The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 43           November 23, 2004  
How Stalin falsified history of Russian Revolution
(In Review column)
The following is a review of The Stalin School of Falsification by Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky. A new edition of the book, which was first published in English in 1937, was released in July by Pathfinder Press.

“The lie in politics, as in daily life, serves as a function of the class structure of society. The oppressors erect the lie into a system of befuddling the masses in order to maintain their rule. On the part of the oppressed the lie is a defensive weapon of weakness. Revolution explodes the social lie. Revolution speaks the truth. Revolution begins by giving things and social relationships their real names.”

This is what the foreword to the Russian edition of The Stalin School of Falsification says. And this is what this book, written by Leon Trotsky, does. It’s a political weapon in the struggle of the working class to form its own political party and use it to take state power along with its allies on the land, that is, to storm the heavens and change humanity’s future.

Pathfinder Press has recently reprinted this classic work in an attractive new edition.

In addition to a striking new cover design, the book has been reset in larger, more readable type. The new edition includes all the material in the original, which appeared in 1937 and was produced under Trotsky’s supervision. The editors have also added as an appendix Trotsky’s 1932 article “On the Suppressed Testament of Lenin.”

The back cover of the new edition gives an apt summary of why workers and others in the United States and elsewhere today would find this volume interesting and useful in their practical work.

“As new generations of working people become involved in leading strikes and other proletarian battles, they recognize a need to broaden their scope,” the book’s editors say. “They become more open to ideas of trusted militants in their ranks who are interested in discussing not only how to win a particular demand or strike but how to secure and extend workers’ gains in the only way possible, through a revolution. Through wresting political power from the capitalist exploiters and oppressors.

“Defense of workers’ most powerful conquest in history, the October 1917 Russian Revolution, is the topic of this book. Under the leadership of V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky was a central organizer of the Bolshevik-led revolution, Soviet government and Red Army, and new Communist International. Here Trotsky exposes the ‘theoretical forgeries and historical frame-ups’ cobbled together in the 1920s by a rising bureaucratic caste to rationalize a political counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. In 1929, as he led the fight to continue Lenin’s proletarian internationalist course, Trotsky was deported by Joseph Stalin and spent the next 11 years in exile.

“As one leader of the revolution after another capitulated or fell to Stalin’s murder machine, Trotsky observed in 1935 that no one else was left ‘to carry out the mission of arming a new generation’ with either an accurate understanding of the working-class line of march toward conquering power, or memory of how that communist course was developed.

“‘I need about five more years of uninterrupted work to ensure the succession,’ Trotsky wrote. He eluded Moscow’s assassins long enough to do exactly that.”

The book includes two prefaces, both by Trotsky. They are written at different stages of the fight to maintain the continuity of Marxism against the rise to power of the bureaucratic caste in the Soviet Union whose foremost representative became Joseph Stalin.

The first preface was written in 1931 for the Russian edition. This book “is not at all a volume for the archives,” Trotsky says in this preface. “It is rather a weapon in the political struggle for the theory of Marx, for the policies of Lenin—against the epigones,” that is, the false “followers” of Marx and Lenin.

The preface to the American edition was written six years later, in 1937, during the period of the Moscow purge trials. Through these frame-up trials the majority on the Bolsheviks’ Central Committee in Lenin’s time were found guilty and executed by Stalin’s regime. “It remains an incontestable historical fact that the preparation of the bloody judicial frame-ups had its inception in the ‘minor’ historical distortions and ‘innocent’ falsification of citations,” Trotsky says in this preface, which is the first item in the book. “The bureaucracy found it indispensably necessary to adapt Bolshevism to its own needs. This could not be done otherwise than by corroding the soul of Bolshevism.”  
Unique documents
The book includes a number of unique documents.

The chapter titled “The lost document,” for example, consists of minutes, with an introduction by Trotsky, of the historic session of the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks, held Nov. 14, 1917. This was just a week after the Bolshevik-led insurrection that brought the workers and peasants of Russia to power. The minutes record a debate within the Bolshevik leadership over whether they could retain state power or should enter into a coalition with other parties, the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries, who sought compromise with the capitalist forces in Russia.

The question debated at the meeting was of such importance that Lenin posed the alternatives in the sharpest possible way.

“If you want a split, go ahead,” Lenin said, addressing the conciliators. “If you get the majority, take power in the Central Executive Committee and carry on. But we will go to the sailors,” he emphasized, reflecting his confidence that the course he was fighting for had the support of the toilers. Readers will find this exchange of great interest.

The document makes it crystal clear that Lenin and Trotsky fought together for this course. For this reason, Stalin’s regime ordered that these minutes be expunged from the book The First Legal Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks in 1917, which was published in Moscow in 1927, “in such a manner as would leave no traces behind,” as Trotsky explains. This action preceded the frame-ups and executions of numerous Bolshevik leaders, many of whom were branded “Trotskyists.” The Stalinist bureaucracy used the label and its false claim that Trotsky had carried out a course opposed to Lenin’s during the October revolution to rationalize its purges and murders.

The new appendix, “On the suppressed testament of Lenin,” was written by Trotsky in 1932.

The writings that came to be known as Lenin’s “testament” were written between Dec. 25, 1922, and Jan. 4, 1923, Trotsky explains in the article. Lenin was ill, suffering the effects of a series of strokes. “At the time the party apparatus was semiofficially in the hands of the troika (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin)—as a matter of fact, already in the hands of Stalin,” Trotsky says.

In the testament, Lenin proposes, among other things, removing Stalin as the general secretary of the party. After Lenin’s death in 1924, these documents were suppressed by the Stalinist regime. During the frame-up purges of the 1930s, the testament was proclaimed a forgery. Many communists were sentenced to long prison terms for having it in their possession.  
Impact of Russian Revolution
The 1917 Russian Revolution inspired toilers the world over. Under its impact, as well as the devastation wrought by the imperialist slaughter of World War I, a powerful revolutionary upsurge swept Europe and anticolonial uprisings took place in the colonial world. Tens of millions looked to the Bolshevik party and the experience of the Russian workers for leadership. As this revolutionary wave ebbed and the young Soviet state remained isolated, Stalin and his followers grew in strength.

Because of the enormous prestige of the Bolshevik leaders, the only way Stalin and his supporters could consolidate their position was by presenting themselves as the continuators of Lenin’s policies. To do so, Stalin and his hacks had to reinvent and rewrite the history of the revolution and the Bolshevik party. Opponents were slandered, demoted, forced to make false “confessions,” put through frame-up trials, exiled, and eventually murdered. Marxist theory and communist program were turned into their opposites to justify Stalin’s course. All this was done in the name of “communism,” serving to miseducate and demoralize millions of workers worldwide. Trotsky, who led the fight for communist continuity after Lenin’s death, was himself murdered by a Stalinist agent in 1940 while living in Mexico.

Those interested in learning about the Russian Revolution, its worldwide impact, and its evolution will find this book fascinating. They may also want to look for related titles. These include The History of the Russian Revolution and The Revolution Betrayed by Trotsky; Lenin’s Final Fight by Lenin; Their Trotsky and Ours by Jack Barnes; and Revolutionary Continuity, vols. 1 and 2 by Farrell Dobbs (see or the book centers listed in the directory.)
Related articles:
October Revolution opened politics to workers  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home