Leon Trotsky

Today, 25 April, is a day of celebration in Italy. It is the anniversary of the final fall of the hated Fascist regime in 1945. The official history books tell us that the anti-fascist movement, the hundreds of thousands of armed partisans who fought in the resistance, were fighting for a democratic republic, which is what was finally established. This ignores the fact that what was taking place was a social revolution – not just for democracy, but for workers’ power. In this brilliant text written in 1930 – 15 years before these events – Leon Trotsky predicted that a “democratic republic”, i.e. a bourgeois-democratic regime, would only emerge from a defeat of the revolutionary movement, as he put it, in the form of a “counter-revolution with a democratic face”. That is precisely what happened in 1945.

Today is the 175th anniversary of the publication of that founding document of the Marxist movement, the Communist Manifesto. Written in 1847 by Marx and Engels, and published the following year, the Manifesto retains an astonishing vitality today. Indeed, it is more relevant now than when it was written. We publish below an article by Trotsky written in 1937 on the occasion of the Manifesto's 90th anniversary.

Thousands tuned in for an online rally on 25 November to launch a Brazilian campaign in support of the Leon Trotsky House Museum in Mexico. The meeting was hosted and introduced by Roberto Robaina a PSOL (Party of Socialism and Freedom) councillor in Porto Alegre and leader of the MES tendency within the party, Serge Goulart (from the Esquerda Marxista, Brazilian section of the IMT) and Israel Dutra, the PSOL International Relations Officer. Speaking at the meeting were Esteban Volkov, Trotsky’s grandson, Gabriela Noriega, the Museum’s Director, Leonardo Padura, the renowned Cuban writer who wrote “The Man Who Loved Dogs”, and Alan Woods, editor of “In Defence of Marxism” website and a leading figure of the International Marxist Tendency.

We republish here the ‘Report on the World Economic Crisis and the New Tasks of the Communist International’, written by Leon Trotsky in June 1921. In this masterpiece of perspectives, which is highly relevant to the world situation to day, Trotsky analyses the nature of the organic, global crisis of capitalism, of a system being suffocated by its own mountains of debt, speculation and inflation.

Since we launched our appeal to help save the Trotsky Museum last Thursday, we have raised no less than €7,700. This is a great achievement but we would like your help to raise even more.

In the year 2000 we published this article by Leon Trotsky on capitalist development. The purpose then was to underline the fact that although capitalism was experiencing a boom, the period we had entered was actually one of overall capitalist decline. As we explained in the introduction “Rather than a new upswing, capitalism is heading for a new slump and a downward curve of development similar to the interwar period.” This was confirmed by the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent events. We are republishing it as an aid to understanding the period we have been through and where we are going.

The following are new translations of excerpts from Trois points c’est tout by Fred Zeller (1912-2003). Zeller, who, at the time, was the secretary of the Seine (Paris) Young Socialists and a sympathiser of the Trotskyist movement in the mid-1930s, visited Trotsky in Norway at the end of October 1935. This was at the time when the Socialist Party leaders were expelling the left from the Young Socialists as well as dissolving the Bolshevik Leninist tendency, whose members had joined the SFIO in late 1934.

The following letters, originally in Russian, were only recently found in the police files on Andres Nin in the National Historical Archives in Madrid (Ministerio de gobernación, policía [histórico], h.394). This material represents a significant historical discovery. Most importantly, Trotsky’s correspondence is an important political weapon for today’s revolutionary movement.

Re-visiting the question of the United States of Europe in the wake of the war and the creation of the Soviet Union, Trotsky once again put forward the slogan of a “United States of Europe” in his 1923 article, "Is the Time Ripe for the Slogan: ‘The United States of Europe’" published in Pravda. Again, Trotsky emphasises the revolutionary significance of the demand for the democratic unification of Europe but this time with an even clearer class content, asserting that the demand for a United States of Europe cannot be isolated from the demand for a “Workers’ Government”.

On 21 August 1940, Leon Trotsky, the great revolutionary leader of the October Revolution, died in Mexico, murdered by a Stalinist agent. We publish his autobiography with forewords by In Defence of Marxism editor, Alan Woods, and Trotsky's grandson, Esteban Volkov.

My high (and still rising) blood pressure is deceiving those near me about my actual condition. I am active and able to work but the outcome is evidently near. These lines will be made public after my death.

Today marks the anniversary of Leon Trotsky’s assassination. Struck down 78 years ago by an ice-pick to the head from a cowardly Stalinist assassin, he soon fell into a coma and died the following day, 21st August 1940. Here we republish an article from the anniversary in 2012, the fight for Trotsky's ideas remain as relevant as ever and we commemorate the life and ideas of this inspiring revolutionary, theoretician and leader.

“The tragic experience of Spain is a terrible - perhaps final - warning before still greater events, a warning addressed to all the advanced workers of the world. ‘Revolutions,’ Marx said, ‘are the locomotives of history.’ They move faster than the thought of semi-revolutionary or quarter-revolutionary parties. Whoever lags behind falls under the wheels of the locomotive, and consequently - and this is the chief danger - the locomotive itself is also not infrequently wrecked.”

The Austrian crisis is a particular manifestation of the crisis of democracy as the main form of bourgeois rule. The excessively high tension of the international struggle and the class struggle results in the short circuit of the dictatorship, blowing out the fuses of democracy one after the other. The process began on the periphery of Europe, in the most backward countries, the weakest links in the capitalist chain. But it is advancing steadily. What is called the crisis of parliamentarism is the political expression of the crisis in the entire system of bourgeois society. Democracy stands or falls with capitalism. By defending a democracy, which has outlived itself, social democracy drives social development into the blind alley of fascism.

The great weakness of the Austrian bourgeoisie after the war and the revolution, and the related economic and political dependence of Austria, have been the most important source of strength for the Austrian social democracy. In carrying out its function of saviour and consolidator of the bourgeois regime, the Austrian social democracy had the opportunity to dissociate it-self, in its propaganda, either from the native bourgeoisie or from the foreign (English and American) bourgeoisie. In the first period of the stabilization of the bourgeois regime after the revolution, the social democracy was the direct agent of foreign capital. This allowed it not only to heap the responsibility for all calamities onto the national bourgeoisie but also to take a position in relation to the bourgeoisie that was - at least in appearance - more independent and more critical than was feasible for the social democracy of any other country, not even excluding Germany. The further the consolidation of the bourgeois regime progressed, the more frequently did the Social Democrats denounce the national bourgeoisie for merely carrying out the orders of Anglo-Saxon capital. Meanwhile, for the workers they had one ready-made argument for the inviolability of private property: "Naturally, we could finish off our own bourgeoisie; however, it isn't a question of them, but of the American and English bourgeoisie."

The bourgeois parties of Austria more readily lost any features distinguishing one from the other because all were obliged to hang on to the Anglo-Saxon master's every word. Social democracy in essence plays the same role but, because it bases itself on the workers, it is forced to take a stand in opposition to the bloc of bourgeois parties. And it is only this "opposition" that allows it actually to save the bourgeoisie. We have seen similar processes and phenomena in Germany too. They have contributed greatly to the self-preservation of the German social democracy. But because the German bourgeoisie is far stronger and far more independent, the German social democracy was forced to be far more open and obvious in adapting to it and blocking with it, and to take direct responsibility for it before the masses of workers. This situation opened up great possibilities for the development of the German Communist Party.

Austria is a small body with a big head. The capital city is in the hands of the social democracy, which, however, has less than half the seats in the national parliament (43 percent). This unstable equilibrium, which is maintained thanks only to the conservative-conciliatory policy of the social democracy, greatly facilitates the position of Austro-Marxism (1). What it does in the Vienna city council is enough to distinguish it from the bourgeois parties in the eyes of the workers. And what it does not do - that is, the most important things - it can always put to the responsibility of the bourgeois parties. While Austro-Marxism exposes the bourgeoisie in articles and speeches, it very skilfully utilizes, as we have already said, the international dependence of Austria in order to prevent the workers from rising against the class enemy. "In Vienna we are strong, but in the country we are still weak. Besides, we have a master over us. We must retain our positions within the democracy and - wait."

That is the central idea of Austro-Marxist politics. All this has made it possible so far for Austro-Marxism to play the role of the "left" wing in the Second International and to retain all its positions against the Communist Party, which continues to heap mistake upon mistake.

Austrian social democracy helped the Entente(2) to deal with the Hungarian revolution, helped its own bourgeoisie emerge from the post-war crisis, and created a democratic asylum for private property when it was staggering and close to collapse. Thus, through the entire post-war period, it has been the chief instrument for the domination of the bourgeoisie over the working class.

But this instrument is an independent organization, with an independent large bureaucracy and a labour aristocracy, which has its own interests and its own claims. This bureaucracy, flesh of the flesh of the petty bourgeoisie in its ideas, manners, and way of life, nevertheless bases itself upon an actual, real working class and lives in constant fear of its dissatisfaction. This circum-stance is the main source of friction and conflicts between the bourgeoisie and the social democracy, that is, between the master and the local agent, or steward.

No matter how tightly the Austrian social democracy has en-meshed the working class in its net of political, trade-union, municipal, cultural, and sport institutions, it is nevertheless plain—and the July 1927 days(3) showed this especially clearly— that these reformist-pacifist methods alone do not give the bourgeoisie the necessary guarantees.

What has been said explains the social functions of Austrian fascism. It is the bourgeoisie's second steward, quite distinct from the first and opposed to it. The lower ranks of the social democracy are impelled forward by a proletarian instinct, even if an adulterated one. The lower ranks of fascism feed upon the hopelessness of the petty bourgeoisie and declassed" elements' that-Austria is so rich in. The leaders of the social democracy keep the class instinct of the proletariat in check through the slogans and institutions of democracy. The leaders of fascism give vent to the despair of the petty bourgeoisie in its state of decay, offering the perspective of salvation through a coup d'etat, after which the "Marxists" will no longer be able to hinder the good headway of agriculture, commerce, and the professions.

We thus have in Austria the classic refutation of the philistine theory that fascism is born out of revolutionary Bolshevism. Fascism begins to play a bigger role in a country as the contra-diction between the policy of the social democracy as a mass party and the urgent needs of historical development becomes more glaringly obvious and unbearable. In Austria, as every-where else, fascism appears as the necessary supplement to social democracy, is nourished by it, and comes to power through its aid.

Fascism is the legitimate son of formal democracy in the epoch of decline. In Austria, the principles of democracy have been carried to the point of absurdity in an especially graphic way. The social democracy is a few percentage points short of having a majority. It could be said, however—and it would not be paradoxical, but simply the naked truth—that the political immobility of Austrian social democracy is based not on the 43 percent of the vote, which it has, but on the 7 percent that it lacks for a majority. The foundations of capitalism would remain inviolable, even if the Austrian Social Democrats won the 'majority. But such a victory is in no way guaranteed. It is idiocy to think that all questions can be settled through propaganda.

If you proceed from the premise that life in Austria will continue within the framework of democracy on into the future, there is absolutely no evidence to make you conclude that sometime in the next twenty-five to fifty years the Austrian social democracy will inevitably obtain a majority. The economic life of all of capitalist Europe faces an enormous threat from the United States and other countries across the seas. The economic decomposition of Austria, which is absolutely inevitable within this very perspective of peaceful development, is more likely to lead to a loss of votes for the social democracy than a gain. Consequently, according to the logic of democracy, in spite of the fact that continued bourgeois rule dooms the nation to decay and cultural decline, in spite of the complete readiness of the over-whelming majority of the proletariat, the backbone of the nation; to make the transition to socialism, the transition is unacceptable, since a few percent of the electorate, the most backward, the most unenlightened, the most depraved, stand aside from the struggle, vegetate in mindless darkness, and are ready at the crucial moment to give their votes and fists to fascism.

Democracy has reached the point of total absurdity. In the epoch of capitalism's steady and organic growth, which was accompanied by and tied in with the systematic class differentiation of the nation, democracy played a major historical role, including that of the education of the proletariat. Its greatest role was in Europe. But in the age of imperialism, which in Europe is above all the age of decaying capitalism, democracy has reached a dead end. That is why we see in Austria, where the constitution was framed by the Social Democrats, where the social democracy holds a position of exceptionally great importance, controlling the capital city, and where, consequently, we ought to see democratic forms of transition from capitalism to socialism in their most finished expression, we find instead that politics is governed, on the one hand, by attacking bands of fascists, and, on the other, by retreating detachments of half-armed social democratic workers, while the role of grand symphonic conductor of this democracy is taken by an old police official of the Habsburg school.(4)

Fascism is the second authorized agent of the bourgeoisie. Like the social democracy, and to an even greater extent, fascism has its own army, its own interests, and its own logic of operation. We know that in order to save and consolidate bourgeois society fascism in Italy was forced to come into violent conflict not only with the social democracy but also with the traditional parties of the bourgeoisie. The same can be observed in Poland. It should not be imagined that all the agencies of bourgeois rule function in complete harmony. Fortunately it is not so. Economic anarchy is supplemented by political anarchy. Fascism, fed by the social democracy, is forced to crack the latter's skull in order to come to power. Austrian social democracy is doing everything it can to facilitate this surgical operation for the fascists.

It is hard to imagine more concentrated nonsense than Otto I Bauer's arguments on the impermissibility of violence except for I the defence of the existing democracy. Translated into the language of classes, this argument means: violence is permissible to guarantee the interests of the bourgeoisie, organized as the state, but it is impermissible for the establishment of a proletarian state.

A juridical formula is appended to this theory. Bauer chews over again the old formulations of Lassalle on law and revolution.(5) But Lassalle was speaking while on trial. There his arguments were pertinent. But the attempt to turn a juridical duel with the prosecutor into a philosophy of historical development is nothing but a subterfuge of cowardice. As Bauer would have it, the use of violence is permissible only in response to an already accomplished coup d'etat, when "law" no longer has any foundation, but it is impermissible twenty-four hours before the coup, in order to prevent it. Along this line, Bauer draws the demarcation between Austro-Marxism and Bolshevism as if it were a question of two schools of criminal law. In reality the difference lies in the fact that Bolshevism seeks to overthrow bourgeois rule while social democracy seeks to eternalise it. There can be no doubt that if a coup were made, Bauer would declare: "We did not call upon the workers to take arms against the fascists when we had powerful organizations, a legal press, 43 percent of the deputies, and the Vienna municipality; when the fascists were anti-constitutional bands attacking law and order. How could we do so now, when the fascists control the state apparatus and base themselves on the new laws they have created; when we have been deprived of everything, have been outlawed, and have no legal communication with the masses (who are, moreover, obviously disillusioned and discouraged, and have gone over to-fascism in large numbers)? A call for armed uprising now could only be the work of criminal adventurists or Bolsheviks." In making such a 180-degree turn in their philosophy, the Austro-Marxists would simply remain one hundred percent true to themselves.

In its reactionary baseness the slogan domestic disarmament surpasses everything that we have heard up to now from the social democracy. These gentlemen beg the workers to disarm in the face of the armed bourgeois state. The fascist bands are after all only auxiliary detachments of the bourgeoisie; dissolved today, they can be called to life again at any moment and armed twice as strongly as at present. In the case of the workers though, no one will rearm them if the social democracy uses the hands of the bourgeois state to disarm them. The social democracy naturally fears the weapons of the fascists. But it is hardly any less afraid of weapons in the hands of the workers. Today the bourgeoisie is still afraid of civil war, first, because it is not sure of the outcome, and, second, because it does not want economic disturbances. Disarming the workers insures the bourgeoisie against civil war - and thereby increases to the maximum the chances of a fascist coup.

The demand for the domestic disarmament of Austria is a demand of the Entente countries, first of all France and secondly England. The semi-official French newspaper Le Temps explains severely to Schober that domestic disarmament is necessary both in the interests of international peace and of private property. In his speech in the House of Commons, Henderson developed the same theme. In defending Austrian democracy, Henderson de- fended the Versailles treaty(6). Here, as in all important questions, the Austrian social democracy simply serves as a transmitting mechanism for the bourgeoisie of the victorious countries.

The social democracy is incapable of taking power and does not want to take it. The bourgeoisie finds, however, that the disciplining of the workers through the social democratic agency entails too great an overhead expense. The bourgeoisie as a whole heeds fascism to keep the social democracy in check and, in case of need, to cast it aside altogether. Fascism wants to take power and is capable of wielding it. Once it had power, it would not hesitate to place it completely at the disposal of finance capital. But that is the road of social convulsions and also entails great overhead expense. That is what explains the hesitations of the bourgeoisie and the infighting among its various layers, and that is what determines the policy it is most likely to pursue in the coming period: that of using the fascists to force the Social Democrats to help the bourgeoisie revise the constitution in such a way as to combine the advantages of democracy and fascism - fascism for its essence and democracy for its form - and thus to free itself from the exorbitant overhead expenses of democratic reforms while avoiding, if possible, the new overhead expense of a fascist coup.

Will the bourgeoisie succeed along this path? It cannot succeed completely, nor for a prolonged period. In other words, the bourgeoisie cannot establish a regime that would allow it to rest peacefully both upon the workers and upon the ruined petty bourgeoisie, without incurring either the expense of social reforms or the convulsions of civil war. The contradictions are too great. They are bound to break through and force events in one direction or another.

Either way, Austrian "democracy" is doomed. After its present apoplectic stroke, it can of course recover and live on for a while, dragging one foot and barely able to use its tongue. It is possible that a second stroke would have to come before it falls. But its future is foreordained.

Austro-Marxism has entered a period of history when it must pay for its past sins. The social democracy, having saved the bourgeoisie from Bolshevism, is now making it easier for the bourgeoisie to be saved from the social democracy itself. It would be totally absurd to close one's eyes to the fact that the victory of fascism would involve not only the physical extermination of the handful of Communists but also the pitiless crushing of all the" r organizations and bases of support of the social democracy. In t \ this regard, as in many others, social democracy only repeats the | history of liberalism, whose belated child it is. More than once in history, the liberals helped feudal reaction triumph over the popular masses only to be liquidated by the reaction in turn.

It is as though history had undertaken the special task of finding the most vivid forms for refuting the prognoses and directives of the Comintern since 1923. That is how things stand with its analysis of the revolutionary situation in Germany in 1923; its estimate of the world role of America and the Anglo-American antagonism; the course it set for a revolutionary upsurge in 1924-25; its view of the motive forces and perspectives of the Chinese revolution (1925-27); its evaluation of British trade unionism (1925-27); its line on industrialization and the kulak in the USSR; and so on without end. Today the assessment of the "third period" and of social fascism is suffering the same fate.

Molotov discovered that "France is in the front ranks of the revolutionary upsurge." But in reality, of all the countries in Europe, it is Austria where we find the most revolutionary situation, and there - this is the most significant fact of all the starting point for possible revolutionary developments is not the struggle between communism and "social fascism," but the clash between social democracy and fascism. Confronted by this fact, the luckless Austrian Communist Party finds itself at a total impasse.

For indeed the clash between social democracy and fascism is the main fact of Austrian politics today. The social democracy is retreating and conceding all along the line, crawling on its belly, pleading, and surrendering one position after another. But the conflict is no less real in nature because of that, for the social democracy's neck is at stake. A further advance by the fascists can - and should - push the social democratic workers, and even a section of the social democratic apparatus, well beyond the limits set for themselves by the Seitzes,(7) Otto Bauers, and others. Just as revolutionary situations more than once developed out of the conflict between liberalism and the monarchy, subsequently outgrowing both opponents, so too out of the collision between the social democracy and fascism - these two antagonistic agents of the bourgeoisie - a revolutionary situation may develop that will outgrow them both in days to come. A proletarian revolutionist in the epoch of bourgeois revolutions who was unable to analyse and understand the conflict between the liberals and the monarchy and who lumped these opponents together instead of utilizing the conflict between them in a revolutionary way - such a revolutionist would have been worthless. A communist today who stands face to face with the conflict between fascism and social democracy and tries simply to paper it over with the barren formula of social fascism, lacking in any content whatsoever, such a communist is equally good for nothing.

This kind of position - policy of shrill and empty leftism-blocks the Communist Party's road to the social democratic workers in advance and gives rich nourishment to the right wing in the communist camp. One of the reasons for the strengthening of the right wing is that, in its criticisms, it touches the obvious and unquestionable wounds of official communism. The more incapable the party is of making its way to the social democratic workers, the easier it is for the Right Opposition to find a path to the social democratic apparatus.

The refusal to recognize or inability to understand the nature of revolutionary crises, political minimalism, and the perspective of eternally preparing - these are the principal features of the policy of the right wing. They are bound to be felt most strongly at times when the Comintern leadership tries to create a revolutionary situation artificially, by administrative means. At such times, the criticism of the right wing seems convincing on the surface. But it has nothing in common with a revolutionary strategy. The right wing supported the opportunist policies in the most revolutionary periods (in Germany, China, and England). They improve their reputation by their criticism of bureaucratic adventurism so that, later on, they can once again serve as a brake at the decisive moment.

The policy of the centrists, who have taken the bit in their teeth and are running wild, not only nourishes the right wing but brings grist to the mill of Austro-Marxism. Nothing can save Austrian social democracy in the coming period—except the wrong policies of official communism.

What exactly does "social fascism" mean? No matter how shrewdly these ill-starred "theoreticians" improvise, they cannot reply to this question with anything but the statement that the social democracy is ready to defend the foundations of bourgeois rule and its own positions within the bourgeois regime by the use of armed force against the workers. But isn't that the common feature of all "democratic" parties without exception? Have we ever thought or said that democracy is the reign of social peace? Didn't Kerensky and Tseretelli(8) smash the peasants and workers in the honeymoon days of the democratic revolution? Didn't the French Radicals use armed force against strikers both before and after the war? Is not the history of Republican and Democratic Party rule in the United States the history of bloody repressions against strikers? If all this is fascism, then the history of class society is the history of fascism. In that case. there are as many kinds of fascism as there are bourgeois parties: liberal fascists, radical fascists, national fascists, etc. But then what meaning does this definition of fascism have? None whatsoever. It is only a shrill-sounding synonym for class violence.

In August 1914 we gave the name social imperialism to the social democracy. By this we meant that social democracy is a special form of imperialism adapted to the working class. Its imperialism unites the social democracy with all the parties of the bourgeoisie without exception. Its "socialism" distinguishes it from these parties. Social imperialism defines it as a whole.

But fascism, unless one wishes to play a senseless game with words, is by no means a feature characteristic of all bourgeois parties. Rather, it constitutes a specific bourgeois party, fitted for special tasks and circumstances, opposed to the other bourgeois parties, and most sharply of all precisely to the social democracy.

One may attempt to counter this assertion with the argument that the hostility between bourgeois parties is highly relative. That is not only true; it is a truism which does not bring us one step forward. The fact that all the bourgeois parties, from fascism to social democracy, put the defence of bourgeois rule ahead of their programmatic differences does not eliminate the differences between these parties, or their struggle against one another, or our duty to utilize this struggle.

The Austrian social democracy, more than any other party in the Second International, is intertwined with the working class.. For this reason alone the development of the revolutionary crisis in this country presupposes a series of deep-going internal crises in the Social Democratic Party. In Austria, where the differentiation is belated, it is not out of the question that, in particular, an "independent" party might split off from the official party and immediately, as in Germany, create a possible mass base for the Communist Party.(9) This variant is not inevitable, but it is quite possible under the circumstances. The perspective of a possible split in the social democracy under the direct impact of a revolutionary crisis cannot in any way imply a more moderate attitude toward the future "independents" or potential "independents" on the part of the Communists. The need for implacable exposure of "lefts" of the Max Adler type,(10) or of more recent models, re-quires no demonstration. But it would be disastrous not to foresee that in the course of the struggle against fascism a rapprochement is inevitable between the Communist Party and the masses of social democratic workers at large, who still feel themselves to be and regard themselves as Social Democrats. It is the direct duty of the Communist Party to criticize the bourgeois character of the social democracy before this audience, to show these workers that social democratic politics is the politics of capitulation to fascism. The more severe the crisis becomes, the more thoroughly this Communist criticism will be confirmed by the experience, of the masses. But to equate the social democracy with fascism when the social democratic workers have a mortal hatred of fascism and the leaders fear it just as mortally means to act in contradiction to the real political relations, to impart distrust of communism to these masses, and to strengthen the bond between these masses and their leaders.

It is not hard to foresee that the lumping together of social democracy and fascism creates a new danger, of idealizing the left social democracy, at such time as the latter comes around to a more serious confrontation with fascism. This has already been demonstrated by historical experience. It must be remembered that the equating of social democracy with fascism, first pro-claimed at the unfortunate Fifth Congress of the Comintern, found its necessary antithesis in the capitulation to Purcell, to Pilsudski, to Chiang Kai-Shek, to Radich,(11) and to La Follette. All this was quite in conformity with the laws of politics. Whoever equates the extreme left wing of bourgeois society with its extreme right wing, i.e., Austro-Marxism with fascism, inevitably lays the groundwork for the Communist Party's capitulation to the left social democracy at the most critical moment.*

This question is very closely connected with the long-range slogans of the Austrian working class: Soviets of workers' deputies and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Generally speaking, these two slogans are closely interconnected. The formation of Soviets is conceivable only under the conditions of a revolutionary situation, a turbulent mass movement with a large and growing role being played by the Communist Party, that is, the conditions that precede or accompany the conquest of power by the proletariat.

But in Austria more than in any other country the possibility remains not only that the slogan of Soviets might not coincide with the slogan of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but that the two might even be counterposed, that is, that the Soviets might be transformed into a stronghold opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat. It is all the more important to understand and foresee this because the epigones (Zinoviev, Stalin, and others,) made a vulgar fetish out of the slogan of Soviets, substituting an organizational form for the class content.

It is by no means out of the question that, if not at the present stage of the struggle, then at the next, the Austrian social democracy will be forced to take the leadership of a general strike (as the British General Council of the Trades Union Congress did in 1926) and even to sanction the formation of Soviets, in order to keep the leadership all the more securely in its own hands. Naturally this would be bound up with a crisis in the party of greater or lesser extent. Friedrich Adler(12) and the others would have to be dragged out of retirement. Max Adler or someone even more to the "left" would once again argue that Soviets plus democracy could produce a combined type of state and thus spare us the necessity of seizing power and establishing the dictatorship. Not only the social democratic workers but even the communist workers, having grown accustomed to hearing day in and day out that the social democracy and fascism are twins, would be caught by surprise by such a stage of development in the struggle between the social democracy and fascism. And yet this stage would only signify a more complex, a more combined system of betrayal of the proletariat's interests by the social democracy. For under the,. leadership of the Austro-Marxists, the Soviets would not be organs of the proletarian struggle for power but an instrument for holding back the proletariat from any attempt to take over the state.

In Germany such an attempt, at least on any extended basis, is no longer possible, because the Communist Party there represents too great a force. But in Austria things are different. If events unfold rapidly, the culminating point might be reached long before the Communist Party could emerge from its isolation and weakness. Soviets in the hands of the Austro-Marxists could serve as a mechanism enabling them to cheat the proletariat out of a revolutionary situation for the second time, and thereby once again to save bourgeois society, with the inevitable enthronement of open fascism as a result. Needless to say, in such a case the ribs of the social democracy itself would be crushed under the boot of fascism. Politics knows no gratitude.

The slogans of Soviets and the dictatorship of the proletariat have only a propaganda significance in Austria at this time. Not because Austria is so far removed from a revolutionary situation but because the bourgeois regime in Austria is equipped with what is still a vast system of safety valves and vents - in the form of the social democracy. Contrary to the blowhards and phrasemongers, the task of the Austrian Communist Party at the present time is not to "arm" (with what?) the masses (which?) and to lead them into "the final conflict" but rather to "patiently explain" (as Lenin said in April 1917!). The success of such propaganda work can prove to be all the more rapid and powerful, the better the Communist Party itself understands what is going on before its eyes.

The first thing, then, is to throw out the senseless formula, so full of bravado and empty of content, equating the social democracy with fascism.

The experience of 1918-19 and the role of the Social Democrats in the system of workers' councils must be recalled to the Austrian Communists.

"Domestic disarmament" must be countered with the call for arming the workers. This slogan is now much more immediate and important than the call for Soviets and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The statement that Bauer is a fascist will not be understood by the workers. But to say that Bauer wants to disarm the workers once and for all and thus deliver them to the fascists - this can be understood quite well, for it corresponds to the workers' political experience.

No one should think that lack of strength can be made up for by a lot of shouting and yelling of radical phrases. It is necessary to stop trying to fit the real course of development into the -cheap schematic formulas of Stalin and Molotov. It must be made clear that neither of them understands anything. The first step toward reviving the party should be the readmission of the Left Opposition. But in Austria, as elsewhere, it is clear that a few supplementary lessons of history are needed before communism finds -the right road. It is the task of the Opposition to prepare the way for this change. No matter how weak the Left Opposition may be numerically by comparison with the Communist Party, its functions are still the same: to do propaganda work, and to patiently explain. There remains only the hope that the Austrian Communist Opposition will succeed in the coming period in establishing a regular publication - a weekly paper, if possible - that can carry on propaganda work keeping pace with events.

The founding of such a publication requires great efforts. But it is a task that cannot be postponed. That is why it must be done.(13)

*I cannot dwell at length on this question here, especially since it is discussed in sufficient detail in my "Criticism of the Draft Program of the Communist International" [The Third International After Lenin].

November 13, 1929


(1) Austro-Marxism was the particular brand of reformism advocated by the Austrian Social Democratic Party.

(2) The Entente was the World War I alliance of Great Britain, France, Russia, and Serbia, later joined by Greece, Belgium, Italy, Rumania, Portugal, the U.S., and Japan. It declared war against the Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary, who were later joined by Turkey and Bulgaria. .

(3). On July 14, 1927, a jury acquitted three members of the Heimwehr, the fascist paramilitary group, who had been accused of killing two socialists. This provoked a massive spontaneous demonstration of protes of the working class in Vienna. Thousands of workers were on strike and in the streets for a period of three days.

(4). The police official of the Hapsburg school, who became chancellor in September 1929 in the midst of the Austrian crisis, was Johannes Schober (1874-1932), police chief of Vienna from 1918. He ordered firing on Communist demonstrations in 1919 and 1927. He was chancellor and foreign minister, 1921-22, 1929-30.

(5). Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-64) was one of the founders of the German workers' movement, whose followers helped organize the Social Democratic Party after his death. His "old formulations" on law and revolution refers to testimony Lassalle gave in a courtroom where he was defending the right of workers to organize and to change society.

(6). The Saint-Germain treaty was imposed by the victorious Allies on Austria in 1919, and was the counterpart of the Versailles treaty imposed on Germany; it prohibited unification of Germany and Austria.

(7). Karl Seitz (1869-1950), was a Social Democrat, mayor of Vienna and governor of the province of Vienna until the Austrian social democracy was crushed by the Dollfuss regime in 1934.

(8). Iraklii Tseretelli (1882-1959) was a Menshevik minister in the coalition Russian Provisional Government from March to August 1917.

(9). "Independent" party, as it was in Germany, is a reference to the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), which split away from the German Social Democratic Party in 1917 and then itself underwent a split in 1920 and helped to greatly strengthen the newer Communist Party

(10). Max Adier (1873-1937) was a leading theoretician and philosopher of Austro-Marxism who helped supply it with some of its radical formulations.

(11). Josef Pilsudski (1867-1935) was exiled to Siberia as a student for an alleged attempt on the life of Alexander III. When he returned in 1892 he helped found the Polish Socialist Party (PPS). He became chief of the new Polish republic in November 1918, and in 1920 he led his army against the Soviet forces in the Ukraine. He retired in 1923, but led a coup in May 1926 that returned him to power and was dictator of Poland from various posts until his death. Stefan Radich (1871-1928), leader of the Creation Peasants Party, suddenly was hailed by Moscow as a "real leader of the people" because he attended a congress of the Krestintem (Peasants International) in 1924.

(12). Friedrich Adier (1879-1960) was the secretary of the Austrian Social Democratic Party from 1911 to 1916, when he assassinated the Austrian premier. Freed from prison by the 1918 revolution he was one of the founders of the Two-and-a-Half International, which he then led back into the Second International in 1923, becoming secretary of the amalgamated body.

(13). The 1929 crisis subsided after the Austrian parliament adopted the new constitution on December 7, 1929. This was a gain for the fascists, but since the powerful workers' movement was still intact the Social Democrats were also able to boast that little had changed and that their tactics had prevented a real defeat for the workers. Trotsky was correct in stating that such a policy and such an outcome would not be long-lasting. After a few years the Austrian bourgeoisie decided that democratic reforms were too expensive to be continued. The social democratic policy of compromise and postponement of struggle allowed the way for the showdown that came in 1934, when the Social Democrats finally called the workers to arms, only to be crushed and subjected to a military-police dictatorship.

Art is important to people. It has always been so from the earliest human societies, when it was indissolubly linked to magic — that is, to the first primitive attempts of men and women to understand and gain control over the world in which they live. However, in class society art is so designed as to exclude the masses, and relegate them to an impoverished existence, not only in a material but in a spiritual sense.

Trotsky's 'ABC of Materialist Dialectics' is a brilliant short explanation of Marxist philosophy. It was written as part of a defence of Marxism against a middle class revisionist tendency in the American Trotskyist movement in the late 1930s, which attempted to challenge its basic principles. As opposed to pragmatism and empiricism, Trotsky defended dialectical materialism as a richer, fuller, more comprehensive view of society and life in general. Originally published 8 December 1939.

"Art can neither escape the crisis nor partition itself off. Art cannot save itself. It will rot away inevitably as Grecian art rotted beneath the ruins of a culture founded on slavery unless present-day society is able to rebuild itself. This task is essentially revolutionary in character. For these reasons the function of art in our epoch is determined by its relation to the revolution." Leon Trotsky, 1938.