L. Trotsky

Stalinists Take Measures

The Expulsion of Zinoviev

The Lessons of the Second Expulsion of the Capitulators

(October 1932)

Written: October 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 46, 12 November 1932, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

Wireless and telegraph have flashed news to the entire world of the expulsion of Zinoviev and Kamenev from the party, and along with them of more than a score of Bolsheviks. According to the official communication, those who are expelled were, presumably, striving to reestablish capitalism in the Soviet Union. The political import of this new repression is imposing in itself. Its symptomatic significance is tremendous.

In the course of many years, Zinoviev and Kamenev were the closest pupils and collaborators of Lenin. Better than any one else, Lenin knew their weak traits; but he was also able to utilize their strong sides. In his Testament, so cautious in tone, wherein both praise and censure are equally modulated in order not to strengthen some too much and weaken others, Lenin deemed it urgent to remind the party that the behavior of Zinoviev and Kamenev in October was “not accidental”. Subsequent events confirmed these words all too clearly. But no more accidental was also that role which Zinoviev and Kamenev played in the Leninist party. And their present expulsion brings to mind their old and unaccidental role.

Zinoviev and Kamenev were members of the Politbureau, which in Lenin’s time was directly in charge of the fate of the party and of the revolution. Zinoviev was the chairman of the Communist International. Together with Rykov and Tsiurupa, Kamenev was Lenin’s alternate, during the final period of Lenin’s life, for the office of chairman of the Soviet of People’s Commissars. After Lenin’s death Kamenev presided over the Politbureau and the Soviet of Labor and Defense, the highest economic organ of land.

In 1923, Zinoviev and Kameuev launched a campaign against Trotsky. At the beginning of the struggle, they took very poor account of its consequences, which, of course does not testify to their political far-sightedness. Zinoviev was primarily an agitator, exceptionally talented, but almost exclusively an agitator. Kamenev – “a wise politician” in Lenin’s estimation, but lacking great will power and too easily inclined to adapt himself to the intellectual, culturally middle class and bureaucratic milieu.

Stalin’s role in this struggle bore a much more organic character. The spirit of petty-bourgeois provincialism, the absence of theoretical preparation, narrowness of vision – that is what characterizes Stalin, notwithstanding his Bolshevism His enmity toward “Trotskyism” had roots much deeper than that of Zinoviev and Kamenev, and for a long time previously it had sought for its political expression. Incapable himself of theoretical generalizations, Stalin urged on in turn Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bucharin and picked out from their speeches and articles whatever seemed to him most appropriate for his own aims.

The struggle of the majority of the Politbureau against Trotsky, which began, to a considerable degree, as a personal conspiracy disclosed all too quickly its political content. It was neither simple nor homogeneous. The Left Opposition included within itself, around its authoritative Bolshevik kernel, many of the organizers of the October overturn, militant participators of the Civil War, and a considerable stratum of Marxists from out of the student youth. But in the wake of this vanguard, during the first stages, there dragged along the tail-end of all sorts of dissatisfied, ill-equipped and even chagrined careerists. Only the arduous development of the subsequent struggles liberated the Opposition from its accidental and uninvited fellow wayfarers.

Under the banner of the “troika” – Zinoviev-Kamenev-Stalin – were united many “old Bolsheviks” particularly those, who, as Lenin advised as early as April 1917, should have been relegated to the archives; but there also were many serious underground members, strong party organizers who sincerely believed that there was impending the danger of Leninism being displaced by Trotskyism. However, the further matters progressed the more solidly and cohesively, the growing and intrenching bureaucracy rose up against “the permanent revolution”. And it was this that subsequently guaranteed Stalin’s preponderance over Zinoviev and Kamenev.

The fight within the “Troika”, beginning in a considerable measure also as a personal fight – politics are made by people and through people, and nothing that is human is foreign to politics – soon, in its own turn, disclosed its content of principle. Zinoviev, the chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, and Kamenev, chairman of the Moscow Soviet, sought the support of the workers of the two capitals. Stalin’s chief support was in the provinces and in the apparatus; in the backward provinces the apparatus became all-powerful sooner than in the capitals. Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern, cherished his international position. Stalin looked down with contempt upon the Communist parties of the West. He found the formula for his nationalistic limitations in 1924: socialism in one country. Zinoviev and Kamenev counterposed against him their doubts and refutations. But as it turned out, it was sufficient for Stalin to depend upon those forces which were mobilized by the “troika” against Trotskyism in order automatically to overwhelm Zinoviev and Kamenev.

Zinoviev’s and Kamenev’s past, the years of their joint work with Lenin, the international school of emigration – all this must needs have counterposed them inimically to that wave of self-dependency that threatened, in the last analysis, to sweep away the October revolution. The result of the new fight on top came to many as absolutely astounding; two of the most violent instigators of the hue and cry against “Trotskyism”, ended up in the camp of the “Trotskyists”.

In order to facilitate the bloc, the Left Opposition – against the objections and warnings of the author of these lines – modulated isolated formulations of their platform, and temporarily refrained from making official replies to the most acute theoretical questions This was hardly correct. But the Left Opposition of 1923 still did not take to the path of making concessions in essence. We remained true to ourselves. Zinoviev and Kamenev came to us. There is no need to recapitulate the degree to which the coining over to the side of the Opposition of 1923, of the sworn enemies of yesterday strengthened the assurance of our ranks and our conviction in our historical correctness.

However, Zinoviev and Kamenev, on this occasion as well, did not foresee all the political consequences of their step. In 1923 they had hoped, by means of a few agitational campaigns and organizational maneuvers, to free the party from the “hegemony of Trotsky”, pushing all other things aside, and now it seemed to them that, allied with the Opposition of 1923, they would quickly cope with the apparatus and reestablish both their own personal positions, and the Leninist course of the party.

Once again they were mistaken. Personal antagonisms and groupings within the party had already become completely the tools of anonymous social forces, strata and classes. There was its own inner lawfulness in the reaction against the October overturn, and it was impossible to skip over its ponderous rhythm by means of combinations and maneuvers.

Sharpening from day to day, the struggle between the Opposition bloc and the bureaucracy reached its final limits.

The matter now, no longer concerned discussion, even if under the whip, but a break with the official Soviet apparatus, i.e., the perspective of an arduous struggle for a number of years – a struggle surrounded by great dangers and the issue of which could not be foretold.

Zinoviev and Kamenev recoiled. As in 1917, on the eve of October, they had become frightened at a break with the petty bourgeois democracy, so ten years later they became frightened of a break with the Soviet bureaucracy. And this was all the more “not accidental” since the Soviet bureaucracy was three-quarters composed of those same elements which in 1917 scared the Bolsheviks with the inevitable flop of the October “adventure”.

The capitulation of Zinoviev and Kamenev, before the XVth congress, at the moment of the organized extirpation of Bolshevik-Leninists, was accepted by the Left Opposition as an act of monstrous perfidy. Such it was in its essence. Still, even in this capitulation there was its measure of lawfulness, not only psychological, but political. On a series of fundamental questions of Marxism – (the proletariat and the peasantry, “democratic dictatorship”, permanent revolution) – Zinoviev and Kamenev stood betwixt the Stalinist bureaucracy and the Left Opposition. Theoretical amorphousness avenged itself inexorably, as it always does, in practise.

(To be Continued)

Prinkipo, October 1932


return return return return return

Last updated on: 9 December 2014