The Lars T Lih School of Falsification

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23/04/2017 by socialistfight

By Gerry Downing, 23-4-2017

Lars T Lih (‘All power to the soviets!’ WW 1151, 20-4-17) continues his project of rewriting the history of the Russian Revolution. His aim is to prove Lenin’s April Theses were of no especial significance and there was no real disagreement within the Bolshevik party over it, it was really a continuation of ‘old Bolshevism’ and the right opposition of Stalin, Kamenev, Kalinin etc. was not capitulating to the Provisional government and there was no coming together of Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution and Lenin’s Theses. It was a wholly unnecessary document and it was not the indispensable theoretical and political conquest needed to consummate the great revolution. This is an ignoble exercise to which Lih has devoted his life for more than a decade, joined by acolytes like Eric Blanc and aided and abetted by the CPGB and John Riddell. His target is, of course, Trotskyism-Leninism, the continuity of Leninism as the theory of world revolution. He seeks to prove that this is just nonsense, no one really believed it then and no one in the right mind would believe it now.

Writing in 1937 in his introduction to his Stalin School of Falsification Trotsky identifies several stages in the rewriting of the history of the Russian revolution. This latest attempt to rehabilitate the right opposition is not just a historical debate. It began in 1923 when the right opposition triumvirate led by Zinoviev and Kamenev with Stalin the third and lesser figure coalesced and then came to power after Lenin’s death in January 1924. But Stalin, as General Secretary, concentrated his efforts on building up a base in the Bolsheviks by promotions and granting privileges to those sections who had lost faith in the future of the revolution and were now concentrating on careers and self-advancement. He became expert at rigging conferences. Zinoviev saw his position threatened by 1925 and realised his base in Petrograd was not enough to save him from Stalin. Trotsky tells us:

“But already at the end of 1925, Zinoviev became frightened by the consequences of his own initiative and came over to the ranks of the Opposition … In 1926, Zinoviev and Kamenev joined the (United) Opposition”

Stalin then allied with the new right Bolshevik opposition led by Bukharin (who had flipped from ultra-left to right by then); “In the economic sphere, the theoretical weapons against Trotskyism were forged by Bukharin: “the underestimation of the peasantry,” super-industrialization”, writes Trotsky. Then he recounts the third rewrite:

“In November 1927, Zinoviev and Kamenev turned to the path of capitulation. They were followed first by Piatakov, and then by Radek.”

Grigory Zinoviev (1883 – August 25, 1936 – murdered by Stalin)

During the period of the United Opposition – 1925-27 –  Zinoviev revealed how they had planned the rewriting of the history of the revolution and the vilification of Trotsky:

After the formation of our bloc with the Leningrad Group, during one of the conferences, in the presence of several other comrades, I put substantially the following question to Zinoviev:

“Could you please tell me whether the so-called literary discussion against ‘Trotskyism’ would have taken place, if I had not published The Lessons of October?”

Without the slightest hesitation, Zinoviev replied:

“Yes, indeed. The Lessons of October served only as a pretext. Failing that, a different motive would have been found, and the discussion would have assumed somewhat different forms, nothing more.”

(2) In the declaration of July 1926, signed by Zinoviev and Kamenev, the following statement occurs:

“There can no longer be any doubt now that the main nucleus of the 1923 Opposition correctly warned against the dangers of the departure from the proletarian line and against the alarming growth of the apparatus regime. Nevertheless, scores and hundreds of the leaders of the 1928 Opposition, among them many old worker-Bolsheviks, tempered in the struggle and immune to careerism and toadyism, remain to this day removed from party work, despite their proven constancy and submission to discipline.”

(3) At the joint Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of July 14 to July 23, 1926, Zinoviev said:

“I have made many mistakes. But I consider two mistakes as my most important ones. My first mistake of 1917 is known to all of you … The second mistake I consider more dangerous because the first one was made under Lenin. The mistake of 1917 was corrected by Lenin and made good by us within a few days with the help of Lenin, but my mistake of 1923 consisted in …”

ORDJONIKIDZE (interrupting): “Then why did you dupe the entire party?”

ZINOVIEV: “We say, there can no longer be any doubt now that the main nucleus of the 1923 Opposition, as the development of the present ruling faction has shown, correctly warned against the dangers of the departure from the proletarian line, and against the alarming growth of the apparatus regime … Yes, in the question of suppression by the bureaucratized apparatus, Trotsky proved to be right as against us.” (Minutes, 4th Issue, p.33)

In this manner, Zinoviev admitted his mistake of 1923 (in waging a struggle against “Trotskyism” and even characterized it as much more dangerous than that of 1917 – when he opposed the October insurrection!).

(4) This admission on the part of Zinoviev aroused considerable astonishment among many second-rank leaders of the Leningrad Opposition who were not initiated into the conspiracy and who honestly believed in the legend of “Trotskyism.”

Zinoviev told me repeatedly: “In Leningrad we hammered it into the minds of the comrades more deeply than anywhere else and it is, therefore, most difficult to re-educate them.”

I recall quite accurately the words that Lashevich shouted at two members of the Leningrad Group who came to Moscow to clarify themselves on the question of Trotskyism:

“Why do you keep standing the matter on its head! We invented ‘Trotskyism’ together with you in the struggle against Trotsky. Why won’t you understand this? You are only helping Stalin! etc.”

Zinoviev in his turn said:

“You must keep the circumstances in mind. You must understand it was a struggle for power. The trick was to string together old disagreements with new issues. For this purpose, ‘Trotskyism’ was invented.”

This conversation made a deep impression upon us, the members of the 1923 Group, even though we had had previous knowledge of the mechanics of the struggle against “Trotskyism.”

Now that Zinoviev and Kamenev are again resorting to the same trick, that is to say, stringing together old disagreements with the rather current question of their capitulation, I am asking you to recall whether you participated in any of the above-mentioned conversations and what your own recollections are.” [1]

And the ruling clique had no shortage of party hacks to do their bidding after 1929 as Trotsky tells us:

“They organize campaigns of vilification against Zinoviev who used to be their infallible authority, against Bukharin whom they used to acclaim as their leader, against Radek whom only yesterday they reverently cited in the struggle against Trotskyism.”

The fourth rewrite came with the expulsion of the right Bolsheviks led by Bukharin in 1929. “The fate of Bukharin is no less well known: the official champion of pure Leninism was soon proclaimed a “bourgeois liberal”, was later pardoned and is now in jail awaiting trial”, Trotsky tell us. Bukharin was immediately executed after this trial. As we know by 1936-38 all these former allies of Stalin were executed in the Great Purges.

Lars cites a great ‘pioneer party historian’ writing in 1926: “In 1926, the pioneer party historian, Vladimir Nevsky, published the first substantial source-based history of Bolshevism. His book appeared in the brief interval after primary sources had been collected, but before Stalinist orthodoxy ended genuine historical debate.”

Of course, we have seen by 1926 Soviet history was undergoing its second major rewrite; a member of the Workers Opposition in 1920 Nevsky may have been a rewriter for Zinoviev but not yet for Stalin. In fact he was murdered by Stalin in may 1937 during the Great Purges. Libcom.org have the following on him by Posted by Noa Rodman on Jan 30 2017:

Vladimir Ivanovich Nevskij (1876–1937) was a revolutionary and a Bolshevik from the very beginning. See this biographical note. He authored more than 500 works on the revolutionary movement. He belonged to the Workers’ Opposition. In 1922 Nevsky wrote on the South Russian Workers’ Union activity in Nikolayev during 1897 (95 pp.). It can be considered the first biography of Trotsky. Trotsky in his letter (included) gave a number of biographical moments and endorsed the book. [“Южно-русский рабочий Союз” в г. Николаеве 1897 г. С приложением письма Л. Д. Троцкого.] In 2008 one of Nevsky’s many history books was translated in Italian: ‘Storia del Partito bolscevico. Dalle origini al 1917‘. Books online in Russia are linked on his wiki-page and include; ‘From the “Land and Liberty” to the “Emancipation of Labour” group’, ‘Soviets and armed uprising in 1905’, ‘The labor movement in the days of January 1905’. In the preface to the 1920 (second) edition of his ‘Materialism and empirio-criticism’ Lenin wrote:

As for A. A. Bogdanov’s latest works, which I have had no opportunity to examine, the appended article by Comrade V. I. Nevsky gives the necessary information. Comrade V.I. Nevsky, not only in his work as a propagandist in general, but also as an active worker in the Party school in particular, has had ample opportunity to convince himself that under the guise of “proletarian culture” A. A. Bogdanov is imparting bourgeois and reactionary views.

Trotsky mentions another such professional rewriter of history:

“The deceased M.N. Pokrovsky must unquestionably be acknowledged as the most authoritative Soviet historian. For a number of years, he waged, with a vehemence peculiar to him, a struggle against my general views on the history of Russia and especially my conception of the October Revolution … The reign of his school was absolute. His textbooks or the textbooks of his disciples circulated in millions of copies. Shortly before his death, he was idolized as the lawgiver in the domain of scientific thought. But already in 1935, steps were taken suddenly and all the more drastically to review his heritage. In the course of a few months, Pokrovsky was completely cashiered, crushed and discredited.”

He was also executed. This was obviously the fifth major rewriting of history necessary to justify the Great Purges which now revealed that without Stalin there would have been no Russian Revolution, all the rest were traitors and/or agents of imperialism, apart from Lenin who had been safely iconised in his mausoleum.  Lars builds on an ignoble tradition.

The Real Points at Issue in April 1917

But the real distortions Lars T Lih uses to prove these ridiculous theses are to misrepresent the programme of the Bolsheviks pre-April 1917, to misrepresent Lenin’s stance in April 1917, to hide the capitulation of Kamenev, Stalin, and M. K. Muranov to the Provisional government before April and to rip the debate out of its international context.

He obscures the real issues by vague phraseology in April 1917:

“Kalinin endorsed the soviets as a vehicle for the class vlast of the workers and peasants, à la old Bolshevism. Nevertheless, he did not endorse Lenin’s own personal enthusiasm about the soviets as a higher type of democracy… As soon as the soviets and their mass base grasped these realities (as the Bolsheviks believed them to be), they would take “full and complete vlast [vsia polnota vlasti] into their own hands. Insofar as the revolution is going to develop and to deepen, it will come to this: to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry”.

If we ignore the pretentious use of Russian phrases “The class vlast of the workers and peasants” is a theoretical and political nonsense phrase; the ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry’ was the central thing that Lenin’s April Theses rejected. In Marxist terms this refers to a capitalist government in a capitalist state. Lenin could not be more explicit that he was totally opposed to this programme then:

“Whoever now talks only about the ’revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ has lost touch with life, has, in virtue of this circumstance, gone over, in practice, to the petty bourgeoisie against the proletarian class struggle; and he ought to be relegated to the museum of ’Bolshevik’ pre-revolutionary antiquities (or, as one might call it, the museum of ’old Bolsheviks’).[2]

And the April Theses were NOT ‘old Bolshevism’. Writing in 1905 Lenin spelled out the ‘old Bolshevik’ position:

“By participating in the provisional government, we are told, Social-Democracy would have the power in its hands; but as the party of the proletariat, Social-Democracy cannot hold the power without attempting to put our maximum programme into effect, i.e., without attempting to bring about the socialist revolution. In such an undertaking it would, at the present time, inevitably come to grief, discredit itself, and play into the hands of the reactionaries. Hence, participation by Social-Democrats in a provisional revolutionary government is inadmissible.

“This argument is based on a misconception; it confounds the democratic revolution with the socialist revolution, the struggle for the republic (including our entire minimum programme) with the struggle for socialism. If Social-Democracy sought to make the socialist revolution its immediate aim, it would assuredly discredit itself … It is the march of events that will “impose” upon us the imperative necessity of waging a furious struggle for the republic and, in practice, guide our forces, the forces of the politically active proletariat, in this direction. It is the march of events that will, in the democratic revolution, inevitably impose upon us such a host of allies from among the petty bourgeoisie and the peasantry, whose real needs will demand the implementation of our minimum programme, that any concern over too rapid a transition to the maximum programme is simply absurd.” [3]

It could not be clearer here. A bourgeois revolution to bring about a bourgeois republic led by the working class based on the ‘minimum programme’ i.e. reforming capitalism (as opposed to the Menshevik programme of a bourgeois revolution led by the liberal bourgeoisie against Tsarist absolutism). Any attempt to carry out a socialist revolution would “inevitably come to grief, discredit itself, and play into the hands of the reactionaries”. First capitalism must be developed for a whole historic period – not just a few months – to build up the forces of the organised working class and to make the economy ready for the socialist revolution.  Such was the political wisdom inherited from Karl Kautsky and German Social Democracy, unchallenged until Trotsky’s 1905 Permanent Revolution and rejected by Lenin in his April Theses. This is Trotsky’s very different outlook in his 1906 work, Results and Prospects:

“The political domination of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic enslavement. No matter under what political flag the proletariat has come to power, it is obliged to take the path of socialist policy. It would be the greatest utopianism to think that the proletariat, having been raised to political domination by the internal mechanism of a bourgeois revolution, can, even if it so desires, limit its mission to the creation of republican-democratic conditions for the social domination of the bourgeoisie. The political domination of the proletariat, even if it is only temporary, will weaken to an extreme degree the resistance of capital, which always stands in need of the support of the state, and will give the economic struggle of the proletariat tremendous scope.” [4]

These are two counterposed views of historical perspectives for the Russian Revolution. It would indeed be a bourgeois revolution, Trotsky assessed then, but one that could nor sustain itself without expropriating the bourgeoisie and making the socialist revolution – hence the uninterrupted, permanent revolution. No whole historic period of consolidating the bourgeois republic and building up its resources was possible, and, contrary to Lars, a few months is NOT an historical era in which the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry reigned: dual power reigned in this period which had to be and was settled in the immediate future in favour of one class only. Fully aware of this Lenin now abandoned the first, ‘old Bolshevik’ perspective and adopted the second in his April Theses.

As we wrote in 2007:

An earlier understanding on the imperialist nature of the world economy and then his experience as the head of the Petrograd soviet in 1905 led Trotsky to propose his famous theory of permanent revolution, developed in 1905. He saw the new form of participatory democracy embodied in the 50-odd soviets that sprung up throughout Russia at the time and knew this was the solution to Marx’s “contradiction between the political state and civil society”. In summary, his theory proposed the socialist revolution because of the combined and unequal character of the Russian economy, a highly-concentrated working class at the centre of huge modern factories and the weak bourgeoisie at the centre of an overwhelmingly peasant economy. This would enable the working class to take power in Russia first.

However, this revolution had to be uninterrupted: it could only begin on a national scale, but it could not halt at the spontaneous democratic stage. Rather it must proceed directly to socialism. This could only be completed on the international scale, with the victory of the working class in advanced metropolitan countries, particularly Germany. This is the essential political content of the April theses. Charges of Trotsky’s failure to recognise the vital necessity for a democratic centralist party of professional revolutionaries deeply embedded in the leadership of the working class are immediately conceded, as Trotsky himself did in 1917, as soon as he realised his mistakes and whenever the issue later arose.”  [5]

The April Theses imbued with internationalism

The April Theses is imbued with this internationalism. That is why Lenin proposed to change the name of the party to the Communist Party and to form a new international. The Third Communist International, the Comintern, was proposed for the first time here because world revolution was the goal he sought.

In March 4, 2017 Louis Proyect examined the works of Lars T Lih and Eric Blanc and produced what is, in general, an excellent analysis in which he confronts on Carl Davidson who wrote in 1973:

“a series of articles in the Guardian (a defunct radical newsweekly, not the British daily) titled “Left in Form, Right in Essence: A Critique of Contemporary Trotskyism” that many SDS’ers transitioning into “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” found useful. The second in the series was titled “Two lines on ‘permanent revolution’” that basically recapitulates arguments made by Stalin and his flunkies in the 1920s”:

“Trotsky’s views on the course of the Russian revolution, like those of the Mensheviks, were refuted by history. The revolution was both uninterrupted and developed in stages. The revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants came into being during the first stage, during the period of the dual power and in the special form of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.” [6]

He correctly points out:

“Keep in mind that the overthrow of the Czar took place in February. So, the period of the “revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” lasted exactly two months according to Lenin’s timeline, not twenty years. This does not correspond to the schema in which workers would gather up their resources and move toward confronting the capitalist class as a powerful, well-organized party after the fashion of Kautsky’s social democracy that had millions of members.”

So, this two month stage was not a stage at all as the pe-1917 Bolshevik programme had understood it, as Lenin had understood it in 1905 and as the later Stalinist two stage revolutions proposed and operated until looming disaster forced them to expropriate the capitalists to save themselves in various countries. Bourgeois democracy now and socialism as a pie-in-the-sky illusion for the masses whilst we enrich ourselves was the scenario of the worst of the Stalinists; that’s what the ANC did in South Africa.

I am also grateful to Louis Proyect for reminding me that it was on precisely this issue that Jack Barnes, Mary-Alice Waters and the leadership of the US SWP  rejected Trotskyism. As Wikipedia recounts:

In 1982, Barnes gave a speech which was later published as Their Trotsky and Ours: Communist Continuity Today in which Barnes rejected Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution arguing that it failed to sufficiently distinguish between the democratic and socialist tasks of a workers’ revolution. Barnes argued that anticapitalist revolutions typically began with a “workers’ and farmers’ government” which initially concentrated on bourgeois-democratic measures, and only later moved on to the abolition of capitalism.

Nikolai Bukharin

Nikolai Bukharin, (1888 – March 15, 1938 – murdered by Stalin)

We would cite the foreword that Lenin wrote to Bukharin’s work on Imperialism in 1915 [7] and his own 1916 Imperialism, the Highest stage of Capitalism [8] as the two works that gave Lenin that fundamental understanding of the interconnectedness of the whole world economy, the struggle against imperialism as a truly global one and one which could not be won in a single country. That profound internationalism was the necessary theoretical preparation for the April Theses that brought Lenin and Trotsky together theoretically and politically. It is very telling that neither Lars T Lih nor Eric Blanc have anything to say on this aspect of 1917 in their quest to discredit Lenin and Trotsky and rehabilitate the rightist Bolshevik opponents of the great Socialist Revolution of October 1917.

Lars claims of Kalinin, “he did not endorse Lenin’s own personal enthusiasm about the soviets as a higher type of democracy…”  and “Kalinin shows his awareness that the source of some of Lenin’s concerns was émigré polemics: “I understand the comrades who have arrived from abroad, where the phrase ‘social democrat’ has been so befouled. But that’s not the case with us.”

So, we see that the feet-on-the-ground Kalinin had a well-founded scepticism of Lenin’s “personal enthusiasm about the soviets” and he “shows his awareness” (that’s Lih’s clear endorsement of Kalinin’s views – GD) that this Lenin bloke was an out-of-touch character, a bit of a simple-minded nutter who had been waylaid by ‘émigré polemics’.

But “Lenin’s own personal enthusiasm about the soviets” was the absolute nub of fundamental disagreement with the whole rightist crew because this was the question of which class was to rule, the working class or the bourgeoisie? Lenin was for the former, the rightists were for the latter; on this argument hung the fate of the Russian revolution.

Soviet power was not necessarily a socialist revolution if its purpose was to bring the bourgeoisie to power. Lars confuses this point as much as possible:

“the Bolsheviks must strive for a vlast based on the workers and peasants that would carry the revolution “to the end” (achieve the maximum of political and social transformation available at the time) – in opposition to the drive of anti-tsarist liberals to halt the revolution as soon as possible.”

But this is NOT the socialist revolution, this is the bourgeois revolution based on the ‘republic’ which was the central target of Lenin’s struggle. Note here how Lars seeks to minimise this central message of Lenin as of no importance:

“Renaming the party and the soviets as a higher form of democracy (in contrast to the soviets as a vehicle for the worker/peasant vlast). These proposals were not shocking or controversial as such, but nevertheless people wondered how relevant or helpful they were to the task of crafting a dynamic party message in the ongoing revolution. In the end, these points were not rejected, but simply allowed to drift into the fine print of the Bolshevik message – even as set forth in Lenin’s own writings that are directly addressed to the soviet constituency in 1917 (which means that State and revolution is excluded, since it was published in 1918).”

“Renaming the party and the soviets as a higher form of democracy (in contrast to the soviets as a vehicle for the worker/peasant vlast)” is the difference between a bourgeois republic run by a capitalist government, albeit led by the working class and carrying out the Bolshevik minimum programme and a socialist revolution led by the working class mobilised in the Soviets as the first step of the world revolution. One would have led inevitably to an horrendous massacre of all revolutionaries in Russia and the other to the victory of the revolution. Lih seems blissfully unaware that the ‘worker/peasant vlast’ is a capitalist government (eight time he uses this confused phrase rejected by Lenin) and that the working class to take power must rest on this higher form of democracy, i.e. soviet democracy, the socialist revolution. The fact that the CPGB, who host so much of his musing, have this position too is no accident. The difference made by Lenin did not “drift into the fine print” dismissed and misunderstood but produced the greatest single event ever in the struggle for human liberation.

The biggest lie in the whole document

And now for what is perhaps the biggest lie in the whole document:

“The reception of the April theses by party activists can be divided into three categories. First are the positions that were NOT CONTROVERSIAL, because they expressed a BOLSHEVIK CONSENSUS. The goal of soviet power was definitely one of these widely-shared positions, along with the imperialist nature of the war, NO CONFIDENCE IN THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT, AND REJECTION OF ‘REVOLUTIONARY DEFENCISM’. These positions – by far the most important – did not lead to any pushback. On the contrary.”

Oh, but the Bolded upper cased section did lead to the mother and father of a ‘pushback’ because when Lenin returned in April he found Pravda under new editors Kamenev, Stalin, and M. K. Muranov. They had ousted the editors of Pravda, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Alexander Shlyapnikov, who had a strong anti-war position against the Provisional Government. The new editors produced their first edition on 15 March with strong “revolutionary defencist” support for the Provisional Government “insofar as it struggles against reaction or counter-revolution”. [9]  They followed through this capitulationist line with a call for a unification conference with the internationalist wing of the Mensheviks. Kamenev first editorial said: “What purpose would it serve to speed things up, when things were already taking place at such a rapid pace?” [10] and on March 15 wrote: “When army faces army, it would be the most insane policy to suggest to one of those armies to lay down its arms and go home. This would not be a policy of peace, but a policy of slavery, which would be rejected with disgust by a free people …. “While there is no peace the people must remain steadfastly at their posts, answering bullet with bullet and shell with shell.” [11]

Louis Proyect tells us that the next day Stalin wrote, “the slogan, ‘Down with the war,’ is useless,” “Obviously”, says Proyect, “this position contrasted sharply with the views expressed by Lenin in his “Letters from Afar,” and it is not surprising that Pravda published only the first of these and with numerous deletions at that. Among crucial phrases censored out was Lenin’s accusation that “those who advocate that the workers support the new government in the interests of the struggle against Tsarist reaction (as do the Potresovs, Gvozdevs, Chkhenkelis, and in spite of all his inclinations, even Chkheidze [all Mensheviks]) are traitors to the workers, traitors to the cause of the proletariat, [and] the cause of freedom.”

Kamenev and Stalin surely understood the target of his ire included them as well. So definitely a whopping lie here from Lars T.

Lenin was so incensed by the two “old Bolsheviks” continuing extreme opposition that he demanded their expulsion in November 1917:

You must recall, comrades, that two of the deserters, Kamenev and Zinoviev, acted as deserters and blacklegs even before the Petrograd uprising; for they not only voted against the uprising at the decisive meeting of the Central Committee on October 10, 1917, but, even after the decision had been taken by the Central Committee, agitated among the Party workers against the uprising. It is common knowledge that newspapers which fear to take the side of the workers and are more inclined to side with the bourgeoisie (e.g., Novaya Zhizn), raised at that time, in common with the whole bourgeois press, a hue and cry about the “disintegration’ of our Party, about “the collapse of the uprising” and so on. [12]

Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin (1875 – 3 June 1946), Stalinist hack who survived the purges by agreeing to them all.

Of course, we must mention that one of Lars T’s heroes of April 1917, Mikhail Kalinin, who snorted so contemptuously about Lenin and his émigré polemics, fully supported the scabbing deserters Kamenev and Zinoviev and died in his own bed in 1946 at the ripe old age of 71, escaping the Great Purges at the top of the Stalinist bureaucracy because he was the most grovelling and sophisticated of party hacks. According to Wikipedia:

In April 1917 Kalinin, like many other Bolsheviks, advocated conditional support for the Provisional Government in cooperation with the Menshevik faction of the RSDLP, a position at odds with that of Lenin. He continued to oppose an armed uprising to overthrow the government of Alexander Kerensky throughout that summer. the reference Wiki give for this gem is ‘Jackson, George; Devlin, Robert (eds.), Dictionary of the Russian Revolution. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989; pp. 295-296.’  Nikita Khrushchev said, “I don’t know what practical work Kalinin carried out under Lenin. But under Stalin he was the nominal signatory of all decrees, while in reality he rarely took part in government business. Sometimes he was made a member of a commission, but people didn’t take his opinion into account very much. It was embarrassing for us to see this; one simply felt sorry for Mikhail Ivanovich.”[6] Kalinin kept a low profile during the Great Purge of 1937. He was well aware of the repression, and between 1937 and 1941 hundreds of people went to his dacha or sent petitions to him asking for help against the arrests. Although he opposed the executions of personal friends like Avel Enukidze, he remained submissive to Stalin, who, under the pretext of protecting him, had his apartment constantly monitored by NKVD officers.

And if you wondered who Avel Enukidze was Wiki tells us that he was the author of The Law of Spikelets which was used to prosecute not only real thieves (such as corrupt officials) but also anyone who even gleaned as little as a handful of grain or spikelets left behind in the fields after the entire harvest was officially collected and counted. It was thus a draconian measure, effectively a law of specks, where even 3 specks of food in a starving person’s pocket during the Soviet famine of 1932–33 qualified them as a thief of state-owned food in the government’s view. Stalin had him shot in 1937 because he had suggested to him in a friendly conversation he stand down as leader of the USSR.

The Lost Documents and Lost Minutes of March 1917

If you are really serious about falsifying history you must suppress those historical documents that directly falsify your rewrite. In 1937 Trotsky produced his Stalin School of Falsification. We have already quoted from the section where Zinoviev admitted how he had participated in the rewriting of history from 1923 in alliance with Stalin. But there are two more very important suppressed document that he produces in the book. The first is the minutes of the Bolshevik Conference of March 1917 before Lenin returned where Stalin makes clear his “critical support” for the Provisional Government:

The March 1917 Party Conference, on the attitude to the Provisional Government

Report by Comrade Stalin

“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. Many comrades who have arrived from the provinces ask whether we shouldn’t immediately pose the question of the seizure of power. But it is untimely to pose the question now. The Provisional Government is not so weak. The strength of the Provisional Government lies in the support of Anglo-French capitalism, in the inertia of the provinces and in the [widespread] sympathy for it. It is being showered with telegrams [of congratulation]. We must bide our time until the Provisional Government exhausts itself, until the time when in the process of fulfilling the revolutionary program it discredits itself. The only organ capable of taking power is the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies on an All-Russian scale. We, on the other band, must bide our time until the moment when the events will reveal the hollowness of the Provisional Government; we must be prepared, when the time comes, when the events have matured, and until then we must organize the centre – the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies – and strengthen it. Therein lies the task of the moment.” [13]

This was precisely the conciliationist attitude Lenin came back to combat. “In so far as the Provisional Government fortifies the steps of the revolution, to that extent we must support it” and “We must bide our time until the Provisional Government exhausts itself, until the time when in the process of fulfilling the revolutionary program it discredits itself” is directly counterposed to Lenin’s April Thesis No 3: “No support for the Provisional Government; the utter falsity of all its promises should be made clear, particularly of those relating to the renunciation of annexations. Exposure in place of the impermissible, illusion-breeding “demand” that this government, a government of capitalists, should cease to be an imperialist government.”

It is clear that Lenin and Trotsky led that revolutionary struggle and nor Lars T’s pathetic conciliators, Zinoviev, Kamenev Kalinin, Lunacharsky et al.

But perhaps most telling is the attempt to wipe from the historical record the struggle within the Bolshevik Central Committee by deleting a whole day’s minutes and then having to renumber the pages to cover this up. Unfortunately for the falsifiers they forgot to alter the previous day’s minutes which scheduled the next day’s meeting and they did not manage to destroy the rushed of the minutes of that day, which fell into Trotsky’s hands. And it is obvious why they had to alter this record; it gave the lie to all their attempts to slander Trotsky. Trotsky tells us:

“We publish herewith the minutes of the historic session of the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks held November 1 (14) [36], 1917. The conquest of power had already been achieved, at any rate, in the most important centres in the country. Within the party, however, the struggle over the question of power had far from terminated. It had merely passed into a new phase. Prior to October 25, the representatives of the Right wing (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rykov, Kalinin, Lunacharsky and others) argued that the uprising was pre-mature and could lead only to defeat. After the victorious insurrection, they proceeded to argue that the Bolshevik party would be unable to maintain itself in power unless the Bolsheviks entered into a coalition with the other Socialist parties, i.e., the Social Revolutionists and the Mensheviks. During this new phase, the struggle of the Rights became exceptionally acute, and terminated with the resignation of the representatives of the Right wing from the Council of People’s Commissars and from the Central Committee of the party. It should be borne in mind that this crisis occurred only a few days after the conquest of power.”

How did the present Centrists and, above all, Stalin, conduct themselves on this question? In the nature of things, Stalin was a Centrist even at that time. He occupied a Centrist position whenever he had to take an independent stand or to express his personal opinion. But this Centrist stood in fear of Lenin. It is for this reason that there is virtually no political trace of Stalin during the most critical moments of the ideological struggle – from April 4, 1917, up to the time Lenin fell ill.

As these minutes prove, Lenin and Trotsky jointly defended the revolutionary line of the party. That is precisely why the minutes we publish were not included in the collection of the minutes of the Petrograd Committee, issued under the title: The First Legal Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks in 1917 (State Publishers, 1927). We must pause to correct ourselves. The minutes of the November 1 session were originally included in the book. They were set in type and the proofs were carefully read. As evidence of this, we present a facsimile reproduction of a section of these proof-sheets. But the minutes of this historical session were in flagrant and virtually intolerable contradiction with the falsification of the history of October, executed under the unenlightened but zealous supervision of Yaroslavsky. What was there left to do? Leningrad phoned Moscow; the Central Istpart phoned the Secretariat of the Central Committee, and the latter issued its instructions: That the minutes be expunged from the book, in such a manner as would leave no traces behind. The table of contents was hastily reset and the pages renumbered. Nevertheless, a tell-tale trace remains in the body of the book itself. The session of October 29 concludes by setting Wednesday (November 1) as the date for the next session. Meanwhile, according to the book the “next” session takes place on Thursday, November 2. But a much more important trace is preserved outside the pages of the book itself, in the form of the above-mentioned proof sheets, corrected and annotated in her own handwriting, by P.F. Kudelli, the editor of the volume.”

Session of the Petersburg committee of the Social Democratic Labour Party of Russia (Bolshevik), November 1 (14), 1917

Lenin: I cannot make a report but I shall give some information upon a question which is of great interest to all. That is, the question of the crisis in the party, which broke out [openly] at a time when the party was already in power.

The polemic waged by Rabochi Put [37], and my speeches against Kamenev and Zinoviev are no news to all those who have been following the life of the party … The question of the armed insurrection was raised at the October 1 session of the Central Committee … However, certain [old] members of the Central Committee came out in opposition. This grieved me deeply. Thus, the question of power has been posed for a long time. Couldn’t we now renounce it because of the disagreement on the part of Zinoviev and Kamenev? The insurrection was [objectively] necessary. Comrades Zinoviev and Kamenev began to agitate against the insurrection, and we began to look upon them as strike breakers. I even sent a letter to the Central Committee with a proposal to expel them from the party.

I expressed myself sharply in the press when Kamenev made his speech in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets. [On August 4 (17), 1917, Kamenev made a speech at a session of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets on the subject of his arrest. On August 6 (19), he also spoke on the subject of the Stockholm International Socialist Conference, which the Conciliationists proposed to convene in the summer of 1917 for the purpose of expediting the conclusion of peace by the Socialist parties exerting pressure upon their respective Governments] … Kamenev spoke in his own name in favour of participating in the Conference [despite the decision of the Central Committee of the party not to participate in the Stockholm Conference. – L.T.] to assume a severe attitude toward them …

And now, at such a moment, when we are in power, we are faced with a split. Zinoviev and Kamenev say that we will not seize power [in the entire country]. I am in no mood to listen to this calmly. I view this as treason. What do they want? Do they want to plunge us into [spontaneous] knife- play? Only the proletariat is able to lead the country.

As for conciliation, I cannot even speak about that seriously. Trotsky long ago said that unification is impossible. Trotsky understood this, and from that time on there has been no better Bolshevik.

Zinoviev says that we are not the Soviet power. We are, if you please, only the Bolsheviks, left alone since the departure of the Social Revolutionists and the Mensheviks, and so forth and so on. But we are not responsible for that. We have been elected by the Congress of the Soviets. This organization is something new. Whoever wants to struggle enters into it. It does not comprise the people, it comprises the vanguard whom the masses follow. We go with the masses-the active and not the weary masses. To refrain now from extending the insurrection [is to capitulate] to the weary masses, but we are with the vanguard. The Soviets take shape [in struggle]. The Soviets are the vanguard of the proletarian masses. And now we are being invited to wed the City Duma – how absurd!

We are told that we want to “introduce” socialism – how absurd! We do not intend to institute peasant socialism. We are told that we must “halt.” But that is impossible. Some even say that we are not the Soviet power. Then who are we? We are certainly not those who intend to unite with the Duma …

If you want a split, go ahead. If you get the majority, take power in the Central Executive Committee and carry on. But we will go to the sailors. We are in power. Who is capable of deserting now to the Novaya Zhizn? [Only] spineless, unprincipled people who are today with us and tomorrow with the Mensheviks. They say that we will be unable to maintain power alone, and so on. But we are not alone. The whole of Europe is before us. We must make the beginning. Only a socialist revolution is possible now. All these vacillations and doubts [conciliations] are a piece of nonsense. When I spoke [at a mass meeting] and said let us fight [the saboteurs] with food cards, the faces of the soldiers lit up. [The Rights] declare that the soldiers are incapable of fighting. But we get reports from speakers [who address the masses] that they have never before seen such enthusiasm. Only we can create a plan of revolutionary work. Only we are capable of waging a struggle.”[14]

I think everyone must acknowledge this is Lenin in his best fighting revolutionary form handing out a merciless ear-bashing to the rights whom Lars T Lih would like to try to persuade us were the real heroes of the Russian Revolutions. It is clear that Lenin and Trotsky led that revolutionary struggle and nor Lars T’s pathetic conciliators. Finally, note that Lenin proposed to expel Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Lunacharsky for going to Maxim Gorky’s Menshevik press and revealing the date of the insurrection so that the policemen of the Provisional government could read all about it. Fortunately, they were in not position to do anything about it. But he did not propose to shoot any of them. Stalin did shoot some 80, 000 according to his own official records in the years 1936-38, most of whom were totally innocent and for others crimes not a thousandth as treacherous as those committed by Stalin’s comrades, the rights, just four days before the storming of the Winter Palace.

Notes

[1] Leon Trotsky, The Stalin School of Falsification, Some Documents Relating to the Origin of the Legend of “Trotskyism” https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/ssf/sf07.htm

[2] Lenin Collected Works Vol. 24, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/cw/volume24.htm#1917-apr-04

[3] https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1905/apr/12b.htm]

[4]  L Trotsky, The permanent revolution and results and perspectives (1928), https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/pdf/prrp.pdf

[5] Gerry Downing, 2007, The April theses and permanent revolution,  https://socialistfight.com/2017/04/22/the-april-theses-and-permanent-revolution/

[6] Louis Proyect, The revolutionary democratic-dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry? Say what?, March 4, 2017, https://louisproyect.org/2017/03/04/the-revolutionary-democratic-dictatorship-of-the-proletariat-and-the-peasantry-say-what/

[7] Nikolai Bukharin 1915, Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State, https://www.marxists.org/archive/bukharin/works/1915/state.htm,

[8] Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest stage of Capitalism https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/

[9] Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, translated by Max Eastman, Chicago, Haymarket

[10] Marcel Liebman, Leninism under Lenin, London, J. Cape, 1975, ISBN 978-0-224-01072-6 p.123

[11] E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, London, Macmillan Publishers, 1950, vol. 1, p. 75.

[12] V. I. Lenin, From the Central Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks)

Written: 5—6 November, 1917, Collected Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow, Volume 26, 1972, pp. 304-308, Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov and George Hanna, Edited by George Hanna, Transcription & HTML Markup: Charles Farrell and David Walters, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/nov/06a.htm

[13] The March 1917 Party Conference, ON THE ATTITUDE TO THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT, Report by Comrade Stalin, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/ssf/sf14.htm

[14] Leon Trotsky, The Stalin School of Falsification, The Lost Document, https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/ssf/sf08.htm

6 thoughts on “The Lars T Lih School of Falsification

  1. louisproyect says:

    “Trotsky’s views on the course of the Russian revolution, like those of the Mensheviks, were refuted by history.”

    I did not write that. I was quoting Carl Davidson.

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  2. OK, apologies, I’ll rectify today.

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  3. Done. Apologies again for that bit of carelessness on my part.

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  4. Noa says:

    On Nevsky, he seems to be indeed one of the best historians. Follow the reference in the intro here for a biographical note: https://libcom.org/library/dialectical-materialism-philosophy-dead-reaction-vladimir-nevsky
    Nevsky also wrote on the South-Russian Workers Union in Nikolaev in 1897 (which can be considered the first biography of Trotsky).

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  5. In your letter to Weekly Worker, you summarize your take on Lih’s aims:

    to misrepresent Lenin’s stance in April 1917, to hide the capitulation of Kamenev, Stalin and MK Muranov to the provisional government before April and to rip the debate out of its international context

    But I don’t see reason to think that Lih wants to rehabilitate Stalin and his allies. Nor to propound a version of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. Certainly Lih’s exponent, the CPGB, wants to celebrate neither Stalin nor the peasantry.

    Probably the main significance of Lih’s work – if this can be used as a guide to his aims – is to discredit Trotsky. Not so much by depriving him of the credit for theorizing the Russian revolution but more so by depicting Trotsky as dishonest, as advancing his own self-interested historical fabrications (or at least exaggerations).

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