The Communist International
Death of Lenin to the Formation of the Grand Alliance
Part One: Trotsky and Bukharin

Lenin's death left everything about the revolution up in the air. It was only Trotsky's hold over the army which kept the situation from spiralling out of control. With Lenin dead, Trotsky invariably held all power in the Party, as he held the full loyalty and confidence of the Old Bolsheviks and the RKKA alike. There were men opposed to him; but Bukharin (still very much in the left wing of the party anyway) was co-opted and the rested were ruthlessly crushed, with only the smallest of delays in the progress of the war against the counter-revolutionaries following.

Trotsky was brutally pragmatic in military operations, even as politically he remained a strict ideologue. Eventually, however, military operations came to dictate every facet of the Communist Party and so it was that general sacrifices were made in the programme of socialization in sake of the development of a strong military machine. These decisions were made from nearly the start. With the Poles at the gates of Kiev and Kolchak standing behind the Amur, Wrangel in the Crimean and the Draka on the move in Central Asia, along with the uncertain allegiance of Brusilov's Transcaucasian Army, a myriad of threats confronted the new USSR even after the main threats to the state—the Czech Legion in Orenburg and the Don Cossacks operating with Alexeev—had been defeated, and the foreign armies driven out.

Let us consider the military successes of Leon Davidovich Trotsky for a moment, to put in context what followed. In mid and late 1918 the revolution was in a desperate position. It controlled scarcely Moscow, Petrograd, and the territory between the two cities; the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazan, most of the Volga valley, Archangelsk, all of the great east, they were under the control of counterrevolutionaries. Trotsky counterattacked; he was a general without any experience, and many of said that he had no particular tactical or strategic ability. This we would deny; he certainly had ability in those fields, though not exceptional ability. But none would deny the two fields in which Trotsky was the master of the era of the First World War: Logistics and Motivation.

“When a regiment flees from battle, let the two men who are shot be first the commissar, and then the commander,” Trotsky commanded, with a sense as to who must stand firm in a military as old as organized fighting itself, which all his successors as rulers of the Soviet Union did well to remember. Secondly, Trotsky was simply a presence. He fought from the front, arriving at every critical point upon his armoured train.

From the desperate victory at Svyazhsk the tide turned. There had Trotsky decoupled the engines from his armoured train and remained, even when he sat with only Slavin in a smoke-filled, deserted room, a map across their laps, every man of his staff having been sent with a rifle to join the clerks, wireless operators, hospital workers, and his red guard, to man the lines along the railroad track which stood as the last, thin chance of survival for the Bolshevik position—and they held, bullets whistling through the streets of the town, until Fifth Army had taken Kazan and cut off the Whites who were pressing Svyazhsk so desperately. From that desperate victory came everything that followed; so first there was Trotsky's ironclad will and refusal to be pushed back, and then his skill at logistics followed, and the result became inevitable.

White Generals who scarcely understood how a railroad worked, and still fundamentally were functioning in what they envisioned as a Napoleonic environment, were overcome by Trotsky's indefatigable spirit and his almost superhuman ability to marshal resources to exactly where they were needed. Trotsky won the Civil War on railroads, and the rush of his armoured train the Predrevoyensoviet along the rails of the USSR was just the outward symbol of the hundreds of freight trains and troop trains that won the war for him. Trotsky's campaign against the army of Alexander Kolchak was where the epic grew irrestible. Across thousands of miles of barren waste, spanned by a single rail-line, he arranged for the direction of fourty trains a day in each direction, one or another roaring along the line every eighteen minutes.

Trotsky boldly challenged the Japanese puppet state of Qing Manchuria, flung the forces supported by his excellent logistical preparations over that border, and outflanked Kolchak's defences on the Amur, forging a path with his armoured trains through Manchuria for the RKKA to follow, and collapsing Kolchak's position before the Japanese could effectually intervene. In the border skirmishes with the Manchu army and their Japanese allies that followed (and it was these that, ironically, led to the tightening of Japanese control over the Manchus), Mikhail Frunze proved himself as a worthy second to Trotsky, and on this campaign was Tukhachevsky's genius first shown, leading to his immediate appointment as commander of the Donbass Front immediately after the campaign had concluded.

It was the job of the Donbass Front to hold off Wrangel as Trotsky concentrated the forces of the RKKA for the repulse of Pilsudski's Poles, and here Tukhachevsky succeeded with an improvised force scarcely the size of a regular army, consisting primarily of untrained coal miners thrown right into the front line. But Tukhachevsky's greatest talent, it would turn out, was training and preparation, and here he did not fail his men, nor the Supreme Commander of the Revolution. Trotsky drove the Poles back simultaneous to the conducting of negotiations with Finland that led to the arrangement of a peace on that front with Mannerheim; both actions were handled from his austere office on the Predrevoyensoviet.

Pilsudski's forces were defeated, and from the moment that Tukhachevsky heard of this news, he launched his own counter-attack against Wrangel. The position of the White Armies in the south collapsed, and they retreated in disorder to the Crimean. A counterattack against the Poles, the overthrow of Wrangel in the Crimean, these were next on Trotsky's list. But then came the grim news; the power of the Central Asian states had been broken by the Draka, and they were driving toward Almy-Ata; at the same time, they had opened the attack against Brusilov's Transcaucasian Army.

Revolutions are only made in blood, but Trotsky knew that for any particular reason, nominal class-enemies might be made to aide the revolution for petty and irrational causes against their own interest. In light of this understanding, Trotsky had already fielded 80,000 Tsarist officers in the RKKA; now he turned to Brusilov, and made a deal against the greater threat of the Drakian offensive:

Full pardons, all officers and officials commissioned on current ranks or to their closest equivalents in the Soviet system, and a united front against the Draka. A loyalty oath was demanded to the government of the Soviet Union; Trotsky traveled south to receive this himself, the Predrevoyensoviet racing to Trabzond and then to Erzurum, to the front where Brusilov stood. Along the way it was involved in the fighting along the rail-line which stood back but twenty kilometers from the front, and less in some places, and on arrival Trotsky and Brusilov at once cooperated. Brusilov, the greatest of the Tsarist Generals, and Trotsky, the master logistician, complemented each other perfectly.

Erzurum, Trabzond, and Tabriz were lost, but Batum and Kars were held, and the Baku oil fields were saved. This was the result of their effort; and it may be claimed without a blush that the greatest majority of the population willing to evacuate from those areas was successfully evacuated, and that every ethnicity of the area cooperated with the intense fervour of revolutionary spirit, down to the Janissaries from the 1917 revolt who had now come to fight under the Red Banner of Lenin. In Central Asia, Mikhail Frunze had been sent to carefully prepare Almy-Ata for a set-piece battle. Trenches had been dug. Remnants of the armies of the Turkomen Republic, the Khan of Khiva, and the Emir of Bukhara, had been integrated into the RKKA. Supplies had been stockpiled. The railhead which terminated in Almy-Ata was abuz with activity, and heavy guns were brought in mounted on railroad carriages which could range against the Drakian rear areas.

Despite it all, the Draka broke through the lines. But where disaster loomed, Trotsky was there. Again Predrevoyensoviet raced forward; and again the engines were uncoupled in the marshalling yard of Almy-Ata. Trotsky would not leave the city. The defenders were ordered to fight on, street-to-street, house-to-house, room-to-room. To the Draka, it was no longer worth the effort. They abandoned the streets of artillery-blasted Almy-Ata, and appropriated the old Soviet entrenchments outside of the city as their own new border. Here, the USSR's first conflict with the Draka ended, without even a cease-fire, on account of mutual exhaustion.

The whole era of Trotsky's generalship created legends. The army under his command was one of revolutionary ardour. It did not lose battles; certainly not when Trotsky uncoupled the engines from the Predrevoyensoviet and declared that a position would be held. The Old Bolsheviks who fought under his command were legendary in themselves, for their shocking stoicism in a decripit and indulgent, hedonistic age, such as was the 1920s of the 20th century, in the painful aftermath of the First World War. They were the stories which would inspire the young men who fought in the International Brigades of the 1930s.

But states do not survive on the propaganda power of legends alone. Nor can one man have a decisive impact; Trotsky believed this himself, even though his feats suggest that he might have been wrong. But first of all, above all other things, Trotsky made the preparations for the industrial war which was that which he had fought and understood. The problem of the Dominate of Drakia, the problem of the failure of the revolution in Germany and Hungary, these things demanded explainations and it was Trotsky the Theoretician who would set the party on the path of the next twenty years, even when he himself was dead.

The problem of the Draka was, it seemed, straightforward. It was a classic feudal state, simply add industry; the problem was how the industry could have developed without the development of a middle class which would necessarily result in the rise of their power and the displacement of the harsh conditions of the peasantry in feudal society as skilled labour was required. The solution to understanding that was in Imperialism—the Draka had their industry built up by British capitalists as part of Britain's own effort at survival. The Draka were, fundamentally, the deritus of a capitalist state, not an independent and anomalous development of their own. In short, they were part of the British capitalist of Imperialism and they existed independent merely by a fluke of politics. But this demanded that they be destroyed; the Imperialist supports for the capitalist states would have to fall, but would so would the Draka, as they were, inevitably, the perfect bulwark against World Revolution.

This of course set Communism in a firm, clear-cut collision course with the Dominate. It was a necessary prerequisite of communism for the Dominate to be destroyed and the Communists made no secret of this. But they also needed to defend themselves from the Dominate in the meanwhile, and to deal with the issue of socialism. Trotsky carried the brutal conclusions out further: Socialism was impossible in practice until the supports of the capitalist system—Imperialism and the Draka—were undermined and destroyed themselves. Therefore the goal of a Bolshevik-secured state was to secure their destruction so that full socialism could be implemented. This was used as the justification for the New Economic Policy, which Trotsky accepted as the bitter pill of the wages of being able to fend off the Draka; and it was followed by the plan of forced industrialization with which to build the war machine that would ultimately destroy them. Trotsky placed the heavy industries of Russia under Central Planning and began a crash industrialization.

The result was the so-called Thunderbolt Recovery. Agrarian recovery happened so swiftly that by 1928 agricultural production in the USSR had reached 100% of pre-war levels—for a much larger Russia (though discounting Finland). At the same time Trotsky opened the main industries to a form of long term bond-investment on the part of the peasantry and the small shopkeepers with their new found prosperity; though industry remained under central planning, the average person was sufficiently trusting to commit to this, and the funds served as additional revenue along with the rapidly rising taxes to power the construction of vast industrial and infrastructure projects. In the same year the overall GDP reached 103% of the 1913 level.

The economy had been jump-started by the vigorous measures of Trotsky's central planning bureau to create a modern military-industrial complex with which to defend the revolutionary cause, and the result of this success was obvious in the general spread of support for the Third International. Trotsky's firm support for the Taiping christian-socialist regime as being the “natural expression of socialist development according to Chinese culture” had cemented anti-Imperialism behind the Red Banner, and anti-slavery groups everywhere soon became thoroughly penetrated by Soviet agents and advocating united fronts with the USSR for a general effort against the Draka.

Communism became all the rage of Europe, with Thalmann's German Communists as particularly threatening, and a series of leftist governments with communist support wielding power in Czechoslovakia and France; the anti-Communist regimes redoubled their efforts to suppress communist subversives, and reactionary elements of society turned increasingly to the Conservative Revolutionary Movement and mass-particpation corporatist fascism to hold back the tide. The communist parties were unitary and absolute in their support of, and adherence to the commands of, Moscow. There was no deviation: World Communism marched in lock-step ranks of united comrades toward the singular goal of world revolution.

But the situation of the power structure in the USSR was anything but that certain. The USSR had economically, in 1926—the year of the Second Balkan War, when the Draka made their drive to seize the straits—not yet recovered to pre-war levels, but Trotsky nonetheless felt the moment had come. The USSR must take advantage of the forging of unusual allies; debts to the Taipings must be called in the form of manpower. The world communist apparatus would be mustered for the supply of International Brigades. Refugees from Drakian-occupied areas who had by the millions been put to work providing manpower for Trotsky's new factories could send their sons and daughters (for Trotsky had observed Drakia's effective use of women in combat and unhesitatingly duplicated it) forward to the front.

Troops were mustered at the borders. Trotsky prepared to go forward in the Predrevoyensoviet as he had in his other campaigns. Then he was, abruptly, dead—far to young for it to be natural, many said. But he had lead a hard life, and illness was scarcely ruled out. The final cause will never be known; but what is known is that Bukharin followed him to power, and as Bukarin's second there was Ivan Krasnov. Krasnov, the defender of Astrakhan from the efforts of one Iosef Stalin during the abortive communist civil war following the death of Lenin, and then the Commissar of Railroads and Transportation under Trotsky, rose to power by mastering the internal political struggles of the Communist Party.

Yet in doing so he seemed to believe that he only had the best interests of the party in hand; and certainly Bukharin thought this true for the degree of trust that he placed in Krasnov. Bukharin proceeded at once to autonomize the major industries. Central Planning was ended and it would not come back for twelve years. Instead, each factory system became in essence a company 51% owned by the State, and 49% available publically; both for the internal investment of the farmers and the small-business owners who had made money through the NEP, and foreign investment. Competition between the various factories cut away the fat that had been beginning to build under Central Planning even as the Central Planning system had succeeded in jumpstarting the Soviet economy.

The result was unprecedented rises in production. In 1928 Industrial production factors rose by 15%. In 1929 they rose by 12%. As the Contraction in the western economies halted foreign investment in the USSR, 1930 saw a drop down to only 7% industrial growth; but that figure was in comparison to actual reductions in industrial production which happened in the rest of the world, and was still nearly twice as high as the Drakian figure for that year. In essence, the economics planning of Bukharin were repeating the success of Germany in industrializing in the 1860s and 1870s under the economic policy of Bismarck.

Overall economy growth in this period ranged from 5% to 7% a year; even with the drops in the early 1930s it had soon fully recovered, and in the period of 1928 – 1940 the Soviet economy averaged 6.4% yearly growth and 10.1% industrial growth. By 1940 the economy of the USSR was 2.3 times larger than the economy of Tsarist Russia in 1913, despite the loss of territory, and the percentage of GDP which was the output of the industrial sector had nearly doubled in relation to the economy as a whole in comparison to the 1913 economy; an astounding increase of a factor of x4.1 in industrial production.

The continued industrial growth through the 1930s was funded by a particular success of the USSR in this period, namely, the resumption of major-scale grain exports. This happened almost entirely due to the aide of the New Deal United States which was provided to Ivan Krasnov's USSR, including extensive cooperation with the Grangers and the voluntary efforts of many technological experts in the development of Soviet Dam and Irrigation systems and in the mass-production of tractors and other industrial farm equipment, and their distribution through cooperative organizations to the farmers to maximize their availability and the efficiency of agricultural production.

But this was a success of the Krasnov era, and that era, along with Ivan Krasnov's rise to power and the purges of ideological opponents which followed, cementing firmly a single, unified, world-wide Communist Party, are suited to be detailed in the second half of this essay, along with the events that prepared global communism for the struggle against the Draka and the sacrifices that would have to be made as part of the Grand Alliance.