post-WWI carve-up of the defeated countries reverberates to this day, especially in the Middle East.  The fact that the capitalist world has continued to lie to the workers for 100 additional years about its vicious secret “diplomacy” when we have known for more than a century just what a savage gang of scumbags they are is a sad commentary on the working class willingness to be led around like dogs on a leash by our capitalist “masters”.

We are pleased to present to our readers this early example of “whistleblowing” writ large, by the leaders of one of the great revolutionary movements of all time: the Bolsheviks.

The great Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky wrote this preface to the publication of the secret treaties:

“Secret diplomacy is a necessary weapon in the hands of a propertied minority, which is compelled to deceive the majority in order to make the latter obey its interests. Imperialism, with its world-wide plans of annexation, and its rapacious alliances and arrangements, has developed to the highest extent the system of secret diplomacy. The struggle against Imperialism, which has ruined and drained of their blood the peoples of Europe, means at the same time the struggle against capitalist diplomacy, which has good reason to fear the light of day. The Russian people, as well as the peoples of Europe and of the whole world, must know the documentary truth about those plots which were hatched in secret by financiers and industrialists, together with their Parliamentary and diplomatic agents. The peoples of Europe have earned the right to know the truth about these things, owing to their innumerable sacrifices and the universal economic ruin.

“To abolish secret diplomacy is the first condition of an honourable, popular, and really democratic foreign policy. The Soviet Government makes the introduction of such a policy its object. For this reason, while openly offering to all the belligerent peoples and their Governments an immediate armistice, we publish simultaneously those treaties and agreements which have lost all their obligatory force for the Russian workmen, soldiers, and peasants, who have taken the Government into their hands….

“Bourgeois politicians and journalists of Germany and Austria-Hungary may endeavour to profit by the published documents in order to represent in a favourable light the diplomacy of the Central Empires. But every effort in this direction would be doomed to failure for two reasons. In the first place we intend shortly to put before the public secret documents which will show up clearly the diplomacy of the Central Empires. In the second place-and this is the chief point-the methods of secret diplomacy are just as international as Imperialist rapacity. When the German proletariat by revolutionary means gets access to the secrets of its Government chancelleries, it will produce from them documents of just the same nature as those which we are now publishing. It is to be hoped that this will happen as soon as possible.

“The Government of workmen and peasants abolishes secret diplomacy, with its intrigues, figures, and lies. We have nothing to conceal. Our programme formulates the passionate wishes of millions of workmen, soldiers, and peasants. We desire a speedy peace, so that the peoples may honourably live and work together. We desire a speedy deposition of the supremacy of capital. In revealing before the whole world the work of the governing classes as it is expressed in the secret documents of diplomacy, we turn to the workers with that appeal which will always form the basis of our foreign policy: ‘Proletariats of all countries, unite!’

“L. TROTSKI, People’s Commissioner for Foreign Affairs.”*

Enjoy!

IWPCHI

The Secret Treaties and Understandings

This text is courtesy of and copyrighted by the Great War Primary Document Archive at http://www.gwpda.org/