Nine Years of the Struggle of the Left Opposition

The Break in the Right-Center Bloc
and the Left Zig-zag of Stalinism

(July 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 28 (Whole No. 124), 9 July 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Continued from last issue)

With, that Marxian penetration and foresight that marks out the whole course of the Left Opposition, it had forecast this very struggle long before it broke out. A good three years before, in September 1926, Trotsky had written with prophetic exactitude in the Opposition document On the Unity of the Party:

“The aim of all these discussions and conclusions leading to displacements in the organization, is the annihilation of the nucleus which, up to very recently, was called the old Leninist guard, and the substitution for it of the personal leadership of Stalin, leaning on a group of comrades who always agree with him. Only a blockhead or a hopelessly hardened bureaucrat can believe that the Stalinist struggle for ‘the unity of the party’ can guarantee this unity, even if it were only at the price of the annihilation of the former leading group and, in general, of the whole present Opposition. The closer Stalin appears to be to this aim the farther away, in reality, he will be from it. A party leader, ship reduced to a single individual, which is what Stalin and his group of intimates call ‘the unity of the party’, requires for its establishment not only the destruction, the elimination and the decapitation of the present united Opposition, but also the gradual removal from the leadership of the most authoritative and influential representatives of the faction now in power ... It is quite clear that neither Tomsky, Bucharin nor Rykov, by reason of their past, their moral authority, etc., are capable of playing the role, under Stalin’s rule which devolves upon Uglanov, Kaganovitch, Petrovsky and consorts. To cut off the present Opposition would mean, in fact the inevitable transformation into an opposition of the remnants of the old group in the Central Committee. A new discussion would rise upon the agenda, during which Kaganovitch would expose Rykov, Uglanov would do as much with Tomsky, while the Slepkovs, Stalin and Co. would lash out at Bucharin. Only a blockhead can fail to see how inevitable this forecast is. In the meantime, the more openly opportunist elements in the party would begin to fight Stalin as too contaminated by the ‘Leftist’ prejudices and for preventing too rapid and public a downsliding.”

With the transposition of one or two names, this “Trotskyist calumny” was borne out some three later with almost mathematical precision. The three leaders of the Right wing were presented by Stalin to the Russian party and the whole world as the banner-bearers of the capitalist restoration. The president of the Communist International, the head of the Soviet government, and the leader of the Soviet trade unions, were depicted by Stalin as the agents of the Thermidorian counter-revolution! But it is precisely this “trio” with whom Stalin had for five-six years been in the most intimate “indissoluble” alliance against the Left wing of the party. If Stalin’s indictment of the Right wing had any meaning at all – and it did – it was at the same time a murderous arraignment of the Centrist faction itself. For what pretense could it make to Bolshevism when it had admittedly been in distinguishable solidarity for half a decade with restorationists? Where in all history could an instance be found of the genuine revolutionary tendency having been in an inseparable bloc with another tendency which, within virtually twenty-four hours, proved to be the champion of black reaction?

Given the fact that both sections of the leadership had a common principle basis, given the fact that to cut off the Right wing Stalin had to borrow copiously from the ideological arsenal of the Left Opposition (the Right wing did not hesitate to accuse him of “Trotskyism” Just as Trotsky foretold in 1926!) Stalin’s campaign against the Right wing served at the same time as a deadly self-revelation of Centrism, and an involuntary tribute to the justice of the whole Opposition struggle.

The Kulak Uprising

Let us return to the Fifteenth Congress. All its proceedings were conducted under the flag of denouncing the Opposition as panic-mongers for warning against the growing Kulak danger. Just as Rykov before him had taunted the Opposition with the question: If the Kulak is do dangerous why hasn’t he played us some bad tricks? – So Molotov cried impatiently in December 1927 that the Kulak was nothing new, that there was no need of alarm or of special measures beyond those already in force. Everybody “agrees” argued Molotov, who, together with the other Stalinists, insistently minimized the magnitude of the exploiting farmers, “it exists, and there is no need to speak about it.”

This bureaucratic self-contentment, turned to fury when the Opposition which did find a “need to speak about it”, had to be expelled, waited only a few brief weeks before the whole Soviet Union was shaken to its base by a demonstration of the tremendous power which the Kulak had amassed all the while that Bucharin-Stalin-Molotov-Rykov had been covering him up from Trotsky’s criticisms. In January 1928, right after the congress and emboldened, as we have said, by their success in having the Left wing cut off from the party, the Kulaks rose in what came to be known as their “bloodless uprising”. Powerful and confident, they refused to turn over their hoarded stocks of grain and, in effect, declared: Unless the Soviet power yields to our demands for prices above those fixed by the proletarian state we shall keep our stores and starve the cities the working class centers into submission!

So effective and alarming was their resistance that for the first time in many long years, the Soviets were compelled to requisition the villages’ grain by armed force. All the official philosophy of “Enrich yourselves!”, the vicious self-consolation about the insignificance of the Kulak, the rabid hounding of the Opposition for its timely warnings, were now whipped to tatters by the sharpness of the visible realities.

On February 15, 1928, the leading editorial of Pravda was compelled to hang its head and acknowledge:

“The village proved to be perverted in a whole, has grown and become rich. The Kulak, above all, has grown and become rich ... The line of our party in the vil- [text missing] series of districts ... In our organisations, certain elements alien to the party have grown up in recent times, which see no classes in the village, which do not understand the foundations of our class policy, which strive to carry out the work in such a manner that nobody in the village is alienated, so that they live in peace with the Kulak, so that, in general, popularity is preserved amongst ‘all the strata’.”

What Pravda was compelled to admit after having violently denied the truths contained therein when the Opposition advanced them, was only a mild expression for what the most advanced sections of the working class, despite having been lulled with Stalinist drugs for years, were now thinking. The revolutionary, class spirit which had by no means been entirely eliminated by the campaign against the Opposition, forced its way into the open in spite of the obstacles put in its path by the bureaucratic regime. It is this pressure from below which gave the real impulsion to the break-up of the hitherto solid Right-Center bloc. This still unclear revolt against the previous line of yielding to the capitalist elements inside and outside the country, jerked the helm out of the hands of the Right, forced a change in the course and marked the inauguration of the subsequent zig-zag to ultra-Leftism undertaken by Stalin.

At the same time it revealed the still unexhausted revolutionary forces in the party and the country as a whole, forces still at the disposal of the Marxian wing of the party in its fight for a radical reform of the party and its course. An unprecedented combination of factors, which made possible the organizational crushing of the Opposition, also prevented it from guiding these forces towards firm and stable ground. But on the basis of this Leftward current in the masses, the Stalinist faction opened up a new phase of its development, the “third period” of its blunders on a Soviet and an International scale, which only dragged the revolutionary movement from one rut into another. It is to this stage of the struggle that the next article will be devoted.

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