Leon Trotsky

The Third International
After Lenin

What Now?

(Part 4)

7. A Maneuver or a New Course?

8. The Social Basis of the Present Crisis

9. The Party Crisis

7. A Maneuver or a New Course?

How should the present turn to the Left be evaluated? Are we to see in it a combinationist maneuver or a serious new course, i.e., the resurgence of a proletarian line and international policy? Distrust is entirely in order.

The mere adoption of a decision in order to distract the party’s attention – such has become the fundamental method of the present leadership. On the question of industrialization, the poor peasantry, the Chinese revolution, they adopted, one after another, resolutions intended not to clarify, explain, and lead, but, on the contrary, to dissimulate and camouflage what had occurred in reality. Lenin has said that in politics only idiots put faith in words. The post-Leninist period must teach even idiots to rid themselves of this gullibility.

The question whether this is a maneuver or a new course is a question that involves the class interrelations and their reflection in the CPSU, which, as the only party in the country, reacts differently to the pressure of various classes through the various groups within it.

The above-quoted “historical” article of Pravda of February 15, contains a remarkable admission relating to this question, that is to say,the reflection of new class groupings within our own party. This is perhaps the most striking section of this article. It reads as follows:

“In our organizations, both in the party and elsewhere, certain elements alien to the party have emerged during the recent period who do not see classes in the village, who do not understand the foundations of our class policy and who attempt to conduct the work in such a way as to offend nobody in the village, to live in peace with the kulak, and generally to maintain popularity among ‘all the layers’ of the village.”

Although reference is made here to members of the party, the above words provide a well-nigh finished portrait of the neo-bourgeois, Thermidorian politician-realist, in contrast to the communist. Pravda, however, doesn’t say a single word in explanation of how these elements got into the party. They have “emerged” – and that’s all! Whence have they come, through what gates did they enter? Did they penetrate into the party from the outside? And how did they wedge their way in? Or did they sprout inside, and upon what soil? And, mind you, all this has taken place under the conditions of an uninterrupted “Bolshevization” of the party along the line of the peasant question. The article does not go on to explain how the party, despite repeated warnings, could have overlooked the Oustrialovists and Thermidorians up to the very moment when they revealed their administrative power in the policy of grain collections, nor how the party allowed itself to lose sight of the kulak up to the very moment when he obtained authority, led the middle peasant behind him, and sabotaged the grain collections. Pravda explains none of this. Why bother! In February 1928, we heard for the first time from the central organ what we knew long ago and what we had expressed more than once, namely, that in the party of Lenin there has not only “emerged” but also taken shape a strong Right wing which is pulling toward a neo-NEP, i.e., to capitalism by gradations.

Towards the end of 1927, here is what I wrote on this subject:

“The official struggle against the Opposition is being waged under two basic slogans: Against Two Parties and Against ‘Trotskyism.’ The fake Stalinist struggle against two parties camouflaged the growth of dual power in the country and the formation of a bourgeois party at the Right wing of the CPSU, and under the cover of its banner. In a whole series of chancellories and in the cabinets of secretaries, secret conferences were being held between the party retainers of the apparatus and the specialists, Oustrialovist professors, for the purpose of elaborating methods and slogans of the struggle against the Opposition. This is the genuine formation of a second party, which seeks by might and main to subordinate to itself, and, in part, does subordinate, the proletarian core of our party and to exterminate its Left wing. While screening the formation of this second party, the apparatus accused the Opposition of striving to create a second party – precisely because the Opposition is seeking to tear the proletarian core of the party from under the growing bourgeois influence and pressure, failing which, it is altogether impossible to save the unity of a Bolshevik party. It is sheer illusion to think that the dictatorship of the proletariat can be preserved by spellbinding phrases about an indivisible party. The question of one party or two parties (in the materialistic, class, and not a verbal, agitational sense of the term) is decided precisely by the measure in which it will be possible to arouse and mobilize the forces of resistance inside the party and the proletariat.” [15]

In June, Stalin gave the following explanation to the students of the highest institutes in Moscow on the subject of a second party:

“There are people who see a way out of the situation in a return to kulak economy, in a development and an unfolding of kulak economy. These people do not dare to speak of a return to landlord economy, since they apparently understand that it is dangerous to babble about such things in our time. But they speak all the more readily about the necessity of an all-sided development of kulak economy ... in the interest of the Soviet power. These people presuppose that Soviet power could base itself at one and the same time upon two opposite classes: the class of kulaks, whose economic principle is the exploitation of the working class, and the class of workers, whose economic principle is the destruction of all exploitation. This is a hocus-pocus worthy of reactionaries. It is not worth while to prove that these reactionary plans have nothing in common with the interests of the working class, with the principles of Marxism and the tasks of Leninism.”

These words represent a somewhat simplified exposition of a section of the introduction of the first chapter of the Platform of the Opposition. We do not keep this a secret only because in our opinion Stalin is not threatened with exile for it as yet. To be sure, there is no open mention of the formation of a second party in the Stalinist speech. But if, within the proletarian party there are “people” (which people?) who are steering a course toward a kulak capitalist economy and who refrain from speaking about large-scale landlord economy only out of caution; if these “people,” whose address is not given, are bound up with each other by this sort of platform, and are guided by it during grain collections, during the elaboration of industrial plans, wage scales, etc., etc., then this is precisely the cadre of a neo-bourgeois, i.e., Thermidorian party. It is possible to be in a Bolshevik party and not steer a course toward Chiang Kai-shek, Purcell, the kulak, and the bureaucrat; or rather, that is the only condition on which one call be in a Bolshevik party. But it is.impossible to be in a Bolshevik party and steer a course towards capitalist development. This is the simple idea expressed in our document, On the New Stage.

Thus, the Right wing “emerging” from an unknown cause was for the first time officially noticed during the grain collections. On the day following the Fifteenth Congress, which once again gave proof of 100% monolithism, it was discovered that the kulak does not bring his grain to market because, among other things, there are influential groupings in the party desirous of living in peace with all classes, in accordance with the teachings of Tao Tsi-tao, the court philosopher of Chiang Kai-shek. These internal Kuomintangists did not make themselves heard either during the so-called discussion or at the Congress. These valiant “party members” were of course the first to vote for the expulsion of the Opposition as a “social-democratic” deviation. They also voted for all the Left resolutions, for they have long since learned to understand the resolutions don’t count. The Thermidorians in the party are not phrasemongers but men of action. They establish their own special smychka with the new proprietors, the petty bourgeois intellectuals, and the bureaucracy; and they direct the most important branches of economic, cultural, and even party activity from the “national-state” standpoint. But can it be that the Rights are so weak that there is no need to struggle against them?

A clear reply to this question is of decisive importance for the fate of the entire present turn to the Left. The first impression is that the Rights are extremely weak. A shout from above proved sufficient to direct immediately along the “Left” channel the grain collections and, in part, the general peasant policy. But precisely this extraordinary ease with which results were obtained should serve as a warning against over-hasty conclusions about the weakness of the Rights.

The Right wing is a petty bourgeois, opportunistic, bureaucratic, Menshevik, conciliationist wing that pulls toward the bourgeoisie. It would be an absolutely inconceivable phenomenon, if, in a party containing the revolutionary cadres of Bolshevism and hundreds of thousands of workers, the Right wing could become, within a space of a few years, an independent force and openly apply its tendencies, mobilizing the working-class masses. Of course, such a situation does not exist. The Right wing is strong as a transmitting apparatus for the pressure of the non-proletarian classes on the working class. This implies that the strength of the Right wing of the party is located outside the party, beyond the confines of the latter. It is the force of the bureaucratic apparatus, of the new proprietors, of the world bourgeoisie. Consequently it is a colossal force. But precisely because the Right wing reflects the pressure of other classes within the party, it is incapable as yet of presenting its platform openly and mobilizing the public opinion of the party. It requires a cover; it must lull the vigilance of the proletarian core of the party. The regime of the apparatus provides it with both the former and the latter. Under the inflated monolithism of the party the apparatus conceals the Right wing from the view of the revolutionary workers and, at the same time, it terrorizes the workers by dealing blows to the Opposition, which is only the conscious expression of the alarm of the proletariat for the fate of its dictatorship.

The existing breach between the apparatus and the Right wing compels the latter to contract its front, strike while retreating, and provisionally bide its time. The Rights well understand that if the apparatus seriously invited the party to analyze the situation, to purge itself by eliminating the Thermidorians, the Right wing would find itself completely swept away by the rank and file, who would have no need of resorting to gangs of disrupters and thugs. Thus there would no longer be a lever inside the party upon which the internal bourgeoisie and that of the entire world could lean. To be sure, the onslaught of the bourgeoisie would not disappear immediately or even diminish. But it would have to exert itself directly against the party, which would then see its enemy face to face, and be able to judge coolly the forces and intentions of the latter. The clandestine and underground forms of the pressure of the bourgeoisie, operating through infiltration against the party and the Soviet power, would become impossible. That in itself would be half a victory.

The Rights understand the position they find themselves in. But they also take into account another fact, namely, that it is impossible to invite the party to make a serious purge of its ideas and ranks, that have become considerably encrusted during recent years, by adopting different slogans and pursuing different aims from those presented up to now by the Bolshevik-Leninists (Opposition). But it would then be necessary to change sharply the whole attitude towards the Opposition itself; otherwise the cynical lack of principles of the Centrist apparatus would stand crudely in the Open. The Right wing believes, and not without good cause, that the Center will not dare boldly to change its front. The Right wingers retreat, grinding their teeth, and they show thereby that they are not at all desirous of a struggle equally dangerous to themselves and to the Center. At the same time they put their demands to the latter: not to change the status quo within the party, that is to say, not to break the bloc between the Right and the Center against the Left; not to incline further to the Left than is absolutely required by the present exigency; in other words, to keep in reserve the possibility of returning to the old path and to pass from there onto the road of the neo-NEP.

The Right wingers understand that for the moment they must concede the turn to the Left as silently as possible. In any case, for them it is simply a maneuver. They keep quiet and make their preparations. They expect the Left experiment to fail, thanks to the class response from the outside, thanks to internal friction, the secret resistance of the bureaucratic apparatus, and above all, thanks to the innate inclination of Centrism to zigzags. The Right wing is well acquainted with its allies. Meanwhile, it zealously compromises the Center, demonstrating right and left that the latter has invented nothing but is simply repeating what the Opposition said from the very beginning.

So far as the Center is concerned, in order not to appear in an awkward position, it continues to clap the Oppositionists into jail. The Rights understand that the more blows the apparatus deals to the Left, the more it becomes dependent upon them. They aim to pass from the defensive to the offensive and to take their revenge when the Left experiment will be terminated by a defeat (and the Rights, under the present conditions, firmly count on that). Will this happen? Such an eventuality is not at all excluded. It can take place so long as the turn rests upon the status quo in the party. Not only can this happen, but it will probably take place, even more, it is inevitable.

Does this imply that the present zigzag excludes the possibility of its developing into a Left course? Let us be candid: not only the policy pursued by the leadership during the recent years but also its present conduct must impel us to give a skeptical reply to the above question, in so far as the matter depends upon the foresight and the consistency of the leadership. But the gist of the matter lies precisely in the fact that the initial maneuver has grown over into a profound political zigzag, seizing in its vise ever wider circles of the party and wider class strata. The latter are not interested in the mechanics of the maneuver, in the art of leadership practiced by the leadership for art’s sake, but rather in the objective economic and political results arising from the turn. Matters in this sphere have reached a point where the good will, consistency, and, in general, the very intentions of the initiators of the turn find themselves seriously altered by the will and interests of much vested circles. That is why it would be incorrect to deny the possibility of the present zigzag developing in a direction of a consistent proletarian course.

In any case, the Opposition, by virtue of its views and tendencies, must do all in its power to see that the present zigzag is extended into a serious turn onto the Leninist road. Such an outcome would be the healthiest one, that is to say, involving the least convulsions for the party and the dictatorship. This would be the road of a profound party reform, the indispensable promise of the reform of the Soviet state.

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8. The Social Basis of the Present Crisis

The sounds of the struggle within the party are only an echo of far more profound turmoils. Changes have accumulated within the classes which, if they are not translated in time into the language of Bolshevism, will place the October Revolution in its entirety before a painful crisis.

The haste with which, hardly two months after the Fifteenth Congress, the leadership broke with a course which was considered correct at the time of the congress, is in itself an unfailing symptom of the fact that the process of class shifts taking place in the country, in connection with the whole international situation, has reached a critical stage wherein economic quantities are changing into political qualities. A prognosis in this sense was propounded on several occasions since 1923; it was expressed in the following manner in the theses of the Opposition at the time of the Fifteenth Congress:

“In a country with an overwhelming majority of small and even dwarfish peasants and petty proprietors in general, the most important processes take place up to a certain moment in an atomized and subterranean manner, only in order subsequently to burst into the open in an ‘unexpected’ manner.”

“Unexpected,” obviously, only for those who are incapable of making a Marxist evaluation of processes taking place when these are still only at the beginning of their development.

The grain strike of the kulaks, who drew behind them the middle peasants; the collusion of the Shakhty specialists with capitalists; the protection or semi-protection of the kulak strike by an influential section of the State and party apparatus; the fact that communists were able to shut their eyes to the counter-revolutionary secret maneuvers of technicians and functionaries; the vile license of scoundrels in Smolensks and elsewhere, under the cover of “iron discipline” – all these are already incontrovertible facts of the utmost importance. No communist reasoning in a healthy way would dare affirm that these are casual phenomena which are not characteristic, which have not grown thanks to economic and political processes and thanks to the policy of the party leadership in the course of the last five years. These facts could and should have been foreseen. The theses published by the Opposition at the Fifteenth Congress, which are available to all, state:

“The amalgamation between the kulak, the proprietor, and the bourgeois intellectual, on the one hand, and numerous links of the bureaucracy not alone of the state but also of the party, on the other:hand, constitutes the most incontrovertible but at the same time most alarming process of our social life. Thence are being born the germs of dual power which is threatening the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

The manifesto or circular letter issued by the CC on June 3, 1928, admitted the existence of the “most vicious bureaucratism” in the state apparatus as well as in the party and the trade unions. The circular letter attempts to explain this bureaucratism as follows:

  1. survivals from the bureaucratic heritage of the past;
  2. product of the backwardness and obscurantism of the masses;
  3. their “inadequate knowledge of administration”;
  4. failure to draw the masses rapidly enough into the state administration.

The above-cited four circumstances do in fact exist. They all serve to explain bureaucratism in some fashion. But none permits of understanding its wild and unrestrained growth. The cultural level of the masses should have risen during the past five years. The party apparatus should have learned how to draw the masses into administrative work with greater rapidity. A new generation, raised under Soviet conditions, should have been substituted in considerable proportion for the old functionaries. Bureaucratism should then have declined as a consequence. But the crux of the question lies precisely in the fact that it has grown monstrously; it has become “most vicious bureaucratism”; it has erected into a system such administrative methods as suppression by orders from above, intimidation, repression by economic measures, favoritism, collusion of functionaries through mutual agreement, concessions to the strong, oppression of the weak. The excessively rapid regeneration of these tendencies of the old class apparatus, despite the growth of Soviet economy and the cultural development of the masses, is due to class causes, namely, the social consolidation of proprietors, their interlacing with the state apparatus, and their pressure exercised upon the party through the apparatus. Unless one understands the class causes of the growing bureaucratization of the regime, the struggle against the evil resembles too of ten a windmill flapping its wings but not grinding any grain.

The retarded growth of industry has created.an intolerable “scissors” in prices. The bureaucratic struggle to lower prices has only convulsed the market, depriving the worker without giving anything to the peasant. The enormous advantages obtained by the peasantry from the agrarian revolution accomplished by the October are being devoured by the prices of the industrial goods. This corrodes the smychka, impelling wide strata in the village to the side of the kulak with his slogan of free trade, internally and externally. Under these conditions the trader in the interior finds favorable soil and cover, while the bourgeoisie abroad acquires a base.

The proletariat naturally marched to the revolution with by far the greatest hopes, and in its overwhelming mass, with great illusions. Hence, given a retarded tempo of development, and an extremely low material level of existence, there must inevitably flow a diminution of the hopes in the ability of the Soviet power to alter profoundly the entire social system within the more or less immediate future.

The defeats of the world revolution, particularly during the last few years, when the leadership was already in the hands of the Comintern, have tended in the same direction. They could not fail to introduce a new note into the attitude of the working class toward the world revolution: great reservations in hopes; skepticism among the tired elements; downright suspicion and even surly exasperation among the immature.

These new thoughts and new evaluations sought for their expression. Had they found it in the party, the most advanced layers might perhaps have adopted a different attitude towards the international revolution, and above all towards that in their own country; it might have been less naive and exalted and more critical but, in return, more balanced and stable. However, the new thoughts, judgments, aspirations, and anxieties were driven inward. For five years the proletariat lived under the old and well known slogan: “No thinking! Those at the top have more brains than you.” At first this engendered indignation, then passivity, and finally a circumscribed existence, compelling men to withdraw into a political shell. From all sides the worker was told, until he ended by saying himself, “You, there! This is not the year 1918.”

The classes and groups hostile or semi-hostile to the proletariat take into account the diminution in the latter’s specific weight which is felt not only through the state apparatus or the trade unions but also through the day-to-day economic life, and the daily existence. Hence flows an influx of self-confidence that has manifested itself among the politically active layers of the petty bourgeoisie and the growing middle bourgeoisie. The latter has reestablished its friendship, and reconstituted its intimate and family bonds with the entire “apparatus,” and it holds the firm opinion that its day is coming.

The worsening of the international position of the USSR, the growth of the hostile pressure on the part of world capitalism, under the leadership of the most experienced and rabid British bourgeoisie – all this enables the most intransigent elements of the internal bourgeoisie to raise their heads again.

These are the most important elements of the crisis of the October Revolution. It had its partial manifestation in the recent grain strike on the part of the kulaks and the bureaucrats. The crisis in the party is its most general and dangerous reflection.

It follows as a matter of course that it is impossible to forecast as yet, at any rate, from a distance, at what time and in what form these processes towards dual power, which are still semi-subterranean, will seek to assume an open political expression. This depends largely upon international conditions, and not only upon internal policy. One thing is clear: the revolutionary line does not consist in waiting and guessing until the ever-increasing enemy seizes a favorable moment to assume the offensive, but in assuming the offensive ourselves before the enemy, as the German saying goes, towers above the trees. There is no returning the lost years. It is a good thing that the CC has finally sounded the alarm about the ominous facts, which are in large measure due to its own policy. But it is not enough merely to sound the alarm, and to issue general appeals. Even prior to the Fifteenth Congress, at a time when the slogan of squeezing the kulak was still invested with a purely literary character by the leading faction, the Opposition wrote in its theses:

“The slogan of squeezing the kulak and the Nepman ... if taken seriously, presupposes a change in the entire policy, a new orientation for all the state organs. It is necessary to say this precisely and clearly. For, neither the kulak, on the one hand, nor the poor peasant, on tile otherB7, has forgotten that in the course of two years (between the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Congresses) the CC held a totally different policy. It is entirely obvious that by keeping mum about their former position, the authors of the theses proceed from the idea that it is presumably sufficient to issue a new decree in order to effect a change in the policy. Yet, it is impossible to realize the new slogan, not in words but in action, without overcoming the bitter resistance of some classes and without mobilizing the forces of other classes.”

These words retain their full force even at the present moment. It was no easy matter to turn the party from the Leninist road onto the Right-Centrist road. In order to create and consolidate within the Bolshevik party an influential wing that did not “recognize” classes; in order that the party should not take official notice of the existence of this wing and in order for the leadership to be able to deny its existence for years; in order for this wing, which was not exposed by the Fifteenth Congress, to reveal itself officially not through the party but through ... the Grain Exchange – all this took five years of incessant propaganda in favor of the new orientation, plus thousands of Stalinist and Bukharinist cribs on the integration of the kulak into socialism, and in mockery of the parasitic psychology of hungry men; plus pogroms of statistical bureaus simply because they took note of the existence of the kulak; plus the triumph of mindless functionaries all along the line; plus the formation of a new propagandist school of Katheder-Sozialisten , sophists in Marxism, and many other things. But above all it took a vicious, unreflecting, rude, disloyal, and arbitrary persecution of the proletarian left wing. Meanwhile, all the Thermidorian elements in the party (who “emerged” according to the winged expression of Pravda ) took form and consolidated themselves, invested themselves with connections, ties, and sympathies, and shot out their roots far beyond the confines of the party deeply into the soil of great classes. All this cannot be eliminated by means of a tiny circular letter, no matter how snappy its style. It is necessary to re-educate. It is necessary to revise. It is necessary to achieve regroupings. It is necessary to till the field overgrown with weeds with the deep plow of Marxism.

The attempt to lull oneself and the party with the notion the Opposition is weak and impotent cannot be reconciled with the rabid struggle against the latter. The Opposition has a program of action that has been tested in events and cadres that have been tempered in the fire of persecutions and did not waver in their loyalty to the party. Such cadres, expressing the mounting historical line, cannot be uprooted or destroyed. The Opposition is the cutting edge of the party sword. To break this edge is to dull the sword raised against the enemy. The question of the Opposition is the pivot point of the entire Left course.

Only a victorious development of the world revolution will bring a real and complete liberation not only from external but also internal crisis. This is ABC for a Marxist. But an unbridgeable abyss yawns between this and the hopeless fatalism dished up to us by Bukharinist scholasticism. There are crises and crises. Capitalist society, by its very nature, cannot free itself from crises. This does not at all mean to say that the policy of a ruling bourgeoisie is of no importance. A correct policy raised up bourgeois states, a false policy either ruined or retarded them.

Official scholasticism is utterly incapable of understanding that between mechanistic determinism (fatalism) and subjective self-will there stands the materialist dialectic. Fatalism says: “In the face of such backwardness, nothing will ever come.” Vulgar subjectivism says: “It’s a cinch! We have willed it, and we build socialism!” Marxism says: “If you are conscious of your dependency upon world conditions and upon the internal backwardness then, with a correct policy, you will rise, intrench yourself, and integrate yourself into the victorious world revolution.”

Crises are inevitable in a transitional Soviet regime, until the proletariat of advanced countries will have seized power firmly and decisively. But the task of the ruling policy lies in preventing crises within the Soviet regime from accumulating to the point when they become crises of the regime as a whole. The primary condition for this is: that the position and self-consciousness of the proletariat as the ruling class be preserved, developed, and strengthened. And the sole instrument for this is: a self-acting, flexible, and active proletarian party.

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9. The Party Crisis

A correct economic policy, as well as a general policy, is not assured by merely a correct formulation, which has not obtained since 1923. The policy of the proletarian dictatorship is conceivable only on the basis of continually feeling out all the class strata in society. Moreover, this cannot be done through the medium of a bureaucratic apparatus which is tardy, inadequate on many points, inflexible, and insensitive. It must be effected through a living and active proletarian party, through communist scouts, pioneers, and builders of socialism. Before the growing role of, the kulaks can be registered statistically, before theoreticians can generalize it, and politicians translate it into the language of directives, the party must be able to sense it through its countless tentacles, and sound the alarm. But for all this, the party in its entire mass must be sensitive and flexible, and above all it must not be afraid to look, to understand, and speak up.

The socialist character of our state industry – considerably atomized as it is: with the competition between the various trusts and factories; with the onerous material position of the working masses; with the inadequate cultural level of important circles of the toilers – the socialist character of industry is determined and secured in a decisive measure by the role of the party, the voluntary internal cohesion of the proletarian vanguard, the conscious discipline of the administrators, trade union functionaries, members of the shop nuclei, etc. If we allow that this web is weakening, disintegrating, and ripping, then it becomes absolutely self-evident that within a brief period nothing will remain of the socialist character of state industry, transport, etc. The trusts and individual factories mill begin living an independent life. Not a trace will be left of the planned beginnings, so weak at the present time. The economic struggle of the workers will acquire a scope unrestricted save by the relation of forces. The state ownership of the means of production will be first transformed into a juridical fiction, and later on, even the latter will be swept away. Thus, here, too, the question reduces itself to the conscious cohesiveness of the proletarian vanguard, to the protection of the latter from the rust of bureaucratism and the pus of Oustrialovism.

A correct political line, as a system, is entirely inconceivable without correct methods for elaborating and applying it in the party. While on this or another question, under the influence of certain impulsions, the bureaucratic leadership might stumble upon the traces of a correct line, there are absolutely no guarantees that this line will be actually followed up, and will not be broken anew tomorrow.

Under the conditions of the dictatorship of the party, such a great power is concentrated in the hands of the leadership as was wielded by no single political organization in the history of mankind. Under these conditions, more than ever before, is it vitally necessary to maintain proletarian, communist methods of leadership. Each bureaucratic distortion, each false step has its immediate repercussion in the entire working class. Meanwhile, the post-Leninist leadership has gradually accustomed itself to extend the hostility of the proletarian dictatorship toward bourgeois pseudo-democracy over to the vital guarantees of the conscious proletarian democracy, upon which the party thrives, and by means of which it is alone possible to lead the working class and the workers’ state.

This was one of the cardinal cares in Lenin’s mind during the last period of his life. He pondered over it in its full historic scope, and all its concrete day-to-day aspects. Returning to work after his first illness, Lenin was horrified by the growth of bureaucratism, especially within the party. This is why he proposed the Central Control Commission; naturally, not the one now existing which represents the direct opposite of what Lenin had in view. Lenin reminded the party that there were no few cases in history of conquerors degenerating, and adopting the morals of the vanquished. He burned with indignation at every piece of news about deliberate injustice, or brutal behavior on the part of a communist in the post of power toward his subordinates (the episode of Ordjonikidze’s fist-work). He warned the party against Stalin’s rudeness and against internal moral brutality which is the blood-sister of perfidy, and which becomes, when wielding all power, a terrible instrument for destroying the party. This is also the reason for Lenin’s impassioned appeals for culture and cultural development – not in the sense of Bukharin’s present cheap little schemes, but in the sense of a communist struggle against Asiatic morals, against the legacy of feudalism and boorishness, and against the exploitation by functionaries of the innocence and ignorance of the masses.

Meanwhile, during the last five years, the party apparatus has pursued just the opposite course; it has become utterly permeated with the bureaucratic deformations of the state apparatus, superimposing upon the latter the specific distortions – fraud, camouflage, duplicity – elaborated by the bourgeois parliamentary “democracy.” As a consequence, a leadership has been formed which, instead of the conscious party democracy, provides: a falsification and an adaptation of Leninism designed to strengthen the party bureaucracy; a monstrous and an intolerable abuse of power in relation to communists and workers; a fraudulent operation of the entire electoral machinery of the party; an application of methods during discussion which might be the boast of a bourgeois-Fascist power, but never of a proletarian party (picked gangs of thugs, whistling and jeering to order, throwing speakers from the platform, and similar abominations); and last but not least, an absence of comradely cohesiveness and conscientiousness all along the line in the relations between the apparatus and the party.

The party press has made public the Artemovsk, Smolensk, and other cases in the guise of sensational exposures. The CC has issued appeals to struggle against corruption. And this seems to have exhausted the question. As a matter of fact, it has not even been broached as yet.

In the first place, wide party circles could not but be aware that only a small part has been made public – not dealing with what is generally taking place, but only with what has been exposed. Almost every province has its own “Smolensk” affair of greater or lesser proportions, and, moreover, not for the first day, or even the first year. Long before the epoch of “self-criticism” the affairs in Chita, Khersonsk, Vladimirsk, and many other places flared up, only to be immediately extinguished; 100% secretaries of district committees were exposed who secretly and without any supervision wasted enormous sums on the upkeep of their family retinue. Each time such an affair was exposed, it was incontrovertibly established that the crimes were known quite well to hundreds of people, sometimes by a thousand men, a thousand party members who kept mum. Often they kept silent for a year, two, and even three. This circumstance was even mentioned in the papers. But no conclusions were drawn. For it would have been necessary simply to repeat what had been stated very discreetly and mildly in the documents of the Opposition. Without drawing the necessary conclusions, the Smolensk and other exposures remain sensations which arouse the party, do not teach it, but rather, distract its attention.

The crux of the matter lies in the fact that the more independent the apparatus becomes from the party, the more do the apparatus retainers depend upon one another. Mutual insurance is no local “detail” but the basic trait of the bureaucratic regime. Some apparatus retainers indulge in abominations, while the rest keep quiet. And what about the party mass? The party mass is terrorized. Yes, in the party of Lenin that achieved the October Revolution, worker-communists are afraid to sag out loud that such and such a 100% apparatus retainer is a scoundrel, an embezzler, a bully. This is the fundamental lesson of the “Smolensk” exposures. And he is no revolutionist who does not blush with shame at this lesson.

Who is the hero, in the social sense of the term, of the Artemovsk, Smolensk, etc., affairs? He is a bureaucrat who has freed himself from the active control of the party and who has ceased to be the banner-bearer of the proletarian dictatorship. Ideologically, he has become drained; morally, he is unrestrained. He is a privileged and an irresponsible functionary, in most cases very uncultured, a drunkard, a wastrel, and a bully, in short, the old familiar type of Derjimorda (see Lenin’s letter on the national question kept hidden from the party). But our hero has his own “peculiarities”: showering kicks and wallops, wasting national resources or taking bribes, the Soviet Derjimorda swears not by the “Will of God” but by the “construction of socialism.” When any attempt is made from below to point him out, instead of the old cry “Mutiny!” he raises the howl, “Trotskyist!” – and emerges victorious.

An article of one of the leaders of the CCC printed in the May 16 issue of Pravda contains the following moral drawn from the Smolensk affair:

We must decisively change our attitude toward those members of the party and class-conscious workers who are aware of the abuses and keep quiet.

“Change our attitude?” Is it then possible to have two different attitudes on the matter? Yes. This is admitted by Yakovlev, a member of the Presidium of the CCC, the alternate of the People’s Commissar of Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. People who know about crimes and keep quiet are considered criminals themselves. The only mitigating circumstance for their guilt lies in their own ignorance, or in their being terrorized. Yet Yakovlev refers not to ignorant people but to “members of the party and class-conscious workers.” What sort of pressure and what sort of terror is it that compels worker-party members to keep silent ignominiously about the crimes of individuals whom they themselves presumably elect and who are presumably responsible to them? Can this really be the terror of the proletarian dictatorship? No, because it is directed against the party, against the interests of the proletariat. Does this mean to say then that this is the pressure and the terror of other classes? Obviously it is, for there is no supra-class social pressure. We have already defined the class character of the oppression that weighs down upon our party: the collusion of the retainers of the party apparatus; the amalgamation of many links in the party apparatus with the state bureaucracy, with the bourgeois intelligentsia, with the petty bourgeoisie, and the kulaks in the villages; the pressure of the world bourgeoisie upon the internal mechanics of forces – all this together creates the elements of social dual power, which exerts pressure on the party through tile party apparatus. It is precisely this social pressure, which has grown during the recent years, and which has been utilized by the apparatus to terrorize the proletarian core of the party, to hound the Opposition, and to exterminate it physically by organizational methods. This process is one and indivisible.

Within certain limits, the alien class pressure raised the apparatus above the party, reinforced it, and instilled it with confidence. The apparatus did not bother to give itself an accounting of the mainsprings of its own “power.” Its victories over the party, over the Leninist line, were smugly attributed by it to its own sagacity. But the pressure, increasing because it has encountered no resistance, has passed beyond the limit where it merely threatens the domination of the apparatus. It threatens something a great deal more important. The tail is beginning to deal blows to the head.

A situation such as makes party members and class conscious workers in their overwhelming mass afraid to talk about the crimes of the retainers of the party apparatus has not arisen accidentally, nor overnight, nor can it be eliminated by a single stroke of the pen. We are confronted not only with the powerful routine of bureaucratism in the apparatus but also with great encrustations of interests and connections around the apparatus. And we have a leadership that is powerless before its own apparatus . Here we have also something in the nature of a historical law: the less the leadership depends upon the party, the more it is a captive of the apparatus. All talk to the effect that the Opposition is allegedly desirous of weakening the centralized leadership is absurd and fantastic. A proletarian line is inconceivable without iron centralism. But the misfortune lies precisely in the fact that the present leadership is all-powerful only by reason of its bureaucratic force, that is to say, it is powerful in relation to an artificially atomized party mass, but it is impotent in relation to its own apparatus.

Seeking to escape from the consequences of their own policy the Centrists have pushed to the fore the homeopathy of “self-criticism.” Stalin unexpectedly referred himself to Marx who had spoken of “self-criticism as a method of strengthening the proletarian revolution.” But in this quotation Stalin approaches a boundary which he is forbidden to trespass. For Marx in reality meant by self-criticism above all a complete destruction by the proletariat of the false illusions from which it must liberate itself, such as the “bloc of four classes”; socialism in one country; the conservative trade union leaders; the slogans: “We must not frighten the bourgeoisie”; the “two-class” parties for the East; and other reactionary rubbish imposed by Stalin and Bukharin during the last period in which, for three years, they slashed away at the Chinese revolution with the scythe of Menshevism until they finally slaughtered it. That is where the scalpel of Marxian self-criticism should really be applied!

But it is precisely here that it is forbidden to apply it, as heretofore. Stalin threatens once again to fight self-criticism of this sort “with all our might and all the means at our disposal.” He is unable to understand that there do not exist such forces or means as could prevent Marxian criticism from triumphing in the ranks of the international proletarian vanguard.

*  *  *

During one of the plenums in the year 1927, in reply to an Opposition speech which stated that the Opposition had the right to appeal to the party against the leadership, Monotone said, “This is mutiny!” and Stalin made himself clear by saying, “These cadres can be removed only by a civil war.” This was the most consummate and candid formulation made in the heat of the struggle of the “supra-party,” “supra-class,” and self-sufficing character of the ruling apparatus. This idea is directly opposite to the idea lodged in the foundations of our party and of the Soviet system. The idea of bureaucratic supermen is the source of the present usurpation on a retail scale and of the unconscious preparation of a possible usurpation wholesale. This ideology has taken shape during the last five years in the process of the interminable fake “re-evaluations,” tightening up from above, appointments from above, hounding from above, faking elections, brushing Congresses and Conventions aside for a year, two, or four ... in short, a struggle “with all our might and all the means at our disposal.”

At the summits this was a desperate struggle of views that came into an ever greater conflict with life itself; at the base, in the majority of cases this was a furious gamble for posts, for the right to command, for privileged positions. But the enemy is one and the same in either case: the Opposition. The arguments and the methods are the same: “with all our might and all the means at our disposal.” Needless to say, the majority of the retainers of the party apparatus are honest and devoted men, capable of self-sacrifice. But the whole thing lies in the system. And the system is such as makes Smolensk affairs its inevitable fruits.

Well-meaning functionaries see the solution of the greatest historical task in the formula: “We must decisively change.” The party must say in answer: “It is not you who must do the changing, but it is yourselves who must be decisively changed, and in the majority of cases – removed and replaced.”

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15. On the New Stage.

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Last updated on: 29.1.2007