Leon Trotsky

Trotsky on Opposition
and the Party in Spain

Written & Dated: September 27, 1931.
First published in The Militant, Vol. IV No. 31 (Whole No. 90), 14 November 1931, p. 3.
Translated: The Militant, unknown.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Martin Fahlgren.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (February 2013).
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 .

To Andres Nin:

Dear Friend:

First of all, I should like to clear up for myself the disputed question in the Left Opposition: a narrow or broad faction? I have received your opinion and that of Comrade Lacroix on this subject. Comrade M[olinier] has not yet submitted the report that he promised.

I must admit that the basis for this dispute is not clear to me. Yesterday, with regard to Catalonia, as I can see from your letter, the question was posed in the following manner: Should we call upon the worker to enter the official Communist Party or the Catalonian Federation? From your last letter it appears that the Catalonian Federation expels the Left Opposition from its ranks, that is to say, it proceeds in the same manner as the party does. This fact by itself is quite logical. The Right wing and the Centrists manifest the self-same hostility toward the Bolshevik-Leninists in all countries, beginning with the U.S.S.R. It would be odd for Spain to be an exception to this. On the contrary, in view of the revolutionary situation in Spain, all the political processes (including all the mistakes) arrive at their ultimate conclusion very swiftly. But is it still possible to speak seriously of the Left Opposition calling on the workers to enter the Catalonian Federation? I cannot understand it! We can, to be sure, try to create our nuclei in the Catalonian Federation with the aim of recruiting a maximum of followers in the event of the inevitable collapse of the Maurín organization. We can send individual comrades into the Federation with this aim. But can we openly call upon non-party workers to enter the Federation? Never. It would be the most monstrous mistake, and would not only weaken but even disgrace the Left Opposition.

Our Relation to the Party

In principle, the question of the official party is posed differently, since we have not renounced the idea of winning to our side, the Comintern, and consequently each of its sections. It has always appeared to me that many comrades have underestimated the possibility of the development of the official Communist party in Spain. I have written you about this morel than once. To ignore the official party as a fictitious quantity, to turn our back on it, seems to me to be a great mistake., On the contrary, with regard to the official party we must stick to the path of uniting the ranks. Still, this task is not so simple. As long as we remain a feeble faction, this task is in generable unachievable. We can only produce a tendency toward unity inside the official party when we become a serious force.

The opponents of the “broad faction” reply to this: But if we group about us a broad section of workers, we automatically transform ourselves into a second party. I must admit that this argument astonishes me. If we are to reason in such a formal manner, then in order to avoid the danger of a second party, the Bolshevik-Leninist must altogether disappear from the face of the earth. That is just what the Stalinists want. Political malthusianism is the most unnatural of all the varieties of malthusianism. Every political tendency that grows in forces cannot help going in the direction of uniting around it the largest masses possible. It is possible to come to the party by different roads. If the Left Opposition becomes stronger than the present official party, that will furnish us the possibility of struggling with a hundred times greater effectiveness for the unity of the Communist ranks than at present when the Opposition is still weak. Isn't this clear?

But, the partisans of the “narrow faction” will answer, the Left Opposition can only take into its ranks conscious followers. Indeed! But does not the same thing hold true for the party? It all comes down to this: the Left Opposition must not attract to itself new workers; no, it is obliged to direct them to the ranks of the party, where they will be taught that the Trotskyists are “counter-revolutionists.” Then, and only then, the Opposition will have the right to disillusion these workers, to reeducate them, to cure them of the contagious Stalinist slanders. Really, I cannot understand such a complicated mechanism.

Growth and scope of the Opposition

It seems to me that the Opposition has not only the right, but the duty to group about itself all those who come to it, who respond to its appeals and whom it is able to reach. Naturally, at first, they will be far from convinced and conscious Bolshevik-Leninists. But this only imposes the necessity of occupying ourselves seriously with the education of our followers. Within the scope of this education, there will also enter the question, why we are for one party and why the Stalinists are for two parties. If the flow towards us proves to be too tempestuous (which is hardly to be feared!), then we can form a circle of sympathizers. A local organization of the Opposition numbering twenty members can assemble around it 2 to 300 sympathizers. In this circle of sympathizers, it will be necessary to clear up the difference between Leninism and Centrism. After the circle has reached a certain level under our direction, it can invite the representatives of the official party to present its views before it. On this basis, a discussion will arise between our followers and the Stalinists. Only this will bring about a serious reconciliation between the Left Opposition and the party, and create a far more secure path toward a united party than the malthusian measures against reproduction.

The Left Opposition would be transformed into a sect if it were to come to the conclusion that its task is only criticism of the actions of the official party and of the mass organizations of the proletariat. The Spanish revolution is a fact. We have already, without all this, lost a great deal of time, including the Left Opposition, in Spain. Next year we will not be able to reproduce this revolutionary situation, which we are passing up today, at will next year. Precisely in Spain the Opposition can within a brief time grow into a great force. But the first condition for that is: not to fear to become a force, but to strive toward that.

That is all I can say in the meantime on the disputed question, on the basis of incomplete information. I will be very happy to receive additional information.

September 27, 1931


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Last updated on: 14.2.2013