Leon Trotsky

Against the Right Opposition

March 1929

Source: From the Arsenal of Marxism, Fourth International, Vol.7 No.5, May 1946, pages 153-154.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Ted Crawford and David Walters
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2008. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons License.

Dear Comrades,
Two irreconcilably opposed tendencies are usually listed under the label of opposition: the revolutionary tendency and the opportunist tendency. A hostile attitude toward centrism and toward the “regime” is the only thing they have in common. But this is a purely negative bond. Our struggle against centrism derives from the fact that centrism is semi-opportunist and covers up full-blown opportunism, despite temporary and sharp disagreement with the latter. For this reason there cannot even be talk of a bloc between the Left Opposition and the Right Opposition. This requires no commentary.

But this does not mean that only opportunist elements have rallied to the banner of the Right Opposition, or that all of them are hopeless. Political groupings do not arise at a single stroke. In the early stages there always are many misunderstandings. Workers who are dissatisfied with party policy quite often find doors very different from the ones they looked for. This must especially be borne in mind with regard to Czechoslovakia where the Communist Party is passing through a very acute crisis. My unfamiliarity with the Czech language has unfortunately prevented me from following the internal life of the Czechoslovak party. But I do not doubt that the so-called Right Opposition embraces today many different moods and tendencies which will begin crystallizing only in the near future. The direction of this crystallization depends in a large measure upon the activity of the Leninist wing.

Such an appraisal has nothing in common with Souvarine’s viewpoint, who denies altogether the existence of principled—that is, class—tendencies within Communism. No, the existence of the right, the center and the left is a fact corroborated by great world-historic events. Those who ignore the existence of these tendencies and the irreconcilable struggle between them, fall into hopeless doctrinairism and at the same time cover up the Rightist tendency, which serves as a direct bridge to the Social Democracy.

A clear Marxist demarcation of these three tendencies does not, however, demand that we look upon these tendencies as finished or ossified. Not a few personal regroupments will take place. Broad circles of workers who gravitate toward Communism have not yet begun to crystallize; because of tradition they remain in the old frameworks or they fall into indifference.

There are many indications that all the Parties of the Communist International are approaching a critical moment. The existing factions in Communism are only preparatory in character. They are the instruments for more profound groupings within the Communist parties and the working class as a whole. For this reason, in particular, the active intervention of the Leninist Opposition in the internal life of the Czechoslovak Communist Party is of enormous significance.


However, the Left Opposition is itself far from unanimous. In almost every country there are two and even three groups that proclaim their solidarity with the Left Opposition of the CPSU. This is a reaction to the insane and criminal regime established in the Communist International since the autumn of 1923 and which has aimed to transform the world party of the proletariat into a caricature jesuitical order. All the sicknesses which have been driven internally are now coming to the surface. Aiding this is the environment of political reaction not only in the capitalist world but also in the USSR.

There is of course nothing gratifying in the fact that the Left Opposition is split into several groups. But facts must be taken as they are. If the reasons for the division are understood, then it will be possible to find the ways to surmount it.

The unity of the Opposition cannot be obtained by abstract preachments of unity or by mere organizational combinations. Unity must be prepared theoretically and politically. This preparation must make clear which groups and elements really stand on common grounds and those which list themselves among the Opposition only out of misunderstanding.

The platform is, or rather ought to be, the most important criterion. This criterion will be the more reliable, all the more each group, independently of its present strength, draws effective political conclusions in day-to-day struggles. I have in mind first of all the national platform. For unless the Opposition constantly intervenes in the life of the proletariat and the life of the country, it must inescapably remain a barren sect. At the same time, however, it is necessary also to elaborate an international platform of the Opposition, which will serve as a bridge to a future program of the Communist International. For it is absolutely self-evident that the regenerated Communist International will require a new program. It can be prepared only by the Opposition. This must be undertaken right away.

Unquestionably, the questions of the policy of CPSU, the Chinese revolution and the Anglo-Russian Committee are the three basic criteria for the internal groupings in Communism, and consequently in the Opposition as well. Of course, this does not mean that correct answers to these three questions alone suffice for us. Life does not stop. One must keep in step with it. But without a correct answer to the three foregoing questions it is impossible today to hold a correct position on any other question. In the same way, without a correct understanding of the 1905 revolution it was impossible to have a correct approach either to the problems of the epoch of reaction or to the revolution of 1917. He is hopelessly lost who side-steps the lessons of the Chinese revolution, the lessons of the English strikes and of the Anglo-Russian Committee. The great lessons of these events must be assimilated precisely in order to take a correct position on all the issues of proletarian life and struggle.

The instrument for elaborating the international platform must be the international organ of the Opposition, appearing at first as a monthly or bi-weekly. Today this is the most unpostponable and urgent task. This organ under a firm and unswervingly principled editorial board should be in the beginning open to all groups which consider themselves in the Left Opposition or which are trying to draw close to it. The task of this organ is not to shore up old barriers but to expedite a regroupment of forces on a much broader basis. If the division within the Left Opposition cannot as yet be overcome within the national framework, then we can already today prepare to overcome it on an international plane.

Given a clear and precise line by the editorial board, such a periodical should also have a department devoted to free discussion. In particular, this organ must exercise international control over differences of opinion among the various national groups of the Left Opposition.Such careful and conscientious control will enable us to separate actual disagreements from fictitious ones, and to unite the revolutionary Marxists, sifting out the alien elements.

Because of its purpose this periodical must appear in several world languages. This will hardly be possible for us in the immediate future, and a practical compromise will be necessary. Articles might be printed in the language of a country which is directly involved, or in the language in which these articles are written. The most important articles might be accompanied by brief digests in other languages. Finally, national organs of the Opposition might print translations of the most important articles in their columns.


Some comrades say and write that the Russian Opposition is doing too little in the way of the organizational leadership of the International Left Opposition. I believe that behind this reproach there lurks a dangerous tendency. We are not preparing to reproduce in our international faction the morals and methods of the Zinovievist and Stalinist Comintern. Revolutionary cadres in each country must take shape on the basis of their own experiences and they must stand on their own feet. The Russian Opposition has at its disposal—today one might almost say that this is fortunate—neither instruments of state repression, nor governmental financial resources. It is solely and exclusively a question of ideological influence, interchange of experiences. Given a correct international leadership of the faction, this can naturally lead to a rapid growth of the Opposition in each country. But each national section must seek for the sources of its influence and strength not above but below, among its own workers, by rallying the youth to its side, by tireless, energetic and truly self-sacrificing work.

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Last updated on: 6 September 2008