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[Classics] Leur morale et la nôtre

Nous republions la brochure de Léon Trotsky de 1938, Leurs morales et la nôtre. Écrit alors que Trotsky était en exil au Mexique, le pamphlet répond aux critiques de la Révolution russe, qui ont qualifié les bolcheviks d '«amoraux». Trotsky soutient que la moralité n'est pas fixe mais reflète les intérêts de classe dans la société. Le soi-disant bon sens et les «préceptes moraux élémentaires» contre la violence, par exemple, servent en réalité les intérêts de la classe dirigeante. La morale révolutionnaire – y compris l'utilisation de la violence dans la lutte de classe – est déterminée par tout ce qui fait avancer la cause du prolétariat, et donc la libération de l'humanité.


À une époque de réaction triomphante, MM. Démocrates, sociaux-démocrates, anarchistes et autres représentants du camp de la «gauche» commencent à exsuder le double de leur effluve morale habituelle, semblable à des personnes qui transpirent doublement de peur. Paraphrasant les dix commandements ou le sermon sur la montagne, ces moralistes ne s'adressent pas tant à la réaction triomphante qu'à ces révolutionnaires souffrant de sa persécution, qui avec leurs «  excès '' et leurs principes «  amoraux '' «  provoquent '' la réaction et lui donnent une justification morale. . De plus, ils prescrivent un moyen simple mais certain d'éviter la réaction: il suffit de s'efforcer et de se régénérer moralement. Des échantillons gratuits de perfection morale pour ceux qui le désirent sont fournis par toutes les rédactions intéressées.

La base de classe de ce faux et pompeux sermon est la petite bourgeoisie intellectuelle. La base politique – leur impuissance et leur confusion face à l'approche de la réaction. Base psychologique – leur effort pour surmonter le sentiment de leur propre infériorité en se faisant passer pour la barbe d'un prophète.

La méthode préférée des Philistins moralisateurs est de confondre la conduite de la réaction avec celle de la révolution. Il réussit dans ce dispositif en recourant à des analogies formelles. Pour lui, le tsarisme et le bolchevisme sont jumeaux. Des jumeaux sont également découverts dans le fascisme et le communisme. Un inventaire est dressé des caractéristiques communes du catholicisme – ou plus précisément du jésuitisme – et du bolchevisme. Hitler et Mussolini, utilisant de leur côté exactement la même méthode, révèlent que le libéralisme, la démocratie et le bolchevisme ne représentent que des manifestations différentes d'un seul et même mal. La conception selon laquelle le stalinisme et le trotskysme sont «essentiellement» une seule et même chose bénéficie désormais de l’approbation conjointe des libéraux, des démocrates, des catholiques fervents, des idéalistes, des pragmatistes et des anarchistes. Si les staliniens sont incapables d’adhérer à ce «front populaire», c’est uniquement parce qu’ils sont accidentellement occupés à l’extermination des trotskystes.

La caractéristique fondamentale de ces rapprochements et similitudes réside dans leur ignorance totale du fondement matériel des différents courants, c'est-à-dire de leur nature de classe et par là même de leur rôle historique objectif. Au lieu de cela, ils évaluent et classent différents courants selon une manifestation externe et secondaire, le plus souvent selon leur relation avec l'un ou l'autre principe abstrait, qui pour le classificateur donné a une valeur professionnelle particulière. Ainsi, pour le pape romain, les francs-maçons et les darwinistes, les marxistes et les anarchistes sont jumeaux parce que tous nient sacrilège la conception immaculée. Pour Hitler, le libéralisme et le marxisme sont jumeaux parce qu'ils ignorent «le sang et l'honneur». Pour un démocrate, le fascisme et le bolchevisme sont jumeaux parce qu'ils ne s'inclinent pas devant le suffrage universel. Et ainsi de suite.

Image de moralité hitlérienne domaine public"Pour Hitler, le libéralisme et le marxisme sont jumeaux parce qu'ils ignorent" le sang et l'honneur ". Pour un démocrate, le fascisme et le bolchevisme sont jumeaux parce qu'ils ne s'inclinent pas devant le suffrage universel" / Image: domaine public

Sans aucun doute, les courants regroupés ci-dessus ont certaines caractéristiques communes. Mais l'essentiel du problème réside dans le fait que l'évolution de l'humanité ne s'épuise ni par le suffrage universel, ni par «le sang et l'honneur», ni par le dogme de la conception immaculée. Le processus historique signifie principalement la lutte des classes; de plus, différentes classes au nom de buts différents peuvent, dans certains cas, utiliser des moyens similaires. Essentiellement, il ne peut en être autrement. Les armées en combat sont toujours plus ou moins symétriques; s'il n'y avait rien de commun dans leurs méthodes de lutte, ils ne pourraient pas s'infliger des coups.

Si un paysan ou un commerçant ignorant, ne comprenant ni l'origine ni le sens de la lutte entre prolétariat et bourgeoisie, se découvre entre les deux feux, il considérera les deux camps belligérants avec une égale haine. Et qui sont tous ces moralistes démocratiques? Les idéologues des couches intermédiaires tombées ou craignant de tomber entre les deux feux. Les principaux traits des prophètes de ce type sont l'aliénisme aux grands mouvements historiques, une mentalité conservatrice endurcie, une étroitesse suffisante et une lâcheté politique des plus primitives. Plus que tout, les moralistes souhaitent que l'histoire les laisse en paix avec leurs petits livres, leurs petits magazines, leurs abonnés, leur bon sens et leurs cahiers moraux. Mais l'histoire ne les laisse pas en paix. Il les menotte maintenant de la gauche, maintenant de la droite. Il est clair que la révolution et la réaction, le tsarisme et le bolchevisme, le communisme et le fascisme, le stalinisme et le trotskisme sont tous jumeaux. Quiconque en doute peut sentir les bosses symétriques du crâne sur les côtés droit et gauche de ces mêmes moralistes.

L'amoralisme marxiste et les vérités éternelles

L’accusation la plus populaire et la plus imposante dirigée contre «l’amoralisme» bolchevique se fonde sur la prétendue maxime jésuitique du bolchevisme: «La fin justifie les moyens». À partir de là, il n’est pas difficile d’arriver à une autre conclusion: puisque les trotskystes, comme tous les bolcheviks (ou marxistes) ne reconnaissent pas les principes de la moralité, il n’ya, par conséquent, aucune différence «de principe» entre le trotskysme et le stalinisme Q.E.D.

Un mensuel américain complètement vulgaire et cynique a mené un questionnaire sur la philosophie morale du bolchevisme. Le questionnaire, comme il est d'usage, devait servir à la fois l'éthique et la publicité. L'inimitable H.G. Wells, dont la haute fantaisie n'est surpassée que par sa satisfaction homérique, ne tarda pas à se solidariser avec les snobs réactionnaires de Common Sense. Ici, tout s'est mis en ordre. Mais même les participants qui jugeaient nécessaire de défendre le bolchevisme l'ont fait, dans la majorité des cas, non sans évasions timides (Eastman): les principes du marxisme sont, bien sûr, mauvais, mais parmi les bolcheviks il y a néanmoins des gens dignes . Vraiment, ces «amis» sont plus dangereux que les ennemis.

Devrions-nous prendre soin de prendre MM. Démasques au sérieux, alors tout d'abord nous leur demanderions: quels sont vos propres principes moraux? Voici une question qui ne recevra guère de réponse. Admettons pour le moment que ni les fins personnelles ni sociales ne peuvent justifier les moyens. Ensuite, il est évidemment nécessaire de rechercher des critères en dehors de la société historique et des fins qui découlent de son développement. Mais où? Si ce n'est pas sur terre, alors dans les cieux. Dans la révélation divine, les papes ont découvert il y a longtemps des critères moraux irréprochables. De petits papes laïques parlent de vérités morales éternelles sans en nommer la source originelle. Cependant, nous sommes justifiés de conclure: puisque ces vérités sont éternelles, elles auraient dû exister non seulement avant l'apparition du demi-singe-moitié-homme sur la terre mais avant l'évolution du système solaire. D'où venaient-ils donc? La théorie de la morale éternelle ne peut en aucun cas survivre sans Dieu.

Domaine public Kant Image"La plus haute généralisation des normes (morales bourgeoises) est l '« impératif catégorique »de Kant / Image: domaine public

Les moralistes de type anglo-saxon, dans la mesure où ils ne se cantonnent pas à l'utilitarisme rationaliste, l'éthique de la comptabilité bourgeoise, apparaissent comme des étudiants conscients ou inconscients du vicomte Shaftesbury, qui au début du XVIIIe siècle (!) Déduisait les jugements moraux d'un «sens moral» spécial, censé être donné une fois pour toutes à l'homme. La moralité supra-classe conduit inévitablement à la reconnaissance d'une substance spéciale, d'un «sens moral», d'une «conscience», d'une sorte d'absolu, qui n'est rien d'autre que le pseudonyme philosophique et lâche de Dieu. Indépendante des «fins», c’est-à-dire de la société, la morale, que nous la déduisions des vérités éternelles ou de la «nature de l’homme», se révèle finalement être une forme de «théologie naturelle». Le ciel reste la seule position fortifiée pour les opérations militaires contre le matérialisme dialectique.

A la fin du siècle dernier, en Russie, surgit toute une école de «  marxistes '' (Struve, Berdyaev, Boulgakov et autres) qui souhaitaient compléter les enseignements de Marx par une morale autosuffisante, c'est-à-dire supra-classe. principe. Ces gens ont commencé, bien sûr, avec Kant et l'impératif catégorique. Mais comment se sont-ils terminés? Struve est maintenant un ancien ministre du baron de Crimée Wrangel, et un fils fidèle de l'église; Boulgakov est un prêtre orthodoxe; Berdyaev expose l'Apocalypse en plusieurs langues. Ces métamorphoses, qui semblent si inattendues à première vue, ne s’expliquent pas du tout par «l’âme slave» – Struve a une âme allemande – mais par l’ampleur de la lutte sociale en Russie. La tendance fondamentale de cette métamorphose est essentiellement internationale.

L'idéalisme philosophique classique en tant qu'il visait en son temps à séculariser la morale, c'est-à-dire à la libérer de la sanction religieuse, représentait un formidable pas en avant (Hegel). Mais arrachée au ciel, la philosophie morale a dû trouver des racines terrestres. Découvrir ces racines était l'une des tâches du matérialisme. Après Shaftesbury vint Darwin, après Hegel – Marx. Faire appel maintenant aux vérités morales éternelles signifie essayer de faire tourner les roues en arrière. L'idéalisme philosophique n'est qu'une étape: de la religion au matérialisme, ou, au contraire, du matérialisme à la religion.

La fin justifie les moyens

L'ordre des jésuites, organisé dans la première moitié du XVIe siècle pour combattre le protestantisme, n'a jamais enseigné, disons-le, que tout moyen, même s'il était criminel du point de vue de la morale catholique, était permis si seulement il conduisait à la «fin», c'est-à-dire au triomphe du catholicisme. Une telle doctrine intérieurement contradictoire et psychologiquement absurde a été malicieusement attribuée aux jésuites par leurs opposants protestants et en partie catholiques qui n'ont pas hésité à choisir les moyens d'atteindre leurs fins. Les théologiens jésuites qui, comme les théologiens des autres écoles, étaient occupés par la question de la responsabilité personnelle, ont en fait enseigné que les moyens en soi peuvent être une question d'indifférence mais que la justification morale ou le jugement des moyens donnés découle de la fin. Ainsi, tirer en soi est une question d'indifférence; tirer sur un chien fou qui menace un enfant – une vertu; tirer dans le but d'une violation ou d'un meurtre – un crime. En dehors de ces lieux communs, les théologiens de cet ordre n'ont fait aucune promulgation.

En ce qui concerne leur philosophie morale pratique, les jésuites n'étaient pas du tout pires que les autres moines ou prêtres catholiques, au contraire, ils leur étaient supérieurs; en tout cas, plus cohérent, plus audacieux et perspicace. Les jésuites représentaient une organisation militante, strictement centralisée, agressive et dangereuse non seulement pour les ennemis mais aussi pour les alliés. Dans sa psychologie et sa méthode d’action, le jésuite de la période «héroïque» se distinguait d’un prêtre moyen en tant que guerrier d’une église de son commerçant. Nous n'avons aucune raison d'idéaliser l'un ou l'autre. Mais il est tout à fait indigne de regarder un guerrier fanatique avec les yeux d'un commerçant obtus et paresseux.

Domaine public de l'image des jésuitesLes jésuites n'ont jamais développé le précepte, «la fin justifie les moyens», mais cela n'a pas empêché les bolcheviks de recevoir des accusations de «jésuitisme» / Image: public domain

Si l'on veut rester dans le champ des similitudes purement formelles ou psychologiques, alors on peut, si l'on veut, dire que les bolcheviks apparaissent en relation avec les démocrates et les social-démocrates de toutes nuances comme l'ont fait les jésuites – en relation avec les hiérarchie ecclésiastique pacifique. Comparés aux marxistes révolutionnaires, les sociaux-démocrates et les centristes apparaissent comme des crétins, ou comme un charlatan à côté d'un médecin: ils ne réfléchissent pas à un problème jusqu'au bout, croient au pouvoir de la conjuration et évitent lâchement toute difficulté en espérant un miracle. Les opportunistes sont des commerçants pacifiques dans les idées socialistes tandis que les bolcheviks sont ses guerriers invétérés. De cela vient la haine et la calomnie contre les bolcheviks de la part de ceux qui ont une abondance de leurs fautes historiquement conditionnées mais pas un de leurs mérites.

Cependant, la juxtaposition du bolchevisme et du jésuitisme reste encore complètement unilatérale et superficielle, plutôt de nature littéraire qu'historique. Conformément au caractère et aux intérêts de ces classes sur lesquelles ils se fondaient, les jésuites représentaient la réaction, les protestants – le progrès. La limitation de ce «progrès» trouve à son tour une expression directe dans la moralité des protestants. Ainsi, les enseignements du Christ «purifié» par eux n’ont pas du tout empêché le bourgeois de la ville, Luther, d’appeler à l’exécution de paysans révoltés en tant que «chiens fous». Le Dr Martin considérait évidemment que «la fin justifie les moyens» avant même que cette maxime ne soit attribuée aux jésuites. A leur tour, les jésuites, en concurrence avec le protestantisme, s'adaptaient de plus en plus à l'esprit de la société bourgeoise, et des trois vœux: pauvreté, chasteté et obéissance, n'en conservaient que le troisième, et en plus sous une forme extrêmement atténuée. Du point de vue de l'idéal chrétien, la moralité des jésuites dégénère à mesure qu'ils cessent d'être jésuites. Les guerriers de l'église sont devenus ses bureaucrates et, comme tous les bureaucrates, des escrocs passables.

Jésuitisme et utilitarisme

Cette brève discussion suffit peut-être pour montrer quelle ignorance et quelle étroitesse sont nécessaires pour considérer sérieusement la contraposition du principe «  jésuite '', «  la fin justifie les moyens '', à une autre morale apparemment plus élevée, dans laquelle chaque «  moyen '' porte son propre étiquette morale comme la marchandise avec des prix fixes dans un grand magasin. Il est remarquable que le bon sens du philistin anglo-saxon ait réussi à s’indigner du principe «jésuite» et à s’inspirer en même temps de la morale utilitariste, si caractéristique de la philosophie britannique. De plus, le critère de Bentham-John Mill, «le plus grand bonheur possible pour le plus grand nombre possible», signifie que ces moyens sont moraux, qui conduisent au bien-être commun comme extrémité supérieure. Dans ses formulations philosophiques générales, l’utilitarisme anglo-saxon coïncide donc pleinement avec le principe «jésuite», «la fin justifie les moyens». L'empirisme, nous le voyons, n'existe dans le monde que pour nous libérer de la nécessité de joindre les deux bouts.

Herbert Spencer, dans l’empirisme duquel Darwin a inculqué l’idée d ’« évolution », en tant que vaccin spécial, a enseigné que dans la sphère morale, l’évolution passe des« sensations »aux« idées ». Les sensations sont conformes au critère du plaisir immédiat, tandis que les idées permettent de se laisser guider par le critère du plaisir futur, durable et supérieur. Ainsi, le critère moral est ici aussi le «plaisir» et le «bonheur». Mais le contenu de ce critère acquiert une ampleur et une profondeur en fonction du niveau d ’« évolution ». De cette manière, Herbert Spencer aussi, à travers les méthodes de son propre utilitarisme «évolutionniste», a montré que le principe «la fin justifie les moyens» n’englobe rien d’immoral.

Herbert Spencer Image domaine public"Herbert Spencer … à travers les méthodes de son propre utilitarisme" évolutionnaire ", a montré que le principe," la fin justifie les moyens ", n’englobe rien d’immoral" / Image: domaine public

Il est cependant naïf d’attendre de ce «principe» abstrait une réponse à la question pratique: que pouvons-nous et que ne pouvons-nous pas faire? De plus, le principe, la fin justifie les moyens, pose naturellement la question: et qu'est-ce qui justifie la fin? Dans la vie pratique comme dans le mouvement historique, la fin et les moyens changent constamment de place. Une machine en construction n’est une «fin» de production qu’à son entrée dans l’usine, elle peut devenir le «moyen». La démocratie, à certaines périodes, est la «fin» de la lutte de classe seulement pour qu’elle se transforme plus tard en ses «moyens». N'embrassant rien d'immoral, le soi-disant principe «jésuite» échoue cependant à résoudre le problème moral.

L'utilitarisme «  évolutionniste '' de Spencer nous abandonne également à mi-chemin sans réponse, car, à la suite de Darwin, il tente de dissoudre la morale historique concrète dans les besoins biologiques ou dans les «  instincts sociaux '' caractéristiques d'un animal grégaire, et ce à la fois lorsque la compréhension même de la morale ne se pose que dans un milieu antagoniste, c'est-à-dire dans une société déchirée par les classes.

L'évolutionnisme bourgeois s'arrête impuissant au seuil de la société historique car il ne veut pas reconnaître le moteur de l'évolution des formes sociales: la lutte des classes. La moralité est l'une des fonctions idéologiques de cette lutte. La classe dirigeante impose ses fins à la société et l'habite à considérer tous les moyens qui contredisent ses fins comme immoraux. C'est la fonction principale de la morale officielle. Il poursuit l’idée du «plus grand bonheur possible» non pas pour la majorité, mais pour une petite minorité en constante diminution. Un tel régime n'aurait pas pu durer même une semaine par la seule force. Il a besoin du ciment de la moralité. Le mélange de ce ciment constitue la profession des théoriciens et moralistes petits-bourgeois. Ils se baladent dans toutes les couleurs de l'arc-en-ciel mais en dernier ressort restent des apôtres de l'esclavage et de la soumission.

Préceptes moraux obligatoires pour tous

Quiconque ne se soucie pas de retourner à Moïse, au Christ ou à Mahomet; quiconque ne se contente pas de méli-mélo éclectiques doit reconnaître que la moralité est un produit du développement social; qu'il n'y a rien d'invariable à ce sujet; qu'il sert les intérêts sociaux; que ces intérêts sont contradictoires; cette moralité plus que toute autre forme d'idéologie a un caractère de classe.

Mais n'existe-t-il pas des préceptes moraux élémentaires, élaborés dans le développement de l'humanité en tant qu'élément intégral nécessaire à la vie de tout corps collectif? Sans aucun doute, de tels préceptes existent mais l'étendue de leur action est extrêmement limitée et instable. Les normes «obligatoires pour tous» deviennent d'autant moins contraignantes que le caractère assumé par la lutte des classes est aigu. Le point culminant de la lutte de classe est la guerre civile, qui fait exploser en l'air tous les liens moraux entre les classes hostiles.

Dans des conditions «normales», un homme «normal» observe le commandement: «Tu ne tueras pas!» Mais s'il assassine dans des conditions exceptionnelles de légitime défense, le juge approuve son action. S'il est victime d'un meurtrier, le tribunal le tuera. La nécessité de l’action du tribunal, comme celle de la légitime défense, découle d’intérêts antagonistes. En ce qui concerne l’État, en temps de paix, il se limite à des cas individuels de meurtre légalisé afin qu’en temps de guerre, il puisse transformer le commandement «obligatoire»: «Tu ne tueras pas!» dans son opposé. Les gouvernements les plus «humains», qui en temps de paix «détestent» la guerre, proclament pendant la guerre que le devoir suprême de leurs armées est l’extermination du plus grand nombre possible de personnes.

Somme Image domaine public"Les gouvernements les plus" humains ", qui en temps de paix" détestent "la guerre, proclament pendant la guerre que le devoir suprême de leurs armées est d'exterminer le plus grand nombre de personnes possible" / Image: domaine public

Les préceptes moraux dits «généralement reconnus», par essence, conservent un caractère algébrique, c'est-à-dire indéterminé. Ils expriment simplement le fait que l'homme, dans sa conduite individuelle, est lié par certaines normes communes qui découlent de son appartenance à la société. La généralisation la plus élevée de ces normes est «l’impératif catégorique» de Kant. Mais en dépit du fait qu'il occupe une position élevée sur l'Olympe philosophique, cet impératif n'incarne rien de catégorique car il n'incarne rien de concret. C'est une coquille sans contenu.

Cette vacuité dans les normes obligatoires pour tous vient du fait que dans toutes les questions décisives les gens ressentent leur appartenance à une classe beaucoup plus profondément et plus directement que leur appartenance à la «société». Les normes de la morale «obligatoire» sont en réalité chargées de classe, c'est-à-dire de contenu antagoniste. La norme morale devient d'autant plus catégorique qu'elle est moins «obligatoire» pour tous. La solidarité des travailleurs, en particulier des grévistes ou des barricadeurs, est incomparablement plus «catégorique» que la solidarité humaine en général.

La bourgeoisie, qui surpasse de loin le prolétariat dans l'exhaustivité et l'inconcilabilité de sa conscience de classe, est très intéressée à imposer sa philosophie morale aux masses exploitées. C’est précisément dans ce but que les normes concrètes du catéchisme bourgeois sont dissimulées sous des abstractions morales patronnées par la religion, la philosophie ou cet hybride que l’on appelle le «sens commun». L'appel aux normes abstraites n'est pas une erreur philosophique désintéressée, mais un élément nécessaire dans la mécanique de la tromperie de classe. La dénonciation de cette tromperie, qui conserve la tradition de milliers d'années, est le premier devoir d'un révolutionnaire prolétarien.

La crise de la morale démocratique

Afin de garantir le triomphe de leurs intérêts dans les grandes questions, les classes dirigeantes sont contraintes de faire des concessions sur des questions secondaires, naturellement seulement tant que ces concessions sont conciliées dans la comptabilité. À l'époque de la montée du capitalisme, surtout dans les dernières décennies avant la guerre mondiale, ces concessions, du moins par rapport aux couches supérieures du prolétariat, étaient d'une nature tout à fait authentique. L'industrie à cette époque s'est développée presque sans interruption. La prospérité des nations civilisées, en partie aussi, celle des masses laborieuses augmenta. La démocratie paraissait solide. Les organisations de travailleurs se sont développées. Dans le même temps, les tendances réformistes se sont approfondies. Les relations entre les classes se sont adoucies, du moins extérieurement. Ainsi, certains préceptes moraux élémentaires dans les relations sociales ont été établis avec les normes de la démocratie et les habitudes de collaboration de classe. L'impression a été créée d'une société toujours plus libre, plus juste et plus humaine. La ligne montante de progrès semblait infinie au «bon sens».

Au lieu de cela, cependant, la guerre a éclaté avec une série de convulsions, de crises, de catastrophes, d'épidémies et de bestialité. La vie économique de l'humanité est tombée dans une impasse. Les antagonismes de classe sont devenus vifs et nus. Les soupapes de sécurité de la démocratie ont commencé à exploser les unes après les autres. Les préceptes moraux élémentaires semblaient encore plus fragiles que les institutions démocratiques et les illusions réformistes. La mensonge, la calomnie, la corruption, la vénalité, la coercition, le meurtre ont pris des dimensions sans précédent. Pour un idiot stupéfait, toutes ces vexations semblent être le résultat temporaire de la guerre. En fait, ce sont des manifestations du déclin impérialiste. La décadence du capitalisme dénote la décadence de la société contemporaine avec son droit et sa morale.

La «synthèse» de la turpitude impérialiste est le fascisme directement engendré de la faillite de la démocratie bourgeoise devant les problèmes de l’époque impérialiste. Les restes de la démocratie n'existent encore que dans les riches aristocraties capitalistes: pour chaque «démocrate» en Angleterre, en France, en Hollande, en Belgique, il y a un certain nombre d'esclaves coloniaux; «60 familles» dominent la démocratie aux États-Unis, et ainsi de suite. De plus, les pousses du fascisme se développent rapidement dans toutes les démocraties. Le stalinisme à son tour est le produit de la pression impérialiste sur un État ouvrier arriéré et isolé, complément symétrique dans son propre genre du fascisme.

Alors que les Philistins idéalistes – les anarchistes occupent bien sûr la première place – démasquent inlassablement «  l'amoralisme '' marxiste dans leur presse, les trusts américains, selon John L. Lewis (CIO), dépensent pas moins de 80 millions de dollars par an pour la lutte pratique contre la «démoralisation révolutionnaire », C'est-à-dire l'espionnage, la corruption de travailleurs, les escroqueries et les meurtres dans les ruelles obscures. L'impératif catégorique choisit parfois des voies détournées pour son triomphe!

Notons avec justice que les moralistes petits-bourgeois les plus sincères et en même temps les plus limités vivent encore aujourd'hui encore dans les souvenirs idéalisés d'hier et espèrent son retour. Ils ne comprennent pas que la moralité est fonction de la lutte des classes; que la morale démocratique correspond à l'époque du capitalisme libéral et progressiste; que l'aiguisage de la lutte de classe en passant par sa dernière phase a détruit définitivement et irrévocablement cette morale; qu'à sa place venait la morale du fascisme d'un côté, de l'autre la morale de la révolution prolétarienne.

Bon sens

La démocratie et la morale «généralement reconnue» ne sont pas les seules victimes de l’impérialisme. Le troisième martyr souffrant est le bon sens «universel». Cette forme la plus basse de l'intellect est non seulement nécessaire dans toutes les conditions, mais dans certaines conditions est également adéquate. Le capital de base du bon sens se compose des conclusions élémentaires de l’expérience universelle: ne pas se mettre les doigts dans le feu, autant que possible procéder en ligne droite, ne pas taquiner les chiens vicieux… et ainsi de suite. Dans un milieu social stable, le bon sens est suffisant pour négocier, guérir, rédiger des articles, diriger des syndicats, voter au parlement, se marier et reproduire la race. Mais lorsque ce même sens commun tente d'aller au-delà de ses limites valables dans l'arène des généralisations plus complexes, il est exposé comme un simple caillot de préjugés d'une classe et d'une époque définies. Pas plus qu'une simple crise capitaliste n'apporte le bon sens à une impasse; et avant des catastrophes telles que la révolution, la contre-révolution et la guerre, le bon sens se révèle un imbécile parfait. Afin de réaliser les transgressions catastrophiques contre le cours «normal» des événements, des qualités intellectuelles supérieures sont nécessaires, exprimées philosophiquement encore uniquement par le matérialisme dialectique.

Max Eastman, qui tente avec succès de doter le «sens commun» d’un style littéraire des plus attrayants, n’a fait de la lutte contre la dialectique qu’une profession pour lui-même. Eastman prend au sérieux les banalités conservatrices du bon sens associées au bon style comme «la science de la révolution». Soutenant les snobs réactionnaires du bon sens, il expose à l'humanité avec une assurance inimitable que si Trotsky avait été guidé non par la doctrine marxiste mais par le bon sens, il n'aurait pas perdu le pouvoir. Cette dialectique intérieure, apparue jusqu'à présent dans la succession inévitable d'étapes déterminées de toutes les révolutions, n'existe pas pour Eastman. La réaction déplaçant la révolution, pour lui, est déterminée par un respect insuffisant du bon sens. Eastman ne comprend pas que ce soit Staline qui, au sens historique, a été victime du bon sens, c'est-à-dire de son insuffisance, puisque ce pouvoir qu'il possède sert des fins hostiles au bolchevisme. La doctrine marxiste, en revanche, nous a permis de nous arracher à temps à la bureaucratie thermidorienne et de continuer à servir les fins du socialisme international.

Max Eastman Image domaine public«Max Eastman, qui tente avec succès de doter le« sens commun »d’un style littéraire des plus attrayants, n’a fait de la lutte contre la dialectique qu’une profession pour lui-même» / Image: domaine public

Toute science, et en ce sens aussi la «science de la révolution» est contrôlée par l'expérience. Puisque Eastman sait bien comment maintenir le pouvoir révolutionnaire sous la condition de la contre-révolution mondiale, alors il sait aussi, nous pouvons l'espérer, comment conquérir le pouvoir. Il serait très souhaitable qu'il révèle enfin ses secrets. Mieux encore, cela se fera sous la forme d'un projet de programme pour un parti révolutionnaire sous le titre: Comment conquérir et conserver le pouvoir. Nous craignons, cependant, que ce soit précisément le bon sens qui poussera Eastman à s’abstenir de se lancer dans une entreprise aussi risquée. Et cette fois, le bon sens aura raison.

La doctrine marxiste, qu'Eastman, hélas, n'a jamais comprise, nous a permis de prévoir l'inévitabilité dans certaines conditions historiques du thermidor soviétique avec tout son lot de crimes. Cette même doctrine prédisait il y a longtemps l'inévitabilité de la chute de la démocratie bourgeoise et de sa moralité. Cependant, les doctrinaires du «bon sens» ont été pris au dépourvu par le fascisme et le stalinisme. Le bon sens opère sur des grandeurs invariables dans un monde où seul le changement est invariable. La dialectique, au contraire, prend tous les phénomènes, institutions et normes dans leur ascension, leur développement et leur déclin. La considération dialectique de la morale comme un produit subalterne et transitoire de la lutte de classe semble au sens commun un «amoralisme». Mais il n'y a rien de plus plat, périmé, satisfait de soi et cynique que les règles morales du bon sens!

Les moralistes et le G.P.U.

Les procès de Moscou ont été l’occasion d’une croisade contre «l’amoralisme» bolchevique. Cependant, la croisade n'a pas été ouverte à la fois. La vérité est que dans leur majorité, les moralistes étaient, directement ou indirectement, des amis du Kremlin. En tant que tels, ils ont longtemps tenté de cacher leur étonnement et ont même feint que rien d'inhabituel ne s'était produit.

Mais les procès de Moscou n'étaient pas du tout un accident. L'obéissance servile, l'hypocrisie, le culte officiel du mensonge, de la corruption et d'autres formes de corruption avaient déjà commencé à fleurir ostensiblement à Moscou en 1924-1925. Les futures montages judiciaires se préparaient ouvertement aux yeux du monde entier. L'avertissement ne manquait pas. Les «amis», cependant, ne voulaient rien remarquer. Pas étonnant: la plupart de ces messieurs, en leur temps irrémédiablement hostiles à la Révolution d'Octobre, ne sont devenus amis de l'Union soviétique qu'au rythme de sa dégénérescence thermidorienne – les démocrates petits-bourgeois d'Occident reconnus dans la bureaucratie petite-bourgeoise de l'Orient une âme sœur.

Ces gens ont-ils vraiment cru aux accusations de Moscou? Seuls les plus obtus. Les autres n'ont pas voulu s'alarmer par la vérification. Est-il raisonnable d'empiéter sur l'amitié flatteuse, confortable et souvent bien rémunérée avec les ambassades soviétiques? Moreover, they did not forget this indiscreet truth can injure the prestige of the U.S.S.R. These people screened the crimes by utilitarian considerations, that is, frankly applied the principle, ‘the end justifies the means’.

Beria GPU Image public domain"Petty-bourgeois democrats of the West recognized in the petty-bourgeois bureaucracy of the East a kindred soul" / Image: public domain

The King’s Counselor, Pritt, who succeeded with timeliness in peering under the chiton of the Stalinist Themis and there discovered everything in order, took upon himself the shameless initiative. Romain Rolland, whose moral authority is highly evaluated by the Soviet publishing house bookkeepers, hastened to proclaim one of his manifestos where melancholy lyricism unites with senile cynicism. The French League for the Rights of Man, which thundered about the “amoralism of Lenin and Trotsky” in 1917 when they broke the military alliance with France, hastened to screen Stalin’s crimes in 1936 in the interests of the Franco-Soviet pact. A patriotic end justifies, as is known, any means. The Nation and The New Republic closed their eyes to Yagoda’s exploits since their ‘friendship’ with the U.S.S.R. guaranteed their own authority. Yet only a year ago these gentlemen did not at all declare Stalinism and Trotskyism to be one and the same. They openly stood for Stalin, for his realism, for his justice and for his Yagoda. They clung to this position as long as they could.

Until the moment of the execution of Tukhachevsky, Yakir, and the others, the big bourgeoisie of the democratic countries, not without pleasure, though blanketed with fastidiousness, watched the execution of the revolutionists in the U.S.S.R. In this sense The Nation and The New Republic, not to speak of Duranty, Louis Fischer, and their kindred prostitutes of the pen, fully responded to the interests of ‘democratic’ imperialism. The execution of the generals alarmed the bourgeoisie, compelling them to understand that the advanced disintegration of the Stalinist apparatus lightened the tasks of Hitler, Mussolini and the Mikado. Le New York Times cautiously but insistently began to correct its own Duranty. The Paris Le Temps opened its columns slightly to shedding light upon the actual situation in the U.S.S.R. As for the petty bourgeois moralists and sycophants, they were never anything but servile echoes of the capitalist class. Moreover, after the International Commission of Inquiry, headed by John Dewey, brought out its verdict it became clear to every person who thought even a trifle that further open defence of the GPU signified peril of political and moral death. Only at this moment did the ‘friends’ decide to bring the eternal moral truths into god’s world, that is, to fall back to the second line trench.

Frightened Stalinists and semi-Stalinists occupy not the last place among moralists. Eugene Lyons during several years cohabited nicely with the Thermidorian clique, considering himself almost a Bolshevik. Withdrawing from the Kremlin – for a reason that is to us a matter of indifference – he rose, of course, immediately into the clouds of idealism. Liston Oak until recently enjoyed such confidence from the Comintern that it entrusted him with conducting the English propaganda for Republican Spain. This did not, naturally, hinder him, once he had relinquished his post, from likewise relinquishing the Marxist alphabet. Expatriate Walter Krivitsky, having broken with the GPU, immediately joined the bourgeois democracy. Evidently, this too is the metamorphosis of the very aged Charles Rappoport. Having tossed Stalinism overboard, people of such ilk – they are many – cannot help seeking indemnification in the postulates of abstract morality for the disillusionment and abasement of ideals they have experienced. Ask them: “Why have you switched from the Comintern or GPU ranks to the camp of the bourgeoisie?” They have a ready answer: “Trotskyism is no better than Stalinism”.

The disposition of political chessmen

“Trotskyism is revolutionary romanticism; Stalinism – practical politics.” Of this banal contraposition with which the average Philistine until yesterday justified his friendship with Thermidor against the revolution, there remains not a trace today. Trotskyism and Stalinism are in general no longer counterpoised but identified. They are identified, however, only in form, not in essence. Having recoiled to the meridian of the ‘categorical imperative’, the democrats actually continue to defend the G.P.U. except with greater camouflage and perfidy. He who slanders the victim aids the executioner. In this case, as in others, morality serves politics.

The democratic Philistine and Stalinist bureaucrat are, if not twins, brothers in spirit. In any case, they belong politically to the same camp. The present governmental system of France and if we add the anarchists of Republican Spain is based on the collaboration of Stalinists, social-democrats and liberals. If the British Independent Labour Party appears roughed up it is because for a number of years it has not withdrawn from the embrace of the Comintern. The French Socialist Party expelled the Trotskyists from their ranks exactly when it prepared to fuse with the Stalinists. If the fusion did not materialize, it was not because of principled divergences – what remains of them? – but only because of the fear of the social-democratic careerists over their posts. Having returned from Spain, Norman Thomas declared that “objectively” the Trotskyists help Franco, and with this subjective absurdity he gave “objective” service to the GPU executioners. This righteous man expelled the American ‘Trotskyists’ from his party precisely as the GPU shot down their co-thinkers in the U.S.S.R. and in Spain. In many democratic countries, the Stalinists, in spite of their ‘amoralism’, have penetrated into the government apparatus not without success. In the trade unions, they cohabit nicely with bureaucrats of other hues. True, the Stalinists have an extremely lightminded attitude toward the criminal code and in that way frighten away their ‘democratic’ friends in peaceful times; but in exceptional circumstances, as indicated by the example of Spain, they more surely become the leaders of the petty bourgeoisie against the proletariat.

Yetzhov Image public domainStalin and Yetzhov / Image: public domain

The Second and Amsterdam Internationals naturally did not take upon themselves the responsibility for the frame-ups; this work they left to the Comintern. They themselves kept quiet. Privately they explained that from a “moral” point of view they were against Stalin, but from a political point of view, for him. Only when the People’s Front in France cracked irreparably and forced the socialists to think about tomorrow did Leon Blum find at the bottom of his inkwell the necessary formulas for moral abhorrence.

If Otto Bauer mildly condemned Vyshinsky’s justice it was only in order to support Stalin’s politics with greater “impartiality”. The fate of socialism, according to Bauer’s recent declaration, is tied with the fate of the Soviet Union. “And the fate of the Soviet Union”, he continues, “is the fate of Stalinism so long as (!) the inner development of the Soviet Union itself does not overcome the Stalinist phase of development.” All of Baner is contained in this remarkable sentence, all of Austro-Marxism, the whole mendacity and rot of the social-democracy! “So long as” the Stalinist bureaucracy is sufficiently strong to murder the progressive representatives of the “inner development”, until then Baner sticks with Stalin. When, in spite of Bauer, the revolutionary forces overthrow Stalin, then Bauer will generously recognize the “inner development” – with not more than ten years delay.

Behind the old Internationals, the London Bureau of the centrists trails along, happily combining in itself the characteristics of a kindergarten, a school for mentally arrested adolescents, and a home for invalids. The secretary of the Bureau, Fenner Brockway, began with the declaration that an inquiry into the Moscow trials could “harm the U.S.S.R.” and proposed instead an investigation into… the political activity of Trotsky through an “impartial” Commission of five irreconcilable enemies of Trotsky. Brandler and Lovestone publicly solidarised with Yagoda; they retreated only from Yezhov. Jacob Walcher, upon an obviously false pretext, refused to give testimony which was unfavorable to Stalin before the International Commission headed by John Dewey. The putrid morals of these people are only a product of their putrid politics.

But perhaps the most lamentable role is that played by the anarchists. If Stalinism and Trotskyism are one and the same, as they affirm in every sentence, then why do the Spanish anarchists assist the Stalinists in revenging themselves upon the Trotskyists and at the same time upon the revolutionary anarchists? The more frank anarchist theoreticians respond: this is payment for armaments. In other words: the end justifies the means. But what is their end? Anarchism? Socialism? No, merely the salvaging of this very same bourgeois democracy that prepared fascism’s success. To base ends correspond base means.

That is the real disposition of the figures on the world political board!

Stalinism – a product of the old society

Russia took the greatest leap in history, a leap in which the most progressive forces of the country found their expression. Now in the current reaction, the sweep of which is proportionate to the sweep of the revolution, backwardness is taking its revenge. Stalinism embodies this reaction. The barbarism of old Russian history upon new social bases seems yet more disgusting since it is constrained to conceal itself in hypocrisy unprecedented in history.

The liberals and the social-democrats of the West, who were constrained by the Russian Revolution into doubt about their rotted ideas, now experienced a fresh influx of courage. The moral gangrene of the Soviet bureaucracy seemed to them the rehabilitation of liberalism. Stereotyped copybooks are drawn out into the light: “every dictatorship contains the seeds of its own degeneration”; “only democracy guarantees the development of personality”; and so forth. The contrasting of democracy and dictatorship, including in the given case a condemnation of socialism in favour of the bourgeois regime, stuns one from the point of view of theory by its illiterateness and unscrupulousness. The Stalinist pollution, a historical reality, is counterpoised to democracy – a supra-historical abstraction. But democracy also possesses a history in which there is no lack of pollution. In order to characterize Soviet bureaucracy, we have borrowed the names of ‘Thermidor’ and ‘Bonapartism’ from the history of bourgeois democracy because – let this be known to the retarded liberal doctrinaires – democracy came into the world not at all through the democratic road. Only a vulgar mentality can satisfy itself by chewing on the theme that Bonapartism was the ‘natural offspring’ of Jacobinism, the historical punishment for infringing upon democracy, and so on. Without the Jacobin retribution upon feudalism, bourgeois democracy would have been absolutely unthinkable. Contrasting to the concrete historical stages of Jacobinism, Thermidor, Bonapartism the idealized abstraction of ‘democracy’, is as vicious as contrasting the pains of childbirth to a living infant.

Stalin in 1937 Image public domain"Russia took the greatest leap in history, a leap in which the most progressive forces of the country found their expression. Now in the current reaction, the sweep of which is proportionate to the sweep of the revolution, backwardness is taking its revenge. Stalinism embodies this reaction" / Image: public domain

Stalinism, in turn, is not an abstraction of ‘dictatorship’, but an immense bureaucratic reaction against the proletarian dictatorship in a backward and isolated country. The October Revolution abolished privileges, waged war against social inequality, replaced the bureaucracy with self-government of the toilers, abolished secret diplomacy, strove to render all social relationships completely transparent. Stalinism reestablished the most offensive forms of privileges, imbued inequality with a provocative character, strangled mass self-activity under police absolutism, transformed administration into a monopoly of the Kremlin oligarchy and regenerated the fetishism of power in forms that absolute monarchy dared not dream of.

Social reaction in all forms is constrained to mask its real aims. The sharper the transition from revolution to reaction; the more the reaction is dependent upon the traditions of revolution, that is, the greater its fear of the masses – the more is it forced to resort to mendacity and frame-up in the struggle against the representatives of the revolution. Stalinist frame-ups are not a fruit of Bolshevik ‘amoralism’; no, like all important events in history, they are a product of the concrete social struggle, and the most perfidious and severest of all at that: the struggle of a new aristocracy against the masses that raised it to power.

Verily boundless intellectual and moral obtuseness is required to identify the reactionary police morality of Stalinism with the revolutionary morality of the Bolsheviks. Lenin’s party has long ceased to exist – it was shattered between inner difficulties and world imperialism. In its place rose the Stalinist bureaucracy, transmissive mechanism of imperialism. The bureaucracy substituted class collaboration for the class struggle on the world arena, social-patriotism for internationalism. In order to adapt the ruling party to the tasks of reaction, the bureaucracy ‘renewed’ its composition through executing revolutionists and recruiting careerists.

Every reaction regenerates, nourishes and strengthens those elements of the historic past which the revolution struck but which it could not vanquish. The methods of Stalinism bring to the highest tension, to a culmination and at the same time to an absurdity all those methods of untruth, brutality and baseness which constitute the mechanics of control in every class society including also that of democracy. Stalinism is a single clot of all monstrosities of the historical State, its most malicious caricature and disgusting grimace. When the representatives of old society puritanically counterpoise a sterilized democratic abstraction to the gangrene of Stalinism, we can with full justice recommend to them, as to all of old society, that they fall enamoured of themselves in the warped mirror of Soviet Thermidor. True, the GPU far surpasses all other regimes in the nakedness of its crimes. But this flows from the immense amplitude of events shaking Russia under the influence of world imperialist demoralisation.

Among the liberals and radicals, there are not a few individuals who have assimilated the methods of the materialist interpretation of events and who consider themselves Marxists. This does not hinder them, however, from remaining bourgeois journalists, professors or politicians. A Bolshevik is inconceivable, of course, without the materialist method, in the sphere of morality too. But this method serves him not solely for the interpretation of events but rather for the creation of a revolutionary party of the proletariat. It is impossible to accomplish this task without complete independence from the bourgeoisie and their morality. Yet bourgeois public opinion actually now reigns in full sway over the official workers’ movement from William Green in the United States, Leon Blum and Maurice Thorez in France, to Garcia Oliver in Spain. In this fact, the reactionary character of the present period reaches its sharpest expression.

A revolutionary Marxist cannot begin to approach his historical mission without having broken morally from bourgeois public opinion and its agencies in the proletariat. For this, moral courage of a different calibre is required than that of opening wide one’s mouth at meetings and yelling, “Down with Hitler!” “Down with Franco!” It is precisely this resolute, completely thought out, inflexible rupture of the Bolsheviks from conservative moral philosophy not only of the big but of the petty bourgeoisie which mortally terrorises democratic phrase-mongers, drawing-room prophets and lobbying heroes. From this is derived their complaints about the ‘amoralism’ of the Bolsheviks.

Their identification of bourgeois morals with morals ‘in general’ can best of all, perhaps, be verified at the extreme left-wing of the petty bourgeoisie, precisely in the centrist parties of the so-called London Bureau. Since this organization ‘recognizes’ the program of proletarian revolution, our disagreements with it seem, at first glance, secondary. Actually, their ‘recognition’ is valueless because it does not bind them to anything. They ‘recognise’ the proletarian revolution as the Kantians recognized the categorical imperative, that is, as a holy principle but not applicable to daily life. In the sphere of practical politics, they unite with the worst enemies of the revolution (reformists and Stalinists) for the struggle against us. All their thinking is permeated with duplicity and falsehood. If the centrists, according to a general rule, do not raise themselves to imposing crimes it is only because they forever remain in the byways of politics: they are, so to speak, petty pick-pockets of history. For this reason, they consider themselves called upon to regenerate the workers’ movement with a new morality.

At the extreme left-wing of this ‘left’ fraternity stands a small and politically completely insignificant grouping of German emigres who publish the paper Neuer Weg (The New Road) – Let us bend down lower and listen to these ‘revolutionary’ indicters of Bolshevik amoralism. In a tone of ambiguous pseudo-praise, the Neuer Weg proclaims that the Bolsheviks are distinguished advantageously from other parties by their absence of hypocrisy – they openly declare what others quietly apply in fact, that is, the principle: ‘the end justifies the means’. But according to the convictions of Neuer Weg such a “bourgeois” precept is incompatible with a “healthy socialist movement”. “Lying and worse are not permissible means of struggle, as Lenin still considered”. The word “still” evidently signifies that Lenin did not succeed in overcoming his delusions only because he failed to live until the discovery of The New Road.

In the formula, “lying and worse”, “worse” evidently signifies violence, murder, and so on, since under equal conditions violence is worse than lying; and murder – the most extreme form of violence. We thus come to the conclusion that lying, violence, murder are incompatible with a “healthy socialist movement”. What, however, is our relation to revolution? Civil war is the most severe of all forms of war. It is unthinkable not only without violence against tertiary figures but, under contemporary technique, without murdering old men, old women and children. Must one be reminded of Spain? The only possible answer of the ‘friends’ of Republican Spain sounds like this: civil war is better than fascist slavery. But this completely correct answer merely signifies that the end (democracy or socialism) justifies, under certain conditions, such means as violence and murder. Not to speak about lies! Without lies war would be as unimaginable as a machine without oil. In order to safeguard even the session of the Cortes (1 February 1938) from Fascist bombs, the Barcelona government several times deliberately deceived journalists and their own population. Could it have acted in any other way? Whoever accepts the end: victory over Franco, must accept the means: civil war with its wake of horrors and crimes.

Nevertheless, lying and violence “in themselves” warrant condemnation? Of course, even as does the class society which generates them. A society without social contradictions will naturally be a society without lies and violence. However, there is no way of building a bridge to that society save by revolutionary, that is, violent means. The revolution itself is a product of class society and of necessity bears its traits. From the point of view of ‘eternal truths’ revolution is of course ‘anti-moral’. But this merely means that idealist morality is counter-revolutionary, that is, in the service of the exploiters.

‘Civil war’, will perhaps respond the philosopher caught unawares, ‘is, however, a sad exception. But in peaceful times a healthy socialist movement should manage without violence and lying.’ Such an answer, however, represents nothing less than a pathetic evasion. There is no impervious demarcation between ‘peaceful’ class struggle and revolution. Every strike embodies in an unexpanded form all the elements of civil war. Each side strives to impress the opponent with an exaggerated representation of its resoluteness to struggle and its material resources. Through their press, agents, and spies the capitalists labour to frighten and demoralize the strikers. From their side, the workers’ pickets, where persuasion does not avail, are compelled to resort to force. Thus “lie and worse” are an inseparable part of the class struggle even in its most elementary form. It remains to be added that the very conception of truth and lie was born of social contradictions.

Revolution and the institution of hostages

Stalin arrests and shoots the children of his opponents after these opponents have been themselves executed under false accusations. With the help of the institution of family hostages, Stalin compels those Soviet diplomats to return from abroad who permitted themselves an expression of doubt upon the infallibility of Yagoda or Yezhov. The moralists of Neuer Weg consider it necessary and timely to remind us on this occasion of the fact that Trotsky in 1919 “also” introduced a law upon hostages. But here it becomes necessary to quote literally: “The detention of innocent relatives by Stalin is disgusting barbarism. But it remains a barbarism as well when it was dictated by Trotsky (1919).” Here is the idealistic moralist in all his beauty! His criteria are as false as the norms of bourgeois democracy – in both cases parity is supposed where in actuality there is not even a trace of it.

We will not insist here upon the fact that the Decree of 1919 led scarcely to even one execution of relatives of those commanders whose perfidy not only caused the loss of innumerable human lives but threatened the revolution itself with direct annihilation. The question in the end does not concern that. If the revolution had displayed less superfluous generosity from the very beginning, hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved. Thus, or otherwise I carry full responsibility for the Decree of 1919. It was a necessary measure in the struggle against the oppressors. Only in the historical content of the struggle lies the justification of the decree as in general the justification of the whole civil war which, too, can be called, not without foundation, “disgusting barbarism”.

We leave to some Emil Ludwig or his ilk the drawing of Abraham Lincoln’s portrait with rosy little wings. Lincoln’s significance lies in his not hesitating before the most severe means once they were found to be necessary in achieving a great historic aim posed by the development of a young nation. The question lies not even in which of the warring camps caused or itself suffered the greatest number of victims. History has different yardsticks for the cruelty of the Northerners and the cruelty of the Southerners in the Civil War. A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!

Paris Commune Image public domain"Not a few democratic Philistines… adapting themselves to reaction, slandered the Communards for shooting 64 hostages headed by the Paris archbishop" / Image: public domain

After the Paris Commune had been drowned in blood and the reactionary knaves of the whole world dragged its banner in the filth of vilification and slander, there were not a few democratic Philistines who, adapting themselves to reaction, slandered the Communards for shooting 64 hostages headed by the Paris archbishop. Marx did not hesitate a moment in defending this bloody act of the Commune. In a circular issued by the General Council of the First International, in which seethes the fiery eruption of lava, Marx first reminds us of the bourgeoisie adopting the institution of hostages in the struggle against both colonial peoples and their own toiling masses and afterwards refers to the systematic execution of the Commune captives by the frenzied reactionaries, continuing: “…the Commune, to protect their (the captives’) lives, was obliged to resort to the Prussian practice of securing hostages. The lives of the hostages had been forfeited over and over again by the continued shooting of prisoners on the part of the Versailles. How could they be spared any longer after the carnage with which MacMahon’s Praetorians celebrated their entry into Paris? Was even the last check upon the unscrupulous ferocity of bourgeois governments – the taking of hostages to be made a mere sham of?” Thus, Marx defended the execution of hostages although behind his back in the General Council sat not a few Fenner Brockways, Norman Thomases and other Otto Bauers. But so fresh was the indignation of the world proletariat against the ferocity of the Versailles that the reactionary moralistic bunglers preferred to keep silent in expectation of times more favourable to them which, alas, were not slow in appearing. Only after the definite triumph of reaction did the petty-bourgeois moralists, together with the trade union bureaucrats and the anarchist phrase-mongers destroy the First International.

When the October Revolution was defending itself against the united forces of imperialism on a 5,000-mile front, the workers of the whole world followed the course of the struggle with such ardent sympathy that in their forums it was extremely risky to indict the “disgusting barbarism” of the institution of hostages. Complete degeneration of the Soviet state and the triumph of reaction in a number of countries was necessary before the moralists crawled out of their crevices… to aid Stalin. If it is true that the reparations safeguarding the privileges of the new aristocracy have the same moral value as the revolutionary measures of the liberating struggle, then Stalin is completely justified – if… if the proletarian revolution is not completely condemned.

Seeking examples of immorality in the events of the Russian Civil War, Messrs. Moralists find themselves at the same time constrained to close their eyes to the fact that the Spanish Revolution also produced an institution of hostages, at least during that period when it was a genuine revolution of the masses. If the indicters dare not attack the Spanish workers for their “disgusting barbarism”, it is only because the ground of the Pyrennean Peninsula is still too hot for them. It is considerably more convenient to return to 1919. This is already history, the old men have forgotten and the young ones have not yet learned. For the same reason Pharisees of various hues return to Kronstadt and Makhno with such obstinacy – here exists a free outlet for moral effluvia!

Morality of the Kaffirs

It is impossible not to agree with the moralists that history chooses grievous pathways. But what type of conclusion for practical activity is to be drawn from this? Leo Tolstoy recommended that we ignore the social conventions and perfect ourselves. Mahatma Ghandi advises that we drink goat’s milk. Alas, the ‘revolutionary’ moralists of Neuer Weg did not drift far from these recipes. “We should free ourselves,” they preach, “from those morals of the Kaffirs to whom only what the enemy does is wrong.” Excellent advice! “We should free ourselves, Tolstoy recommended, in addition, that we free ourselves from the sins of the flesh. However, statistics fail to confirm the success of his recommendation. Our centrist mannequins have succeeded in elevating themselves to supra-class morality in a class society. But almost 2,000 years have passed since it was stated: “Love your enemies”, “Offer also the other cheek… ” However, even the Holy Roman father so far has not “freed himself” from hatred against his enemies. Truly, Satan, the enemy of mankind, is powerful!

To apply different criteria to the actions of the exploiters and the exploited signifies, according to these pitiful mannequins, standing on the level of the “morals of the Kaffirs”. First of all, such a contemptuous reference to the Kaffirs is hardly proper from the pen of ‘socialists’. Are the morals of the Kaffirs really so bad? Here is what the Encyclopedia Britannica says upon the subject:

“In their social and political relations they display great tact and intelligence; they are remarkably brave, warlike, and hospitable, and were honest and truthful until through contact with the whites they became suspicious, revengeful and thievish, besides acquiring most European vices.”

It is impossible not to arrive at the conclusion that white missionaries, preachers of eternal morals, participated in the corruption of the Kaffirs.

If we should tell the toiler-Kaffir how the workers arose in a part of our planet and caught their exploiters unawares, he would be very pleased. On the other hand, he would be chagrined to discover that the oppressors had succeeded in deceiving the oppressed. A Kaffir who has not been demoralized by missionaries to the marrow of his bones will never apply one and the same abstract moral norms to the oppressors and the oppressed. Yet he will easily comprehend an explanation that it is the function of these abstract norms to prevent the oppressed from arising against their oppressors.

What an instructive coincidence: in order to slander the Bolsheviks, the missionaries of Neuer Weg were compelled at the same time to slander the Kaffirs; moreover, in both cases, the slander follows the line of the official bourgeois lie: against revolutionists and against the coloured races. No, we prefer the Kaffirs to all missionaries, both spiritual and secular!

It is not necessary in any case, however, to overestimate the conscientiousness of the moralists of Neuer Weg and other cul-de-sacs. The intentions of these people are not so bad. But despite these intentions, they serve as levers in the mechanics of reaction. In such a period as the present when the petty-bourgeois parties who cling to the liberal bourgeoisie or its shadow (the politics of the ‘Peoples’ Front’) paralyze the proletariat and pave the road for Fascism (Spain, France… ), the Bolsheviks, that is, revolutionary Marxists, become especially odious figures in the eyes of bourgeois public opinion. The fundamental political pressure of our time shifts from right to left. In the final analysis, the whole weight of reaction bears down upon the shoulders of a tiny revolutionary minority. This minority is called the Fourth International. Voila l’ennemi! There is the enemy!

In the mechanics of reaction Stalinism occupies many leading positions. All groupings of bourgeois society, including the anarchists, utilise its aid in the struggle against the proletarian revolution. At the same time, the petty-bourgeois democrats attempt, at least to the extent of fifty percent, to cast the repulsiveness of the crimes of its Moscow ally upon the indomitable revolutionary minority. Herein lies the sense of the now stylish dictum: ‘Trotskyism and Stalinism are one and the same.’ The adversaries of the Bolsheviks and the Kaffirs thus aid reaction in slandering the party of revolution.

The ‘amoralism’ of Lenin

The Russian ‘Socialist Revolutionaries’ were always the most moral individuals: essentially, they were composed of ethics alone. This did not prevent them, however, at the time of revolution, from deceiving the Russian peasants. In the Parisian organ of Kerensky, that very ethical socialist who was the forerunner of Stalin in manufacturing spurious accusations against the Bolsheviks, another old ‘Socialist Revolutionary’ Zenzinov writes:

“Lenin, as is known, taught that for the sake of gaining the desired ends communists can, and sometimes must ‘resort to all sorts of devices, manoeuvres and subterfuge…’” (New Russia, February 17, 1938, p.3)

From this, they draw the ritualistic conclusion: Stalinism is the natural offspring of Leninism.

Unfortunately, the ethical indicter is not even capable of quoting honestly. Lenin said:

“It is necessary to be able… to resort to all sorts of devices, manoeuvres, and illegal methods, to evasion and subterfuge, in order to penetrate into the trade unions, to remain in them, and to carry on communist work in then at all costs.”

The necessity for evasion and manoeuvres, according to Lenin’s explanation, is called forth by the fact that the reformist bureaucracy, betraying the workers to capital, baits revolutionists, persecutes them, and even resorts to turning the bourgeois police upon them. “Manoeuvres and subterfuge” are in this case only methods of valid self-defence against the perfidious reformist bureaucracy.

Lenin morals Image public domain"The ‘amoralism’ of Lenin, that is, his rejection of supra-class morals, did not hinder him from remaining faithful to one and the same ideal throughout his whole life; from devoting his whole being to the cause of the oppressed" / Image: public domain

The party of this very Zenzinov once carried on illegal work against Czarism, and later – against the Bolsheviks. In both cases, it resorted to craftiness, evasion, false passports and other forms of “subterfuge”. All these means were considered not only ‘ethical’ but also heroic because they corresponded to political aims of the petty bourgeoisie. But the situation changes at once when proletarian revolutionists are forced to resort to conspirative measures against the petty-bourgeois democracy. The key to the morality of these gentlemen has, as we see, a class character!

The ‘amoralist’ Lenin openly, in the press, gives advice concerning military craftiness against perfidious leaders. And the moralist Zenzinov maliciously chops both ends from the quotation in order to deceive the reader: the ethical indicter is proved as usual a petty swindler. Not for nothing was Lenin fond of repeating: it is very difficult to meet a conscientious adversary!

A worker who does not conceal the ‘truth’ about the strikers’ plans from the capitalists is simply a betrayer deserving contempt and boycott. The soldier who discloses the ‘truth’ to the enemy is punished as a spy. Kerensky tried to lay at the Bolsheviks’ door the accusation of having disclosed the ‘truth’ to Ludendorff’s staff. It appears that even the ‘holy truth’ is not an end in itself. More imperious criteria which, as analysis demonstrates, carry a class character, rule over it.

The life and death struggle is unthinkable without military craftiness, in other words, without lying and deceit. May the proletariat then not deceive Hitler’s police? Or perhaps Soviet Bolsheviks have an ‘immoral’ attitude when they deceive the GPU? Every pious bourgeois applauds the cleverness of police who succeed through craftiness in seizing a dangerous gangster. Is military craftiness really permissible when the question concerns the overthrow of the gangsters of imperialism?

Norman Thomas speaks about “that strange communist amorality in which nothing matters but the party and its power” (Socialist Call, March 12, 1938, p.5). Moreover, Thomas throws into one heap the present Comintern, that is, the conspiracy of the Kremlin bureaucracy against the working class, with the Bolshevik Party, which represented a conspiracy of the advanced workers against the bourgeoisie. This thoroughly dishonest juxtaposition has already been sufficiently exposed above. Stalinism merely screens itself under the cult of the party; actually, it destroys and tramples the party in filth. It is true, however, that to a Bolshevik the party is everything. The drawing-room socialist, Thomas, is surprised by and rejects a similar relationship between a revolutionist and revolution because he himself is only a bourgeois with a socialist ‘ideal’. In the eyes of Thomas and his kind, the party is only a secondary instrument for electoral combinations and other similar uses, not more. His personal life, interests, ties, moral criteria exist outside the party. With hostile astonishment, he looks down upon the Bolshevik to whom the party is a weapon for the revolutionary reconstruction of society, including also its morality. To a revolutionary Marxist there can be no contradiction between personal morality and the interests of the party, since the party embodies in his consciousness the very highest tasks and aims of mankind. It is naive to imagine that Thomas has a higher understanding of morality than the Marxists. He merely has a base conception of the party.

“All that arises is worthy of perishing,” says the dialectician, Goethe. The destruction of the Bolshevik party – an episode in world reaction – does not, however, disparage its world-wide historic significance. In the period of its revolutionary ascendance, that is, when it actually represented the proletarian vanguard, it was the most honest party in history. Wherever it could, it, of course, deceived the class enemies; on the other hand, it told the toilers the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Only thanks to this did it succeed in winning their trust to a degree never before achieved by any other party in the world.

The clerks of the ruling classes call the organizers of this party “amoralists”. In the eyes of conscious workers, this accusation carries a complimentary character. It signifies: Lenin refused to recognise moral norms established by slave-owners for their slaves and never observed by the slave-owners themselves; he called upon the proletariat to extend the class struggle into the moral sphere too. Whoever fawns before precepts established by the enemy will never vanquish that enemy!

The ‘amoralism’ of Lenin, that is, his rejection of supra-class morals, did not hinder him from remaining faithful to one and the same ideal throughout his whole life; from devoting his whole being to the cause of the oppressed; from displaying the highest conscientiousness in the sphere of ideas and the highest fearlessness in the sphere of action, from maintaining an attitude untainted by the least superiority to an ‘ordinary’ worker, to a defenseless woman, to a child. Does it not seem that ‘amoralism’ in the given case is only a pseudonym for higher human morality?

An instructive episode

Here it is proper to relate an episode which, in spite of its modest dimensions, does not badly illustrate the difference between their morals and ours. In 1935, through a letter to my Belgian friends, I developed the conception that the attempt of a young revolutionary party to organize “its own” trade unions is equivalent to suicide. It is necessary to find the workers where they are. But this means paying dues in order to sustain an opportunist apparatus? “Of course,” I replied, “for the right to undermine the reformists it is necessary temporarily to pay them a contribution.” But reformists will not permit us to undermine them? “True,” I answered, “undermining demands conspirative measures. Reformists are the political police of the bourgeoisie within the working class. We must act without their permission, and against their interdiction… " Through an accidental raid on comrade D.’s home in connection, if I am not mistaken, with the matter of supplying arms for the Spanish workers, the Belgian police seized my letter. Within several days it was published. The press of Vandervelde, De Man, and Spaak did not of course spare lightning against my “Machiavellianism” and “Jesuitism”. And who are these accusers? Vandervelde, president for many years of the Second International, long ago became a trusted servant of Belgian capital. De Man, who in a series of ponderous tomes ennobled socialism with idealistic morals, making overtures to religion, seized the first suitable occasion in which to betray the workers and became a common bourgeois minister. Even more lovely is Spaak’s case. A year and a half previously this gentleman belonged to the left-socialist opposition and came to me in France for advice upon the methods of struggle against Vandervelde’s bureaucracy. I set forth the same conceptions, which later constituted my letter. But within a year after his visit, Spaak rejected the thorns for the roses. Betraying his comrades of the opposition, he became one of the most cynical ministers of Belgian capital. In the trade unions and in their own party these gentlemen stifle every critical voice, systematically corrupt and bribe the most advanced workers and just as systematically expel the refractory ones. They are distinguished from the GPU only by the fact that they have not yet resorted to spilling blood – as good patriots they husband the workers’ blood for the next imperialist war. Obviously – one must be a most hellish abomination, a moral deformation, a “Kaffir”, a Bolshevik, in order to advise the revolutionary workers to observe the precepts of conspiracy in the struggle against these gentlemen!

Trotsky Belgium Image public domain"Reformists are the political police of the bourgeoisie within the working class. We must act without their permission, and against their interdiction" / Image: public domain

From the point of view of the Belgian laws, my letter did not of course contain anything criminal. The duty of the ‘democratic’ police was to return the letter to the addressee with an apology. The duty of the socialist party was to protest against the raid, which had been dictated by concern over General Franco’s interests. But Messrs. Socialists were not at all shy at utilizing the indecent police service without this they could not have enjoyed the happy occasion of once more exposing the superiority of their morals over the amoralism of the Bolsheviks.

Everything is symbolical in this episode. The Belgian social-democrats dumped the buckets of their indignation upon me exactly while their Norwegian co-thinkers held me and my wife under lock and key in order to prevent us from defending ourselves against the accusations of the GPU. The Norwegian government well knew that the Moscow accusations were spurious: the social-democratic, semi-official newspaper affirmed this openly during the first days. But Moscow touched the Norwegian ship-owners and fish merchants on the pocketbook – and Messrs. Social-Democrats immediately flopped down on all fours. The leader of the party, Martin Tranmel, is not only an authority in the moral sphere but openly a righteous person: he does not drink, does not smoke, does not indulge in meat and in winter bathes in an ice hole. This did not hinder him, after he had arrested us upon the order of the GPU, from especially inviting a Norwegian agent of the GPU, one Jacob Fries – a bourgeois without honour or conscience — to calumniate me. But enough…

The morals of these gentlemen consist of conventional precepts and turns of speech, which are supposed to screen their interests, appetites and fears. In the majority, they are ready for any baseness – rejection of convictions, perfidy, betrayal – in the name of ambition or cupidity. In the holy sphere of personal interests, the end to them justifies any means. But it is precisely because of this that they require special codes of morals, durable, and at the same time elastic, like good suspenders. They detest anyone who exposes their professional secrets to the masses. In ‘peaceful’ times their hatred is expressed in slander – in Billingsgate or ‘philosophical’ language. In times of sharp social conflicts, as in Spain, these moralists, hand in hand with the GPU, murder revolutionists. In order to justify themselves, they repeat: “Trotskyism and Stalinism are one and the same.”

Dialectic interdependence of end and means

A means can be justified only by its end. But the end in its turn needs to be justified. From the Marxist point of view, which expresses the historical interests of the proletariat, the end is justified if it leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man.

“We are to understand then that in achieving this end anything is permissible?” sarcastically demands the Philistine, demonstrating that he understood nothing. That is permissible, we answer, which really leads to the liberation of mankind. Since this end can be achieved only through revolution, the liberating morality of the proletariat of necessity is endowed with a revolutionary character. It irreconcilably counteracts not only religious dogma but every kind of idealistic fetish, these philosophic gendarmes of the ruling class. It deduces a rule for conduct from the laws of the development of society, thus primarily from the class struggle, this law of all laws.

“Just the same,” the moralist continues to insist, “does it mean that in the class struggle against capitalists all means are permissible: lying, frame-up, betrayal, murder, and so on?” Permissible and obligatory are those and only those means, we answer, which unite the revolutionary proletariat, fill their hearts with irreconcilable hostility to oppression, teach them contempt for official morality and its democratic echoers, imbue them with consciousness of their own historic mission, raise their courage and spirit of self-sacrifice in the struggle. Precisely from this, it flows that not all means are permissible. When we say that the end justifies the means, then for us the conclusion follows that the great revolutionary end spurns those base means and ways, which set one part of the working class against other parts, or attempt to make the masses happy without their participation; or lower the faith of the masses in themselves and their organization, replacing it by worship for the ‘leaders’. Primarily and irreconcilably, revolutionary morality rejects servility in relation to the bourgeoisie and haughtiness in relation to the toilers, that is, those characteristics in which petty-bourgeois pedants and moralists are thoroughly steeped.

These criteria do not, of course, give a ready answer to the question as to what is permissible and what is not permissible in each separate case. There can be no such automatic answers. Problems of revolutionary morality are fused with the problems of revolutionary strategy and tactics. The living experience of the movement under the clarification of theory provides the correct answer to these problems.

Dialectical materialism does not know dualism between means and end. The end flows naturally from the historical movement. Organically the means are subordinated to the end. The immediate end becomes the means for a further end. In his play, Franz von Sickingen, Ferdinand Lassalle puts the following words into the mouth of one of the heroes:

… “Show not the goal

But show also the path. So closely interwoven

Are path and goal that each with other

Ever changes, and other paths forthwith

Another goal set up.”

Lassalle’s lines are not at all perfect. Still worse is the fact that in practical politics Lassalle himself diverged from the above-expressed precept – it is sufficient to recall that he went as far as secret agreements with Bismark! But the dialectic interdependence between means and end is expressed entirely correctly in the above-quoted sentences. Seeds of wheat must be sown in order to yield an ear of wheat.

Is individual terror, for example, permissible or impermissible from the point of view of ‘pure morals’? In this abstract form, the question does not exist at all for us. Conservative Swiss bourgeois even now render official praise to the terrorist William Tell. Our sympathies are fully on the side of Irish, Russian, Polish or Hindu terrorists in their struggle against national and political oppression. The assassinated Kirov, a rude satrap, does not call forth any sympathy. Our relation to the assassin remains neutral only because we know not what motives guided him. If it became known that Nikolayev acted as a conscious avenger for workers’ rights trampled upon by Kirov, our sympathies would be fully on the side of the assassin. However, not the question of subjective motives but that of objective expediency has for us the decisive significance. Are the given means really capable of leading to the goal? In relation to individual terror, both theory and experience bear witness that such is not the case. To the terrorist we say: it is impossible to replace the masses; only in the mass movement can you find expedient expression for your heroism. However, under conditions of civil war, the assassination of individual oppressors ceases to be an act of individual terror. If, we shall say, a revolutionist bombed General Franco and his staff into the air, it would hardly evoke moral indignation even from the democratic eunuchs. Under the conditions of civil war, a similar act would be politically completely expedient. Thus, even in the sharpest question – murder of man by man – moral absolutes prove futile. Moral evaluations, together with those political, flow from the inner needs of struggle.

The liberation of the workers can come only through the workers themselves. There is, therefore, no greater crime than deceiving the masses, palming off defeats as victories, friends as enemies, bribing workers’ leaders, fabricating legends, staging false trials, in a word, doing what the Stalinists do. These means can serve only one end: lengthening the domination of a clique already condemned by history. But they cannot serve to liberate the masses. That is why the Fourth International leads against Stalinism a life and death struggle.

October Revolution morality Image public domain"The liberation of the workers can come only through the workers themselves. There is, therefore, no greater crime than deceiving the masses, palming off defeats as victories, friends as enemies, bribing workers’ leaders, fabricating legends, staging false trials, in a word, doing what the Stalinists do" / Image: public domain

The masses, of course, are not at all impeccable. Idealisation of the masses is foreign to us. We have seen them under different conditions, at different stages and in addition in the biggest political shocks. We have observed their strong and weak sides. Their strong side-resoluteness, self-sacrifice, heroism – has always found its clearest expression in times of revolutionary upsurge. During this period the Bolsheviks headed the masses. Afterward, a different historical chapter loomed when the weak side of the oppressed came to the forefront: heterogeneity, insufficiency of culture, narrowness of world outlook. The masses tired of the tension, became disillusioned, lost faith in themselves – and cleared the road for the new aristocracy. In this epoch the Bolsheviks (‘Trotskyists’) found themselves isolated from the masses. Practically we went through two such big historic cycles: 1897-1905, years of flood tide; 1907-1913 years of the ebb; 1917-1923, a period of upsurge unprecedented in history; finally, a new period of reaction, which has not ended even today. In these immense events the ‘Trotskyists’ learned the rhythm of history, that is, the dialectics of the class struggle. They also learned, it seems, and to a certain degree successfully, how to subordinate their subjective plans and programs to this objective rhythm. They learned not to fall into despair over the fact that the laws of history do not depend upon their individual tastes and are not subordinated to their own moral criteria. They learned to subordinate their individual desires to the laws of history. They learned not to become frightened by the most powerful enemies if their power is in contradiction to the needs of historical development. They know how to swim against the stream in the deep conviction that the new historic flood will carry them to the other shore. Not all will reach that shore, many will drown. But to participate in this movement with open eyes and with an intense will – only this can give the highest moral satisfaction to a thinking being!

P.S. – I wrote these lines during those days when my son struggled, unknown to me, with death. I dedicate to his memory this small work which, I hope, would have met with his approval – Leon Sedoff was a genuine revolutionist and despised the Pharisees. – L.T.

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