Leon Trotsky

Platform of the Joint Opposition


Chapter 1
Against Opportunism –
For the Unity of the Party

WE have frankly set forth our opinion of the serious mistakes committed by the majority of the Central Committee in all the fundamental spheres of foreign and domestic policy. We have shown how these mistakes of the Central Committee have weakened our party, which is the fundamental instrument of the revolution. We have shown that, in spite of it all, our party can correct its policy from within. But in order to correct the policy, it is necessary clearly and candidly to define the character of the mistakes committed by the party leadership.

The mistakes made have been opportunist mistakes. Opportunism in its developed form – according to the classic definition of Lenin – is a bloc formed by the upper strata of the working class with the bourgeoisie and directed against the majority of the working class. In the conditions now existing in the Soviet Union, opportunism in its completed form would be an aspira. tion of the upper strata of the working class towards compromise with the developing new bourgeoisie (kulaks and Nepmen) and with world capitalism, at the expense of the interests of the broad mass of the workers and the peasant poor.

When we note the presence of such tendencies in certain circles of our party – in some places just appearing and in others fully developed – it is absurd to accuse us, upon that ground, of slandering the party. It is exactly to the party that we are appealing against these tendencies which threaten it. It is equally absurd to pretend that we are accusing this or that section of the party or the Central Committee of disloyalty to the revolution, of betraying the interests of the proletariat. A false political line can be dictated by the most sincere concern for the interests of the working class. Even the most extreme representatives of the right wing are convinced that the compromises with bourgeois elements into which they are prepared to enter are necessary in the interests of the workers and peasants, that they are merely another of those manœuvres which Lenin considered entirely permissible. Even that right group which represents an open tendency to abandon the proletarian revolution does not consciously desire a Thermidor. And this is still more true of the “centre”, which is carrying out a typical policy of illusion, self-consolation, and self-deception.

Stalin and his closest adherents are convinced that, with their powerful apparatus, they can outwit, instead of conquering in a struggle, all the forces of the bourgeoisie. Stalin and the Stalinists undoubtedly believed in all sincerity that they were “playing” for a limited period of time with the Chinese generals, and that they would throw them away like a squeezed lemon after having used them in the interests of the revolution. Stalin and the Stalinists undoubtedly believed in all sincerity that they would “play” with the Purcells and not vice versa. Stalin and the Stalinists believe in all sincerity that they can “freely” make concessions to “their own” bourgeoisie, and afterward with equal freedom take these concessions back.

In their bureaucratic self-conceit, the Stalinists “facilitate” their manoeuvres by cutting off the party, in the essence of the matter, from all participation in political decisions and thus avoiding its resistance. The Stalin officialdom decides and acts and then lets the party “digest” its decisions. But this process weakens, if it does not paralyse, those very forces which might be deployed in a good political manoeuvre, both necessary and timely – or which might weaken and remove the bad consequences of manoeuvres by the leaders which were obviously bad. Thus there is a cumulative result of the opportunist tendencies of the right wing of the Central Committee and the manoeuvres of its centrist group, a result which in its sum total means: a weakening of the international position of the USSR, a weakening of the position of the proletariat in relation to other classes within the Union, a relative deterioration of its material conditions of life, a weakening of its bond with the peasant poor, threatening its alliance with the middle peasants, a weakening of its role in the state machine, a slowing down of the tempo of industrialization, It is these consequences of the policy of the majority, of the majority of the Central Committee, and not its intentions, that the Opposition had in view when it raised the question of the danger of a Thermidor – that is, a departure from the rails of the proletarian revolution on to petty-bourgeois rails. The enormous difference in the history and character of our party in comparison with the parties of the Second International is clear to everybody. The Russian Communist party has been tempered in the fires of three revolutions. It has seized and held power against a world of enemies. It has organized the Third International. Its fate is the fate of the first victorious proletarian revolution. The revolution determines the tempo of its inner life. All intellectual processes within the party, taking place under high-class pressure, have a tendency to ripen and develop swiftly. Just for this reason it is necessary for us to have in our party a timely and decisive struggle against every tendency to depart from the Leninist line.

The opportunist tendencies in the Russian Communist party have, in the present circumstances, deep objective roots:

  1. The international bourgeois encirclement and the temporary partial stabilization of capitalism give rise to “stabilizational” moods.
  2. The New Economic Policy, undoubtedly necessary as a road toward socialism, having partially resurrected capitalism, revives also the forces hostile to socialism.
  3. The petty-bourgeois tide in a country with an enormous majority of peasants cannot fail to overflow not only into the Soviets, but also into the party.
  4. The fact that the party has a monopoly in the political field, a thing absolutely necessary to the revolution, creates a further series of special dangers. The Eleventh Congress of the party, in Lenin’s time, pointed out directly and candidly that there existed already in our party whole groups of people (from the well-off peasants, the upper clerical strata and the intelligentsia) who would have been in the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, it those parties were not illegal.
  5. The state machine operated by the party pours into the party in its turn much that is bourgeois and petty-bourgeois, infecting it with opportunism.
  6. Through the specialists and the upper categories of the clerical workers and intelligentsia, necessary as they are to our constructive work, there flows into our apparatus – state, economic, and party – a continual stream of non-proletarian influences.

That is why the Leninist Oppositional wing of the party sounds the alarm so insistently as to the obvious and daily increasing threatening deviations of the Stalin group. It is criminal light-mindedness to assert that the great past of the party, and its old cadres of Bolsheviks, constitute a guarantee in all circumstances and for all time against the danger of opportunistic degeneration. Such an idea has nothing whatever in common with Marxism.

It is not such ideas that Lenin taught. At the Eleventh Congress of the party Lenin said: “History knows degenerations of all kinds. To rely upon the conviction, loyalty, and other excellent spiritual qualities of individuals – that is not being serious in politics.” [1]

The workers who constituted the immense majority of the socialist parties of the West before the imperialist war were undoubtedly opposed to an opportunist deviation. But they did not overcome in time the opportunistic mistakes of their leaders, which were not at first very great. They underestimated the significance of these mistakes. They did not understand that the first serious historical disturbance after that prolonged period of peaceful development which had given birth to so powerful a workers’ bureaucracy and aristocracy, would compel not only the opportunists but the centrists also to capitulate to the bourgeoisie, leaving the masses at that critical moment disarmed. If you can reproach the revolutionary Marxists, who were the left wing in the Second International before the war, with anything, it is not that they exaggerated the danger of opportunism when they called it a national-liberal labour policy, but that they relied too much upon the working-class composition of the socialist parties of those days. They relied upon the revolutionary instincts of the proletariat and upon the sharpening of class contradictions. They underestimated the real danger and mobilized the revolutionary rank and file against it with insufficient energy. We are not going to repeat that mistake. We are going to correct, in good time, the course of the party leadership. By that very fact we answer the charge that we desire to split our party and form a new one. The dictatorship of the proletariat imperiously demands a single and united proletarian party as the leader of the working masses and the poor peasantry. Such unity, unweakened by factional strife, is unconditionally necessary to the proletariat in the fulfilment of its historic mission. This can be realized only upon the basis of the teachings of Marx and Lenin, undiluted with personal interpretations and undistorted by revisionism.

In contending for a definite tempo of industrialization as the premise of our socialist construction, in contending against the growth of the kulak and his aspiration toward supremacy in the countryside, in contending for a timely improvement of the living conditions of the workers, for democracy within the party, the trade unions, and the Soviets – the Opposition contends not for ideas which might bring about a separation of the working class from its party, but on the contrary for a reinforcement of the foundations of a real unity in the All-Union Communist party. Without correcting the opportunist mistakes, you can have nothing but a show of unity, which will weaken the party before the attack of the growing bourgeoisie, and in the case of war compel it to reform its ranks on the march and under the fire of the enemy. When they find out our real views and proposals, the proletarian nucleus of the party – of this we are sure – will accept them and fight for them, not as “factional” slogans, but as the very banner of party unity.

Our party has not yet clearly recognized, and for that reason has not corrected, the mistakes of its leadership. The extraordinarily swift growth of our industry during the restoration period has been one of the fundamental causes of that opportunistic illusion which the majority of the Central Committee has systematically encouraged in the party and the working class. The first rapid betterment in the conditions of the workers, by comparison with their conditions during the civil war, gave birth in broad circles of the workers to the hope of a swift and painless overcoming of the contradictions of the NEP. This prevented the party from seeing in due season the danger of an opportunist deviation.

The growth of the Leninist Opposition in the party has impelled the worst elements of the bureaucracy to resort to methods heretofore unheard of in the practice of Bolshevism. Being no longer able to prevent by decree the discussion of political questions in the party branches, a part of the bureaucracy is now resorting – just before the Fifteenth Congress – to the creation of gangs whose job is to break up all discussions of party problems by means of shouting, whistling, putting out of lights, etc.

This attempt to introduce into our party methods of direct physical violence will arouse the indignation of all honest proletarian elements and will inevitably turn against its own organizers. No machination by the worst part of the party apparatus will succeed in separating the party mass from the Opposition. Behind the Opposition stand the Leninist traditions of our party, the experience of the whole international workers’ movement, the contemporary state of international politics and of our economic work of construction as seen by the international proletariat. Class contradictions, inevitably growing sharper after the restoration period, will more and more confirm our views of the way out of the present crisis. They will more and more consolidate the vanguard of the proletariat in the struggle for Leninism.

The growing danger of war is already impelling the worker member to think more deeply about the fundamental problems of the revolution. His thoughts will inevitably force him to enter actively into the work of correcting opportunist mistakes.

The working-class section of our party has been largely crowded out of the party leadership in late years. It has been subjected to the devastating influence of a long campaign of slander, whose goal has been to prove that left is right and right is left. This working-class section of the party will come to itself. It will find out what is really happening. It will take the fate of the party into its own hands. To help the vanguard of the workers in this process is the task of the Opposition. It is the task of this platform.

The most important, the most actual, 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. The slogan. “Two parties”, expresses on the one hand the desire of certain elements in the party apparatus for a split, and on the other, a mood of despair and a failure to comprehend that the task of Leninists is to win the victory of Lenin’s ideas within the party, notwithstanding all difficulties. Nobody who sincerely defends the line of Lenin can entertain the idea of “two parties” or play with the suggestion of a split. Only those who desire to replace Lenin’s course with some other can advocate a split or a movement along the two-party road.

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 single 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.

On the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, we express our profound conviction that the working class did not make countless sacrifices and overthrow capitalism in order to prove unequal now to the task of correcting the mistakes of its leadership, carrying the proletarian revolution forward with a firm hand, and defending the Soviet Union, which is the centre of the world revolution.

Against opportunism! Against a split! For the unity of the Leninist party!


1. 11th Congress of the RCP(B), Vol.XVIII, Part II, p.42.

Chapter VI    |    Table of Contents

return return return return return

Last updated on: 22.2.2007