A Contribution to the Political Biography of Stalin
Eight post-Leninist years of struggle, eight years of struggle against Trotsky, eight years of the regime of the epigones – first the “troika” [triumvirate], then the “semerka” [septemvirate] and, finally, “the one and only” – this entire highly important period of the downward sweep of the revolution, its ebbings on an international scale, and the decline in revolutionary theory, have brought us to a most crucial point. In the bureaucratic triumph of Stalin a great historical zone is summarized and, at the same time, the impending inevitability of the defeat of the bureaucracy is signalized. The attainment by the bureaucracy of its culmination is the harbinger of its crisis, which may prove far more rapid than was its growth and rise. The regime of national-socialism, together with its hero, is subject to the blows, not only of inner contradictions, but also of the international movement. The world crisis will impart to the latter a number of new impulsions. The proletarian vanguard will be unable, and will refuse to suffocate, in the vise of a Molotov leadership. The personal responsibility of Stalin is committed beyond evasion. Doubt and alarm have crept into the hearts of even those who are best schooled. But Stalin cannot give more than he has. The downfall in store for him may prove all the more precipitate, the more artificial the nature of his rise.
In the following pages, we aim to provide certain materials for Stalin’s political biography. Our materials are very incomplete. We have selected the most essential data from among our archives. But our archives still lack many essential and, it may be, most important materials and documents. From among the archives of the police department, which for decades intercepted and copied the letters of revolutionists, documents, etc., Stalin has been assiduously gathering during the past years those materials which would enable him, on the one hand, to keep a tight rein on his insufficiently reliable friends and to cast a shadow on his opponents, while, first and foremost, securing himself and his associates against the publication of any one of the excerpts or episodes which are injurious to the false “monolithism” of the artificially manufactured biographies. We do not possess these documents. In evaluating the materials published below, the reader should bear in mind the extreme incompleteness of our information.
1. On December 23, 1925, the closest friends of Stalin published in the party newspaper Zarya Vostoka the following police report, dating hack to 1903:
“According to the recent information received by me from our agents, Djugashvili [Stalin] was known in the organization under the nicknames S080 and Koba; since 1902, he has been active in the social democratic party organization first as a Menshevik, and then as a Bolshevik, as the propagandist and leader of the first [railway] region.”
No refutations of this police report on Stalin made public by his partisans have appeared anywhere, so far as we know. It appears from the report that Stalin began his activities as a Menshevik.
2. In 1905, Stalin was a member of the Bolsheviks and took an active part in the struggle. What were his views and actions in 1905? What were his views as to the character of the revolution and its perspectives? To our knowledge, there are no documents in circulation on this score. No articles, speeches or resolutions by Stalin have been reprinted. Why? Evidently because a republication of Stalin’s articles or letters for that period could only damage his political biography. There is no other explanation for the stubborn oblivion that enshrouds the past of the “leader.”
3. In 1907, Stalin took part in the “expropriation” of the Tiflis bank. The Mensheviks, in the wake of bourgeois philistines, have expressed no little indignation at the “conspiratorial” methods of Bolshevism, and its “anarcho-Blanquism.” We can have only one attitude toward this indignation, namely, contempt. His participation in a bold, even if a partial, blow dealt to the enemy can only do honor to the revolutionary resoluteness of Stalin. One can only be astonished, however, as to why this fact has been deleted in a cowardly manner from all the official biographies of Stalin? Was it done, perhaps, in the name of bureaucratic respectability? We venture to think not. The reasons are most probably political. For, while participation in an expropriation cannot in itself in any way compromise a revolutionist in the eyes of revolutionists, a false political evaluation of the then existing situation does compromise Stalin as a politician. Partial blows to the institutions of the enemy, including “treasuries”, are compatible only with a mass offensive, i.e., the upsurge of the revolution. With the masses in retreat, partial, isolated and partisan blows inevitably degenerate into adventures and lead to the demoralization of the party. In 1907, the revolution was receding, and the expropriations degenerated into adventures. In any case, Stalin gave proof even in that period that he was incapable of distinguishing the ebb-tide from the flood-tide. He was to reveal this incapacity to orient himself politically on a broad scale more than once in the future (Esthonia, Bulgaria, Canton, the “Third Period”).
4. From the time of the first revolution, Stalin led the life of a professional revolutionist. Jail, exiles, escapes. But for the entire period of reaction (1907-1911) we do not find a single document containing Stalin’s formulation of his own estimate of the situation and its perspectives. It is impossible for them not to have been preserved, even if only in the archives of the police department. Why have they not appeared in print? The reason is as clear as noonday: They are of such nature as renders it impossible to strengthen the silly characterization of theoretical and political infallibility that the apparatus is creating for Stalin, i.e., for itself.
5. Only a single letter pertaining to that period has appeared through an oversight in the press – and it wholly confirms our hypothesis.
On January 24, 1911, Stalin wrote from exile to his friends, and this letter, that had been intercepted by the police department, was reprinted on December 28, 1925, by the self-same editorial board of Zarya Vostoka, none too rational in its zeal. Here is what Stalin wrote:
“We have of course heard from abroad of the ‘tempest in a teapot’ there; the blocs between Lenin-Plekhanov, on the one hand, and between Trotsky-Martov-Bogdanov, on the other. The attitude of the workers towards the first bloc is, so far as I know, favorable. But the workers are generally beginning to look with disdain on what’s going on abroad: Let them climb the walls to their heart’s content. So far as we ourselves are concerned, whoever holds dear the interest of the movement, will keep on working, the rest will take care of itself. This, in my opinion, is for the best.”
This is not the place to dwell on how correctly Stalin had defined the composition of the blocs. That is not in question here. Lenin was waging a desperate struggle against the legalists, liquidators and opportunists, for the perspective of the second revolution. All the groupings abroad at that time were fundamentally determined by that struggle. But how did the Bolshevik, Stalin, evaluate these battles? Like the most inept empiricist: “A tempest in a teapot; let them climb the walls; keep on working, the rest will take care of itself.” Stalin welcomes the mood of indifference to theory and the presumed superiority of myopic “practicals” over revolutionary theorists. “This, in my opinion is for the best”, he writes with reference to those moods which were characteristic of the period of reaction and decline. Thus, in the person of Stalin, the Bolshevik, we have not even political conciliationism – for, conciliationism was an ideological tendency, which attempted to create a principled platform – we have blind empiricism, verging on complete disregard of the principled problems of the revolution.
It is not difficult to imagine the lashing the hapless editors of Zarya Vostoka received for the publication of this letter; and the measures that were taken on an “All-Union scale” to prevent any further publication of such letters.
6. In his report at the Seventh Plenum of the ECCI (1926), Stalin characterized the party’s past in the following manner:
If we take the history of our party from the moment of its inception in the shape of the Bolshevik group in 1903, and if we follow its subsequent stages down to our own day, then we can say without exaggeration that the history of our party is the history of the conflict of the contradictions within the party. There is not, and there cannot be a ‘middle’ line in questions of a principled character ...
These momentous words were directed against ideological “conciliationism” toward those against whom Stalin was waging his struggle. But these abstract formula of ideological irreconcilability are in complete contradiction with the political physiognomy and the political past of Stalin him self. As an empiricist he was a congenital conciliationist, but precisely because he was an empiricist he gave no principled expression to his conciliationism.
7. In 1912, Stalin participated in Zvezda, the legal newspaper of the Bolsheviks. The Petersburg editorial board, in a direct struggle against Lenin, issued this paper at first as a conciliationist organ. Here is what Stalin wrote in a programmatic editorial article:
“... It will be a source of satisfaction to us, if our newspaper succeeds, without falling into the polemical infatuation of the different factions, in defending ably the spiritual treasures of consistent democracy which are being impudently encroached upon both by the open enemies and the false friends.” (The Revolution and the CPSU – Materials and Documents, Vol.V, pp.161f.)
The phrase referring to the “polemical infatuation of the different [!] factions” is aimed entirely against Lenin, against Lenin’s “tempest in a teapot”, and his constant readiness to “climb the walls” due to some sort of “polemical infatuation.”
Thus, Stalin’s article is completely in harmony with the vulgar conciliationist tendency expressed in his above-quoted letter of 1911, and is in complete contradiction with his latter-day declaration as to the impermissibility of a middle line in questions of a principled character.
8. One of Stalin’s official biographies reads: “In 1913, he was once again exiled to Turukhansk, where he remained until 1917.” The Stalin jubilee issue of Pravda similarly stated that “Stalin spent 1918-1914-1915-1916 in exile in Turukhansk.” (Pravda, Dec.21, 1929). That is all! These were the years of the imperialist war, of Zimmerwald and Kienthal, of the collapse of the Second International, of the profoundest ideological struggle in the ranks of socialism. What part did Stalin take in this struggle? These four years of exile should have been the years of intense intellectual activity. The exiles, under such conditions, keep diaries, write treatises, elaborate theses, platforms, exchange polemical letters, etc. It is hardly conceivable that Stalin did not write anything during four years of exile on the basic problems of war, the International and the revolution. Yet one would seek in vain for any traces of Stalin’s intellectual labors during those four amazing years. How could this have happened? It is all too obvious that had a single line been found in which Stalin had formulated the idea of defeatism or had proclaimed the need for a new International, this line would have long since been printed, photographed, translated into all languages, and endowed with learned commentaries by all the academies and institutes. But no such line was ever found. Does this mean that Stalin wrote nothing at all? No, it means nothing of the sort. That would he utterly improbable. But it does mean that among everything he had written during the four years there is nothing, literally nothing, that could be utilized today to reinforce his reputation. Thus, the years of the war, when the ideas and slogans of the Russian Revolution and of the Third International were being hammered out, prove to be only a void in the ideological biography of Stalin. It is very likely that during this time he said and wrote: “Let them climb the walls there, and busy themselves with stirring up a tempest in a teapot.”
9. Stalin arrived with Kamenev in Petrograd in the middle of March 1917. Pravda, under the editorship of Molotov and Shliapnikov, was vague and primitive, but, nevertheless, “Left” in character, antagonistic to the Provisional Government. Stalin and Kamenev removed the old editorial board, as being too far to the Left, and assumed an utterly opportunist position in the spirit of the Left Mensheviks: (a) support of the Provisional Government, “in so far as”; (b) military defense of the revolution (i.e., the bourgeois republic) (c) unification with the Mensheviks of the Tseretelli type. The position of Pravda of that time is truly a scandalous page in the history of the party and in the biography of Stalin. His articles of March 1917, which were the “revolutionary” conclusions of his deliberations in exile, wholly explain why from the works of Stalin pertaining to the epoch of war not a single line has appeared to this day.
10. We reprint below Shliapnikov’s account of the over turn effected by Stalin and Kamenev, who, at that time, were united on a common position:
“The day of the first issue of the ‘transformed’ Pravda the 15th of March – was a day of rejoicing for the defensists. The whole Tauride Palace, from the jobbers in the State Duma Committee to the very heart of the revolutionary democracy, the Executive Committee of the Soviets, buzzed with a single piece of news: the victory of the moderate and reasonable Bolsheviks over the extremists. In the Executive Committee itself we were met with venomous smiles. This was the first and only occasion on which Pravda met with the approval of even the staunch defensists of the Lieber-Dan stripe. When this issue of Pravda reached the factories, it there aroused utter dismay among our party members and our sympathizers, and caustic gratification among our opponents. Inquiries poured into the Petersburg Committee, the Bureau of the CC and the editorial board of Pravda – What happened? Why has our newspaper renounced the Bolshevik line and taken the path of defensism? But the Petersburg Committee, as well as the entire organization, was caught unawares by this coup. There was general indignation and the Bureau of the CC was blamed for this incident. The indignation in the local districts was enormous, and when the workers found out that Prasvda had been seized by three former editors of Pravda arriving from Siberia, they demanded their expulsion from the party” [The third member was the former deputy, Muranov.] (Shliapnikov, The Year 1917, Bk.2, 1925).
We must add the following to the above: (a) Shliapnikov’s account was altered and modulated in the extreme under the pressure of Stalin and Kamenev in 1925 (the “troika” was still in power at the time!); (b) no refutations of Shliapnikov’s account appeared in the official press. Indeed, how could it have been refuted? The issues of Pravda for that period were then readily available.
11. Stalin’s attitude to the problem of revolutionary power was expressed by him in a speech made at a party Conference (the session of March 29, 1917). Said Stalin:
“On the other hand, the government has in fact taken the role of fortifier of the conquests of the revolutionary people. The Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies mobilizes the forces, and exercises control, while the Provisional Government – balking and muddling, takes the of fortifier of those conquests of the people, which they have already seized as a fact. Such a situation has disadvantageous, but also advantageous sides. It is not to our advantage at present to force events, hastening the process of repelling the bourgeois layers, who will in the future inevitably withdraw from
Stalin is afraid of “repelling the bourgeoisie” – the principal argument of the Mensheviks from 1904 on.
“In so far as the Provisional Government fortifies the steps of the revolution, to that extent we must support it; but, in so far as it is counter-revolutionary, support to the Provisional Government is not permissible.”
That is exactly what Dan said. After all, what other words can be used to defend a bourgeois government in the eyes of the revolutionary masses?
Further, we read in the minutes:
“Comrade Stalin reads the resolution on the Provisional Government adopted by the Bureau of the Central Committee, but states that be is not in complete agreement with it, and is rather in accord with the resolution of the Krasnoyarsk Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”
We quote the most important points of the Krasnoyarsk resolution:
“To make entirely clear that the only source of the power and the authority of the Provisional Government is the will of the people who have accomplished this revolution, and to whom the Provisional Government is obliged wholly to submit ...
“To support the Provisional Government in its activities only in so far as it follows a course of satisfying the demands of the working class and the revolutionary peasantry in the revolution that is taking place.”
The reference here is to the Government of Prince Lvov-Miliukov-Guchkov.
Such was the position of Stalin on the question of power.
12. We must particularly underscore the date of the above, namely, March 9, 1917. Thus, more than a month after the beginning of the revolution, Stalin still spoke of Miliukov as an ally: The Soviet conquers, the Provisional Government fortifies. It is hard to believe that these words could have been pronounced by a reporter to the Bolshevik Conference at the end of March 1917! Even Martov would not have posed the question in this manner. This is the theory of Dan expressed in its most vulgar form: The democratic revolution viewed as an abstraction, within the framework of which function the more “moderate” and the more “resolute” forces, among whom there is a division of labor-the resolute conquer, the moderate fortify. Nevertheless, Stalin’s speech was not accidental. We have in it the pattern of the entire Stalinist policy in China from 1924 to 1928.
Lenin, who had managed to arrive in time for the last session of this same Conference, castigated the position of Stalin with an indignation that was impassioned despite all its restraint.
“Even our Bolsheviks [he said] show confidence in the Government. That can be explained only by intoxication incidental to revolution. That is the death of socialism. You, comrades, place confidence in the government. If that’s your position, our ways part. I prefer to remain in the minority. One Liebknecht is worth more than 110 defensists of his type of Steklov and Chkheidze. If you are in sympathy with Liebknecht and extend even a finger [to the defensists] – this will be a betrayal of international socialism.” (The March 1917 Party Conference. Session of April 4. Report by Comrade Lenin)
It should he borne in mind that Lenin’s speech, as well as the protocols as a whole, have been kept hidden from the party to this day.
18. How did Stalin pose the war question? In the same way as Kamenev. It is necessary to arouse the European workers, but in the meantime we must fulfill our duty towards the “revolution.” But how arouse the European workers? Stalin’s reply is contained in his article for March 17, 1917.
“We have already indicated one of the most serious methods of doing so. It consists in this, that we compel our own government to put itself on record not only against all plans of conquest ... but also openly to formulate the will of the Russian people, immediately begin negotiations for universal peace on the basis of a complete renunciation of all conquests by both sides, and on the basis of the rights of all nations to self-determination.”
Thus, the “pacifism” of Miliukov-Guchkov was to have served as the means for arousing the European proletariat.
On April 4, the day after his arrival, Lenin indignantly declared at the Party Conference:
“Pravda demands from the Government that it renounce annexations. To demand from the government of the capitalists that it renounce annexations – Nonsense! Flagrant mockery of ...” (The March 1917 Party Conference. Session of April 4. Report by comrade Lenin)
These words were directed wholly against Stalin.
14. On March 14, the Menshevik-SR Soviet issued a manifesto on war to the toilers of all nations. The manifesto represented a hypocritical, pseudo-pacifist document in the spirit of the entire policy of the Mensheviks and the SR’s who were urging the workers of other countries to rise against their bourgeoisie, while they themselves remained yoked to the imperialists of Russia and of the whole Entente. How did Stalin evaluate this manifesto?
“In the first place, it is indubitable that the bare slogan ‘Down with War!’ is absolutely worthless as a practical path.
“It is impermissible not to hail yesterday’s manifesto of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in Petrograd to the peoples of the whole world, summoning them to compel their own governments to terminate the slaughter. This manifesto, if it reaches the broad masses, will undoubtedly recall hundreds and thousands of workers to the forgotten slogan:
’Workers of the World, Unite!’ ,
How did Lenin evaluate the manifesto of the defensists? In his April 4 speech, from which we have already quoted, he said:
“The manifesto of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies there isn’t a word in it imbued with class-consciousness. There is nothing to it but phrase-mongering.” (The March 1917 Party Conference. Session of April 4. Report by comrade Lenin)
These words are directed entirely against Stalin. That is why the protocols of the March Conference are kept hidden from the party.
15. Since he was carrying through the policy of the Left Mensheviks in relation to the Provisional Government and the war, Stalin had no reason whatever for rejecting unification with the Mensheviks. Here is how he expressed himself on this question at the self-same March 1917 Conference. We quote the protocols verbatim:
“Order of the day – Tseretelli’s proposal for unification.
“STALIN: We ought to go. It is necessary to define our proposals as to the terms of unification. Unification is possible along the lines of Zimmerwald-Kienthal.”
At this, even Molotov expressed his doubts; to be sure, not very articulately. Stalin replied in refutation:
“There is no use running ahead and anticipating disagreements. There is no party life without disagreements. We will live down trivial disagreements within the party.” (The March 1917 Party Conference. Session of April 1.)
These few words speak louder than volumes. They serve to establish the thoughts upon which Stalin fed during the war years and they attest with juridical precision that Stalin’s Zimmerwaldism was of the same brand as Tseretelli’s Zimmerwaldism. Here, once again, there is not even a hint of that ideological irreconcilability, which was put on by Stalin as a false mask several years later, in the interests of the apparatus struggle. On the contrary, Menshevism and Bolshevism appear to Stalin at the end of March 1917 as shades of thought that could abide in a single party. Disagreements with Tseretelli Stalin calls “trivial”, which can be “lived down” in the framework of a single organization. We can gather from this how becoming it is for Stalin to condemn in retrospect Trotsky’s conciliationist attitude to the Left Mensheviks ... in 1913.
16. With such a position, Stalin, in the nature of things, could not counterpose anything serious to the SR’s and the Mensheviks in the Executive Committee of the Soviet, which, on his arrival, he entered as a representative of the party. There has not remained in the minutes or in the press a single proposal, declaration or protest in which Stalin in any distinguishable manner counterposed the Bolshevik point of view to the flunkeyism of the “revolutionary democracy” toward the bourgeoisie. One of the chroniclers of that period, the non-party semi-defensist Sukhanov, the author of the above – mentioned manifesto to the toilers of the whole world, says in his Notes on the Reivolution:
“Among the Bolsheviks, besides Kamenev, there appeared in the Executive Committee of the Soviets in those days Stalin. During the time of his modest activity in the Executive Committee [he] gave me the impression – and not only more of a drab spot which would sometimes emit a dim and inconsequential light. There is really nothing more to be said about him.” (Notes onthe Revolution, Bk.2, pp.265f.)
17. Lenin, who had finally managed to break through from abroad, raged and thundered against the “Kautskyist” Pravda (the term is Lenin’s). Stalin withdrew to the side lines. At the time when Kamenev manned the defenses, Stalin remained silent. Gradually he slid into the new official groove made by Lenin. But we do not find emanating from him a single independent idea or generalization on which it is worth while dwelling. Whenever the occasion arose, Stalin stepped in between Kamenev and Lenin.
Let us take the most acute moment of the inner-party struggle on the eve of the October insurrection. Kamenev and Zinoviev came out in the non-party press against the insurrection. Lenin in a letter to the Central Committee branded their action as “infinitely vile”,and raised the question of expelling them from the party. Lenin was particularly indignant at the fact that in all their open declarations, Zinoviev and Kamenev, without ceasing to agitate against the insurrection, covered their violation of the decision of the party with hypocritical and diplomatic formulae. Meanwhile, on that very same day, October 20, there appeared to the astonishment of the Central Committee the following declaration in the central organ of the party:
“Statement by the Editorial Board. We on our part express the hope that the matter will be considered as closed with the statement made by comrade Zinoviev (and also comrade Kamenev’s statement in the Soviet). The sharp tone of comrade Lenin’s article does not alter the fact that we are fundamentally in agreement.” (Protocols of the CC of SDLPR, Aug. 1917–Feb. 1918, State Publishers, 1929, p.137.)
Thus, where Lenin spoke of an “infinitely vile” behavior, covered up by diplomatic subterfuges, the editorial board, basing itself on these subterfuges, spoke of “agreement.”
The editorial board consisted at the time of Stalin and Sokolnikov. “Comrade Sokolnikov announced that he had had no part in the declaration of the editorial board with regard to the letters of Zinoviev, and that he regarded this declaration as erroneous.” (Idem., p.128) Thus, it was made clear that Stalin on his own responsibility supported – against Lenin, against the Central Committee, and against the other member of the editorial board – Kamenev and Zinoviev at the most critical moment, four days prior to the insurrection; and did so through an official declaration which could not but confuse the entire party. There was universal indignation. The protocol reads: “Comrade Stalin presents a state ment that he is withdrawing from the editorial board.” (Idem., p.129.) Rather than aggravate an already rather difficult situation, the Central Committee did not accept Stalin’s resignation.
But, after all, how explain the astounding declaration of Stalin in Pravda. Like a number of other steps taken by Stalin during the period from April to October, the declaration cannot be understood unless we take into consideration the fact that Stalin was under the influence of his Menshevik policy during March and the first days in April. What had occurred only yesterday was still so fresh in the minds of everyone. Stalin up to April 4 had marched so closely in step with Kamenev. The turn in party policy after April 4 was so sharp that Stalin found himself all this time in a condition of acute political infirmity: he squirmed, kept mum, allowed others to commit themselves, but once in a while he would burst out against Lenin, in the spirit of the above-quoted editorial declaration.
18. For a number of years, Stalin and all his Kuusinens have been broadcasting throughout the world the version alleging that Trotsky had wilfully and against the decision of the CC decided not to sign the peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk. Stalin even undertook to prove this in the press. We have now the official evidence as presented in the published protocols of the Central Committee for the year 1917. (State Publishers, 1929)
“Session of January 24, 1918. Comrade Trotsky moves the following formula to a vote: We terminate the war, but we do not conclude peace. The vote is taken. Carried: 9 – for; 7 – against.” (Idem., p.207.)
That seems clear enough.
19. What was Stalin’s attitude to the formula of Trotsky? Here is what Stalin had to say one week after the session at which this formula had been adopted by a vote of 9 to 7.
“Session of February 1 (January 19), 1918.
Comrade STALIN: ... the way out of the difficult situation was provided us by the middle point of view, the position of Trotsky.” (Idem., p.214.)
We cannot but express our astonishment at how these words of Stalin ever came to be preserved in the protocols, despite the all-seeing eye of Saveliev, the editor. For these words leave no stone unturned in exposing the latter-day agitation of many years’ standing on the subject of the Brest Litovsk peace. It now appears that on January 19 (February 1), 1918, Stalin considered that the position of Trotsky provided the party with a “way out of the difficult situation.” Stalin’s words will become fully comprehensible, if we bear in mind that throughout this entire critical period the overwhelming majority of the party organizations and of the Soviets were in favor of a revolutionary war and that, in consequence, Lenin’s position could have been carried through only by means of an overturn in the party and in the government (which was, of course, utterly out of the question). Thus Stalin was not at all mistaken, but was only stating an incontrovertible fact when he said that Trotsky’s position was the only conceivable way out for the party at that time.
20. But what was Stalin’s own position?
“Session of February 23, 1918. Comrade Stalin: We need not sign but we must begin peace negotiations.
“Comrade Lenin: ... Stalin is wrong in saying that we need not sign. These conditions must be signed. If you do not sign them, you will sign the death sentence of the Soviet power within three weeks.
“Comrade Uritsky, in refuting Stalin, states that the conditions must be either accepted or rejected, but that it is impossible to continue negotiations.” (Idem., p.249.)
Anyone who is familiar with the situation at that moment, can clearly perceive the hopeless muddle in which Stalin found himself, arising from his lack of any thoroughly thought-out position. By the 18th of February the Germans had already captured Dvinsk. Their offensive was developing with extraordinary speed. The policy of stalling and pulling wires had been exhausted. Stalin proposes on February 23 not to sign the peace treaty, but ... to carry on negotiations.
During the Brest-Litovsk negotiations Stalin had no independent position. He would vacillate, side-step and keep silent. At the last moment he would vote for Lenin’s motion. The muddled and impotent position of Stalin during that period is characterized quite clearly, though not fully, even in the officially “improved” minutes of the CC.
21. During the period of the Civil War, Stalin was opposed to the principles upon which the creation of the Red Army was based, and inspired behind the scenes the so-called “military opposition” against Lenin and Trotsky. The facts that pertain to this are in part dealt with in Trotsky’s autobiography. (My Life The Military Opposition, Ch.XXXVI. See also Markin’s article in this volume.)
22. At the time when Lenin was ill and Trotsky away on a leave of absence, Stalin carried through in the Central Committee, under the influence of Sokolnikov, a decision undermining the monopoly of foreign trade. Owing to the decisive attack of Lenin and Trotsky this decision was revoked. (See Letter to the Istpart)
23. During the same period, Stalin assumed a position on the national question which Lenin condemned for its bureaucratic and chauvinistic tendencies. Stalin on his part accused Lenin of national liberalism. (See Letter to the Istpart.)
24. What was Stalin’s conduct on the question of the German Revolution in 1923? He was here once again compelled, as in March 1917, to orient himself independently on a major question. Lenin was ill, a struggle was being waged against Trotsky. Here is what Stalin wrote to Zinoviev and Bukharin in August 1923 on the situation in Germany.
“Should the Communists strive (at the given stage) to seize power without the Social Democrats? Have they sufficiently matured for that? – that’s the question as I see it. Upon our taking power, we had in Russia such reserves as (a) peace; (b) land to the peasants; (c) the support of the vast majority of the working class; (d) the sympathy of the peasants. The German Communists have at present nothing of the sort. They have, of course, contiguous to them the land of the Soviets, which we did not have, but what can we give them at the present moment? Should the power in Germany, so to speak, drop now, and should the Communists catch it up, they’ll fall through with a crash. That’s ‘at best.’ But if it comes to the worst – they will be smashed to pieces and beaten back. The gist of the matter does not lie in Brandler’s desire to ‘teach the masses’; the gist of the matter is that the bourgeoisie plus the Right Social Democrats would surely convert the practice-demonstration into a general battle (they still have all the odds on their side for that) and would crush them. The Fascists, of course, are not napping, but it is to our advantage to let the Fascists attack first: this will fuse the entire working class around the Communists (Germany is not Bulgaria). Moreover, the Fascists, according to all reports, are weak in Germany. In my opinion the Germans should be restrained and not encouraged.”
Thus, in August 1923, when the German Revolution was knocking at all doors, Stalin reckoned that Brandler must be restrained and not encouraged. Stalin bears the main responsibility for letting slip the revolutionary situation in Germany. He supportcd and encouraged the weaklings, the skeptics and the temporizers in Germany. He did not accidentally assume an opportunist opposition on this question of world-historic importance: he was in essence only continuing the policy that he had followed in Russia in March 1917.
25. After the revolutionary situation had been doomed by passivity and irresolution, Stalin for a long time defended against Trotsky the Brandlerite CC, thereby defending himself. In so doing Stalin brought, of course, the argument from “exceptionalism.” Thus, December 17, 1924 – a year after the shipwreck in Germany – Stalin wrote:
“One must not forget for an instant this peculiarity. It must especially be borne in mind in analyzing the German events in the Autumn of 1923. It must especially be borne in mind by comrade Trotsky, who draws a wholesale [!] analogy [!!] between the October Revolution and the revolution in Germany and who incessantly keeps lashing the German Communist Party.” (Problems of Leninism, 1928, p.171)
Accordingly, Trotsky was guilty in those days of “lashing” Brandlerism and not of patronizing it. It is quite evident from the above to what extent Stalin and his Molotov are of service in the struggle against the Rights in Germany!
26. The year 1924 is the year of the great turn. In the Spring of that year, Stalin was still repeating the old formula of the impossibility of building socialism in one country, especially in a backward country. In the Autumn of that same year, Stalin broke with Marx and Lenin on the fundamental question of the proletarian revolution, and constructed his “theory” of socialism in one country. Incidentally, Stalin has nowhere developed this theory in a positive form, nor has he even expatiated on it. The entire foundation for it comes down to two quotations from Lenin that have been deliberately given a false interpretation. Stalin has made no reply to a single objection. The theory of socialism in one country has an administrative and not a theoretical foundation.
27. In that same year, Stalin created the theory of “bi-composite”, i.e., two-class worker and peasant parties for the Orient. This constitutes a break with Marxism and with the entire history of Bolshevism on the fundamental question of the class nature of the party. Even the Communist International found itself compelled in 1928 to draw back from this theory which has doomed the communist parties of the Orient for a long time to come. But this great discovery continues even today to grace the Stalinist Problems of Leninism.
28. In that same year, Stalin carried through the subordination of Chinese communism to the bourgeois party of the Kuomintang, passing the latter off as a “worker and peasant” party of the type he had himself invented.
The Chinese workers and peasants, on the authority of the Comintern, were politically enslaved to the bourgeoisie. Stalin organized in China the “division of labor” which Lenin prevented him from organizing in Russia in 1917: the Chinese wcrkers and peasants did the “conquering” while Chiang Kai-shek did the “fortifying.”
Stalin’s policy was the direct and immediate cause of the shipwreck of the Chinese Revolution.
29. Stalin’s position and his zigzags on the questions of Soviet economic life are too fresh in the memory of the entire world, and, therefore, we shall not dwell on them here.
30. In conclusion, we shall merely recall once again Lenin’s Testament. In question here is not a polemical article or speech, where one may with some justification presuppose inevitable exaggerations from the heat of the struggle. No, in the Testament,Lenin, calmly weighing every word, offered his last counsel to the party, evaluating each one of his collaborators on the basis of his entire experience with them. What has he to say of Stalin? That Stalin is (a) rude, (b) disloyal, (c) inclined to abuse power. Conclusion: Remove Stalin from the post of General Secretary.
A few weeks later Lenin also dictated a note to Stalin in which he announced that he was “breaking off all personal and comradely relations with him.” This was one of the final expressions of Lenin’s will. All these facts are recorded in the protocols of the July 1927 Plenum of the Central Committee.
Here are a few milestones in the political biography of Stalin. They provide a sufficiently distinct portrait of a man in whom energy, will and resoluteness are combined with empiricism, myopia, an organic inclination to opportunist decisions in great questions, personal rudeness, disloyalty and a readiness to abuse power in order to suppress the party.