Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ludwik Hass

Breaking With the Old Version of the History of the CPSU and the USSR

Ludwik Hass


From Revolutionary History, Vol.6 No.1, Winter 1995/96, pp. 142-51.
Transcribed by Alun Morgan for the Revolutionary History Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

This review of Valery Semenenko’s book V trudnykh poiskakh istini: po stranitsam sovietskoi i zarubyezhnoi literaturi o L.D. Trotsky i ‘trotskyzme’ (Izdatielstvo ‘Osnova’ pri Kharkovskom gosudarstvyennom universitete, Kharkov 1991) first appeared in Kwartalnik Historyczny, no. 1, 1993.

IN THE traditional scheme of the political history of the Soviet Union, a central place was given to the struggle with different kinds of internal enemies, and in first place were the evil intentions of Leon Trotsky and the conspiratorial and harmful terrorist activities of his omnipresent followers – ‘Trotskyists’ (who existed outside of the country as well). This view of the recent past was put forward in the official history of the ruling party published in 1938, and then canonised – an unprecedented incident in historical literature – by being instantly published in the press as a resolution of the Central Committee of the [Soviet] Communist Party dated 14 October 1938. It was then speedily translated into the world’s most important languages. [1] From then on there was only one thing left for the historians and political analysts in the USSR and later also in the countries of so-called real Socialism, as well as journalists and researchers from other countries who were faithful to Stalinism, which was to illustrate and enrich with new ‘facts’ – the arguments and conclusions of The Short Course ... It was easy for them to carry out this task since from early on the researchers in the USSR did not have access to the publications, let alone the archives, which dealt with this set of problems differently. On 17 March 1935 a decision had been taken, naturally in secret, to place in ‘collections of special safe keeping’ all the works of Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev, and three months later, on 21 June 1935, the writings of Preobrazhensky and other collaborators of Lenin’s who opposed Stalin, were also included. In the Moscow Trials of 1936–38 Trotsky was proclaimed to be an agent of the great powers of the West, that is the ‘imperialist powers’ and their secret services, including Nazi Germany and the Gestapo.

This version of history was also given credence by some Western writers. As a result, the eyewitness account by the American John Reed, describing Trotsky as the ‘no. 2 man’ in the October Revolution, was withdrawn from libraries and replaced by the publications of two of his countrymen – like the former also translated into many languages – which presented the whole period from the summer of 1917 as a continuous conspiracy of Trotsky and others against the revolution and the state which resulted from it. [2] So for decades Soviet political analysts, Soviet historians and, to a lesser extent, those from other countries behind the ‘Iron Curtain’, had only a very vague idea about the views of the oppositional Communist leaders and groups.

The documents of German intelligence services and other materials of the Third Reich, which were made available after 1945 in the West, did not provide the slightest evidence that Trotsky and the Trotskyists were Nazi agents or played a conspiratorial and terrorist rôle, although it was always possible to give these documents a certain amount of tendentious interpretation. Therefore in the USSR in the 1960s – after the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU – the more serious publications dropped formulations containing such charges against the oppositionists. The accusations were limited to their having an ‘objective’ rôle as agents, and the everlasting charge of anti-Sovietism and anti-Communism. Instead, in this historical field, especially in the dictionaries and encyclopaedias, Trotsky became, to use the terminology of George Orwell’s 1984, an unperson. [3] It became almost the norm that even in scholarly works other oppositionists were not even mentioned by the first letter of their name. Nonetheless, many scholarly works and popular pamphlets were coming out dedicated to this kind of ‘unmasking’ of Trotskyism in the past and present. In this context a special meaning can be ascribed to the fact that the Vice-President of the USSR and a participant in the failed putsch of August 1991, Genadi Yanayev (born in 1937), chose as the subject of his doctoral thesis Problems of Trotskyism and Anarchism. [4]

During the six years of glasnost and perestroika (1985–1991), the official line did not change. It was none other than Mikhail Gorbachev himself who, in the speech on the seventieth anniversary of the October Revolution – anticipated by some with great hopes – did not find a good word to say for Trotsky, briefly characterising him as ‘a cunning politician’, and Trotskyism as ‘a political current, whose ideologues ... in essence occupied capitalist positions’, whilst ‘the political centre of the party, headed by Stalin, defended Leninism in the ideological struggle’ squarely against the Trotskyist opposition. [5] A general and historian, Dmitri Volkogonov, who – as later events made clear – was preparing himself for a political career, a month later published an article in the 9 December 1987 issue of the prestigious journal Literaturnaya Gazeta expressing a negative opinion on Trotsky. Ten months later in the columns of Pravda, on 9 October 1988, he published an article which received international acclaim entitled The Demon of the Revolution, dedicated entirely to Trotsky, who was the subject of the title. Here, for the first time in the USSR for over six decades, some aspects of his activity were positively appraised, and this aspect was particularly stressed abroad. But for public opinion at home what was equally important was that this historian, so highly placed in the circles of the ruling elite, discreetly accused the most consistent and enduring opponent of Stalin of, amongst other things, somehow causing the wave of the political terror in the second half of the 1930s because of his propaganda activity abroad. He also implied – unlike the title of his article, he showed no originality here – that Trotsky was somehow a forerunner of Stalinism, and, even if he had come to power, he would not have turned out any better than his luckier rival. [6]

The discussion which started in 1988 on the subject of the revolution of 1917, the years which followed, and the rôle of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky therein, was first of all a debate between polemicists – and the knowledge and the competence of the participants had nothing to do with it. On the whole, the theses put forward were not documented by any fresh evidence. [7] One of the participating groups was clearly attempting, under the pretext of correctly evaluating Stalin, to enhance his rôle in the history of the USSR. Trotsky, on the other hand, was very often the object of attacks by those nostalgic for the Stalinist past as well as the spokesmen of Great Russian chauvinism, with both, incidentally, often being in complete agreement. For the first group, Stalin’s achievements were described as a Herculean task of clearing the Augean stables of Trotsky and his followers. For the second lot, Trotsky was personified as the Antichrist and an executioner of the Russian people, and his crimes were even compared to those of Pol Pot. For some amongst the first group, as well as the second, he was also a representative of the Zionist-Masonic conspiracy. Much less audible in this discussion were voices which wanted to study this set of problems, which until now had been distorted, in an objective way. One of them was Roy Medvedev, a ‘dissident’ for many years, now actively involved in open political activity. The prevailing attitude in this environment of ‘yes, but’ was not always and only conditioned by the researcher’s scruples. A similar struggle also took place in literature.

In passing it is worth noting that the Polish-speaking reader in Poland was on the whole kept in the dark about these discussions, especially those outside the literary field. This was in the interest of those who were negatively disposed to every revolution, and of the spokesmen for the bureaucratic layer, who out of the two evils preferred to maintain a high opinion of ‘the Great Defender of Peace’ than to disclose even a part of the truth about his slandered opponent, who was to some degree slandered by them as well. For instance, an academic textbook published in 1987 upheld the view, already discarded by the more serious Soviet historians for over two decades, of the version from the Short Course dealing with the conspiracy of Zinoviev and Kamenev in the first half of the 1930s, who were directed from afar by Trotsky, which was supposed to lead, with the use of terrorist actions, to the overthrow of the Soviet regime. [8] On the other hand, by the winter of 1988 the Moscow correspondent of Trybuna Ludu was providing its readers with carefully chosen and appropriately titled information to keep them convinced that none of those in or around the Kremlin contemplated any revision whatsoever of the evaluation of Trotsky which had long ago become orthodoxy, and that there were no other voices in the Soviet press. [9]

However, even before these historical-political exchanges there were some researchers, especially amongst the younger generation, less well-known and usually not connected with the ruling elite, predominantly researchers in scholarly institutions in the provinces, who took advantage of the first chinks appearing in the library regulations as regards access to the publications from both the revolutionary years and the 1920s as well as the current Western books and journals. It enabled them to begin to acquaint themselves at first hand with the course and subject of great and drastically interrupted controversies and their later consequences in the first decade after the revolution. Gradually this bore fruit in reprints of prohibited material from those years and articles. [10] They appeared usually in the provincial papers, and this was one of the reasons why they did not attract great notice. The books of these authors on the above-mentioned subject still had to wait a relatively long time for their hour to come.

One of the books deserving attention is by Valery Semenenko, entitled In the Difficult Search for the Truth: From the Pages of Soviet and Foreign Literature on L.D. Trotsky and ‘Trotskyism’ It was finished in the summer of 1989, appearing in the already rather changed situation of 1991. [11] These dates indicate that the book reflected the well-defined ‘old’ atmosphere which the writer could not avoid if he wanted his work to reach the reader. The reader, on the other hand, reads it in an almost different world, when numerous ‘taboos’ have been broken, but at the same time – alongside with the access to many sources – there have appeared mystifications contrary to the former. [12]

The author is a lecturer in history and a research scholar at Kharkov University. Putting the inverted commas around the word Trotskyists does not imply any intention to underline the ambiguity of the term, but expresses the author’s point of view that the term Trotskyist was a Stalinist brain-washing measure, done to present the oppositionists to public opinion as something distinct from ‘loyal’ Communists. It must be noted that in Western political studies, the definition Trotskyism has three meanings. It is used to characterise both Trotsky’s distinct position on the pre-revolutionary RSDLP (outside any faction in the RSDLP), whilst from 1923 it was – in Stalinist rhetoric – synonymous with every left opposition in the Communist movement. From 1928 the term was also used to define various currents and groups in the world which considered Trotsky (and later the Fourth International) as their ideological inspiration. [13]

The content of the above-mentioned monograph is clear: the author’s introduction, a chapter on the question of party unity; secondly, the historiography of the subject, which is followed by four chapters which are chronological; and finally an epilogue cum summary and some appended documents. The whole is preceded by a short introduction by Roy Medvedev (pp. 3–4). There is an articulate Introduction (pp. 5–17) clearly setting out the aim of the book – to clarify the set of problems expressed in its title by dealing with the omissions and falsifications, because ‘considering the reliability of the conclusions and the treatment of the facts ... the majority of works by Soviet historians up to the second half of the 1980s (not to mention here the disgusting literature from the 1930s up to the beginning of the 1980s) is essentially inferior to the objective researches of Soviet analysts’, that is, Western researchers (p. 7). The author is not uncritical towards the latter. For instance, he polemicises with them on the subject of their understanding of party unity and the structure of the Soviet state in the years 1918–22 (pp. 22–3), and on the belief that ‘the factional opposition’ was limited to the top of the party (p. 20). He draws attention to the fact that – against the current views – already in the second half of the 1920s, in the period of the sharp struggle of the Stalinist faction with the Trotskyist opposition, there appeared a practice of substituting for ‘scientific thought by sticking on labels’ (p. 7). Besides, he notes, already in 1922 Nikolai Bukharin gave an example of substituting abuse for factual polemic (p. 10). He also indicates that in order to clear a way through the lies on the subject, he will use in the exposition ‘abundant quotations from the articles and speeches of those party activists whose biographies and programmes remain little known until the present day’.

The first chapter, Problems of Party Unity: Gains and Losses (pp. 18–34), is in a certain sense methodological, and the author points out that Lenin, always principled on questions of theory and ruthless in polemics with those who interpreted things differently, at the same time, even when it was necessary, showed a reluctance to break off relations with any of his comrades with whom he had been involved in struggle, for instance with Alexander Potresov in the autumn of 1903 (p. 22). Until the end of his life he understood party unity to be unity in action, and not the abstract monolith of an unvarying ‘general line’ (p. 25). It is pointed out here that in the years 1918–22 Soviet Russia had not yet become a one-party state. Therefore the paper of the Menshevik-Internationalists appeared legally in 1919 in Moscow, and its leader, Yuli Martov, in December of that year spoke at the Seventh All-Russian Congress of Soviets. In the following year this group openly took part in the elections to the Moscow Soviet. Tendencies towards a one-party system, together with a disregard for other groups, were expressed in the attitudes of the Communist Party committees in the provinces, but the Central Committee more than once tried to intervene against such moves (p. 22). The accepted division of the oppositional groups into a right wing and a left wing by Soviet historians does not – according to Semenenko – correspond to the nature of their differences. Rather it is said here that there were alternative political programmes, with differences between them in their analysis of the relationship of class forces, on their views on the scope of the market and centrally planned methods of steering the economy, on their treatment of the relationship between party centralism and democracy, and on their understanding of the rôle of the party as the vanguard of society (p. 32).

The short chapter Some Problems of the Formation and Development of Trotskyist Studies Abroad (pp. 34–43) has an historiographical character where ‘Soviet affairs analyst objectivists’ (O. Hoetzsch, D. Thompson and others) are discussed. Their statements on the subject of the internal party struggle remain cautiously hostile to ‘the stream of apologetic literature’ on the subject of Trotsky and Trotskyism. A certain amount of space is given to a discussion of the evaluation of Trotsky in the writings of Isaac Deutscher, who still remains his most distinguished biographer.

The first of the chronological chapters (pp. 43–58) discusses the relations between Lenin and Trotsky from the moment they met in October 1902 in London to the armed insurrection of 7–8 November 1917 in Petrograd. These 15 years are described as a period of ‘especially uneasy collaboration and struggle’ between the two leaders. It is presented against the background of the recent and new understanding of relations within the Russian Social Democracy, correcting some of the information of a general nature on this subject (p. 52) and the primitive evaluations and conclusions of some Western researchers (p. 44). The succeeding chapter, L.D. Trotsky: Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic (pp. 58–82), covers the years 1918–22. To the latter day accusation of ‘non-Bolshevism’ on the part of the leader of the Soviet, the author poses an apt question: ‘How could he have remained in this position from 17 March 1918 to 25 January 1925?’ (p. 58) The author regards as incorrect the attempt by the already mentioned Volkogonov to put an equals sign between the terror of the period of the Civil War, as applied by Trotsky, and Stalin’s repression. [14] As an aside he introduces interesting arguments regarding the psychological and social sources of the terror in the period of that war, citing examples of times when Lenin and Krupskaya were powerless to curb some of the excesses, and he also considers the functioning of the judiciary at that time (pp. 69–74). Here it is necessary to note the author’s statement – and this also applies to all the following periods – ‘for Stalin L.D. Trotsky was some kind of idée fixe, the symbol of a stubborn enemy who remained dangerous even after his physical death (undoubtedly organised on his [Stalin’s] orders)’ (p. 58).

The fifth chapter, Discussions From the Years 1920–1924: Was There an Attempt to Substitute Leninism for Trotskyism? (pp. 82–129), is central to the discussion on the subject, and is both the broadest and most exceptionally carefully documented, with 262 footnotes and source references. Even a knowledgeable reader will find something in almost every sentence which, until now, he or she saw in a different light. For instance, for the ‘censorious’ Trotsky the reason for Kronstadt revolt of 1921 was, as he said at a closed meeting of the Tenth Congress of the party to which the delegates listened with indignation, the deep discontent of the people with the policy of War Communism (p. 82). At least from mid-1921 the so-called spokesman for ‘the adventurist line’ and ‘the export of the revolution’ was decidedly negatively disposed to the ‘offensive’ tactic, and, in a letter dated 14 July 1921 to the leader of the French Communists, Marcel Cachin, wrote: ‘Russia’s interests demand only such movements, such uprisings, which result from the internal development of the European proletariat. So this excludes the possibility of any adventurist “orders” from Moscow.’ (p. 103) Even in March 1989 prominent people in Soviet historical research (F. Firsov, K. Shirinya and L. Minayev) kept quiet about this in the pages of Pravda. Similarly the most extreme spokesman on the question of the ‘militarisation of labour’ in the years 1920–21 was precisely Stalin (p. 83), and not – as outlined by the author – his most consistent Communist opponent.

The author’s conclusions in this chapter are unequivocal. Stalin began, first behind the scenes, then in the first months of 1922 an open fight against Trotsky and his followers. Then, in the course of the preparations for the Eleventh Congress of the Soviet Communist Party he sent into the provinces his trusted men (Mikoyan amongst others) in the deepest secrecy in order to prevent the election to the congress of anybody sympathetic to Trotsky. In the autumn of 1923 the so-called troika (Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin) coined the term ‘Trotskyism’ as something opposed to Lenin’s orientation. Later on, Stalin openly admitted that this invention was calculated for the needs of the fight with ‘the opposition’. In this fight Stalin and his adherents used the technique of smearing Trotsky, going so far as to stir up anti-intellectual sentiments.

In the first sentence of the last chapter (In Search of the Alternatives to the Development and the Internal Struggle after the Fourteenth Congress, pp. 129–64) he characterises the years 1925–27 as a time which was marked by ‘a conscious exaggeration of the mistakes of those who disagreed, aiming to present their platforms as anti-Leninist and anti-party’. That is how the discussion with the so-called new opposition (Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev) proceeded. The campaign against Trotsky and the Trotskyists is presented in detail. Some of those who still applauded him in 1923, like Yaroslavsky and Shchadenko, became his severe critics. The author proves that Stalin was only able to achieve victory over the opposition thanks to the use of drastic organisational and repressive measures. First of all, he removed from the party apparatus even the most moderate opposition sympathisers. As a result, the rank and file members of the party were misled on the subject of the views and proposals of the opposition. Twenty-five thousand officers, suspected of favouring the opposition, were dismissed from the Red Army. On the night of 12–13 August 1927 the GPU raided the homes of oppositionists and confiscated opposition literature (the Platform of the Opposition) and printing equipment, whilst the names of the working class oppositionists were noted down on ‘the black lists’. [15] At the same time Stalin showed – as the author stresses – ‘fine’ mastery in manipulating any careless words spoken by his opponents, and he used them by taking parts of separate sentences out of context. Also shown is the switch in Bukharin’s positions (pp. 151–2), and a summary of the oppositional ideas about economic policy, amongst them Preobrazhensky’s analysis, which is quite different from the accepted opinions about it (pp. 142–8). In the same way he presents the relationship between Trotsky and his followers to the peasantry (beginning with some articles from 1901–03) which contradicts the opinion that in this domain they were the forerunners of Stalinist policies and the horrors of collectivisation (pp. 156–64).

He ends with The Interrupted Road: In Place of an Epilogue (pp. 165–75), which shows the course and the circumstances of the political police operation began on 17 January 1928 with the deportation of Trotsky to Alma Ata, and a year later sending him into exile. He recalls the statement in 1928 of Neville Chamberlain, the future Prime Minister of Great Britain, that relations between his country and the USSR would become completely normal just as soon as Trotsky was put against a wall (p. 167). The epilogue also summarises Trotsky’s further fortunes and activities. It recalls the decision of the Dewey Commission, set up to investigate the famous Moscow Trials. In the published volume of materials from the investigation carried out (Not Guilty, 1938) it stated that those trials were judicial shams. The author concludes: ‘Naturally, the inventions of Vyshinsky and Urlich about the cooperation of Trotsky with the Nazis, dictated by Stalin, are laughable and shocking.’ (p. 166) [16]

This biography by Semenenko is almost the first reliable Soviet monograph on the subject of the views of Trotsky and his co-workers, and of the machinations of the Stalinists. He uses the language of facts, without periphrasis metonimia. The book’s erudition is also impressive, as is proved by 34 pages of footnotes printed in small type (p. 176–209). Also telling is the number of over 2,000 Western sources mentioned in it – press articles, discourses and books. [17] A vast quantity of Soviet press articles, pamphlets and booklets from the 1920s was used, when ‘the history of the state and the party is presented in a way less deformed than in the later periods’ (p. 14). In both cases there are sources that are included in Soviet scholarly circulation for the very first time. One way this scholarly conscientiousness is shown is in the almost Benedictine labour of comparing various editions of important texts. For instance, it turns out that in the 1960s and later, in order to avoid showing his convergence with Trotsky’s statements, paragraphs were removed from the fifth edition of Lenin’s works which were included in the earliest ones (pp. 92, 98, 153 etc.). Compare the remarks on page 44 on the subject of the 1966 edition of Krupskaya’s Memoirs. The author doubts also the completeness of the published minutes of the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Party Congresses (p. 16).

This provincial scholar has found the courage not only to say things which were ‘delicate’ when the book was published, but also to polemicise with the ‘great ones’ of that time, and not only in the historical establishment, such as Volkogonov, as I mentioned earlier (pp. 35, 67, 69, 75–6, amongst others), or with the well-connected long-standing falsifiers of Trotsky like Vasetsky (pp. 45, 47 – accusation of slander; p. 51 – taking half of a sentence out of context, etc.), or Ivanov (pp. 50, 153, etc.). What is more, in the first half of 1989 he dared to write about ‘the mistaken evaluation’ of Trotsky in Gorbachev’s above-mentioned speech in 1987 (n188, p. 196). But the time this book was written also left a mark in places on its language – Isaac Deutscher is described as one of ‘the non-Marxist Soviet affairs experts’ (p. 9), and Professor Ernest Mandel, the Secretary of the Fourth International, is a ‘Belgian researcher’ and ‘a well-known expert on Soviet affairs’ (pp. 125, 152).

Contrary to the impression which one might get from this review, the author does not engage in hagiography. He quotes critical remarks about Trotsky with approval (p. 49), and formulates his own critical opinions about him (pp. 52–3). He does not share the view that the bureaucratisation of the Soviet regime was a social problem, lying at the basis of the degeneration of the USSR, nor that behind the back of the consistent party functionaries – whom we would call the nomenklatura – stands the arising bourgeoisie (p. 174). Rather, Semenenko overlooks the many-sided and historically deep sources of the Stalinist degeneration of the regime, to which Trotsky pointed on many occasions. Instead he puts in first place the trivial corruption of the party and state apparatus by Stalin and his group. Since the appearance of the book, this controversy has already been more or less decided.

The scope of this review of a book dealing with the quarrel between Stalin and Trotsky may appear to some as exaggerated at the present time, because the subject itself could be considered as no longer relevant. But it turns out that even after the fall of the Stalinist system and the break-up of the USSR this set of problems has not become a headache only for historians, when on many demonstrations in Moscow and other towns of the former empire fights break out between the admirers of Stalin and the supporters of ‘the Prophet Outcast’.


1. The History of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks): A Short Course, Moscow 1939, p. 398; Postanovlenye TsK VKP (b) ot 14 noyabrya 1938; O postanovkye partyinoi propagandi v svyazi s vypuskom Kratkovo kursa istori VKP(b), Pravda, no. 315, 15 November 1938 (reprinted in KPSS v rezolutsyakh i resheniyakh ..., part 3, Moscow 1954, pp. 316–32). At the beginning of 1939 Trotsky characterised The Short Course as ‘the unique codification of lies and frame ups’. Alfa [Trotsky], Uchites rabotat po stalinsky!, Byulleten’ Oppozitsi, no. 75–76, 1939, p. 31 [L.D. Trotsky, Learn to Work in the Stalin Manner, Writings of Leon Trotsky 1938, New York 1974, p. 214].

2. J. Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World, Warsaw 1934 (first English version 1919); M. Sayers and A. Kahn, The Great Conspiracy: the Secret War Against Soviet Russia, Boston 1946; Wielki spisek przeciwko ZSRR, Warsaw 1948.

3. There is no entry for Trotsky in the Sovietskaya Istoricheskaya Entsyklopediya (Volume 14, Moscow 1974) nor in the Grazhdanskaya voina i voyennaya interventsiya v SSSR. Entsyklopediya (Moscow 1983) and similar publications. But in the first book title there are entries for Trotskyism and Trotskyist-zinovievsky blok (Volume 14, column 457–467), in the second title, Trotskisty (p. 598). Wielka Encyklopedia Powszechna PWN contains an entry Trotsky (Volume 11, Warsaw 1968, p. 651–2).

4. Gazeta Wyborcza, no. 193, 21 August 1991, p. 5.

5. M. Gorbachev, Pazdziernik a przebudowa: rewolucja trwa, Trybuna Ludu, no. 257, 3 November 1987, pp. 3–4.

6. A Polish translation appeared in Forum, no. 38, 22 September 1988. The title of the article is a plagiarism and is intellectually dishonest – it was Stalin who was called ‘the demon of the revolution’ by the pro-Bukharin oppositionists in Ryutin’s group. On the above-mentioned accusation that Trotsky was a precursor of Stalin, there are a number of publications in the West that agree, for instance, A. Meyer, Lev Davidovich Trotsky, Problems of Communism, no. 11–12, 1967, p. 31. Volkogonov’s article also contains a large number of what we could most kindly call inaccuracies. For an eight-point factual correction of the most obvious inaccuracies see L Hass, Demon rewolucji, Sprawy i Ludzie, no. 49, 8 December 1988, p. 15.

7. For a good, erudite review of the discussion see N. Gulbinski, Leon Trotsky in the Writings of the Period of Glasnost and Perestroika, International (London), no. 5, 1991, pp. 14–22. The author is a journalist who writes for Ogonyok and other journals.

8. M Pazdziora, Historia narodów ZSRR 1917–1985, Katowice 1987, pp. 153–4.

9. For example, J. Kraszewski Rehabilitacji [Trotsky’s] nie bedzie, Trybuna Ludu, no. 246, 21 October 1987, p. 5 (a summary of the article dated 27 September in Sovietskaya Rossiya by a falsifier of Trotsky well-known for over two decades – Professor V. Ivanov); by the same author O genezie i doktrynie si zbrojnych [USSR], roli Stalina i bledach Trockiego, Trybuna Ludu, no. 38, 16 February 1988, p. 6.

10. For example, A. Podshchekoldin, E. Kotieleniets, Trotsky: mify i ryealnost istori, Druzhba (Moscow, students’ journal of the Patrice Lumumba University of People’s Friendship), no. 10 and 11, 3 and 14 May 1990, p. p3, 4; Muzhestvo smotret v litso, Orienburgskaya Nyedyelya, no. 40, 5 October 1990, p. 5; V. Semenenko, V.I. Lenin i L.D. Trotsky – soratniki ili sopierniki?, Pozitsia (Kharkov), nos. 1, 2 and 3, 1991.

11. V.I. Semenenko, V trudnykh poyskakh istini: po stranitsam sovietskoi i zarubiezhnoi litieraturi o L.D. Trotskom i ‘trotskyismye’, introduction by R. Medvedev, dated 28 September 1989.

12. Apart from disclosing new documents which contain hitherto unknown facts, these materials need further conscientious and penetrating interpretation. Cf. also the old lies being circulated and published as new revelations. Cf. the so-called Instruction for Agitators by Trotsky from 1919 in L. Hass, Dziwne milczenie, Dalej!, no. 11, July 1992, p. 8; L. Hass, Trotsky and the Ukraine, Workers Press, no. 340, 9 January 1993, p. 6.

13. Dictionnaire critique du marxisme, Paris 1985, p. 1181 (entry Trotskysme).

14. In his arguments he refers, amongst others, to the views of Adam Ulam, an American researcher of Polish background (A. Ulam, Stalin: The Man and his Era, New York 1973, p. 171).

15. The same sort of information is contained in the materials of the time from the Auswärtiges Amt (German Foreign Office) which are used in the work of M. Reiman, Die USSR am Vorabend der ‘zweiten Revolution’, Frankfurt 1979.

16. The same Ulrich was the prosecutor of the kidnapped leaders of the Polish underground in the later Moscow trials of 18–21 June 1945.

17. It needs to be stressed that the author reached these conclusions on his own, as he did not apparently have access to the fundamental bibliography, W. Lubitz, Trotsky bibliography, München 1988.

* * * * *

In Memory of Polish Socialist Ludwik Hass

credit: Workers Vanguard


WARSAW—Professor Ludwik Hass died in Warsaw on April 8. A historian of the Polish labor movement and freemasonry, he was also known as an exponent of Trotskyism in Poland. A member of the prewar Trotskyist Bolshevik-Leninist group in Poland, he was arrested in Lwów in 1939 following the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland and sentenced to eight years in a Soviet labor camp. He later married in the Soviet Union and only managed to return to Poland, with his wife and son, in 1957. In 1965, he was arrested and spent over a year in prison, along with Jacek Kuron, Karol Modzelewski and others, for playing a key political role in influencing an “Open Letter to the Party” signed by Kuron and Modzelewski that included a call for proletarian internationalism and workers democracy. At the time, Spartacist (No. 6, June-July 1966) ran an article calling for defense of Hass and his comrades.

Ludwik Hass had ties with some pseudo-Trotskyist organizations in the West, notably including the United Secretariat of the late Ernest Mandel. Hass’s articles appeared in Revolutionary History and other pseudo-Trotskyist papers in the West. When the cadres who later formed the Polish section of the International Communist League met Hass in the mid 1980s, he opposed the anti-Communist Stalinophobia prevalent in the pro-Solidarność pseudo-Trotskyist milieu. At the same time, he accepted the notion of a “family of the left.” He used to write articles for some Stalinist papers and allowed Stalinist youth organizations to sponsor his discussion meetings. Interestingly, at one such meeting Hass said that his biggest error ever was named Jacek Kuron. At one time a pro-socialist opponent of the Stalinist regime, Kuron had become a leading element in counterrevolutionary Solidarność and served as the strikebreaking minister of labor in the first Solidarność government in 1990. We published a contribution by Hass on the 1990 Polish presidential elections (WV No. 518, 18 January 1991).

Hass played a key role in winning the founding cadres of the Spartacist Group of Poland to Trotskyism, as they then understood it. Their Young Left Movement (RML), which was established in 1988, was an amorphous “family of the left” grouping, composed mainly of members of Stalinist youth organizations. Our future members were known for reviving the forgotten revolutionary internationalist tradition of honoring the “3 Ls” (Lenin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht). Thanks to Ludwik Hass, they succeeded in getting a suppressed copy of the Polish translation of The Revolution Betrayed by Trotsky and in having it published by the ZSMP Stalinist youth organization at the end of the 1980s.

Following discussions in 1989-90, the RML was rejected by the Stalinophobic Mandelites of the misnamed Current of the Revolutionary Left (NLR), one of the groups that shared responsibility for supporting the forces of the capitalist counterrevolution in Poland. It was Ludwik Hass who in July 1990 introduced an RML cadre to an ICL representative then visiting Warsaw. The ICL comrade brought with him copies of the May 1990 “Letter to Polish Workers” by the ICL’s German section (translated in WV No. 504, 15 June 1990), which warned of the counterrevolutionary threat represented by the Solidarność government and called for a return to the perspective of proletarian internationalism personified by Rosa Luxemburg.

The result of that meeting and ensuing discussions with the ICL was programmatic agreement and the establishment in October 1990 of the Spartacist Group of Poland. The SGP/ICL had a difference with Ludwik Hass regarding the counterrevolutionary character of Solidarność, which was evident from the time of Solidarność’s first national congress in September 1981. At that point, we raised the call “Stop Solidarność counterrevolution!” Hass claimed that the decisive change in Solidarność’s class character resulted from the government’s later crackdown in December 1981. In reality, the imposition by the Stalinist regime of Wojciech Jaruzelski of a temporary state of emergency, which we defended at the time, spiked Solidarność’s counterrevolutionary bid for power. The SGP also rejected the notion of a “family of the left” as counterposed to the conception of a Leninist vanguard party.

Some time after the counterrevolution of 1989-90, Hass told the SGP that the ICL had been right about the class character of Solidarność. But, expressing his Polish nationalism, he said that this was simply a fluke and that “we here know better our own backyard.” But our position was the result of an analysis based on the Trotskyist program of unconditional military defense of the deformed and degenerated workers states and the struggle for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies, as documented in the October 1981 Spartacist pamphlet Solidarność: Polish Company Union for CIA and Bankers, which was published last year in Polish by the SGP.

Despite his programmatic revisionism, Ludwik Hass did play the role of teacher and catalyst of Trotskyism in Poland, and he contributed to the rebuilding of the continuity of Trotskyism there, broken by the Stalinist blood purges and the Nazi occupation. We will remember him for that service to the proletarian cause.

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