Leon Trotsky

Crisis in the Right-Center Bloc – II

(November 1928)

Written: November 1928.
Published: Archives of the Revolution, The New International, Vol. VIII No. 1, February 1942, pp. 24–30.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

(Continued from Last Issue)

V. What Is the Right Wing?

Matters stand more simply and clearly with regard to the Right Wing.

The Thermidorian tendency in the country, in the broadest sense of the term, is that of the property-holders as opposed to proletarian socialism. While covering the essence, it is the most general definition that can be given. The petty bourgeoisie its driving force, but which petty bourgeoisie? That which is most addicted to exploitation, that which strives for position, that which is being transformed, or tends to be transformed into the middle bourgeoisie, that which seeks its ally in the big bourgeoisie, in world capitalism? The central figure of this Thermidorian army is the kulak, the protagonist of the moods and aspirations of the Bonapartist counter-revolution.

Inside the ruling apparatus and party, as an ally or semi-ally of the proprietors of Bonapartist inclinations, is the “completely hardened” official who wants “to live in peace with all the classes.” There exist social causes for this: materially or intellectually he is related to the new proprietor; he himself has grown fat, he wants no commotion, he regards with raging hatred the perspective of a “permanent” revolution; he has had more than enough of the Revolution, which God be praised, is happily in the past and now permits him to harvest its fruits of national socialism – there is his arena.

This firmly established official, as we said above, is the ally of the Bonapartist kulak. However, even between them there is a difference that is very important for the given stage. The kulak would like to discard the whole hated system by using the army or by an insurrection. The bureaucrat, however, whose growing welfare is linked with the Soviet apparatus, is opposed to the open Bonapartist road; he is for the path of “evolution,” of a camouflaged Thermidor. We know from history that Thermidor was only a step leading to the Bonapartist coup d’état. But that was not understood at that time. The active Thermidorians sincerely rejected as a base calumny every suggestion that they were merely preparing the road for military-bourgeois usurpation.

These transitional relationships of the two sections of Thermidorianism are the cause of the weakness of the right wing. To take up the gauge of battle, it must openly mobilize all the propertied elements and instincts in the country. This was readily done during the struggle against the Opposition, but the bloc with the Center and the banner of the party served to conceal it. The powerful rear guard of the proprietors, encouraged by the leadership during these past years, exercised a pressure on all sides upon the party, helping to terrorize the proletarian kernel and to demolish the Left Wing. But since the struggle began openly between the Centrists and the Right, even though conducted with half measures,the political situation is changing brusquely. It is the Centrist apparatus that now speaks in the name of the party. This mask can no longer be assumed by the Right in this struggle. They can no longer base themselves upon the proprietors anonymously. They must now publicly and openly straddle a new war horse.

In the lower ranks of the right faction, the difference between the party bureaucrat and the kulak presents hardly any difficulties in the way of common action. But the higher one goes, the nearer the industrial sections, the political centers, the more obstacles are encountered by the Right – vital ones, as for example the dissatisfaction of the workers; dying ones: the traditions. The present leaders of the Right are not yet “ripe enough” to straddle publicly the proprietors’ war horse against the official party. Driven into a blind alley by the pressure of the apparatus, the bureaucrats of the Right either resign, or else, like Uglanov, they make moving pleas that they be not “crippled.”

The “unripeness” of the Thermidorian wing of the party, the absence of political connection between this wing and the reserve formed by the proprietors, explains the easiness of the present victory of the Centrists over the Right. Instead o£ military operations there is an apparatus parade and nothing more.

There is also another reason for this “easiness.” But this reason has its roots in the mutual relations between the Centrist apparatus and the proletarian kernel of the party. Its head was stuffed for more than five years so as to incite it against the Left Wing; for this purpose it was terrorized by the pressure of the bourgeois classes. As a result, we find that at the end of the sixth year of struggle, they are obliged anew to call for an intensified offensive against the so-called “remnants.” In return, the proletarian kernel is ready to struggle against the Right, not out of fear but out of conviction. Even if the present campaign is entirely impregnated with bureaucratism that completely suppresses the initiative of the masses; even though “sentinels” have been posted ahead to indicate with their red pennants the limits to which the Centrist parade shall proceed; even though the masses are disoriented, perplexed and unprepared, especially in the provinces, the proletarian kernel of die party nevertheless supports the Centrist apparatus incontestably in this struggle, if not actively, at least passively; in no case does it aid the Right.

These are the essential reasons why the Centrists have vanquished the Right so easily – inside the party. But these same reasons explain the whole meagerness and superficially of this triumph. To understand this better, let us examine more closely what they are disputing about.

VI. Differences Between Center and Right

A proletarian revolutionist cannot be an empiricist, that is, he cannot let himself be guided only by what happens under his nose at the moment. That is why the struggle against the Right is of importance to us not only from the point of view of the immediate budget questions, credits allocated for collective farming in 1929, and so forth, around which the struggle seems to hinge (though even on these points they keep within the bounds of allusion and commonplaces), but above all from the point of view of the general ideas that it introduces into the mind of the party.

What then is the ideological baggage of the Centrist struggle against the Right?

A. The Danger of Thermidor

Before all, let us examine wherein lies essentially the Right danger. As our guide on this point, as well as on the others, let us take the fundamental (and alas! the most insipid) document of the whole campaign: the speech of Stalin at the Plenum of the Moscow Committee and the Moscow Control Commission on October 19, 1928. After recounting the differences with the Right – of which more later – Stalin concludes by saying:

It is incontestable that the victory of the Right deviation would unleash the forces of capitalism, would undermine the revolutionary positions of the proletariat and increase the chances for the restoration of capitalism in our country.

In this case, as in all others where Stalin turns upon the Right, he does not devise his own powder, but uses the weapons forged in the arsenals of the Opposition, breaking off as much as he can of the Marxist point. Arid really, if one takes Stalin’s characterization of the Right seriously, it appears as the nub of Thermidorian reaction inside the party. The danger of counter-revolution is simply that of the “restoration of capitalism in our country.” The Thermidorian danger is a masked form of counter-revolution, accomplished in its first stage through the right wing of the governing party: in the eighteenth century through the Jacobins, today through the Bolsheviks. In so far as Stalin, by repeating what was said by the Opposition, declares that “the victory of the Right deviation would ... increase the chances for the restoration of capitalism,” he is only saying that the Right Wing is the expression of the Thermidorian danger in our party.

But left us hear what he says a few lines further on about the Left Wing, about the Opposition. From this side, you see, the danger consists in that the Opposition “does not see the possibility of constructing socialism with the forces of our country alone; it despairs and is obliged to console itself by chattering about the Thermidorian danger in our party.”

This example of Centrist confusion could be called classic if confusion could have its classics. Indeed, if to speak of the Thermidorian danger in our party is to chatter, then what is the declaration of Stalin that the victory of the Right Wing in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union would open the road to the restoration of capitalism? In what else, if not in this, does the Thermidor lie in the socialist revolution? To what point must one be muddled to accuse the Right Wing of collaborating in the restoration of capitalism and in the same breath to characterize words pointing out the Thermidorian danger in the party as “chatter”? There is your real chatter, and specifically Centrist at that. For the principal trait of Centrism is that it mechanically stacks up the contradictions instead of overcoming them dialectically. Centrism has always united in its beggar’s purse the “reasonable” and “admissible” elements of the Right and Left Wings, that is, o£ opportunism and Marxism, neutralizing the one with the other and reducing its own ideological content to zero. We know from Marx that petty-bourgeois thought, even the most radical, always consists of admitting “on the one side” so as to deny “on the other.”

In general, the whole manner of characterizing the Opposition adopted in the speech of Stalin is scandalously impotent. The danger of the Left deviation is supposed to be that “it overestimates the forces of our enemies, the forces of capitalism; it sees only the possibilities of the restoration of the latter, but it does not see the possibility of constructing socialism with the forces of our country; it despairs and is obliged to console itself by chattering about the Thermidorian danger in our country.”

Understand it who can! The Opposition “despairs” because it sees only “the possibilities of the restoration of capitalism” (that is, the danger of Thermidor); but it “consoles itself [?] with Thermidorianism in our party,” that is, still with the same danger of the restoration of capitalism. Understand it who can. What can really drive one to despair, is this idealess Centrist rigmarole. But the Opposition hopes to triumph over this pestilence long before the complete socialist society is built up in our country.

B. The Conciliatory Tendency

The struggle against the Right is conducted under cover of anonymity, in the sense of personalities as well as actions. Apart from the Mandelstamms, everyone votes unanimously against the Right; and even the Mandelstamms are now probably voting with the others. It is natural that the workers in the ranks of the party ask: But where is this Right Wing? Stalin replies to them as follows:

The comrades who emphasize the question of the persons who symbolize the Right deviation, in the discussion on this question, are equally wrong ... It is a wrong way of posing the question ... It is not a question of persons here, but rather of conditions, of the circumstances which give birth to the Right danger in the party. Certain persons can be eliminated, but that does not mean that by this we would uproot the Right danger in our party.

Such reasoning is the consummation of the philosophy of conciliation; it is the most striking and most solemn departure from the fundamental Leninist tradition on the field of the struggle of ideas and the education of the party. To pass over the persons representing the Right deviation for the conditions which give birth to it – there is the typical argument of the conciliators. That was essentially the real error committed by the old “Trotskyism” that opposed it to the methods of Lenin. Of course there are “objective conditions” that give birth to kulaks and sub-kulaks, to Mensheviks and opportunists. “It is not a question of persons here, but rather of conditions.” A remarkable revelation. The old “Trotskyism” never formulated the theory of conciliation with such triviality and vulgarity. The present Stalinist philosophy is a caricature of the old “Trotskyism,” and all the more mischievous because it is unconscious.

Lenin invariably taught the party to hate and scorn the methods of struggle against opportunism “in general,” to reduce oneself to declarations, without clearly and precisely naming its most responsible representatives and their deeds. For the struggle by declarations very often serves to taint the atmosphere, to divert the dissatisfaction of the masses accumulating against the slipping toward the Right; this struggle can also be utilized to frighten the Right slightly, so that they will not let themselves be carried away too far and reveal their rear guard. Such a struggle against the Right can in the end appear as a protection and concealment for them merely practiced by more complicated and diverse roads. Centrism needs the Right, not at Ichim, Barnaoul or Astrakhan, but in Moscow, as its main reserve, and it needs such Rights who submit to command, who are tamed and patient.

C. Socialism in One Country

The crowning of the Right policy is the theory of socialism in one country, that is, of national socialism. The Centrists maintain this theory completely, holding up the rotting parts of the structure with new props. Even the most docile delegates to the Sixth Congress complained in the corridors; “Why are we forced to swallow this fruit in the program?” It is not necessary to argue here about the basis of the national-socialist philosophy. Let us wait for what its creators will reply to the criticism of the program. In spite of everything, they will be forced to answer; they will not succeed in evading it by silence.

Let us limit ourselves to point out a new prop that Stalin tried to put up at the Moscow Plenum on October 19. In their turn, Stalin came forward against the opportunists “on the one hand” and the Marxists “on the other,” and proved that we can ...

Achieve the final victory over capitalism, if we carry through an intensified activity for the electrification of the country ... From this follows [??] the possibility of the victory of socialism in our country.

The speech refers to Lenin, of course, and falsely as usual. Yes, Lenin placed great hopes in electrification, as a road leading to the technical socialization of industry in general and of agriculture in particular. “Without electrification,” he said, “there can be no talk of a real socialist foundation for our economic life.” (Vol. XVIII, pt. 1, p. 260). But Lenin did not separate the question of electrification from that of the world revolution, and he certainly did not oppose them to each other. This time also, it can be proved by documents as can generally be done in all cases where the unfortunate creators of the national-socialist theory try to base themselves on Lenin. In his preface to the book of the defunct Skvortsov, The Electrification of the RSFSR, Lenin says:

Special attention should be paid to the beginning of the sixth chapter where the author ... superbly refutes the common “light” skepticism toward electrification ...

Now what does Skvortsov-Stepanov say at the beginning of the sixth chapter that Lenin emphasizes it and recommends it so warmly to the reader? Skvortsov there combats precisely the conception according to which we are supposed to believe in the realization of electrification and the construction of the socialist society within national limits. Here is what he says:

In the common conception of the realization of electrification, one generally loses sight of still another aspect: the Russian proletariat has never thought of creating an ISOLATED socialist state. A self-sufficing “socialist” state is a petty bourgeois ideal. [Hear, hear! L.T.] One can conceive of a certain movement in the direction of this ideal while the petty bourgeoisie predominates economically and politically; by isolating itself from the world, it seeks the means for consolidating its economic forms which new technique and new economies transform into the most unstable forms.

It would seem that no one could express himself more clearly. It is true that after Lenin died, Skvortsov-Stepanov expressed himself differently; he began to qualify as petty bourgeois not the idea of the isolated socialist state but rather the negation of this idea. But Stalin himself has traversed the same path. Up to the end of 1924, he believed that at the basis of Leninism was the recognition of the impossibility of constructing socialism in a single country, above all in a backward country; after 1924, he proclaimed the construction of socialism in our country one of the foundations of Leninism.

A successfully conducted socialist construction [said Skvortsov-Stepaanov in the same chapter] is only possible with the utilization of the immense industrial resources of Western Europe ... Should the proletariat take political power in its hands in one of the first-class industrial countries, in England or in Germany, the combination of the powerful industrial resources of that country with the immense, still intact, natural treasures of Russia, would give the possibility of driving rapidly toward the building of socialism in both countries.

It is just this elementary Marxist idea that has been denounced for the last three years in every meeting as the fundamental heresy of Trotskyism. Now how did Skvortsov-Stepanov estimate the construction of socialism in our country before the victory of the proletariat in the more advanced countries? Here is what he had to say:

Naturally, if the economic region embraced by the dictatorship of the proletariat is sufficiently vast and has a great variety and richness of natural stores, its isolation does not exclude the possibility of the development of the productive forces, which is one of the premises of proletarian socialism. But the advance toward this will be a despairingly slow one, and this socialism will for a long time remain extremely meager, if only its economic premises do not become undermined, a probable alternative under such circumstances. (Chap. 6, pp. 174–179.)

So Skvortsov believed that without the European revolution, the construction of socialism would inevitably have a “despairingly slow” and “meager” character; that is why he considered it “very probable” that under such circumstances the economic premises would be undermined, that is, that the dictatorship of the proletariat would collapse without foreign military intervention. That is how Skvortsov-Stepanov expressed himself in the sixth chapter of his book, as a man of little faith, they would say today. And it is just on the subject of this so-called skeptical estimate of our construction that Lenin wrote:

Special attention should be paid to the sixth chapter, where the author gives a splendid account of the meaning of the New Economic Policy [that is, our “socialist construction.” L.T.] and then superbly refutes the common “light” skepticism toward electrification ...

The unfortunate child of the aboriginal Centrist thought has no luck. Every attempt to present another argument in its favor invariably turns against it. Every new prop can only shape the building constructed with rotten material.

A characteristic trait of the Right Wing, as is shown by the articles and resolutions that are all patterned on the same model is its aspiration for a peaceful life and its fear of commotion. That has been correctly pointed out, or, more exactly, copied from the documents of the Opposition. But it is right there that lies the tested hatred (penetrating to the very innards) against the idea of the permanent revolution. Of course it is not a question here of the old differences which can only interest historians and specialists now, but rather of the perspectives of tomorrow. There are only two possible courses: one toward the international revolution, the other toward reconciliation with the native bourgeoisie. The Right Wing was consolidated in the work of defaming “the permanent revolution.” Under cover of the theory of national socialism, it is marching toward reconciliation with the native bourgeoisie so as to guard itself against any convulsions.

So long as the campaign against the Right is conducted under the sign of the theory of socialism in one country, we have before us a struggle going on within the limits of revisionism itself. This must not be forgotten for a single moment.

D. Vital Practical Questions

If we pass to the vital political questions, the balance of Centrism is almost equally unfavorable.

  1. The Right is opposed to the “present” tempo of industrialization. But what is the “present” tempo? It is the arithmetical result of Khvostism, the pressure of the market, and the lashes of the Opposition. It accumulates contradictions instead of diminishing them. It does not contain a single idea thought out to the end. It furnishes no guarantee for the future. Tomorrow, the “present tempo” can be something else. The hysterical cries about “super-industrialization” signify that the doors are left open for a retreat.
  2. The Right denies the “expediency” of allocating credits for the collectives and the Soviet farms. And the Centrists? What are their plans, the span of their activity? To proceed to the work in a revolutionary manner one must begin with the agricultural laborers and the poor peasants. Audacious and resolute measures are necessary (wages, spirit of organization, culture) so that the agricultural workers feel that they are a part of the ruling class of the country. A league of poor peasants is necessary. It is only by preparing these two levers, and if industry really has a leading role, that one can speak seriously of collective and Soviet farms.
  3. The Right is for “relaxing the monopoly of foreign trade.” There is an accusation that is a little more concrete. (Yesterday it was still called calumny to point out the existence of such tendencies in the party.) But here also it is not specified who proposes the relaxation and within what limits: is it within those fixed by Sokolnikov and Stalin in 1922 in trying to effect this “relaxation” or have these limits been extended further?
  4. Finally, the Right denies “the expediency of the struggle against bureaucratism on the basis of self-criticism.” It is futile to speak seriously of this difference of opinion. There exists a precise decision of the Stalin faction saying that for the purpose of maintaining “a firm leadership,” self-criticism must not touch the Central Committee, but must be limited to its subordinates. Stalin and Molotov have explained this decision in a scarcely concealed form in speeches and articles. It is clear that this reduces self-criticism in the party to zero. At bottom we have a monarchist-Bonapartist principle which is a slap in the face to all the traditions of the party. It is natural that “the subordinates” should also want to avail themselves of a little bit of the supreme inviolability. There is only a hierarchical and not a principled difference.

The present extension of “self-criticism” pursues temporary factional aims, among others. We simply have here a repetition, only on a larger scale, of the “self-criticism” that the Stalinist faction organized after the Fourteenth Party Congress, when the Stalinists “implacably” accused the Zinovievists of practicing bureaucratic oppression. It is superfluous to explain what regime the Stalinists themselves established in Leningrad after their victory.

E. The Question of Wages

But the manner in which the Centrists characterize the Right Wing is especially remarkable for what it passes over in silence. We hear of the underestimation of capital investments for collectivization, and of “self-criticism.” But not a word is said about the material and cultural situation of the proletariat in its daily and political life. It appears that on this field there are no differences between the Center and the Right. But a correct appreciation of the differences between the factions can only be obtained from the point of view of the interests and the needs of the proletariat as a class and of every individual worker (see Chapter Two of the Platform of the Bolshevik-Leninists, The Situation of the Working Class and the Trade Unions).

The articles and resolutions against the Right clamor a good deal, but without precision, of capital investments in industry, but they do not contain a single word on wages. This question, however, must become the main criterion for measuring the success of socialist evolution; and consequently, also the criterion to apply to differences. A socialist rise ceases to be such if it does not uninterruptedly, openly and tangibly improve the material position of the working class in its daily life. The proletariat is the basic productive force in the construction of socialism. Of all the investments, that which is put into the proletariat is “the most profitable.” To consider the increase of wages as a premium for the increase of the intensity of labor is to be guided by the methods and criteria of the period of the primitive accumulation of capitalism. Even the progressive capitalists in the epoch of capitalist prosperity and their theoreticians (the Brentano school, for example), put forward the amelioration of the material situation of the workers as a premise for the increase of labor productivity. The workers’ state must generalize and socialize at least this viewpoint of progressive capitalism, in so far as the poverty of the country and the national limitation of our revolution does not permit us and will not permit us for a long time to be guided by a real socialist criterion. That is to say, production has the task of satisfying consumption. We will not come to such really socialist mutual relations between production and consumption for a series of years yet, under the condition that the revolution is victorious in the advanced capitalist countries and our country is included in a common economic system. But since we have socialized the capitalist means of production, we must at least socialize also, so far as wages are concerned, the tendencies of progressive capitalism and not those of primitive or declining capitalism. And for this purpose we must crush and throw to the winds the tendencies that imbue the last joint resolution of the Russian trade unions and the Supreme Council of National Economy relating to wages for 1929. It is a decree of the Stalinist Political Bureau. It announces that with few exceptions, amounting to nearly 35 million rubles, there must be no mechanical (remarkable word!) increases in wages. Innumerable newspaper articles explain that the task for 1929 is to fight for the maintenance of the present scale of real wages. And at the same time they let loose the rattles that announce the mighty rise of socialist construction. At the same time gods are on sale in the village. Unemployment grows. Credits for the protection of labor are insignificant. Alcoholism is on the increase. And as a perspective we have for the coming year the struggle to maintain the present wage of the workers. This means that the economic rise of the country is being accomplished at the cost of decreasing the share of the proletariat in the national revenues as compared to that of the other classes. No statistics can refute this fact, which is in equal parts the result of the policy of the Right and the Center.

In the reconstruction period, work followed the old roads blazed by capitalism. This period hardly brought the main cadres of the proletariat the reestablishment of pre-war wages. In the work of reconstruction we utilized the experiences acquired by Russian capitalism which we had overthrown. Basically, it is only now that the epoch of independent socialist development is beginning. The first steps taken along this road already showed very clearly that in order to succeed we must have, on an absolutely new scale, initiative, ingenuity, perspicacity, creative will and all this not only from the upper leading circles but also from the main proletarian cadres and the working masses in general. The affairs in Donetz is eloquent not only, of the incapacity and the bureaucratic spirit of the leadership, but also of the weak cultural and technical level of the workers of Schakhty, as well as their lack of socialist interest. Has anyone ever calculated what the “socialist construction” at Schakhty cost? Neither the Right nor the Center has done it, so as not to burn their fingers. Nevertheless, one can boldly assert that if half, or even a third of the criminally despoiled millions had been employed at the right time to raise the material and cultural level of the Schakhty workers, to interest them more and more in their work from the socialist viewpoint, production would be at a far higher stage today. But the Schakhty affair is no exceptional one. It is only the most flagrant expression of bureaucratic irresponsibility above, and the backwardness and material and cultural passivity below.

If we speak seriously of an independent socialist construction, proceeding from the miserable economic basis we have inherited, we must be fully and wholly imbued with the idea that of all the economic investments, the most undeniable, expedient and lucrative is that which is put into the proletariat by systematically and opportunately increasing real wages.

They do not even dream of understanding this. The myopic conceptions of the petty bourgeois manager is the most important criterion. Whipped by the lash of the Opposition, the “masters” of the Center have only dimly understood, ten years after the October, that without making investments in heavy industry at the proper time, we are preparing for the future a sharpening of the existing contradictions and undermining the basis of light industry; on the other hand, these companions in misfortune, with all their underlings, have not understood to this day that without timely investments in work for a wholly qualified workmanship from a social, political, technical and material point of view, they are surely preparing the collapse of the whole social system.

The stereotyped reply: Where will we get the means? is only a bureaucratic subterfuge. It is enough to compare the state budget reaching almost eight billions in 1929, the gross production of state industry amounting to 13 billions, capital investments of more than one and a half billion, with the miserable 35 millions constituting the annual fund for wage increases. No one disputes that bricks and iron, as well as their transportation, must be paid for. The necessity of calculating the costs of production is admitted at least in principle. But the costs of extensive reformation of socialist workmanship, the expense necessary to render it more qualified, remains the last reserve in all calculations, to the detriment of which all the contradictions of our economy, which is conducted in a miserable manner, are liquidated. It is not the Centrists who will put an end to this state of affairs.

VII. Possible Consequences of the Struggle

When we speak of the possible consequences of the present campaign, the question can and must be approached first of all from the aims and plans pursued by the Centrist leading group, and then from the viewpoint of the objective results that can and must develop in spite of all the schemes of the Centrist staff.

The refrain one hears in this whole campaign is the entirely absurd affirmation that “basically” the Right and Left Wings are one and the same thing. This is not simply nonsense that rests on nothing and which it is impossible to formulate in a clear manner; this nonsense has a definite purpose, it serves a well-determined task: at a certain stage of the struggle, at the moment when the Right has been sufficiently terrified, fire will be brusquely opened again against the Left Wing. It is true that even without this the fire does not cease for a single moment. Behind the scenes of the anonymous struggle against the Right, an unrestrained struggle is conducted against the Left. Here the “bosses” do not stick to the “objective conditions.” Determined long ago to stop at nothing, they lead an enraged hunt for “the persons.” Since the “remnants” are not content to live, but “raise their heads,” the main task dominating the whole policy of the Centrist staff is to bring the struggle against the Left Wing around to a new stage, a “higher” one, that is, to renounce definitely all attempts to convince them (in which they are obviously powerless) and to make use of stronger methods. Article 58 must be replaced with one that is still more effective. It is not necessary to explain that it is precisely on this road that the leadership condemned by history will break its neck. But the Centrist bankrupts, armed with the power of the apparatus, have no other road before them. To apply these more decisive measures, the Centrist leadership must make an end of the remnants of the “conciliatory tendency” inside the apparatus itself and around it. It is not a question here of conciliation with the Right Wing: that conciliation is the very soul of Stalinist Centrism. No, we speak of the tendency of conciliation toward the Bolshevik-Leninists. The campaign against the Right serves only as a springboard for a new “monolithic” attack upon the Left. He who has not understood this has understood nothing.

But the plans of Centrism are only one of the factors, even though still a very important one in the process of the development of the inner-party struggle. That is why it is necessary to examine what are the consequences, “unforeseen” by the strategists of the Center, that follow from the crisis of the ruling bloc.

It is evidently impossible to predict now at what point the present campaign of the Center will be brought to a halt, what regroupings will immediately take place, and so forth. But the general character of the results of the crisis of the Center-Right bloc can be clearly perceived. The abrupt zig-zags that Centrism is forced to describe give no guarantee for the coming day. On the other hand, Centrism never accomplishes them with impunity. Oftenest of all, these zig-zags form the point of departure for a differentiation within Centrism, for the separation of one of its layers, of a part of its adherents, for the appearance within the Centrist leadership of various groupings, which, in turn, facilitates the work of Bolshevik agitation and recruiting. Centrism is the strongest force in the party for the moment. Whoever sees Centrism as something completely finished, and neglects the real processes taking place within and behind it, will either remain forever the oracle of some radical literary club or else he will himself roll toward Centrism or even further to the Right. A Bolshevik-Leninist must clearly understand that even if the Right-Center crisis does not immediately set broader masses into motion (and that depends upon us to a certain degree), it leaves behind it seriously increasing cleavages that penetrate the masses, and around which will grow new, deeper and vaster groupings. It goes without saying that this manner of seeing the internal processes of the party has nothing in common with the impatient striving to grab at the tail of Centrism, no matter where or how, so as not to arrive too late with one’s Opposition baggage for the departure of the next special train.

The reinforcement of Centrism from the Left, that is, by the proletarian kernel of the party, even if this happens as a result of the struggle against the Right, will doubtless be neither very serious nor lasting. In fighting the Opposition, the Centrists are forced to weed out with the right hand that which they sow with the left.

The victory of the Centrists will not bring any real and tangible change either in the material situation of the workers or in the party regime, unless the workers led by the Bolshevik-Leninists exercise a strong pressure. The alert mass will continue to think in its own way about the questions of the Right danger. In this the Leninists will help them. On the left flank of Centrism there is an open wound which does not heal, but, on the contrary, goes deeper, keeps Centrism in a feverish agitation and does not leave it in peace.

At the same time, Centrism will also weaken to the Right. The proprietor and the bureaucrat saw the Centre-Right bloc as a whole; they saw in it not only the “lesser evil” but also the embryo of an internal evolution; that is why they supported it. Now they are beginning to distinguish between the Centrists and the Right. They are evidently dissatisfied with the weakness of the Right and their lack of character. But they are their own people who have only lost their way. The Centrists, on the other hand, are now strangers, almost enemies. By its victory on both fronts, Centrism has betrayed itself. Its social basis contracts in the same proportion as its power in the apparatus increases. The equilibrium of Centrism more and more approaches that of a tight-rope walker; there can be no talk of its stability.

A serious regroupment will be effected within the Right Wing as well. It is not absolutely impossible that a certain part of the Right elements – elements who seriously believed in the existence of “Trotskyism” – and who were educated in the struggle against it, will begin to re-examine their ideological baggage seriously under the impact of the shock they have just received and then turn abruptly toward the Left, even as far as the Opposition. But it goes without saying that only a very small, sincere minority will take this path. The main movement of the Right Wing will be in the opposite direction. The lower sections will be dissatisfied with the capitulatory spirit of the upper circles. The proprietor will press hard. The Ustrialovists will whisper finished formula: into the ear. Numerous bureaucratic elements of the Right will submit, of course, that is, they will mask themselves as Centrists, take their place at the order of their superiors and vote against the Right deviation. The number of careerists, people who live only to save their hides, will grow in the apparatus. But the more stable and vigorous Right elements will mature rapidly, will think out their tasks to the end, will formulate clear slogans, and will seek to establish more serious connections with the Thermidorian forces outside the party. So far as the group of “leaders” is concerned, predictions are especially difficult. In any case, for the work that the Right has before it, the Voroschilovs and the Uglanovs are much more important that the Bukharins and the Rykovs. In citing these names, we are not thinking so much of specific persons as of political types. As a result of the regroupings, the “annihilated” Right Wing will become stronger and more conscious.

It is true that the Right wants to be at peace. Nevertheless one must not think that the Right Wing is entirely and absolutely “pacifist.” In fighting for order, the exasperated petty bourgeoisie is capable of causing the greatest disorder. Example: Italian fascism. In fighting against crises, against commotions and dangers, the Right Wing, at some subsequent stage, can help the new proprietors and all the discontented in general to shake the Soviet power so as to drive out the dictatorship of the proletariat. We must remember that the instincts of the petty bourgeoisie, when they are confined and repressed for a long time, contain in themselves an enormous explosive force. Nowhere and never in the course of history have the instincts and aspirations of preservation and property been so long and so pitilessly curbed as under the Soviet regime. There are many Thermidorian and fascist elements in the country. They have become very strong. The confidence they feel in themselves, from a political point of view, grew in the process of annihilating the Opposition. With good reason did they consider that the fight against the Opposition was their fight. The policy of zig-zag consolidates them, tortures them and spurs them on. In contrast to Centrism, the Right Wing has great reserves of growth which, from the political point of view, has as yet scarcely broken through.

The final result is therefore the following: Strengthening and formation of the wings at the expense of Centrism, despite the growing concentration of power in its hands. This means a growing differentiation within the party; the false monolithism thus has to pay very dearly. There is no doubt that for the dictatorship of the proletariat this involves not only heavy costs in general, but even presents direct dangers. There is the curse of Centrism. Consistent Marxist policy made the party more compact by giving it revolutionary homogeneity. Centrism, on the contrary, appears like an ideologically shapeless axis around which Right and Left elements turn for a certain period. In the last five years the party swelled beyond measure, losing in precision what it won in numbers. The Centrist policy is on the way to being repaid now in full: first from the Left side, now from the Right. A Centrist leadership in the last analysis always involves the crumbling of the party. To attempt now to get out of the processes of differentiation in the party and the definite formation of factions by means of tearful supplication or else by conferences behind the scenes would simply be stupidity. Without a general delimination according to lines of principle, we will only have the crumbling of the party into molecules, followed by the catastrophic crash of the usurpatory apparatus, pulling the conquests of October down with it.

Despite their great scope, the two campaigns of the Centrists against the wings (against the Bolshevik-Leninists and against the Thermidorians of the Right) have only a preliminary, preparatory, preventive character. The real struggles still lie in the future. The classes will decide. The question of the power of October with which the Centrist dancers are juggling on the rope, will be decided by millions and ten of millions of people. Whether sooner or later, in installments or at one blow, by the direct use of violence or within the limits of the restored constitution of the party and of the Soviets, will depend on the tempo of the internal processes and the changes in the international situation. Only one thing is clear: the Bolshevik-Leninists have no other path to follow than tp mobilize the living elements and those capable of living for their party, to weld together the proletarian kernel of the party, to mobilize the working class as a whole, to keep itself tirelessly in contact with the struggle for a Leninist line in the Communist International. The present Centrist campaign against the Right must show every proletarian revolutionist the need and duty of multiplying tenfold his efforts to follow an independent political line, forged by the whole history of Bolshevism and proved correct throughout the greatest events of recent years.

Alma-Ata, November 1928

Leon Trotsky

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Last updated on: 29 October 2014