Christian Rakovsky against Stalinism
Sunday 8 September 2019
Christian Rakovsky against Stalinism
Speech to the Fifteenth Party Congress
Comrades! The sphere of international relations is that sphere which necessitates the greatest unity in the party. Our foreign enemy is the most dangerous of all enemies, both for our party and the proletarian dictatorship. [Voices: “That is way you are breaking up the party. You should have known this before! You should have remembered that on November 7th!”] Although we occupy one-sixth of the globe our enemy has five-sixths of it. In his hands there is state power, in his hands there is capital, in his hands there is a higher technology, in his hands there is a colossal amount of political experience in exploiting and oppressing the proletariat and the colonial and semi-colonial peoples.
The minority of the party made a statement at the August plenum [Voices: “Not the minority, but a handful!”] the essential part of which I must repeat today.
We will support unconditionally and without reservations the leading organs of the party and the Comintern in face of the foreign foe who will attack the Soviet Union, the proletarian government, the workers’ and peasants’ government. [Voices: “You do the attacking!” Noise, laughter. Voices: “Shame! shame! how low you’ve fallen!” “What about the Clemenceau thesis? You support the party like the rope supports the hanged man!”] Comrades, this is so, regardless of the common or individual fate of the minority. [Voices: “A handful! a handful! and not the minority!”] But in so far as the external danger is the greatest one we, as every communist, every party member, are in duty bound to give the signal about things unobserved or omitted, and the mistakes made by the party.
Comrades, first of all, allow me to throw some light on a legend which has been created in connection with my speech at the party conference of the Moscow Gubernia. [Voices: “Your counterrevolutionary speech ... And how about Kharkov?” Laughter] A mad, or, I should say, an idiotic thought was ascribed to me, namely that in my opinion we should retaliate on the provocations of Shanghai, Paris and London by a declaration of war. [Commotion] I will take the liberty to read from the uncorrected verbatim report the sentence which served, with absolutely no ground whatever, as the starting-point for the creation of that legend. I repeat, it is from the uncorrected verbatim report:
“Comrades, when the opponent feels our weakness it does not do away with and does not postpone but hastens war. If we should tell the truth – no one hears us here – with a different correlation of forces, in a different situation, half of what has been done would have been sufficient to cause war long ago. When we were driven out of Peking, when we were provoked in London, when we were provoked in Paris – do you not think that, if our situation were different, this would have served as a cause for rebuffing these acts in a deserving revolutionary manner? I was asked here: “How, by war?” Yes, comrades, even by war – [laughter, commotion. Voices: “He has made some correction!”] – because we are a proletarian revolutionary state and not a Tolstoyan sect.”
Yesterday, we could have read in Izvestia a statement by Comrade Cachin, Communist member of the French Parliament, that peace has been maintained only thanks to the “patience” of the Soviet government. We must tell the bourgeois world: “Your provocations are such that under different circumstances, were it not for our policy and our patience, they would cause war.” [Commotion]
When Comrade Rykov said in Kharkov that the complications in our foreign relations have become so accentuated that there was a time when we feared military encounters, he said essentially the same thing.
I will now return to the main subject. Having heard comrade Stalin’s speech and read the speeches of our other comrades of the committee, I have come to the conclusion that the cc repeats the same error at the Fifteenth Congress which was made at the Fourteenth on the international situation. What did we say at the Fourteenth Congress? The following was said in the resolution of that congress:
“In the sphere of international relations, the consolidation and extension of the “respite”, which has become an entire period of so-called peaceful co-habitation of the USSR with the capitalist states, is obvious.”
Scarcely a few months had passed after that estimation was given and we witnessed a stormy and rapid development of the Chinese revolution, ending in its defeat; subsequently we had the breaking-off of relations with Great Britain; later we had a conflict with France, and now we read every day about the inevitability, or, at any rate, the probability, of serious military complications in our immediate vicinity which may change the actual correlation of forces, making the situation rather unfavourable for us. [Levandovsky: “You are helping to bring that about.”]
I will not return, owing to lack of time, to the speeches of comrades Rykov, Tomsky, and Bukharin in Kharkov, Leningrad, and Moscow. I will refer only to comrade Stalin’s speech, which, unfortunately, owing to acoustics I could not hear in full. [Laughter] I listened to it and I can quote only what I could hear. First of all, I find that comrade Stalin’s very formulation of the question was fundamentally wrong. On the one hand he enumerated the achievements of the last two years, including the liquidation of the Swiss incident, and, on the other, as if to balance this, he spoke of the defeat in China, the Anglo-Soviet rupture and the recent conflict with France. Comrades, I declare that these two magnitudes are not comparable, that even if we had in one sector of our international policy greater conquests than those we actually had, and, on the other, we had the breaking-off of relations with Great Britain, the conflict with France, a conflict concerning which there are different opinions even in the majority – the “Bolshevik” pictures it as an ante-room, as the first step, a real step towards the break – I say that this second sector easily balances the first. I say further that even if we had maintained diplomatic relations with Great Britain, even if we had not had the conflict with France – the defeat of the Chinese revolution created such an unfavourable situation for us, that we may say that it fully counter-balances all gains in our foreign affairs. [Commotion] Comrade Stalin quite correctly raised the question of the attitude of the working class, the international working class, to the Soviet Union. Yes, the working class is our bulwark, both in our party, the Comintern, and the government policy. All of us understand that the utilisation of the contradictions existing between the capitalist states, between bourgeois and petty-bourgeois groups in various capitalist countries, being one of the means of diplomatic manoeuvring, is of relative nature, compared with the basic factor, compared with the working class. But I must say that I do not share the optimistic prognosis and evaluation made by comrade Stalin. [Voices: “Of course.” Voroshilov: “If you did share it, you would not be in the opposition.”] In this connection, we have heard the following statement: “we record a constant growth of working-class sympathy for the Soviet Union”. In such a general form, it does not give us a correct idea of the changes transpiring abroad. It may mislead us. I say that if the sympathies towards us grow in latitude [Goloshchekin: “Ruth Fischer does not sympathize with us.”] but the activity of these sympathies declines, it is the most alarming feature in our international situation. Let us take Great Britain. We had a conflict with Great Britain in 1923 in connection with the Curzon note. We had serious dealings with Great Britain in 1924, and we also had a conflict with her in 1927. [Postychev: “And we will have one in 1930.“] Everyone who observes what is happening in Great Britain had to notice the passivity and indifference to our recent conflict with Great Britain, which ended in the breach of diplomatic relations. And this is the most alarming fact manifesting the growth of Social Democratic influence. Side by side with the increasing Communist votes, we must record [Felix Cohn: “The Vienna rising!”] a most alarming fact, namely, the decrease [Voroshilov: “What is your conclusion?”] in working-class activity. In face of this alarming fact, I cannot rest content with the statement of a general character concerning the growth of sympathy for us. What is now happening?
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the October revolution, we see a vicious ideological attack on the proletarian dictatorship by the bourgeois press. [Bukharin: “We see your demonstration on 7 November.”] One of our would-be friendly newspapers, the Chemnitz-Zeitung, in its weekly edition for Germans abroad (anyone who so wishes can buy it at the newspaper stand opposite the Kremlin), says (I say in advance that naturally I do not put my signature to the statement, but it is an alarming fact) that by the tenth anniversary of the October revolution, Soviet Russia is no longer spoken of as an ideological menace, but as any other state. [Commotion] The Soviet Union has ceased to be an ideological menace [Bukharin: “And that is why they do not invade us!”] for the capitalist states. [Commotion, shouts. Kaganovich: “Is the Chemnitz-Zeitung a bourgeois paper?” Rakovsky: “It is a bourgeois paper.” Goloshchekin: “Oh, is that what it is!” Laughter] It is a bourgeois paper, but I give you warning concerning this fact. [Commotion. Voices: “We were also given warning in 1917. We can do without these signalmen.”] This is a new phenomenon in our international situation. Never has the Soviet Union and the Communist Party been subjected to such an ideological attack as today. [Bukharin: “You are attacked!” Commotion, laughter]
How does the capitalist world regard our party controversy? I have several interesting documents. [Commotion] Here is a copy of a publication of the Research Institute of London Chamber of Commerce. It is devoted to the Soviet Union – [commotion] – it has no author’s signature, but as can be seen from the document itself, it was undoubtedly written by a British spy who says that he had the opportunity unofficially to observe for two years what is going on in the Soviet Union. I should draw your attention to the fact that this was published in December last year. [Commotion] What do we find here? It says: “From an investigation of Russia it follows that the destiny of the country is at the present time shaping itself on two diametrically opposed factors. On the one hand, doctrinaire communism still tries to hold on to the ideals and principles of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 – [laughter, commotion] – whereas, on the other hand, the stubborn facts of life compel everyone, with the exception of the biggest communist fanatics, to accept one by one the principles on which Western civilization is based.” [Commotion]
Comrades, I have no time to deal here with everything the bourgeois papers write. But I shall quote a paper which is frequently quoted by comrade Bukharin – the Arbeiter Zeitung – a labour paper published by Otto Bauer. [Voice: “There is a touching affinity between you and Bauer!”] It will suffice to read only the beginning. [Commotion, cries of indignation] In the issues of 16 and 20 November we read:
“The criticism of the Opposition hitherto undoubtedly hampered Stalin in adopting a consistent course, without having to look backward to the utopian illusions, along a more realistic path in the sphere of economic and foreign policy.”
The same thing is said in the issue of the 20th. At the same time there is the American tribute. [Bukharin: “That’s weak, it’s weak!” Sol’ts: “In general, you have to look to the bourgeois press to confirm the correctness of your position.”] I have before me the New York Times, which says that to keep the opposition means to keep the explosive matter which lies beneath the capitalist world. [Laughter, commotion, shouts, protests, and indignation]
It is an alarming coincidence. Here we are told that we must fight the opposition, and abroad we also hear it is necessary to fight the opposition. [Commotion. Voices: “Your friends, Ruth Fischer and Maslow, say abroad that it is necessary for you to undermine the party!”]
Another point, comrades, the majority, or, at any rate, many of the reactionary newspapers say that whatever is done against the opposition is all right but inadequate. [Kossior: “Don’t you read anything else but bourgeois newspapers?”] I have before me the Temps of 8 November, where, in connection with comrade Stalin’s replies to questions of the international workers’ delegation, it is said:
“Despite the deceptive surface, the Soviet machine cannot seriously develop and Russia cannot expect its rescue by any other means but the final destruction of the proletarian dictatorship.” [Commotion]
I have presented here only an insignificant part of what is written day in and day out. I quoted those which say that “it is all right but inadequate”, and those which say “we need more convincing proof”. [Sol’ts: “You gave us the bourgeois point of view!”] What is there alarming about this phenomenon? The newest phenomenon in our international situation, the arrogant attempts of world imperialism to interfere in our inner party controversy to throw their weight on the side of the majority. The characteristic feature of the present situation is the deterioration of our international position. At the same time, the whole effort of world imperialism, based on the right leanings in the party, the whole effort of the world bourgeoisie, consists in the aim of isolating us ideologically from the world proletariat – [commotion] – to divorce us ideologically from the world proletariat. Comrades, all of us in the party remember Lenin’s advice – [Voice: “You do not remember, you have forgotten it! Mensheviks! Agents of the world bourgeoisie!”] – that it is necessary for us to manoeuvre in foreign affairs. We are sometimes reproached by the capitalist states for playing on their rivalries. [Commotion] However, they themselves play the same game against each other. We must do it to a still greater extent. We are a proletarian state, living under extreme and incomparable difficulties. But in the manoeuvring, it is necessary to take two main points for our departure. First of all, we must know the limits of the manoeuvres. [Voice: “What do you intend to do in the future? Why don’t you tell us about that?”] Comrade Tomsky complained in Leningrad that the opposition interfered with the Politbureau in adopting necessary and logical decisions. He said that in order to manoeuvre freely we must get rid of the opposition. [Voices: “Quite right!” Commotion] I ask you if the left wing of the party is to be expelled ....
[Voices: “Get out of the party and be done with it. Away with the Mensheviks. It is not a left but a Menshevik wing.” The Congress insists on his removal. “Down, down!” Commotion. Chairman rings the bell.
Chairman: “Who is in favour of allowing comrade Rakovsky to continue his speech?”
Statement on Expulsion from the Party
It was moved at the Congress that we be expelled from the CPSU. We consider it our duty to make the following statement on this matter to the Congress:
(1) Expulsion from the party deprives us of our party rights, but it cannot free us from the duties which everyone of us took on himself in joining the ranks, we remain as before true to the programme of our party, its traditions, its banner. We shall work for the strengthening of the Communist Party and its influence on the working class.
(2) We declared and declare now that we submit to the decisions of the Fifteenth Congress on the dissolution of our faction. We have pledged ourselves to advocate our views within the limits of the party statutes. We pledged, and pledge ourselves now, to do our utmost for the preservation of unity of our party which is at the head of a workers’ state. We categorically reject the intention to organize a second party, which is ascribed to us, as being incompatible with the proletarian dictatorship and against Lenin’s teachings. Expulsion from the party will not change our opinions nor our attitude to the question of unity in the CPSU.
(3) We reject just as emphatically the assertions concerning the anti-Soviet tendencies in our struggle. All of us, in one form or another, are partakers in the building up of the Soviet state, the first country of the toilers. Our aim is to strengthen the Soviet government on the basis of an alliance of the workers and peasants. Our path is the path of inner party reform. We will strive forward to the triumph of our views only on this path.
(4) Our opinions have been branded as Menshevik opinions at the Congress. Menshevism was and is opposed to the October revolution and is the champion of bourgeois democracy, which is a form of capitalist domination.
We are participants in the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a proletarian dictatorship. The meaning of our inner party struggle lies in the defence of the socialist dictatorship from mistakes as a result of which may follow a return, after several political stages, of bourgeois democracy.
(5) We repudiate the »trotskyist« epithet of the opposition, which is based on artificial and deliberate attempts to link up the greatest problems of our epoch with pre-revolutionary differences which have long since been liquidated and with which most of us have not been connected. We stand fully and completely on the basis of the historical foundations of Bolshevism.
(6) We are being expelled for our views. They have been laid down in our platform and theses. We consider these views to be Bolshevik-Leninist views. We cannot renounce them because the march of events confirms their correctness.
(7) Over one thousand communists of the opposition have already been expelled from the party. The expulsion of the leaders of the opposition by the Congress will signal the expulsion of additional thousands. These expulsions will signify – whether the Congress wants it or not – a turn of party policy to the right, a strengthening of the classes and groups within the country which are hostile to the proletariat and an incentive to the imperialist encroachments from without.
It is impossible successfully to limit the kulak, combat bureaucracy, and introduce the seven hour day by cutting off at the same time those elements from the party who have been endeavouring, during the last few years, to rebuff the growing strength of the kulak, persistently speaking against bureaucratic distortions and bringing the question of a more rapid improvement of the workers’ conditions on the order of the day. It is impossible to carry on preparations for the defence of the October conquests against the onslaughts of imperialism and at the same time drive out from the party those elements whom the world bourgeoisie regard as their irreconcilable foes.
(8) The party régime resulting in our expulsion inevitably leads to a new dismemberment of the party and to new expulsions. Only a régime of inner-party democracy can guarantee the elaboration of a correct party line and strengthen its ties with the working class.
(9) The expulsion of oppositionists as well as the other repressive measures against them aim at tearing out by their roots opposition ideas from the party. But in so far as these ideas correctly reflect the historical interests of the proletariat and the basic tasks of the party, they, in spite of repressions, will live in the party and secure new champions.
The worker-Bolsheviks are the heart of the party. In time of growing danger their voice will be decisive for the fate of the party and the revolution.
(10) Being expelled from the party, we shall work for our return to its ranks. We are convinced that our expulsion will be temporary because the further development of the class struggle and our activities will convince every party member of the injustice of the accusations which brought about our expulsion.
(11) The struggle within the ranks of the CPSU could not leave the ranks of the Comintern unaffected. The opposition has its followers and sympathizers, who are subject to repression just as we are, almost in all fraternal communist parties. We doubt whether the oppositionists expelled from the other parties will choose the path of setting up duplicate parties, i.e. the path of splitting the Comintern. The correction of mistakes and straightening out of the line of the leaders can and should be done within the limits of unity. A patient elucidation of our views on the basis of events, active participation in the struggle of the communist parties against the bourgeoisie and the social democrats, will restore unity in the Comintern on the firm basis laid down by Lenin at the new rise of the tide of the labour movement.
(12) True to the teachings of Marx and Lenin, vitally connected with the CPSU and the Comintern, we reply to our expulsion from the CPSU by our firm decision to fight under the Bolshevik banner without restraint for the triumph of world revolution, for the unity of the communist parties as the vanguards of the proletariat. for the defence of the conquests of the October revolution for communism, for the CPSU, and the Comintern.
I. Smilga, N. Muralov, C. Rakovsky, K. Radek
18 December 1927
The “Professional Dangers” of Power
Dear Comrade Valentinov,
In your Meditations on the Masses of 8 July, in examining the problems of the “activity” of the working class, you speak of a fundamental question, that of the conservation, by the proletariat, of its directing role in our state. Although all the political claims of the opposition aim at this end, I agree with you that all has not been said on this question. Up to the present, we have always examined it coupled with the whole problem of the taking and conserving of political power; to make it clearer, it should have been taken separately, as a question which has its own value and importance. The reality of events has brought it to the fore.
The opposition will always retain as one of its merits, as against the party, a merit which nothing can remove, the fact that it has, in good time, sounded the alarm on the terrible decline of the spirit of activity of the working classes, and on their increasing indifference towards the destiny of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the Soviet state.
That which characterizes the flood of scandal which has become public, that which constitutes its greatest danger, is precisely this passivity of the masses (a passivity greater even among the communist masses than among the non-party masses) towards the unprecedented manifestations of despotism which have emerged. Workers witnessed these, but let them pass without protest, or contented themselves with a few remarks, through fear of those who are are in power or because of political indifference. From the scandal of Chubarovsk (to go back no further) to the abuses of Smolensk, of Artiemovsk, etc., the same refrain is always heard: “We knew already for some time.” Thefts, prevarications, violence, orgies, incredible abuse of power, unlimited despotism, drunkenness, debauchery: all this is spoken of as known facts, not for a month but for years, and also of things that everyone tolerates without knowing why.
I do not need to explain that when the world bourgeoisie vociferates on the vices of the Soviet Union, we can ignore it with a quiet disdain. We know too well the moral purity of governments and parliaments in the whole bourgeois world. But they are not the ones on whom we are to model ourselves. With us, it is a workers’ state. No one today can ignore the terrible consequences of the political indifference of the working class. Moreover, the question of the causes of this indifference and that of the means to eliminate it is considered to be basic. But this obliges us to consider it in a fundamental way, scientifically, by submitting it to a profound analysis. Such a phenomenon merits our full attention.
The explanation which you give of this is doubtless correct: each of us has already laid them bare during our talks; they already form part of our platform [i.e. the platform of the left opposition of 1927]. None the less the interpretations and the remedies proposed to emerge from this painful situation have had and still have an empirical character: they refer to each particular case and do not get to the basis of the question.
To my mind this has resulted because this question itself is a new question. Up to the present we have witnessed a great number of cases where the spirit of initiative of the working class has become weakened and declined almost to the level of political reaction. But these examples became apparent to us, as much here as abroad, during a period when the proletariat was battling still for the conquest of political power.
We could not have a previous example of the decline of proletarian ardour in a period when it already had power, for the simple reason that, in history, our case is the first where the working class has retained power for such a time. Up till now, we have known what could happen to the proletariat, that is, the vacillations of spirit which occur when it is an oppressed and exploited class; but it is only now that we can evaluate on the basis of fact, the changes of its mental state when it takes over the control.
This political position (of directing class) is not without its dangers: on the contrary, the dangers are very great. I do not refer here to the objective difficulties due to the whole complex of historical conditions, to the capitalist encirclement on the outside, and the pressure of the petty bourgeois inside the country. No, I refer to the inherent difficulties of any new directing class, consequent on the taking and on the exercise of power itself, on the ability or inability to make use of it. You will understand that these difficulties would continue to exist up to a certain point, even if we allowed, for a moment, that the country was inhabited only by proletarian masses and the exterior was made up solely of proletarian states. These difficulties might be called the “professional dangers” of power.
In fact, the situation of a class which is fighting to wrest control and that of a class holding control in its hands is different. I repeat that when I spoke of dangers, I did not think of the relationships to other classes, but more of those which are created within the ranks of the victorious class itself.
What does a class on the offensive represent? The maximum of unity and cohesion. All spirit of trade or clique, let alone personal interests, become secondary. All initiative is in the hands of the militant mass itself and of its revolutionary vanguard, which is bound to the mass in a most close, organic relationship.
When a class takes power, one of its parts becomes the agent of that power. Thus arises bureaucracy. In a socialist state, where capitalist accumulation is forbidden by members of the directing party, this differentiation begins as a functional one; it later becomes a social one. I am thinking here of the social position of a communist who has at his disposal a car, a nice apartment, regular holidays, and receiving the maximum salary authorized by the party; a position which differs from that of the communist working in the coal mines and receiving a salary of fifty or sixty rubles per month. As regards workers and employees, you know that they are divided into eighteen different categories ...
Another consequence is that certain functions formerly satisfied by the party as a whole, by the whole class, have now become the attributes of power, that is, only of a certain number of persons in the party and in this class.
The unity and cohesion which formerly were the natural consequences of the struggle of the revolutionary class cannot now be maintained but by the application of the whole system of measures which have for their aim the preservation of the equilibrium between the different groups of this class and of this party, and to subordinate these groups to the fundamental goal.
But this constitutes a long and delicate process. It consists in educating politically the dominant class in such a way as to make it capable of holding the state apparatus, the party and the syndicates, of controlling and of directing these organisms. I repeat this: it is a question of education. No class has been born in possession of the art of government. This art can only be acquired by experience, thanks to the errors committed, that is by each learning from his errors. No Soviet constitution, be it ideal, can ensure to the working class an exercise without obstacle of its dictatorship and of its control over the government if the proletariat does not know how to utilise its rights under the constitution. The lack of harmony between the political capacities of any given class, its administrative ability and the judicial constitutional forms that it establishes for its own use after the taking of power, is a historical fact. It can be observed in the evolution of all classes, in part also in the history of the bourgeoisie. The English bourgeoisie, for example, fought many battles, not only to remake the constitution according to its own interests but also to be able to profit from its rights and, in particular, fully and without hindrance of its right to vote. One of Charles Dickens’s books, Pickwick Papers, contains many incidents of this period of English constitutionalism during which the directing group, assisted by its own administrative apparatus, overturns into the ditch coaches bringing the opposition’s supporters to the ballot boxes, in order that they might not be able to arrive in time to vote.
This process of differentiation is perfectly natural for the triumphant, or almost triumphant bourgeoisie. In effect, in the wider sense of the term, the bourgeoisie is made up of a series of groups and even economic classes. We recognize the existence of the upper middle and lower (petty) bourgeoisie: we know that there exists a financial bourgeoisie, a commercial bourgeoisie, an industrial bourgeoisie and an agricultural bourgeoisie. After events such as wars and revolutions, regroupings take place within the ranks of the bourgeoisie itself; new strata appear, begin to play the role which is properly theirs, as for example the proprietors, the acquisitors of national goods, the nouveaux riches, as they are called, who appear after each war of a certain length. During the French revolution, during the period of the directory, these nouveaux riches became one of the factors of the reaction.
Generally speaking, the history of the victory of the Third Estate in France in 1789 is extremely instructive. First, this Third Estate was itself made up of extremely disparate elements. It included all who did not belong to the nobility or the clergy; thus it included not only all the various branches of the bourgeoisie, but equally the workers and the poor peasants. It was but gradually, after a long struggle, after armed intervention repeated many times over, that the whole Third Estate acquired in 1792 the legal possibility of participating in the administration of the country. The political reaction which began even before Thermidor consisted in this, that the power began to pass both formally and effectively into the hands of an increasingly restricted number of citizens. Little by little, first by the force of circumstances and then legally, the popular masses were eliminated from the government of the country.
It is true that the pressure of reaction made itself felt initially along the seams joining together sections of classes which constituted the Third Estate. It is equally true that if we examine a particular group of the bourgeoisie, it does not show class cleavages as clear as those which, for example, as seen separating the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, that is, two classes playing a role entirely different in production.
Moreover, in the course of the French revolution, during its period of decline, power intervened not only to eliminate, following the lines of differentiation, social groups which but yesterday marched together and were united by the same revolutionary aim, but it disintegrated equally more or less homogeneous masses. By functional specialization the given class gave birth, out of its ranks, to circles of high functionaries; such is the result of fissures which were converted, thanks to the pressure of the counterrevolution, into yawning gulfs. Following on this the dominant class itself produced contradictions in the course of the conflict.
The contemporaries of the French revolution, those who participated and even more, the historians of the following period, were preoccupied by the question of the causes of the degeneration of the Jacobin party.
More than once Robespierre warned his partisans against the consequences which the intoxication of power would bring. He warned them that, holding power, they should not become too presumptuous, “big-headed”, as he said, or as we would say now, infected with “Jacobin vanity”. However as we shall see later, Robespierre himself contributed largely to the loss of power from the hands of the petty bourgeoisie which leaned on the Parisian workers.
We will not mention here all the facts given by contemporaries concerning the diverse causes of the decomposition of the Jacobin party, as for instance their tendency to enrich themselves, their participation in contracts, in supplies, etc. Let us rather mention a strange and well-known fact: the opinion of Babeuf according to which the fall of the Jacobins was much facilitated by the noble ladies with whom they entangled themselves. He addressed the Jacobins as follows: “What are you doing, pusillanimous plebeians? Today they hug you in their arms, tomorrow they will strangle you.” (If the motor car had existed at the time of the French revolution, we would also had the factor of the “motor-harem”, indicated by comrade Sosnovsky as having played a very important role in the formation of the ideology of our bureaucracy of soviets and the party).
But what played the most important role in the isolation of Robespierre and the Jacobin Club, that which cut them off completely from the working and petty-bourgeois masses, was, in addition to the liquidation of all the elements of the left, beginning with the Enragés, the Hébertistes and the Chaumettists (of all the Commune of Paris in general), the gradual elimination of the elective principle and its replacement by the principle of nominations.
The sending of commissioners to the armies or in the cities where the counter-revolution was once more gaining ground was not only legitimate but defensible. But when, little by little, Robespierre began to replace the judges and the commissioners of the different sections of Paris, which till then had been elected in the same way as the judges, when he began to name the presidents of the revolutionary committees and even began to substitute by functionaries all the leadership of the Communes, he could not by all these measures but reinforce the bureaucracy and kill popular initiative. Thus the Robespierre régime, instead of developing the revolutionary activities of the masses, already oppressed by the economic crisis and even more by the shortage of food, aggravated the situation and facilitated the work of the anti-democratic forces. Dumas, the president of the revolutionary tribunal, complained to Robespierre that he could not find people to serve as jurors for the tribunal, as no one wished to carry out this function. But Robespierre himself experienced this indifference of the Parisian masses in his own case when, on the tenth of Thermidor, he was led through the streets of Paris wounded and bleeding, without any fear that the popular masses would intervene in favour of yesterday’s dictator.
From the evidence given, it would seem ridiculous to attribute Robespierre’s fall and the defeat of the revolutionary democracy to the principle of nominations. However, without any doubt this accelerated the action of the other factors. Among these a decisive role was played by the difficulties of supplying food and munitions, due largely to the two years of bad crops (as also to the consecutive perturbations at the transformation of the large rural properties of the nobility into small peasant culture), to the constant rise of the price of bread and meat, to the fact that the Jacobins did not at first wish to have recourse to administrative measures to repress the avidity of speculators and rich peasants. And when they finally decided, under the pressure of the masses, to vote the law of the maximum, this law operating in the conditions of the free market and of capitalist production could not but inevitably act as a palliative.
Let us now pass to the reality in which we live.
I believe that it is first necessary to indicate that when we use expressions such as “the party” and “the masses”, we must not lose sight of the content which these terms have acquired in the last ten years. The working class and the party – not now physically but morally – are no longer what they were ten years ago, I do not exaggerate when I say that the militant of 1917 would have difficulty in recognizing himself in the militant of 1928. A profound change has taken place, in the anatomy and the physiology of the working class.
In my opinion it is necessary to concentrate our attention on the study of the modifications in the tissues and in their functions. Analysis of the changes which have occurred will have to show us the way out of the situation which has been created. I do not pretend to present this analysis here; I will limit myself to a few remarks.
In speaking of the working class it is necessary to find an answer to a whole series of questions. For example, what is the proportion of workers actually employed in our industry who have entered it after the revolution, and what is the proportion of those who worked in it previously? What is the proportion of those who previously participated in the revolutionary movement, have taken part in the strikes, have been deported, imprisoned, or have taken part in the war or in the Red Army? What is the proportion of workers employed in industry who work regularly? How many work only on occasion? What is the proportion in industry of semi-proletarians, semi-peasants, etc.?
If we do descend and penetrate the depths of the proletariat, of the semi-proletariat and of the working masses in general, we will find there whole parts of the population who can hardly be said to be with us. I do not want to speak here only of the workless, who constitute an ever increasing danger which, in any case, has been clearly pointed out by the opposition. I think of the masses reduced to penury, or semi-pauperized who, thanks to the derisory subsidies given out by the state, are on the border of pauperism, theft and prostitution.
We cannot imagine how people live at times but a few steps from us. It sometimes occurs that we happen on phenomena whose existence would not have been suspected in a Soviet state, and which give the impression of having suddenly discovered an abyss. It is not a question of pleading the case of Soviet power, by invoking the fact that it has not succeeded in getting rid of the doubtful heritage passed on by the tsarist and capitalist régime. No, but in our time, under our régime, we discover the existence, in the body of the working class, of crevices into which the bourgeoisie would be able to push the thin end of a wedge.
During a certain period under the bourgeois régime, the thinking part of the working class carried with it this numerous mass, including the semi-vagabonds. The fall of the capitalist régime was to have brought the liberation of the whole proletariat. The semi-vagabond elements made the bourgeoisie and the capitalist state responsible for their situation; they considered that the revolution should bring a change in their condition. These people are now far from satisfied; their situation has been ameliorated little if at all. They are beginning to consider Soviet power, and that part of the working class working in industry, with hostility. They are especially becoming the enemies of the functionaries of the soviets, of the party and of the trade unions. They can sometimes be heard speaking of the summits of the working class as the “new nobility”.
I will not stop here to treat of the differentiation which power has introduced into the bosom of the proletariat, and which I qualified above as “functional”. The function has modified the organism itself; that is to say that the psychology of those who are charged with the diverse tasks of direction in the administration and the economy of the state, has changed to such a point that not only objectively but subjectively, not only materially but also morally, they have ceased to be a part of this very same working class. Thus for example, a factory director playing the satrap in spite of the fact that he is a communist, in spite of his proletarian origin, in spite of the fact that he was a factory worker a few years ago, will not become in the eyes of the workers the epitome of the best qualities of the proletariat. Molotov may, to his heart’s delight, put a sign of equality between the dictatorship of the proletariat and our state with its bureaucratic degenerations, and what is more with the brutes of Smolensk, the sharpers of Tashkent and the adventurers of Artiemovsk. By doing this he only succeeds in discrediting the dictatorship without satisfying the legitimate discontent of the workers.
If we pass to the party itself, in addition to all the other shades which can be found in the working class, it is necessary to add those who have transferred from other classes. The social structure of the party is far more heterogeneous than that of the proletariat. It has always been so, naturally with the difference that, when the party had an intense ideological life, it fused this social amalgamation into a single alloy thanks to the struggle of a revolutionary class in action.
But power is a cause, as much in the party as in the working class, of the same differentiation revealing the seams existing between the different social strata. The bureaucracy of the soviets and of the party constitutes a new order. We are not concerned with isolated cases, of failings in the conduct of a comrade, but rather of a new social category, to whom a whole treatise should be given.
On the subject of the draft programme of the Communist International, I wrote to Leon Davidovich [Trotsky] among other things:
“As regards chapter four (The Transitional Period), the way in which the role of the communist parties is formulated in the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat is somewhat weak. Without doubt this vague manner of speaking of the role of the party towards the working class and the state is not the result of hazard. The antithesis between proletarian and bourgeois democracy is clearly indicated; but not a word is said to explain what the party must do to bring about, concretely, this proletarian democracy. “Attract the masses and get them to participate in construction”, “re-educate its proper nature” (Bukharin makes a point of developing this last idea, more specially in connection with the cultural revolution): these are true statements from a historical point of view, known for a long time; but they are reduced to platitudes if they are not combined with the accumulated experience of ten years of proletarian dictatorship.”
It is here that the question arises of methods of leadership, methods which play such an important role. But our leaders do not like to speak of these, being afraid that it might become evident that they themselves have still a long way to go before they “re-educate their proper nature”. If I were charged with the writing of a draft of a programme for the Communist International, I would have given much space, in this chapter (The Transitional Period) to the theory of Lenin on the state during the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the role of the party in the creation of a proletarian democracy such as it should have been, and not one where there exists a bureaucracy of the soviets and of the party as at present.
Comrade Preobrazhensky has promised to consecrate a special chapter in his book The Conquests of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Year Eleven of the Revolution to the Soviet bureaucracy.
I hope that he will not forget the role of the bureaucracy of the party, which plays a much greater role in the Soviet state than that of its sisters, the soviets themselves. I have expressed the hope to him that he will study the specific sociological phenomenon under all its aspects. There is no communist pamphlet which, in relating the treason of social democracy in Germany on 4 August 1914, does not at the same time stress the fatal role which the top bureaucracy of the party and of the trade unions played in the history of the fall of the party. On the other hand, little has been said, and that in very general terms only, on the role played by our bureaucracy of the soviets and of the party in the splintering of the party and of the Soviet state. It is a sociological phenomenon of the first order, which cannot however be understood and appreciated in its entirety, if its consequences in changing the ideology of the party and of the working class are not examined.
You ask what has happened to the spirit of revolutionary activity of the party and of our proletariat? Where has their revolutionary initiative gone? Where their ideological interests, their revolutionary values, their proletarian pride have gone? You are surprised that there is so much apathy, weakness, pusillanimity, opportunism and so many other things that I could add myself? How is it that those who have a worthy revolutionary past, whose present honesty cannot be held in doubt, who have given proof of their attachment to the revolution on more than one occasion, can have been transformed into pitiable bureaucrats? Whence comes this terrible “Smerdyakovshchina” of which Trotsky speaks in his letter on the declarations of Krestinsky and Antonov-Ovseenko?
But if it can be expected that those who have transferred from the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, the intellectuals, the “individuals” in general, slide back from the point of ideas and morality, how can we explain a similar phenomenon in respect of the working class? Many comrades have noted the fact of its passivity and cannot hide their feeling of disillusion.
It is true that other comrades have seen, during a certain campaign to collect in the wheat, symptoms of the robust revolutionary attitude, proving that class reflexes still exist in the party. Recently comrade Ishchenko has written to me (or more recently has written in theses which he has equally sent to other comrades) that the collection of wheat and the self-criticism are due to the resistance of the proletarian section of the party. Unfortunately it has to be said that this is not correct. These two facts result from a combination arranged in high places and are not due to the pressure of the workers’ criticism; it is for political reasons and sometimes for group reasons, or I should say faction, that a part of the top men in the party pursue this line. It is possible to speak of only one proletarian pressure – that guided b the opposition. But it has to be clearly said, this pressure has not been sufficient to maintain the opposition inside the party; more, it has not succeeded in changing its political line. I agree with Leon Davidovich who has shown, in a series of irrefutable examples, the true and positive revolutionary role which certain revolutionary movements have played by their defeat: the Commune in Paris, the insurrection in December in 1905 in Moscow. The first ensured the maintenance of the republican form of government in France; the second opened the road to constitutional reform in Russia. However, the effects of such conquering defeats are of short duration if they are not reinforced by a new revolutionary upsurge.
The most unhappy fact is that no reflex occurs either from the party or from the masses today. During two years, an exceptionally bitter struggle took place between the opposition and the high circles of the party; during the last two months events have occurred which should have opened the eyes of the most blind. However, up till now no one has the impression that the masses of the party have intervened.
As comprehensible is the pessimism of certain comrades, which I can feel equally throughout your questions.
Babeuf, after his emergence from the prison at Abbaye, looking about him, began by asking himself what had happened to the people of Paris, the workers of the faubourgs St Antoine and St Marceau, those who on 14 July 1789 had taken the Bastille, on 10 August 1792 the Tuileries, who had laid seige to the Convention on 30 May 1793, not to speak of numerous other armed interventions. In one single phrase, in which can be felt the bitterness of the revolutionary, he gave his observation: “It is more difficult to re-educate the people in the love of liberty than to conquer it”.
We have seen why the people of Paris forgot the attraction of liberty. Famine, unemployment, the liquidation of revolutionary cadres (numbers of these had been guillotined), the elimination of the masses from the leadership of the country, all this brought about such an overwhelming moral and physical weariness of the masses that the people of Paris and the rest of France needed thirty-seven years’ rest before starting a new revolution.
Babeuf formulated his programme in two phases (I speak here of his programme of 1794): “Liberty and an elected Commune”.
I must now confess something: I have never let myself be lulled by the illusion that it would be sufficient for the leaders of the opposition to present themselves in party rallies and in workers meetings in order to make the masses come over to the opposition. I have always considered such hopes, coming especially from the leaders of Leningrad (this applies particularly to Zinoviev and Kamenev) as a sort of survival from the period when they took ovations and official approbation for their expression of the true sentiment of the masses and attributed them to their imagined popularity.
I will go further: this explains to me the quick about-turn which occurred in their conduct. They passed to the opposition, hoping to take power quickly. It was with this aim that they joined the opposition of 1923 (the first opposition being that of Trotsky in Moscow). When one of the “group without leaders” reproached Zinoviev and Kamenev with having let down their ally Trotsky, Kamenev answered: “We needed Trotsky to govern; to enter into the party he is a dead weight.”
However the starting-point, the premise should have been that the work of educating the party and the working class was a long and difficult task, and that it was that much more so because the minds have first of all to be cleansed of all the impurities introduced into by them the practices of the soviets and of the party and by the bureaucratization of these institutions.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the majority of the members of the party (not to speak of the young communists) have a most erroneous conception of the tasks, functions and structure of the party, to wit the conception taught them by the bureaucracy in its example, by its practical conduct and by its stereotyped formulae. All the workers who joined the party after the Civil War, entered it for the most part after 1923 (the Lenin promotion); they have no idea of what the party régime was like previously. The majority of them are without the revolutionary class education acquired in struggle, in life, in the construction of socialism. But as our bureaucracy has reduced this participation to an empty phrase, the workers are unable to acquire any part of this education. I naturally exclude, as an abnormal method of class education, the fact that our bureaucracy, by lowering real wages, by worsening conditions of work, by favouring the development of unemployment, forces the workers to struggle and awakens their class consciousness; but then this is hostile to the socialist state.
According to the conception of Lenin and of us all, the task of the party leaders consists precisely in keeping the party and the working class from the corruption of privileges, of favours, of special rights inherent in power because of its contact with remnants of the ancient nobility and of the petty bourgeoisie; we should have been prepared against the nefarious influence of the NEP, against the temptations of the ideology and morality of the bourgeoisie.
At the same time we had the hope that the party leadership would have created a new, truly worker and peasant apparatus; new, truly proletarian trade unions; a new morality of daily life. We have to recognize it frankly, clearly and in a loud and intelligible voice: the apparatus of the party has not accomplished this task. It has shown in this double task of preservation and education the most complete incompetence: it has become bankrupt: it is insolvent. We have been convinced for a long time and the last eight months should have proved to all that the leadership of the r arty was advancing on a most perilous road. And it continues to follow this road.
The reproaches which we are addressing to it do not concern so much the quantitative side of work, but rather the qualitative side. This has to be emphasized, otherwise we will be once more submerged by a flow of figures on the innumerable and complete successes obtained by the apparatus of the party and of the soviets. It is high time to put an end to this statistical charlatanism. Study the reports of the Fifteenth Party Congress. Read that of Kossior on organizational activity. What do you find? I quote literally: “The prodigious development of democracy in the party ... The organizational activity of the party has widened considerably.” And then to back all this up: statistics, more statistics and again more statistics. And this was being said at the time when there were in the files of the Central Committee documents proving the terrible disintegration of the apparatus of the party and of the soviets, of persecution, of a terror playing with the life and existence of militants and workers.
This is how Pravda of 11 April describes the power of the bureaucracy: “Opportunist elements, idle, hostile and incompetent, spend their time in chasing the best Soviet inventors beyond the frontiers of the USSR. A great blow must be struck against such elements, with all our strength, with all our determination, with all our courage ...” None the less, knowing our bureaucracy, I would not be surprised to hear again someone speaking of the “enormous and prodigious” development of the activity of the masses and of the party, of the organizational work of the Central Committee implanting democracy. I am convinced that the bureaucracy of the party and of the soviets that currently exists will continue with the same success to cultivate around itself such suppurating abcesses, in spite of the noisy trials which took place last month. This bureaucracy will not change merely because it is submitted to a cleansing. I do not deny, naturally, the relative utility and the absolute necessity of such a cleansing. I merely wish to underline that it is not only a question of a change of personnel but firstly a change in methods.
In my opinion, the first condition necessary to make the leadership of our party capable of exercising an educative role, is to reduce the size and functions of this leadership. Three-quarters of the apparatus should be done away with. The tasks of the remaining quarter should have strictly determined limits. This should apply equally to the tasks, the functions and the rights of the central organisms. The members of the party must recover their rights which have been trampled upon and be given worthwhile guarantees against the despotism to which the leading circles have accustomed us.
It is difficult to imagine what is happening in the lower ranks of the party. It is especially in the struggle against the opposition that the ideological mediocrity of these cadres has manifested itself, as has the corrupting influence which they exercise on the proletarian masses of the party. If, at the top, there existed a certain ideological line, a specious and erroneous line, mixed, it is true, with a strong dose of bad faith, in the lower ranks on the other hand demagogy of the worst order has been employed against the Opposition. The agents of the party have not hesitated to utilize anti-semitism, xenophobia, hatred of intellectuals etc. I am convinced that all party reform which is based on the bureaucracy is utopian.
To summarize: while noting, like you, the lack of spirit of revolutionary activity among the masses of the party, I see nothing surprising in this phenomenon. It is the result of all the changes which have taken place in the party and in the proletariat itself. It is necessary to re-educate the working masses and the party masses within the framework of the party and of the trade unions. This process will be long and difficult; but inevitable. It has already started. The struggle of the opposition, the expulsion of hundreds and hundreds of comrades, the imprisonments, the deportations, while having done little as yet for the communist education of our party, have in any case had more effect than the whole apparatus taken together. In reality the two factors cannot even be compared: the apparatus has wasted the party capital handed down by Lenin, not only in a useless way but in one which has caused difficulty. It has demolished while the opposition was building.
Till now, I have reasoned abstractly from the facts of our economic and political life which have been analysed in the platform of the opposition. I have done this deliberately, since my task was to underline the changes which have occurred in the composition and psychology of the party and the proletariat in relation to the taking of power itself. These facts have perhaps given a unilateral character to my exposition. But without proceeding to give a preliminary analysis, it would be difficult to understand the origin of the economic and political errors committed by our leadership in that which concerns the peasants and the problems of industrialization, the internal régime of the party, and finally, of the administration of the state.
Astrakhan, 6 August 1928
The Russian Opposition Replies to the Capitulators
The departure of the capitulators from the Opposition served as an impetus to the formation of a crisis, which was ripening within the Opposition (mass arrests, provocations everywhere, solitary confinement, the hard material conditions of the exiles as a result of the reduction of the allowance by half, the banishment of L. Trotsky, etc., and on the other hand a certain division in the Opposition caused by the “Left course” of the Centrist Leadership.) Without the severe persecutions, the Left course would have pushed new sympathizers into the ranks of the Opposition because it would signify the intellectual bankruptcy of Centrism. But it is just as true to say that without the new course the persecutions would not have had the same effect, which they have now achieved. The “Left course” played the part of fig-leaf for a Centrist decay and opportunism.
Between Two Fires
It is superfluous to characterize the methods of persecution. We’ll note only that it manifested itself not in open violence alone but also in depriving the Opposition of the elementary rights of correspondence, and in the “technical aid” of its own particular kind which the G.P.U. extended to the capitulators, reaching the point where the apparatus itself, at least in certain localities, distributed the documents of the capitulators. Some of the capitulators, staying with the Opposition, acted according to the instructions of the apparatus (Istchenko) or according to the preliminary agreement with it, negotiations between Preobrazhensky and Yaroslavsky, or Preobrazhensky and Ordjonikidze) that the “bombardment” of the Opposition will proceed from two shores: the Centrist and the Oppositionists. The Opposition was caught between two fires. The famous “freedom of correspondence” actually amounted to a real freedom for the capitulators alone, and to an “abstract freedom” for the Leninist Opposition. It must be noticed also that even here a special differentiated postal policy was applied: the documents of the capitulators were not allowed to reach those comrades from whom a definite resistance could have been expected. Answers to the capitulators’ documents were suppressed entirely.
The intellectual crisis had begun already a year ago last April. Preobrazhensky and Radek were the inciters of the “revaluation of values”. The first with a certain consistency, the second, as usual, wriggling and making jumps from the very extreme Left position to the very extreme Right and back again. Radek, by the way, reproached Preobrazhensky for his negotiations with Yaroslavsky.
Preobrazhensky was writing and saying approximately the following:
“ ‘The Centrists’ leadership is beginning to fulfill one part of the Platform, its economic part; as far as the political part of the Platform goes – it will be realized by life itself. The Opposition has fulfilled its historical mission. It has exhausted its values. It ought to come back to the Party and rely on the natural course of events.”
Thus the question of the interpretation of the Platform created two camps: the revolutionary Leninist camp fighting for the realization of its whole Platform, as formerly the Party fought for the whole program, and the opportunist capitulatory camp, which expressed its readiness to be satisfied with the “industrialization” and the collective farming policy, not giving a thought to the fact that without the realization of the political part of the Platform the whole socialist construction might fly up in the air.
Defects in the Opposition
The Opposition, which came out of the Party, is not free, in certain of its sections, from the defects and habits cultivated by the apparatus year after year. It is not free, first of all, from a certain dose of Philistinism. The bureaucratic atavism is especially hard to kill in those Oppositionists who used to stand closest to the leadership of the Party or the Soviet apparatus. It is infected partly with the fetishism of the Party book in contrast to loyalty to the Party itself, to its ideals, it historical task – loyalty inherent only in those who still want to fight further for the reformation of the Party. Finally, it is not free from that most injurious psychology of the falsifiers of Leninism, which was cultivated by the same apparatus. That is why each capitulator, running away from the Opposition, will not miss a chance to kick Trotsky with his small hoof, shod with the nails of the Yaroslavsky-Radek factory. In different conditions this inheritance of the apparatus would be easily outgrown. In the present conditions of heavy repression it comes out on the body of the Opposition in the form of an eruption of capitulators. The sifting out of those who did not think the Platform through to the end, who dream of quiet comfort, naively hiding it under the desire to take part in “grandiose fights” was inevitable. Moreover, this sifting out may have a salutary effect on the ranks of the Opposition. Those will stay in who do not regard the Platform as a sort of restaurant menu from which anyone can pick out a dish according to his own taste. The Platform was and remains the war-banner of Leninism, and only its complete realization can lead the Party and the proletarian land out of the blind alley into which they were herded by the Centrist leadership.
Those who understand that precisely the fight of the Opposition is that “grandiose fight” on the issue of which depends the future of socialist construction, the fate of the Soviet power, of the world revolution – those will not desert their posts.
As a leit-motif in the theses of the capitulators, the same thought was repeated again and again: We must return to the Party. One who does not know the story of our expulsion from the Party might think that we left it ourselves and voluntarily went into exile. To put the question that way means to transfer the responsibility for our being in exile and out of the Party from the Right-Centrist leadership to the Opposition.
We were in the Party and we wished to stay in it even when the Right-Centrist leadership denied the very necessity of drawing up any kind of a five-year plan, and calmly encouraged “the Kulaks growing into socialism”. Still more do we wish to be in the Party now, when – even if only in one part of it – a Left turn is taking place, and when it has gigantic tasks before it to fulfill. But the question before us is of an entirely different order: Will we agree to go off the Leninist line to please Centrist Opportunism? The greatest enemy of the proletarian dictatorship – is a dishonest attitude towards one’s convictions. If the Party leadership, imitating the Catholic church, which at his death-bed compels an atheist to be converted to Catholicism, extorts from the Oppositionists a recognition of imaginary mistakes and a denial of their own Leninist convictions, it loses, by this very fact, every right to be respected. The Oppositionist who changes his convictions overnight deserves only complete scorn. This practise develops a clamorous, light-minded sceptical attitude towards Leninism, the typical representative of which Radek has again become, generously scattering to the Right and to the Left his philistine aphorisms about “moderation”. The types of Shchedrin  are eternal. They are reproduced by each epoch of social-political relations, with only their historical costumes changed.
Arguments of the Capitulators
One of the favorite methods of the capitulators is to sow panic by representing the present conditions in the country as “pre-Kronstadt conditions” (Preobrazhensky’s expression). On his way to Moscow, at the Ishim station, Radek represented the struggle between the Rights and Centrists as similar to that which took place in the Convention on the eve of the 9th of Thermidor (French revolution). He said: “They are preparing arrests for each other.” Radek pointed out also that the Rights might get hold of the majority in the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission, although out of approximately 300 members and candidates in the last Plenum, the Rights did not get more than a dozen votes. The same people who, in their declaration of July 13, assert that the Centrist leadership has completely prevented the back-sliding or the “rolling” (as they delicately express themselves so as to save the virginal modesty of the leadership) are now saying, in other circumstances, something altogether different Which to believe? But even if we accept the first hypothesis, does it not follow from that, that we must sacrifice Leninism to Centrist opportunism? Of course not!
In the brief periods of his intellectual enlightenment, Radek understood this perfectly. Last year, after the July plenum of the Central Committee, he wrote to Rakovsky in Astrachan that Stalin had completely surrendered his position, that the Rights will seize power, that Thermidor is on the threshold, that what the Leninist Opposition has got to do is to preserve the “theoretical heritage of Leninism.” A political person must take into consideration the possible variations of events in the future, but his tactics would become risky adventurism if he were to base them only upon confused suppositions. The following small example shows how impermissible it is: I. N. Smirnov supposed that the C.C., in view of the difficult conditions in the country, would not demand from the trinity a capitulatory document. But seeing the negotiations slow up, Smirnov wrote a postal card on July 12: “I think, that the alleviation of the crisis (the harvest) played a definite part in it.” The capitulators themselves, by the way, spread rumors about the conciliatory moods of the Centrist leadership towards the Rights, in connection with the above-mentioned harvest. It is doubtful if even those moods are lasting. The liquidation of the Right leaders, their removal from leading posts, seems to be a settled question.
Radek Is “Always Ready!”
The Centrist leadership cleared the way to the Left and to the right so as to maneuver itself. If it makes up its mind to a new swing to the Right, the removal of the Right leaders will insure it against the loss of power. Exactly in the same way, it is indispensable for it to remove the Left Opposition: to remove a political group which could stand at the head of the Left current in the party, and which is now fighting particularly against bureaucratic methods of rationalization at the expense of the working class. In answer to a question about Trotsky, Radek said at Ishim: “We may have to make concessions to the peasants, and Trotsky will accuse us of Thermidorianism.” Does this mean that some kind of rumor has already reached Radek’s trained ear, or is it that, wishing to please the hidden, desires of the Centrist leadership, this political “Communist youth” shouts in advance: “Always ready!” No one can guarantee that in case of a new grain strike, the Centrist leadership will not jump from Article 107 – against the Kulak – to the Neo-Nep. On the contrary, it is very probable that they will.
* * *
The declaration of the trio on July 13, is a false and opportunist document. One part of it is a continuation of the work which the three have been conducted already last year, and especially in the latest months, spreading false notions about the opinions prevalent among the Opposition. By bringing the accusation against Trotsky and the Opposition, pretending that they assert that power is not in the hands of the working class, that Trotsky is “revising Leninism” and that the Opposition as a whole is going towards the creation of a new party, the three capitulators furnish, by this very fact, a new weapon to the party leadership for the further persecution of the Opposition. In its second part, the declaration of July 13 tries to rehabilitate not only the majority of the C.C. but also the whole past policy of the Right-Center bloc. The policy of the Right-Center bloc, which promoted the strengthening of the class enemy, is now being presented as a “Leninist” policy; the policy of the Leninist Opposition, on the contrary, under the direct influence of which the line of the party, if even but partially, was straightened out – is presented on “[words missing].”
With their declaration of June  the trio openly [words missing] corruption of Leninism in which the majority is engaged. Instead of a Marxist discussion of the concrete changes that took place in the Soviet state during its existence (its economic, political and juridical institutions and in the relationships of classes in the [word missing], the capitulators began a metaphysical argument about the “nature” and the “essence” of the proletarian dictatorship in general. They imitate the chaff-threshing metaphysicians, scholiasts and sophists against whom every page and line of the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin rebel. This, from the standpoint of historical materialism, good-for-nothing argument has nevertheless pursued a definite practical goal. Unceremoniously distorting the texts taken from the documents of their adversaries, replacing the terms “Centrism” and “Centrist leadership” with the terms “Soviet government” and “proletarian dictatorship”, the capitulators intended to approach, step by step, to the point where they could call Centrism one hundred percent Leninism. To call such methods of polemics anything but theoretical forgery, is impossible.
What Radek & Co. Overlooked
In their document, the capitulators write: “We overlooked (!) the fact that the policy of the C.C. was and remains Leninist”. How does it happen that it “was” Leninist, when it was one half enacted by the Rights, against whom the capitulators call for a struggle in the same document? But you cannot demand from people who have accepted the road of intellectual capitulation to be logical. Even before the actual presentation of their declaration, the trio were getting the comrades in exile ready for their “evolution.” Already in a letter from Radek to Barnaoul, on May 21, the word “Centrism” disappears and in its place appears a “Stalinist nucleus,” which proves to be more Left than the workers’ sector of the party. In the document Questions and Answers – a commentary on the draft of the declaration with which Preobrazhensky had left for Moscow – the term “Centrism” is already put in quotation marks. But while wearing out the front steps of the C.C., Preobrazhensky lost the quotation marks as well as the term itself, together with his draft of the declaration. Some people assert that there never was but one copy of that draft made. Probably Preobrazhensky did not want to leave any material traces of the swift metamorphoses to which his sociological “nature” was doomed. Neither was anything left of the heroic pose which Smilga, on the trip from Minusinnsk to Moscow, assumed against Centrism.
The basic issue between the capitulators and the Leninist Opposition was and remains Centrism. To those whose memory is short, it is necessary to recall how Centrism was defined by the Platform. Centrism, as its name testifies, represents a tendency “to sit on the fence”: It does not consistently reflect either the interests of the proletariat or the interests of the bourgeoisie. Centrism is distinguished by its eclecticism. It introduced into Communism its own intellectual substitutes, like the building of socialism in one country, the development – without conflict – of socialist economy, making middle peasants out of the whole peasantry, and similar inventions. The Platform regarded as the basis of Centrism the “upravlentzy” – the party and Soviet bureaucracy, breaking away more and more from the working class and aspiring to life jobs, or according to Preobrazhensky in Questions and Answers – “hereditary” ones.
The third peculiarity of the apparatus-Centrist group consists, according to the Platform, in its desire to substitute itself for the party in seizing more and more power in its hands, in a haughty and scornful attitude towards the masses – especially towards the unskilled workers and farm hands, in intolerance of discussions and persecution of the Left Opposition (“Fire to the Left!”).
The Capitulators Turn to Slander
Powerless to fight the Leninist Opposition with the aid of the Platform, seeing that it is impossible to acquire any considerable number of sympathizers by metaphysical tight-rope walking around the “essence” of power, the capitulators turned to slander – a favorite method of every theoretically beaten movement. They accused Trotsky of playing with the “idea” of a revolt and the “idea of a bloc with the Rights”. It is a double hypocrisy when such accusations come from people who know the complete and enduring loyalty of Trotsky not only to the Soviet government but also to his enemies in the party. On their part, accusations of this sort are a demagogic move to cover their own sympathies towards the Rights. This is especially true of Radek, about whom there is evidence that, being in exile, he did not hide his sympathies for the followers of Brandler. Later on Radek gave some involved explanations of his behavior, similar to those he gave at the time when it was discovered that he, Radek, and no one else, insisted in January 1928 that Trotsky give an extensive interview (it would be more correct to say: extensive political declaration) to the Moscow correspondent of the Berliner Tageblatt. These pretended enemies of the Right will now try choking the Leninist Opposition, in company with the Rights and the Centrists.
The banishment of Trotsky united the Right-Center leadership with the capitulators. From Bucharin, who voted for the banishment, to Radek and Smilga, a united front has been formed against the Leninist Opposistion. We can confidently assert that in accomplishing its Thermidorian act, the Centrist leadership expected to facilitate the work of the capitulators. In their turn, Radek and Smilga, in starting a campaign for separation from Trotsky, were coming to the rescue of the party leadership. If the latter had not been sure of the support of the capitulators, it would never have ventured upon such a mad performance.
1. A famous Russian satirist of the late 1890s.
The Policy of the Leadership and the Party Regime
Objectively Centrism is condemned by history. Precisely because of this, in its desire to preserve itself as a leading group, it takes measures in order to still more strengthen itself organizationally and ideologically. For that purpose it utilizes the gigantic power which the revolution concentrated in the hands of the party leadership. Centrism excluded and is still excluding the Rights from the leadership in the Trade Unions and the Comintern, the Soviet and Party organizations, but only for the purpose of substituting Centrists for the Rights. But what is most characteristic of the Centrist leadership is that with doubled and tripled energy it concentrated its severity against the Leninist Opposition, enriching daily its arsenal with new guns of compulsion. The most remarkable invention in this respect which was made after our platform had been written, is the invention which leaves its impression on the present epoch and which resurrects in the Soviet Union, the clerical methods of the Middle Ages. This is the effort to compel by all means that the Oppositionists of the Communist Party give up their Communist views (which was proven by the attitude towards, the so-called “Left-Centrists” – Schatzkin, Sten, and others; the impatience of Centrism, has lately increased still more). Life proved the whole inconsistency of the Centrist ideologic zig-zags wrong and anti-Leninist ones.
But Centrism, having a monopoly on the press, continues to falsify the Leninist teachings and leads astray the Party and the working class by saying that it is not the Kulak that attacks us, but we attack the Kulak (Bauman, Molotov). The claim of the capitulators, that Centrism has changed although it still rests on the same ever-widening social base – the “functionaries” with a corresponding ideology, and its peculiar apparatus methods of ruling the country and the Party, only proves that the capitulators have lost all their theoretical conscience and have rolled themselves into the mud of Centrism. Because Centrism is condemned by history as a current not possessing the requisite qualities, and sooner or later will cease to be a determining factor in the life of the Party, the liquidation of the Leninist Opposition, its dissolution in the Centrist mud, would mean nothing else than the presentation of the power to the Rights. In betraying the Opposition, the capitulators betray the interests of Communism, the Party and the working class.
The Changes in Class Relations
The capitulators befog the capital question: what kind of a turn is taking place in relation to the class forces in the country? It is true, as we shall see, they sometimes talk about it, but then only when they have to sow panic in the midst of the Opposition. But ordinarily to them the turn in the country and the Party is covered by the turn in the policy of the Centrist leadership – which is of course not the same. The turn in the country continues to unfold unfavorably for the proletariat. There undoubtedly is a Left turn in the Party, but its reasons and character are distinguished from the turn in the leadership. For the Centrist leadership the turn towards the struggle with agrarian capitalism was a matter of compulsion. This is a turn of the bureaucratic group under the pressure of events but the turn in the Party – we have in mind the working section of it – is a class turn. But while the Center makes its Left steps on the agrarian question, with excuses adapting itself to the moment, the turn in the Party is a genuine revolutionary one.
The Centrist leadership conceals very carefully the contradictory processes going on in the country. One of the most harmful peculiarities of the Centrist leadership is to cover up the traces and to present every thing in a rosy light (everything goes from good to better). But it does not succeed in hiding everything. The loud scandals that occur periodically prove how far the decomposition of the Right-Center apparatus has gone in the Party as well as in the Soviets and Trade Unions. Beginning with the heights of the commissariats themselves and ending with the county committees bourgeois rust penetrates the pores of the proletarian dictatorship. The pri[vate] owner[s] in the village have already succeeded in partly getting hold of the apparatus, subordinating it to their class interest.
Sometimes through the official material which presents a picture of general welfare and idyllic relations between the working class and our government, there breaks through like lighning through clouds, tragic facts, such as the murder and lynching at the Grivno Station which throw an instantaneous but clear light on the realities. The press had to register the words of the defense at the trial: “A passing quarrel occurred between the working class and the apparatus created by it”. In the same newspaper, in the speeches of the prosecuting attorney, was noted the fact of passive and indifferent conduct of the Communists and Young Communists present in the mob during the wild lynching scene. If one can analyse politically the event at the Grivno Station, he will understand that it has a more symptomatic significance than one or another resolution at a Party conference. A no less symptomatic significance is the fact that a worker was boycotted by his craftsmen for joining the Communist Party, or the fact included in the report about organizational conditions in Bakinsk, where the falling off of workers reaches 25% of the number of applicants in a year. Workers leave the Party in spite of the fact that membership in it insures to a certain extent against the loss of one’s job. As far as the moods of the village are concerned is is significant to point out that the results which were brought by the “chaotic character of the grain collections” resulted in the village in a bloc between the poor and middle peasants with the Kulaks.
Industrialization and the Classes
The capitulators try to single out the industrialization and the building of collective farms from the whole chain of Centrist measures – from its general policies. Considering them as a sort of “matters of their own” they also attempt to regard the “new course” of Centrism as independent of the immediate reasons that called it forth. Finally they avoid or befog the biggest and most basic questions: What conditions must be fulfilled that the industrialization and the building of collective farms shall not remain mere paper resolutions (like the resolution on Party democracy at the end of 1923), that it shall not be stopped half-way, or that they should not give results directly opposite to those expected.
The new Centrist servants and accountants, the capitulators, supporters of un-principledness, and possibleism, avoid analysing the most important sides of the question of industrialization and the struggle against agrarian capitalism, knowing that an honest discussion of these questions would reveal the double face[d]ness and contradictions of Centrism, its inability to get OB the road of continuous Socialist construction. In reality such a discussion would have revealed that
1. The policy of Centrism remains Right on the Labor question and the Party regime (here it even went to the worst compared to the past) and partly in the village (not allowing unions of poor pea[sants.] The sharpening of the class struggle [some words missing] [peas]sants, the new law on food taxes, the raising of prices on grain which gave the well-to-do peasants an additional 350 million rubles); all this not only disturbs the industrialization and building of collective farms but puts it under the direct threat of a break-up.
2. The Left swing of the Center (industrialization, building of collective farms) is a compelled one – on the one hand, by the pressure of the Rights who wanted to sweep aside the Center with the aid of the Kulak and grain strikes, and on the other hand, by the pressure of the dissatisfaction of the working class, whose interests were hit by the grain strike; and finally by the pressure of the Leninist Opposition. The removal of the effect of the latter two factors would immediately create the condition for a new Right swing of the Center, either with the leaders remaining at the head, or by way of removing the present leaders of that part of the Party which follows the Right leaders.
3. The only real guarantees against a new recession of the Center to the Right is the Leninist Opposition when consistently expresses the interests of the proletariat and the village poor.
The Five Year Plan
The capitulators consider the five year plan from the arithmetic viewpoint exclusively, not taking into consideration, even from such an approach, that as a result of inflation and the drop of the buying power of the Chervonetz, the figure of investments is in reality much smaller than the five year plan shows. They leave out the main question: what change in the class relations in the country will the five year plan bring? This “oversight” on the part of Radek and Company is fully understood insofar as the five year plan is the fig leaf to cover up their capitulation. Meanwhile here is what a co-editor of the official organ of the Gosplan Planned Economy (Strumlin) is compelled to admit. If the Five Year Plan will be realized fully – at the end of five years the rise of the per capita national income will be 51% in the city, 62% in the village and 40% for the well-to-do part of the village. However, this is under the condition of the stabilization of prices on agricultural products on the level of 114%, that is 14% higher than in 1927–28. Meantime the index of the private agricultural sector has risen 37.9% in only this one year.
Further, the actual income of the worker (city) is supposed to go up by the end of the five years by 58%, but the productivity of the worker is supposed to rise 100–110%. At the same time, the village, through only the difference in prices, will get 3.5 billion rubles, and in the government expenditures for industrialization only about 10% will be allotted. The growth of wages in the first part of this year amounted to 7.1%, but the price index of the collectivised sector went up 8.5%, private, 19.3% and the agricultural, as we already saw, 37.9%. The conclusion: the center of gravity of the wealthy part of the village in the general economics of the country will grow further, notwithstanding the talk about the struggle against agrarian capitalism.
Without unions of poor peasants, the political influence of the wealthy peasantry [and the] Nep’men in the city and the well-to-do will grow to a still greater degree, insofar as the Kulak will continue to group about himself the middle peasants and part of the poor. Further, the bureaucratic methods of rationalization, with the aid of administrative pressure, “blacklisting” and tricks of à la Larin may create such a break away of the working class from the Party, such a political minus, which it will be impossible to compensate by the best achievements of industrialization. The Party leadership expects to support itself on the groups of poor in the village, but the latter are a mere fiction. “There is almost no work conducted among the groups of poor” wrote one of the members of the collegium of the Commissariat of Agriculture, Latzis. (Pravda, December 23, 1928) Another fact: In Siberia there are 15 thousand cooperatives, and in them there are only 266 groups of poor organized (figures by Komarov, member of the territory committee).
Centrists Fear Workers and Poor Peasants
In regard to the working class as well as the peasant poor, Centrism continues its former policy of fear and lack of confidence – this is a feature of bureaucratism generally. Centrism fears the real participation of the laboring masses in Socialist construction. Of course it would like to support itself on them, but with the conditions that the masses should not occupy themselves with “politics”, that is, shall not judge and what is more, criticise the “general line”. Centrism kills the actual initiative of the masses. If under the influence of sharpening struggle in the village Centrism should be compelled to permit unions of peasant poor, it will put them under such bureaucratic supervision, that they would very rapidly resemble our trade unions, out of which bureaucratism has castrated the class and revolutionary content. Industrialization and a struggle with agrarian capitalism, directed by the apparatus, which is partly worn off and which has lost its revolutionary enthusiasm and in many of its links is decomposed, will be under constant threat of break-up.
The Party Regime
The Opposition of the years 1923–24 foresaw the tremendous harm to the proletarian dictatorship coming out of the perversion of the Party regime. Events have completely justified the prognosis: the enemy has climbed in through the bureaucratic window.
Now more than at any other time it must be said loudly: a correct democratic Party regime is the testing stone of the present Left course.
There is an opinion held even by some steadfast revolutionaries, that a “correct line” in the sphere of economics must “of itself bring about a correct Party regime. This view, with its pretence to dialectics, is one-sided and anti-dialectical, because it ignores the fact that in the historic process, cause and effect change their places repeatedly. A wrong line will increase a wrong regime and a wrong regime will still more disfigure the line.
Under Lenin there was a correct line. But it was precisely Lenin who pointed out that the apparatus with its anti-proletarian methods, turn a correct line into its opposite.
“The machine isn’t going where we guide it, but where some illegal, or lawless or God-knows-whence derived speculators or private capitalistic businessmen, either the one or the other are guiding it. A machine doesn’t always travel just exactly the way, and it often travels just exactly not the way, that the man imagines who sits at the wheel.”
That is how Lenin expressed himself at the Party congress at which he appeared for the last time. What Lenin signalised at the time – as proof of the influence of the bourgeoisie on the apparatus, developed thanks to the policy of the Centrist top. By selecting people not according to their ability, experience and tried honesty, but exclusively according to the principle of adaptability, the Centrists gave that luxurious bouquet the songle [sic] followers of which, bear the names of our great cities: Smolensk, Baku, etc. Centrism did not create bureaucratism. It inherited it together with the other general peculiarities, cultural and others – with the conditions of our country. But instead of combating bureaucratism, Centrism developed it into a system of government, carried it over. Stalin and the Centrist apparatus are mak[ing] [some words missing] from the Soviet apparatus into the Party and gave the latter forms and dimensions which are unheard of, which are indefensible, in view of the role of political leadership the Party has to play.
The Stalinist Bureaucracy
On top of that the Centrist leadership has raised to Communist dogmas (“organizational principles of Leninism”) the methods of command and compulsion, refining them to a degree rarely known in the history of bureaucratic virtuosity. With the aid of these demoralizing methods, making machines out of thinking Communists, killing the will, character and human dignity – the Centrist top succeeded in becoming an irreplaceable and inviolable oligarchy, substituting the Party and the class.
The capitulators do not like to talk any longer of the Party regime and Party bureaucracy. This seems to them now to be natural, as if it were part of the proletarian dictatorship. From the moment the capitulators decided to achieve a place under our Soviet bureaucratic sun, the Stalinist regime has become to them the very best or the best; a democratic, a workers, and a Party one. A particularly cynical apologist has become – Radek. With ease he threatens his former comrades with article 58; in his declaration of July 13, he tries to defend the methods of the leadership, which served to decompose the apparatus within the country and has done harm to the dictatorship outside the country. Those who talk about Party democracy (evidently Lenin is to be included) are nothing else but vulgar liberals, struggling for freedom in the abstract! Meantime the struggle with the class enemy, that regenerates and becomes more ugly, in the future too will be hindered by the wrong and extremely abnormal Party regime.
The old methods are already condemned, they collapsed with a crash. This the Centrist top recognizes, but as always it tries to throw off responsibility, to throw dust in the eyes, to deceive the masses, to whose justified dissatisfaction, they toss a few scapegoats. It tries to deceive the masses with so-called self-criticism. Everyone is permitted to criticise himself, but those who are chiefly responsible and guilty not only do not criticise themselves, but they do not even permit the Party to criticise them. They are gifted with the godly attribute of infallibility.
However, they are not able to conceal the conditions from the Party and the working class. The question is put edgeways and it is necessary to give an answer. This must be done without delay. Before the Party are two roads – either it will be capable to give the proletarian dictatorship a directing organization based on confidence, and about which Lenin spoke, which will be capable to establish a workers’ democracy and to restrain an unruly stubborn apparatus, its misuses and mismanagement, the incapabilities of which costs hundreds of millions of rubles, besides the tremendous moral harm it does to the proletarian dictatorship. Either the Party will be sufficiently mature to do all this, or else it will help – against its own will and to the greatest harm to itself, the revolution and Communism – the class enemy which will thus break into our Soviet fortress under the banner of a false, hypocritical, vile, bourgeois democracy in order to pave afterwards the way for unrestrained fascism. Either – or. There is no other way.