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Joseph Carter

Books for Workers

Ten Years

(December 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 56, 23 December 1933, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

TEN YEARS – History and Principles of the Left Opposition
by Max Shachtman
79 Pages. 10c. Pioneer Publishers, New York

At last a pamphlet on the history and fundamentals of the Left Opposition! A serious handicap in educating the newcomers to our movement has been precisely the absence of such a historical sketch. The simplicity and lucidity of style and presentation makes it interesting and informative reading even to the uninitiated.

In reality the pamphlet is a history of the ten-years’ struggle of the Russian Bolshevik-Leninists against Stalinism in the Soviet Union, as well as internationally, in England and in China. The proof that the “Russian Question” is in reality a problem of world Communism is clearly presented by the author’s well-knit story of how the basic theories of the Stalinist bureaucracy flow from the defeat of the West European working class and the logical consequences of these theories in the Centrist zigzag of Stalinism in its policies in the Soviet Union, England and China.

Ten Years commences by a clear explanation of why a militant worker should be interested in the factional struggle which has wracked the world Communist movement the absolute indispensability of a revolutionary vanguard organization of the working class, a Communist party, for the emancipation of the proletariat. Comrade Shachtman then proceeds with the struggle in 1923 for party democracy in the Russian Communist Party. The struggle is placed on the background of the economic and social difficulties of the Soviet Union. This method, of connecting the political conflicts with their social conditions, and the employment of well chosen questions from leading spokesman of the official regime, make the struggles realistic and easily understandable.

The controversies over The Lessons of October, the theory of socialism in one country, the Anglo-Russian Committee and the British General Strike, and the Chinese Revolution, are so analyzed that, despite the brevity of the sections, all the essentials are expounded. The highly complicated problem of the danger of Thermidor and Bonapartism in the Soviet Union is explained in very simple language.

Because of the highly difficult task of condensing the ten years’ struggle of the Left Opposition in a small pamphlet, a number of important omissions are to be expected. In discussing the Opposition’s criticism of the draft of the First Five Year Plan, it is essential to stress the contention of our comrades in 1927 that the Plan of the Stalinists meant industrialization at the expense of the working class, rather than at the expense of the non-proletarian elements in Russia; that the living conditions of the workers should increase with the development of industry. These points cannot be overemphasized: the stupendous gains in production of the First Five Year Plan were achieved, to a large degree, at the expense of the living standard of the workers – to a far greater extent than was necessary.

In speaking of socialist planned economy, it would have been well to include a brief paragraph contrasting scientific planning, with constant check-up and experimentation, as against the bureaucratic planning of Stalinism. In this connection, the reference to Trotsky’s prediction, in Whither Russia on the possibility of a 20% annual increase of production is insufficient. A few words should have been added on how he arrived at this figure; in that way it could be made clear why his figure was realistic and superior to Rykov’s and the State Planning Commission.

The Sixth Congress of the Comintern (1928) is handled inadequately. The “third period” of the Sixth Congress was as different from the “third period” of the 10th Plenum (1929) as the views of Bucharin-Lovestone differed from those of Stalin-Molotov. Comrade Shachtman states in reference to the 10th Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern: “It was the Plenum par excellence of the ‘third period’, the same ‘third period’ which was at first denounced as an opportunistic idea by the Thaelmann-Neumann delegation to the Sixth Congress”. (Page 66)

Hardly! The German Stalinists were not inconsistent! Bucharin’s “third period” stressed the fact that European economy had exceeded its pre-war level the strengthening of capitalism economically; the conflict between the imperialist powers which would lead to war. According to this theory, the “war danger” was the paramount factor which accelerated the class struggle. Who is there who was in the American C.P. in late 1928 who does not recall how every strike was called “a manifestation of the war danger”.

Molotov’s “third period” was a “horse of a different color”. The emphasis was on the weakening of capitalist economy, the growing strike wave a a a result of “inner contradictions” – Lodz (Poland) strike, Ruhr miners strike, etc. The “third period” became the period of the revolutionary upsurge of the masses, the “final period” of capitalism!

The Sixth Congress was compelled to criticize the policy of Communists building workers’ and peasants’ parties. (This did not stop the Stalinists from building such parties in India a few months after the Congress!). The Sixth Congress not only accepted the theory socialism in one country for the Soviet Union, but for the first time divided the countries of the world – and the tasks of the Communists in these countries – according to whether they could build a complete and isolated socialist economy or not! This is important because such is the theoretical basis – despite inconsistencies – for the slogan of “democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants”

Ten Years was written about a year ago, before the victory of Hitlerism. Comrade Shachtman’s preface briefly explains the consequences of that fatal event. It would be well if the present pamphlet would be followed by others, on Germany, united front, trade union policies and problems of the American workers. Ten Years should be read by all workers who want to understand the conflicts of the past decade in the world Communist movement; so as to better equip themselves in the struggle of today.

Comrades should note a typographical error in the pamphlet. The eighth line of page 6 [of] Ten Years should be the last line of page seven; the last line of page 7 should be the eighth line of page 6.

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