Almost, but not quite, done with my review of this piece from RIA, penned by Filipp Prokudin. We covered all the drama of the Communist Party 13th Congress, including the Reading of the Will; and finding that nothing Lenin could say at that point, alive or dead, made a dime’s worth of difference to a process that was already fait accompli. A better politician than Trotsky, able to get variegated people on his side, and nimbly using his position as General Secretary to control Party membership, Stalin easily won the faction fight and became, de facto, Lenin’s successor as leader of the Party and nation as a whole. The rest, as they say, is History.
Trotsky’s only remaining chance to block Stalin would have been, like Prokudin says, to implement a military coup and checkmate Stalin. A very risky move, with the potential to instigate another Civil War and foreign invasions. Fortunately, Trotsky did not have the stomach for that; as even his enemies point out, Trotsky was always collegial-minded and believed in the collective leadership of the Communist Party. Despite his arrogance and flamboyance he did not see himself as Napoleon material. Despite his un-Bolshevism, Trotsky had become the most Bolshevik of all the Bolsheviks. Trotsky himself at the Congress, responding to the criticisms of his foes, stated that “It is impossible to be correct AGAINST the Party, one can be correct only WITH the Party.”
And especially given that the political differences between the different factions were not yet the gaping chasm they later became. The differences were still more tactical than strategic, although the writing was clearly on the wall. It was not until several years later, in exile, that Trotsky formally broke with the Communist Party and formed his own Party. And then he decided it was time for a “political revolution” aka coup in the USSR. But by then it was too late to make any changes to a nation bound on a one-way ticket to one-man rule. Especially from a foreign perch.
Strategy vs Tactics: Diunov
All that remains from this piece is a polemic against Prokudin’s final polemic. He ends his piece with a section entitled “On the Leninist Course”, and quotes a Russian historian named Mikhail Diunov. Diunov, who graduated from Yaroslavl State University and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the “Rear-guard garrisons of the Russian army in 1917”, takes issue with the “popular conception” that the Soviet Union “deviated” from the Leninist course starting with the 13th Congress, i.e., started on the path to revisionism.
Diunov: “I state that Stalin created precisely the type of government that would have been created by Lenin, actually by any of the Bolshevik leaders who would have prevailed in the faction fight. It might have differed in nuances, but not in essence.” Diunov is probably right about that, at least as concerns domestic policies: Suppose Lenin had lived, in full health and all his faculties, another 10 or 15 years. Or suppose that Zinoviev/Kamenev had allied with Trotsky and defeated Stalin in the faction fight. Whoever was at the head of the Party would have had to deal with the very same issues: Managing state property, dealing with a vast and growing caste of apparatchiks, putting down peasant rebellions, trying to modernize agriculture and build an industrial base, etc etc.
But take into account foreign policy, and here is where I think Diunov is completely wrong. See, this point — Soviet foreign policy — is actually the essence of the difference between Stalin and Trotsky; and it is a strategic rather than tactical divergence. The way the Party handled the various foreign crises, including the Chinese Revolution (1927) and the Spanish Civil War (1936) guaranteed the further isolation of the Soviet Union as the world’s only socialist state; and constitutes the essence of the Stalin-Trotsky disagreement. Everything else is just a “change of decorations”, as Chernyshevsky might say.
Diunov again: “The Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) was transformed [at the 13th Congress] into a mass party, characteristic of authoritarian systems of the 20’s and 30’s of the last century. Previous to this it had not been an actual workers party, but rather a party of professional revolutionaries, which Lenin himself was not ashamed to admit. Hence, for the Bolsheviks, this was an important milestone: They had emerged victorious from the Civil War, and now it was necessary to re-make society.” Hence, the so-called “Lenin Enlistment“, which diluted the Old Bolsheviks with hordes of newcomers. The newbies, of course, were easier to control, and entered the Party fully accepting whatever they encountered: the existing leaders and assigned roles. With this change in quantity came a change in quality; and hence, the Opposition had zero chance of prevailing in this faction fight.
Before leaving Diunov to his own devices, I might mention that his Russian wiki reveals him as having some fairly dodgy opinions about racial issues: White vs Black or Yellow; Russians being pure Aryans, whites evolving from Cro-Magnons, blacks and “yellows” being the product of a regressive evolution; that sort of thing. These postulates have apparently influenced some of Diunov’s research on issues of Scythian, Byzantine and/or Russian history. I don’t bring this up to denigrate his opinions about Soviet history, which occurred long after the Cros had diverged from the Denisovans, Hobbits, Nibelungen, and all the other Talking Trolls. No, Diunov’s opinions on matters taking place after 1917 appear to be fairly sound and well-grounded in facts (if differing in opinions and interpretation). Nor am I implying that classical racists tend to prefer Stalin (the Kartvelian) over Trotsky (the Jew). I only mention this in case somebody else brings it up! But enough of Diunov, who’s next?
[to be continued]