Leon Trotsky: On Lenin's Testament ()
Lenin has become known as the single most important and iconic figure of the Training and Advice Born Vladimir Ul'ianov, he took the pseudonym Lenin in had increasingly come to rely on relations of domination between nations. His defeated rival, Leon Trotsky, who was expelled from the Communist Party. The relationship of Lenin and Trotsky is complicated but they were definitely friends at certain times and mutually favored eachother over Stalin. A detailed biography of Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronshtein) that includes Stalin; Stalin & the New Economic Policy; Death of Sergy Kirov; Trial of Zinoviev and Of the eight children born of this marriage, four survived. .. came to hate Trotsky because of the very necessity of referring to him for advice and direction.
Upon the publication of my autobiography some three years ago, the official Soviet historian, Pokrovsky, now dead, wrote: Nothing was analyzed, nothing was refuted. There was nothing to refute, and nobody could be found capable of writing a book which would find readers. A frontal attack proving impossible, it became necessary to resort to a flank movement. Ludwig, of course, is not a historian of the Stalin school. He is an independent psychological portraitist.
But a writer foreign to all politics may prove the most convenient means for putting into circulation ideas which can find no other support but a popular name. Let us see how this works out in actual fact. After the death of Lenin we sat together, nineteen members of the Central Committee, tensely waiting to learn what our lost leader would say to us from his grave.
No one stirred during the reading. When it came to Trotsky the words occurred: Those were the only words spoken in that solemn moment. And then in the character of analyst, and not narrator, Ludwig makes the following remark on his own account: How simple it seems to find a key to the riddles of history!
These unctuous lines of Ludwig would doubtless have uncovered to me myself the very secret of my destiny if To begin with, the testament was written by Lenin not two years before his death as our author confirms, but one year.
It was dated January 4, ; Lenin died on January 21, His political life had broken off completely, in March Ludwig speaks as though the testament had never been published in full.
As a matter of fact it has been reproduced dozens of times in all the languages of the world press. The first official reading of the testament in the Kremlin occurred, not at a session of the Central Committee, as Ludwig writes, but in the Council of Elders at the Thirteenth Congress of the party on May 22, It was not Stalin who read the testament, but Kamenev in his then position as permanent president of the central party bodies.
And finally — most important — I did not interrupt the reading with an emotional exclamation, because of the absence of any motive whatever for such an act. Those words which Ludwig wrote down at the dictation of Radek are not in the text of the testament. They are an outright invention. Difficult as it may be to believe, this is the fact. If Ludwig were not so careless about the factual basis of his psychological patterns, he might without difficulty have got possession of an exact text of the testament, established the necessary facts and dates, and thus avoided those wretched mistakes with which his work about the Kremlin and the Bolsheviks is unfortunately brimful.
The so-called testament was written at two periods, separated by an interval of ten days: December 25, and January 4, At first only two persons knew of the document: At that time the party apparatus was semi-officially in the hands of the troika Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin — as a matter of fact, already in the hands of Stalin. The troika decisively expressed themselves against reading the testament at the Congress — the motive not at all difficult to understand. Krupskaya insisted upon her wish.
At this stage the dispute was going on behind the scenes. The question was transferred to a meeting of the Elders at the Congress — that is, the leaders of the provincial delegations.
It was here that the oppositional members of the Central Committee first learned about the testament, I among them. After a decision had been adopted that nobody should make notes, Kamenev began to read the text aloud. The mood of the listeners was indeed tense in the highest degree. But so far as I can restore the picture from memory, I should say that those who already knew the contents of the document were incomparably the most anxious. The troika introduced, through one of its henchmen, a resolution previously agreed upon with the provincial leaders: With the gentle insistence characteristic of her, Krupskaya argued that this was a direct violation of the will of Lenin, to whom you could not deny the right to bring his last advice to the attention of the party.
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But the members of the Council of Elders, bound by factional discipline, remained obdurate; the resolution of the troika was adopted by an overwhelming majority. Lenin always stood up against these voices. My union with Lenin had been predetermined by the logic of ideas and the logic of events. I have do reason to dispute him. In answer to this, the less restrained leaders of the opposite camp had reminded Zinoviev of his conduct during the period of the October insurrection.
Thinking over from all sides on his deathbed how relations would crystallize in the party without him, Lenin could not but foresee that Stalin and Zinoviev would try to use my non-Bolshevik past in order to mobilize the old Bolsheviks against me.
The testament tries, incidentally, to forestall this danger, too. Here is what it says immediately after its characterization of Stalin and Trotsky: This warning stands, however, in no relation with the remark about Trotsky. In regard to him it is merely recommended not to use his non-Bolshevik past as an argument ad hominem. I therefore had no motive for putting the question which Radek attributes to me. Least of all did the testament set out to make a guiding role in the party work difficult for me.
As we shall see below, it pursued an exactly opposite aim. On the other side Lenin writes: Stalin, having become General Secretary, has concentrated an enormous power in his hands; and I am not sure that he always knows how to use this power with sufficient caution. The testament insists upon an increase of the number of members of the Central Committee to fifty, even to one hundred, in order that with this compact pressure it may restrain the centrifugal tendencies in the Political Bureau.
This organization proposal has still the appearance of a neutral guarantee against personal conflicts. But only ten days later it seemed to Lenin inadequate, and he added a supplementary proposal which also gave to the whole document its final physiognomy: I propose to the comrades to find a way to remove Stalin from that position and appoint to it another man who in all other respects  differs from Stalin only in superiority — namely; more patient, more loyal, more polite and more attentive to comrades, less capricious, etc.
During the days when the testament was dictated, Lenin was still trying to give to his critical appraisal of Stalin as restrained an expression as possible.
In the coming weeks his tone would become sharper and sharper right up to the last hour when his voice ceased forever. But even in the testament enough is said to motivate the demand for a change of General Secretary: At this point the characterization becomes a heavy indictment. As will appear later, the testament could not have been a surprise to Stalin.
But this did not soften the blow. Upon his first acquaintance with the document, in the Secretariat, in the circle of his closest associates, Stalin let fly a phrase which gave quite unconcealed expression to his real feelings toward the author of the testament.
The conditions under which this phrase spread to wide circles, and above all the inimitable quality of the reaction itself, is in my eyes an unqualified guarantee of the authenticity of the episode.
Unfortunately this winged phrase cannot be quoted in print. To remove Stalin — just him and him only — meant to cut him off from the apparatus, to withdraw from him the possibility of pressing on the long arm of the lever, to deprive him of all that power which he had concentrated in his hands in this office.
Who, then, should be named General Secretary? Someone who, having the positive qualities of Stalin, should be more patient, more loyal, less capricious. This was the phrase which struck home most sharply to Stalin. Lenin obviously did not consider him irreplaceable, since he proposed that we seek a more suitable person for his post.
In tendering his resignation, as a matter of form, the General Secretary capriciously kept repeating: Ilyich suggested that you find another who would differ from me only in greater politeness.
Well, try to find him. Our whole party is rude, proletarian. As to the accusation of inadequate loyalty, neither Stalin nor his friends had a word to say. It is perhaps not without interest that the supporting voice came from A. Politics knows no gratitude. Radek, who was then still a member of the Central Committee, sat beside me during the reading of the testament.
The troika were compelled to forestall the possible effect of the testament by placing the party as soon as possible before a fait accompli. The leaders of the delegations in their reading would swallow some words, emphasize others, and offer commentaries to the effect that the letter had been written by a man seriously ill and under the influence of trickery and intrigue. The machine was already in complete control. The mere fact that the troika was able to transgress the will of Lenin, refusing to read his letter at the Congress, sufficiently characterizes the composition of the Congress and its atmosphere.
The testament did not weaken or put a stop to the inner struggle, but on the contrary lent it a disastrous tempo. It can press into its service even those who demonstratively turn their backs to it. But Ludwig means something more. He wants to suggest an exceptional closeness to the teacher of this particular pupil. As an especially precious testimony Ludwig cites upon this point the words of Stalin himself: Ludwig becomes here a mere transmitter of the official legend manufactured during these recent years.
I doubt if he has the remotest idea of the contradictions into which his indifference to facts has brought him. If Stalin actually was following Lenin up to his death, how then explain the fact that the last document dictated by Lenin, on the eve of his second stroke, was a curt letter to Stalin, a few lines in all, breaking off all personal and comradely relations? Yet we hear not a word about this from Ludwig.
As a matter of fact the testament, as also the letter breaking off relations, was written in those months December to the beginning of March during which Lenin in a series of programmatic articles gave the party the most mature fruits of his thinking. That break with Stalin did not drop out of a clear sky. It flowed from a long series of preceding conflicts, upon matters of principle and upon practical matters alike, and it sets forth the whole bitterness of these conflicts in a tragic light.
But Lenin was far from thinking that these gifts, even on an extraordinary scale, were sufficient for the leadership of the party and the state. Lenin saw in Stalin a revolutionist, but not a statesman in the grand style. Theory had too high an importance for Lenin in a political struggle. Nobody considered Stalin a theoretician, and he himself up to never made any pretense to this vocation.
On the contrary, his weak theoretical grounding was too well known in a small circle. Stalin is not acquainted with the West; he does not know any foreign language. And finally Stalin was not — this is less important, but not without significance — either a writer or an orator in the strict sense of the word.
But even here Lenin made substantial reservations, and these increased during the last period. Lenin despised idealistic moralizings. But this did not prevent him from being a rigorist of revolutionary morals — of those rules of conduct, that is, which he considered necessary for the success of the revolution and the creation of the new society.
He knew people too well and took them as they were. He would combine the faults of some with the virtues of others, and sometimes also with their faults, and never cease to watch keenly what came of it. He knew also that times change, and we with them.
The party had risen with one jump from the underground to the height of power. This created for each of the old revolutionists a startlingly sharp change in personal situation and in relations with others. What Lenin discovered in Stalin under these new conditions he cautiously but clearly remarked in his testament: Ludwig missed these hints. It is in them, however, that one can find the key to the relations between Lenin and Stalin in the last period. Lenin was not only a theoretician and technician of the revolutionary dictatorship, but also a vigilant guardian of its moral foundations.
Every hint at the use of power for personal interests kindled threatening fires in his eyes. And he would not infrequently add on the subject of parliamentarism one of his rich definitions. Stalin meanwhile was more and more broadly and indiscriminately using the possibilities of the revolutionary dictatorship for the recruiting of people personally obligated and devoted to him.
In his position as General Secretary he became the dispenser of favor and fortune.
Here the foundation was laid for an inevitable conflict. Lenin gradually lost his moral trust in Stalin. If you understand that basic fact, then all the particular episodes of the last period take their places accordingly, and give a real and not a false picture of the attitude of Lenin to Stalin.
Sverdlov and Stalin as Types of Organizers In order to accord the testament its proper place in the development of the party, it is here necessary to make a digression. Up to the spring of the chief organizer of the party had been Sverdlov.
He did not have the name of General Secretary, a name which was then not yet invented, but he was that in reality. Sverdlov died at the age of 34 in Marchfrom the so-called Spanish fever. In the spread of the civil war and the epidemic, mowing people down right and left, the party hardly realized the weight of this loss.
In two funeral speeches Lenin gave an appraisal of Sverdlov which throws a reflected but very clear light also upon his later relations with Stalin. His appraisal of Sverdlov was at the same time a characterization of the task of the organizer: Only thanks to the fact that we had such an organizer as Sverdlov were we able in war times to work as though we had not one single conflict worth speaking of.
So it was in fact. In conversations with Lenin in those days we remarked more than once, and with ever renewed satisfaction, one of the chief conditions of our success: In spite of the dreadful pressure of events and difficulties, the novelty of the problems, and sharp practical disagreements occasionally bursting out, the work proceeded with extraordinary smoothness and friendliness, and without interruptions.
With a brief word we would recall episodes of the old revolutions. But in the inner mechanics of this unexampled unanimity the chief technician had been Sverdlov. The secret of his art was simple: No one of the party workers had any fear of intrigues creeping down from the party staff. The basis of this authority of Sverdlov was loyalty. Having tested out mentally all the party leaders, Lenin in his funeral speech drew the practical conclusion: Such a man we can never replace, if by replacement we mean the possibility of finding one comrade combining such qualities The work which he did alone can now be accomplished only by a whole group of men who, following in his footsteps, will carry on his service.
These words were not rhetorical, but a strictly practical proposal. And the proposal was carried out. Instead of a single Secretary, there was appointed a Collegium of three persons.
From these words of Lenin it is evident, even to those unacquainted with the history of the party, that during the life of Sverdlov, Stalin played no leading role in the party machinery — either at the time of the October Revolution or in the period of laying the foundations and walls of the Soviet state. Stalin was also not included in the first Secretariat which replaced Sverdlov.
Perhaps also Lenin, like many others, did not adequately realize the danger in time. On December 7, in taking his departure upon the insistence of his physician, Lenin, little given to complaining, wrote to the members of the Political Bureau: I am leaving today.
In spite of my reduced quota of work and increased quota of rest, these last days the insomnia has increased devilishly. I am afraid I cannot speak either at the party Congress or the Soviet Congress. In May he has the first stroke. For two months Lenin is unable to speak or write or move. In July he begins slowly to recover. Remaining in the country, he enters by degrees into active correspondence. In October he returns to the Kremlin and officially takes up his work. I formerly sat too steadily at my post and failed to observe many things; the long interruption has now permitted me to see much with fresh eyes.
What disturbed him most, unquestionably, was the monstrous growth of bureaucratic power, the focal point of which had become the Organization Bureau of the Central Committee.
The necessity of removing the boss who was specializing in peppery dishes became clear to Lenin immediately after his return to work. But this personal question had become notably complicated.
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Lenin could not fail to see how extensively his absence had been made use of by Stalin for a one-sided selection of men — often in direct conflict with the interests of the cause. The General Secretary was now relying upon a numerous faction, bound together by ties which, if not always intellectual, were at least firm. A change of the heads of the party machine had already become impossible without the preparation of a serious political attack.
The fact of this conversation as well as its content soon found their reflection in documents, and they constitute an episode of the party history undeniable and not denied by anyone.
Not only continual work, but also executive conversations with the comrades were again forbidden by his physicians. He had to think out further measures of struggle alone within four walls. To control the backstage activities of the Secretariat, Lenin worked out some general measures of an organizational character. On January 23, through Krupskaya, Lenin sent for publication in Pravda an article on the subject of his proposed reorganization of the central institutions. Fearing at once a traitorous blow from his disease and a no less traitorous response from the Secretariat, Lenin demanded that his article be printed in Pravda immediately; this implied a direct appeal to the party.
Stalin refused Krupskaya this request on the ground of the necessity of discussing the question in the Political Bureau. But the very procedure of referring it to the Political Bureau boded no good.
I demanded an immediate meeting of the Political Bureau. I rejected with indignation the proposal to hoodwink Lenin, spoke essentially in favor of the reform proposed by him, and demanded the immediate publication of his article. I was supported by Kamenev who had come in an hour late. The attitude of the majority was at last broken down by the argument that Lenin in any case would put his article in circulation; it would be copied on typewriters, and read with redoubled attention, and it would be thus all the more pointedly directed against the Political Bureau.
The article appeared in Pravda the next morning, January This episode also found its reflection in due season in official documents, upon the basis of which it is here described.Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin addresses a crowd and Leon Trotsky talks,dubaiairporthotel.info Stock Footage
I consider it necessary in general to emphasize the fact that since I do not belong to the school of pure psychology, and since I am accustomed to trust firmly established facts rather than their emotional reflection in memory, the whole present exposition, with the exception of specially indicated episodes, is set forth by me on the basis of documents in my archives and with a careful verification of dates, testimony and factual circumstances in general.
The November Plenum of the Central Committeesitting without Lenin and without me, introduced unexpectedly a radical change in the system of foreign trade, undermining the very foundation of the state monopoly. On December 13 he wrote me: I earnestly urge you to take upon yourself at the coming Plenum the defense of our common view as to the unconditional necessity of preserving and enforcing the monopoly The previous Plenum took a decision in this matter wholly in conflict with monopoly of foreign trade.
Refusing any concessions upon this question; Lenin insisted that I appeal to the Central Committee and the Congress. The blow was directed primarily against Stalin, responsible as General Secretary for the presentation of questions at the Plenums of the Central Committee. That time, however, the thing did not go to the point of open struggle. Sensing the danger, Stalin yielded without a struggle, and his friends with him. At the December Plenum the November decision was revoked.
The disagreement in the sphere of national policy was still sharper. In the autumn of we were preparing the transformation of the Soviet state into a federated union of national republics. Lenin considered it necessary to go as far as possible to meet the demands and claims of those nationalists who had long lived under oppression and were still far from recovering from its consequences. Lenin, convalescing in a village near Moscow, carried on a polemic with Stalin in letters addressed to the Political Bureau.
He was still hoping in those days — toward the end of September — to adjust the question through the Political Bureau and without open conflict. This correspondence, although extremely interesting politically, is still concealed from the party. The bureaucratic national policy had already at that time provoked a keen opposition in Georgia, uniting against Stalin and his right hand man, Ordzhonikidze, the flower of Georgian Bolshevism.
Through Krupskaya, Lenin got into private contact with the leaders of the Georgian opposition Mdivani, Makharadze, etc. The struggle in the borderlands was too keen, and Stalin had bound himself too closely with definite groupings, to yield in silence as he had on the question of the monopoly of foreign trade.
In the next few weeks Lenin became convinced that it would be necessary to appeal to the party. At the end of December he dictated a voluminous letter on the national question which was to take the place of his speech at the party Congress if illness prevented him from appearing.
Lenin employed against Stalin an accusation of administrative impulsiveness and spitefulness against an alleged nationalism. He for the first time named his opponents by name: In mercilessly condemning the methods of the Stalin faction, Rakovsky wrote some years later: To the national question, as to all other questions, the bureaucracy makes its approach from the point of view of convenience of administration and regulation.
Nothing better could be said.
He was ready to accept at the coming Congress any theoretical formulation of the national policy provided it did not weaken his factional support in the center and in the borderlands. To be sure, Stalin had plenty of ground for fearing that Lenin saw through his plans completely.
But on the other hand, the condition of the sick man was continually growing worse. Stalin coolly included this not unimportant factor in his calculations.
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Stalin tried to isolate the dangerous supervisor from all information which might give him a weapon against the Secretariat and its allies. This policy of blockade naturally was directed against the people closest to Lenin. Krupskaya did what she could to protect the sick man from contact with the hostile machinations of the Secretariat. But Lenin knew how to guess a whole situation from accidental symptoms.
He was clearly aware of the activities of Stalin, his motives and calculations. It is not difficult to imagine what reactions they provoked in his mind. On March 4,Pravda published an article famous in the history of the party, Better Less but Better. This work was written at several different times. Lenin did not like to, and could not dictate.
He had a hard time writing the article. On March 2 he finally listened to it with satisfaction: Upon this side of the question, however, we cannot pause here. Let us speak frankly. Everybody knows that a worse organized institution than our Commissariat of Rabkrin does not exist, and that in the present circumstances you cannot expect a thing of that Commissariat.
This extraordinarily biting allusion in print by the head of the government to one of the most important state institutions was a direct and unmitigated blow against Stalin as the organizer and head of this Inspection. The reason for this should now be clear. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.
As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner. This is, of course, besides Trotsky himself, builder of the Red Army and the only Soviet who served as both foreign and defense minister. Most proverbially, a Jew — Yakov Sverdlov — oversaw the nighttime execution of Czar Nikolai, Empress Alexandra, and their five children. Jewish revolutionaries were prominent beyond Russia as well. In Germany, philosopher-economist Rosa Luxemburg led an abortive revolution in before being caught, clubbed, shot dead and dumped in a canal.
In Czechoslovakia, Rudolf Slansky was the second-most powerful figure before his public trial and execution alongside 11 other senior Jewish communists. In Poland, two of the three Stalinists who led its transition to communism — Hilary Minc, who collectivized its economy, and Jakub Berman, who headed its secret police — were Jews.
A century on, it is clear they were not. Jews are now overwhelmingly academics, bankers, businesspeople, lawyers, doctors, journalists, literati and politicians, who do not encourage their children to join the proletariat. Yes, many Jews give the poor much charity and also back assorted social-democratic political formations, but on the whole the Jews are now in the business of preserving the social-political order, rather than turning it on its head.