Tasks of Communist Education (1923)

Author: 

Leon Trotsky

It is frequently asserted that the task of communist enlightenment
consists in the education of the new man. These worda
are somewhat too general, too pathetic, and we must be particularly
careful not to permit any formless. humanitarian interpretation
of the conception “new man” or the tasks of communist
education. There is no doubt whatever but that the man
of the future, the citizen of the commune, will be an exceedingly
interesting and attractive creature, and that his psychology
(the futurists will pardon me, but I fancy that the man of the
future will possess a psychology) will be very different from
ours. Our present task, unfortunately, cannot lie in the education
of the human being of the future. The Utopian and humanitarian-
psychological viewpoint is, that the new man must first
be formed, and that he will then create the new conditions. We
cannot believe this. We know that man is a product of social
conditions. But we know too that between human beings and
conditions there exists a complicated and actively working
mutual relationship. Man himself is an instrument of this historical
development, and not the least. And in this complicated
historical reflex action of the conditions experienced by active
human beings, we do not create the abstractly harmonious
and perfect citizen of the commune, but we form the concrete
human beings of our epoch, who have still to fight for the
creation of the conditions out of which the harmonious citizen
of the commune may emerge. This, of course, is a very different
thing, for the simple reason that our great-grandson, the citizen
of the commune, will be no revolutionist.

The“New Man” and the Revolutionist

At first glance this appears to be wrong, it sounds almost
insulting. And yet it is so. The conception “revolutionist” is
permeated by the highest ideals and morals which we have
taken over from the whole preceding epoch of cultural evolution.
Thus it would seem that we cast an aspersion on our
posterity when we do not think of them as revolutionists. But
we must not forget that the revolutionist is a product of definite
historical conditions, a product of class society. The revolutionist
is no psychologicalabstraction.Revolutionin itself is no
abstract principle, but a material historical fact, growing out
of class antagonisms,out of the violent subjectionof one class
by another. Thus the revolutionistis a concretehistorical type,
and in consequencea temporary type. We are proud of belonging
to this type. But by means of our work we are creating the
conditionsof a social order in which no class antagonismswill
exist, no revolutions,and thus no revolutionists.It is true that
we can extend the meaning of the word “revolutionist”until it
comprisesthe whole consciousactivity of man directed towards
the subjectionof nature, and towardsthe expansionof technical
and cultural gains. But we have no right to make such an
abstraction, such a limitless extension of the conception “revo.
Iutionist,” for we have by no means fulfilled our concrete
historical revolutionary task, the overthrow of class society.

Consequently, we are far from being required to educate the
harmonious citizen of the commune, forming him by careful
laboratory work, in an extremely disharmonious transition stage
of society. Such an undertaking would be a wretchedly childish
Utopia. What we want to make is champions, revolutionist
who will inherit and complete our historical traditions, which
we have not yet carried to a conclusion.

Revolutionand Mysticism

What are the main characteristics of the revolutionist? It
must be emphasized that we have no right to separate the
revolutionist from the class basis upon which he has evolve&
and without which he is nothing. The revolutionist of our epoch
who can only be associated with the working class, possesses
his special psychological characteristics, characteristics of intellect
and will. If it is necessary and possible, the revolutionist
shatters the historical obstructions, resorting to force for the
purpose. If this is not possible, then he makes a detour, undermines
and crushes, patiently and determinedly. He is a revo.
lutionist because he does not fear to shatter obstacles and
relentlessly to employ force; at the same time he knows its
historical value. It is his constant endeavor to maintain his
destructive and creative work at their highest pitch of activity,
that is, to obtain from the given historical conditions the
maximum which they are capable of yielding for the forward
movement of the revolutiona.q class.

The revolutionist knows on’ly external obstacles to his activity,
no internal ones. That is: he has to develop within himself
the capacity of estimating the arena of his activity in all its
concreteness, with its positive and negative aspects, and to
strike a correct political balance. But if he is internally hampered
by subjective hindrances to action, if he is lacking in
understanding or will power, if he is paralyzed by internal
discord, by religious, national, or craft prejudices, then he is
at best only half a revolutionist. There are too many obstacles
in the objective conditions already, and the revolutionist cannot
allow himself the luxury of multiplying the objective
hindrances and frictions by subjective ones. Therefore the education
of the revolutionist must, above all, consist in his
emancipation from that residue of ignorance and superstition,
which is frequently found in a very “sensitive”consciousness.
And therefore we adopt a ruthlessly irreconcilable attitude to
anyonewho utters a single word to the effect that mysticismor
religious sentimentality might be combined with communism.

Religiousness is irreconcilable with the Marxist standpoint.We
are of the opinion that atheism, as an inseparable element of
the materialist view of life is a necessary condition for the
theoretical education of the revolutionist.He who believes in
another world is not capable of concentratingall his passion
on the transformation of this one.

Darwinism and Marxism

Even if Darwin, as he himself asserted, did not lose his
belief in God for all his rejection of the biblical theory of
creation,Darwinismitself is none the less entirely irreconcilable
with this belief. In this, as in other respects, Darwinism is a
forerunner, a preparation for Marxism. Taken in a broadly
materialist and dialectic sense, Marxism is the application of
Darwinism to human society. Manchester liberalism has at August
tempted to fit Darwinism mechanically into sociology. Such
attemptshave only led to childish analogiesveiling a malicious
bourgeois apologia: Marx’s competition was explained as the
“eternal” law of the struggle for existence. These are absurdities.

It is only the inner connection between Darwinism and
Marxism which makes it possible to grasp the living flow of
being in its primeval connection with inorganic nature; in its
further particularization and evolution; in its dynamics; in the
differentiation of the necessities of life among the first elementary
varieties of the vegetable and animal kingdoms; in its
strug@s; in the appearance of the “first” man or manlike
creature, making use of the first tool; in the development’of
primitive cooperation, employing associative organs; in the
further stratification of society consequenton the development
of the meansof production,that is, of the means of subjugating
nature; in class warfare; an~ finally, in the struggle for the
uplift of the classes.

To comprehend the world from such a broad point of view
signifiesthe emancipationof man’s consciousnessfor the first
time from the residue of mysticism,and the securing of a firm
foothold.It signifiesbeing quite clear on the point that for the
future there are no inner subjectivehindrances to the struggle,
but that the sole existing obstaclesand reactions are external,
and have to be overcomein various ways, according to the
conditions of the conflict.

How often we have said: “Practice wins in the end.” This is
correct in the sense that the collective experience of a class,
and of the whole of humanity, gradually sweeps away the
illusions and false theories based on hasty generalizations.But
it may be said with equal truth: “Theory wins in the end,”
when we understand by this that theory in reality comprises
the total experience of humanity. Seen from this standpoin~
the oppositionbetweentheory and practice vanishes,for theory
is nothing else than correctly consideredand generalized pyactice.
Theory does not defeat practice, but the thoughtless
empirical, crude attitude to it. In order to be able properly to
estimatethe conditionsof the struggle,the situation of our own
class, we must possess a reliable method of political and
historical orientation. This is Marxism, or, with respect to the
latest epoch, Leninism. .

Marx and Lenin—these are our two supreme guides in the
sphere of social research. For the younger generation the way
to Marx is through Lenin. The straight road becomesincreasingly
difficult, for the period is too long which separates the
rising generation from the genius of those who founded scientific
socialism,Marx and Engels. Leninism is the highest embodimentand
condensationof Marxismfor direct revolutionary
action in the epoch of the imperialist death agony of bourgeois
society.The Lenin Institute at Moscow must be made a higher
academy of revolutionary strategy. Our communist party is
permeated by the mighty spirit of Lenin. His revolutionary
genius is with us. Our revolutionary lungs breathe the atmosphere
of that better and higher doctrine which the preceding
developmentof human thought has created. Thus it is that we
are so profoundly convinced that tomorrow is ours
1923.