The following is the introduction to the recently translated Turkish edition of In Defense of Leon Trotsky, written by the book’s author, David North, chairman of the international editorial board of the World Socialist Web Site. The book was originally published in 2013.
Leon Trotsky and his supporters—including many of the most important leaders of the Russian Revolution—formed the Left Opposition in October 1923, during the last period of Vladimir Lenin’s life and amid the aborted 1923 German revolution. The aim of the Left Opposition was to reform Communist Party policy in the Soviet Union and fight for a correct line in the Communist International, in opposition to the rising conservative and nationalist bureaucracy headed by Joseph Stalin. The Stalinist bureaucracy assumed a consciously counterrevolutionary role in the 1930s, carrying out a political genocide against its left-wing opponents in the Soviet Union and collaborating with world imperialism in the suppression of revolutionary struggles internationally.
The conflict that emerged between Stalin and Trotsky was not a subjective fight between two individuals over personal power, but a fundamental battle waged between irreconcilable political programs. The consolidation of power by Stalin, and the bureaucratic dictatorship that he personified, was not the inevitable outcome of the Russian Revolution. It developed out of the conditions of an economically backward workers’ state that was surrounded by world imperialism and isolated by the delay of the international and European revolution. A series of revolutionary upheavals were defeated due to the political immaturity of the revolutionary leadership internationally.
In his critique of Stalinism, Trotsky developed a theory of world socialist revolution that proved immeasurably more far-sighted than the pragmatic nationalist maneuvers of the Stalinist bureaucrats. The struggle waged by the Left Opposition concentrated on the most decisive questions of revolutionary policy for the international working class.
The discovery of hitherto unknown manuscripts of the Soviet Left Opposition is a blow to all attempts to falsify, belittle and slander the struggle of the Trotskyist movement against Stalinism.
Alexander Reznik’s Trotsky and Comrades: A false account of the emergence and politics of the Left Opposition
Reznik’s book, while containing some useful information, constitutes a willful distortion of the history of the Trotskyist Left Opposition, undermining its prolonged and principled struggle against the Stalinist degeneration of the 1917 October Revolution.
Rogovin’s greatest work was accomplished in the aftermath of the dissolution of the USSR. Beginning in 1992, he began intensive work on what would become a seven-volume history of the revolutionary Marxist opposition, led by Leon Trotsky, to the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR.
Covering the years from 1923 to 1940, Rogovin’s Was There an Alternative? is an unsurpassed work of historical scholarship, indispensable for an understanding of the Stalinist regime and the deep-rooted socialist opposition to its betrayal of the principles and program of the October Revolution.
Rogovin documented the immense popularity of Trotsky, even after his exile from the Soviet Union in 1929, and established that the principal purpose of Stalin’s bloody terror in the 1930s was the eradication of Trotsky’s political influence.
Rogovin insisted that without understanding the Terror—its origins and its consequences—it was impossible to make sense of either the nature of Soviet society or the ultimate dissolution of the USSR at the hands of the Communist Party during the final decade of the 20th century. For him, 1936–1938 and 1989–1991 were indissolubly connected periods of Soviet history. The restoration of capitalism demanded new falsifications of Soviet history.
This lecture was delivered by Professor Vadim Rogovin at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, on June 3, 1996
Once upon a time, unintentionally, And probably hazarding a guess, Hegel called the historian a prophet Predicting in reverse. B. Pasternak
The split with the Workers' Revolutionary Party in 1985-86 enabed the ICFI to intervene in the crisis of Stalinism in 1985-1991. For the first time since the Stalinist terror of the 1930s half a century earlier, the Trotskyist movement could fight for its program and the reestablihment of the continuity of Marxism within the Soviet working class. Out of this intervention, the ICFI established contact with Vadim Rogovin as well as several figures who had either fought directly in the Left Opposition - like Nadezhda Ioffe - or whose parents had been members of the opposition. Below are several interviews and memoirs with Left Oppositionists and their descendentants that grew out of this work.
The World Socialist Web Site is publishing interviews with three children of Soviet Left Oppositionists—Tatiana Smilga, Zorya Serebryakova and Yuri Primakov—and with Tatiana Isaeva, granddaughter of the outstanding Marxist literary critic, Alexander Voronsky.
Zorya Leonidovna Serebryakova’s father, Leonid Petrovich Serebryakov, was a leading Bolshevik and Left Oppositionist. One of the main defendants in the Second Moscow Trial, he was found guilty and shot on February 1, 1937.
Tatiana Smilga-Poluyan (May 1919-September 2014) came from a remarkable family with longstanding revolutionary traditions. Not only her parents, but also her uncles and aunts were active participants in the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent Civil War.
Tatiana Ivarovna Smilga-Poluyan, daughter of the Left Oppositionist Ivar Smilga, dedicated her life to restoring historical truth about those who had been murdered and whose names had been besmirched by Stalinist reaction.
Tatiana Isaeva is the granddaughter of the Marxist literary critic Aleksandr Konstantinovich Voronsky, a Bolshevik from 1904 and participant in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 who later became an important figure in the Left Opposition.
Vitaly Markovich Primakov was a hero of the October Revolution and the Civil War and later an important member of the Left Opposition.
Veteran German socialist Nathan Steinberger died in Berlin February 26. See accompanying article for an appreciation of his extraordinary life. For the benefit of our readers, we are reposting below an interview with Steinberger conducted in April 1997.
On February 26 Nathan Steinberger died at the age of 94 in a hospital in Berlin. His wife Edith died four years ago. Nathan and Edith Steinberger were among the last members of a generation who lived through an epoch marked by revolutionary upheavals and the tragic defeats of the workers movement. Their lives were inextricably bound up with the terrible experiences of fascism and the Stalinist terror, during which, as members of the German Communist Party (KPD) living in the Soviet Union, they barely escaped with their lives. [See also: An interview with Nathan Steinberger (1997)]
WSWS : Obituary