The so-called “Lenin’s Testament” and Trotskyist anti-communist mythology

1. LENIN’S “TESTAMENT”

 

One of the most frequent arguments Trotskyists use against Marxism-Leninism is that in his “Testament” Lenin ‘ordered’ Stalin to be removed from his post. It is also often claimed that Lenin even wanted Stalin to be replaced by Trotsky as the future leader of the party. Actually this couldn’t be further from the truth.

What Lenin actually said:

“Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate…”(Lenin – Addition to letter II to the congress)


Pay close attention to what is said: A) Stalin is too “rude” B) he should be replaced by some hypothetical person who is identical to him except less rude.


1) Lenin had no dictatorial control over this issue. The letter was merely a suggestion. The Congress considered it but voted in favor of keeping Stalin in his post. Even Trotsky and Zinoviev voted in Stalin’s favor.

As Trotsky pointed out: “Congress devoted the greatest attention to this and to the other letters, and drew the appropriate conclusions.” More about that later.

2) Stalin was the general-secretary but not the leader of the party. Lenin was the leader. Lenin didn’t want Stalin to be removed from the position of “party leader” because he was not one.

3) Lenin said nothing about putting Trotsky in Stalin’s place as leader or as general secretary.


The idea that Lenin wanted Trotsky to replace Stalin as “the leader” was introduced by an American Trotskyist, Max Eastman in his book. Its a myth. This is what Trotsky himself said about the book:

Eastman is again wrong in asserting that Comrade Lenin offered me the post of chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, and of the Council of Labor and Defense. I hear of this for the first time from Eastman’s book.”(Trotsky – Letter on Eastman’s Book)

4) Lenin only suggested Stalin’s removed from his post as the General-secretary but didn’t say a word about him being removed from any other of his posts or from the Central Committee or Politburo.


FIRST CONCLUSION: Lenin did not want Stalin to be removed from positions of power or be replaced by Trotsky. He complained about Stalin’s rudeness but said he should be replaced by someone identical but less rude. Such a person didn’t exist, apart from Stalin himself.

 

The obvious question to ask would be why did Lenin suggest Stalin’s removal from this particular post?

In 1922 Lenin had a stroke and was forced to stop political work. He continued writing and even wrote significant works such as “On Co-operation” which argued in favor of the possibility of building Socialism in one country. However his condition deteriorated, he had another stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. He still tried to keep in touch with politics and dictated several letters and other documents until he eventually lost the ability to speak.

But what is this about rudeness? Stalin was made responsible of Lenin’s health by the Central Committee (Stalin, Trotsky, Dzerzhinsky, Kalinin, Molotov, Bukharin, Zinoviev etc.). The doctors ordered that Lenin was not to be involved in politics because he had to avoid stress. He was also prohibited from reading political documents.


Lenin didn’t like it one bit although he jokinly said to Stalin:“I am not allowed to read the newspapers”,”and I must not talk politics. I carefully avoid every scrap of paper lying on the table, lest it turn out to be a newspaper and lead to a breach of discipline.”
(Comrade Lenin on Vacation, notes)


As his condition worsened he grew agitated and frustrated. Stalin was constantly there making sure he wasn’t doing political work. Lenin eventually asked his wife N. Krupskaya and his sister M. Ulyanova to start smuggling him political documents which they did against the doctors orders. It is quite probably that this is the reason why Lenin was agitated with Stalin and probably emotionally unstable due to his severe condition.

Note that the part where Lenin criticizes Stalin’s rudeness was a later addition to letter II. In the original later he said nothing about Stalin’s rudeness. Having known Stalin for years it seems odd that he would suddenly become so concerned about his manners unless it was because of his illness.

I think its worthwhile to hear the opinion of Lenin’s sister Maria:

There was an incident between Lenin and Stalin which comrade Zinoviev mentions in his speech and which took place not long before Ilyich lost his power of speech (March, 1923) but it was completely personal and had nothing to do with politics. Comrade Zinoviev knew this very well and to quote it was absolutely unnecessary. This incident took place because on the demand of the doctors the Central Committee gave Stalin the charge of keeping a watch so that no political news reached Lenin during this period of serious illness. This was done so as not to upset him and so that his condition did not deteriorate, he (Stalin) even scolded his family for conveying this type of information. Ilyich, who accidentally came to know about this and who was also always worried about such a strong regime of protection, in turn scolded Stalin. Stalin apologized and with this the incident was settled. What is there to be said – during this period, as I had indicated, if Lenin had not been so seriously ill then he would have reacted to the incident differently. There are documents regarding this incident and on the first demand from the Central Committee I can present them.

This way, I affirm that all the talk of the opposition about Lenin’s relation towards Stalin does not correspond to reality. These relations were most intimate and friendly and remained so.”(26th July 1926. M. Ulyanova.)

I am compelled to believe Maria Ulyanova who was probably the most objective source imaginable on this issue.

It is worth noting that Krupskaya (Lenin’s wife) was a long time comrade of Stalin’s but at the time a supporter of Zinoviev, although not a supporter of Trotsky.


Here is Krupskaya on Trotsky in 1925:

“Marxist analysis was never Comrade Trotsky’s strong point.”

“…when such a comrade as Trotsky treads, even unconsciously, the path of revision of Leninism, then the Party must make a pronouncement.”(N. Krupskaya – The Lessons of October, Source: The errors of Trotskyism)

Its worth noting that Zinoviev and Kamenev vacilated between Trotskyism and Leninism and in 1925 opposed Trotsky while in 1926 moving to his side.

SECOND CONCLUSION: Its very probable that Lenin only criticized Stalin due to his severe illness. Its very likely that his illness led him to be overly concerned about Stalin’s real or imaginary rudeness. Also, despite the fact that Krupskaya wasn’t a supporter of Stalin at the time she was not a supporter of Trotsky either. She was actually much more supportive of Stalin then Trotsky whom she openly and sharply criticized.

In fact, Krupskaya was eventually convinced of the correctness of Stalin’s policy:

“The masses can see how completely, tirelessly comrade Stalin is giving himself to this sacred work, the work of Lenin, the building of socialism, how he is carrying them forward towards a better life. Everybody can see that and they believe him, he is surrounded by their trust and love.

The Trotskyites and the Zinovievs did not think about the masses. They were not living in reality. They were thinking only about how to capture power” (N. KrupskayaWhy Is the Second International Defending Trotsky?)



Not to mention Krupskaya and Stalin had been comrades in the party for decades. Krupskaya had praised Stalin’s early works defending Leninism e.g. Briefly about disagreements in the party and Socialism or Anarchism? She only sided against Stalin on this one issue for a short period of time.


2. ORIGIN OF THE “TESTAMENT” MYTHOLOGY

Modern Trotskyism and right-wing anti-communist propaganda considers it an established fact that:
1) Trotsky was Lenin’s rightful successor

2) Lenin indicated this in a Testament

3) Stalin banned and concealed the Testament

In fact none of those claims are true. As we’ve already established Lenin said nothing about Stalin being removed from positions of power, about Trotsky’s power being increased and its questionable how serious he was about Stalin being replaced by anyone as secretary-general.

These rumors (or rather lies and slanders) have a source. All of them can be traced back to a book by the American Trotskyist Max Eastman.

Conveniently for us Trotsky himself refuted all of these lies although later he himself began spreading them. Most Trotskyists probably learn these falsehoods from Trotsky’s autobiography and accept them as gospel truth. In any case they are pure fiction as you’ll soon find out.

Soon after Lenin’s death rumors about Eastman’s scandalous book began circulating. To Soviet communists the information in Eastman’s book was obviously false and because Eastman was a devout Trotskyist, mr. Leon Trotsky himself was forced to respond to Eastman. He had no choice but to distance himself from Eastman’s anti-soviet and unconvincing lies.

Trotsky originally refuted every single one of Eastman’s lies but later himself began spreading the exact same lies. The following section is going to seem somewhat schizophrenic. I’ll be quoting Trotsky from 1925 and 1928 and you’ll notice he is saying completely polar opposite things, contradicting himself at every turn. So without further ado allow me to present “Trotsky debates Trotsky”.

Trotsky – Letter on Eastman’s Book, 1925: 

Eastman’s book to which you refer is unknown to me. The bourgeois newspapers that quoted it have not reached me. Of course, I deny in advance and most categorically any commentaries directed against the Russian Communist Party.”

“Eastman arrives at conclusions directed entirely against our party, which are likely, if given credence, to discredit the party as well as the Soviet government. “

“The bourgeois press, especially the Menshevik press, makes use of Eastman’s statements, quotes from his reminiscences, in order to emphasize his “close relations,” his “friendship” with me (as my biographer) and by such indirect means attaching an importance to his conclusions which they do not and cannot have.”

Let’s recap. Trotsky distances himself from Eastman saying that they were never very close nor friends. That Eastman’s conclusions don’t have and cannot have any importance. That his conclusions are anti-soviet lies.

Three years later he praised Eastman:

Trotsky – On Max Eastman,1928:

“I received your inquiry about comrade Max Eastman who is played up from time as a bogie by our press, being almost depicted as a hireling of the bourgeoisie, selling it the state secrets of the USSR. This is a shameless lie. Comrade Max Eastman is an American revolutionist of the John Reed type, a devoted friend of the October revolution. “

Trotsky – Letter on Eastman’s Book, 1925:

“Eastman’s quotation from the wording of the “Testament” is equally wrong. This was published in the Sotsialistichesky Vestnik and was stolen from the party archives, so to speak, by counterrevolutionists. In reality the wording as published in the Vestnik passed through many hands before its appearance in this paper. It was “freshened up” again and again, and distorted to such an extent that it is absolutely impossible to restore its original meaning. It is possible that the alterations were made by the editorial staff of this paper.”

In 1925 Trotsky pointed out that the letters to congress were not a “testament” at all but merely letters of advice. He also points out that after Eastman leaked the contents to bourgeois newspapers they’ve been distorted beyond belief and used against the Soviet government.

In contrast see what he says here:

Trotsky – On Max Eastman, 1928:

“There was nothing at all underhand in such a utilization by Eastman of a newspaper for the sake of publicity. Even on the pages of a bourgeois newspaper the Testament of Lenin remains Lenin’s testament.

Suddenly he didn’t see anything wrong with releasing the letters for the bourgeois press to distort. In fact he doesn’t even mention that they were distorted at all. Also notice that while previously he said that the letters were not a “testament” of any kind he now himself uses the word TESTAMENT without quotation marks!

He goes on to say that it was correct to do this because Lenin gave interviews to foreign newspapers which apparently in Trotsky’s mind is the same as handing confidental documents about inter-party affairs to bourgeois newspapers which, to quote Trotsky, “is so much altered as to be almost unrecognizable” and use them to “discredit the party as well as the Soviet government”.

Trotsky – On Max Eastman, 1928:

“desiring at any cost to give the widest possible publicity to Lenin’s Testament, Eastman handed it over to an American bourgeois newspaper. Everyone of us, both before and during the epoch of the Soviet government, has had more than one occasion to resort to foreign bourgeois newspapers in order to give one bit of news or another the wide circulation which we could otherwise not obtain. Lenin on more than one occasion utilized such publicity in the form of interviews given to foreign journalists. One must also add that except for an absolutely insignificant minority, American workers read only the bourgeois press.”

Here’s some more:

Trotsky – Letter on Eastman’s Book, 1925:

“Eastman asserts in several places that the Central Committee has “concealed” from the party a large number of documents of extraordinary importance, written by Lenin during the last period of his life. (The documents in question are letters on the national question, the famous “Testament,” etc.) This is pure slander against the Central Committee of our party. Eastman’s words convey the impression that Lenin wrote these letters, which are of an advisory character and deal with the inner-party organization, with the intention of having them published. This is not at all in accordance with the facts. “

Trotsky – Letter on Eastman’s Book, 1925:

Eastman’s assertions that the Central Committee confiscated my pamphlets and articles in 1923 or 1924, or at any other time or by any other means has prevented their publication, are untrue, and are based on fantastic rumors.

Eastman is again wrong in asserting that Comrade Lenin offered me the post of chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, and of the Council of Labor and Defense. I hear of this for the first time from Eastman’s book.”

Trotsky – Letter on Eastman’s Book, 1925:

“During his illness, Lenin repeatedly addressed letters and proposals to the leading bodies and congresses of the party. It must be definitely stated that all these letters and suggestions were invariably delivered to their destination and they were all brought to the knowledge of the delegates to the Twelfth and Thirteenth Congresses, and have invariably exercised their influence on the decisions of the party. If all of these letters have not been published, it is because their author did not intend them to be published. Comrade Lenin has not left any “Testament”; the character of his relations to the party, and the character of the party itself, preclude the possibility of such a “Testament.” The bourgeois and Menshevik press generally understand under the designation of “Testament” one of Comrade Lenin’s letters (which is so much altered as to be almost unrecognizable) in which he gives the party some organizational advice. The Thirteenth Party Congress devoted the greatest attention to this and to the other letters, and drew the appropriate conclusions. All talk with regard to a concealed or mutilated “Testament” is nothing but a despicable lie, directed against the real will of Comrade Lenin and against the interests of the party created by him. “

Here Trotsky adequately points out the same thing that was said by everyone else in the Soviet Union at the time. The letters to congress were spefically adressed to the party congress and not ment to be published at all. There was no conspiracy to conceal anything.


However three years later he claims precisely that the letters which he now calls a testament were hidden and banned by “stalinist censorship” and that they should be published.

Trotsky – On Max Eastman, 1928:

“Stalinist censorship had placed a ban on Lenin’s Testament ”

While previously Trotsky said that he was not close with Eastman or a friend and that Eastman was spreading anti-soviet, anti-party falsehoods now he praises Eastman as an “irreproachable revolutionist” and a friend and supporter of the October revolution and the Trotskyist Opposition.

Trotsky – On Max Eastman, 1928:
“He [Eastman] is a poet, writer, and journalist; he came to the Soviet Republic during the initial difficult years of her existence, learned the Russian language here, and came into intimate contact with our internal life in order to defend better and with greater assurance the Soviet Republic before the national masses of America.”


“Eastman is an absolutely irreproachable revolutionist “

“To the extent that news has reached me about Eastman for the last year, he remains right now what he has been: a friend of the October revolution and a supporter of the views of the Opposition. “

There you have it. Judge for yourselves…

Only the most naive or ignorant people could believe Trotsky’s fairytales. He was nothing but a despicable liar and a tool of right-wing, anti-communist & anti-Soviet propaganda.

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2 thoughts on “The so-called “Lenin’s Testament” and Trotskyist anti-communist mythology

  1. Pingback: Stalin’s four attempts at resignation – Socialist Musings

  2. Pingback: Stalin’s Four Attempts at Resignation | The Espresso Stalinist

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