Leon Trotsky

The Trial of the Russian Mensheviks

The Real Disposition of the Figures on the Political Scene


Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 8, 15 April 1931, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2012. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The connection of the Mensheviks with the wreckers on the one hand and with the imperialist bourgeoisie on the other is not something unexpected. The discovery of this connection, irrefutably confirmed by the avowals of the members of the Menshevik center, has, however, a great demonstrative significance because it proves in a particularly striking manner that a policy, in spite of all the democratic abstractions with which one wants to cover it, is inevitably filled with a class content and embodies the interests of this class. One cannot go towards “pure” democracy without going towards capitalism. One cannot go towards capitalism without becoming the agent of the imperialist bourgeoisie. By its class content, the rôle of the Mensheviks in the U.S.S.R. is in no way distinguished from the rôle of the Labor party in Great Britain, of the social democrats in Germany. The form and the methods are different, the essence is the same. The struggle against the social democracy is a struggle against the democratic wing of socialism.

There is, however, in the trial of the Mensheviks a circumstance which may appear secondary at first sight or even escape our attention but which in reality clarifies in a harsh light the political disposition of the figures on the scene. All the accused are of an age varying from 45 to 56 years; only two, the youngest of them, are 39 and 41 years old. We find before us representatives of the elder generation of the Mensheviks, of the founders of Menshevism, of its theoretical and practical leaders in the first revolution, in the years of the reaction, during the war period, in the months of the February revolution and during the first years of the Bolshevik regime. Yet there is an interruption in their presence in the party which coincides with a certain period of the Soviet regime. All the 14 Mensheviks, with one possible exception, broke their connections with the Menshevik party for a number of years ranging from three to nine, and the majority of them worked in this period in Soviet institutions on the basis of the official course and not in accordance with the directions of the Menshevik center. During the period which runs from 1923–1924 and 1926–1927, almost nobody among the accused had any connections, not even formal ones, with the Menshevik party and with its center abroad. The reestablishment of the official Meshevik organization was effected on the initiative of the accused only three years ago.

Who Are the Menshevik Defendants?

The first figure in this trial is Groman. His contact with the Menshevik party, whose most prominent economist he was, was broken in 1922, that is, at the time when, with Lenin ill and turned away little by little from the work, the preparations were begun in the apparatus for a whispered, but intensive struggle against “Trotskyism”. Groman returned to the ranks of the Mensheviks in 1926. Ginsburg, after having inspired the All-Union Council of National Economy for a number of years, returned to the ranks of the Mensheviks after an interlude of six years in 1927, just like the other pillar of the A.-U.C.N.E., Sokolovsky. The others came back in 1918, some only in 1929. “The Bureau of the Union”, that is, the Central Committee of the Mensheviks in Russia, was finally constituted, according to the indictment, at the beginning of 1928. The significance of this date will stand out before us in all its clarity by quoting the following passage from the indictment:

“The evolution from the positions of peace in 1924 to the positions of armed insurrection within the country and armed intervention from without is the evolution of the Menshevik social democracy during the period from 1924 to 1930.”

Now all is clear. It is precisely during the years when the Stalinist bureaucracy conducted an ever more “armed” struggle against the Left Opposition that the Mensheviks disarmed, or broke finally with their party, considering that what was necessary would happen without them, or else occupied themselves with peaceful politics, with cabinet politics which also served as a foundation for their hopes in the bourgeois evolution of the Bolsheviks. The pogrom against the Left Opposition was the preliminary condition for the conciliation of the Mensheviks with the Stalinist regime. This is the principal fact registered drily but precisely in the indictment of February 23, 1931.

When did Stalin’s course to the Left begin? On February 15, 1928, when it was for the first time decreed openly in the leader of Pravda. The Bureau of the Union was definitely formed, as we know, at the beginning of 1928. The political turns of both processes coincide completely. At the very moment when the Stalinist bureaucracy, out of fear of the Opposition which was submitted to pogroms but not vanquished, saw itself obliged to make an abrupt turn to the Left the Mensheviks rallied around the banner of the struggle for the overturn of the Soviet regime.

The indictment in the affair of the sabotaging specialists established on the basis of the dispositions of the accused that, during the period between 1923–1928, the essential work of the sabotaging engineers in the State Planning Commission, in the A.-U.C.N.E. and in the other directing economic centers, consisted of artificially slowing down the rhythms of industrialization and collectivization. It is precisely upon the basis of the technical and economic data of Ramzin and Osatchi on the one hand, and of Groman, of Ginsburg and of Sokolovsky on the other, that the Central Committee conducted a furious attack upon the “super-industrializers” for the defense of the pseudo-Leninist line. As to the rhythms of industrialization, the principal defendant, Ramzin, declared: “The principal organs which decided these questions were entirely in the hands of the Industrial party.” The Mensheviks only served the industrial center abroad. In his struggle against the Opposition, Stalin was only the loud-speaker of the two parties: of the Menshevik party and of the Industrial party.

Beginning with 1928, according to the avowals of Ramzin and the others, the legal sabotage, in the form of the artificial slowing down of the rhythms of industrialization, became impossible because of the too abrupt turn of the official policy. It was at this very moment that the Menshevik “Bureau of the Union” was formed, which completed an abrupt turn in the methods of struggle of the Mensheviks against the Soviet power. The bureau drew closer in this work to the counter-revolutionary specialists and the emigrant bourgeois.

The Two Fundamental Lines

There exist only two firm and serious lines: the line of the imperialist bourgeoisie and the line of the revolutionary proletariat. Menshevism is the democratic mask of the first line. Stalinism is the Centrist deformation of the second. In the heat of the struggle against the consistent revolutionary proletarian faction, the Centrists found themselves in a bloc, not formal but all the more efficacious, with the Mensheviks; thus, unconsciously, the Centrists did what the Mensheviks did consciously, that is, they realized the tasks of the capitalist general staff abroad. Beginning with the moment when the Centrists, under the pressure cf the Left Opposition, leaned abruptly to the Left – early in 1928 – the Mensheviks made an abrupt turn in the spirit of an open bloc with the world bourgeoisie. That is the real and incontestable disposition of the principal figures on the political scene.

The Ramzins, the Osatchis, as well as the Mensheviks, have confessed. The question of knowing to what extent these confessions are sincere is not of great interest to us. It is, however, beyond doubt that the next trial will reveal the transgressions of the sabotagers guilty of the disordered acceleration of disproportionate rhythms in the complete collectivization, in the administrative de-kulakization; the trial will show that if the Menshevik economists, in the years 1923–1928 saw, and with reason, the path to the bourgeois degeneration of the Soviet system in the retardation of industrialization, many of them beginning with 1928, became veritable super-industrializers so as to prepare, by means of economic adventurism, the political downfall of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

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Last updated on: 14.12.2012