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Lih: The Bolsheviks achieved a mighty peoples revolution

April 22, 2015
  1. Levi Rafael permalink

    The old hydra of “Trotsky underestimated the peasantry” seems to come up in this article. For a century now Trotsky is portrayed as being anti-peasant, or for not sufficiently taking them into account when formulating his interpretation of permanent revolution and recognizing the necessity to begin the social revolution in the backward, semi-feudal/colonial countries. Yet I believe that it was Trotsky who was encouraging Lenin during the most turbulent years of War-Communism that something akin to the NEP needed to be adopted to win the support of the peasantry and to keep the economy afloat. Trotsky’s interpretation of the worker-peasant alliance was that the alliance should be under workers’ hegemony and should seek to ally itself with the poorer sections of the peasantry against the wealthier, labor-exploiting peasantry. Lenin was pretty clear that this was also his conception of the worker-peasant alliance towards the end of his life. It confuses me why Trotsky is still portrayed as having put forward anti-peasant demands, when in Permanent Revolution and in his work during the Left Opposition years that he makes it quite clear that he was a staunch defender of the worker-peasant alliance, but argued that only the working class could effectively lead this alliance by being able to supply the poorer peasants with modern farm machinery that would have modernized peasant agriculture and thus create a material incentive for poorer peasants to the formation of cooperatives.

  2. I don’t see evidence that Trotsky’s approach to the peasantry in the years of “war communism” and NEP was different from that of Lenin and the Bolshevik mainstream. Note for example his article “the Communists and the French peasantry” in his “First Five Years of the Communist International” and compare it with the Comintern’s resolution on the topic, “Theses on the Agrarian Question”, drafted by Lenin and adopted by the Second Congress (1920). Both items are on line.

    Also, I do not think that Lars Lih is asserting that Trotsky’s pre-1917 assessment of the peasantry’s revolutionary potential is different from that of Lenin. It’s the strategy for revolution that was different.

    It does seem to me that the Russian peasantry showed a capacity to embrace socialist revolution greater than what any wing of pre-1917 Social Democrats had anticipated — but whether that is true depends on one’s conception of socialist revolution.

    John Riddell

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