Leo D. Trotsky

The Theses of Comrade Radek

(July 1928)

Written: 17 July 1928.
First published: The Militant, Vol. II No. 12, 1 August 1929, pp. 4–5.
Translated: The Militant.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
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Three days ago I received the draft of comrade Radek’s theses, sent to the eight comrades. These theses have probably already been sent to the Congress so that the immediate practical purpose of my remarks is lost. But since we need clarity for the future as well, I consider it necessary to express an opinion on these theses.

The Anti-Kulak Agitation

1. First of all, the theses say: “Several months of anti-Kulak agitation – that is a fact of the greatest political significance which it would be complete political blindness not to recognize.” In these words the polemical spear is pointed, in the wrong direction. In my opinion, the following should have been said: “Several months of anti-Kulak agitation, if they are not followed by a radical change in the line, will inevitably throw the Party back considerably and will undermine the last vestiges of confidence of the ranks in all slogans and in all campaigns.”

2. With regard to the capital outlay, Radek says: “Instead of investing the basic capital in a series of undertakings in the same branch of production which would only show results several years later, concentration of funds is necessary in order to obtain goods with the least possible delay”. This obscure expression is apparently intended to convey the idea that funds should be transferred from heavy industry to light. This is part of the Right wing’s program. I see no reason why we should enter on that road. If it is a purely practical proposal, then it should be supported by figures; that is, it should be proved that in allocating the funds, the necessary proportion between heavy and light industry is not being preserved. If such a reallocation of funds were to be made only on considerations of the moment, it would mean to prepare a still greater crisis in two or three years. Improvisation in such a question cannot be allowed at all and, as has been said, is only grist to the mill of the Right. It is sufficient for us to demand the allocation of funds for light as well as for heavy industry.

3. With regard to the Stalinist argument that it is impossible to combat the Kulak as long as the middle peasant has not been won over, Radek’s theses say: “We still haven’t won over the middle peasant sufficiently.” This is to embellish the reality. With our policies we have lost the middle peasant whom the Kulak has led away, something that is acknowledged by the February article in Pravda.

4. Coming out against the view that the left move is a mere maneuver, the theses say: “Whether or not this struggle will be carried to the end depends on the strength and the determination with which the working masses will insist on the extension of this struggle.” This, of course, is true, but it is too general. It would mean: The Central Committee did what it could, but now it is the turn of the masses. In reality it should be said: “The measures undertaken above will result in an inevitable fiasco if the Opposition – in spite of the dreadnoughts of bureaucratic Centrism – will not educate the masses and help them carry this struggle to the end.”

5. “The Center in the Party,” say Radek’s theses, “by concealing the existence of this group – the Right – only weakens the chances of the struggle for a correction of the Party line.” This is to put it very tenderly. The struggle against the Kulak means in the Party a struggle against the Rights. Carrying on a “campaign” against the Kulak, the Center in the Party covers up the Right wing and stays in a bloc with it. The theses remark reproachfully that this “only weakens the chances of the struggle.” No, it dooms the struggle to inevitable defeat, if the Opposition will not open the Party’s eyes to this whole mechanics.

6. The characterization of Schwartz [1] as a “comrade keenly attuned and tied up with the proletarian masses” sounds strange. Did he protest anywhere against the infamous banishments under Article 58? It seemed to me that he “keenly voted for these banishments.

Fraudulent Self-Criticism

7. With regard to self-criticism, the theses vow: “It is not a fraud and not a maneuver, because the intervention of a number of Party leaders implies the greatest concern for the fate of the Party and the revolution.” Is not here meant the latest appearance of the master’s (Stalin) understudy (Molotov) with a shower of abuse addressed to the Opposition and with an explanation that criticism of the administrative organs is useful, while criticism of the leadership – harmful? I should say: “If in the question of the Kulak the purely combinatory maneuver amounts to 10–20 per cent and the positive measures forced by the bread shortage amount to 80–90 per cent of the given zig-zag, then in the question of self-criticism the apparatus-maneuvered tricks amount even at the present moment to not less than 51 per cent, and 49 per cent are general expenses of the maneuver: redeeming victims, scapegoats, etc., etc.” There is hardly any reason for swearing with such assurance that there is neither maneuver nor fraud here.

8. Radek’s theses refer to Stalin’s speech before the students, without mentioning that with regard to the question of the Kulak, the speech is also a complete withdrawal of the February article in Pravda, and may mean the obliteration of the Left zig-zag also in this important and specific question. Incidentally, this speech is astounding for its illiteracy in economic questions.

9. Further on comes the explanation why the Center, as distinct from the Right, was against inner-Party democracy. Because, you see, our Party is not one hundred percent democratic – (Stalin). Radek’s theses accept this explanation at its face value, repeat it and develop it. It is as if the Centrists were afraid that the insufficiently proletarian Party would not comprehend their truly proletarian policies. This is inadmissible apologetics. The Centrists felt that their Chiang Kai-Shek, Purcell and Kulak policy would not be accepted by the proletarian kernel of the Party. That is why they have been and are strangling democracy.

10. “The question of inner-Party democracy lies alone in the awakening of the Party masses. If they do not take into their hands the matter of self-criticism” ... etc. Again too general. In order that the masses may actually participate in this matter, it is necessary that they do not allow the Centrists to lull them to sleep. The Centrists have considerable means for that even now. They lack only the blissful confidence on our part. “Piatakoviade,” “Safaroviade” are at present the most effective “opium” for the people. All the more frequent should be the antidote from us.

11. The deductions of Radek’s theses with regard to self-criticism are the following: a) further extension of self-criticism; b) curtailment of the Party apparatus; c) proletarianization of the apparatus; d) prosecution of those who strangle democracy in the factory; e) ridding the Party of bourgeois and bureaucratic elements. All this is too general and is repeated on every possible occasion, without furnishing any guarantees. As an afterthought, it is said: “Finally, the readmission of the Opposition into the Party is necessary.” That is correct. And in place of the other points, which are too general, it should be said more concretely: “a) to fix the date for the 16th Congress during 1928 and to bind the preparations for the Congress with every guarantee of real self-criticism; b) to publish immediately all the articles, speeches, and letters of Lenin that have been hidden from the Party – I have named seven groups of such documents in my letter to the Congress; c) to curtail at once the Party’s budget twenty-fold, that is, to five or six millions, because the present budget is the financial basis of the apparatus of autocratic and bureaucratic corruption. These demands do not, of course, exhaust the questions of the regime, but they are perfectly concrete and mark a step forward.

Problem Of The Comintern

12. It is still worse when it conies to the question of the Comintern. Radek’s estimation of the February Plenum as a great, in a way decisive, turn about face to the road of Marxist policy, is basically incorrect. The symptomatic significance of the February Plenum is very great; it shows that the Right-Centrist policy has landed completely in a blind alley, and that the leadership is trying to find a way out not to the Right, but to the Left, and that is all. There is no unifying idea in the Leftism of the February Plenum. This Leftism reminds one a great deal of the Leftism of the Fifth Congress. No real conclusion have been drawn from the greatest defeat of the Chinese revolution; instead there is the fanfare of boasting about the approach of the so-called new wave, with regard to the peasant movement – and this after the proletariat has been decimated. This whole perspective is false and the whole manner of approaching the question gives its blessing to adventurism. The little reservations on putsches are for self-justification in the future. If there is a new wave, then the revolts in the provinces are not putsches. In reality, it is the destruction of the remnants of the proletarian vanguard that is going on. Theoretically the Menshevik resolution on the Chinese question, though it was written in pseudo-Bolshevik terminology, should, from the strategical point of view, destroy the Chinese Communist Party. The English and French resolutions cover up the traces of yesterday, combining with them elements of ultra-Leftism and Right premises. Here, too, there is much resemblance to the Fifth Congress which tried to eliminate the question of the German defeat of 1923 by means of ultra-Left violence.

13. Finally, Radek’s theses say that those should be returned to the Comintern “who sincerely [words missing] Comintern “with the methods proclaimed by the last Plenum of the E.C.C.I.” You can hardly believe your eyes when you read it.

The “methods” of the February Plenum of the E.C.C.I. consist first of all of the approval of Article 58 and of the assertion that the Bolshevik-Leninists “are banking on the fall of the Soviet power.” Can it be that the resolution on the Opposition is of less historical significance than the resolution on the second ballot in France, or the dubious hodge-podge on whether or not the British Communist Party should take part in the Labor Party? How can that be forgotten? Can I be admitted to the Comintern if I am deeply convinced that in voting for the Chinese resolution the February Plenum dealt another mortal blow to the Chinese proletariat, and that in voting for the resolution on the Opposition gives the worst, most reactionary and self-debasing expression of the treacherous, bureaucratic methods of “leading” the Party?

14. The theses of the February Plenum put the question of “temporary agreements with liberals in colonial countries” word for word just as the draft of the program puts it; but the draft of the program, under a radical form, sanctifies the Kuo-Min-Tangiade.

15. On the theory of stages, on the theory of dually composed Parties, on the theory of socialism in a single country, Radek’s theses say that these are “tails” that should be removed. It is as if the Marxist man has already emerged full grown out of the Centrist monkey, but with one superfluous organ: “the tail.” The good teacher and preceptor hints: Please hide your tail and all will be well. But that is to embellish the reality in a flagrant manner.

The “Value” of the C.I. Program

16. The general appraisal of the draft of the program by the theses is incorrect, that is, it is exceedingly good-natured. Contradictory, eclectic scholastic, full of patches, the draft of the program is no good at all.

17. The general principle indications of Radek’s theses on the question of partial or transitional demands are quite correct. It is high time that these general considerations were translated into a more concrete language, that is, for us to attempt to outline a plan for transitional demands which would apply to countries of different types.

18. On the question of the Thermidor, Radek’s theses quite unexpectedly say: “I shall not discuss here the question of knowing to what extent analogies of the French and Russian revolutions can be made.” What does that mean? The question of the Thermidor we formulated together with the author of the theses and with his participation. Analogies should be made within the strict limits of those aims for which they are visualized. Lenin compared the Brest-Litovsk peace with the peace of Tilsit. Maretski could have explained to Lenin that the class conditions of the Tilsit peace were entirely different, as he explained to us the difference between the class nature of the French and our own Revolution. We then called Maretzki by the name he deserved. We took the Thermidor as a classic example of a partial counter-revolutionary coup d’état accomplished as yet completely under the revolutionary banner, but already having at bottom a decisive character. No one has ever named or offered a clearer, more striking and more richly instructive historical analogy for explaining the dangers of degeneration. A tremendous international polemic has developed and continues around the question of the Thermidor. What political sense, then, has the above-mentioned unexpected doubt about knowing to what point analogies between the French and Russian resolutions can be established? Are we sitting in a society of Marxist historians and discussing historical analogies in general? No, we are carrying on a political fight in which we have made use of the analogy with the Thermidor a hundred times, within definite limits indicated by us.

19. “If history will prove,” Radek’s theses say, “that a number of Party leaders with whom we crossed swords yesterday are better than the theories which they defended, then no One will be more pleased than we.” That sounds awfully chivalrous: Noble leaders first cross swords and then they weep tears of reconciliation on each other’s bosom. But here is the rub: How can leaders of the proletariat be better than their theories? We Marxists have been accustomed to appraise leaders by their theory, through their theory, by the ability of leaders to understand and apply it. Now it would seem that there may be excellent leaders who are accidentally armed with reactionary theories on almost all the basic questions.

20. “The support we give to the move that has begun,” Radek’s theses declared, “should consist of fighting ruthlessly ... against all the evils against which the Party is now mobilized.” Not that alone. The pitiless unmasking in each practical matter or theoretical question of the half-measures and confusion of Centrism – there is the most important part of support of any progressive steps of Centrism.

The Chinese Revolution

21. I do not stop to consider a whole number of less weighty and specific observations. I confine myself only to pointing out the supplement to the theses which is devoted to the Chinese revolution. This supplement is written in such a way as if we were approaching the question privately for the first time, as if we had not carried on a correspondence with Preobrazhensky: the theses have not a word to say in reply to a single one of my considerations. But that is not yet the worst. What is worse is that Radek’s theses are written as if here had never been a Chinese revolution in 1925-27. All of comrade Radek’s considerations might have been successfully, formulated at the beginning of 1924; the bourgeois-democratic revolution is not completed, it still has democratic stages before it, and then there will be a change by growth again. But the Right and Left Kuo Min Tang, the Canton period, the northern expedition, the Shanghai coup d’état, the Wuhan period – what are all those if not democratic stages? Or, since Martinov has made a mess of it, can we simply leave it out of consideration? The theses see in the future what has in reality already been left behind. Or, perhaps the theses hope to get “real” democracy? Let them give us her address. The essence of the matter is that all those conditions which with us united the agrarian revolution with the proletarian revolution are expressed still more clearly and imperiously in China. The theses demand that we “wait” until the democratic revolution has grown into a socialist revolution. Two questions are combined here. In a certain sense our democratic revolution grew into a socialist revolution only towards the middle of 1918. Yet power had been in the hands of the proletariat since November 1917! The argument sounds particularly bizarre coming from comrade Radek who so resolutely tried to prove that there is no feudalism in China, no class of land-owners and that therefore the agrarian revolution would not be directed against the landlord but against the bourgeoisie. Survivals of feudalism are very strong in China, but they are indissolubly bound up with bourgeois property. How then can comrade Radek now pass over this difficulty by saying that the bourgeois-democratic revolution “is not completed,” repeating here the mistake of Bucharin, who in turn repeats Kamenev’s mistake in 1917? I cannot do better than to quote here again Lenin’s word against Kamenev to which Beloborodov recently called my attention:

“He who is guided in his activity by the simple formula ‘the bourgeois-democratic revolution is not finished’ takes it on himself to guarantee in some way that the petty bourgeoisie is really capable of being independent of the bourgeoisie. He thereby capitulates weakly at the moment, hoping for the grace of the petty bourgeoise.” (Lenin, Vol. 14, Part 1, page 35)

That is all I can say on comrade Radek’s theses, I think it is necessary to say it for the sake of clarity, without fearing the attempts of our “monolithic” opponents to exploit our differences of opinion.

Alma-Ata, July 17, 1928



1. Schwartz is the chairman of the All-Russian Miners [words missing] of the Central Committee of the [words missing].

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Last updated on: 14.8.2012