Roberto Yepe writes: Dear Comrades—the theoretical journal Pensamiento Crítico here has recently published Nicolas Krassó’s article ‘Trotsky’s Marxism’, and promises Ernest Mandel’s reply ‘Trotsky: an Anti-Critique’; readers have been very concerned with it. I would like to make some comments on the debate.
Krassó’s location of Trotsky’s ‘sociologism—as the source of his weaknesses represents a considerable advance in the study of this passionate revolutionary. Trotsky’s shortcomings in his analysis of the Chinese Revolution illustrate this vividly. But Krassó’s dictum that Trotsky had ‘the virtues of his vices—is mere dialectical rhetoric. We are told that when he was first to return to Russia in 1905 and became the major revolutionary agitator in St Petersburg, this was because he represented par excellence the non-party man. Does this also explain why he arrived after Lenin in 1917? How can his theses on ‘permanent revolution—prior to October, with all the lucidity contained in them, be explained by his ‘vices’? Perhaps Lenin’s vices were all the greater, considering his indisputably greater virtues. . .
These are minor points, of course. The central defect of Krassó’s articles is their treatment of revolutions that failed. He may have a strong case with the British General Strike of 1926. But what about France and Italy? Was failure in these countries solely due to a ‘problematic’political situation there? Was the defeat of the Greek Revolution only caused by ‘Anglo-American invasion’, as Krassó states? The Vietnamese would be in a very bad way if this were an insuperable obstacle to revolutions: or do the Vietnamese victories at Saigon or Cuban victories at Playa Giron lack ‘consistent unity’?
It is true that Krassó’s prejudices are not against revolutions, but only against those which fail: he writes of the Chinese Revolution with esteem. But even this I find insulting. Can any unbiassed person claim innocence of the political leadership in the defeat of the Greek Revolution, the Filipino or many others? Were these factors foreign to social conditions, existing in a fateful, autonomous empyrean of their own? Surely material facts exist, whatever they are, and we interpret and act on them in different ways. Properly or improperly. In the case of the Communist International, everybody today agrees that there was a strong influence of the centre, which in time acquired an undue and aberrant character. Some folded to it and some did not. Others respected the rhetoric—perhaps because they believed in it in a way—and made the revolution. Praise to them: Mao. But those who did not give in have at least the right to some merit. Those who merely obeyed had value only prior to their genuflexions. Will Krassó argue that they were right in spite of them? Their virtues for their vices. I, as a Cuban, do not have so much flexibility. The chain of officialdom in the ‘churches of the left’of Latin America today is eloquent. Against them is an example where temporary failure overtook correct leadership: Che in Bolivia. Did the stroke of good
I consider all these status quo judgments on revolutions that failed as pernicious and unrepresentative of a journal that can offer an article like Göran Therborn’s ‘From Petrograd to Saigon’in the same issue. This is not to deprecate the importance of Krassó’s intellectual effort to clarify Trotsky’s words and deeds: a new and sophisticated appraisal of Trotsky is undoubtedly needed.
Nicolas Krassó replies: 1. By saying that Trotsky had the virtues of his vices I did not, of course, say that all his virtues were due to his vices.