G. Zinoviev

On the Party Regime

A Letter That Doesn’t Jibe with His Latest Recantation

(September 1927)

Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. No. 37, 29 July 1933, pp. 3 & 4.
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Zinoviev who for a number of years found himself in open or semi-masked opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy, has finally admitted, after a short stay in exile, that the party regime of Stalin is the best of them all. It is therefore all the more enlightening to recall what Zinoviev wrote on the regime in the C.P.S.U. just a few weeks prior to the 15th Party Congress. For lack of space we cannot reproduce in its entirety the extensive document directed by Zinoviev to all the leading party institutions: the CC, CCC and ECSY, and containing a wealth of factual material on the methods of party repression and bureaucratic demoralization. Although we are obliged to confine ourselves to a few of the most essential excerpts, we hope that they will prove sufficient to throw light on the state of affairs in the C.P.S.U. as well as on the nature of Zinoviev’s repentance.

Prinkipo, July 6, 1933

* * * *

To the Politbureau of the CC of the CPSU
To the Praesidium of the CCC
To the ECCI

Dear Comrades,

... It is superfluous to point out that with proper preparatory work the 15th Congress could play a most important role and really help our party emerge from the present crisis ...

It could do all that, however, only if it were prepared in the manner in which, even in the face of much less serious disagreements, our Congresses were prepared in Lenin’s time.

How did the party act in Lenin’s time?

First, the Congresses were called exactly on time. A postponement of even one month was considered, under Lenin, inadmissible. Under Lenin there was never a case of the Central Committee extending its authority for an extra year, that is, of doubling the authority received from the Congress. And all this – despite the fact that the atmosphere of a rigorous civil war made the convocation of congresses much more difficult than now.

Secondly, under Lenin, prior to the Congress all members of the party were given the possibility to print in the party press their suggestions, theses, platforms, pamphlets and books and to appear before any party meeting.

Thirdly, all this was done so that all members of the party might really participate in the discussion and so that the elections to the Congress would really express the will of the party. There was never, under Lenin, a case of ward conferences, which really decide everything, being called first, and the “discussion” starting only after the convocation of state conferences. Under Lenin such a procedure would be laughed at and rejected as a wretched and disgraceful comedy.

Fourthly, under Lenin, in the pre-Congress period the shifting of comrades, in disagreement with the line of the CC, from workers’ centers to distant corners not only never took place (under Lenin, exile in general was not heard of), but on the contrary, precisely those comrades, or groups of comrades who had disagreements with the majority of the CC were accorded fullest guarantee, of remaining in the large centres so that they might come forward with their criticism of the line of the Central Committee in the pre-Congress days as well as to the Congress itself.

There is no such thing now. Just the opposite is being done. The CC itself has prolonged its authority twofold, regardless of the statutes, it is calling the 15th Congress two years after the 14th. Prior to the Congress the C.C. is trebling the repression against the dissenters (for example, exile – more on this score below). The CC not only does not take any measures to elaborate such orders and schedules as would assure all party members a real possibility of expressing themselves on the questions under discussion, but on the contrary – in Moscow, Leningrad, in the Ukraine and in a whole series of other cities, the district conferences are scheduled to begin, and in some places even to terminate by the twentieth of October, whereas the beginning of the political discussion is promised by the Central Committee only for the first days of November. This means that the official discussion will begin only after the district conferences have been concluded, or at any rate, after the elections to the conferences have been concluded. If this is the way arrangements are to be made, it will only be a sham and mockery of the rights of the party members. This will prompt large circles of party members to the belief that the Central Committee fears discussion like fire, that it has no hope whatsoever of defending its political line in any kind of normal and honest inner-party discussion. Can such calendar tricky really he considered normal methods in intra-party democracy, can they solve the present crisis?

.... Unless the Central Committee of the party immediately revokes its decision on the date of the elections to the district conferences and revises it to the effect that the elections to these conference should take place after discussion, then all pre-Congress discussion guaranteed by the party statutes will in reality have been abolished. The elections to the Congress will be turned into a pure formality, and in the present atmosphere, into nothing but a comedy.

The Congress is the highest organ of our party. The Congress is the most important event in inner party life. Every party member should consider the authority of the congress, beyond doubt and beyond dispute. The members of the Bolshevik party must unconditionally submit to the decisions of the party congresses. But all this is realizable in practice only under the condition, exclusively guaranteed by the party statutes, that all members of the party are in a position to influence its decisions, that the whole party votes and not only the party apparatus ...

We shall cite only absolutely verified facts, which cannot possibly be refuted.

1. In a whole series of cities (Moscow, Leningrad, Kostov, Baku) following the joint Plenum, the active party cadre was deliberately convened suddenly on the basis of a treble “selection”, tickets being issued only to the “absolutely reliable”, personal tickets, while hundreds of old party members who take a most lively part in party work were refused admittance.

2. At ward conferences, as well as at city-wide conferences of the active cadres in Moscow and in Leningrad, and surely, also in other cities, there were present little groups organized beforehand, that is, prepared and suitably placed, little groups ready for anything, which interrupted the Opposition speakers with yells, threats, whistling and abuse. At no meeting did the leadership take any measures to call these groups to order or to remove them from the meeting hall. A party member like Ivan Nikitich Smirnov, who has been in the party for 25 years, who is known to the widest circles of workers, a comrade greatly respected by all who have worked with him in illegality, in the Red Army and in Soviet work – such a comrade was unable to make use of the ten minutes allotted to him in order to clarify the results of the Plenum of the CC at the Moscow active cadre meeting. His speech, absolutely loyal and restrained, was interrupted in an organized manner by a little group with the connivance of the chairman, comrade Uglanov, a candidate to the Political Bureau.

3. Gangster methods of breaking up party meetings were used especially in Leningrad. In the presence of the secretary of the Provincial Committee, comrade Kirov, a candidate to the Political Bureau, “someone” put out the lights at the city-wide conference and at the conference of the Vyborg district at the moment when a representative of the Opposition, began to read his resolution. At the meeting of the Petrograd district, rowdies threw themselves upon the comrade reading the resolution, and tore it to pieces, during which time anti-Semitic yells were to be heard.

... 5. Simultaneous with these methods of intimidation, a most reckless, most poisonous agitation against the Opposition is carried on iu the press. Any hack-writer or careerist knows beforehand that any vulgarity and lie, any intrigue will be given space in print so long as it is directed at the Opposition. The can act in this manner only because they fear no reproof, that is, because it has been decided in advance not to allow any discussions, either printed or oral, before the Congress.

It is sufficient to point to the articles of the not unknown N. Kuzmin in the Komsomolskaya Pravda. This “teacher” of the army youth who replaced comrade Putno when the latter was shipped to Japan, interprets the reference of comrade Trotsky to Clemenceau as a demand for shooting the peasants at the front in time of war. What is this if not an open Thermidorian, not to say Black-Hundred, agitation, the aim of which is to counterpose the peasantry to the Opposition section of the workers’ party? And this villainy does not call forth any rebuff from the party leadership despite the fact that the attention of the CCC was called to it.

We shall not speak of the miserable editorials by Skvortzov in the Izvestia, or of the poetical participation on “party” questions of Demian Bedny, whose licentiousness grows simultaneously with his ideological poetical vacuity. The kulak-pornographic tone of Demian Bedny is provoking the increasing disgust and contempt of the most detached party members, who are not at all Oppositionists. At the same time there can be no doubt if anyone’s mind that the putrid writings of D. Bedny are “encouraged” from above. Everybody knows that all publications are controlled through the press department by the Secretariat, that is, in actuality, by comrade Stalin ... In all the facts enumerated above we consider the most serious the expulsion and exile of workers and, in general, of party members, for their Oppositionist convictions; the system of breaking up party meetings by gangs organized from above and the pogrom agitation in the press ...

No one in the party believes or will believe that all these inadmissible, criminal anti-party methods are applied only by accident. Were this the case, they would not have been so systematic, they would not be extended and, above all, they would not remain unpunished. A whole system is involved and this system of preparing the Congress, that is, the system of not permitting any normal preparation for the Congress, has, in the conviction of all, its centre: the Secretariat of the CC, that is, the real concentration point of the “management” of the party. In reality the Secretariat stands above the CC – and tries beforehand to impose its will upon the Congress, that is upon the party. Precisely herein lies the essence of the anti-constitutional, anti-party mechanism which has already been set into full swing for the “preparation” of the Congress.

Sept. 6, 1927

G. Zinoviev

Zinoviev Archive

Last updated: 26 October 2015