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. 48, 26 November 1932, p. 4.
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.

Now the situation has changed at the root. True, the newspaper articles explaining the expulsion proclaim that because we have grown economically extremely strong, and because the party has become absolutely monolithic, therefore we cannot tolerate “the slightest conciliatory spirit.” But in this explanation, the white threads that baste it together, stick out all too clumsily in open view. The necessity for the expulsion of Zinoviev and Kamenev, for an obviously fictitious reason, testifies quite on the contrary to the extreme weakening of Stalin and his fraction. Zinoviev and Kamenev had to be liquidated post haste not because of a change in their behavior but because of a change in the background. Riutin’s group, independently of its actual activity, is dragged along, in the given instance, in order to garnish the service. In the foreknowledge of the fact that they may be soon brought to account, the Stalinists are “taking measures.”

In general, one cannot deny the fact that the judicial combination of the Rights, who inspired. Stalin’s policies in 1923–1929, of two actual or supposed former “Trotskyists” and of Zinoviev and Kamenev, guilty of knowing but of not informing, – that this, to repeat, is a product entirely worthy of the political creativeness of Stalin, Yaroslavsky and Yagoda. A classical amalgam of the Thermidorian type! The goal of the combination consists in mixing up the cards, disorienting the party, increasing the ideological confusion and thus hindering the workers from making out what’s what, and finding the way out. The supplementary task consists in politically lowering Zinoviev and Kamenev, former leaders of the Left Opposition, now being expelled for “amity” toward the Right Opposition.

Zinoviev’s Game with History

Inevitably a question arises, how is it that old Bolsheviks, men who are wise and experienced in politics, gave their opponent an opportunity to deal them such a blow? How could they, who renounced their own platform tor the sake of remaining in the party, when all is said and done, fly out of the party because of a fictitious connection with a platform foreign to them? One must perforce reply that this result also did not come about accidentally. Zinoviev and Kamenev tried to play tricks with history. Of course, they were motivated, first of all, by solicitude for the Soviet Union, for the unity of the party, and not at all for their personal welfare But they posed their tasks not on the plane of the Russian and World revolution but on a much lower plane of the Soviet bureaucracy.

In those most difficult hours for them, on the eve of capitalism, they adjured us, then their allies, “to meet the party half-way”. We replied that we were prepared to meet the party all the way, but in another and a higher sense than was required by Stalin and Yaroslavsky. But was that not a split? Was that not a threat of civil war and of the downfall of the Soviet power? – We replied, if it did not encounter our opposition, Stalin’s polcies would inevitably doom the Soviet power to ruin. And this is the idea that is expressed in our platform. What conquers are principles. Capitulation can never be victorious. We shall do everything in our power so that the struggle for principles be led in consonance with and after consideration of the entire situation, both domestic and foreign. But it is impossible to foresee all the variations of development Nevertheless it is absurd and criminal to play hide and seek with revolution, to use trickery in dealing with classes and diplomacy with history. In such complex and responsible situations one must be guided by a rule so excellently expressed by the French in the proverb, Fais ce que doit, advienne que pourra! Perform your duty, let come what may!

Zinoviev and Kamenev have fallen the victims because they did not keep to this rule.

* * * *

If one leaves aside the absolutely demoralized part of the capitulators of the type of Radek and Piatakov, who, as journalists or functionaries, will continue to serve every victorious faction (under the pretext of serving socialism), then the capitulators taken as a political group, represent in themselves moderate intra-party “liberals” who, at a given moment, rushed too far to the Left (or to the Right) and who subsequently took to the road of coming to terms with the ruling bureaucracy. But the present day is characterized by the fact that this conciliation, which appeared so final, has begun to crack and to explode, and thereto in an extremely acute form. The tremendous symptomatic significance of the expulsion of Zinoviev Kamenev, Uglanov and the others originates in the fact that in the new clashes at the “tops” there are reflected the profound surges in the masses.

The Basis Under the Capitulations

What political prerequisites were there that conditioned the period of capitulations in 1929–1930? They were: the bureaucratic turn of the helm to the Left; the successes of the industrialization; the quick growth of collectivization. The five year plan absorbed the working masses. A great perspective was opened up. The workers were reconciled to the loss of political independence in expectation of near and decisive, socialist successes. The peasant poor awaited from the collectives a change in their future. The standard of living of the lowest layers of the peasantry rose higher; it is true, to a considerable measure, at the expense of the basic funds of rural economy. Such were the economic prerequisites and the political atmosphere of the epidemic of capitulation.

The growth of economic disproportions, the aggravation in the situation of the masses, the growth of dissatisfaction, of the workers as well as of the peasants, confusion in the apparatus itself – these are the prerequisites for the revival of all, and of every kind of Opposition. The sharpness of contradictions and the intensity of alarm in the party push ever more onto the road of protest the moderate, cautious and always-ready-for-compromise, party “liberals”. Driven into a blind alley the bureaucracy immediately replies with repressions, in a large measure preventive.

We do not as yet hear the voice of the Left Opposition in the open. Small wonder: those same bourgeois papers that relate about the favors presumably in store for Ilykov and Bucharin, simultaneously report “new mass arrests among the Trotskyists”. The Left Opposition in the USSR was subjected in the course of a number of years to such fearful police persecution, its cadres were placed in such exceptional conditions that it is infinitely more difficult for it than for the legal “liberals” openly to formulate its opposition and to intervene organizationally into the developing events. By the by, the history of bourgeois revolutions reminds us that in their struggle against autocracy, the liberals, utilizing their legal prerogatives, always came out first in the name of the “people”; only the struggle between the liberal bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy cleared the way for the petty-bourgeois democracy and the proletariat. Of course what is concerned here is merely a matter of historical analogy; but we still think that it does explain something.

The resolution of the September plenum of the C.E.C. boasts out of time and out of place that having crushed counter-revolutionary Trotskyism, having exposed the anti-Leninist kulak essence of the Right opportunists, “the party ... has attained at the present time decisive successes ...” The nearest future, one should expect, will make clear that the Left and the Right Opposition are not only neither crushed nor annihilated but, on the contrary, that they alone exist politically. It was precisely the official policies of the last three or four years that prepared the conditions for a new upsurge of the Right-Thermidorian tendencies. The striving of the Stalinists to lump into a single pile the Lefts and the Rights is facilitated to some measure by the fact that the Lefts and the Rights speak of a retreat for the time given. This is inevitable: the exigent need of a regulated retreat from the line of adventuristic leap ahead has become the vital task of the proletarian state. The Centrist bureaucrats themselves dream of nothing else but the possibility of retreating in order, and without losing face completely, yet they cannot but recognize that a retreat in the face of the need for foodstuffs and for all other things may cost them all too dearly. For this reason they are retreating by stealth and by accusing the opposition of tendencies toward retreat.

The actual political danger consists in the fact that the Rights are a faction of permanent retreat and that they have now been given the opportunity to claim, “we have always demanded this”. The twilight in which the party lives does not allow the workers to make out quickly the dialectics of economic processes and to appraise correctly the limited, temporary and conjunctural “correctness” of the Rights, along with the erroneous of their fundamental position.

The Importance of Our Policy

All the more important, therefore, becomes the clear, independent, and looking to the far future, policy of the Bolshevik-Leninists. Follow carefully all the processes in the country and within the party! Appraise correctly different groupings according to their ideas and the social, ties! Do not become frightened at isolated tactical coincidences with the Rights! Do not forget, because of tactical coincidences, the antagonism of the strategic lines!

The political differentiation in the Soviet proletariat will occur along the line of the following questions: – How to retreat? What are the limits of the retreat? When and how to pass over to a new offensive? What should be the tempos of the offensive? No matter how important these questions are in themselves, they alone do not suffice. We are not building policies for one country. The fate of the Soviet Union will be resolved in an indissoluble jointure with the world development. It is necessary to place again before the Russian workers the problems of world Communism in their full scope

Only the independent emergence of the Left Opposition and the joining together of the basic proletarian kernel under its banner can resurrect the party, the Workers’ State and the Communist International.

Prinkipo, October 1932


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Last updated on: 9 December 2014