[Marxism] Stalinism and Bakuninism

Lüko Willms lueko.willms at t-online.de
Sun Aug 1 13:20:22 MDT 2010

Tom Cod (tomcod3 at gmail.com) wrote on 2010-08-01 at 10:54:50 in  about 
Re: [Marxism] Stalinism and Bakuninism (was: Earliest use of word 
>  Trotsky deals with dead on in "Their
> Morals and Ours" in response to exactly these arguments regarding the
> Bolshevik Revolution and Civil War 
   This is an excellent point of reference. Please allow me to quote the final 
section of this excellent article, which answers -- in general -- also your 
reference to an unidentified article by Trotsky on the struggle against 
fascism in Germany. 

  Taken from 
> <http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/morals/morals.htm>
--------- cut ------------------------

Dialectic Interdependence of End and Means

A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be 
justified, From the Marxist point of view, which expresses the historical 
interests of the proletariat, the end is justified if it leads to increasing the 
power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man.

"We are to understand then that in achieving this end anything is 
permissible?" sarcastically demands the Philistine, demonstrating that he 
understood nothing. That is permissible, we answer, which really leads to the 
liberation of mankind. Since this end can be achieved only through revolution, 
the liberating morality of the proletariat of necessity is endowed with a 
revolutionary character. It irreconcilably counteracts not only religious dogma 
but every kind of idealistic fetish, these philosophic gendarmes of the ruling 
class. It deduces a rule for conduct from the laws of the development of 
society, thus primarily from the class struggle, this law of all laws.

"Just the same," the moralist continues to insist, "does it mean that in the 
class struggle against capitalists all means are permissible: lying, frame-up, 
betrayal, murder, and so on?" Permissible and obligatory are those and only 
those means, we answer, which unite the revolutionary proletariat, fill their 
hearts with irreconcilable hostility to oppression, teach them contempt for 
official morality and its democratic echoers, imbue them with consciousness 
of their own historic mission, raise their courage and spirit of self-sacrifice in 
the struggle. Precisely from this it flows that not all means are permissible. 
When we say that the end justifies the means, then for us the conclusion 
follows that the great revolutionary end spurns those base means and ways 
which set one part of the working class against other parts, or attempt to 
make the masses happy without their participation; or lower the faith of the 
masses in themselves and their organization, replacing it by worship for the 
"leaders". Primarily and irreconcilably, revolutionary morality rejects servility 
in relation to the bourgeoisie and haughtiness in relation to the toilers, that is, 
those characteristics in which petty bourgeois pedants and moralists are 
thoroughly steeped.

These criteria do not, of course, give a ready answer to the question as to 
what is permissible and what is not permissible in each separate case. There 
can be no such automatic answers. Problems of revolutionary morality are 
fused with the problems of revolutionary strategy and tactics. The living 
experience of the movement under the clarification of theory provides the 
correct answer to these problems.

Dialectic materialism does not know dualism between means and end. The 
end flows naturally from the historical movement. Organically the means are 
subordinated to the end. The immediate end becomes the means for a further 
end. In his play, Franz von Sickingen, Ferdinand Lassalle puts the following 
words into the mouth of one of the heroes:

... "Show not the goal
But show also the path. So closely interwoven
Are path and goal that each with other
Ever changes, and other paths forthwith
Another goal set up."

Lassalle's lines are not at all perfect. Still worse is the fact that in practical 
politics Lassalle himself diverged from the above expressed precept - it is 
sufficient to recall that he went as far as secret agreements with Bismark! 
But the dialectic interdependence between means and end is expressed 
entirely correctly in the above-quoted sentences. Seeds of wheat must be 
sown in order to yield an ear of wheat.

Is individual terror, for example, permissible or impermissible from the point 
of view of "pure morals"? In this abstract form the question does not exist at 
all for us. Conservative Swiss bourgeois even now render official praise to 
the terrorist William Tell. Our sympathies are fully on the side of Irish, 
Russian, Polish or Hindu terrorists in their struggle against national and 
political oppression. The assassinated Kirov, a rude satrap, does not call 
forth any sympathy. Our relation to the assassin remains neutral only 
because we know not what motives guided him. If it became known that 
Nikolayev acted as a conscious avenger for workers' rights trampled upon by 
Kirov, our sympathies would be fully on the side of the assassin. However, 
not the question of subjective motives but that of objective expediency has 
for us the decisive significance. Are the given means really capable of 
leading to the goal? In relation to individual terror, both theory and 
experience bear witness that such is not the case. To the terrorist we say: it 
is impossible to replace the masses; only in the mass movement can you find 
expedient expression for your heroism. However, under conditions of civil 
war, the assination of individual oppressors ceases to be an act of individual 
terror. If, we shall say, a revolutionist bombed General Franco and his staff 
into the air, it would hardly evoke moral indignation even from the democratic 
eunuchs Under the conditions of civil war a similar act would be politically 
completely expedient. Thus, even in the sharpest question - murder of man 
by man - moral absolutes prove futile. Moral evaluations, together with those 
political, flow from the inner needs of struggle.

The liberation of the workers can come only through the workers themselves. 
There is, therefore, no greater crime than deceiving the masses, palming off 
defeats as victories, friends as enemies, bribing workers" leaders, fabricating 
legends, staging false trials, in a word, doing what the Stalinists do. These 
means can serve only one end: lengthening the domination of a clique 
already condemned by history. But they cannot serve to liberate the masses. 
That is why the Fourth International leads against Stalinism a life and death 

The masses, of course, are not at all impeccable. Idealization of the masses 
is foreign to us. We have seen them under different conditions, at different 
stages and in addition in the biggest political shocks. We have observed their 
strong and weak sides. Their strong side-resoluteness, self-sacrifice, 
heroism - has always found its clearest expression in times of revolutionary 
upsurge. During this period the Bolsheviks headed the masses. Afterward a 
different historical chapter loomed when the weak side of the oppressed 
came to the forefront: heterogeneity, insufficiency of culture, narrowness of 
world outlook. The masses tired of the tension, became disillusioned, lost 
faith in themselves - and cleared the road for the new aristocracy. In this 
epoch the Bolsheviks ("Trotskyists") found themselves isolated from the 
masses. Practically we went through two such big historic cycles: 1897-1905, 
years of flood tide; 1907-1913 years of the ebb; 1917-1923, a period of 
upsurge unprecedented in history; finally, a new period of reaction which has 
not ended even today. In these immense events the "Trotskyists" learned the 
rhythm of history, that is, the dialectics of the class struggle. They also 
learned, it seems, and to a certain degree successfully, how to subordinate 
their subjective plans and programs to this objective rhythm. They learned 
not to fall into despair over the fact that the laws of history do not depend 
upon their individual tastes and are not subordinated to their own moral 
criteria. they learned to subordinate their indivdual desires to the laws of 
history. they learnd not to become firghtened by the most power enemies if 
their power is in contradiction to the needs of historical development. They 
know how to swim against the stream in the deep convition that the new 
historic flood will carry them to the orhter shore. Not all will reach that shore, 
many will drown. but to particiape in this movement with open eyes and with 
an intense will - only this can give the highest moral satisfaction to a 
thinking being!

----------------- off -----------------

Comradely yours, 
Lüko Willms
Frankfurt, Germany

More information about the Marxism mailing list