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John G. Wright & Joseph Carter

A Reply to Olgin

(August 1935)

From New International, Vol.2 No.5, August 1935, pp.171-174.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Trotskyism: Counter-revolution in Disguise
By M.J. Olgin
160 pp. New York. Workers Library Publishers. 15c

To page for the physical destruction of Trotsky and the “Trotskyists” – this obstacle, and danger to the power, policies, and privileges of the venal bureaucracy – the falsifiers of history, now turned social-patriots, are preparing to go one crime further: to frame up Trotsky and his co-thinkers as assassins, as terrorists whose aim is to murder Stalin. The GPU was involved in the assassination of Kirov (see NY Times, Jan. 24, 1935). But this attempt to link Trotsky with the terrorists through a provocateur failed. Is there another, a bigger and better frame-up in preparation? There is.


S.V. Kossior, reporting to the Kiev party membership, on June 13, 1938 stated:

“... it is absolutely clear to all of us that both Zinoviev and Kamenev were not only the inspirers of those who shot at comrade Kirov. They were the direct organizers of this vile assassination of comrade Kirov. They acted in complete harmony with the counter-revolutionist Trotsky. Recently, in his statements abroad relating to the assassination of comrade Kirov, Trotsky openly revealed his terrorist position, openly called for terror against the Bolsheviks, against the leaders of our party. All distinction between him and the White Guards has long since disappeared.” (Pravda, June 22, 1935.)

And here is Olgin, in America:

“He [Trotsky] has a dream now. To see ... the leaders of Bolshevism assassinated.” (p.22.)

The seventh, main, and final feature of “Trotskyism” is: “... support of intervention and killing of Soviet leaders.” (p.49.)

“From this to the decision of some inflamed follower to kill the leaders of the revolution – is only one step.” (p.137.)

“... The extreme logical followers of Trotsky resort to the revolver.” (p.65.)

“Do the Trotskyists knowingly create a psychological atmosphere that would fire some madman to attempt the murder of Stalin?” (p.149.)

There is no mistaking the sort of atmosphere Olgin is trying to manufacture in his Trotskyism, the 160-page book by him issued in carloads, at a ridiculously low price. Unlike Kossior, Olgin can only insinuate about the “connection” of the Trotskyists in the assassination of Kirov:

“Did the Trotskyists of America maintain a direct connection with the ‘Leningrad Center’ out of which came the assassination of Kirov, or were they only appraised [sic!] of its existence?” (p.136.)

But, like Kossior, he, too, states openly what his job is:

“Today one exposes Trotsky as a counter-revolutionary renegade who inspires [in Moscow, they say: organisesJ.G.W.] the murder of revolutionary leaders.” (p.144.)

Here we have the literary-provocateur at work.

And Olgin’s qualifications? Suffice to mention here that Oigin is no novice at “exposure”, nor at getting the proper emotions across the footlights, and of presenting a “character” in his proper relation to the “plot”. He is the author of at least one produced play, and even a hack’s knowledge of stage-effects comes in handily in plying the art of Stalinist provocation.

Some forty years of Trotsky’s life have been spent under the banner of revolutionary Marxism. It is an impossible feat to palm off a Marxist for the advocate of individualistic terrorism. This contradiction must be resolved. Olgin must therefore “build up” a suitable character, for he is not in Alice’s Wonderland where one may “skip forty years”. Hence arises the need for a “brief” 160 pages.

Olgin has to explain away how Trotsky became a revolutionary figure. Sheer coincidence. A petty bourgeois, with talents as a talker and scribe, collided with the revolution, and was swept along.

“When the revolutionary labor movement in Russia was young, a man with a sharp pen and an oratorial talent such as Trotsky could easily become noted.” (p.9).

The Russian revolution and all the Olgins were then young and inexperienced. Ah, credulous youth! But the Russian revolution grew a little older. How to explain away experienced age? Olgin crawls out of his skin, producing quotations from old controversies, distorting history, and undertaking psychologic excursions into the petty bourgeoisie to prove that Lenin never “considered Trotsky a Bolshevik”; that Trotsky was an “alien body within the organism of the Bolshevik party, even when he was a member of its Political Bureau” (p.15); that Trotsky only assumed the name “Bolshevik”, but remained a petty bourgeois, (once a petty bourgeois always a petty bourgeois) and therefore, logically, and artistically, a consistent character for a White Guard assassin.

In 1907 Lenin said,

“A few words about Trotsky. There is no need here for me to dwell on our differences with him. Suffice to mention that Trotsky in his booklet, In Defense of the Party has publicly expressed his agreement with Kautsky, who wrote about the economic community of interests between the proletariat and the peasantry in the present revolution in Russia ... These facts suffice so far as I am concerned to recognise the closeness of Trotsky to our views.” (Minutes of the London Congress of the SDLPR, Paris 1909, p.329. Our italics.)

On November 14, 1917, at the session of the Petersburg Committee of the SDLPR, Lenin said,

“I cannot even speak about this seriously [agreement with the Mensheviks and the SR’s]. Trotsky has long ago said that unity is impossible. Trotsky has understood this, and since then there hasn’t been a better Bolshevik than he.” (Bulletin of the Russian Opposition, No.7, 1929, pp.33f.)

But what are photostats or Lenin ? Or any number of facts and documents to the contrary? “Lenin did not consider Trotsky a Bolshevik” – (signed) Olgin (p.10).

And the provocateur must next rewrite the history of the October revolution to fit his “character”. Who led the October insurrection? “Wasn’t he [Trotsky] the leader of the revolution in 1917?”

In Vol.XIV of Lenin’s works, published in 1921, the following note is to be found on page 482:

“Following the July days he [Trotsky] was arrested by the Kerensky government, and indicted for ‘leading the insurrection’. After the majority of the Petersburg Soviet passed into the hands of the Bolsheviks, Trotsky was elected its president and in that position organized and led the insurrection of October 25.” (Our italics.)

On November 6, 1918, Stalin himself admitted as much:

“All the work of practical organization of the insurrection was conducted under the immediate leadership of the president of the Petrograd Soviet, comrade Trotsky. (Pravda, No.214. The Role of the Most Eminent Leaders of the Party.)

So what? “He who knows the ways of the Bolshevik party will easily understand why Trotsky was not among the leaders appointed by the Central Committee to direct the uprising” – (signed) Olgin (p.12).

Next, the civil war. “Wasn’t he at the head of the Red Army between 1918 and 1921?”

Twist and twirl as he will, the Stalinist forger has to explain away, not a single episode this time, but the entire crucial period of the civil war. Observe, how the Stalinist squirms:

“Time passed. Trotsky worked with the Bolsheviks ... But he was a stranger in the Bolshevik party. The civil war came and [!] Trotsky was given a high post. [Evidently, another coincidence – J.G.W.] He was, so to speak, propagandist-in-chief of the Red Army.” (p.13. Our italics.)

And Olgin describes how Trotsky “played General” during the civil war:

“Trotsky travelled up and down the front ... went into the trenches to talk to the Red Army men; he made great public orations – but he never led the civil war.” (p.13.)

It was just a delusion on Trotsky’s part. Olgin, the military expert, has to admit that Trotsky was the “Military Commissar”, just as he has had to admit Trotsky’s revolutionary career. The facts are too well known. So they must be explained away. And we hear again the now familiar melody. Just a coincidence! The civil war was young, incredulously inexperienced, and an adult man with a sharp pen – “issuing crisp orders that can be quoted as examples of military style” (p.13) – and an oratorical talent such as Trotsky’s, could easily become – not “noted” this time but – the Commissar of War. Just as Trotsky played at being a revolutionist in 1905, so he was now deluded

“into believing that he was the whole moving spirit of that tremendous historic combat ... The actual facts are just the reverse. The facts are that Stalin and Voroshilov [what? no Frunze?] were the great fighters on the various battle fronts – leaders with clear revolutionary vision and strategists of the first order” (p.13).

Let us allow for the moment that Stalin-Voroshilov-Olgin are correct. Let us allow that Trotsky

“knew nothing about the organization of the army, he had wrong ideas about revolutionary strategy ... As a matter of fact, his ideas about the strategy of the civil war were so wrong that, had they been carried, the enemies would have triumphed ... etc. etc.” (p.13).

We want to know: why did the party tolerate such an ignoramus, and the whole Revolutionary War Council? Why wasn’t Trotsky removed from his post during the years of civil war? Why was neither Stalin nor Voroshilov – both these “strategists of the first order” – appointed as the leaders, but why were they instead removed on more than one occasion from difficult sectors? Why did Lenin send telegram after telegram [1] to Trotsky insisting on his going to the most critical sectors?

Olgin has had to explain away too much. His forged version of the civil war compromises the party, vilifies the CEC and Lenin. For, were his lies and monstrous exaggerations true, it could only imply that the CEC led by Lenin, was guilty of the gravest, and absolutely inexcusable crime before the revolution: supporting, as they are charged, an ignoramus and bungler as the head of the Red Army. The leader of the victorious Red Army was removed by the Stalinists after the civil war from his post.


Having provided his “brief” with the required White Guard Villain, Olgin must also supply the “Red Hero”. That is to say, he must explain away the decade of crimes, defeats, and betrayals under the leadership of Stalin.

The “world-charlatan”, the petty bourgeois adventurer in the revolutionary movement, turned into a White Guard, finds (in Olgin’s fertile imagination) his nemesis in Stalin, the Heroic, “the world leader whose every advice to every Party of the Comintern on every problem is [was and will be – J.G.W., J.C.] correct, clear, balanced, and points the way to new, more decisive class battles” (p.149).

This hero in the Kremlin, who like Jehova has a promised land to his credit – the Land of Socialism in One Country – is likewise responsible for the ripe fruits of the “bloc of four classes in China”, the Anglo-Russian Committee, the theory of social-Fascism, the victory of Hitler in Germany, etc. etc. ... down to the ripest fruit of all, the Franco-Soviet pact. And the latter-day Moses of this latter-day Jehovah has a lot more explaining to do than was necessary in the Bible to establish Jehovah’s infallibility.

Naturally enough, Moissaye J. Olgin prefers to do most of his explaining in China, which is however not quite so far removed as Heaven. The glamor and “mystery” of the Orient, as we know, covers much filth and squalor, but not even China will screen a Stalin.

In China, if you please, there are Soviets “Led by the CP of China, which early in 1935 counted over 400,000 members” (p.86); there is the Red Army, “the wonder of the world ... in the neighborhood of one million men” (p.86); and “the Red Flag with the hammer and sickle is waving over a territory embracing a population of some ninety million – about one-fifth of the total population of China” (p.86). Then, why didn’t the one-sixth of the world which is communist at least recognize the Chinese Soviets, in one-fifth of China? Why not a Soviet China-Soviet Union pact against the threat of Fascism and war? Why doesn’t Litvinov demand at least that this great ally be accepted into the League of Nations?

Because Olgin is covering up the betrayal of the Chinese revolution in 1925-1927, by the “Chinese Soviets”, peasant bands and peasant armies, the remaining echoes and repercussions of the 1925-1927 revolution who are still able to maintain themselves due to the peculiar conditions in China, with its vast vestiges of feudal economy, the resulting economic isolation of provinces in the interior, the absence of inter-province railroads and other means of communication, etc.

Trotsky, Olgin yowls, “assumed a Menshevik position as regards the very nature of the Chinese revolution”. The essence of Menshevism is class collaboration, support of the “liberal bourgeoisie”. The Mensheviks in Russia not only frowned upon the peasant seizure of land, but they supported punitive expeditions against the insurgent peasants. They discouraged as provocation and adventurism strikes of workers during the revolution because all this would break the united front with the bourgeoisie. They rejected the theory and practise of the proletariat wielding the hegemony in the revolution: that democratic tasks would and could be only the results of the proletarian revolution; that only the proletarian dictatorship could and would lead to the emancipation of the peasantry and the oppressed peoples.

What was the Stalinist policy in China? Stalin subordinated the CP to the Kuo Min Tang in the name of the “bloc of four classes” (the bourgeoisie, the urban petty bourgeoisie, the peasantry, and the proletariat). After Chiang Kai-Shek’s betrayal, the CP was subordinated to the “bloc of three classes” – only three “faithful allies remained”. So the communists entered the Wuhan government and assumed personal and direct responsibility for the punitive expeditions against the insurgent peasantry!

There is no hiding the betrayal. It seeps out even in Olgin’s own version. According to him, Chiang Kai-Shek “betrayed” in March 1927.

“When the imperialists began to bombard Nanking in March 1927, Chiang Kai-Shek joined hands with them against the revolution.” (p.103.)

But Olgin does not utter a peep about what the communist party did after this betrayal was as obvious as is Olgin’s venality. One month later, an April 13, 1927, the workers in Shanghai, under the Stalinist leadership were compelled to hand over the city to “their revolutionary” General, Chiang Kai-Shek, to be drowned in blood by “their leader”.

As a matter of fact the first open act of betrayal on the part of Chiang was not in March 1927, but one year prior to it, on March 20, 1926, the occasion of his first overturn in Canton. For years, this fact was kept from the international working class, and Olgin remains true to tradition. There is no other way to justify adherence to the Kuo Min Tang, the party of the butcher Chiang. How else but by fraud can he justify Stalin’s “clear, correct and balanced slogan”: “We shall never drop the banner of the Kuo Min Tang.” And they didn’t! Chiang cut the throats of Chinese workers, drowned the revolution in blood, and soaked the banner of Kuo Min Tang into a “red” banner.

What did the Stalinists order the Chinese CP to do after March 20, 1926? What was the reaction of the masses? We give the floor to the co-reporter on the Chinese question at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928. The speaker is Strakhov:

“Even after March 20, we did our utmost to get along with the March 20 regime so as to keep the united front with the bourgeoisie, with Chiang Kai-Shek, with the nationalists. As far as the masses were concerned they could not be reconciled to the March 20 regime.” (Inprecorr, October 4, 1928.)

The Stalinists, like the Mensheviks, refused to break the united front with the bourgeoisie, and they were “taken by surprise” in March 1927.

After they finally did “break” with Chiang Kai-Shek, the Stalinists sought to maintain at all costs their “faithful” alliance with the petty bourgeoisie. Again, Strakhov, the co-reporter on the Chinese revolution:

“Although we were then already fighting against Chiang Kai-Shek and the national bourgeoisie, we had not yet realized the inevitability of a disruption of the united front with the petty bourgeoisie for the sake of which we obstructed the development of the mass struggle. (Ibid., p.1251.)

In the Wuhan bloc, in its alliance with petty bourgeois generals and politicians, Stalinism discouraged peasant rebellions and seizures of land. The Stalinist ministers in the coalition Wuhan government violently suppressed peasant uprisings, “obstructing the development of the mass struggle” as part of their Menshevist delusions.

Nauseating as Olgin’s picture of “Soviet China” is, he surpasses himself in painting the Canton Soviet of December 1927. “The first Soviet was organized in Canton after the armed rising of December 11, 1927.” (p.106. Our italics). Soviets organized after the rising! But doesn’t the Soviet, the highest organ of the united front, also function as the organ of insurrection? Olgin denies the “Trotskyist slander” that the Soviet was “created in a hurry” (Trotsky).

But Strakhov himself admitted that “there were very few people at the mass meeting in Canton”. This meeting elected the delegates to the Soviet. The revolutionary wave had already waned. To Trotsky’s charge that the Canton uprising was an “adventuristic putsch”, Olgin replies by screaming that it “was one of the most heroic uprisings of the workers and peasants ... Over 7,000 fighters were shot in Canton alone after the crushing of the uprising.” (p.107.)

The blood of heroic workers and peasants has served more than once before as a cover for crime and treachery.

After one-sixth of the book devoted to the falsification of Chinese history – two pages on the “third period”!

“We must confess, we never found in Trotskyite writings anything resembling an explanation of why they disagreed with the ‘third period’ analysis. They just scoffed.” (p.112.)

France, imperialist France, some seven years ago was placed first on the order of revolution. Then, France was in a pre-revolutionary situation; in 1935 – there is no “revolutionary” situation in France, the military ally of Stalinism.

But the “third period” of the mistakes of the Stalintern was only meant as a cover for the defeat in China and the betrayal in the Anglo-Russian Committee. So it is best passed over in silence or with a squeal – by all the Olgins.

And next – 12 pages on Germany and ... the “question of social-Fascism”. After their “united fronts” with the Chiangs and the Purcells, the Stalinists decided to play safe – no more united fronts with anybody! Only the united front from BELOW!

In talking about Germany, Olgin prefers to speak – about Austria – for the purposes of reducing the theory of “social-Fascism” and its fatal consequences into a mere verbalism.

“In the very same way as Lenin, after the betrayal of the proletariat by social democracy at the beginning of the war called the social democratic leaders social patriots and social chauvinists, so the Communist International called its leaders social-Fascists – in the sense of paving the way for Fascism.” (P. 114.)

Lenin did it. [2] Stalin did it. That is all.

And with this piece of sophistry and hypocrisy Olgin thinks to dupe workers, who have not experienced themselves the actual essence of the theory of social Fascism – not in the sense of “paving the way for Fascism”, but as the very instrument of fascism.

In 1929 Pieck, one of the leaders of the CP of Germany, declared that the social democracy “is growing more and more ripe to play the chief part should a Fascist form of government be established” (Labour Monthly, June 1929).

At the Tenth Plenum of the ECCI, Bela Kun (the present head of the CI) stated:

“... the evolution of the social democracy towards social-Fascism has not yet sufficiently advanced to enable us to determine whether social-Fascism constitutes a special and final form of Fascization in a number of countries, or if it constitutes a step towards the complete development of Fascism also in countries like Germany, Poland, Rumania, etc., which are on the road towards Fascization.”

That was the only thing in question! Whether social-Fascism is a final form of Fascism or a step towards complete Fascism! And Bela Kun proceeds to attack the Right wingers:

“The Italian development is no argument against the possibility for social democracy to evolve into pure Fascism ... If there is a sham fight between the social democracy and these open Fascist organizations it is by no means a fight between two principles but rather a clash between two methods of Fascization ... I believe, that in the present stage of the development of social-Fascism we have to be prepared rather for armed clashes with Fascism and its social-Fascist organisations, more than ever before ... we should do our utmost to combat the social democracy and in the first place, the Left wing of the social democracy”. (Inprecorr, August 21, 1929, pp.872f.) Comment is unnecessary.

Trotsky and the Bolshevik-Leninists repeated time and again that the social democracy “paved the way for Fascism” and they attacked the theory that the social democracy is compatible with a Fascist government, or that in advanced countries the social-Fascist dictatorship would be the final form of Fascism. Trotsky insisted that the social democracy would be crushed by Fascism. Now Olgin changes the story. The Stalinists labelled Trotsky a “counter-revolutionist” for proposing a united front of struggle against Fascism. Now, Olgin, quotes extensively from Austria to prove that the Stalinists did want a united front, but that it was impossible to make it. Why? Because “prior to the advent of Hitler the social democracy did not believe this [i.e., that Fascism would crush it. – J.G.W.]” (p.119). Proof: Otto Bauer in Austria.

Did the Stalinists understand this before the events smashed the skulls of the German workers? The theory of social-Fascism is the answer! The united front from below is the answer! Even today the Comintern still holds that the beaten and crushed German social democracy remains “the main support” of Fascism.

Olgin himself has to admit that between 1929-1932, the CP did not propose the united front to the SP – it did engage in the Red Referendum. He tries to cover it up by underscoring that

“in 1929-1932 it repeatedly proposed joint action against Fascism? The real position of the Stalinists was, however, clearly enough stated at that time: ‘There is and can be no united front with any group of social democratic leaders. The anti-Fascist united front can and will be brought about to the exclusion and against the groups of social democratic leaders’ – (Willi Münzenberg, Rote[r] Aufbau, December 11, 1931.)”

From bureaucratic ultimatism and exaggeration of their strength prior to Hitler’s seizure of power, to shabby sophistry in apology for the betrayal after the victory of Fascism ... down to social patriotism today – such is the itinerary of all the Staininists, all the Olgins.

Where are the Stalinists leading the Soviet Union? In his “exposure” of Trotskyism, Olgin tries to hide behind the achievements of the workers in the Soviet Union, and argues, if you please, that Trotsky denies “the possibility of a victorious proletarian revolution in one country” (p.28). Trotsky, who with Lenin lead the October revolution is “proved” to have lead it by mistake; he never believed in it anyway.

But today one no longer argues the subtleties of the theory of socialism in one country, or explains the permanent revolution. The Stalinists have promised the workers socialism in the Soviet Union, if only they shut-up, endure and toil – for 10 years.

Long, long ago, the Stalinists proclaimed their “entry into the period of Socialism” (see, for example, Inprecorr, March 21, 1931). More, in October 1932, Manuilsky, the then leader of the CI told the working class of the world:

“Do not forget that we shall enter classless society only with the completion of the second Five-Year Plan.” (Report to the Twelfth Plenum of the ECCI)

The workers in the Soviet Union have certainly not forgotten. Today, on the eve of the completion of the second Five-Year Plan, the Stalinists have to prepare to account for the frightful discrepancy between realty and their theory. They are preparing to settle the accounts by more repression, and more pogroms, and greater and better betrayals.

Today, the question is put squarely: Are we the willing slaves of “our own” imperialism or the implacable foes of imperialism and its ally Stalinism? Upon the answer to this question depends the fate of the workers’ state in the Soviet Union and the fate of the world revolution. Their “clear and balanced” social patriotic betrayal will not be masked by the literary and actual pogroms in preparation by Stalin, and all his Olgins.


1. “August 22, 1918, Svyajsk. To Trotsky. Betrayal on the Saratov front, although discovered in time, has resulted in vacillation – extremely dangerous. We consider absolutely necessary your immediately departure for that sector, for your appearance at the front reacts upon the soldiers and the entire army ... Lenin, Sverdlov

“April 10, 1919. To Trotsky. Nijny Novgorod. In view of the extremely critical situation at the Eastern front, I think it best for you to remain there. Lenin

“May 7, 1919. Shikhrana. To Trotsky. I have just asked the whole Political Bureau of the C.E.C. and in agreement with them I am decisively for your immediate and quickest possible departure for Kharkovfi where it is necessary to put an end to disorganization and immediately give aid to the Donetz Basin. Lenin

“May 21, 1919 ... I personally would insist on your going once again to Bogachur and completely crush the insurrection, otherwise there is no hope of victory. Lenin

(One day later) “May 22, 1919. ... I insist again on your unfailingly going a second time to Bogachur and putting an end to the matter, because Sofkolnikov obviously cannot handle the situation. Lenin

And here is Trotsky’s answer.

“Kharkov-Lugansk (en route) Moscow. To Sklansky for Lenin. Leaving for Bogachur, where will try to put an end to the matter. Trotsky. May 22, 1919.”

2. And many Stalinist dupes will fall for this sophistry! The social democrats during the war actively supported their capitalist fatherland. Their social basis, the labor aristocracy organized into trade unions, was not incompatible with imperialist war. On the contrary, it was precisely this social basis, integrated with the bourgeois state and imperialism, which Lenin cited as the historical reason for the conversion of social democracy into social chauvinism. Fascism, however, exterminates the social democracy.

Last updated: 23.6.2005