The Workers Opposition by Alexandra Kollontai 1921
Before making clear what the cause is of the ever-widening break between the “Workers’ Opposition” and the official point of view held by our directing centres, it is necessary to call attention to two facts:
(1) The Workers’ Opposition sprang from the depths of the industrial proletariat of Soviet Russia. It is an outgrowth not only of the unbearable conditions of life and labour in which seven million industrial workers find themselves, but it is also a product of vacillation, inconsistencies, and outright deviations of our Soviet policy from the clearly expressed class-consistent principles of the Communist programme.
(2) The Opposition did not originate in some particular centre, was not a fruit of personal strife and controversy, but, on the contrary, covers the whole extent of Soviet Russia and meets with a resonant response. At present, there prevails an opinion that the whole root of the controversy arising between the Workers’ Opposition and the numerous currents noticeable among the leaders consists exclusively in difference of opinions regarding the problems that confront the Trade Unions.
This, however, is not true. The break goes deeper. Representatives of the Opposition are not always able clearly to express and define it, but as soon as some vital question of the reconstruction of our Republic is touched upon, controversies arise concerning a whole areas of cardinal economic and political questions.
For the first time, the two different points of view (as expressed by the leaders of our party and the representatives of our class-organised workers), found their refection at the Ninth Congress of our Party when that body was discussing the question: collective versus personal management in industry.
At that time, there was no opposition from any well-formed group, but it is very significant that collective management was favoured by all the representatives of the Trade Unions, while opposed to it were all the leaders of our Party, who are accustomed to appraise all events from the institutional angle. They require a good deal of shrewdness and skill to placate the socially heterogeneous and the sometimes politically hostile aspirations of the different social groups of the population as expressed by proletarians, petty owners, peasantry, and bourgeoisie in the person of specialists, and pseudo-specialists, of all kinds and degrees.
Why was it that only the Unions stubbornly defended the principle of collective management, even without being able to adduce scientific arguments in favour of it? And why was it that the specialists’ supporters at the same time defended the “one man management''?: The reason is that in this controversy, though both sides emphatically denied that there was a question of principle involved, two historically irreconcilable points of view had clashed. The “one man management’ is a product of the individualist conception of the bourgeois class. The “one man management’ is in principle an unrestricted, isolated, free will of one man, disconnected from the collective. This idea finds its reflection in all spheres of human endeavour – beginning with the appointment of a sovereign for the State, and ending with a sovereign director of the factory. This is the supreme wisdom of bourgeois thought. The bourgeoisie do not believe in the power of a collective body. They like to whip the masses into an obedient flock, and drive them wherever their unrestricted will desires. The working class and its spokesmen, on the contrary, realise that the new Communist aspirations can be obtained only through the collective efforts of the workers themselves. The more the masses are developed in the expression of their collective will and common thought, the quicker and more complete will be the realization of working class aspirations, for it will create a new: homogeneous, unified, perfectly-arranged Communist Industry. Only those who are directly bound to industry can introduce into it animating innovations.
Rejection of a principle – the principle of collective management in the control of industry – was a tactical compromise on behalf of our Party, an act of adaptation; it was, moreover, an act of deviation from that class policy which we so zealously cultivated and defended during that first phase of the revolution.
Why did this happen? How did it happen that our Party, matured and tempered in the struggle of the revolution, was permitted to be carried away from the direct road, in order to journey along the roundabout path of adaptation? formerly condemned overtly and branded as “opportunism"? The answer to this question we shall give later. Meanwhile we shall turn to the question: how did the Workers’ Opposition form and develop?
The Ninth Congress of the Russian Communist Party was held in the spring of 1920. During the summer, the apportion did not assert itself . Nothing was heard about it during the stormy debates that took place at the Second Congress of the Communist International. But deep at the bottom, there was taking place an accumulation of experience, of critical thought. The first expression of this process, incomplete at the time, was at the Party Conference in September, 1920. For a time, the thought preoccupied itself largely with rejections and criticisms. The Opposition had no well-formulated proposals of its own. But it was obvious that the Party was entering into a new phase of its life. Within its ranks, “lower” elements demand freedom of criticism, loudly proclaiming that bureaucracy strangles them, leaves no freedom for activity or for manifestation of initiative.
The leaders of the Party understood this undercurrent, and Comrade Zinoviev made many verbal promises as to freedom of criticism, widening of the scope of self-activity for the masses, persecution of leaders deviating from the principles of democracy, etc. A great deal was said and well said; but from words to deeds there is a considerable distance. The September conference, together with Zinoviev’s much-promising speech has changed nothing either in the Party itself or in the life of the masses. The root from which the Opposition sprouts, was not destroyed. Down at the bottom, a growth of particulate dissatisfaction, criticism and independence was taking place. This inarticulate ferment was noted even by the Party leaders and it quite unexpectedly generated sharp controversies. It is significant that in the central Party bodies, sharp controversies arose concerning the part that must be played by the Trade Unions. This, however, is only natural.
At present, this subject of controversy between the Opposition and the Party leaders, while not being the only one, is still the cardinal point of our whole domestic policy. Long before the Workers’ Opposition had appeared with its Theses and formed that basis on which, in its opinion, the dictatorship of the proletariat must rest, in the sphere of industrial reconstruction, the leaders in the Party had sharply disagreed in their appraisal of the part that is to be played by the working class organisations regarding the latters’ participation in the reconstruction of industries on a Communist basis. The Central Committee of the Party split into groups. Comrade Lenin stood in opposition to Trotsky, while Bukharin took the middle grounds. Only at the Eighth Soviet Congress and immediately after did it become obvious that within the Party itself there was a united group kept together primarily by the Theses of principles concerning the Trade Unions. This group, the Opposition, having no great theoreticians, and if spite of a most resolute resistance from the most popular leaders of the Party was growing strong and spreading all over labouring Russia. Was it so only in Petrograd and Moscow? Not at all. Even from the Donetz basin, the Ural mountains, Siberia, and a number of other industrial centres came reports to the Central Committee that there also the Workers ‘ Opposition was forming and acting.
It is true that not everywhere does the Opposition find itself in complete accord on all points with the workers of Moscow. At times there is much indefiniteness, pettiness and absurdity in the expressions, demands and motives of the Opposition. Even the cardinal points may differ. Yet there is everywhere one unalterable point – and this is the question : who shall develop the creative powers in the sphere of economic reconstruction? Shall it be purely class organs, directly connected by vital ties with the industries – that is, shall industrial unions undertake the work of reconstruction – or shall it be left to the Soviet machine which is separated from direct vital industrial activity and is axed in its composition? This is the root of the break. The Workers’ Opposition defends the first principle, where the leaders of the Party, whatever their differences on various secondary matters, are in complete accord on the cardinal point, and defend the second principle.
What does this mean? This means that our Party lives through its first serious crisis of the revolutionary period, and that the Opposition is not to be driven away by such a cheap name as “syndicalism,” but that all comrades must consider this in all seriousness, Who is right, the leaders or the working masses endowed with a healthy class instinct?
Before considering the basic points of the controversy between the leaders of our Party and the Workers’ Opposition? it is necessary to find an answer to the question: how could it happen that our Party – formerly strong, mighty and invincible because of its clear-cut and firm class policy – began to debate from its programme?
The dearer the Communist Party is to us just because it has made such a resolute step forward on the road to the liberation if the workers from the yoke of capital, the less right do we have to close our eyes to the mistakes of leading centres.
The power of the Party must lie in the ability of our leading centres to detect the problems and tasks that confront the workers, and to pick up the tendencies, which they have been able to direct, so that the masses might conquer one more of the historical positions. So it was in the past, but it is no longer so at present. Our Party not only reduces its speed, but more often (wisely’ looks back and asks: have we not gone too far? Is this not the time to call a halt? Is it not wiser to be more cautious and to avoid daring experiments unseen in the whole of history'?’ What was it that produced this wise caution’ (particularly expressed In the distrust of the leading Party centres towards the economic industrial abilities of the labour unions) – caution that has lately overwhelmed all our centres? Where is the cause?
lf we begin to diligently to search for the cause of the developing controversy in our Party, it becomes clear that the party is passing through a crisis which was brought about by three fundamental causes. The first main basic cause is the unfortunate environment in which our Party must work and act. The Russian Communist Party must build Communism and carry into life its programme:
(a) in the environment of complete destruction and breakdown of the economic structure ;
(b) in the face of a never diminishing and ruthless pressure of the Imperialist States and White Guards’,
(c) to the working class of Russia has fallen the lot of realising Communism, creating new Communist forms of economy in an economically backward country with a preponderant peasant population, where the necessary economic prerequisites for socialization of production and distribution are lacking, and where Capitalism has not as yet been able to complete the full cycle of its development (from the unlimited struggle of competition of the first stage of Capitalism to its highest form: the regulation of production by capitalist unions – the trusts).
It is quite natural that all these factors hinder the realization of our programme (particularly in its essential part – in the reconstruction of Industries on the new basis) and inject into our Soviet economic policy diverse influences and a lack of uniformity.
Out of this basic cause follow the two others. First of all, the economic backwardness of Russia and the domination of the peasantry within its boundaries create that diversity, and inevitably detract the practical policy of our Party from the clear-cut class direction, consistent in principle and theory.
Any party standing at the head of a heterogeneous Soviet state is compelled to consider the aspirations of peasants with their petty-bourgeois inclinations and resentments towards Communism, as well as lend an ear to the numerous petty-bourgeois elements, remnants of the former capitalists in Russia and to all kinds of traders, middlemen, petty officials, etc. These have very rapidly adapted themselves to the Soviet institutions and occupy responsible potions in me centres, appearing in the capacity of agents of different commissariats etc. No wonder that Zarupa, the People’s Commissar of Supplies, at the Eighth Congress quoted figures which showed that in the service of the Commissariat of Supplies there were engaged 17% of workers, 13% of peasants, less than 20% of specialists, and that of the remaining, more than 50% were tradesmen, salesmen, and similar people, in the majority even illiterate (Zarupa’s own words). In Zarupa’s opinion this is a proof of their democratic constitution, even though they have nothing in common with the class proletarians, with the producers of all wealth, with the workers in factory and mill.
These are the elements – the petty-bourgeois elements widely scattered through the Soviet institutions, the elements of the middle class, with their hostility towards Communism, and with their predilections towards the immutable customs of the past, with resentments and fears towards revolutionary arts. These are the elements that bring decay into our Soviet institutions, breeding there an atmosphere altogether repugnant to the working class. They are two different worlds and hostile at that. And yet we in Soviet Russia are compelled to persuade both ourselves and the working class that the petty-bourgeoisie and middle classes (not to speak of well-to-do peasants) can quite comfortably exist under the common motto: “All power to the Soviets,” forgetful of the fact that in practical everyday life, the interests of the workers and those of the middle classes and peasantry imbued with petty-bourgeois psychology must inevitably clash, rending the Soviet policy asunder, and deforming its clearest class statutes. Beside peasant-owners in the villages and burgher elements in the cities, our party in its Soviet State policy is forced to reckon with the influence exerted by the representatives of wealthy bourgeoisie now appearing in the form of specialists, technicians, engineers and former managers of financial and industrial affairs, who by all their past experience are bound to the capitalist system of production. They cannot even imagine any other mode of production, but the one which lies within the traditional bounds of capitalist economics.
The more Soviet Russia finds itself in need of specialists in the sphere of technique and management of production, the stronger becomes the influence of these elements, foreign to the working class, on the development of our economy. Having been thrown aside during the first period of the revolution, and being compelled to take up an attitude of watchful waiting or sometimes even open hostility towards the Soviet authorities, particularly during the most trying months (the historical sabotage by the intellectuals), this social group of brains in capitalist production, of servile, hired, well-paid servants of capital, acquire more and more influence and importance in politics with every day fiat passes.
Do we need names? Every fellow worker, carefully watching our foreign and domestic policy, recalls more than one such name . As long as the centre of our life remained at the military fronts, the influence of these gentlemen directing our Soviet policy, particularly in the sphere of industrial reconstruction, was comparatively negligible. Specialists, the remnants of the past, by all their nature closely, unalterably bound to the bourgeois system that we aim to destroy, gradually begin to penetrate into our Red Army, introducing there their atmosphere of the past (blind subordination, servile obedience, distinction, ranks, and the arbitrary will of superiors in place of class discipline, etc.). But their influence did not extend to the general political activity of the Soviet Republic. The proletariat did not question their superior skill to direct military affairs, fully realising through their healthy class instinct that in military matters the working class as a class cannot express a new world, is powerless to introduce substantial changes into the military system – to reconstruct its foundation on a new class basis. Professional militarism – an inheritance of past ages – militarism and wars will have no place in Communist society. The struggle will go on along other channels, will take quite different forms inconceivable to our imagination Militarism lives through its last days, through the transitory epoch of dictatorship, and therefore it is only natural that the workers, as a class, could not introduce into the forms and systems anything new and conducive to the future development of society. Even in the Red Army, however, there were innovating touches of the working class. But the nature of militarism remained the same, and the direction of military affairs by the former officers and generals of the old army did not draw the Soviet policy in military matters away to the opposite side sufficiently for the workers to feel any harm to themselves or to their class interests.
In the sphere of national economy it is quite different however. Production, its organisation – this is the essence of Communism. To debar the workers from the organisation of industry, to deprive them, that is, their individual organisations, of the opportunity to develop. their powers in creating new forms of production in industry through their unions, to deny these expressions of the class organisation of the proletariat, while placing full reliance on the ‘skill’ of specialists trained and taught to carry on production under a quite different system of production – is to jump off the rails of scientific Marxist thought. That is, however, just the thing that is being done by the leaders of our Party at present.
Taking into consideration the utter collapse of our industries while still clinging to the capitalist mode of production (payment for labour in money, variations in wages received according to the work done) our Party leaders, in a fit of distrust in the creative abilities of workers’ collectives, are seeking salvation from the industrial chaos. Where? In the hands of scions of the bourgeois-capitalist past. In businessmen and technicians, whose creative abilities in the sphere of Industry are subject to the routine, habits and methods of the capitalist system of production and economy. They are the ones who introduce the ridiculously naive belief that it is possible to bring about Communism by bureaucratic means. They ‘decree’ where it is now necessary to create and carry on research.
The more the military front recedes before the economic front, the keener becomes our crying need; the more pronounced the influence of that group which is not only inherently foreign to Communism, but absolutely unable to develop the right qualities for introducing new forms of organising the work, of new motives for increasing production, of new approaches to production and distribution. All these technicians, practical men, men of business experience, who just now appear on the surface of Soviet life bring pressure to bear upon the leaders of our Party through and within the Soviet institutions by exerting their influence on economic policy.
The Party, therefore, finds itself in a difficult and embarrassing situation regarding the control over the Soviet state. It is forced to lend an ear and to adapt itself to three economically hostile groups of the population, each different in social structure. The workers demand a clear-cut, uncompromising policy, a rapid, forced advance towards Communism; the peasantry, with its petty-bourgeois proclivities and sympathies, demands Afferent kinds of “freedom,” including freedom of trade and non-interference in their affairs. The latter are joined in this demand be the burgher clad in the form of (agents’ of Soviet officials, commissaries in the army, etc., who have already adapted themselves to the Soviet regime, and sway our policy toward petty-bourgeois lines.
As far as the centre is conceded, the influence of these petty-bourgeois elements is negligible. But in the provinces and in local Soviet activity, their influence is a great and harmful one. Finally, there is still another group of men consisting of the former managers and directors of the capitalist industries. These are not the magnates of capital, like Riabushinsky or Rublikoff, whom the Soviet Republic got rid of during the first phase of the revolution, but they are the most talented servants of the capitalist system of production, the ‘brains and genius’ of Capitalism, its true creators and sponsors. Heartily approving the centralist tendencies of the Soviet government in the sphere of economics, well realising all the benefits of trustification and regulation of production (this, by the way, is being carried on by capital in all advanced Industrial , countries), they are striving for just one thing – they want this regulation to be carried on not through the labour organisations (the industrial unions), but by themselves – acting now under the guise of Soviet economic institutions – the central industrial committees, industrial centres of the Supreme Council of National Economy, where they are already firmly rooted. The influence of these gentlemen on the ‘sober’ State policy of our leaders is great, considerably greater than is desirable. This influence is reflected in the policy which defends and cultivates bureaucratism (with no attempts to change it entirely, but just to improve it). The policy is particularly obvious in the sphere of our foreign trade with the capitalist states, which is just beginning to spring up: these commercial relations are carried on over the heads of the Russian as well as the foreign organised workers. It finds its expression, also, in a whole series of measures restricting the self-activity of the masses and giving the initiative to the scions of the capitalist world.
Among all these various groups of the population, our Party, by trying to find a middle ground, is compelled to steer a course which does not jeopardize the unity of the State interests. The clear-cut policy of our Party, in the process of identifying itself with Soviet State institutions, is being gradually transformed into an upper-class policy, which in essence is nothing else but an adaptation of our directing centres to the heterogeneous and irreconcilable interests of a socially different, mixed, population. This adaptation leads to inevitable vacillation, fluctuations, deflations and mistakes. It is only necessary to recall the zig-zag-like road of our policy toward the peasantry, which from thanking on the poor peasant’, brought us to placing reliance on the industrious peasant-owner’. Let us admit that this policy is proof of the political soberness and “statecraft wisdom” of our directing centres. But the future historian, analysing without bias the stages of our domination, will find and point out that in this is evident a dangerous digression’ from the class line toward ‘adaptation’ and a course full of harmful possibilities or results.
Let us again take the question of foreign trade. There exists in our policy an obvious duplicity. This is attested by the constant, unending friction between the Commissariat of Foreign Trade and the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs. This friction is not of administrative nature alone. Its cause lies deeper. And if the secret work of the directing centres were exposed to the view of rank and file elements, who knows what the controversy dividing the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and the trade representatives abroad might lead to?
This seemingly administrative friction is essentially a serious, deep, social friction, concealed from the rank and tile, and makes it absolutely necessary for Soviet politics to adapt to the three heterogeneous social groups of the population (workers, peasants and representatives of the former bourgeoisie). This constitutes another cause bringing a crisis into our Party. And we cannot but pay attention to this cause. It is too characteristic, too pregnant with possibilities. It is therefore the duty of our Party, on behalf of Party unity and future activity, to ponder over this cause and to learn the necessary lessons from the widespread dissatisfaction generated by it in the rank and file.
As long as the working class, during the first period of the revolution, felt itself to be the only bearer of Communism, there was perfect unanimity in the Party. In the days immediately following the October Revolution, none could even think of ‘ups’ as something different from ‘downs’, for in those days the advanced workers were busily engaged in realising point after point in our class-communist program. The peasant who received the land did not at the time assert himself as a part of and a full-fledged citizen of the Soviet Republic. Intellectuals, specialists, men of affairs – the entire petty-bourgeois class and pseudo-specialists at present climbing up the Soviet ladder, rung by rung, under the guise of ‘specialists’ – stepped aside, watching and waiting but meanwhile giving freedom to the advanced working masses to develop their creative abilities.
At present, however, it is just the other way. The worker feels, sees, and revises at every step that specialists and (what is worse) untrained illiterate pseudo-specialists, and unpractical men throw out the worker and fill up all the high administrative posts of our industrial and economic institutions. And the Party, instead of putting the brakes on this tendency from the elements which are altogether foreign to the working class and Communism, encourages it. The Party seeks salvation from the industrial chaos, not in the workers but in these very elements. Not in the workers, not in their union organisations does the Party repose its trust, but in these elements. The working masses feel it and instead of unanimity and unity in the Party, there appears a break.
The masses are not blind. Whatever words the most popular leaders might use in order to conceal their deviation from a clear-cut class policy, whatever the compromises made with the peasants and world Capitalism, and whatever the trust that the leaders place in the disciples of the capitalist system of production, the working masses feel where the digression begins. The workers may cherish an ardent affection and love for such personalities as Lenin. They may be fascinated by the incomparable flowery eloquence of Trotsky and his organising abilities. They may revere a number of other leaders – as leaders. But when the masses feel that they and their class are not trusted, it is quite natural that they say : No, halt! We refuse to follow you blindly! Let us examine the situation. Your policy of picking out the middle ground between three socially opposed groups is a wise one indeed, but it smacks of the well-tried and familiar adaptation and opportunism. Today we may gain something with the help of your sober policy, but let us beware lest we find ourselves on a wrong road that, through zigzags and turns, will lead from the future to the debris of the past. Distrust of the workers by the leaders is steadily growing. The more sober these leaders get, the more clever statesmen they become with their policy of sliding over the blade of a sharp knife between Communism and compromise with the bourgeois past, the deeper becomes the abyss between the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ the less understanding there is, and the more painful and inevitable becomes the crises within the Party itself. The third reason enhancing the crisis in the Party is that, in fact during these three years of the revolution, the economic situation of the working class, of those who work in factories and mills, has not only not been improved, but has become more unbearable. This nobody dares to deny. The suppressed and widely-spread dissatisfaction among workers (workers, mind you) has a real justification.
Only the peasants gained directly by the revolution. As far as the middle classes are concerned, they very cleverly adapted themselves to the new conditions, together with the representatives of the rich bourgeoisie who had occupied all the responsible and directing positions in the Soviet institutions (particularly in the sphere of directing State economy, in the industry organisations and the re-establishment of commercial relations with foreign nations). Only the basic class of the Soviet Republic, which bore all the burdens of the dictatorship as a mass, ekes out a shamefully pitiful existence.
The Workers’ Republic controlled by the Communists, by the vanguard of the working class, which, to quote Lenin, has absorbed all the revolutionary energy of the class’, has not had time enough to ponder over and improve the conditions of all the workers (those not in individual establishments which happened to gain the attention of the Council of the People’s Commissars in one or another of the so-called ‘shock industries’) in general and lift their conditions of life to a human standard of existence.
The Commissariat of Labour is the most stagnant institution of all the Commissariats. In the whole of the Soviet policy, the question was never seriously raised on a national scale and discussed: what must and can be done in the face of the utter collapse of industry at home and a most unfavourable internal situation to improve the workers’ conditions and preserve their health for productive labour in the future, and to better the lot of the workers in the shops?
Until recently, Soviet policy was devoid of any worked out plan for improving the lot of the workers and their conditions of life. All that was done in this field was done almost incidentally, or at random, by local authorities under the pressure or the masses themselves. During these three years of civil war, the proletariat heroically brought to the altar of the revolution their innumerable sacrifices. They waited patiently. But now that the pulse of life in the Republic is again transferred to the economic front, the rank and file worker considers it unnecessary to ‘suffer and wait’. Why? is he not the creator of life on a Communist basis? Let us ourselves take up this reconstruction, for we know better than the gentlemen from the centres where it hurts us most.
The rank and file worker is observant. He sees that so far the problems of hygiene, sanitation, improving conditions of labour in the shops – in other words, the betterment of the workers’ lot has occupied the last place in our policy. In our solution to the housing problem, we went no further than housing the workers’ families in inconvenient bourgeois mansions. What is still worse, so far we have not even touched the practical problem of housing in regard to workers. To our shame, in the heart of the Republic, in Moscow itself, working people are still living in filthy, overcrowded and unhygienic quarters, one visit to which makes one think that there has been no revolution at a11. We all know that the housing problem cannot be solved in a few months, even years, and that due to our poverty, its solution is faced with the serious difficulties. But the facts of ever-growing inequality between the privileged groups of the population in Soviet Russia and the rank and file workers, ‘the framework of the dictatorship’, breed and nourish the dissatisfaction.
The rank and file worker sees how the Soviet official and the practical man lives and how he lives – he on whom rests the dictatorship of the proletariat. He cannot but see that during the revolution, the life and health of the workers in the shops commanded the least attention; that where prior to the revolution there existed more or less bearable conditions, they are still maintained by the shop committees. And where such conditions did not exist, where dampness, foul air and gases poisoned and destroyed the workers’ health, these conditions remain unchanged. “We could not attend to that; pray, there was the military front.” And yet whenever it was necessary to make repairs in any of the houses occupied by the Soviet institutions, they were able to find both the materials and the labour. What would happen if we tried to shelter our specialists or practical men engaged in the sphere of commercial transactions with foreign capitalists in those huts in which the masses of workers still live and labour? They would raise such a howl that it would become necessary to mobilize the entire housing department in order to correct ‘the chaotic conditions’ that interfere with the productivity of our specialists.
The service of the Workers’ Opposition consists in that it included the problem of improving the workers’ lot (together with all the other secondary workers’ demands) into the general economic policy. The productivity of labour cannot be increased unless the life of the workers is organised on a new Communist basis.
The less that is undertaken and planned (I do not speak of something that has been carried out) in this sphere, the deeper is the mutual distrust between leaders and workers. There is no unity, no sense of their identity of needs, demands and aspirations. The leaders are one thing, and we are something altogether different. Maybe it is true that the leaders know better how to rule over the country, but they fail to understand our needs, our life in the shops, its requirements and immediate needs; they do not understand and do not know. From this reasoning follows the instinctive leaning towards the unions, and the consequent dropping out of the Party. It is true they are a part of us, but as soon as they get into the centres, they leave us altogether; they begin to live differently; if we suffer, what do they care? Our sorrows are not theirs any longer.
And the more our industry establishments and unions are drained of their best elements by the Party (which sends them either to the front or to the Soviet institutions), the weaker becomes the direct connection between the rank and file workers and the directing Party centres. A chasm is growing. At present, this division manifests itself even in the ranks of the Party itself. The workers, through their Workers’ Opposition ask: Who are we? Are we really the prop of the class dictatorship? Or are we just an obedient flock that serves as a support for those who, having severed all ties with the masses, carry out their own policy and build up industry without any regard to our opinions and creative abilities under the reliable cover of the Party label?
Whatever the Party leaders might do in order to drive away the Workers’ Opposition, the latter will always remain that growing healthy class force which is destined to inject vitalising energy into the rehabilitation of economic life as well as into the Communist Party, which begins to fade and bend low to the ground.
There are thus three causes which bring about a crisis in our Party : there is first of all the overall objective conditions under which Communism in Russia is being carried out (the civil war! economic backwardness of the country, its utter industrial collapse as an aftermath of the long years of war); the second cause is the heterogeneous composition of our population seven million workers, the peasantry, the middle classes, and, finally, the former bourgeoisie, men of affairs in all professions, who issuance the policy of Soviet institutions and penetrate into the Party; the third cause is the inactivaty of the Party in the field of immediate improvement of the workers’ life coupled with the inability and weakness of the corresponding Soviet institutions to take up and solve these problems.
What then is it that the Workers’ Opposition wants? What is its role?
Its role consists in raising before the Party all the perturbing questions, and in giving form to all that heretofore was causing only a subdued agitation in the masses and led the non-partisan workers ever further from the Party. It clearly and fearlessly shouted to the leaders : ‘Stop, look and think! Where do you lead us? Are we not going off the right road? It will be very bad for the Party to find itself without the foundation of the dictatorship. The Party will be on its own and so will the working class. In this lies the greatest danger to the revolution.’
The task of the Party at its present crisis is fearlessly to face the mistakes and lend its ear to the healthy class call of the wide working masses. Through the creative powers of the rising class, in the form of industrial unions, we shall go forwards towards reconstruction and the development of the creative forces of the country ; towards purification of the Party itself from elements foreign to it ; towards correction of the activity of the Party by means of going back to democracy, freedom of opinion, and criticism inside the Party.