Leon Trotsky

Open Letter to the Members of the CPSU(b)

(March 1930)

Written: 23 March, 1930.
First published in 3 parts in The Militant: Vol. 3, No. 21, May 24, pp. 4–5, Vol. 3, No. 22, June 7, p. 4 & Vol. 3, No. 23, June 14, 1930, p. 6.
Translated: The Militant, individuals unknown.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Riazanov Library & David Walters.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (September 2012).
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2011. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 .

Dear Comrades: This letter is prompted by a feeling of the greatest anxiety about the future of the Soviet Union and the fate of the proletarian dictatorship. The policy of the present leadership, that is, of the narrow Stalinist faction, is pushing the country full speed toward the most dangerous crisis and the worst catastrophe.

The very thing that was used as ammunition against the Opposition on the pretext that the Opposition rejected it – the smychka, the correct policy toward the peasant – has suddenly been forgotten, or rather transformed into its opposite. The most elementary principles of Marxism are trampled under foot, most especially the question of collectivization. Under the direct effect of purely administrative measures in 1928 and 1929, in the struggle for grain, the collectivization has attained proportions that nobody had ever foreseen and have no relation to the real state of the means of production. As a result, a way has been opened for the collapse of most of the collective farms, the sharpening of profound internal divisions, and a serious setback in agricultural productivity, already so reduced.

Kulak and Kholkhoz

But even the minority of collective farms that are viable, while their existence represents progress, are not equivalent to socialism. With their present means of production and the conditions of market economy that accompany them, the collective farms will unfailingly bring forth from their ranks a new layer of peasant exploiters. The administrative destruction of the kulak class outside the collectives not only fails to alter the economic fabric of the peasantry, but cannot prevent the development of kulakism inside the collective farms. This will be demonstrated primarily in the artels that are the most successful economically. By proclaiming that the collective farms are socialist enterprises, the present leadership provides an excellent camouflage for the kulaks within the collectives. Of course it doesn’t do this deliberately but that is precisely the trouble with its policy: thoughtless, blind, tail-ending, and zig zagging from one extreme to the other.

In order to supply even a limited technological basis for “general” collectivization, it is necessary to rapidly increase the production of agricultural machinery. But the latter depends upon a number of other industrial processes. The production plan has already reached a very high degree of tension. Even granting that the new production targets for agricultural machinery are possible – which is far from certain – the present tempo of collectivization will still exceed considerably the material possibilities.

One must never lose sight of the fact that the collectivization was not born out of an extensive test that demonstrated the superiorities of collective economy over individual economy, but exclusively out of administrative measures to overcome the shortage of bread. The need for these measures arose, in turn, from the incorrect economic policy of 1923–28, above all from the industrial lag and an incorrect attitude toward the kulaks and the poor peasantry.

It is true that the fundamental difficulties of socialist construction are beyond the power of the leadership; they lie in the impossibility of establishing a socialist society in a single country, moreover a particularly backward country. But that is precisely why one must demand of the leadership a clear understanding of all factors of evolution, and the ability to distinguish the possible from the impossible. Within these limits, the realization of certain successes on the road of socialist construction is entirely possible, particularly the survival of the dictatorship of the proletariat until the time of the revolutionary victory in the advanced countries. Unfortunately the centrist leadership shows a fatal incapacity not only to evaluate accurately the internal resources of the dictatorship but to grasp their interdependence with the current world conjunctural forces.

The five-year plan first drawn up in 1926 envisaged an industrial growth of from 9 to 10 per cent per year. Under the influence of the Opposition’s criticism, thrown into relief by events themselves, the five-year plan was completely revised and the coefficient of growth was increased to 20 per cent. But from that moment on, the leadership, alarmed at its own in decisiveness, no longer knew any restraint. Before the high projected tempos were tested in practice, before any degree of success had been achieved, before there were any improvements in the workers’ living conditions, the Stalinist leadership advanced the slogan “the five-year plan in four years!” At the same time, the production program for agricultural machinery adopted a still more accelerated tempo. As for the collectivization of the small peasant holdings – a most difficult and painstaking task – it outdistanced all the other economic problems. As has frequently happened in histor y, “chvostism” (being at the tail of events) gave way directly to its opposite – adventurism. But never before had there been a turnabout on such a scale. And above all, never before in history had the stakes been so important, namely, the fate of the October revolution itself.

The threatening Crisis

Economics cannot be cheated. An accelerated pace which runs ahead of existing possibilities soon leads to the creation of imaginary resources where there are no real ones. That is called inflation. All the symptoms of it are already present and they are also the symptoms of a threatening economic crisis. While inflation has not yet taken on an explosive character, it is already pressing heavily upon the daily existence of the masses, causing a rise in prices or preventing any reduction. The problem of dividing the income of the collectives between the immediate daily needs and the needs of accumulation, that is, of expanded production, constitutes the basic problem of socialist construction, a problem intimately bound up with that of the mutual relations between the working class and the peasantry as well as between the different layers within the peasantry itself. These problems cannot be solved a priori, that is, bureaucratically. It is a matter of the daily life of the masses, and the masses themselves must have a way to apply “correctives” to the economic programs in advance. That is how economic questions become indissolubly connected to those of the party régime, the trade unions, and the soviets. As has been said, the fundamental causes for the existing contradictions are inherent in the isolation of the Soviet Union. But instead of reducing them, the policy of the present leadership aggravates them. Herein lies the fundamental flaw of the entire economic plan. Instead of posing as its task the economic consolidation of the proletarian dictatorship and its alliance with the peasantry through the most advantageous, internally co-ordinated economic tempos, taking into account the vital necessities of the masses in the preparatory and transitional period at hand, that is, until the next stage of the international revolution, the plan sets for itself an unrealizable, utopian, and economically reactionary task: on the basis of our backwardness and poverty to construct “in the shortest possible time” an independent, isolated, socialist society. Before this, the leadership had considered this task realizable only at a “snail’s pace” (Bukharin). Now the leadership, fleeing the inconveniences of the prolonged delays, rushes headlong at a racetrack gallop (the same Bukharin, reconstructed).

For the sake of erratic and adventurist tempos which the leadership has not bothered to synchronize or verify, strenuous physical exertion is being demanded of the workers at the same time that their living standards are obviously being lowered. The abrupt leaps of industrialization lower the quality of the products, which in turn rebounds at the expense of the consumer and endangers tomorrow’s production.

That is how by their industrial plan, and their agricultural and financial plans as well, the present leadership is leading the country to a painful crisis and political catastrophe. As these lines are being written, the first signs reach us of the retreat that has just begun: first an article by Stalin, then a new circular of the Central Committee. Caught in the clutches of ever new contradictions for which he bears direct responsibility, Stalin pompously warns against “getting carried away by our successes”, capsulizing his wisdom in the remark that it is impermissible, for example, to collectivize the “barnyard fowl”. As if this were the issue! As if the utopian reactionary character of “100 per cent collectivization” lay only in the premature collectivization of the hens, and not in the compulsory organization of huge collective farms without the technological basis that alone could insure their superiority over small ones.

The Stalinist retreat

The circular of the Central Committee already goes much further than Stalin’s article. In retreat, just as on the offensive, the centrist leadership unfailingly tail-ends organic processes and their repercussions in the apparatus. After “collectivization” had embraced – in the course of only a few months! – more than one-half of the peasantry, the leaders suddenly recalled that “it was in violation of one of Lenin’s instructions” concerning the necessity for collectivization to be voluntary. In passing, the circular charged “those who implemented the policy” with violations of the “agricultural artel regulations” issued by the Central Executive Committee. This code appeared only quite recently, that is, after the collectivization had already encompassed more than 50 per cent of the peasants’ holdings.

Moreover – and far more important – this code is full of contradictions and omissions because it deliberately ignores all differentiation within the collectives, presenting matters as if, apart from the kulaks, who are excluded, the remainder of the peasants constitute a homogeneous mass. The whole policy of collectivization amounts to an ostrich policy. The March 15 circular accuses the unfortunate executors of the collectivization policy of all the mortal sins, calling them (in the name of the Central Committee!) “dangerous zealots”, thus shifting “rudely and disloyally”, as is customary, the mistakes of the leadership onto the subordinate agents, who seriously accepted the slogan of the liquidation of the classes “in the shortest possible time”. After the ineffective and crude circular of March 15, the unlucky “executors”, and along with them the entire party, find themselves in an impasse. And now? More than half of t he immense peasant ocean is already socialized. What share in this result falls to the “dangerous zealots”? Is it 5 per cent or 40? In other words, does the character of the collectivization already accomplished, taken as a whole, rest upon an economic or a purely bureaucratic foundation? The circular does not answer this fundamental question. Yet the answer is not only an obvious but a merciless indictment of the “general line” of the leadership.

But the retreat will not end with these first manifestations, neither in the field of economic policy nor in relation to the internal life of the party. This time the blindness of the leadership has been demonstrated too openly. The party will have to take the consequences. The de-kulakization, the 100 per cent collectivization, the bureaucratic transformation of the artels into communes – all these processes, encouraged only yesterday without any restraint, are today totally arrested. Of course, a diplomatic and administrative manoeuvre can sometimes be harsh; but abrupt turns reverberating to the vital foundations of 25 million peasant holdings and flinging the peasants from left to right for a whole year cannot be made with impunity. Short-sighted centrism and bureaucratic adventurism will come out of this experience irremediably compromised.

A correct policy in the USSR is conceivable only in harmony with an international policy of the proletarian vanguard. The leadership of the Comintern has fallen to a much lower level than the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The Theory of the “Third Period”

Since 1923 the Comintern has not rid itself of its tragic ways which undermine the organization and weaken its influence in the working class. Always lagging behind events and stumbling each time against their echoes, the Comintern leadership in these seven years has conducted an opportunist policy during the periods of revolutionary upsurge and a putschist policy during the periods of retreat. In the most recent years, after the Chinese revolution had been lost because of the leadership of Stalin-Bukharin, after the saboteurs of British trade unionism had succeeded with the aid of the blind bureaucracy of Moscow in stifling the uprising of the revolutionary masses, the leadership of the Comintern has announced the arrival of the “third period” as a period of immediate revolutionary struggles. Since then, that is for two years, the picture of world revolution has been systematically distorted along the lines required by the “third period”. Revol utionary policy based on the real state of the class struggle gives way to a policy of fireworks.

These same years of follies of the Comintern were the years of revival of the Social Democracy. A new generation of workers has grown up, a generation that did not live through the betrayal of the Social Democracy during the war but has, on the other hand, known the vacillations of the Communist parties over the past six or seven years. Hoping with one stroke to win hegemony over the masses, the Sixth Congress adopted the theory of “social fascism”. As if one could conquer a mighty enemy by means of a magic formula.

In identifying the democratic servants of capital with capital’s Fascist bodyguards, the Comintern has rendered Social Democracy the greatest service. In the countries where Fascism is demonstrating strength, that is, first of all in Italy and then in Austria and Germany, the Social Democracy has little difficulty in showing the masses not only the differences but also the antagonism between it and Fascism. By the same token, it absolves itself of having to show that it is not the democratic servant of capitalism. The whole political struggle is thus transposed to an artificial plane, to the greatest benefit of the Social Democracy.

Having thus erected a wall between itself and the Social-Democratic masses, the Communist bureaucracy has in actuality ceased to struggle against the Social Democracy, reducing its task to tumultuous mobilizations of that small minority of the working class which it influences. That is what the “red days” are for.

Work inside the trade unions is invested with the same character.

Referring to the indubitable necessity of utilizing economic conflicts to radicalize the masses and thus to prepare for a general strike and uprising, the Communist bureaucracy, under the spur of the theory of the “third period”, applies an adventurist tactic which can lead only to defeats. Instead of a study of the concrete situation of a strike struggle, there are quotations from recent directives of Manuilsky or Molotov. “Politicization” of strikes is more often than not reduced to substituting sham slogans for the real ones, behind the backs of the disoriented masses. For the party bureaucracy the problem of staying in power looms above all others. The worse its errors, the quicker it is to use its methods of internal party struggle inside the trade-union movement, temporarily consolidating its positions in the apparatus as a substitute for the support it has lost among the masses.

The official press, and principally Pravda, misleads its readers concerning the real situation within the Comintern. Nevertheless the facts are there. At the present moment, when the commercial and industrial crisis is again creating great instability in capitalist relations socially and internationally, we see the Communist parties weakened, internally disorganized, without confidence in the leadership, and without the confidence of the masses in the slogans of the C.I.

The gravest thing is that under the cover of “self-criticism” a disastrous régime of servile adulation before all the zigzags of the “general line” – concocted by a group of irresponsible functionaries – has been extended from the Communist Party in the Soviet Union to the Comintern.

Communism’s right wing, inspired by the openly opportunist elements (Brandler, Louis Sellier, Lovestone, Jilek, Roy, etc.), who only yesterday worked hand in hand with Stalin in his blind fury against the left, is attracting many revolutionary workers misled by the nefarious adventurism of the official policy. But the number of worker-Communists who finally become completely alienated is still greater.

The Position of the Left Wing

The break between the epigones of the leadership and the Leninist tradition assumes a definite organizational form: all the cadres that participated in the building of the Comintern and presided over its leadership in the period of the first four congresses are not only expelled from the leadership but in their overwhelming majority are excluded from the ranks of official Communism. This fact alone reveals the abyss that has been created between today and the revolutionary past. The new “theory”, the new policy, and the new régime have acquired new people. It must be said openly to the workers: at the hour of danger, at the moment of decisive combat, lack of revolutionary unity of the Comintern apparatus will become strikingly obvious to all. Irresponsible subordinates, always ready to accommodate themselves to each new leadership, have never been capable of leading the assault against the ruling classes. The left wing (the Bolshevik-Leninists), whose clear-sighted criticism and slogans have been entirely confirmed from the standpoint of the internal development of the USSR and international events, is subjected to the most vicious attacks. Nevertheless, and in spite of all the lies of the official press, the Left Opposition is growing and fortifying itself ideologically throughout the world. Progress has been great especially in this last year. The press of the Left Opposition in Europe, in America, and in Asia is today the only serious Bolshevik-Marxist press, analysing events, drawing conclusions, proceeding to the formation of new cadres, and laying the groundwork for the regeneration of the Comintern.

In every country the Left Opposition has put out of its ranks all those who, under cover of its banner, endeavoured to dissimulate their spirit of opportunism, their petty-bourgeois dilettantism, or their semi-anarchist hostility to the land of the proletarian dictatorship. In spite of all the calumnies of the official press, the International Left Opposition remains unshakably faithful to the October revolution and the soviet state.

The false friends whom the soviet bureaucracy draws to itself by means of concessions or handouts – the Purcells, Fimmens, and Barbusses of all countries – are all very good for anniversary “festivals” but not for revolutionary struggle. The Opposition is a result of ideological selection and is tempered by persecution and repression. At the difficult hours, it will be in the front lines.

The Role of Social Democracy

The Russian Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries, and other groupings reduced to nothing at the same time as the bourgeoisie, eagerly await the crisis, hoping to emerge from the void. The “democratic” scoundrels of the exploiting classes think they can rise again in the fall of the Soviet power, which they impatiently await. In reality, the fall of the dictatorship of the proletariat would open up a period of civil war for many years, with sporadic attempts at impotent Bonapartist dictatorship in various corners of the country in the Chinese or Denikin manner, and with the inevitable consequence that economic and cultural development would be arrested for many years. The way out of all this chaos could not be along the lines of a democracy – this political form is least likely in Russia, given its structure and history – but much more likely would take the form of colonial subjugation or of a new October revolution.

The international Social Democracy does not want to and cannot acknowledge the economic and cultural scope of the October revolution, which in all areas displayed a force of creativity unequalled by any régime in history. All the current dangers, whose source lies in the complete betrayal by the Social Democracy and its conscious submission to capitalism plus the mistakes of the Stalinist leadership, cannot for a single instant obscure the fact that thanks to the proletarian character of the state we have been able to attain a tempo of economic development that capitalism has never known. In itself, the experience of planned production and collectivization, despite contradictions and errors, is a gigantic acquisition for all of humanity. Can such errors be compared for an instant with “errors” such as the patriotic participation of the Social Democracy in the imperialist slaughter or the present disgusting game of Müller and MacDonald, who crawl about in sear ch of a magic formula for the rejuvenation of capitalism? The achievements of the October revolution are evidence of the infinite possibilities that would be opened to Europe and all humanity if the Social Democracy of Germany, Britain, and other countries – where it can even formally become a majority once it simply wants to, that is, once it advances a proletarian program – placed on the agenda socialist reconstruction based on indissoluble co-operation with the Soviet Union.

Against “Socialist” Treachery

But that is out of the question, for the Social Democracy constitutes the “democratic” base for capitalist conservatism and is the penultimate resource of a society based upon exploitation. Its ultimate resource will be Fascism.

The Social-Democratic “criticism” of the soviet régime is like the cry of the night watchman: it serves to maintain the tranquillity of the propertied and to let them sleep at night. To fight against the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Social Democracy utilizes the difficulties that it has itself created for the Soviet Union, augmented by those the leadership has caused. If with respect to the capitalist world the Social Democracy plays a protective role, with respect to the USSR its task has a purely restorationist character. The struggle for “democracy” and “freedom” – within the arena of world imperialism protected by the Social Democracy – means a struggle for the revitalization of capitalism. This is the only reason the question is important. It indicates that the graver the crisis becomes, the more implacable our struggle will become against all the democratic agents of the restoration, no matter who they are. At the same time, events prove that Communism cannot fight victoriously against the Social Democracy except on the road marked out by the Opposition.

* * *

The party is the supreme political weapon. It is the party that embodies the possibilities of the revolution and its future. But it is from the party itself that the dangers proceed today. The adventurism of the bureaucracy is not concerned with the fate of the party. Parallel with the drive for 100 per cent collectivization goes the drive to register 100 per cent of the factory and shop workers in the party. This means nothing less than the dissolution of the party into the class, that is, the abolition of the party. The bureaucratic apparatus at the same time is acquiring ever more self-sufficiency. Its erratic behaviour encounters neither criticism, nor correction, nor opposition, until events themselves strike back. The first tremors of forewarning have already come. All indications are that the next tremor will be much more formidable than all those that have come before.

The entire population of the country, even though not very obviously, is taking this into account very profoundly. Naturally, each class in its own way. A dull uneasiness pervades the party. But the régime that prevails in the party is such that nobody dares to express fears or even to ask questions. The régime of “self-criticism” in its new stage obliges each and every one to subscribe not only to the absolute correctness but also to the “genius” of the leadership and to hound those whom the leadership orders hounded.

Stalin’s Victory over the Party

It is evident from this that the “victory” of the Stalinist bureaucracy over the Opposition was at the same time a victory over the party. This process coincides with the wearing out of a whole layer of revolutionaries, with the growth of bureaucracy and of the petty bourgeoisie in the USSR, with the wave of capitalist reaction and Social Democracy in the whole world, with the defeat of revolutionary movements, with the weakening of the influence of Communism and the strengthening of opportunist tendencies in its ranks.

The 1927–28 crisis in grain collection having led it into a blind alley, the Stalinist apparatus abruptly reversed its policy and began a struggle against a section of the petty-bourgeois forces, whose aid it had mobilized against the left wing. Without the slightest hesitation, the Opposition endorsed this reversal and declared itself ready to support the leadership all the way in the direction of a revolutionary policy and a cleansing of the party régime.

But it is now incontestable that the swing to the left in 1928, which was the origin of an extremely sharp zigzag, did not result in a new course. It could not result in one, since it was not accompanied by the ideological regeneration of the party. Nothing has changed: there is still the same miserable and eclectic hodge-podge instead of living theory; still the same factional bureaucratic selection of personnel, only much more narrowly based; still the same mechanical procedures, but pushed to the extreme.

The program of the administrative liquidation of a class is in actuality no less disastrous in the political field than the scandalous report of Stalin to the conference of Marxist agronomists was in the field of theory. There must be thousands upon thousands of people in Lenin’s party who feel uneasy and indignant about Stalin’s politics and theory. Nevertheless there was no protest at all. Nobody dared to reply, while in the press the latest sycophants began promoting the ideas of this ignorant report as the last word in historical thought.

The top-level Stalinist group has taken command in the most undisguised manner. This is precisely why its time of greatest victory – when the “leaders” of the right wing capitulated – was also the beginning of its end as the dominating force in the party. The coronation of the infallible leadership was judged necessary at the very moment that this same leadership faced bankruptcy.

The existence of the party becomes ever more illusory. Stalin handles party congresses in a more disgraceful way than the tsar did the Duma. At the same time, within the formal confines of the Communist Party there are many tens of thousands of revolutionary proletarians who can become and will become the motive force for the party’s regeneration. We are linking the destiny of our faction to this nucleus.

Conditions of the Opposition Cadres

The circumstances in which the Opposition cadre has been placed are absolutely unprecedented in the history of the revolutionary movement. To the harsh material conditions of deportation is added the system for complete political isolation. A complex system of measures of a political and personal order has been directed toward breaking the back of exile resistance. At the same time the official press brings the Oppositionists, abandoned in the most remote parts of the country, glowing reports on the progress of collectivization, industrialization, and the uninterrupted victories of the Communist parties throughout the world.

Some of the isolated and weaker elements do not withstand this pressure. But the majority of the capitulations are obviously simulated. Broken and exhausted, they sign what they do not believe. A new series of capitulations is being prepared for the Sixteenth Congress, beginning with furtive negotiations and followed by secret agreements behind the scenes. This sort of stage-play is one of the most disgusting manifestations of revolutionary exhaustion and moral decay. The pathetic invocation of the so-called need of “returning” to the party be tokens only cynicism toward that party. For can the party be served by deception and falsehood? That is why the most “eminent” capitulators are immediately transformed into unburied political corpses, while the expelled and hunted Opposition remains an active factor in the life of the soviet republic and the Communist International.

After all, there is nothing very astonishing in this. The innumerable books and pamphlets against the Opposition published since 1923, the special collections of quotations prepared for congresses and conferences, the arsenals constructed against “Trotskyism”, etc., are today the most convincing proof in favour of the Opposition. We stand by our own platform. They fear it mortally, while seeking to assail it by means of provocative polemics. Yet today as yesterday, the whole ideological life of the party centres on the Oppositionist platform.

The declaration of Comrade Rakovsky, supported by the basic cadres of the Opposition, was an application of the policy of the united front toward the party. The centrist leadership replied to it by intensifying repressions. To the Opposition’s expression of its sincere readiness to tone down the organizational rigidity of our struggle for a Marxist line, the apparatus responded by shooting Blumkin. We must speak about this openly to the party and to the working class. We must explain the meaning of our proposal, name those responsible for its rejection, and proclaim our indestructible determination to fight for our opinion and to increase twofold, fivefold, tenfold our efforts to consolidate the Bolshevik-Leninist faction. Only in this way can loyalty to the October revolution be manifested today.

A French proverb says that one must know how to fall back sometimes in order the better to leap forward. That is the position in which the leaderships of the soviet state and the Comintern find themselves today. Both are driven by their own adventurism into an impasse. Placing “prestige” above the interests of the world revolution, the centrist bureaucracy draws the noose around the neck of the party ever more tightly. In matters of tactics, the first task is the following: to retreat from adventurist positions. A retreat is inevitable in any case. It must be carried out as soon as possible and as orderly as possible.

Put an end to “complete” collectivization, replacing it with a careful selection based on a real freedom of choice. Make the collectives correspond to the resources actually available. Put an end to the policy of administrative abolition of the kulak. Curbing the exploiting tendencies of the kulak will remain a necessary policy for many years. The fundamental policy with regard to the kulak holdings must consist of a rigid contract system, that is, a contract with government organs obliging the kulak to furnish specific products at specific prices.

Put an end to the “racetrack-gallop” pace of industrialization. Re-evaluate the question of the tempos of development in the light of experience, taking into account the necessity of raising the standard of living of the masses. Pose point-blank the question of the quality of production, as vital for the consumer as it is for the producer.

Put an end to inflation by establishing rigid financial discipline with a corresponding cutback in plans that are beyond us.

Give up the “ideal” of a closed economy. Work out a new variant of the plans based on as much interaction as possible with the world market.

Based on the growing unemployment in a number of countries, develop a serious international campaign of concrete proposals to enhance economic co-operation with the Soviet Union.

Organize an offensive of the working masses under this slogan, particularly of the unemployed, against the Social-Democratic government in Germany and the Labour government in Britain.

Stop looking upon the Comintern as an auxiliary apparatus for the struggle against the dangers of intervention. It is no longer a question of occasional demonstrations against war but of a struggle against imperialism and for the world revolution. It is necessary to develop a genuine struggle to win the masses in the capitalist countries, taking into account the real state of the economic and political processes in each country.

Stop falsifying facts, transforming (verbally) insignificant economic conflicts or small demonstrations into supposedly revolutionary struggles. End the falsification of statistical data in the service of preconceived schemas. Drive from our midst the boasters and liars – those who betray the masses.

Give up the scholasticism of the “third period”!

Put an end to the adventurist policy of “red days”!

Condemn the theory of “social fascism”, which renders the greatest service to the Social Democracy!

Return to the Leninist policy of the united front!

The loss of influence over the youth is one of the most menacing symptoms of the abyss that is opening up before the Comintern and the masses. Never yet has bitter, cynical, self-interested, and conceited bureaucratism been able to find its way into the hearts of the younger generations.

What is needed is not official commands but sensitive and tactful leadership by the party. One must give the proletarian youth the opportunity to develop their own initiative, to make their own judgements, to discuss, to commit mistakes and correct them. Without such elementary steps there is a danger of a total rupture between the revolutionary generations.

Above all, it is necessary to alter the policy of the Comintern in the East.

The organization of peasant guerrilla warfare in China while the workers’ movement in the proletarian centres continues to stagnate is to throw dust in the eyes – it is the sure road to the destruction of the Communist Party. It is necessary to stop playing with the fire of adventurism. The Chinese Communist Party must be armed with the slogans of revolutionary democracy to aid it in the mobilization of the great masses in the city and countryside.

The weakness of the Indian proletariat at a time when a profound revolutionary crisis is developing in the heart of an enormous colonial country is explained by the long reign of the reactionary theory and practice of the “workers’ and peasants’ party” (Stalin).

The cowardly, halfway abandonment of this theory is not enough. It must be pitilessly condemned as the worst example of the political treachery that has for a long time compromised the proletarian forces of Japan, India, Indonesia, and other countries of the East.

With no less decisiveness there must be a repudiation of the slogan of the “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”, which is only a reactionary cover for a policy along the lines of the Guomindang, that is, for the hegemony and dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in the national revolution.

The program of the Comintern adopted at the Sixth Congress is entirely eclectic. It gives an incorrect conception of the world situation. It is built up on a concoction of internationalism and national socialism. It gives a Menshevik characterization of the colonial revolutions and of the role that the liberal bourgeoisie plays in them. It is impotent and inept in the field of transitional demands. It defends the erroneous slogan of “democratic dictatorship”. It combines the scholasticism of Bukharin with the empiricism of Stalin and gives a theoretical justification for all the zigzags of centrism.

It is necessary to construct a program worthy of the theory of Marx and the revolutionary school of Lenin.

* * *

It is impossible to emerge from the present contradictions without crises and struggles. A favourable change in the relationship of forces on a world scale, some striking success of the revolution, would constitute an important and even decisive factor in the domestic affairs of the Soviet Union. But it is impossible to construct a policy on the expectation of some miraculous salvation “in the shortest possible time”. Certainly there will be no lack of economic and revolutionary crises in the coming period, especially in Europe and Asia. But this will not be enough to solve the problem. If the post-war defeats taught us anything, it was that without a strong and confident party which has won the trust of the masses victory is inconceivable – But on this very decisive point, the balance of the post-Lenin period shows a marked deficit. That is why it is necessary to be able to foresee that the situation internally and internationally heralds a period of prolonged and grave difficulties which will have political repercussions. The suppressed questions, the hidden doubts, the heavy discontent of the masses will come to the surface. The problem is to understand whether they will explode tumultuously, taking the party by surprise, or if the party will be able to muster sufficient forces at the decisive moment to become a new party (or rather the old party again) in determining its role in regard to the labouring masses. The key to the future is to be found in this alternative.

To make the necessary retreat, to renew its strategic arsenal without too much damage and without losing its sense of perspective – this is only possible for a party that clearly understands its goal and knows its strength.

This demands collective criticism of the whole experience of the party in the post-Lenin period. The fraud and lies of “self-criticism” must be replaced by internal democracy within the party. A general examination of the general line – not in its application but in its direction – this is the way to begin. Only the Left Opposition is capable in the present circumstances of fearlessly criticizing and explaining all that is happening in the country and the party, to the extent that it is the result of the whole preceding course of development. As long as this has not been understood, it is of no avail to talk of any sort of “general line” whatever.

At the present moment the Left Opposition is more than ever a necessity for the party. The crimes of the Stalinist apparatus must be stopped and the Opposition returned to its place within the party. This we will say once more to the Sixteenth Congress.

The mission of the Opposition at the present time can be formulated as follows: to increase tenfold its efforts to aid the party, despite all obstacles, to overcome the profound crisis that is manifesting itself internally, before there should develop in all its amplitude a crisis of the revolution.

Just as during the years of the imperialist slaughter little uncompromising groups and even isolated revolutionary individuals – the “renegades” of the years of the imperialist war – embodied proletarian internationalism, so the Left Opposition, small in numbers and persecuted, is the guardian of the revolutionary party. Neither the oppression of rulers nor the treachery of the weak and exhausted will lessen our determination. Against bureaucratism! Against opportunism! Against adventurism!

For the October revolution!

For the regeneration of the Communist Party and the Comintern on the basis of Leninism!

For the international proletarian revolution!

Prinkipo, March 23, 1930

L.D. Trotsky

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Last updated on: 1.10.2012