The test of 1917

Did events force Lenin to jettison his 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' formulation after the fall of tsarism? Or was this formulation concretised in the republic of workers', peasants' and soldiers' soviets? Jack Conrad continues his study of the communist programme

According to the bog-standard Trotskyite account, Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks were completely hobbled by their minimum-maximum programme in 1917. The Bolsheviks had to jettison it as so much ballast in order to move forward. Supposedly their democratic dictatorship (the decisive rule of the people by the people) and an uninterrupted (permanent) revolution, which aims to spread the revolutionary flame to Europe, was made completely "antiquated" by the heaven-storming events.

Tony Cliff, Socialist Workers Party founder-leader, claims that conditions which followed the sudden abdication of tsar Nicholas II in February 1917 (March in our Gregorian calendar), exposed the "bankruptcy" of the 'old Bolshevik' formula.[1] The leading role of popular soviets (councils) and the formation of the self-appointed provisional government are meant to have thrown the Bolsheviks into utter confusion.

To begin with, the provisional government - aka the temporary committee of the state duma - contained one lone 'socialist' minister, Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970), a Trudovik in 1912, and now a Socialist Revolutionary. He served as minister of justice and was effectively ambassador from the soviets. The Petrograd soviet had though solemnly voted that none of its members should participate in a bourgeois government; but after a much applauded speech by Kerensky, its charismatic vice-president, the great man deemed that he had been given the go-ahead to pursue his ignominious ministerial career. The revolution was at the immature, euphoric, frivolous stage where the odd Marxoid phrase, a quick wit and demagogic pose could conceal naked treachery.

The provisional government - a bastard child of the tsarist state - was dominated by landlord and bourgeois parties and 'independent' personalities. Note, the tsarist electoral system was based on estates, not universal and equal suffrage. However, the floodtide of revolution and mass politics had been released. Inflated representation for those above, inherited from the old regime, could not hold. Within a few lightening months democracy asserted itself. Albeit indirectly.

The provisional government responded to the tectonic changes happening below. Real democracy lay in the soviets. They were elected and recallable. The coloration of the provisional government radically altered in May 1917. A cosy deal saw Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks replace the conservative Octobrists and liberal Cadets in a whole series of ministries; and in July 1917 Kerensky became prime minister.

Despite that socialist coup, in the name of Russia's 1789, and the concomitant of capitalist progress, Kerensky and his SR and Menshevik colleagues were determined to maintain the tsarist alliance with Anglo-French imperialism and continue the bloody war with Germany and Austria. No peace! Likewise they refused to implement radical agrarian reform. They were a provisional government. No land! They also resisted inroads into the power of capital necessary to prevent the impending economic collapse. No bread! Finally, again and again, they put off elections to a Constituent Assembly. No democracy!

Complex dual power

This created a complex dual power situation. The SR and Menshevik majority in the soviets were determined to hand their power to the unelected provisional government which was acting fully in the spirit of the bourgeoisie. Why? At least with the Mensheviks, they were convinced that Russia could go no further than an anti-feudal revolution. Therefore, if the bourgeois parties were unable to govern directly, the socialists would have to temporarily substitute for them. Mechanical reasoning that logically leads to the explicit pro-capitalism of Tony Blair, Luiz In ácio Lula da Silva and Piero Fassino.

Not that it can be said that the Bolshevik leadership in Petrograd passed the test of 1917 with flying colours "they failed and failed badly. There were attacks on the provisional government from young Bolshevik leaders such as Vyacheslav Molotov and Alexander Shlyapnikov. The militant rank and file too, particularly those in the Vyborg district, instinctively disliked the provisional government and everything it stood for. But there was no serious intellectual head. Lev Kamenev and Joseph Stalin were soon to be the senior figures in Russia. On this occasion, their individual characteristics produced a paralysing combination once they were in place at the top of the Bolshevik Party. Kamenev, personally close to Lenin, was an able journalist, speaker and negotiator, but a political soft; Stalin was a single-minded organiser, but lacking in theory and imagination. A recipe for moving the party to the right in Petrograd and simultaneously quelling Bolshevik opposition to the provisional government throughout Russia.

Kamenev and Stalin managed to get back to the capital city in March 1917 from Siberia. Other leading figures, crucially Lenin, were still frustratingly caged in exile. Moreover, communications were hellishly difficult, not least because of the ongoing war. But from across a battle-scarred Europe Lenin spoke loudly and clearly. Eg, in March 1917 he urgently telegrammed from Zurich to his fellow Bolsheviks, who were set to return to Russia: "Our tactics. No trust and no support for new government. Kerensky especially suspect. Immediate elections to Petrograd city council. No rapprochement with other parties. Telegraph this to Petrograd".[2]

As soon as news of the February revolution broke in Switzerland, Lenin had been clear-sighted in his basic attitude. He was neither found disarmed nor thrown into confusion. Though information about Russia was hazy and events were developing at an extraordinarily rapid speed, Lenin remained sober-minded and incisive. Together with Zinoviev he drafted a masterful thesis on the February revolution.

The provisional government is rightly summed up as a landlord-capitalist bloc which can give the people neither land, peace, bread nor full freedom. Lenin calls for a "workers' government that relies, first, on the overwhelming majority of the peasant population, the farm labourers and poor peasants and, second, on an alliance with the revolutionary workers of all countries." Hence the working class must view the February revolution only as an "initial" victory. It must resolutely continue "the fight for a democratic republic and socialism".[3]

Lenin also dashed off a series of five 'Letters from afar'. Significantly, only one was published by Pravda. Left to its own devices, yes, using the old Bolshevik slogan of the 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' as justification, the Kamenev-Stalin leadership gingerly backed the provisional government  "in so far as it defends the revolution", etc. It rested on the SR-Menshevik majority in the soviets and was even painted as the "defender" of the revolution by Kamenev against the bayonets of foreign invaders. Hence even Kerensky's ministry could conceivably be seen as a legitimate expression of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry.

What followed in terms of tactics? For Kamenev and Stalin, the Bolsheviks should support the provisional government ... as a party of 'extreme opposition'. Shades of the old Menshevik formula; and there were plenty of suggestions doing the rounds about reunification. In anticipation, out in the provinces, joint Bolshevik-Menshevik committees formed. And on occasion the Kamenev-Stalin Pravda proved none too extreme. Whereas Stalin hedged his bets, Kamenev, adopting overt revolutionary defencism, used Pravda to urge upon the provisional government a course of immediate negotiation and a democratic peace with Germany and Austria. Meantime he admonished fraternisation and indiscipline in the army: "When army faces army, it would be the most insane policy to suggest to one of these armies to lay down its arms and go home. This would not be a policy of peace, but a policy of slavery, which would be rejected with disgust by a free people."[4]

Lenin at last gained entry into Russia - on board the famous sealed train - in April. From here on we have the firm steerage of the Bolsheviks. His 'April theses' caused a howl of protest, including from the 'old Bolsheviks' - ie, the Kamenev-Stalin leadership. True. But Lenin rewon and rearmed the party over a three-week period.

The myth

Lenin had undergone a Damascene conversion - that is the Trotskyite myth. Shocked by unexpected events, swept along by the momentum of the revolution, Lenin supposedly felt compelled to junk the 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' formulation. Tony Cliff calls it a "complete break".[5 Other, rather less weighty SWPers, write in exactly the same vein. Of course they do.

Eg, "Until then", until Lenin's so-called "complete break", Chris Bambery, Socialist Worker editor, has it that "the Bolsheviks had accepted one part of Plekhanov's argument - that a Russian revolution could not break the bounds of capitalism". Logically, had Lenin not changed his mind, it would have meant "subordinating the interests and organisation of the working class" to the "bourgeois provisional government".[6]

Marcel Liebman, a supporter of the so-called Fourth International, provides a superior, rather more nuanced and sympathetic account, albeit within the creaking framework of Trotskyite orthodoxy. He argues that Lenin replaced the 'dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' with a "vague system", which described the end of bourgeois rule, but did not yet reach "proletarian hegemony".[7]

Yet the record shows that at least since 1905 Lenin had been actively fighting for the aim of proletarian hegemony in the so-called 'bourgeois democratic revolution'. And we have just read Lenin above, writing in March 1917. He calls for a "workers' government that relies, first, on the overwhelming majority of the peasant population". Nothing "vague" about that for me; and the idea that such a formulation has not yet reached "proletarian hegemony" almost takes us into the realms of the surreal.

A whole range of different formulations were produced by Lenin in speeches, articles and pamphlets in 1917. All in their own way describe proletarian hegemony. Lenin spoke of a "workers' state supported by the poor peasants", a "really democratic workers' and peasants' republic", a "more democratic workers' and peasants' republic", a "people's republic", a "democratic republic", a "republic where all power belongs wholly and exclusively to the soviets".

Such formulations hardly prove that Lenin had undergone a "complete break" with the past and adopted Trotskyism. Nor are they "vague" and therefore by implication floundering. On the contrary they simply show that Lenin was acutely aware that the vast mass of the population in Russia remained peasant and that their support for any further revolution was vital.

Anyway, the Kamenev-Stalin leadership suffered defeat after a series of sharp set-piece battles: the joint meeting of Bolshevik and Menshevik delegates to the all-Russia conference of workers' and peasants' soviets on April 4; the Petrograd city RSDLP (B) conference of April 14-22; the All-Russian RSDLP (B) conference of April 24-29. Lenin easily turned round the Bolshevik Party - not, it should be emphasised, because he was a dictator. Threats of internal war and even a split were made. However, Lenin had to work through definite democratic channels, propose conference motions and win votes. And the simple fact of the matter was that the majority of the Bolshevik cadre were quite prepared to be won to Lenin's bold message.

What then of Lenin's supposed conversion to Trotskyism? The notion that the October revolution marks the triumph of Trotskyism and that, while Lenin might have been right on the party Trotsky, was right on programme? Frankly, a misrepresentation of both men. As comprehensively shown in my previous articles, before 1917 there was no essential programmatic difference between Lenin and Trotsky. The 'dictatorship of the proletariat supported by the peasantry' was "precisely" the same idea as the 'dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry', according to Lenin in 1906.[8]

Only wooden-headed Stalinites and pre-recorded 'Trotskyite' epigones still refuse to admit the truth. Of course, there are differences between Lenin and Trotsky in terms of emphasis and modes of expression. Lenin was certainly more focused on specific Russian conditions. Trotsky on Europe. Nevertheless, Trotsky rightly maintained in my view, against Stalin's lie machine, that the "basic strategic line was one and the same".[9]


So it seems to me more than an exaggeration to claim that Lenin carried through a "complete break" with his old 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' formulation in 1917. Admittedly the germ of this exaggeration started with Trotsky himself. Though by the same measure it has to be said that Trotsky provides no consistent account of the question. He keeps chopping and changing. In that sense there are at least four Trotskys. A Menshevik Trotsky, a conciliationist Trotsky, a Lenin Trotsky and a post-Lenin Trotsky. And to complicate matters further there is a constant blurring and crossing over.

Nevertheless, in the mid-1920s and 30s Trotsky's motives were perfectly sincere. Stalin's machine was firing a barrage of quotes culled from Lenin targeting Trotsky's anti-Leninist past. In self-defence Trotsky - still emotionally part of the post-1917 regime - overcompensated polemically. He suggested that there was a direct line of continuity between Lenin's 'democratic dictatorship' formulation, the vacillation of the 'old Bolsheviks' in March-April 1917 and the pro-peasant Stalin-Bukharin NEP. A self-inflicted wound.

Trotsky almost celebrated the fact that since the civil war the Communist Party had ruled without democracy. Russia's peasants would not vote communist - no matter how benign Stalin and Bukharin were - in free and fair elections. Ergo, free and fair elections were for communists merely a means to an end. Trotsky championed the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' - in reality the rule of the communist vanguard - even when exercised by Stalin. This became his universal model... and not only for backward countries, such as China and India.

Unfortunately the wound has been left untreated for many decades... and from a scratch there develops gangrene. We see the frightful results in what passes itself off as 'Trotskyism' today. Democracy is dismissed as little more than a bourgeois con-trick or as a natural concomitant of capitalist development. A travesty of authentic Marxism.

Faced with the onslaught against 'Trotskyism' conducted by the post-Lenin triumvirate of Stalin, Kamenev and Zinoviev (and then the duumvirate of Stalin and Bukharin), it was not surprising that Trotsky found himself on the back foot. As an original thinker and an aggressive polemicist of the first rank, he had a long curriculum vitae of big and small disputes with Lenin - whom Stalin in particular had all but deified by inventing the cult of 'Leninism'. By and large the contributions to Marxism of Trotsky's opponents did not go beyond competent echoes of Lenin. Eg, Stalin's Marxism and the national question, Zinoviev's Social roots of opportunism, etc.

Trotsky was desperate to counter-attack. However, in terms of skeletons the triumvirate's past proved a rather bare cupboard. He found nothing apart from highlighting the less than honourable role the trio played in the events that led up to October 1917. Putting a brave face on it, he insists that study of the disagreements "is not only of extraordinary theoretical importance, but of the utmost practical importance".[10]

Yet, as a conciliator, in April 1917 Stalin had almost instantly melted before Lenin's authority and quietly reverted to a technocratic position within the Bolshevik Party. Like the body of the 'old Bolshevik' cadre he had been steeled in 1905 and then schooled by Lenin. Stalin's opposition lasted no more than a couple of weeks. Kamenev, on the other hand, doggedly, though ineffectively, argued for the Bolsheviks to form an "influential" opposition in the promised Constituent Assembly and slowly carry on adding to their delegate numbers in the soviets.

The "bourgeois democratic revolution is not completed" and will remain incomplete for some considerable period of time, he obstinately warned. Kamenev advocated a "combined type of state institution" - what might be called a "dual power republic". On the one side the provisional government; on the other the soviets. Of course, his class conciliationism was couched in the language of Bolshevik orthodoxy. Kamenev concealed his political irresolution underneath the 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' slogan.

In fact Kamenev was retreating politically into a hopelessly rigid and scholastic conceptualisation. His starting point was not life. Rather it was an a priori vision of what a 'normal' bourgeois regime ought to be like - ie, the polarisation of society into two camps: labour and capital. At the Bolshevik's April conference he argued in the name of reaching towards this bourgeois paradigm and against the proletariat in Russia foolhardily taking the premature lead in the world socialist revolution.

Like a typical Menshevik his categories were fixed and his logic altogether circular. As a cross-class bloc, the soviets of workers and peasants are apparently proof in and of themselves that bourgeois democratic tasks remain 'uncompleted'. The peasantry would have had to have disappeared as a class for the socialist revolution to be ripe. Another snippet of Kamenev's wisdom: "Had the bourgeois democratic revolution been completed, this bloc would no longer exist ... and the proletariat would be waging a revolutionary struggle against the bloc ... And, nevertheless, we recognise these soviets as centres for the organisation of forces ... Consequently, the bourgeois revolution is not completed, it has not yet outlived itself; and I believe that all of us ought to recognise that with the complete accomplishment of this revolution, the power would actually have passed into the hands of the proletariat."[11]

Kamenev found few allies. But he did find Zinoviev - Lenin's second in command. Along with Lenin, he returned to Russia from Switzerland in the sealed train. And, much to their undying shame, together Kamenev and Zinoviev scabbed on the party's call for 'All power to the workers' and peasants' soviets' and a second revolution. Due to what they honestly perceived to be a decidedly unfavourable balance of forces - Cossack regiments, the officer corps, artillery emplacements, etc stationed around the capital - they feared that the working class in Russia would suffer the same fate as the 1871 Paris Commune.

Just two weeks before it happened, Kamenev and Zinoviev publicly condemned the Military Revolutionary Committee's plans for an insurrection. Their conciliationist letter was gleefully published in Novaya Zhizn (the paper of the Menshevik Internationalists).

Seizure of power by one party, the Bolsheviks, could only but result in splits in the camp of democracy and untold bloodshed, they concluded. And, unwilling to take responsibility for the actual revolution of October 25, they resigned from the central committee in protest.

Add to that sorry episode the dispute over China in the mid to late 1920s. We have already noted previously that Stalin and Bukharin advocated a bloc of four classes - workers, peasants, the intelligentsia and the national bourgeoisie. This class collaboration - the political subordination of the Communist Party of China to the Kuomintang - was, of course, excused under the orthodox 'democratic dictatorship' rubric. Opportunism is seldom honest.

With full justification Trotsky hit back and sought to justify his own past. He exhaustively and methodically detailed the fundamental solidarity between himself and the Bolsheviks prior to 1917. Nonetheless in the mid-1920s he egotistically left a hostage to fortune. Trotsky directly - and incorrectly - criticised Lenin's formula, the 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry', in some key works. He even claims Lenin's authority for this. In his The lessons of October Trotsky maintains that in 1917 Lenin "came out furiously against the old slogan of the 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry'".[12]

In fact, Lenin attacked not that formula, but those who misused it, those who refused to concretise it, those who urged conciliation with the provisional government, supposedly because "the bourgeois democratic revolution is not completed". This "formula" - the "bourgeois democratic revolution is not completed", not the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry formula - "is obsolete", says Lenin. "It is no good at all. It is dead. And it is no use trying to revive it," he underlines.[13]

However, another plank of Trotsky's criticism of the 'democratic dictatorship' formula in the mid-1920s is its open-endedness. As demonstrated by Lenin's quickly fought and necessary correction carried out under the banner of his 'April theses', the ambiguity of the formula allowed a rightist interpretation. As proof Trotsky, of course, cited Kamenev and Stalin in 1917, and Stalin and Bukharin in the late 1920s. He desperately tried to persuade Comintern, the Communist International, to bury all mention of the democratic dictatorship. Instead he recommends raising his 'unambiguous' call for a workers' state supported by the peasantry.

I have already discussed at length the advantages of Lenin's open-endedness. It firmly rested upon democracy (rule of the people, by the people) and yet allowed for proletarian hegemony (to be achieved through the European socialist revolution). And for my part I am unconvinced about the unambiguous nature of Trotsky's 'workers' dictatorship supported by the peasant mass'. Trotsky's formula - like any other - is capable of opportunist misuse, or even being press-ganged into the service of counterrevolution. Stalin, for example, passed off his vile monocracy as the "dictatorship of the proletariat".[14]

And, in turn, so did Mao with China, Enver Hoxha with Albania and Kim Il Sung with North Korea ... and for that matter so did Trotsky's epigones. Albeit with the 'deformed' sobriquet, all such anti-working class regimes were assigned the 'workers' state' title by apologists such as Ernest Mandel, Gerry Healy, James Robinson, Ted Grant and Peter Taaffe.

By adhering to either the 'theory' of bureaucratic collectivism or the 'theory' of state capitalism, one obviously avoids that particular snare. Nevertheless, there are other snares. Eg, one can become a first camp apologist. Take the patriarch of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, Sean Matgamna - he thinks of himself as a 'third camp' Marxist. Yet not so many years back he described the 1945 Labour government of Attlee as a workers' government; today he cannot countenance the elementary demand for the immediate withdrawal of US-UK occupation forces from Iraq.

In order to finally squash the myth of Lenin making a "complete" break with the democratic dictatorship formula and his conversion to Trotsky's "superior" programme, we must return once more to the events of 1917. Tsarism had already exhausted itself in the 1880s and finally collapsed in February 1917, due to what was objectively a minor incident of popular unrest. Women in Petrograd took to the streets demanding bread and peace. A provisional government took over, having in effect been handed power by the soviets; it was headed by prince Lvov, who was followed by the right SR, Kerensky.

The provisional government acted in the interests not of the proletariat and peasantry, but the bourgeoisie. Ipso facto Lenin reasoned, the proletariat and peasantry had "placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie". And, though the Kerensky administration consisted in the bulk of men who had at various times been hunted by the tsarist secret police - Skobeliev, Tserelli, Chernov, Avksentiev, Savinkov, Nikitin, etc - the educated reader will not find Lenin's designation at all strange.

The capitalist bourgeoisie rarely governs directly. Unlike the Greek slavocracy, the feudal aristocracy and the Stalinite bureaucracy, its special business is not government, but the business of making money in the marketplace. It is an unremitting war of one against all and all against one. Consequently as a collectivity the capitalist class usually prefers to leave the business of government to others. In 19th century Britain the landed aristocracy fulfilled that function. From at least the 1960s onwards government has almost exclusively fallen to professional middle class politicians. Tory or Labour, the trend is unmistakable.


Anyway, after February 1917 and the fall of tsarism, Russia was the freest of the belligerent countries. In parallel to the bourgeois provisional government there stood the soviets - councils of workers, soldiers and peasants. There was dual power. What was Lenin's programme during this "first stage of the revolution"? Once again, simply to further the argument, we ask whether or not Lenin jettisoned his old theory? Did he make a "complete break" from his old call for the replacement of tsarism by a workers' and peasants' republic?

Yes, he did ... in the same way as Trotsky jettisoned his 'Not a tsar's government, but a government of the people", and consistent followers of Parvus jettisoned his 'Not a tsar's government, but a workers' government'. Nor were the Mensheviks, the SRs, Kamenev or anyone else unaware that one algebraic element of the left's common demand for a republic had been fulfilled.

Common sense, let alone Marxism, obviously requires recognition of such historic developments. The Romanovs had fallen. Tsarism was no more. Russia had become a republic. If Trotsky had not made a "complete break" from his 'Not a tsar's government' slogan his close friends would have been well advised to seek out suitable psychological treatment for the poor fellow. Ditto Lenin's friends, or anyone else's for that matter.

Obviously the crux of disputes in 1917 lay not in supposed dogmatic attachments to past formulations. It was about 'Where next?' The answer to this question bore a direct relationship to one's living - and therefore, when necessary, adjusted - programme. Should power be consolidated in the hands of the provisional government and, when it suited, a post-Constituent Assembly government of the same bourgeois stripe? On that side stood the right Mensheviks, the Right SRs ... and Kamenev. Or was power to pass elsewhere - to peasant democracy, to the peasant majority aligned to the proletariat, or to the proletariat alone?

Arriving back from exile in April 1917, Lenin issued the urgent call for the Bolshevik Party to amend "our out-of-date minimum programme".[15 The demand to overthrow the tsar and for a republic was now manifestly obsolete. The key to the future, for Lenin, lay in combating 'honest' popular illusions in the provisional government and raising sights. The Bolsheviks were still a small minority in the soviets. Their task was to become the majority. To that end Lenin advocated agitation around a series of minimum demands - which incidentally are in broad terms to be found in the Bolshevik programme dating right back to 1905 - confiscation of the landlords' estates and the nationalisation and redistribution of land, abolition of the police, the standing army and the bureaucracy, and the amalgamation of the banks into a single bank under workers' control.

Such agitation would prepare the conditions for the "second stage of the revolution" and the peaceful transfer of power into "the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants". The "only possible form of revolutionary government" was a "republic of soviets of workers', agricultural labourers' and peasants' deputies".[16 Lenin made no claims that the party's "immediate task" was to "introduce" socialism. Only that production and distribution had to be put under workers' control to prevent the impending meltdown of the economy. This would provide the best conditions for the transition to socialism (the uninterrupted revolution).

Do these 'stagist' programmatic formulations and the perspective of a workers' and peasants' republic indicate the abandonment of Lenin's theory or a development of it in light of new and unexpected circumstances? I make no excuse for once again turning to Lenin for the answer. In the article 'The dual power' he writes as follows: "The highly remarkable feature of our revolution is that it has brought about a dual power. This fact must be grasped first and foremost: unless it is understood, we cannot advance. We must know how to supplement and amend old 'formulas' - for example, those of Bolshevism - for while they have been found to be correct on the whole, their concrete realisation has turned out to be different. Nobody previously thought, or could have thought, of a dual power."[17]

Many other such articles dealing with how the dual power of the workers, peasants and soldiers was allowing a 'socialist' government to carry out the politics of the bourgeoisie could be quoted. But to clinch the argument we shall ask Trotsky.

After referring to Lenin's stinging criticism of Kamenev's conciliationism and how "the bourgeois democratic revolution is not completed" this Trotsky poses the question as to whether Lenin's dismissive remarks about the "outdated" formula means he is "simply 'renouncing'" the 'democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' formula.18  What does this Trotsky think? He is convinced - modern-day 'Trotskyites' note - that Lenin did not renounce it. Trotsky does not intend "in the slightest to impose such a renunciation on him". Nor does he consider that Bolshevism needed to "change its nature through the medium of 'Trotskyism'".[19]

Nor, incidentally, does this Trotsky believe that the errors of Kamenev and co stem from a "consistent" application of Lenin's formula. He says they applied Lenin's formula in a non-Leninist way. Lenin's democratic dictatorship formula "was totally dynamic, action-orientated and consequently concretely determined".

Likewise for myself. I agree with this Trotsky. The main characteristic of what Lenin later called the 'October opportunists' was a non-Leninist rendition of the Leninist 'democratic dictatorship' formula. Hence their muddled and disorderly retreat from Leninism to the frontiers of Menshevism. That is why Kamenev harked on about the 'uncompleted' bourgeois revolution and assumed it was an innate law - at this stage in history - that the bourgeoisie had to rule in a country like Russia.

Such a Menshevik wobble owed not a little to personality. A material factor in history, especially at crucial moments. Tragically, following Lenin's death, the subsequent history of Kamenev (and Zinoviev) was one of tragic vacillation between Leninist rebellion and abject surrender before the Stalin machine. Trotsky was the one who refused to surrender. But that does not make the orthodox Trotskyite version of history correct.


 1. T Cliff Lenin Vol 2, London 1976, p128.
 2. VI Lenin CW Vol 23, Moscow 1977, p292.
 3. Ibid pp289-90.
 4. Quoted in EH Carr The Bolshevik revolution Vol 1, Harmondsworth 1975, p86.
 5. T Cliff Lenin Vol 2, London 1976, p124.
 6. Socialist Review January 2001.
 7. M Liebman Leninism under Lenin London 1980, p185.
 8. VI Lenin CW Vol 15, Moscow 1977, p368.
 9. L Trotsky The permanent revolution New York 1978, p173.
 10. L Trotsky The challenge of the Left Opposition 1923-25 New York 1980, p211.
 11. Quoted in Ibid p218.
 12. Ibid p209.
 13. VI Lenin CW Vol 24, Moscow 1977, p50.
 14. Constitution of the USSR article 2, Moscow 1969, p11.
 15. VI Lenin CW Vol 24, Moscow 1977, p24.
 16. Ibid p23.
 17. Ibid p38.
 18. L Trotsky The challenge of the Left Opposition 1923-25 New York 1980, p275.
 19. Ibid p274.