William Henry Chamberlin | Soviet Russia: A Living Record and a History
IT is a familiar Moscow joke that there may be any number of political parties in the Soviet Union, but under a single indispensable condition: that one party be in power and the others in jail. This expresses quite accurately the realities of the Russian situation; it also indicates that the Russian Communists do not constitute a party in the Western sense of an organization that competes periodically for political power with other organizations, enjoying similar freedom of agitation and propaganda. The All-Union Communist Party is the instrument of an absolute dictatorship, which, besides directing the organized political and economic life of the country, attempts to exercise a decisive influence on every important phase of intellectual and social development.
While, as I shall show later, it is not the desire of the Communist leaders to make Party members out of all, or even out of a majority of the population, and while non-Party people are not only permitted but encouraged to participate actively in public life, every important institution in Russia, whether it be a central or local governing body, a trade-union, a state trust, a cooperative, or a university, is subject to Communist control, usually embodied in a Communist president or other official head. Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee and the most important political figure in Russia to-day, says: -
"In the Soviet Union . . . no important political or organizational problem is ever decided by our Soviets and other mass organizations without directives from the Party."
See Stalin's Leninism, the English translation of his work, Problems of Leninism, published by George Allen and Unwin, London, p. 33.
This does not mean that the local branches of the Communist Party attempt to decide every petty detail of the work of the Soviets, trade-unions, and cooperatives. As a matter of fact they are expressly warned not to do this, but to leave to the above-mentioned organizations the maximum liberty and spontaneity of action consonant with the carrying out of the general lines of Party policy. But these general lines must always be carried out.
The philosophy underlying the Communist dictatorship is Leninism, or the revolutionary interpretation of Marxian socialism worked out by Vladimir Ilyitch Lenin. The main points in this philosophy, summarized very briefly, are as follows.(1)
The achievement of socialism is the highest goal of humanity, because this will mean the abolition of the elements of inequality, exploitation, and oppression which are inherent in private capitalism and will stop the recurrent wars which are an inevitable by-product of competing systems of capitalist imperialism. Socialism, or communism (Lenin, like Marx, uses these two terms interchangeably[A]), can never come by a process of peaceful evolution, even in countries where such democratic liberties as universal suffrage and freedom of press and assemblage prevail. Under the capitalist system the small wealthy minority enjoys such advantages in the manipulation of public opinion through the control of newspapers and large publishing houses and the manifold other advantages which are associated with wealth that it is utopian to hope to win away even the majority of the working class, to say nothing of the majority of the population, from this capitalist influence by argument and propaganda alone. Moreover, the bourgeoisie, in a moment of revolutionary crisis, would not abide by the rules of its own parliamentary game; should it find its economic privileges seriously threatened it would resort to military or Fascist dictatorship.
Therefore, the first task in realizing the goal of socialism is the violent overthrow of the capitalist state, which can be accomplished in a period of extreme weakness and disintegration of capitalism by the more class-conscious revolutionary elements among the working class, acting perhaps in alliance with the poorer peasantry and dissatisfied national minorities, depending on the political and social condition of the country concerned, and always obeying the direction of a firmly disciplined revolutionary party, the Communist Party. The overthrow of the capitalist state is to be followed, both in Russia and in other countries where it may take place, by a phase known as the dictatorship of the proletariat, when all the resources of the state are directed primarily to the crushing of the inevitable resistance of the former ruling classes.
The Communist Party, having fulfilled its function as organizer of the revolution, must continue to direct the building of the new socialist order; and it must always adhere to the principles of strict unity and iron discipline. In Lenin's Conditions of Admission into the Communist International occurs the passage: [B]
"During the present epoch of intense civil warfare the Communist Party can accomplish its task only on condition that it is highly centralized, that it is dominated by an iron discipline which is quasi-military in its severity, that it is guided by a group of comrades at the centre, enjoying the confidence of the rank-and-file members, endowed with authority and possessing wide executive powers."
The dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be dispensed with even when the revolutionary state is firmly established in a single country and when open resistance to its authority has ceased. Because there remains the inevitable antagonism between the single socialist state (Russia, in the given case) and the capitalist world. This basic antagonism cannot disappear, even though, over a more or less prolonged period, external peace and commercial relations may exist between socialist Russia and capitalist Europe and America. In this connection Lenin wrote (see Volume XVI of the Russian edition of his Collected Works, p. 102): [C]
"It is inconceivable that the Soviet Republic should continue to exist interminably side by side with imperialist states. Ultimately one or the other must conquer. Pending this development a number of terrible clashes between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois states must inevitably occur."
Hence the Bolshevik Revolution is not only Russian but international in its scope and significance. The Soviet state may survive indefinitely in Russia, building up a socialist economic order on the vast natural resources of the country and enjoying a breathing space as a result of the political antagonisms and other causes which may hold back the capitalist powers from launching an open attack against it. But the menace of such an attack, of a renewal in some form or other of the wars of intervention which marked the first years of the existence of the Soviet Republic, is never absent. There-fore, the final victory of socialism, which will usher in the golden communist era of humanity, when armies, police, and all means of compulsion will be abolished and the state itself, in Lenin's phrase, will wither away because there will be no more of the class economic antagonisms which the state ex-presses - this final victory, then, can only be an international victory, the world revolution which is the Messianic hope of Russian Communists.
Lenin, like many potent leaders before him (one thinks instinctively of the founder of the Order of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola), perceived very keenly the advantages, for purposes of swift, decisive action, of a small, but fanatically devoted and reliably disciplined organization, as against a larger body, vaguer in ideas and likely to prove flabby and irresolute in moments of crisis. In pre-revolutionary polemics with his Menshevik and other opponents Lenin always insisted that a revolutionary socialist party, in order to function effectively, must be distinguished by two qualities: absolute subordination of the will of the individual members to the central organs of the Party, and willingness of each individual member to make any sacrifice, up to life itself, for the advancement of the cause. He strongly emphasized the superiority of quality over mere numbers in this connection [see Democratic Centralism]. And the course of the Revolution demonstrated the practical correctness of his viewpoint. The Communist Party owed its victory in the civil war more to these instincts for discipline and unity, which Lenin had drilled into its older members, than to almost any other single factor.
The All-Union Communist Party in January 1929 reckoned 1,529,000 members and candidates, the latter being applicants for membership who are still on probation. So about one person in every hundred in the Soviet Union is a professing Communist. There are over 2,000,000 members of the Union of Communist Youth, an organization with less severe,entrance requirements than those of the Party (described in more detail in Chapter 14). For it is no easy matter to gain admission to the ruling Party in the Soviet Union. Workers are preferred above other classes of the population as candidates for membership; but even a manual worker, the aristocrat of Soviet Russia, must obtain two recommendations from old Party members and pass through a period of six months' probation before he may be admitted to full-fledged membership. For peasants, employees, and intellectuals a larger number of sponsors and longer periods of probation are required. Members of the classes disfranchised under the Soviet Constitution, merchants, traders, priests and ministers of religion, private employers of labor, etc., are naturally disqualified from belonging to the Communist Party.
The ceremony of admitting new members into the Party, which I witnessed once at a meeting of the yacheika, (the word in Russian literally means "cell.") or local branch of the Moscow electrical station, is quite simple and devoid of any suggestion of ritualistic initiation. Candidates who have been on probation for the required length of time are proposed for membership at a general meeting of the branch; their qualifications are discussed; and they are admitted or rejected by a majority vote. In this particular yacheika the spirit of proletarian class-consciousness was very strong. The names of the few intellectuals who were proposed for membership were subjected to searching scrutiny and criticism; it seemed to be about as difficult to pass a camel through the eye of a needle as to bring a nonproletarian into this Communist local branch. On the other hand worker candidates for membership were apt to pass even when serious criticisms were voiced against them.
The basic unit in the Communist Party is the yacheika, which consists of all the Communists in a given factory, office, army unit, or village. There are about 50,000 of these local branches all over the country.(2) The local branches of a country district receive instructions from a county committee, which they elect, and this county committee in its turn is subordinated to the higher provincial committee. Ward committees, over which stands a city committee, guide the work of the local branches in the cities.
At the head of the whole Communist organization stands the Party Central Committee, which consists of seventy-one members and fifty candidates, or alternate members. This body is elected by the Party Congress, which meets every two years and has attached to it a large staff of permanent departments for special agitation and propaganda work among women, peasants, and non-Russian nationalities, for control and direction of the press, etc. The actual highest governing authority in the Party, and hence for the whole country, is not the large unwieldy Central Committee, but an inner steering group of nine members and eight alternates, elected by the Central Committee and known as the Political Bureau. This body holds steady and frequent sessions and its decisions are binding for the whole vast mechanism of the Communist Party, which, in its turn, determines the policies of the Soviet state.
The Central Committee is convened four times a year in plenary sessions, which are held jointly with a still larger body, the Control Commission, numbering almost two hundred members. Whereas the Central Committee is primarily an executive organ for the Party, the Control Commission is entrusted with the functions of maintaining discipline and morale and possesses the right to reprimand and expel unworthy members. I do not believe that during recent years there has ever been a case when an important decision of the Political Bureau was reversed by these plenary sessions of the Central Committee and the Control Commission. The biennial Party Congress invariably bestows its benediction on the resolutions which are proposed for its adoption by the retiring Central Committee. In general, while the Communist Party organs are formally elective, the prestige and authority of the Central Committee and its steering committee, the Political Bureau, strengthened as they are by a large permanent apparatus of propaganda and organization, are so great that no rank-and-file movement aimed at the replacement of the personnel of these organs by other candidates has much chance of making headway.
The Secretariat, of which Joseph Stalin, in his capacity as General Secretary, is had, and which includes four secretaries and four alternates, and the Organization Bureau, with its thirteen members and eight alternates, are two important institutions in guiding the activities of the 1,500,000 Communist Party members and candidates. In general the Communist Party organization, in spirit and methods, has not a few points of resemblance to a disciplined army. The Political Bureau is the general staff, the members of the Organization Bureau and the Secretariat; the Central Committee and the Control Commission are the generals and higher officers; the provincial and county secretaries are the captains and lieutenants; the secretaries of the local branches are the sergeants and corporals.
What sort of people are enlisted in this army of Communism ? The Party has been built up in a series of concentric layers. Its original kernel is represented by the "old Bolsheviks," by the men and women whose Party cards date back to the days of Tsarism. There are between 7000 and 8000 of these pre-revolutionary Communists; but their weight in the Party councils is out of all proportion to their actual numbers. It is an unwritten tradition that the highest Party and Soviet offices should be held, for the most part, by these veteran revolutionists. All the members of the Political Bureau belong in this category, and only 8.3 per cent of the members of the Central Committee joined the Party in 1917 or later.
The 7000 or 8000 "old Bolsheviks" include a fairly high percentage of university-educated intelligentsia. Since 1917 the tendency has been for the Party to become more and more proletarian in character, because the Russian intelligentsia, as a class, was opposed to Bolshevism, and, especially during recent years, there has been an organized effort to raise the percentage of actual manual workers to 50 per cent of the total member-ship. According to data of January 1, 1928, 60.5 per cent of the Communist Party members were workers by origin, 19.2 per cent were peasants, 18.5 per cent were employees, and 1.2 per cent fell under other categories. The corresponding percentages for Communists by occupation were 40.8, 12.3, 36.1, and 10.8. This discrepancy is quite natural, because many working-class and peasant Communists are promoted to the state service or sent to the higher schools.
According to the Communist Party census of 1927, 65 per cent of the members at that time were Russians, 11.72 per cent were Ukrainians, 4.32 per cent Jews, 3.18 per cent White Russians, and the remainder were divided among the many peoples of the Soviet Union. Of the Party membership 12.8 per cent consists of women.
One can find just about as many types of Communists as there are types of human nature. I shall not soon forget the veteran Communist, Nikolai Alexandrovitch, whom I met several years ago in Bokhara. Sent there by the Party Central Committee with sweeping powers to reorganize and guide the activities of the young Bokharan Communist Party, Nikolai Alexandrovitch and his wife, like himself a student revolutionary in pre-war days, lived like Spartans, utterly oblivious and contemptuous of the rich gifts in silks and other luxuries which the not always very sincere Bokharan Communists would have been only too glad to shower on such influential visitors. Later I found him in Moscow, where he was holding a high post in the Commissariat for Finance. Although he was suffering from a fairly advanced stage of tuberculosis, he never permitted himself any indulgence or any rest; and it required almost an order from the Central Committee to make him go to a sanatorium and take a cure. He was a classical example of the devoted idealistic Communist, of the man who lives solely with the idea of "building socialism." Such characters are not common in the Communist Party or anywhere else; but there are enough of them in Russia to constitute a very powerful moral reserve for the Soviet state order and to explain why it has successfully held out, in many cases against heavy odds.
By way of contrast to the Nikolai Alexandrovitches, one has the scandals which recur from time to time in Communist provincial organizations, which are apparently sometimes dominated by people not very different in character from American ward bosses. To strike the balance between the idealistic and the deteriorating tendencies in the Party would be a very difficult task; and no outsider could essay it with any degree of confidence. In order to have a proper base for any such estimate one would have to work for years in the Control Commission, which is the collective keeper of the Party conscience.
It is my personal impression that the best Communists, as a rule, are to be found in two classes: the intelligentsia whose revolutionary activity began in pre-war times, and the more earnest and sincere manual workers, especially those who fought on the various fronts of the civil war. The worst types of Communists are largely recruited from an element which is difficult to classify or define, consisting of people who belonged neither to the educated classes nor to the industrial working class before the Revolution. Every social upheaval brings to the top, along with its unsuspected heroes and idealists, a fair proportion of adventurers and careerists; and Russia does not represent an exception to this general rule.
It is never possible for a large ruling group to maintain the uniformly high standards of devotion and sincerity which usually characterize a small persecuted sect. Under Tsarism no one joined any revolutionary party unless he was willing to take his chance of imprisonment or Siberian exile. To-day a worker may join the Communist Party because he thinks this will be an insurance against dismissal; an employee may put in an application for membership because he hopes this will be the stepping-stone to a higher post; a student may become a Communist because this will enhance his chances of being admitted to the university.
The Communist Party leadership is quite alive to these inevitable dangers of internal deterioration and tries to guard against them by enforcing a rigorous disciplinary code through the agency of the Control Commission, which has among its members many old Bolsheviks with a stern attitude toward any yearning after bourgeois fleshpots on the part of the younger Party recruits. Medieval monastic orders demanded of their members the observance of the three rules of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Relative poverty is imposed on the Communist, who is limited to a salary of 225 rubles (about 115 dollars) a month, although there are certain loopholes here, because the Communist authors may retain most of the proceeds from their writings, and the highly placed Communist enjoys some perquisites in the shape of comfortable living quarters, traveling expenses, use of automobiles, etc. The Communist is not obliged to fulfill the requirement of chastity; but obedience, the third rule of the Medieval monk, is very strictly enforced. A Communist can commit no greater offense than to disobey a decision handed down by the Central Committee or to refuse to carry out an order which he has received from the Party committee under which he is working.
Functioning with the aid of a network of local commissions established all over the country, the Control Commission every year excludes from the Party a little over 2 per cent of its total membership. Expulsion is the supreme penalty; milder forms of punishment, such as reprimands and demotions, are more commonly applied. The most familiar causes of expulsion from the Party are drunkenness, embezzlement, heretical political views, and what is rather quaintly called in Russian "connection with an alien element." This last phrase means that the person concerned has too many close associations, through marriage or otherwise, with "bourgeois" circles, in which no self-respecting proletarian is supposed to move.
Apart from these habitual failings, a glance through the columns of the journal published by the Central Committee, which reports the names and details of many expulsions, reveals a considerable variety of applications of the new discipline and the new morality. Sometimes tragic or comic human dramas are hidden behind these dry, matter-of-fact announcements. Here is a peasant, for instance, excluded for "having his child christened in a church and indulging in a drunken orgy," two very old Russian customs which, from the Communist stand-point, are equally objectionable. Another peasant is cast out because he abused his Party position to conceal his tax liabilities and to obtain an unfair share of credit from the local bank. Somewhere in the southeast a Communist is exposed as a former active participant in the White movement of General Denikin; he is lucky if he escapes with mere expulsion from the Party. Then there was the case of A. Abdukarimov, a member of the Central Soviet Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in Central Asia. It seems that his racial tradition was stronger than his grasp of the teachings of Marx and Lenin, and he arrested a fellow Uzbek who publicly took off his wife's veil, with the latter's consent. This was characterized, in the sentence of expulsion, as "outrageous opposition to the cause of liberating the women of the East."
Besides examining Communists against whom definite complaints are made, the Control Commission at long intervals resorts to wholesale "purges" of the Party. In 1929 it was decided to institute such a purge, with a view to checking up on the rapid numerical growth of the Party, which has been increasing at the rate of about 200,000 a year during the last few years, and eliminating undesirable elements. It was estimated in advance that about 150,000 Communists, or 10 per cent of the total membership (including the candidates) would be expelled during this process. In a purge every Party member, regardless of whether any charges have been preferred against him or not, must appear before representatives of the Control Commission and satisfy them that he is a sound Communist in thought and action. In the factories non-Party workers are sometimes called on to participate in the purge by offering judgment on the Communists and pointing out those who are shkurniki, or people who look after their own skins, a familiar Russian characterization for careerists.
Communist morality is strictly pragmatic in character. Every action is judged not by any criterion of personal virtue or sin but from the standpoint of whether it advances or injures the interests of the Party, which, of course, are assumed to coincide with those of the proletariat. There is, for instance, no rule that a Communist must be a total abstainer. But if he drinks so long and deep that he discredits the Party by creating public scandals, or shows a tendency to lay his hands on state or public funds to which he may have access, he becomes liable to expulsion. The same standard is applied to other moral lapses. The Control Commission demands the absolute sub-ordination of personal feelings to the welfare of the Party. So, in considering the applications of repentant Trotzkyists for readmission into the Party ranks it always lays down the condition that they must reveal the names of their associates in opposition work, even though these associates may be relatives or close friends, to whom they are bound by pledges of secrecy. Occasionally this demand encounters a decisive refusal; I recall the case of a Communist woman in Odessa who replied to a demand for the names of her associates in Trotzkyist underground work: -
"I should no more reveal them to you than I should have betrayed them to the Tsar's gendarmes before the Revolution." But by the laws of Communist ethics the Control Commision has an undoubted right to demand any political information from Party members. On the whole it is my impression that the Control Commission carries out effectively its functions of hunting down heretics, maintaining Party discipline and unity, and excluding obviously unworthy members. The notorious grafter, the debauched Party or Soviet official who resorts to the somewhat feudal practice of bringing pressure on the women in his employ to live with him, are almost certain to fall sooner or later into the far-flung net of the Control Commission. Of course, no mechanical institution can ensure 100 per cent loyalty and devotion in a large mass party. There are careerists clever enough to evade any sort of tests and traps that may be set for them; and there are always personally idealistic revolutionaries, more devoted to Communist ideas than many officially registered Party members, who fall under the ban of higher authority by associating themselves with some nonconformist opposition movement.
Notwithstanding its strict rules of internal discipline, the Communist Party has always had its heretics and dissenters. This is all the more natural and inevitable because such pre-revolutionary groups as the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionists, to say nothing of more conservative parties, have been practically extinguished. The Communist Party, therefore, remains the sole agency for the expression of the political and economic differences of opinion which are bound to come up when the Soviet ship of state encounters unforeseen difficulties in its uncharted course.
The two most important dissident movements within the ranks of the Communist Party during recent years have been Trotzkyism and the so-called "Right Deviation." Of these, the former, in my opinion, has more significance for the past, and the latter for the future.
The first open intimation of a breach between Leon Trotzky and his associates in the Political Bureau was the publication in December 1923 of a message from Trotzky to the Moscow and Leningrad organizations of the Party, entitled The NewCourse. Rumors had been current for many months before this of serious differences of opinion between Trotzky and his, adherents, of whom he had a few in the Central Committee, and the majority of the Party leaders. In The New Course Trotzky, greeting a recent decision of the Political Bureau to the effect that more democracy should be introduced into the Communist Party organization, expressed the fear that the Party bureaucrats might not put this resolution into practice. He suggested that more consideration should be given to the youth in the Party councils, and that there should be more organized planning of the state economic life.
The publication of this appeal was the signal for a sharp struggle, especially within the Moscow organization of the Party, where Trotzky's supporters were strongest. But the Central Committee majority won all along the line. At the Thirteenth Congress of the Communist Party, held in the spring of 1924, Trotzky was almost completely isolated, and comparatively obscure Party functionaries assailed him and his views with impunity. A beginning was made with the tremendous publicity campaign, which developed more and more strongly in subsequent years and was designed to show, on the basis of Trotzky's numerous pre-war differences with Lenin, that he was never a real Bolshevik.
In the autumn of 1924 Trotzky published an introduction to a collection of his speeches and articles of 1917, entitled The Lessons of October. In this introduction he pointed out that Gregory Zinoviev and Leo Kamenev, who, along with Joseph Stalin, were his main opponents in the Party leadership, had opposed the launching of the successful Bolshevik insurrection in November 1917, and had incurred the unmeasured denunciation of Lenin, who called them "deserters and strike-breakers" for their attitude at that time.
This was regarded as a challenge by the Party leadership. A new flood of condemnatory articles poured from the presses. Trotzky was forced to resign from his post as War Commissar, in which he had really been superseded by the trusted appointee the Central Committee, Mikhail Frunze, some time before, and withdrew to a Caucasian health resort for a prolonged vacation.
The year 1925 represented a new turn in the situation. Trotzky returned from the Caucasus in the spring and filled several minor posts, including that of head of the Concessions Committee. Meanwhile a breach had developed between Stalin and his associates, Zinoviev and Kamenev. The latter desired to apply much more drastic punitive measures against Trotzky, including even his expulsion from the Party. Stalin opposed this and carried the majority of the Political Bureau and the Central Committee with him. Other differences cropped up. Zinoviev and Kamenev began to raise the cry that the conquests of the Revolution were in danger, that the Stalinite leadership of the Party was neglecting the task of fostering the international revolutionary movement and was promoting the strengthening of capitalism in Russia by a more moderate agrarian policy, which favored the growth of a new class of kulaks, or well-to-do peasants, in the villages.
The Fourteenth Congress of the Party, held at the end of 1925, witnessed a struggle on these issues. Stalin's mastery of the Party organization was again manifested; the Congress condemned as Menshevik and defeatist the views of Zinoviev and Kamenev, who had begun to express doubt as to the possibility of building up socialism in Russia alone, without any aid from the international revolutionary movement. While Trotzky preserved complete silence during this Congress, it was for some time credibly believed that his sympathies were with Stalin, who had saved him from complete political annihilation, rather than with his more vindictive enemies, Zinoviev and Kamenev.
However, for reasons which have never been altogether cleared up, Trotzky in the early summer of 1926 entered into a bloc with Zinoviev and Kamenev. Common jealousy to Stalin's predominant position and belief that their combined efforts might shake it probably influenced the formation of this alliance. Then Trotzky, as far back as 1905, had proclaimed his so-called theory of permanent revolution, which fitted in easily with the line of criticism adopted by Zinoviev and Kamenev. This theory, in essence, was that the Russian working class, without cooperation with the liberal bourgeoisie, would overthrow the Tsarist Government and set up a socialist state, which, in the course of time, would inevitably come into conflict with the property-owning peasantry. The Russian Revolution, therefore, could only hope for lasting victory in the event that it received support in the form of other socialist revolutions in more advanced industrial countries.
Throughout 1926 and 1927 a furious theoretical controversy between the Stalinite majority and the opposition, headed by Trotzky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev, raged around the questions whether socialism could be successfully built up in a single country, whether the Soviet economic system could properly be called socialist or state-capitalist, and how far the Russian Revolution was dependent upon the international revolutionary movement for permanent survival. Conflicting texts from Lenin were hurled back and forth; and sometimes different meanings were extracted from the same text. The balance of quotations from Lenin during the period of the War, when he was convinced that the day of general socialist revolution was not far off, would tend to establish a close connection between the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and similar upheavals in other countries. But one of the last things which Lenin wrote, a pamphlet On Cooperation, contains the statement that "we have all the means for the establishment of a socialist society."
This citation was a powerful weapon for the Stalinites in their contention that it was possible to build up socialism in a single country. They charged the oppositionists with unwarranted pessimism and lack of faith in the capacity of the Russian proletariat, and to the accusation of national limitation which was made against them by the Trotzkyists retorted hat the successful building up of socialism in Russia would constitute the best means of encouraging revolution in other countries. The opposition also directed much criticism against the agrarian policy of the Party leadership, which it denounced as too favorable to the richer peasants, and in 1927 a new element entered into the controversy as a result of the elimination of the Chinese Communists from the nationalist revolutionary movement in that country. The opposition accused the Party leadership of pursuing too timid and wavering methods in China, thereby condemning the Chinese Communists to inevitable defeat.
The Party leadership was rather slow in applying extreme disciplinary measures to the opposition leaders. There were plenty of warnings and resolutions of censure by the leading Party organs, and Trotzky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev were gradually stripped of their more important Party and Soviet posts. But the acute stage of the conflict was only reached in the autumn of 1927, on the eve of the Fifteenth Party Congress. The opposition demanded the right to print and circulate its platform, a long document covering almost every important question of Party policy. This permission was refused. Then the opposition in various clandestine ways began to print the platform illegally. The Party leadership responded with wholesale expulsions from the Party and with arrests of the individuals who were concerned with the illegal printing.
On the tenth anniversary of the Revolution, on November 7, 1927, groups of oppositionists organized counter-demonstrations under their own banners and slogans. Although this effort was very unsuccessful because of the small number of the participants, it gave the Party leadership an excuse for proceeding much more vigorously. Trotzky and Zinoviev were promptly expelled from the Party. The Party Congress, meeting at the end of the year, formally expelled all the other oppositionists of any prominence and laid down the rule that adherence to the views of the Trotzkyist opposition was inconsistent with membership in the Communist Party.
With expulsion and exile hanging over their heads Zinoviev and Kamenev weakened and left Trotzky alone in the role of a martyr to his principles. Together with most of their associates, they recanted and after a period of probation were readmitted into the Party. Trotzky remained unyielding, and early in 1928 he and a number of his chief associates were banished to various remote parts of the Soviet Union. The same fate overtook a smaller heretical group, headed by Sapronov and Smirnov, which had been even more violent than the Trotzkyists in its denunciation of the Party leadership for alleged betrayal of revolutionary principles.
The fate of the Trotzkyists proved again that there may be any number of political parties in Russia, provided that one is in power and the others in jail. During 1927 the opposition had built up its own underground organization, with central and local committees paralleling those of the Party, and it was this implied challenge to its authority that the Communist Party leadership suppressed with the measures of wholesale expulsion and exile.
Trotzky's place of banishment was Alma Ata, in the eastern part of Russian Turkestan, not far from the Chinese frontier. He was not placed under actual restraint, but was kept under close observation. Notwithstanding this, he and his associates, all of them old revolutionists, well versed in the tricks of eluding guards and spies, kept up a lively clandestine correspondence between themselves and with the remnants of their underground organization throughout the country. Most of this correspondence, to be sure, ultimately fell into the hands of the Gay-Pay-Oo and the Party authorities.
Inasmuch as Trotzky displayed no inclination to modify his uncompromising attitude, and his followers in some cases began to distribute propaganda and attempt to stir up strikes in the state factories, the Party leadership decided to banish Trotzky and to crush his organization completely. During December and January there were sweeping arrests of the Trotzkyists, 150 being gathered in at one swoop by the Gay-Pay-Oo, or political police. Sentence of banishment for anti-Soviet activity was passed against Trotzky, and in February 1929 he left Russia, perhaps forever, for Turkey, the only country which apparently was willing, although rather grudgingly, to receive an exile with such a formidable revolutionary record.
The personal element in the Trotzkyist controversy is discussed in the following chapter. Its issue must be regarded as a decisive victory for the Party proletariat over the Party intelligentsia. For among Communist leaders one can distinguish two types: the pre-war emigre, usually an intellectual, who lived abroad in the little colonies of exiled Russians which existed in England and France and Switzerland, wrote articles in the revolutionary newspapers, and returned to Russia, as a rule, after the downfall of Tsarism; and the revolutionary who remained in Russia, with periods of illegal work in factories and revolutionary circles alternating with terms of banishment and imprisonment. This second type of revolutionary was usually a worker. Now almost all of Trotzky's prominent associates and supporters, such as Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek, and Rakovsky, and a large number of his rank-and-file followers belonged in this category of the former emigre intelligentsia, while Stalin's most reliable henchmen were of the ex-proletarian type. In view of the strong proletarian class-consciousness and anti-intelligentsia sentiment of the Party masses, this fact was of no small significance in contributing to the victory of the Party leadership.
It has been suggested both in Russia and abroad that some racial significance is attached to the elimination of the opposition, because the most prominent opposition leaders, Trotzky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Radek, were Jews, while the nine members of the Political Bureau, representing the Party leader-ship, are all Russians, with the exception of Stalin, a Georgian, and Rudziatak, a Lett. That anti-Semitism was not altogether absent from the controversy was admitted in 1926 by Emilian Jaroslavsky, Secretary of the Control Commission and in that capacity a most bitter opponent of the opposition.
Jaroslavsky stated that he had received many letters from workers who regarded the opposition as an effort of Jews to capture the leadership of the Party. He condemned this anti-Semitic tendency unsparingly and declared that the struggle with the opposition must be carried on without any suggestion of racial antagonism. But, while anti-Semitism was an element, it was distinctly a minor rather than a decisive element in the episode of the Trotzkyist opposition.
There would seem to be little political future in Russia for Trotzkyism. Numerically it has never been very strong; the concern which it caused to the Party leadership is to be attribated not to its mass following but to the international reputation, past revolutionary achievements, and intellectual qualities of many of its leaders. The Trotzkyists could reasonably hope to win recruits for their extremist interpretation of the situation in Russia and their radical programme only among the workers; and it is far more difficult for an underground group to carry on agitation among the workers to-day than it was in Tsarist times. The Gay-Pay-Oo is at least as watchful and active as was the Tsarist secret police, and, what is more important, every factory has a large contingent of workers enrolled in the Communist Party and the Union of Communist Youth; and these workers, for the most part, would have no scruples about handing over to the authorities anyone whom they detected in surreptitious agitation.
Moreover, much ground has certainly been cut from under the feet of the Trotzkyists by the very radical turn in the agrarian policy of the Communist Party which set in early in 1928. The Party leadership forbade the circulation of the Trotzkyist platform and arrested anyone whom it caught printing this document. But if one reads through the agrarian section of this programme (the whole platform is printed in The Real Situation in Russia one will be amazed to find how great is the degree of similarity between this heretical pro-gramme of three years ago and the orthodox resolutions of the Communist Party to-day. Of the main agrarian proposals of the Trotzkyists - strengthened class war against the richer peasants in the village, intensified development of state and collective farms, release of the poorest peasants from taxation and heavier tax burdens for the rich, special agitation and organization work among the village poor - there is not one that has not been adopted in full or in very large part by the Party leadership. Inasmuch as the agrarian question was the most important internal point of difference between the Central Committee majority and the opposition, there would seem to be no reason, apart from such personal sentiments as loyalty to Trotzky and antipathy to Stalin, why those Trotzkyists who have not already done so should not return to the Party fold.'
The Secretary of the Moscow Committee of the Communist Party, K. Y. Bauman, declared in a speech in January 1929:
"In the eyes of individual oppositionally disposed workers the Right Deviation and Trotzkyism begin to fuse into a general anti-Party deviation. For instance, the letter of one worker ends with the slogan: `Long live the Right Deviation, long live Trotzky."' (3)
What is this "Right Deviation," of which so much has been heard and written within the winter of 1928-1929 and which Stalin regards as a more serious menace than Trotzkyism ? It is a direct reaction to the radical turn in Communist agrarian policy which began with the Fifteenth Party Congress and found expression in such measures as the forced development of state and collective farms, the adoption of measures of compulsion against rich peasants who were unwilling to sell their grain, the imposition of heavier tax burdens on the richer peasants, etc. Partly as a result of these measures, which deprived the more prosperous peasants of the incentive to raise any large surplus of marketable grain and other produce, a distinct shortage of agricultural products made itself felt during 1928.
This, together with the chronic shortage of certain kinds of manufactured goods, led to the growth of a sentiment in some Party circles to the effect that certain features of Communist economic policy should be modified with a view to giving greater scope to the peasant's instinct for individual gain. Specifically the Right Deviationists (the word "Right" is here used, of course, in its European political sense of conservative or moderate) favored a larger production of goods for immediate consumption, even at the expense of some of the ambitious investments in electrical stations and iron and steel plants, a relaxation of the class war in the village, and a delay in the tempo of creating new state and collective farms. Addressing a plenary session of the Moscow Committee of the Communist Party on October 19, 1928, Stalin declared: -
"The victory of the Right Deviation in our Party would mean an enormous strengthening of the capitalist elements in our country. And what will a strengthening of the capitalist elements in our country mean ? It will mean a weakening of the proletarian dictatorship and increased chances for the reestablishment of capitalism."
The viewpoint of the advocates of the Right Deviation was made clearer by a letter which the Vice-Commissar for Finance, M. I. Frumkin, addressed to the plenary session of the Central Committee in November 1928. The letter itself was not published; but its general tone and spirit may be gauged from the following excerpts, which Stalin singled out for special denunciation: -
"The village, with the exception of a small part of the poor peasantry, is disposed against us."
"The position which has recently been taken has brought the basic masses of the middle-class peasants to adversity and lack of hope for the future."
"The extension of state farms should not be carried out in extreme haste."
"We must not interfere with the production of the farms of the kulaks (richer peasants), even while we combat their tendency to enslaving exploitation."
So far there has been no indication of a modification of Communist policy along the lines proposed by the Right Deviationists. They have achieved no more visible success than the Trotzkyists in making inroads on the solid unity of the organization. Their methods have been quite different from those of the Trotzkyists; they have been much more cautious and circumspect about violating the canons of Party discipline, and therefore have not exposed themselves to sweeping reprisals in the form of expulsions.
In some respects the Right Deviation seems a slighter menace to Party unity than was Trotzkyism; in other ways its influence is wider and more significant. It has no personality of Trotzky's significance around whom to rally; and just because it is Right rather than Left it lacks the driving power of fanaticism which characterized Trotzky's small band of loyal supporters. Reason, rather than emotion, is the dominating element in this new heresy; and reason is not, as a rule, a force that makes people face exile and imprisonment with equanimity.
On the other hand the Right Deviationists derive constant unspoken support for their arguments from the economic difficulties through which the country is passing, and also from the international situation, which is certainly not promising from the standpoint of a speedy resumption of successful revolutionary activity outside of Russia. So long as the Party pursues a rigorous Leftward course, such as it certainly pursued steadily during 1928 and 1929, and so long as that course is accompanied by long queues waiting to purchase the scanty stocks of agricultural and manufactured products, the Right Deviation, no matter how often it may be officially condemned, is bound to reappear in some form or other.
The spirit of Russian Communism strongly suggests that of a new, young, fanatical, crusading religion, with a set of in-fallible dogmas in the shape of the teachings of Marx and Lenin and a rigid hierarchical organization in the Communist Party organization to enforce discipline and doctrinal orthodoxy. The Communists have been likened to the Jesuits, to the Mohammedans, and to the revolutionaries of France. But I think perhaps their strongest psychological similarity is to, the English Puritans. Cromwell and Milton would probably feel more at home in Moscow, with its utter absence of gay night life, its contempt for frivolity, its intensive concentration on purposes far removed from individual enjoyment, in which respects it is strikingly different from the spirit which prevails in every other European capital. Self-sacrifice and devotion, intolerance of opposition, boundless faith in an end which justifies the use of any and all means for its achievement - which of these typical psychological traits of Soviet Russia could not be matched in the fresh early stages of many of the creeds which at various times have captured the faith and imagination of different sections of mankind ?
The Communists themselves would be the first to admit that they are still far from their goal of the free, equal, class-less society. Whether this goal will ever be reached is a question that defies answering, because it raises so many other problems which are still in process of solution. How far is it possible to preserve over decades, over generations, the first hot idealism of a social upheaval ? How much does a Communist monopoly of education and propaganda weigh in the balance against the deep-rooted inherited instincts of private property and self-enrichment, instincts which find a certain if a limited expression even in the Soviet economic order, where money has by no means lost its value and attraction ? Is there some element of truth in Trotzky's Cassandra prophecy that a socialist government in Russia must come into conflict with the peasantry and look for salvation only in the dubious prospect of violent social revolution in Western Europe ?
Whether they go forward triumphantly to their goal or whether they are deflected very far from their original course, like many groups of enthusiasts before them, these Russian Communists in their leather jackets have wrought a tremendous work, not only of destruction, but of reconstruction and remoulding. Compared with them, Peter the Great, that giant innovating figure in Russian history, seems but a pygmy. For Peter, with all his boundless energy, touched only the thin top crust of Russian society. The Communists have churned up its very depths; there is not a village in Russia or a nomad clan in the Kirghiz steppes that has not somehow felt their leavening touch. Were every repressive agency at the disposition of the Communist Party to disappear overnight, the old order in Russia could never return. Too much new seed has been sown; too many new ideas and relationships have grown up. Bolshevism has brought a good deal of hard metal into the Russian character, formerly soft almost to the point of flabbiness. The Communist Party, with its gigantic regimentation of the national will for a common purpose, has created in Russia what the Tsars, with all their ironclad methods of rule, could never build up: a genuine sense for discipline and order.
"The sacred madness of the brave." This phrase of Maxim Gorky is a good epitaph for this epoch, the Bolshevik epoch in Russian history. And the future will show on which word in Gorky's double-edged phrase the decisive emphasis must be placed.
(1) I need scarcely emphasize the point that the following paragraphs represent not an exposition of my own views but an effort faithfully to interpret those of Lenin and his disciples.
[A] This is inaccurate. Both Lenin and Marx distinguished between Communism and Socialism. For example, see Lenin's The State and Revolution.
The MIA translation differs from Chamberlin's:
"Parties belonging to the Communist International must be organised on the principle of democratic centralism. In this period of acute civil war, the Communist parties can perform their duty only if they are organised in a most centralised manner, are marked by an iron discipline bordering on military discipline, and have strong and authoritative party centres invested with wide powers and enjoying the unanimous confidence of the membership."
[C] This is inaccurate. Lenin never supported "Socialism in one Country", which was instead Stalin's theory. Lenin repeatedly warned that if Socialist revolutions did not soon succeed in the West, the Russian Revolution could not survive. Likewise, Lenin never posited (as the following quote tacitly suggests) that the Soviet Union would willingly fight other nations, but instead would always seek peace. Lenin believed that the path to revolution was through the native working class of the Western nations.
(2) The statistical facts regarding the Communist Party membership and organization are taken from The Communist's Calendar for 1929, published by the Moscow Worker, 1929, PP. 84-100.
(3) In the summer of 1929 three of Trotzky's chief lieutenants in the Soviet Union, Radek, Smilga and Preobrazhensky, renounced their association with him and returned to the Party fold. Their example was followed by a considerable number of the rank-and-file oppositionists. Reported in the newspaper, Workers' Moscow, for January 9, 1929