24/08/2017 by socialistfight
Gerry Downing’s 4 letters to Weekly Worker
Lars T Lih; Falsifier of the History of the Russian Revolution
The Real Points at Issue in April 1917
The real distortions Lars T Lih (‘All power to the soviets!’, April 20) uses to prove his 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 by April 1917:
“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’).
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.”
It could not be clearer here. It was to be 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.”
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 not 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.
Supporters cheer as Lenin arrives at Finland Station, Petrograd, 16th April 1917. He immediately went to war on the conciliators, Kamenev, Stalin and the rest.
The Lars T Lih School of Falsification
Lars T Lih continues his falsification of the history of the Russian Revolution. (WW, All Power to the Soviets 4 May). And it becomes clearer that he is seeking to defend the politics of Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Kalinin and rubbish those of Lenin and Trotsky.
The April Theses is imbued with 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 the goal he sought was world revolution.
We would cite the foreword that Lenin wrote to Nikolai Bukharin’s, Toward a Theory of the Imperialist State in 1915 and his own 1916 Imperialism, the Highest stage of Capitalism 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 both Lars T Lih nor Eric Blanc confuse this matter; theirs is a bogus international, the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, i.e. a bourgeois revolution in Russia would inspire workers’ revolution in advanced capitalist countries which would then assist Russia to have a socialist revolution after a whole historic period of development.
No, Lenin claimed, we must have our socialist revolution now because the class consciousness of the Russian working class is international and constitutes a part of the world revolution. This is part of their quest to discredit Lenin and Trotsky and rehabilitate the rightist Bolshevik opponents of the great Socialist Revolution of October 1917.
And now for what is perhaps the biggest lie of all from Lars in ‘All power to the soviets!’, April 20:
“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 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”. 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?” 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.”
And that is outright political capitulation on the most crucial question of all for revolutionary Marxists; what attitude to take to our own imperialist bourgeoisie in war? Louis Proyect tells us that on 16 March 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.
In my next letter, I will deal with Kautsky in 1906 and the attempts by Zinoviev and Stalin to suppress the minutes of the Bolshevik Conference of March 1917 before Lenin returned and the devastating minutes of the meeting of Bolshevik Central Committee of 1 November 1917 in which Lenin launched into a very angry denunciation of the treachery of Zinoviev and Kamenev and the ‘conciliators’ and in which he accused them of treason. And Lars thinks this is “not controversial???” In the 1937 Introduction to his Stalin School of Falsification Trotsky assess Stalin’s position in this crucial period thus:
“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.”
It is clear that Lenin and Trotsky led that revolutionary struggle and nor Lars T’s pathetic conciliators; Zinoviev, Kamenev, Kalinin, Lunacharsky, Stalin et al.
Kamenev, Zinoviev, Stalin, Lenin and Kalin in 1917: Lenin had to fight these four right wing conciliators with his April Theses right through 1917 to make the Russian Revolution with Trotsky, co-leader of the Revolution, his closest political ally.
In this reply to Lars T Lih I will concentrate on two incidents. First the recovery of the Session of the Petersburg committee of the Social Democratic Labour Party of Russia (Bolshevik), November 1 (14), 1917 and second the revelation of Zinoviev that the struggle against ‘Trotskyism’ was planned by him, Stalin and Kamenev in 1923-4
There was an attempt to wipe from the historical record the struggle within the Bolshevik Central Committee by deleting that 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 rushes 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) , 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.”
This is Lenin’s furious response:
“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 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 …
… 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.”
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. This is Trotsky’s account of what was revealed in The Stalin School of Falsification:
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.”
… 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 …”
…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!).”
Of course, Zinoviev and Kamenev reverted to their old tricks once the United Opposition fell apart when they capitulated to Stalin in 1927 and denied their own too-honest confessions.
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.
Stalin was the chief falsifier of the history of the Russian Revolution. In the second image above Trotsky has been eliminated from the photograph in line with Stalin’s efforts to deny he was the co-leader of the Russian Revolution.
Lenin: “I view this as treason”
Once again, we are faced with another falsification by Lars T Lih WW-Supplement, June 29, 2017, Corrections from up close). Here we learn that ‘The Petrograd Bolsheviks nudged Lenin’s letter (From Afar – GD) in the direction of the April theses’. To summarise the Lars T theses here Lenin was utterly clueless on the real situation on the ground in Russia, and Kamenev and Stalin had to edit his first Letter From Afar so as not to make him look a complete idiot.
Lars gives us a list of who was on the EB with the ousted Shliapnikov and Molotov first and third and the Editor in Chief, Kamanev and his close allies Stalin and Muranov fourth, fifth and sixth, as if the turnabout had not happened.
And that board contained Lenin’s sister and Aleksandra Kollontai, who were so supportive of Lenin that they would surely never betray him. And he might have added Lenin’s own wife, Krupskaya, did not support him on this in the beginning:
“No prominent Bolshevik leader supported his call to revolution, and the editorial board of Pravda took the extraordinary step of dissociating themselves and the Party from Lenin’s proposals. Bogdanov characterised the April Theses as “the delirium of a madman”; Nadezhda Krupskaya concluded: “I am afraid it looks as if Lenin has gone crazy.” Slavoj Žižek, quoting Lenin by Hélène Carrère d’Encausse in the London Review of Books.
Pravda under Shliapnikov and Molotov was absolutely anti-war but the line with immediately changed in mid-March to support for the war and the Provisional government:
“Under Kamenev’s and Stalin’s influence, Pravda took a conciliatory tone towards the Provisional Government—”insofar as it struggles against reaction or counter-revolution” (Stalin)—and called for a unification conference with the internationalist wing of the Mensheviks. On March 14, Kamenev wrote in his first editorial: What purpose would it serve to speed things up, when things were already taking place at such a rapid pace? Marcel Liebman, Leninism under Lenin, p.123.
According to E. H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, London, Macmillan Publishers, 1950, vol. 1, p. 75:
On March 15 he (Kamenev) supported the war effort: “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.”
On 16 March Stalin wrote; “The slogan, ‘Down with the war,’ is useless”. We must suppose Lars T choses to ignore this evidence or else perhaps he wishes to deny their authenticity because I have not checked the original Russian as he has done?
‘Kamenev led the opposition to Lenin’s call for the overthrow of the government. In Pravda he disputed Lenin’s assumption that “the bourgeois democratic revolution has ended,” and warned against utopianism that would transform the “party of the revolutionary masses of the proletariat” into “a group of communist propagandists.” A meeting of the Petrograd Bolshevik Committee the day after the April Theses appeared voted 13 to 2 to reject Lenin’s position.’ Spartacus Educational, Russia, Events and Issues: 1914-25, April Theses , http://spartacus-educational.com/RUSapril.htm
Trotsky reminded us that Permanent Revolution and the April Theses were viewed as complementary while Lenin lived:
“My books The Year 1905 (with the criminal foreword [Radek had found great errors in the foreword in his desperate attempts to appease Stalin in 1927 – GD]) and The October Revolution played the role, while Lenin was alive, of fundamental historical text-books on both revolutions. At that time, they went through innumerable editions in Russian as well as in foreign languages. Never did anybody tell me that my books contained a counterposing of two lines, because at that time, before the revisionist volte-face by the epigones, no sound-thinking party member subordinated the October experience to old quotations, but instead viewed old quotations in the light of the October Revolution.”
Lenin himself accused Kamenev and Zinoviev of treason four days after the successful revolution on October 25:
“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”.
Five times mention of Kerensky is cut from Lenin’s original, so determined were the right wingers to defend their relationship with him. As proof, he tells us Stalin was proud of the role he played because he allowed the authentic Letter from Afar to appear in Lenin’s Collected Works in 1949:
“If the usual story of Stalin and Kamenev’s censorship of Lenin is true, Stalin’s publication of Lenin’s draft would be equivalent to a guilty man returning to the scene of the crime and planting new evidence of his own guilt. How plausible is this account of Stalin’s motives? Shouldn’t we assume that, surprising as it may seem, Stalin was proud of the job he and others did in preparing Lenin’s article for publication?”
Do we really have to point out that in 1949 no one dared to criticise Stalin about anything and he was quite fee to say black was white and everyone immediately agreed with him or else execution or exile to the Gulag quickly followed? And are there some examples of the earlier editions of Lenin’s CWs being falsified? The 1949 volume 31 did not have its English translation until 1965, for some strange reason. Stalin was really proud of having executed every critic or potential critic by then.
Having cut out all mention of “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” there can be no doubt but that the motivation was not to upset the Provisional government whom Pravda was now supporting in the war against Lenin’s furious opposition. And not to make the obvious comparison with the almost identical political position of the Pravda EB. And if that is not historical falsification I do not know what is. ▲