C L R James
The World Revolution 1917–1936

Chapter 10


IN PREPARATION FOR THE FIFTEENTH PARTY CONFERENCE in December 1927, the Oppositionists summarised their position in a document known as the Platform. [1] It contained their charges against the Stalinist regime and their proposals for the regeneration of Russia. Such success as the Soviet Union has achieved it owes to working on the principles outlined in the document, as far as this was possible under the Stalinist regime.

The Opposition based its whole approach to the fundamental problems of the Soviet Union in the spirit of fearless facing of the truth before the party and the masses, which we have so insisted upon in this book; and the platform begins with a quotation from Lenin’s speech at the last Party Congress he attended, where he told the Russian people quite frankly that under the New Economic Policy the Soviet State was slipping away from Socialist control and he did not know where it was going. Stalin’s method, on the other hand, was to use the party and State apparatus to cover up failures and under a false appearance of success suppress criticism. By his incessant lying [2] he confused the party and the masses and made it difficult to find and follow the correct road.


Three hostile forces – the kulak, the nepman and the bureaucrat – had grown at an alarming rate between 1924 and 1927. They were the chief support of the Stalinist regime in its struggle against the Opposition and now endangered the very existence of the Socialist State. The difference between agricultural and industrial prices, between wholesale and retail prices, and the difference between domestic prices and world prices, the contraband goods which came steadily into the Soviet Union, all these were a constant source of private gain, creating capitalists. The role of indirect taxes had grown at the expense of the direct by which automatically the tax burden moved from the wealthier to the poorer. The income of the kulak had increased incomparably more than that of the worker. Real wages in 1927 stood on about the same level as in the autumn of 1925, yet the national income had increased that of kulaks, private capitalist merchants and speculators having increased with enormous rapidity.

To mobilise the forces of the party and the masses against the dangers was neither panic nor pessimism, but the duty of the proletariat in the Socialist State. A certain growth of the kulak, nepman and bureaucrat was unavoidable under the N.E.P. As long as Russia remained a small peasant country there was a more solid basis for Capitalism than for Communism. But the capitalist forces could only be overcome by a steady systematic working-class policy, relying upon the peasant poor in union with the middle peasant, working on the preparation and development of the world proletarian revolution. It was necessary to manoeuvre, but under Lenin the maneuvering always remained upon the line of the proletarian revolution. Under him the party always knew why a maneuver was undertaken, the limits of it, the line beyond which the manoeuvre ought not to extend, and the position at which the proletariat should begin to advance again.

Under Stalin in recent years the party was being led blindly, was weakening and confusing the forces of the proletariat. On many important questions the Anglo-Russian Committee, the Chinese Revolution, the kulak policy, the party and the working-class found out the truth, or a part of the truth, only after the heavy consequences of a false policy had crashed over their heads. The result was that inside the country there was an immoderate growth of those forces which wished to turn the country back to Capitalism, and outside a weakening of the position of the Workers’ State in the struggle against world Capitalism. Stalin aimed at destroying the Opposition, to cut off from the party a troop of Bolsheviks who were fighting these disastrous policies – a step openly welcomed by all the enemies of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile the very existence of Capitalism in the form of the N.E.P., not restrained or corrected by a firm class policy, was preparing further dangers. Twenty-five million small farms constituted the fundamental source of the capitalist tendency in the Soviet Union. The slow pace of industry vastly increased the tempo of class differentiation among the peasants and the political dangers arising from it.

The criterion of success in a Socialist State was the condition of the working-class in the material sphere, elevation of real wages, living conditions, etc.; in the political sphere, the power of the party, Trade Unions, Soviets; and in the sphere of culture, schools, books, newspapers, theatres. In the Soviet Union the swollen and privileged administrative apparatus devoured a considerable part of the surplus value. During the period of reconstruction the number of workers and their living conditions had risen. But recently there had been a sharp change. The growth of the proletariat had ceased, and the relative weight of other classes in the community was increasing. The raising of wages was being more and more conditioned upon a demand for an increased intensity of labour. This could ultimately lead only to one conclusion:– that the increase of social wealth due to a developing technique (increased productivity of labour) did not in itself lead to an increase of wages. The official number of registered unemployed in April 1927 was 1,478,000; the actual number was about two million. The unemployed directly or indirectly burdened the budget of the worker. The growing consumption of alcoholic liquor did the same, so did the rationalisation of production. The five-year plan [3] was calculated to absorb no more than 400,000 steadily employed workers. With the continual influx of workers from the country the number of unemployed by the end of 1931 would have grown to no less than three million men and women.

The deterioration of the Trade Unions, noted at the Fourteenth Conference, had continued. The immense majority of the delegates to the Trades Union Conferences were people entirely dissociated from industry. The dissatisfaction of the worker was being driven underground. “We mustn’t be too active – if you want a bite of bread don’t talk so much.”

In the Trade Unions Communist Party members who were elected should not be removed because of inner party disagreements, and the absolute independence of the shop committee and local committee from the organs of management should be guaranteed.

“An article should be introduced into the Criminal Code punishing as a serious crime against the State every direct or indirect, overt or concealed persecution of a worker for criticising, for making independent proposals, and for voting.”


On the agrarian question, Bucharin, Stalin’s chief theoretician at this time, had written that “it is necessary to set free the economic possibilities of the well-off peasant, the economic possibilities of the kulak” These ideas and the attempt to insist on the co-operative plan of Lenin as the means of growing into Socialism without the development of large-scale industry, was the most dangerous symptom in the Soviet Union. In the last analysis it was the lagging of industry that retarded the growth of agriculture and the growth of agricultural commodity production. [4] The kulak was necessary, but the task of the party ought to consist in the all-sided limitation of the efforts of the kulak to exploit. He should not be allowed elective rights in the Soviets; there should be a sharply progressive tax system, and the State should introduce legislation for the defence of hired labour and the regulation of the wages of agricultural workers. The co-operative societies could under no circumstances lead to Socialism unless they worked under the immediate economic and political influence of the Socialist elements.

“A much larger sum ought to be appropriated for the creation of Soviet and collective farms. Maximum indulgences must be accorded to the newly organised collective farms and other forms of collectivism. Only a suitable attention to the hired hand, only a course based on the poor peasant and his union with the middle peasant, only a decisive struggle against the kulak, only a course towards class co-operatives and a class-credit system in the country, will make it possible to draw the middle peasant into the work towards Socialist reconstruction of agriculture, State industry and the building of Socialism.”


After three years of constant struggle and the ridicule of the Stalinist regime, a five-year plan of development, 1926–27 to 1930–31, had at last been produced by the State Planning Commission. The Platform of the Opposition condemned completely the limited scope of this plan. In it capitalist investments in industry would hardly grow at all from year to year, 1,142 millions in 1927, 1,205 millions in 1932. In proportion to the general sum invested in the national economy, instead of increasing the investments in heavy industry would fall from 36.4 per cent in the first year to 27.8 in the last. The net investment in industry from the State Budget would fall from 200 millions to 90 millions.

“Production is supposed to grow from four to nine per cent each year over the year preceding – the rate of growth in Capitalistic countries during periods of great progress. The gigantic advantages involved in the nationalisation of the land, the means of production, the banks, and the centralised organs of administration – that is, the advantages deriving from the Socialist revolution – find almost no expression in the five-year plan.”

The individual consumption of goods, already at a very low level, was to grow during the five years only twelve per cent. The consumption of cotton fabrics in 1931 would only be ninety-seven per cent of the pre-war amount, the production of electric energy at the end of the plan would be pitiably small compared to that in the capitalist countries.

“The consumption of paper at the end of the five years will be eighty-three per cent of the pre-war amount. All this, fifteen years after October! To bring forward on the anniversary of the October Revolution such a parsimonious, through-and-through pessimistic plan really means that you are working against Socialism.”


By basing itself on a policy of Socialism in a single country the Stalinist regime had no criterion of progress, no method of regulating the development of the country. The ultimate decision between Socialism and Capitalism would be decided by the relative productivity of labour under each system. Soviet production could not be isolated from world economy. The Socialist economy could defend the monopoly of foreign trade only if it continually approached world economy in the matter of technique, cost of production, quality and price of productions. And this could be done, not by developing a shut-in, self-sufficient economy, but by an all-sided increase of the relative weight in the world system, to be achieved by increasing the tempo of production in the Soviet Union to its utmost. It was necessary to understand the gigantic significance of export, now lagging so dangerously behind the development of industry, to change the policy towards the kulak, which enabled him to undermine Socialist export by the hoarding of raw material, to develop the bonds with world economy by speeding up industrialisation and strengthening the Socialist element: “not to scatter our limited accumulations in the near future, but gradually and with deliberate plan to pass over to a new form of production which will assure us, in the first instance, of a mass output of the most necessary and most available machines; skilfully and thoughtfully to supplement and stimulate our own industry by systematically utilising the achievements of the world capitalist technique.”

The theory of Socialism in a separate country – of isolated Socialist development independent of world economy, distorted the whole perspective and prevented a correct regulation of the relations of the Soviet Union with world economy. If this theory were renounced it would mean in a few years “an incomparably more expeditious use of our resources, a swifter industrialisation, a more planful and powerful growth of our own machine construction.” It would result in the increase of the number of employed workers and a real lowering of prices, and by this means a genuine strengthening of the Soviet Union in the capitalist environment.

Would not the growth of bonds with world Capitalism involve a danger in case of blockade and war? "The preparation for war demands, of course, the creation of a reserve of the foreign raw materials necessary to us and a prompt establishment of the new industries vitally necessary – as, for instance, the production of aluminium, etc. But the most important thing in case of a prolonged and serious war is to have a national industry developed to the highest degree and capable both of mass production and of swift transformation from one kind of production to another. The recent past has shown how such a highly industrial country as Germany, bound up by a thousand threads with the world market, could discover a gigantic life-power and power of resistance when war and a blockade cut her off at one blow from the entire world.

“If with the incomparable advantages of our social structure we can, during this ‘peaceful’ period, utilise the world markets in order to speed up our industrial development, we shall meet blockade or intervention infinitely better prepared and better armed.

“No domestic policy can of itself deliver us from the economic, political and military danger of the capitalist encirclement. The domestic problem is, by strengthening ourselves with a proper class policy, a proper inter-relation of the working-class with the peasant, to move forward as far as possible on the road of socialist construction. The interior resources of the Soviet Union are enormous and make this entirely possible.”

Ultimately, however, it was only the world proletarian revolution which would give the Soviet Union the possibility of really creating Socialism, that is, a class-free society based upon the most advanced technique and upon the real equality of all its members in labour and in utilising the products of labour.

Where were the means to be found for this development? By severe taxation of all excess profits, a forced loan from the well-off kulaks of 150 million poods of grain, cutting down the growing expenses of the bureaucratic apparatus. The Stalinist bureaucracy had attempted a regime of economy the year before, which was to yield 300 to 400 million roubles a year. But a bureaucracy could not check bureaucracy. A regime of economy was a class question, and could only be realised by the workers and masses themselves exercising this pressure. The monopoly of foreign trade, foreign credit, concessions, contracts, etc., would provide supplementary income if skilfully used. “It is not true that the slow pace of industrialisation is immediately due to the absence of resources. The means are scanty, but they exist. What is wanted is the right policy.” The five-year plan of the State Planning Commission should be categorically rejected and condemned as basically incompatible with the task of transforming the Russia of the N.E.P. into a Socialist Russia.


In the State apparatus the army of officials had been growing in recent years, the weight of the masses was decreasing. There was a growing penetration of the kulak and the nepman into the Soviets through their influence with the administrative staff. The city Soviets, the fundamental instrument for bringing the workers and the toiling masses into State administration, were losing significance in recent years. There could be no administrative revival of the Soviets. This could be done only by a definite class policy, by a decisive opposition to the new exploiters. The tendency of the Stalinist regime to blind its eyes to this process could best be seen in the theory of Molotov that they could not demand a drawing together of the workers with the State and the State with the workers, because their State was already a workers’ State. This was the most malignant imaginable formula of bureaucratism, "sanctioning in advance every conceivable bureaucratic perversion." The struggle did not mean transforming a certain number of workers into officials. The apparatus itself could not deal with this matter. It was necessary for the party to separate itself from the apparatus and mobilise the masses in the old Leninist manner.


The international situation was dangerous. The party should, therefore, bring into the foreground before the masses the problems of international politics, and to carry on a “most intense and all-sided preparation of the Soviet Union for defence in case of war.” The Platform condemned the Menshevik policy of Stalin, and detailed all his mistakes on the Chinese question, the concealment of facts and falsification of documents concerning the Chinese revolution, the policy which had first called the Chinese Communist party a model section of the International, and then had attempted to throw all the blame for the failure upon it. At the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the C.I. on December 7, 1926, Stalin had based the policy of the International upon the expectation of continued stabilisation in world Capitalism – wrongly. The General Strike in England, the Chinese Revolution, the workers’ uprising in Vienna, showed that the stabilisation was breaking up and would soon show the falsity and folly of a theory of Socialism in one country.

“A general strike in England – and only 5,000 members in the English Communist Party. A workers’ insurrection in Vienna, with enough victims for a whole revolution – and only 6,000 members in the Austrian Communist Party! A military uprising of the worker-peasant masses in China – and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party turns out to be a mere appendix to the Kuomintang. These are the facts which support and prolong the ‘stabilisation’ of Capitalism. Our greatest problem is to help the Communist parties to raise themselves to the height of the gigantic demands which the present epoch makes upon them. But this assumes, in the first place, a correct understanding of the character of the world situation on the part of the Communist International itself.“

War was an imminent danger:

“We are bound to try to ‘buy ourselves off’ from war, if that shall be possible. But just for that purpose we must be strong and united, unwaveringly defend the tactics of the world revolution, and re-enforce the International. Only thus have we a serious chance of gaining a really long postponement of the war without paying a price that would undermine the foundations of our power, and at the same time, in case war proves inevitable, of gaining the support of the international proletariat and winning.”

“We must consistently, systematically, and stubbornly wage the struggle for peace. We must postpone the war, ‘buy ourselves off from the war threat.’ Everything possible and permissible must be done to this end. At the same time we must get ready for war immediately, not folding our hands for one instant.”

There should be “an all-sided preparation of our entire economy, budget, etc., for the event of war.”


But all this could not be done without the regeneration of the Communist Party. In the last year and a half the party had lost some 80,000 members, industrial workers, and in return since the Fourteenth Congress in 1925, 100,000 peasants had been admitted into it. Bureaucratism in the party could best be seen by the following quotation.

“We have members of the party who still inadequately understand the party itself, just what it is. They think that the party arises from the local – the local is the first brick, then comes the Rayon Committee, and so on, higher and higher, until you arrive at the Central Committee. That is not right. Our party must be looked at from the top down. And this view must be adhered to in all practical relationships and in the entire work of the party.” [5]

This was typical of the attitude of party members like Molotov and Kaganovitch. The election of officials was dying out, and the organisational principles of Bolshevism were being violated at every step. There was only one question in the party – Opposition or anti-Opposition. Three groups, however, were clearly defined. The Centre consisting of Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovitch, Kirov, controlled the Secretariat, dominated the administration, the State apparatus, etc., with numbers of worker bureaucrats who had lost all connection with the toiling masses. To the right was a group headed by Rykov and Kalinin with kulak tendencies, supported by Tomsky who was heading towards closer co-operation with the Second International. Bucharin wandered about between these two groups.

The third group was the Left Opposition. The Platform demanded the unity of the party. “Our task is to preserve the unity of the party at all costs, to resist decisively the policy of splits, amputations, exclusions, expulsions, etc. – but at the same time to guarantee to the party its right to a free discussion and decision, within the frame of this unity, of all debated questions.”

The party should be conducted according to the spirit of the following words of Lenin: “Every member of the party should begin to study dispassionately and with the utmost honesty; first, the essence of the disagreements, and second, the course of development of the conflict ... It is necessary to study both the one thing and the other, unconditionally demanding that absolutely accurate documents should be printed and open to verification on all sides.” All this Stalin and his apparatus had destroyed. Instead they persecuted the Opposition, and used their control of the Secretariat to circulate lies about the Opposition’s policy and its personnel.

Finally the Platform demanded the unity of the party. That they wanted a new party was only a Stalinist lie. The dangers were great, and it was to the party that they were appealing. To cut off the Opposition and to continue to destroy its membership was to weaken the party against the very dangers which threatened it. The fact that the party had a monopoly in the political field, a thing unconditionally necessary to the revolution, created special dangers. Lenin, at the Eleventh Congress, had pointed out that there were already in the party persons who under different circumstances would have been Social Revolutionaries or Mensheviks. Through specialists and the upper categories of the clerical workers and intelligentsia, and these were absolutely necessary, there penetrated a stream of non-proletarian influences. In contending for a definite tempo of industrialisation, in contending against the growth of the kulak and his aspiration toward rulership in the country, in contending for an improvement in the living conditions of the workers and for democracy within the party, the Trade Unions and the Soviets, the Opposition was contending for ideas which would bring the working class nearer to the party and re-enforce the foundation of unity. If the opportunist mistakes were not corrected there would be nothing but a show unity which would weaken the party and in the case of war compel it to reform its ranks on the march and under fire from the enemy. The attempt to introduce into the party methods of direct physical violence would ultimately re-act against its own organisers.

“The most important, the most militant question, and the one which troubles all the members of our party, is the question of party unity. And in truth it is upon this question that the further fate of the proletarian revolution depends. Innumerable class enemies of the proletariat are listening intently to our inner-party disputes and, with unconcealed delight and impatience, are awaiting a split in our ranks. A split in our party, a formation of two parties, would mean enormous danger to the revolution.

“We, the Opposition, unqualifiedly condemn every attempt whatsoever to create a second party. The slogan of two parties is the slogan of the Stalin group in its effort to crowd out of the All-Union Communist party, the Leninist Opposition. Our task is not to create a new party, but to correct the course of the All-Union Communist Party. The proletarian revolution in the Soviet Union can win through to the end only with a united Bolshevik Party. We are struggling within the Communist Party for our views, and we decisively condemn the slogan ‘two parties,’ as the slogan of adventurers ...

“We will struggle with all our force against the formation of two parties, for the dictatorship of the proletariat demands as its very core a united proletarian party. It demands a single party. It demands a proletarian party – that is, a party whose policy is determined by the interests of the proletariat and carried out by a proletarian nucleus. Correction of the line of our party, betterment of its social composition – this is not the two-party road, but the strengthening and guaranteeing of its unity as a revolutionary party of the proletariat.”


This was the Platform. When it appeared it was met with derision inside and outside the Soviet Union. This was the policy for which the Opposition was expelled from the Stalinist party in November 1927. The Stalin regime, of course, condemned it root and branch and said it was an anti-party document, accused the Opposition of wishing to form two parties, and meanwhile kept the document away from the party and the masses. What is more important to remember today is that the policies it outlined were met with derision and contempt not only by the Stalinists but by some very learned bourgeois. Paul Scheffer, the Russian correspondent of the Berliner Tageblatt, had spent many years in the Soviet Union. Let us see what he thought of it: “The book sounds to our ears like a dirge over lost illusions, a lost paradise, the end of a dream. One could not think of it as poetry, exactly,” [6] and much rubbish of the same sort. To all these people Stalin was the realist, practical, level-headed. Trotsky was the romantic revolutionary, harking back to the gallant days of 1917. For them the Permanent Revolution in the sense of the permanent economic reconstruction of Russian economy was mere theorising.

For Trotsky and the Marxists it was a question of the life and death of the revolution. Russia would embark on a great campaign of industrialisation or perish. Trotsky has written, and his whole career before 1927 and since is evidence of the truth of the words, that he and the Opposition had realised long before the fate that awaited them, but nevertheless had decided to spread their ideas without compromise and with all their energy. To do this they were driven to all sorts of subterfuges which laid them open to the charges of anti-party activity, imprisonment and exile. The majority never flinched. If only their ideas could but penetrate deeply enough, objective circumstances, which they knew were coming, might enable enough in the party to see the correct line and save the revolution. Nor were they disappointed. When N.E.P. broke down in 1928 it was the fact that a policy consistently fought for during three bitter years was ready to hand that enabled Russia to make the turn, even though the clumsy regime went to the opposite extreme, caused deep and needless suffering and suffered heavy loss. When Stalin did make the turn, the Liberal bourgeois pundits and friends of the Soviet Union blinked, groped, and then faithfully trotted behind their new Messiah. There are other aspects of the Permanent Revolution which many of these followers of Stalin against Trotsky and Trotskyism will have an opportunity of studying in the flesh before very many years have passed.

But in 1927 for Stalin and the bureaucracy the Platform and all it stood for was not only nonsense but mutiny. [7] It was necessary to act quickly, for the Stalinist policy had had a resounding defeat in the Anglo-Russian Committee and in China, while Moscow and Leningrad were restless under the pro-kulak policy. Further, despite the years of slander, Trotsky’s popularity with the great masses outside the party, though diminished, was not killed, could not be killed. In October, at a demonstration led by the Central Executive Committee in Leningrad, Zinoviev and Trotsky and other Oppositionists found themselves on one platform with the Stalinists on another. The crowd, the crowd of the days of October, recognised them, shouted greetings and surged around, deserting the official platform so completely that its occupants had to come and stand with Zinoviev and Trotsky.


Stalin ensured victory in the ideological struggle by suppressing the Platform. While his henchmen in speeches and articles condemned it, the Platform itself was refused publication as an anti-party document. When Opposition members tried to duplicate it on a hectograph, they were imprisoned and exiled for fractionalism and underground activity. On September 9, 1927, the first American Labour delegation questioned Stalin about the differences between himself and the Opposition. He referred them to speeches by Rykov and Bucharin. With this crude subterfuge one delegate was not satisfied. He asked for the Platform itself. Stalin replied: “I did not sign that platform. I have no right to dispose of other people’s documents (laughter).” [8] Two months later he was telling a delegation of foreign workers that “if it is a question of freedom of the press for the proletariat, then I must say that you will not find another country in the world where such broad and complete freedom of the press exists as in the U.S.S.R.” [9] But Stalin is a genius in his own line and would not lay himself open to the charge of suppressing a document entirely. He merely wanted time to inoculate the party with arguments against the Platform and against Trotskyism. It was the custom before a party congress to publish theses and counter-theses for discussion in the party. Stalin kept the Platform until the discussions in the party locals had begun and delegates in the outlying districts of Russia had already left for the Congress. He then published one section of it in Pravda of November 5, 1927, with copious annotations. On the 15th November the Opposition were expelled from the party for fractional activity, underground work, having an illegal party press, etc., with the whole Government apparatus in full blast against Trotskyism. Two days after, on the 17th November, Stalin published in Pravda, another small section of the Platform, again with copious notes. Thus the proprieties were observed and the way was prepared for a smashing victory over the Opposition at the Conference. Zinoviev and Kamenev, true to type (how well Lenin knew them!), capitulated, confessed their sins, were put on probation, denounced Trotskyism as counter-revolution and were later re-admitted to the party, to be expelled, to confess, be re-admitted, etc., etc. Trotsky and the other leaders took the road to exile, while the Stalinist terror fell on the worker Oppositionists.


We may seem to have devoted a disproportionate amount of time to the Platform. In reality, after Lenin ceased to write in 1923, no document in the history of the Soviet Union is of more importance and shows more convincingly the superiority of Marxist analysis over bourgeois empiricism and Stalinist ignorance. The Fifteenth Party Conference, which rejected the Platform and sanctified the expulsion of its authors, took place in December. One month afterwards, in January, 1928, the first danger against which the Opposition had warned so unceasingly shook the whole fabric of the Soviet Union. Throughout the winter there had been difficulties in the grain collections from the peasants, and as soon as their main enemy, the Opposition, was out of the way the kulaks made the famous bloodless revolution. They challenged the whole power of the proletarian State by refusing to give up their grain except at the prices that they demanded, and unless goods were sold to them at prices equal to those of the far cheaper goods of capitalist countries. The proletariat in the towns, the Red Army, could not get the necessary supplies, and the dictatorship of the proletariat had either to collect the grain by force or, in Stalin’s own words, “face the inevitability of a profound crisis in the whole of our national economy.” What, asked Stalin, had to be done in order to make up lost ground? “It was necessary, first of all, to strike hard at the kulaks and the speculators who were screwing up the price of grain and creating the danger of famine in the country ...“ This was his statement to the Plenum of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. on July 13, 1928. [10] It was to this dangerous pass that his ignorance, his ideological victories and organisational measures, his long persecution of the Opposition, had led the country. Long before July he had been eating every one of his words. The Central Committee had met in March and diagnosed the causes of the crisis – the increased income of the kulak, too low a rate of taxation on the kulak, the aggravation of the political situation by the capitalist elements in town and country, kulak and nepman. It is from this time, with the gulf at their feet, that dates the beginning of the industrialization. In May Stalin was thundering against the kulak:

“All talk about the kulak being ‘no worse’ than the capitalist of the town, that the kulak is not more dangerous than the town nepman, and that therefore there is no reason now to fear the kulak – all such talk is sheer Liberal chatter which lulls the vigilance of the working class and of the great mass of the peasants ... To fail to understand the significance of large-scale kulak farming in the countryside, to fail to understand that the specific gravity of the kulaks in the rural districts is one hundred times greater than the specific gravity of the capitalists in urban industry, is to have lost one’s senses, to have broken with Leninism and deserted to the side of the enemies of the working class.“ [11]


The Stalinist regime from 1924 to this day in national and international affairs foresees nothing and is aware of a wall only when it bounces its head upon it. It had denied the permeation of the party apparatus by bourgeois elements. The accusation of Thermidorean degeneration had been the most fiercely resented of all the Opposition attacks. In 1928 the Shakhty trial, whatever elements of a frame-up distinguished it, revealed that in the very highest offices of the Soviet Union there were representatives of the counterrevolution actively plotting for the overthrow of the Soviet Union in close collaboration with world Capitalism. Stalin himself told the Central Committee: “What did the Shakhty trial reveal? It revealed that ... our economic, Trade Union, and, to a certain extent, our Party organisations failed to observe the undermining operations of our class enemies, and that it is essential, therefore, to reinforce and improve our organisations by every means and method in our power and to develop and strengthen their class vigilance.” [12] During the next two years events were to show how far the Thermidorean process had gone, while Stalin had been busy destroying the Opposition. On January 1, 1930, only nine per cent of the apparatus of the All-Union Central Council of T.Us. were of working-class origin. In this Council there were 41.9 per cent formerly members of other parties, in the Central Committee of Metalworkers there were thirty-seven per cent, in the Central Committee of Printers there were twenty-four per cent; on the staff of the newspaper Trud there were nineteen persons of alien class origin, originating from merchants, nobles and priests; there were eighteen descendants of nobles and merchants in the apparatus of the Central Committee of the Soviet of Trades Union Employees, in eleven central committees of Trades Unions fifty-three persons were found who had been actively alien and hostile to the proletariat in the past. In 1930 Centryosus was employing 136 former Mensheviks, Social-Revolutionaries, Cadets, etc., eleven ministers of former governments, 109 former merchants, and eighty-two ex-officers of whom thirty-four had served in the White Army.

The Opposition had condemned the timid five-year plan. Before three months had passed the Central Committee had met and hastily embarked on another revision, and the 460 millions for industry in 1928 had grown by 1929 to 1,600,000,000. Hasty plans were drawn up for the collectivisation of one-fifth of the twenty-five million peasant farms on the countryside.

In speech after speech Stalin proclaimed the danger of a restoration of Capitalism in the Soviet Union, the danger of the growing bureaucracy of the Soviet Union, the criminal policy of Bucharin in suggesting that the kulak would grow into Socialism. [13] By October 1928 he was aware of the danger of a Capitalist restoration. “Do the conditions exist in our Soviet country that make the restoration of Capitalism possible? Yes, they do exist.” And to an audience that for the past three years had been hearing him prove by all sorts of statistics that this was impossible and that the Trotskyist Opposition had been slandering the party in saying such a thing, he had the grace (a rare thing with him) to say, “That, comrades, may appear strange, but it is a fact”; [14] he quoted Lenin extensively to prove the dangers of the N.E.P. And he who, in the previous December, had fulminated against the Opposition charge that the centrist group of Stalin and Molotov was acting in close collaboration with a Right Wing of the party and had sworn that never had the party been so united, now in October sounded a tentative note. “Is there a right opportunist danger in our party?” The long cold vistas of Siberia opened before Bucharin, Rykov and Tomsky. [15]


The British General Council had broken off the Anglo-Russian Committee, Pilsudski had established a Fascist regime, first Chiang Kai-Shek and then Wang Chin-Wei had destroyed the proletarian movement in China. Stalin could not pursue these Leninist policies any longer because there was no one to pursue them with. Those who had told him that his line would end just there were in Siberia for their pains. Stalin still held the power. Now, however, to add to the external failures came the revolt of the kulak which threatened the whole structure. The Stalinist regime was in serious danger. Something had to be done.

Despite the difficulties under which they had laboured, Trotsky and the Opposition had done their work well. The party and the masses could be partially bluffed and befuddled about the Angle-Russian Committee and the Chinese Revolution. But the grain crisis could not be hidden. Stalin turned rapidly, and the bureaucracy prepared a new five-year plan and set itself to adopt a large scale programme of industrialisation. Some of the Left Opposition in exile hailed this change as a sign of the regeneration of the regime and made their peace with Stalin. Trotsky and the more experienced Marxists, while welcoming the change, knew that the Stalinist clique had shifted to the Left to save its own skin. It had been leaning more and more on the kulaks and nepmen inside the country, the Social Democrats and the colonial bourgeoisie in its struggle against its own Left Wing. Now outside, and far more dangerous inside, Russia, these allies had grown strong enough to threaten and, if swift measures were not taken, destroy. The bureaucracy therefore mobilised the proletariat against kulak and nepmen on the basis of the five-year plan. But one thing the Stalinist bureaucracy could never do – restore the party to health. The colossal failures abroad had been hidden by lying on an unprecedentedly vast scale, as a preparation for the physical removal or destruction of opponents. The new turn could only be safely undertaken by the regime if all who had advocated it a few months before were silenced, and the policy made to appear as Stalin’s special contribution, carefully thought out, to meet a situation long foreseen . The party was therefore thoroughly purged of every vestige of Trotskyism. But Stalin knew that he could not take his Right Wing over towards the Left with him. He had to disembarrass himself of Rykov, Tomsky and Bucharin, his allies for four years, who viewed the scale of the new turn with distrust. A campaign, slow and cautious at first but soon all over Russia and in the International, in the best anti-Trotskyist manner, was launched against them. Rykov, Tomsky and Bucharin, their supporters expelled and exiled, were accused of Right Wing deviations; and later Stalin, losing all sense of respect for the cause he represented, ultimately accused them of wishing to restore Capitalism in the Soviet Union. So complete was Stalin’s ideological victory that Bucharin and his friends made it unnecessary for him to use the organisational. They capitulated, recognised their errors, confessed their sins, were put on probation. Thus Stalin and his clique, Molotov, Kaganovitch, Manuilsky, Ordjonikidze, even in making the turn, had tightened their grip on the apparatus.

To bind the bureaucracy still closer to themselves, Stalin, as soon as Trotsky was exiled, introduced a system of allowances which gave extra privileges to the upper bureaucrats, and made the principle of the party member (however highly placed) having equal pay with the workmen a fiction. Later he abrogated the law altogether, and party members were allowed to draw whatever pay the party might decide. Trotsky for years continued to believe that the extension and strengthening of the proletariat which would result from industrialisation would be sufficient to restore the Bolshevik Party to its natural function as representative and protector of the masses. It was a vain hope. The process of bureaucratisation had gone too far. Industrialisation strengthened the proletariat but created hundreds of thousands of skilled technicians who fortified the bureaucracy. Stalin was their man. Their interests were safe in his hands and they supported him; and he, with the O.G.P.U., manipulated the party, using it as the instrument of his personal power, through its means making himself and the ever-growing bureaucracy more and more independent of both peasantry and proletariat. Granted the almost ridiculously easy capture of the apparatus by Stalin in 1923, even before Lenin died, we have here a perfectly understandable historical process. The backwardness of Russia, the lack of education and experience of the workers who, after ten years of the revolution, found themselves persons of authority, all this was reflected in the singular ignorance and incompetence in great problems of Stalin himself. The German defeat of 1923 had fortified the national Socialist tendencies of the bureaucracy and strengthened it against a weakened and disheartened proletariat. Stalin’s economic policies and mastery of inter-party maneuvering had resulted in a still greater strengthening of the bureaucracy as against the proletariat. The defeat of the General Strike in England, the ghastly failure of the Chinese Revolution, all drove the Russian proletariat still further from hopes of the world revolution towards putting its faith in the national Socialism of the bureaucracy. The drive against the kulak and nepman seemed to promise a restoration of the proletariat to its rightful place in a Workers’ State. But even while mobilising the proletariat against its enemies, the bureaucracy, with promises of the class-less society in ten years, still further concentrated power in itself through Stalin and the manipulated party. Thus the industrial programme, and, as we shall see, its partial realisation, could not and did not emancipate the Russian proletariat, but resulted in a tightening of its chains. The division into rulers and ruled, developing into privileged and oppressed, with its inevitable consequences on property relationships, that problem Lenin and Trotsky knew could never be solved within the boundaries of a national State, least of all a state which, despite its natural resources, was and for a generation would remain a backward agricultural country.


[1] It is published in full in The Real Situation in Russia, by L. Trotsky, 1928. The extracts published by the C.P.G.B. in its brochure Where is Trotsky Going? correspond to the version published by Trotsky after his expulsion from the party.

[2] It is perhaps necessary to explain our criticism of Stalin’s lying which has now spread over the whole Soviet regime and the International. When Goebbels says, “Not a hair of any Jew’s head has been touched,” or Eden says, “I will not be the first British Foreign Secretary to break his word,” to criticise these as lies is to waste time and mistake politics for a Sunday School. Under the most perfect Socialist State men will lie and intrigue; but the moment the question is one of a political line, its success or failure before the masses, a revolutionary party, in power or out of power, must not lie. The masses must be organised and led on the basis of truth, mistakes openly admitted. Any other policy ultimately will only confuse them and weaken their greatest asset, their mass-cohesion.

[3] A plan had at last been accepted and various versions were submitted for discussion. It was characteristic of the limited vision of the Stalinist regime at this period that this plan, produced late in 1927, accepted over a million unemployed as inevitable.

[4] From 1923 to 1927 the opposition had made this the basis of its policy. Yet this is what passes today as history: “‘The Trotskyist Left’ of two years ago pointed out the danger, it is true, of the Soviet State resting its flank on the village kulak; but they completely failed to bring forward any constructive solution of the problem; they suggested forced levies on the kulak to finance industrialization but they did not see the essential unity of the process of industrialization and the agricultural revolution, and they left out of the picture the collectivization of peasant agriculture as the road to Socialism in the U.S.S.R.” This comes, not from the pen of Pollitt or the professional apologists. It is written by Maurice Dobb, the Cambridge Economist. In Soviet Russia, 1930, p. 24.

[5] Speech of the Second Secretary of the Northern District Committee of the Russian C.P., reprinted in Molot, May 27, 1927.

[6] Seven Years in Soviet Russia, by Paul Scheffer, p. 186.

[7] Molotov actually used the word in polemic against the Opposition.

[8] Leninism, by Joseph Stalin, Vol. II, p. 61.

[9] Leninism, by Joseph Stalin, Vol. II, p. 82.

[10] Leninism, Vol. II, p. 128.

[11] Leninism, Vol. II, p. 105.

[12] <Leninism, Vol. II, p. 185

[13] Leninism, Vol. II, p. 197.

[14] Leninism, Vol. II, p. 142

[15] Professor Laski writes: “That, on the whole, he (Stalin) was right, and Trotsky wrong, in the great debates of 1924%ndash;7 most students would now agree“ (New Statesman and Nation, Nov. 2, 1935). Students of what? Of the Stalinist refurbishings. There is no shadow of justification for Professor Laski’s statement. The evidence given above is only a small selection of what is there for those who want to know the truth.

By great good fortune within the covers of one small volume costing sixpence the whole controversy between 1924 and 1927 is summed up and can be definitively judged. The Opposition being expelled in November, on February 7, 1928, the C.P.G.B. published in English Where is Trotsky Going? consisting of quotations from the Platform and official replies. The dishonesty of the editing does little to mitigate the shattering refutation by events of every major point on which the Stalinists condemned the Platform.

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