A Contribution from Russia: The Unidentified Class: Soviet Bureaucracy as seen by Leon Trotsky

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A Contribution from Russia: The Unidentified Class: Soviet Bureaucracy as seen by Leon Trotsky
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: A Contribution from Russia: The Unidentified Class: Soviet Bureaucracy as seen by Leon Trotsky. The discussion was initiated by Fred.
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This informative article is

This informative article is interesting on the relationship between Trotsky and Stalin, and the extent to which Trotsky ever really understood what Stalin was up to, or was prepared to admit the truth of what the bureaucracy and comrade Stalin actually were ie. a new and "disguised" type of ruling class.

Trotsky made the question of his attitude towards the Stalinists completely explicit in an unpublished article-interview written in December 1932: "Today, as before, we are ready for co-operation in many forms with the present ruling fraction. Question: Are you as a result ready to co-operate with Stalin? Answer: Without any doubt".

Yet in his "My Life: Autobiography" written in 1929, it becomes very apparent that Trotsky intensely disliked Stalin and regarded him with a frosty distrust which he shared on many occasions with Lenin. This is in the period when Trotsky was living dangerously on his train and traveling all over Russia attempting the defense of a crumbling revolution in 1918-19.

He describes an occasion when one, Menzhinsky, visits him on the train and asks him: "Was I aware that Stalin was conducting a very complicated intrigue against me."
"What!" I said in sheer bewilderment..."
"Yes, he is insinuating to Lenin and some others, that you are grouping men about you who are especially hostile to Lenin."
"You must be mad, Menzhinsky..." declares Trotsky in dismissive tone.

But, after a few hours, he writes: "I began to feel as if something was the matter with me...He had disquieted me as surely as if I had swallowed a piece of glass with my food." ( My Life: paperback edition, p. 449)

Is it the novelist in Trotsky at work here, or does he have a short memory? For on many occasions in this book, prior to Menzhinsky's visit,Trotsky has himself expressed great suspicion and even anxiety about the peculiar and political activities of comrade Stalin. Yet why has he only "swallowed the piece of glass" now? And did he regurgitate it again later to be back on Stalin's side -well, sort of - in 1932?

Perhaps Trotsky was so committed to the revolution that it was impossible for him ever to consider it might have failed, or ever to admit to himself that Stalin and his henchmen were working to benefit themselves by the revolution's collapse; or just seeking to save their own skins in bourgeois style. This is a pity for us who have hindsight. For, as we read Trotsky now, it is puzzling that such a great proletarian revolutionary, such a great intelligence for the cause of humanity's future, should be so easily taken-in and conned by the likes of a rather pathetic - as he is presented by Trotsky - and very watered down Bolshevik such as Stalin. But then Lenin was fooled for a time too. Was Stalin a masterful Machiavellian monster, or were Lenin and Trotsky too trusting as can be the way with those who embrace the proletarian world view?

Are they the only options?

It could be that Trotsky was prepared to collaborate with Stalin, even though he knew Stalin had manoeuvred against him, because he thought that that was the best way to ensure that the revolution stayed truer to the course he thought it should, and realised that his preferred option, complete removal of the 'Stalin faction', wasn't an option. After all, Trotsky had a pretty high opinion of himself and a low opinion of Stalin, and may have thought that if he could engineer his return he could start rebuilding his own faction in the party.


I don't see it as being in opposition to his position around 1925, reportedly summed up by 'with Stalin against Bukharin, perhaps, with Bukharin against Stalin, never' (though I can't actually find a source for the quote).

As time goes by, I'm less

As time goes by, I'm less sympathetic to Trotsky; in all aspects (his theories, his activities, his activity in the party and out of the party, the fourth international, everything). Bonapartism etc. is an abomination. I don't think his theoretical contributions were that great; some of his economic writings are interesting (The Curve of Capitalist Development is probably the only paper written by Trotsky that I consider an important text). Maybe if he had stayed in the US and played the role of the 'American Lenin' like Draper writes about in 'The History of American Communism', maybe things would've been different.

That's an interesting comment

That's an interesting comment about Trotsky mhou. He writes so well that you can get swept along by his vitality and intelligence and tend to turn down critical reaction a bit. But he certainly has a very high opinion of himself and his abilities, and generally (in his "My Life" at any rate) he has a low opinion of everyone else EXCEPT FOR HIS BELOVED LENIN who he idolizes. But then he's not against using Lenin in the fight against Stalin and the epigones. The problem for me is that, try as I might to supress it, I keep thinking how bourgeois the Bolsheviks all sound in Trotsky's representation of them. And Trotsky too of course. I don't want to have this response, but sometimes they come across as left wing parliamentarians, or labour party ministers in cabinet and at each others throats. I keep thinking: communists shouldn't be talking and thinking like this. This is bourgeois behavior. Where is the working class and its thought in all of this. Where is working class consciousness and attitude to life? It just isn't showing through. It's been repressed or rejected, or ignored - don't know which - in favor of the more traditional, well-established bourgeois way of ruling, with government ministers competing with each other for favours and approval. The Soviets of course, in their first great outpouring of consciouness and understanding, triumphantly surpassed the small-minded bourgeois outlook on life, only to find themselves later ignored by the very same militants who had initially clarified the way forward for everyone in a mutual learning process. Now these former revolutionaries were behaving more like bourgeois representatives; competing with each other in cabinet meetings, and vying for approval and self-aggrandizement in the pecking order. A sad story of a failed revolution.

If there's ever going to be a "next time", we certainly know what not to do!