Leon Trotsky

Platform of the Joint Opposition


Chapter 7
The Party

NO party in the history of the world ever won such a gigantic victory as our party, which has stood now for ten years at the head of a proletariat and realized its dictatorship. The Russian Communist party is the fundamental instrument of the proletarian revolution. The Russian Communist party is the leading party of the Comintern. No other party ever bore such an international historic responsibility as ours. But exactly for this reason, and because of the power it wields, our party ought fearlessly to criticize its own mistakes. It ought to uncover its own darker sides and clearly visualize the danger of an actual degeneration, in order to take timely measures to prevent it. It was always so in the time of Lenin, who was forever warning us against the danger of our degeneration into a ‘party of swelled-heads’. [1] In giving the following picture of the present condition of our party, with all its darker sides, we, the Opposition, express the firm hope that with a true Leninist policy the party will conquer its weaknesses and rise to the height of its historical task.

(1) The social composition of our party has continually deteriorated during recent years. On January 1, 1927, we had in the party, in round numbers:

Workers actually occupied in industry and transport 430,000
Agricultural workers   15,700
Peasants (more than half of them now government officials) 303,000
Officials (more than half of whom were formely workers) 462,000

Thus, on January 1, our party had only one-third workers from the shops (in fact, only 31 per cent), and two-thirds peasants, officials, former workers, and “miscellaneous”.

In the last year and a half our party has lost about 100,000 workers from the shops. “Mechanical lapses” from the party for 1926 amounted to 25,000 rank-and-file Communists, among whom 76.5 per cent were factory workers. [2] The recent so-called “sifting” process which accompanied the new registration of party members, resulted, according to the official data (which indubitably minimize the facts), in the removal from the party of about 80,000 members, the immense majority of them industrial workers. ‘In relative figures the registration embraced 93.5 per cent of the party membership at the beginning of the present year. [3] Thus, by the simple process of a new registration, there were “sifted out” 6.5 per cent of the whole party membership (amounting to about 80,000 members). Among those “sifted out”, about 50 per cent were skilled, and more than a third semi-skilled, workers. The attempt of the apparatus of the Central Committee to minimize these already sufficiently minimized data is obviously unsuccessful. To counterbalance our “Lenin enrolment” we have a Stalinist “sifting”.

On the other hand, 100,000 peasants have been admitted to the party since the Fourteenth Congress, the majority of them middle peasants. The percentage of farm labourers is wholly insignificant.

(2) The social composition of the directing organs of the party has deteriorated still more. In the Uyezd (county) committees, 29.5 per cent are peasants (in origin); 24.4 per cent are clerical workers, etc.; 81.6 per cent of the members of these committees are state officials. The number of workers from the shops in the leading bodies of the party’s next to nothing. In the regional committees, it is 13.2 per cent; in the Uyezd committees, from 9.8 per cent to 16.1 per cent. [4]

In the party itself about one-third of the members are workers in industry, and in those organs of the party which take decisions only one-tenth are workers in industry. This constitutes a grave danger to the party. The trade unions have travelled the same road. [5] This shows what an enormous slice of the power the “administrators”, coming from petty-bourgeois circles, have taken away from us – and also the “labour bureaucrats”. This is the surest road to the “de-proletarization” of the party.

(3) The role of the “ex-ers” (Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks) in the party apparatus and the leading posts in general has increased. At the time of the Fourteenth Congress, 38 per cent of those occupying responsible and directing positions in our Press were persons who had come to us from other parties. [6] At present the situation is still worse. The actual direction of the Bolshevik Press of the party is either in the hands of the revisionist school of the “young” (Slepkov, Stetsky, Maretsky and others) or of former Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. About a quarter of the higher cadres of the active element in the party is composed of former Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks.

(4) Bureaucratism is growing in all spheres. but its growth is especially ruinous in the party. Today’s “leading” party bureaucrat looks at things in the following manner:

We have members of the party who still inadequately understand the party itself, just what it is. They think that the party starts from the local branch – the local branch is the first brick, then comes the district 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. [7]

The definitions of inner-party democracy given us by more responsible comrades, such as Uglanov, Molotov, Kaganovich, etc. [8], come essentially to the same thing.

This “new” conception is dangerous in the extreme. If we really acknowledged that our party “must be looked at from the top down”, that would mean that the Leninist party, the party of the mass of the workers, no longer exists.

(5) The last few years have seen a systematic abolition of inner-party democracy – in violation of the whole tradition of the Bolshevik party, in violation of the direct decisions of a series of party congresses. The genuine election of officials is in actual practice dying out. The organizational principles of Bolshevism are being perverted at every step. The party constitution is being systematically changed, to increase the volume of rights at the top, and diminish the rights of the branches at the bottom. The mandates of the Uyezd, district and regional committees have been extended by the Central Committee to a year, to two years, and more.

The leadership of the regional committees, the regional executive committees, the regional trade union councils, etc., are, in actual fact, irremovable (for periods from three to five years and longer). The right of each member of the party, of each group of party members, to “appeal its radical differences to the court of the whole party” [9] is in actual fact annulled. Congresses and conferences are called without a preliminary free discussion (such as was always held under Lenin) of all questions by the whole party. The demand for such a discussion is treated as a violation of party discipline. The saying of Lenin is completely forgotten that “the Bolshevik ‘staff’ must rely in practice on the honest and conscious will of the army, which follows its staff, but at the same time directs its staff”. [10]

Within the party there is taking place – as a natural accompaniment of the general course–an extremely significant process of pushing out the old party men, who lived through the underground period, or at least through the civil war, and are independent and capable of defending their views. They are being replaced by new elements, distinguished chiefly by their unquestioning obedience. This obedience, cultivated from above under the name of revolutionary discipline, has really nothing whatever to do with revolutionary discipline. Not infrequently new Communists, selected from the number of those workers who were always distinguished by their subservience to the old pre-revolutionary authorities, are now advanced into dominant positions in the working-class branches and in the administration. They curry favour by demonstrating their sharply hostile attitude to the old worker members, the leaders of the working class in the hardest moments of its revolution.

The same phenomenon appears in a far uglier form in the state machine, where one often meets the perfected figure of the party’ Soviet official. On solemn occasions he swears by October; he distinguishes himself by a complete indifference to his task; he lives with all his roots in a bourgeois milieu, abuses the leadership in private life, and in party meetings “gives it” to the Opposition.

The real rights of one member of the party at the top (above all of the Secretary) are many times greater than the real rights of a hundred members at the bottom. This growing replacement of the party by its own apparatus is promoted by a “theory” of Stalin’s which denies the Leninist principle, inviolable for every Bolshevik, that the dictatorship of the proletariat is and can be realized only through the dictatorship of the party.

The dying out of inner-party democracy leads to a dying out of workers’ democracy in general – in the trade unions, and in all other non-party mass organizations.

Inner-party disagreements are distorted. A vicious polemic is carried on for months and years at a time against the views of Bolsheviks who are denounced as “the Opposition”, while these Bolsheviks are not permitted to expound their real views in the pages of the party Press. Yesterday’s Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, Cadets, Bundists, Zionists, attack and denounce in the pages of Pravda documents which have been introduced into the Central Committee by its members. They tear out and distort separate phrases from these documents. But the documents themselves are never printed. Party groups are compelled to vote “denunciations” of documents totally unknown to them.

The party is compelled to judge our disagreements on the basis of official “interpretations” and cribs, often illiterate as well as false, and nauseating to everybody. The saying of Lenin, “Whoever believes things on a mere say-so is a hopeless idiot,” has been replaced by a new formula: “Who does not believe the official say-so is an Oppositionist.” Factory workers who incline toward the Opposition are compelled to pay for their opinions with unemployment. The rank-and-file member of the party cannot speak his opinion aloud. Old party workers are deprived of the right to express themselves either in the Press or at meetings.

Bolsheviks defending the ideas of Lenin are slanderously accused of desiring to create “two parties”. This accusation was deliberately invented in order to array against the Opposition the workers, who naturally defend with passion the unity of their party. Every word of criticism against the crude Menshevik mistakes of Stalin (on the problems of the Chinese revolution, the Anglo-Russian Committee, etc.) is described as a “struggle against the party”. This, although Stalin never asked the party first, either about the policy in China or about any other important problem. This accusation that the Opposition desires to create “two parties” is repeated every day by those whose own purpose is to crowd out of the party the Bolshevik-Leninist members, so that they may have a free hand in carrying on their opportunist policy.

(6) Almost the entire educational work of the party and the entire work of elementary political training is now reduced to a course in Opposition baiting. The method of persuasion is not only almost totally displaced by the method of compulsion, but it is also supplemented by the method of deceiving the party. Party education being reduced to mere official propaganda, the general tendency is to evade it. Attendance at meetings, party schools and study-groups, dedicated as they are to Opposition baiting, has fallen off immoderately. The party is employing passive resistance against the present wrong course of its apparatus.

(7) Not only have careerism, bureaucratism and inequality grown in the party in recent years, but muddy Streams from alien and class-hostile sources are flowing into it – for example, anti-Semitism. The mere self-preservation of the party demands a merciless struggle against such defilement.

(8) In spite of these facts, the fire of repression is directed exclusively to the left. It has become entirely customary to expel Oppositionists for speaking at the meetings of their branches, for making sharp exclamations, for attempting to read the Testament of Lenin. In their level of political understanding and, what is more important, in their devotion to the cause of the party, the expelled frequently stand higher than those who expel them. Finding themselves outside the party – for the crime of “distrust” and “pessimism” in regard to Chiang Kai-shek, Purcell, or their own bureaucrats – these comrades continue to live the life of the party. They serve it far more truly than many of the careerists and Philistines who continue in its membership.

(9) The present hail of repressions and threats, visibly increasing with the approach of the Fifteenth Congress, is designed to frighten the party still more. It testifies to the fact that the united faction of Stalin and Rykov, in order to cover up its political mistakes, must have recourse to extreme measures. It places the party at every congress and conference before a fait accompli.

(10) The political line of the Central Committee (which was laid down at the Fourteenth Congress upon the principle of solidarity with Stalin) is erroneous. Although wavering, the present nucleus of the Central Committee moves continually to the right. The abolition of inner-party democracy is an inevitable result of the fact that the political line is radically wrong. In so far as it reflects the pressure of petty-bourgeois elements, the influence of the non-proletarian layers which envelop our party, it must inevitably be carried through by force from above.

In the theoretical sphere the so-called “younger school” has a monopoly. This is a school of revisionists, who are ready at any moment to carry out the literary orders of the apparatus. The best elements of the Bolshevik youth, permeated with the real traditions of the Bolshevik party, are not only crowded out but actually persecuted.

In the organizational sphere the actual subjection of the Politburo to the Secretariat, and the Secretariat to the General Secretary, has long ago become an accomplished fact. The worst fear expressed by Lenin in his testament – the fear that Stalin would not be sufficiently loyal, would not employ in a party manner the “unlimited power” which he had “concentrated in his hands” – has been justified. [11]

At the present time there are three fundamental tendencies in the Central Committee and in the leading organs of the party and state in general.

The first tendency is a frank and open drift to the right. This tendency, in turn, is composed of two groups. One of them, in its opportunism and pliability, expresses to a considerable degree the “economically powerful” middle peasant. It steers its course by him and is inspired by his ideals. This is the group of Comrades Rykov, A.P. Smirnov, Kalinin, G. Petrovsky, Chubar, Kaminsky, and others. Around them and in their immediate vicinity are working the “non-party” – the Kondratievs, Sadyrins, Chayanovs and other political “business agents” of the wealthy peasantry, more or less openly preaching the doctrines of Ustryalov. In every region, and often in every Uyezd, are to be found the little Kondratievs and Sadyrins enjoying their bit of real power and influence. The other group in this first general tendency is composed of trade union leaders who represent the better-paid class of workers and clerks. This group is particularly characterized by a desire for closer association with the Amsterdam International. Its leaders are Comrades Tomsky, Melnichansky, Dogadov, and others. Between these two groups there is a certain amount of friction, but they are at one in the desire to swerve the course of the party and the Soviet state to the right, in both international and domestic policies. They are both distinguished by their contempt for the theories of Leninism and their inclination to renounce the tactics of the world revolution.

The second tendency is the “centrism” of the official apparatus. The leaders of this tendency are Comrades Stalin, Molotov, Uglanov, Kaganovich, Mikoyan, Kirov. It is, de facto, the present Politburo. Bukharin, wavering between one side and the other, “generalizes” the policies of this group. In itself this centrist-official group least of all expresses the attitude of any broad mass, but it is trying – not without success – to insert itself into the place of the party. The caste of “administrators” – in the party, the trade unions, the industrial organs, the co-operatives, the state apparatus – now numbers tens of thousands of people. Among these there is no small number of “worker” bureaucrats – former workers, that is, who have lost all connection with the toiling mass.

It is needless to add that in the organs of administration and leadership, so enormously important to the fate of the revolution, there are to be found many thousands of stoical revolutionists, workers who have not broken their bonds with the mass, but are giving themselves heart and soul to the workers’ cause. It is they who are doing the real work of Communism in these institutions.

This does not alter the fact that the degeneration of our political course and our party regime is giving birth to an enormous caste of genuine bureaucrats.

The actual power of this caste is enormous. It is just this group of “administrators” who insist upon “tranquillity”, upon “attending to business” – and above all “no discussion”. It is just this group who complacently announce (and even sometimes sincerely believe) that we have already “almost reached socialism”, that “nine-tenths of the programme” of the socialist revolution is already fulfilled. It is this group who “look from the top down” upon the whole party, and still more from the top down upon the unskilled workers, the unemployed, the hired farm-hands. This group sees the principal enemy on the left – that is, among the revolutionary Leninists. This group gives the slogan, “Fire to the left”.

For the time being these two tendencies, the right and the “centre”, are united by their common hostility to the Opposition. To cut off the Opposition would inevitably accelerate the conflict between them.

The third tendency is the so-called Opposition. It is the Leninist wing of the party. The pitiful attempts to pretend that it is an Opposition from the right (a “Social-Democratic deviation”, etc.) arise from the desire of the ruling group to hide their own opportunism. The Opposition is for the unity of the party. Stalin propagates his own programme – to “cut off” the Opposition – under the false flag of a pretence that the Opposition wants to create a “second” party. The Opposition answer with its slogan: “Unity of the Leninist Russian Communist Party at all costs”. The platform of the Opposition is set forth in the present document. The working-class sections of the party and all genuine Leninist Bolsheviks will be for it.

Personal desertions from the Opposition are unavoidable in the hard circumstances under which it is compelled to struggle for the cause of Lenin. Separate personal regroupings among the leaders of all these three tendencies will occur, but they will not alter the fundamental facts of the matter.

(11) All the above facts taken together constitute a party crisis. The inner-party disagreements have deepened continually since the death of Lenin, involving a continually increasing circle of more and more fundamental problems.

The fundamental mood of the party mass is a desire for unity. The present regime prevents the party from understanding the direction from which a danger threatens its unity. The machinations of Stalin are all designed to place the party membership, upon every sharp or important question that arises, before the dilemma: either renounce your own opinion or fall under the accusation of desiring a split.

Our task is to preserve the unity of the party at all costs to resist decisively the policy of splits, amputations, expulsions, etc. – but at the same time to guarantee to the party its right to a free discussion and decision, within the framework of this unity, of all disputed questions.

In exposing the mistakes and abnormalities of the present situation in the party, the Opposition is deeply convinced that the fundamental mass of the working-class section of the party will prove able in spite of everything to bring the party back to the Leninist road. To help in that process is the essential task of the Opposition.

Practical Proposals

It is necessary:

(1) To prepare for the Fifteenth Congress upon a basis of real inner-party democracy, as we did in Lenin’s time. “Every member of the party,” wrote Lenin, “should begin to study dispassionately and with the utmost honesty; first, the essence of disagreements, and secondly, the course of development of the conflict in the party ... It is necessary to study both the one thing and the other, unconditionally demanding that absolutely accurate documents should be printed and should be available for checking from all points of view.” [12] The Central Committee should make it possible for every member of the party to study both the essence of the present inner-party disagreements, and the course of development of the present struggle. It should do this by publishing, in the press and in special collections and pamphlets, all the documents which it has up to this time hidden from the party.

Every comrade and every group of comrades ought to have an opportunity to defend their point of view before the party in the press, at meetings, etc. The draft theses (the platform) of the Central Committee, of local organizations, of individual members of the party and groups of members, ought to be published in Pravda (or in supplements to Pravda) and also in the the local party papers, at least two months before the Fifteenth Congress.

The debate ought to be carried on in a businesslike and strictly comradely manner, without personalities and exaggerations. The chief slogan for the whole preparation of the Fifteenth Congress ought to be unity – not a pretended, but a genuine Leninist unity of the Russian Communist party and the whole Communist International.

(2) It is necessary to adopt immediately a series of measures for the improvement of the social composition of the party and of its leading organs. To that end we must reaffirm the decision of the Thirteenth Congress, that “the vast majority of the party members in the near future ought to consist of workers directly employed in industry.” In the next two or three years we ought to receive into the party, as a general rule, only and exclusively working men and women from the factories and hired men and women working on the farms. From other social groups we should accept members only upon a basis of strict personal selection: Red soldiers and sailors only if they are of working-class, or rural proletarian, or poor peasant origin; poor and economically weak peasants, only after they have been tested in social-political work for a minimum of two years. The admission of members who come to us from other parties must be stopped.

We must carry out the decision of the Thirteenth Congress in practice annulled by the Fourteenth Congress (against the will of the Opposition) – to the effect that in the district committees, the regional committees, etc., there should be not less than 50 per cent of workers from the factories. In the industrial centres we must have a firm majority of workers from the factories (not less than three-fourths of the total). In the Uyezd committees, a similar majority of workers, hired men, and poor peasants.

(3) To confirm and carry out in real life the resolution on inner-party democracy adopted by the Tenth Party Congress, reaffirmed by the Central Committee and the Central Control Committee, December 5, 1923, and by the Twelfth and Thirteenth Congresses of the party.

We must confirm in the name of the whole party that– contrary to the new anti-Leninist definitions of inner-party democracy devised and circulated by Uglanov, Molotov, Kaganovich, Zhivov, and others:

Workers’ Democracy means freedom of open discussion by all party members of the important questions of party life, free discussion upon them, and also election of the responsible leading personnel and of the collegiums from bottom to top. [13]

We must take punitive measures against every one who violates in practice this fundamental right of every member of the party.

As a rule, the point of view of the party minority upon any question of principle ought to be brought to the attention of all the members through the party papers, etc. Exceptions should be permitted only when the matters under discussion are secret. It goes without saying that after the adoption of a decision it is to be carried out with iron Bolshevik discipline. The network of party discussion clubs should be broadened and a real criticism of the mistakes of the party leadership made possible in the party organs (by discussion leaflets, printed symposia, etc.).

All those changes for the worse that have been introduced into the party constitution since the Fourteenth Congress (paragraphs 25, 33, 37, 42, 50, etc.) must be annulled.

(4) We must adopt a firm course toward proletarization of the party apparatus as a whole. Workers from the factories, advanced Communist workers who are popular with the party and non-party mass, should constitute a decisive majority of the whole party apparatus. The apparatus should by no means consist entirely of paid personnel, and it should be regularly renewed from the workers. The budget of the local organizations (not omitting the regional organizations) should consist mainly of membership dues. The local organizations should render an account of their income and expenses regularly, and in actual fact, to the mass membership of the party. The present swollen budget of the party ought to be cut down vigorously, as also the size of the paid apparatus. A considerable part of the party work ought to be carried on gratis by members of the party giving time outside their industrial or other work. One measure toward refreshing the party apparatus should be the systematic sending down of a part of the comrades from the apparatus into industry and other rank-and-file work. We must struggle against the tendency of secretaries to make themselves irremovable. We must establish definite terms for the occupation of secretarial and other responsible posts. We must struggle ruthlessly against the actual corruption and decay of the uppermost groups, against patronage, “group solidarity”, etc. (examples: Syzran, Kherson, Irkutsk. Chita, etc.).

(5) As early as the Tenth Congress, under the leadership of Lenin, there was adopted a series of resolutions emphasizing the necessity of greater equality within the party and within the toiling masses. As early as the Twelfth Congress the party noticed the danger, under the NEP, of a degeneration of that part of the party workers whose activities bring them into contact with the bourgeoisie. It is necessary to:

Work out completely adequate practical measures to eliminate inequality (in conditions of life, wages, etc.) between the specialists and responsible workers, on the one hand, and the toiling masses on the other, in so far as this inequality destroys democracy and is a source of corruption of the party and lowering of the authority of Communists. [14]

In view of the fact that inequality has grown at an extraordinarily swift pace in recent years, we must bring up this question again and solve it as revolutionists.

(6) It is necessary to reorganize party education along the line of study of the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, driving out of circulation the false interpretations of Marxism and Leninism now being manufactured on a large scale.

(7) It is necessary to restore immediately to party membership the expelled Oppositionists.

(8) It is necessary to reconstruct the Central Control Committee in the real spirit of Lenin’s advice. Members of the Central Control Committee must be:

  1. closely associated with the masses.
  2. independent of the apparatus.
  3. possessed of authority in the party.

Only thus can real confidence be restored to the Central Control Committee and its authority be raised to the necessary height.

(9) In selecting the membership of the Central Committee and the Central Control Committee and their organs, we must be guided by the advice of Lenin, as given in his letters of December 25 and 26, 1922 and January 4,1923 (the Testament). These letters ought to be published for the information of all members of the Central Committee.

Among the members of the Central Committee the greater part should be workers standing lower in the social scale than that stratum who have advanced during the last five years into Soviet official positions.

So Lenin wrote in his letter of December 26, 1922:

And they should be associated more closely with the rank-and-file workers and peasants, while not, however, belonging either directly or indirectly, to the class of exploiters ... Workers becoming members of the Central Committee ought not, in my opinion, to be predominantly those who have had a long period of employment as Soviet officials ... because these workers have already acquired certain traditions and certain prejudices which are just the ones we want to struggle against. Those letters were written by Lenin in the period when he gave the party his last and most carefully weighed advice upon the fundamental questions of the revolution. [15]

The Fifteenth Congress of our party ought to select its Central Committee from the exact point of view of the above-quoted advice of Lenin.


1. Lenin, Speech at Meeting in Honour of Lenin’s 50th Birthday, Vol.XVII, p.112.

2. Izvestia of the Central Committee, Nos.24, 25.

3. Idem.

4. See the Review of the Statistical Department of the Central Committee, June 10, 1927.

5. See the chapter on the position of the workers and the trade unions.

6. Report of the Fourteenth Congress, p.83.

7. Speech of the Second Secretary of the Northern Caucasus Regional Committee of the Russian Communist Party in Molot, May 27, 1927

8. See Pravda, June 4, 1926.

9. Lenin.

10. Vol.IV, p.318.

11. Lenin’s letter of December 25, 1922, and January 4, 1923.

12. Lenin, Vol.XVIII, p.29.

13. Thirteenth Congress.

14. Resolution of the Tenth Party Conference, p.18.

15. Better Less but Better, How to Reorganize the Worker’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate, On Co-operation

Chapter VI    |    Platform of the Opposition Index    |    Chapter VIII

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Last updated on: 26.1.2007