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. 47, 19 November 1932, p. 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.

With all his agitational radicalism, Zinoviev always pulled up short before the actual inferences of political formulae. Fighting against Stalinist policies in China, Zinoviev opposed to the end the break of the Communist party with tho Kuo Min Tang. Exposing Stalin’s alliance with Purcell and Citrine, Zinoviev was poised irresolutely before the split with the Anglo-Russian Committee. Joining in the struggle against Thermidorian tendencies, he took a vow beforehand: in no case to bring matters to a pitch of facing expulsion from the party. In this spirit of going fifty-fifty there was ingrained his inevitable downfall. “Everything, except Stalinism” within those limits that would be permitted by Stalin.

After their capitulation, Zinoviev and Kamenev did absolutely everything they could in order to restore the confidence of the ruling clique in themselves and in order to be assimilated into the official milieu. Zinoviev made his peace with the theory of Socialism in one country, and once again exposed “Trotskyism” and even made attempts to burn incense to Stalin personally. Nothing helped. The capitulators suffered, shut up, and waited. And with all that they still did not succeed in hanging on to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their own capitulation; it seems that they were involved in a “conspiracy”, and therefore were expelled from the party, perhaps to be deported or exiled.

What is astounding is that Zinoviev and Kamenev got it in the neck not for their own cause and not under their own banner. The warp of the list of those expelled according to the decision of October 9th, consists of outright Rights, i.e., the followers of Rykov-Bucharin-Tomsky. Does it mean that Left Centrism has unified with Tight Centrism against the bureaucratic core? Let us not rush to conclusions.

The most eminent names in the list, after Zinoviev and Kamenev, are those of Uglanov and Riutin, two former members of the C.E.C. Uglanov, as the general secretary of the Moscow Committee and Riutin, as the head of the Agitprop, were in charge in the capital of the struggle against the Left Opposition, clearing every corner and by-path of Trotskyism in 1926–1927. They raised a particularly venomous hue and cry after Zinoviev and Kamenev as the “traitors” to the ruling faction. When Uglanov and Riutin, as a consequence of the Stalinist zigzag to the Left, turned out to be the chief practical organizers of the Right Opposition, all the official articles and speeches harped on one and the same note, “No one can deny the great service rendered by Uglanov and Riutin in the struggle against Trotskyism; but their platform nevertheless is that of kulaks and bourgeois-liberals.” The Stalinists pretend that they are unaware that it was on account of just this program that the struggle had taken place. As then, so now only the Rights and the Lefts had positions based on principle. The Stalinists thrived on the sops from the one and the other.

As early as 1928, Uglanov and Riutin began to assert that the Left Opposition turned out to be correct in its stand on the question of the party regime – this acknowledged is all the more instructive since none could boast of such successes in implanting the Stalinist regime as Uglanov and Riutin. However, “solidarity” on the question of party democracy cannot soften the heart of the Left Opposition in its relation to the Right. Party democracy is not an abstract ideal; least of all, is it predestined to serve as a screen for Thermidoriau tendencies. And in the meantime, Uglanov and Riutin, at least in those years, represented the most out and out Thermidorian wing in the camp of the Rights.

Among the participators iu the conspiracy, the C.E.C. lists other leading Rights, like Slepkov and Maretsky, Red professors of the Bucharin School, directors of the Komsomol and Pravda, instigators of many programmatic resolutions of the C.E.C. and authors of countless articles and brochures against “Trotskyism”.

On the proscribed list there are to be found Ptashny and Gorelov with a notation of their former adherence to the “Trotskyist Opposition”. We have no means of judging whether the matter concerns here two very little known Left capitulators, who subsequently threw in their lot with the Rights, or whether we have before us a falsification in order to fool the party. The former is by no means excluded, but in all probability neither is the latter.

In the summary of the participants, the chief leaders of the Right Opposition are conspicuously absent. Cables to the bourgeois papers report that Bucharin “has completely reestablished his party position” and is apparently slated for the Narkompros in place of Bubnov, who is being transferred to the G.P.U.; as for Rykov, he is once again in favor, makes speeches over the radio, etc. The fact that in the list of “the conspirators” there is neither Rykov nor Bucharin nor Tomsky really does make plausible some temporary bureaucratic indulgences in favor of the former leaders of the Right Opposition. But, of their being reestablished in their old positions in the party, there cannot be the slightest considera[tion.]

The group as a whole is accused of an attempt to create “a bourgeois kulak organization in order to restore capitalism in the U.S.S.R. and the kulak, in particular.” An amazing formulation! An organization to restore “capitalism and the kulak, in particular (!)”. This “particularly” gives away the whole, or at least hints at it. There is no debating mat some of those expelled, like Slepkov and Maretsky, in the period of the struggle against “Trotskyism” developed, after the manner of their teacher Bucharin, the idea of “the kulak’s growing into socialism”. What stand they have taken since that time, we do not know. But it is quite possible that their present guilt consists not so much in their desire to “restore” the kulak as in their failure to recognize Stalin’s victories in the sphere of “liquidation of the kulak as a class’’.

However, what is the relation of Zinoviev and Kamenev to the program of “restoring capitalism”? The Soviet press informs us about the following as regards to their participation in the crime, “Knowing of the counter-revolutionary documents that were being circulated, instead of immediately exposing the agents of the Kulak agencies, they preferred to deliberate over this document (?) and by this act alone, they placed themselves as the direct accomplices of the anti-party, counter-revolutionary group.” So, Zinoviev and Kamenev “preferred to deliberate over the document” instead of “immediately exposing” it. The accusers do not even dare to assert that Zinoviev and Kamenev were entirely beyond considering its “exposure”. No, their crime consisted in their “preferring to deliberate” before “exposing”. Where, how and with whom did they deliberate? Had this occurred during a secret session of the Right organization, the accusers would not have failed to inform us about it. Obviously, Zinoviev and Kamenev “preferred to deliberate” with their own four eyes and within their own four walls. As a result of their deliberation, did they express their sympathy for the platform of the Rights. If there was even the slightest hint in the matter about such a sympathy, we would have been told about it in the decision. Silence on the matter testifies to the contrary; Zinoviev and Kamenev, obviously, subjected the platform to criticism instead of immediately ringing up Yagoda. But in view of the fact that they nevertheless did not telephone, Pravda feels it justified to ascribe to them this concept, “The enemy of my enemy is – my friend.”

The coarse strain of the accusation against Zinoviev-Kamenev makes it possible for us to conclude with assurance that blow was direct against them, and primarily them. Not because they evinced some political activity during the last period. We know nothing about it, and what is more important the C.E.C. knows nothing about either, as is evident from the decree. But the objective political situation has become so much worse as to make it impossible for Stalin to tolerate any longer legal candidates for leadership in the composition of this or the other Opposition group.

The Stalinist bureaucracy, of course, has long since been aware that Zinoviev and. Kamenev whom it had spurned were very much “interested” in the oppositionist trends within the party and were reading all sorts of documents that were not destined for Yagoda. In 1928, Kamenev even carried on secret negotiations with Bucharin regarding the possibility of a bloc. Records of these negotiations were published at the time by the Left Opposition. The Stalinists, however, could not decide upon expelling Zinoviev and Kamenev. They did not wish to compromise themselves by new scandals of repressions unless there was urgent necessity. The period of economic successes was then being inaugurated, in part actual, in part fictitious. Zinoviev and Kamenev did not appear to be immediately dangerous.


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Last updated on: 9 December 2014