e, it was far more satisfactory. I was indeed happy to see that this point was not lost on all of the tutors. Their opportunity to disclose this was at the conclusion of the course, when the reports that were to be sent to the respective countries of the students were read to the class. A few of them contained the words: "Have wasted their time in the Soviet Union."
My report was to say: "has studied well in the Soviet Union".
At that time I just went to the school and took in all the knowledge I could. I only knew the bare outlines of the theory of surplus value, but when you begin to study it, in the ay that it should be studied, you soon realise the enormity and tremendous value of it as a study.
So I got stuck into it. They would give you a week or two when you could go away and do whatever you liked in studying for a class. But that was your task, to do that research. And then you were told that, for example, the political economy group was to meet in a conference.
Our tutor was a Red Army officer who was a very fine Marxian economist. The tutor would read the questions and ask who wanted the floor. Well, the British students were very eager to get up and take the floor, but what they said was a different matter. You could very well tell that they had done very little study. The Americans tried to do the same.
It was in this way that I began to see the limitations of these educational conferences at the school, but I still managed to gain enormously from it all and quietly assimilated the science of Marxism.
However, I wasnt the only one who could see the misuse of the Lenin School, because old Comrade Trotsky was well aware of it too. At one of the earlier Comintern plenums, Trotsky quoted Stalin as saying that "our weakest link is the trade unions". Trotsky replied: "And wheres your stongest link the Hotel Deluxe, and the other places in Moscow where your students are."
How right Trotsky was with that observation. That summed up, to my mind at least, what most other students made of their stay at the Lenin School.
In my room at the school were an American and two Canadians. The American was to go on to become a central leader of the CPUSA. And there they were lying in bed with volumes of Capital stuck on their chests while they were sound asleep. If they werent in the Hotel Deluxe, they were to be found in bed.
These were the new leaders of the Communist parties. Their performance at the Lenin School not only reflected their lack of interest in Marxist theory, but also the calibre of leadership being cultivated by the Stalinist leadership of the Third International.
While in Moscow I was able to attend many important meetings of the Comintern, including meetings of the executive committee of the Communist International. One that I recall in detail was the debate about the production of a daily paper by the British CP. Harry Pollitt was in Moscow for the meeting and presented a critical report on the proposal. He pointed out that they only had a few thousand members and would be unable to financially support a daily paper.
The Russian Comintern leader who had been pushing the project simply moved that such a paper be printed. "I cannot believe," he said, "that in the heart of the British empire we do not have a Bolshevik daily." Pollitt said, all right, so be it. The British CP couldnt afford it, didnt feel they could properly use it, and simply didnt want it at that time. But the Comintern won out.
A few months before I finished the course, the school called all the students together in our large auditorium. We were addressed by the woman comrade who ran the Lenin School. She announced in a loud and accusing manner:
We have just discovered that a faction has been formed of Zinoviev and Bukharin. We dont know how far it has gone, but it is permeating the ranks of the party. We are determined that it is going to be wiped out.
I have received instructions that all students at the school have to be examined to see if they have any germs of this faction in them. It is what we call a party chistca, a party cleansing, which has been ordered throughout the Soviet Union.
This consisted of a presidium being placed in charge while students were put into a witness box then asked factual questions about their activity in the Communist Party. It was then left to members of the respective party to challenge or refute the statements of the "accused".
For the New Zealander and myself, there was no one else from our respective countries. The opportunism of the British and American students astounded me. You wouldnt credit how they could go at each other as they did. The Russians just laughed at all of this as they saw who were the most subservient. They were, however, more interested in the students from Poland, Lithuania, Finland and other countries bordering the Soviet Union. They were often in the stand for hours on end.
We were eventually told that there were gaps in the stories of the students from some of these countries, and they were liquidated in some way or another.
Later it was learned that Zinoviev and Bukharin had "confessed" their mistakes and all could breathe freely again.
This "party cleansing" gave me an idea of what the Left Oppositionists and supporters of Trotsky must have gone through, for they were "dealt with" far more brutally.
By the time I reached the Lenin School, Trotsky had already been expelled from the Communist Party and exiled from the Soviet Union. No one at the school students or tutors would dare mention Trotsky. I was the only one who had the audacity to do that. In one of the books in the Lenin School library there still remained a praiseworthy passage on Trotsky. I made a reference from this passage to a tutor. He said that he would have a look into it, but I never heard any more of it.
As far as all the students were concerned, they were anti-Trotskyists, otherwise they would never have been sent there. I was perhaps the only exception, and that was because they had never asked me.
I had always had the keenest regard for Trotsky. The anti-Trotsky campaign had reached Australia not long before I left for the Soviet Union, and I had not taken it too seriously.
During the course at the Lenin School which was to have lasted three years but was cut short to less than two years we did not study and of Trotskys works. The falsification of the history of the Russian Revolution had already taken place. Trotsky, who along with Lenin had been the central organiser and leader of the revolution, was not mentioned throughout our course.
We were being trained as party leaders to be sent back to our respective countries. And so I returned to Australia to become a central leader of the Communist Party of Australia only to find myself in conflict with the Comintern representative and the Stalinist leadership he had nurtured.
They didnt realise that in sending me to the Lenin School I had taken my assignment seriously and had systematically educated myself in the theories of Marxism. This understanding of Marxism was to lead me through the fight with the Stalinists in the CPA and take me into the newly formed Trotskyist movement.
From Direct Action, November 30, 1978
Notes on Ted Tripp
Ted Tripp was born in 1900 in London and died in Melbourne in 1992.
In a 1978 interview with Dave Deutschmann, published in Direct Action, the newspaper of the Australian Socialist Workers Party, Tripp describes joining the Communist Party of Australia as a young British immigrant working as a fitter and turner in the railway workshops in Townsville, north Queensland.
"Walking down the main street of Townsville," he said, "I saw to my amazement an old man holding high the Workers Weekly.
"After walking past him a few times, I summoned enough courage to speak to him. That was Harry Wilkes. He as a commercial traveller around various districts in north Queensland and took with him a suitcase of communist literature. I went to his room and became enraptured with his literature."
Tripp was recruited to the CPA by Herbert Moxon, at that time the Brisbane organiser of the CPA, and later to become CPA general secretary. Tripp and Moxon worked closely together for the next three years.
Tripp organised the first CPA group in Townsville and represented the branch at the 1927 CPA conference.
During a state-wide rail strike in 1926, Tripp played a key organising role, which included producing a daily strike newspaper, which was distributed throughout the state. It was one of the first such daily strike newspapers in Australia.
One of the debates at the 1927 CPA conference was over what became known as the Queensland Resolution whether the CPA should stand candidates against the Labor Party.
The conference decided the CPA should run its own candidates in the next Queensland elections.
As one of the three CPA candidates in the elections, Tripp received a large vote, which led the electoral officer to ask whether he wanted a recount. Tripp told the electoral officer that the result was already a victory for the CPA and a recount was not necessary. Peter Beilhartz, in notes from a 1976 interview with Tripp, says Tripp won about 1500 votes to the ALP candidates 4000.
This was at a time when CPA support was strong among the working-class of north Queenslands ports, railways and meatworks.
Two months later, Tripp became the first Australian selected to attend the