The Marxist Civil War - final part

Chris Burford cburford at
Thu Aug 17 08:06:35 MDT 1995

I have posted Part I, II and III showing how Stalins' formal
published positions demonstrate a critical outbreak of hostilities
around a letter published by Trotsky between 7th December 1923 and
15th December (exact date not given by Stalin). Stalin's public
article in Pravda of 15th Dec takes Trotsky on in the most public
fashion, treating Trotsky's letter as a casus belli, ridiculing him,
and implying that opportunist elements should be purged.


1) I would pinpoint this as the moment of the outbreak of irrevocable war.
It regards Trotsky's intervention at a critical time before Lenin's
death as a major power play. Stalin dwells on the perceived insult to the
old guard, but will have noticed the call for the youth to capture the
revolutionary "formulas" by storm.

2) The reply does not diffuse the conflict. It uses sarcasm and
amplification to discredit the political integrity of his opponent,
and accuse him of duplicity. I see many parallels with the style
of debate in some quarters on this list. Stalin is alive and well and
living today among Trotskyists as well as Stalinists

3) I regard the quote from Lenin as highly significant about the whole
way of handling contradictions in the Bolshevik party: the only
trustworthy people are those who were correct from the very beginning
and remained correct. Purges are necessary of unstable, vacillating
opportunist, and duplicitous elements.

4) I think the *content* of the dispute was fundamental. Stalin was
systematising an orderly, unbrilliant but disciplined party structure.
Trotsky saw the dangers.

Stalin was the prose and Trotsky the passion.

There is almost an archetypal line up: The Stalinist hacks, versus the
Trotskyist firebrands.

When you read the passage from Trotsky that enflamed Stalin so, you can
see it was also the substance of the split in China, when Mao used the
revolutionary youth to attack the Stalinist bureaucracy whom he detested.

Marcus put it in more abstract terms, but I see some overlap with
his formulations.


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