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Jacob Sverdlov



by Leon Trotsky (March 13, 1927)


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[First printed in Fourth International, November 1946. Reprinted in Young Spartacus Summer 1980]


[Revolutionary Regroupment: In this short extract Leon Trotsky discusses loyalty (following Lenin's denunciation of Stalin for disloyalty), that is the important of strict honesty amongst comrades as an important virtue in anyone who claims to be a revolutionary. With so many former revolutionaries first degenerating precisely on this question,we concure with Trotsky on it's vital importance as a principle for the revolutinary movement. Those who fail the test of loyalty/truth, like Stalin, or on a lesser scale quantitatively (not qualitatively), the International Bolshevik Tendency leadership and it's cronies

see for example

and Pedro Abreu's, Rodolfo Kaleb's and Marcio Torres's recent split in Rio from Revolutionary Regroupment

see for example

definiteively prove themselves, in practice, morally unfit for membership in the revolutionary movement.

It takes strength to remain true to principle faceing both the personal and political pressures of engaging in revolutionary politics in bourgois society. Discounting the hacks who never belonged in the socialist movement in the fisrt place, loss of loyalty in former revolutionaries is indeed at the end a loss of revolutionary will and determination. As Trotsky concluded of Sedov "The secret of his art was simple: to be guided by the interests of the cause and that only. No one of the Party workers had any fear of intrigues creeping down from the Party staff. The basis of this authority of Sverdlov’s was loyalty." In groups like the degenerated IBT and Rio split, having observed each other lie against and to others (internally and externally) numerous times, mutual distrust, collective knife sharpening behind each others backs and the like are the unspoken/informal rule, never the exception as the liars sometimes try to convince themselves, or sometimes others when backed into a corner and forced to acknowledged verbally a "mistake: (real mistakes though are based on false information of false analysis. not deliberate and calculated deceit). On this New Years Eve 2015, Revolutionary Regroupment reafirms it's committment to revolutionary honesty, and feirce opposition to the counterrevolutionary lie as a key issue in the rebuilding of the future revolutionary movement.]



Up to the spring of 1919 the chief organizer of the Party had been Sverdlov. He did not have the name of General Secretary, a name which was then not yet invented, but he was that in reality. Sverdlov died at the age of 34 in March 1919, from the so-called Spanish fever. In the spread of the civil war and the epidemic, mowing people down right and left, the Party hardly realized the weight of this loss. In two funeral speeches Lenin gave an appraisal of Sverdlov which throws a reflected but very clear light also upon his later relations with Stalin. “In the course of our revolution, in its victories,” Lenin said, “it fell to Sverdlov to express more fully and more wholly than anybody else the very essence of the proletarian revolution.” Sverdlov was “before all and above all an organizer.” From a modest underground worker, neither theoretician nor writer, there grew up in a short time an organizer who acquired irreproachable authority, an organizer of the whole Soviet power in Russia, and an organizer of the work of the Party unique in his understanding .” Lenin had no taste for the exaggerations of anniversary or funeral panegyrics. His appraisal of Sverdlov was at the same time a characterization of the task of the organizer: “Only thanks to the fact that we had such an organizer as Sverdlov were we able in war times to work as though we had not one single conflict worth speaking of.”


So it was in fact. In conversations with Lenin in those days we remarked more than once, and with ever renewed satisfaction, one of the chief conditions of our success: the unity and solidarity of the governing group. In spite of the dreadful pressure of events and difficulties, the novelty of the problems, and sharp practical disagreements occasionally bursting out, the work proceeded with extraordinary smoothness and friendliness, and without interruptions. With a brief word we would recall episodes of the old revolutions. “No, it is better with us.” “This alone guarantees our victory.” The solidarity of the center had been prepared by the whole history of Bolshevism, and was kept up by the unquestioned authority of the leaders, and above all of Lenin. But in the inner mechanics of this unexampled unanimity the chief technician had been Sverdlov. The secret of his art was simple: to be guided by the interests of the cause and that only. No one of the Party workers had any fear of intrigues creeping down from the Party staff. The basis of this authority of Sverdlov’s was loyalty.


Having tested out mentally all the Party leaders, Lenin in his funeral speech drew the practical conclusion: “Such a man we can never replace, if by replacement we mean the possibility of finding one comrade combining such qualities ... The work which he did alone can now be accomplished only by a whole group of men who, following in his footsteps, will carry on his service?” These words were not rhetorical, but a strictly practical proposal. And the proposal was carried out. Instead of a single Secretary, there was appointed a collegium of three persons.


From these words of Lenin it is evident, even to those unacquainted with the history of the Party, that during the life of Sverdlov Stalin played no leading role in the Party machinery – either at the time of the October Revolution or in the period of laying the foundations and walls of the Soviet state. Stalin was also not included in the first Secretariat which replaced Sverdlov.