Trotsky on the League of Nations, Italy and Ethiopia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Sep 22 18:48:12 MDT 1999

This is from a July 1936 article "The New Revolutionary Upsurge and the
Tasks of the Fourth International". Point 13 directly addresses the League
of Nations, but I include 11 and 12 to set the context. It makes all the
correct political points, but I can hardly suppress a smile at Trotsky's
reference to the  "problem of revolutionary leadership" in point 13, which
appears in italics in the Pathfinder edition. I guess the Old Man thought
that by using italics the problem might be resolved quicker.


11. At present it is only possible to guess at the tempo of the coming
revolutionary developments. Thanks to exceptional conditions (the defeat in
the war, the peasant problem, the Bolshevik Party), the Russian revolution
completed its ascent— from the overthrow of absolutism to the conquest of
power by the proletariat—in eight months. But even in this short period it
knew the armed April demonstration, the July defeat in Petrograd, and the
attempt of Kornilov to carry out a counterrevolutionary coup in August.355
The Spanish revolution has already lasted with ebbs and flows for five
years. During this period the workers and poor peasants of Spain have
displayed such magnificent political instincts, have developed so much
energy, devotion, and heroism, that state power would have been in their
hands long ago if the leadership had even to a small extent corresponded to
the political situation and to the militant qualities of the proletariat.
The true saviors of Spanish capital- ism were and remain not Zamora, not
Azana, not Gil Robles,356 but the Socialist, Communist, and anarchist
leaders of their organizations.

12. The same now applies to France and Belgium. If the party of Leon Blum
was really Socialist it might, basing itself upon the general strike, have
overthrown the bourgeoisie in June, almost without civil war, with a
minimum of disturbance and of sacrifices. But the party of Blum is a
bourgeois party, the younger brother of rotten Radicalism. If, in its turn,
the "Communist" Party had anything in common with Communism, it would from
the very first day of the strike have corrected its criminal mistake,
broken off its fatal bloc with the Radicals, called the workers to the
creation of factory committees and soviets, and thus established in the
country a regime of dual power as the shortest and surest bridge to the
dictatorship of the proletariat. But in actual fact the apparatus of the
Communist Party is merely one of the tools of French imperialism. The key
to the fate of Spain, France, and Belgium is the problem of revolutionary

13. The same conclusion follows from the lessons of international policy,
from the so-called "struggle against war" in particular. The social
patriots and the centrists, especially the French ones, justify their
kowtowing to the League of Nations by the passivity of the masses,
especially by the unreadiness of the masses to apply a boycott to Italy
during her robber attack upon Ethiopia. The same argument is used by
pacifists of the Maxton type in order to hide their prostration. In the
light of the June events it becomes especially clear that the masses did
not react to the international provocations of the imperialists simply
because they were deceived, lulled to sleep, held back, paralyzed, and
demoralized by the leaderships of their own organizations. If the Soviet
trade unions had given a timely example by boycotting Italy, the movement
would, like a prairie fire, have inevitably embraced all of Europe and the
whole world, and at once become menacing to the imperialists of all
countries. But the Soviet bureaucracy forbade and stifled all revolutionary
initiative, replacing it by the prostration of the Comintern before
Herriot, Leon Blum, and the League of Nations. The problem of the
international policy of the proletariat, like that of the internal policy,
is a problem of revolutionary leadership.

Louis Proyect

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