Documents of the 1923 opposition

3 The Moscow—Party meeting December 11 1923

The special conference of the Central Committee with signatories of the Platform of the 46 was agreed to by the Politburo together with the attendance of ten leading Party organizations. At this meeting on October 25, 1923 Preobrazhensky put forward a six-point plan for the implementation of workers’ democracy in the Party, but this was not discussed. The meeting produced a non-committal resolution, ‘On the Inner-Party Situation’ which the Oppositionists present abstained on or opposed. While merely describing Trotsky’s October 8 letter and subsequent correspondence with the Politburo as ‘a profound political error’ that encouraged groups like the 46, the 46 themselves were sharply condemned. For the moment the Stalin-Zinoviev leadership was seeking to isolate the 46 from Trotsky. In line with this resolution’s formal acceptance of greater workers’ democracy, Zinoviev announced in a special Pravda article on November 7 that the pages of the newspapers would be thrown open to a public discussion on the Party crisis to which Party and non-party members alike could contribute. While Pravda published numerous articles and letters from all over the Soviet Union often highly critical of the leadership’s policies, and the paper’s circulation doubled as a result, the triumvirate of Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev made concentrated efforts to conciliate the now sick Trotsky. The outcome was a resolution drafted jointly by Kamenev, Stalin and Trotsky which set out the party’s ‘new course’ towards inner-party democracy and economic planning. This resolution, which was carried by the Politburo on December 5, appeared to embody the essence of the criticisms made by Trotsky, who initially regarded it as a partial victory in his struggle. For the triumvirate, however, the resolution was a manoeuvre to isolate the 46 from Trotsky as well as a formal concession to widespread discontent in the Party rank-and-file.

On December 8 Trotsky wrote a letter to Party meetings that he could not address through illness where he took the opportunity to elaborate on the Politburo’s resolution. (See The New Course pp. 68-74.) Here his attack on the growing Party bureaucracy and the ‘old guard’ in the Party went far beyond the tactical concessions made by the triumvirate. He pointed to the precedent for such degeneration that was provided by the German Social-Democratic Party prior to World War I. Mean while the Opposition led by the 46 broadened their struggle to win support for their platform in the Party organizations: in this they had some success, especially in Moscow, but Stalin, as head of the Party Secretariat, resorted to manipulating meetings and conferences to deprive the opposition of fair numerical representation. Trotsky, however, was reluctant to assume the open leadership of the Opposition while Lenin was still alive and the triumvirate still baulked at directly attacking Trotsky, its most formidable critic. Thus on December 11 at an important meeting of the Moscow Party organization, Kamenev, on behalf of the triumvirate, concentrated his attack on the 46, stoutly defending the Party apparatus yet not mentioning Trotsky at all. But Sapronov, in his reply for the Opposition, which follows, invoked Trotsky’s December 8 letter to Party meetings to buttress his attack on bureaucratism in the Party. Consequently Trotsky’s letter to Party meetings and the Moscow Party meeting of December 11 foreshadowed a new stage in the struggle of the Opposition in which Trotsky was to emerge for the first time as the leader of the fight for the regeneration of the Bolshevik Party.

Sapronov’s speech

Comrades, we have heard today the report of Comrade Kamenev, a representative of the Central Committee, who, instead of discussing the question before us of ‘inner-party democracy’, devoted all his speech to a defence of the Party apparatus maintaining that attacks on the party apparatus were attacks on the old guard and consequently on the Central Committee. Hence it is clear that it supposedly becomes a matter of overthrowing the Central Committee, a coup d’état and a counter-revolution.

But in reality matters stand quite differently. It might be time for Comrade Kamenev, now that the Politburo and the Presidium of the Central Control Commission have adopted a resolution on democracy, to stop scaring the Party with ethereal spectres, even if some apparatus men have such dreams at night; the Party does not have these visions of a split and some sort of coup d’état . For the first time after a three-year lethargy, it has thought to rack its brains yet at once our apparatus men, who have created or at least protected this prolonged lethargy, are thrown into a panic by a single racking of brains and they begin to have visions of all sorts of overturns. In public speeches made against the apparatus they see speeches against the Party and against the dictatorship of the proletariat. And then the most lengthy explanations begin in order to show that you cannot run a Party without an apparatus, that you cannot run a state without an apparatus and so on and so forth.

One of the comrades with whom I work in the provincial Soviet is Comrade Polidorov. He demonstrated that there would come a time when not only committees and Soviets but also living people would be unnecessary; for statisticians we would have mechanical statisticians which would compute the figures for the allocation of the work force, production, etc. This was a fantasy of his and, of course, no one today is proposing to Comrade Kamenev that the Party apparatus be replaced by Polidorov’s fantasy. That is not the question. The question is that there is an apparatus and an ‘apparatus’. It is a question not of destroying the apparatus, but of rendering the apparatus more healthy. After a long period of economic stagnation we say that we must repair machinery and supply it with new parts and so on: so why after a three-year stagnation shouldn’t the Party give a thought to rebuilding individual parts of its apparatus? Comrade Kamenev contends that only with the aid of this apparatus can the dictatorship of the proletariat survive, the Party live, and so on. He keeps harping on the fact that the resolution was adopted unanimously by the Politburo. But members of the Politburo differ over the implementation of these theses and in their appraisal of the apparatus itself.

In Comrade Trotsky’s letter published today this is how this question is appraised: He says: ‘Inclined to overestimate the role of the apparatus and to underestimate the initiative of the Party, some conservative-minded comrades criticize the resolution of the Politburo.’ This quotation applies completely to Comrade Kamenev and this is clear to anyone who listened to his report. Comrade Kamenev voted for the Politburo’s resolution, but his entire speech was constructed in opposition to this resolution upon an overestimation of the apparatus and an underestimation of the Party. Further from Comrade Trotsky’s letter: ‘The centre of gravity, which was mistakenly placed in the apparatus by the old course has now been transferred by the new course proclaimed in the resolution of the Central Committee, to the activity, the initiative and the critical spirit of all the Party members as the organized vanguard of the proletariat. The new course does not at all signify that the Party apparatus is charged with decreeing, creating or establishing a democratic regime at such and such a date. No. This regime will be realized by the Party itself. To put it briefly: the Party must subordinate to itself its own apparatus without for a moment ceasing to be a centralized organization.’ That is how Comrade Trotsky who voted along with Kamenev on the Politburo resolution, regards this question. Members of the Politburo evidently regard this question in different ways, for Comrade Kamenev’s and Comrade Trotsky’s estimation of the apparatus are completely contrary and it is not Kamenev who is correct in his estimation. It is incorrect to pose the question as if the apparatus will save us. Only ‘apparatus men’ can see salvation in the apparatus and not in the initiative of the Party.

We know the apparatuses of western Europe and we know German social-democracy. It is well-known to all of us and to Comrade Kamenev too that German social-democracy has been saved up to now only thanks to the fact that the apparatus has kept it from disintegration. (Voice: hear, hear!) Comrade Emelyan Yaroslavsky is, as far as I know, the secretary of the Central Control Commission, and now he says: ‘hear, hear!’ It is correct that the apparatus saves social-democracy, but is it correct that German social-democracy is defending the interests of the working class? (Applause .) From whom is the Party being saved by the apparatus?

Not from the bourgeoisie, not from Stinnes, not from Krupp. It is being saved from the revolutionary German working class. (Applause .) Comrade Kamenev proposes that we be saved from the Party by the apparatus. We need to do exactly the opposite. The Party is sufficiently strong to rebuild its apparatus at the right time and to adjust it at the right time and this it must do: not the Party for the apparatus but the apparatus for the Party. That’s how the question stands. And we needn’t be scared by the fact that to be left without an apparatus might mean to destroy the Party. That’s the same old over-estimation of the apparatus to which I have referred previously. (Commotion, Voices: we’ve all read about it) I know that you’ve read it, but I think it is useful to remind you in my speech and therefore I ask you not to interrupt me.

The Party can successfully counter the danger of factions. Comrade Trotsky speaks correctly. ‘Bureaucratism of the apparatus is precisely one of the principal sources of factionalism.’ Comrade Kamenev, a Politburo member, gives a completely different estimation of the apparatus. So whom should one believe out of the members of the Politburo who voted unanimously for the resolution? Today we find everywhere, whether it is relevant or not, mentions of Comrade Lenin’s name as with Comrade Kamenev: such and such a resolution was written by Comrade Lenin, such and such a resolution was written by him too. If he were still with us he would certainly have said this or that. But on this question I find the following passage in Comrade Trotsky’s letter:

‘History offers us more than one case of degeneration of “the old guard”. Let us take the most recent and most striking example: that of the leaders of the parties of the Second International. We know that Wilhelm Liebknecht, Bebel, Singer, Victor Adler, Kautsky, Bernstein, Lafargue, Guesde and many others were the direct pupils of Marx and Engels. But after the death of Marx and Engels many of these friends of Marx and Engels became, with the development of the workers’ movement, traitors to the working class.’

To make reference to the fact that we were friends of Lenin and thus will remain Leninists all our Life and continually hide ourselves behind Lenin’s back—to do this is blatant demagogy. They want to seek salvation and hide behind someone else’s back. Unfortunately we now have to discuss the question without Comrade Lenin. So let us not hide behind his back but advance our own viewpoints.

Do we need to rebuild the apparatus? Under any conditions you have greater or lesser shortcomings in this or that apparatus and a Party has always slightly to adjust or rebuild its apparatus. Just how many were the shortcomings which accumulated over the past period when the apparatus was working in a completely different direction from the one the last Politburo speaks of?

Let us look back a little way at the whole work of the apparatus and see what it gave to our Party and Soviet power.

Comrade Kamenev quoted in earnest from the resolution on Party unity. This resolution was put seriously into practice for all the three years. But there is also another resolution on inner-Party democracy. The resolution on unity was employed wholly and completely at the expense of this second resolution. It was this that served to paralyse not only collective but also individual thought.

What system was carried out just a few months after the Tenth Congress? In the name of the so-called ‘selection’ we saw the regular selection of provincial secretaries, provincial committee members, county secretaries and so on. Along what line was this conducted? Previously, back in the days of War Communism, we would practice, a fairly broad measure of appointment of provincial committee members and secretaries; following the controversies at one of the congresses we carne to the conclusion that the Central Committee must not appoint secretaries, but send them with a recommendation to an organization to this or that post. This method was accepted. Comrades, in this there is outwardly nothing prejudicial. To make a recommendation, well there’s no danger in that. Recommendations were made. They were good recommendations. But the Party organization has then to discuss the recommendation and the person recommended, have a look at him and that organization retains the absolute right to elect or not to elect the person recommended. But something else happens in practice. The secretary goes off to this or that organization with his recommendation, he goes off there with his paper—‘he is recommended’. The organization discusses the recommendation and the recommended person, and comes to the conclusion that this comrade is new, they do not know him and they shall not elect him secretary. Then a second paper is received with an urgent recommendation. And then a third paper is received with an appointment. So you have a total appointment of secretaries and other responsible persons to Party positions. Secretaries are appointed either in event of the weakness of an organization or in event of a squabble—in a squabble there is usually one ‘squabbling’ side and another ‘non-squabbling’. The secretary arrives, finds support from the ‘non-squabbling’ side and a struggle starts against the ‘squabblers’, yet both one and the other should have been understood only as conditional groupings.

As a result a struggle begins. The question is not discussed in the organization, but it is mechanically ordered from above that this or that question must be carried out without any discussion. This means that the struggle is a short one: in order to liquidate the ‘squabble’ they spread the ‘squabbling’ group around other provinces. There remains the second group. What sort of psychology develops in them? ‘The secretary had arrived. This new arrival does not answer to public opinion and does not answer to the Party organization. If this latter group comes out against the secretary it too risks being sent elsewhere. Of course many are not afraid of this. But they are sent away once, twice and a third time and then the taste for being sent away begins to pall. And then you get the psychology not of collective creativity, but of mechanical subordination. That’s what takes place in the provinces, that’s what takes place in the counties with the county secretaries, and that’s what happens in the cells too. A psychology has been created down to the very depths of the Party of ‘don’t discuss and don’t argue inside the Party but mechanically carry out what the superior organs decide’. There is no collective creativity.

In the cells neither questions of wage rates, economics, general principles nor even of local interest are discussed. Workers are completely divorced from the questions, the economic organs issue directives and the cells are not in the know about them. Workers do not receive explanations as the cells themselves know nothing of them. A complete gulf develops not only between our organization and our Party apparatus, but between the whole Party and the working class. The Party is on its own and the working class on its own.

And here we come on to groupings. When such a state of affairs is created in the Party, when the Party does not discuss questions, and when cells do not know their factory affairs, never mind general political ones, then members of the Party seek a solution somewhere outside the Party. And as many facts as you like can be adduced in confirmation of this. I will give one. On a Sunday at a meeting of the Rogozh District, a woman worker carne forward from the Party members and related that she had noticed a whole number of irregularities and had decided to fight them. This affair was back in 1921. She went round the district committees without achieving anything very definite and then went off to the Moscow Committee where she likewise got nowhere. On her way from there she saw a meeting at the Kuznetski bridge, went up to ‘this meeting and said a few words and was put in prison for eight months. It turned out that she had landed herself in Panyushkin’s group [A political group formed outside the Communist Party in 1921 by Panyushkin formerly a Bolshevik, it was one of the various groups inside and outside the party that tended towards anarchism and opposed party leadership in the Soviets and trade unions in the early years of NEP.] at the meeting and she was put in prison for eight months on account of this. You know, comrades (a great commotion in the hall) this is not a tale but a fact, and how many facts are there like this?

Workers achieve nothing in their organizations and fall into groupings only because they wanted to expound a few of their thoughts and yet this could not be done anywhere within the party. Such a situation in fact creates extra-Party and anti-Party groupings, ‘workers’ groups’ and so on. Of course, here much depends on objective conditions and on the NEP through which we have been compelled to pass, but the state of our apparatus strengthens the ground and the base which creates anti-Party-groupings.

Now with regard to the Central Committee’s theses. In Comrade Kamenev’s words, the Central Committee suddenly remembered just in time and wrote the theses just in time. If you believe him then there was no pressure upon the Central Committee. This is untrue and would mean that many members from our Party had already gone off into anti-Party groupings. A Russian proverb may be quite applicable here: ‘If the thunder does not roll the peasant does not cross himself.’ The thunder had to crash for the storm to break, and there had to be a whole underground jolt not only within the Party mass, but also within the Central Committee; but Comrade Kamenev does not speak about how the Central Committee got itself involved in the question of groupings.

Are these theses of the Central Committee acceptable to the Party? Comrades, I think that you cannot approach the theses from such a formulation of the question. It is not a question of what is written in these theses. That is a purely formal presentation of the question. We have to take a look at what situation they were made in and what they form an expression of. Their purpose is not to solve the problem better, but to provide a whole number of pegs which are most favourable to the Party apparatus and afford a possibility of being re-interpreted and so on. Let us take the question of groupings—the resolution on Party unity adopted at the Tenth Congress. What has it been turned into? Everything is put down to the word ‘faction’. Comrade Kamenev reasons like this: if I, Sapronov, one day make a report at one cell, the next day at another and the day after at a third one, then Sapronov is, he says, formally setting up a faction. Comrades, if today the secretary of a cell calls me and asks me to speak at his cell then this means, in Comrade Kamenev’s opinion, that I am forming a group. No. In the opinion of the Khamovniki District a member of the Khamovniki organization can only discuss any question in Khamovniki and not in other organizations. We know of facts like these: a worker is taken from a factory cell and sent to a county cell. This worker is attached to a county organization. But then, after a month and a half’s stay there, he goes to a meeting of his factory cell and asks permission to speak there. The secretary of the county committee says right away: ‘I forbid you to speak, you are not from that cell.’ The question is: what is his own organization? Let us take Moscow. Sidorov and Ivanov are attached to a cell of the Presyna District Committee. They are attached to a cell and they can win over only their cell yet the district committee is also their organization, as is the Moscow organization, and all our Party—tell us exactly what do you allow and what do you understand by the word ‘their’. All of them? Answer. (Kamenev: All of them, all.) So, don’t murmur, Comrade Kamenev. If the other comrade happens to be in the district, at a Moscow meeting and at an all-Russian conference and everywhere he develops the opinion which Ivanov holds, but which Comrade Kamenev does not like, is this a faction? No, it is not a faction it is the bringing together of Party members around his ideas. If you follow Comrade Kamenev’s line, then it means that you can argue only in your own cell. If you arrive in someone else’s cell, don’t dare argue. But cases occur when this comrade wins the support of his cell, when his ideas triumph in his cell, but if our Party apparatus does not like the ideas of this cell, what then? Then this comrade is taken by the collar, slung out and tossed into another cell. And what happens then? What does he do there? In a year or two he wins support there. If this comrade wins support then he is transferred to a third cell. So what is the result? The result is that you will never have to defend your own view. Comrade Kamenev, just how should one work in such conditions? If you take this approach then, comrades, Trotsky is right when he says in his letter: ‘The Party apparatus is a vicious caricature of factionalism.’

One comrade handed me a question today: ‘I ask you, Comrade Sapronov, to explain whether the following is an application of theses on inner-party democracy: an instructor comes to the cell and on the information of the secretary notes down who is a demagogue and who is not. Is this proletarian inner-Party democracy or factionalism—from the other side?’ Now Comrade Belenky tells me: ‘You are harassing all our district, just wait and we’ll bring evidence against you.’ I do not know what evidence Comrade Belenky will bring, but what is being done in Presnya District is very well known, you need only read Comrade Shumsky’s question. It is well known that Comrade Belenky develops the workers there in this way: you carry out the idea that suits me, Belenky. What is this but a vicious caricature of factionalism? Comrades, why this intimidation of the Party, here and elsewhere? Then they come out, wringing their hands, and say: you seek the collapse of the Party. This intimidation must be stopped.

We are accused of being an opposition. That is untrue. It is not I who is the oppositionist. In opposition to the Politburo theses we find Comrade Kamenev. I assert this and I can prove it. When he signed the theses, Comrade Kamenev was not thinking in the spirit in which they were written. Now Comrade Kamenev says: ‘Don’t touch the apparatus. That’s opposition.’ That’s not put down in the theses. The theses represent the first step towards solving the problem which we are speaking about. We must fight in the most decisive fashion both the apparatus man and those who fear any touching of the apparatus.

Now I will answer the question: what is pure thorough-going democracy: obviously it means freedom of speech, Press, elections, and so on. No one is advocating a pure, thorough-going inviolate democracy. We are talking about inner-Party workers’ democracy, about a democracy the right to which is guaranteed for each Party member: each may express his good or bad idea and the will of the Party can accept or reject it. Under such a democracy is removal (from a cell) for drunkenness, embezzling and so on conceivable? In these cases one must not transfer members or politically exile them and so on—that is too great an honour for an embezzler—but one must go to a people’s or higher court and expel those unworthy of being in the Party. Moreover what is to be done if a whole organization is petty-bourgeois? The Central Committee can at any moment disband any organization which departs from the programme and the statutes and which is decaying. The Party must then appoint a commission to re-register the Party members, the commission can call a conference, organize an elected organ and then go off home.

But what is the actual situation? A secretary is appointed who sits for a year or two. In the third year, Comrade Kamenev says, don’t touch the apparatus, you’ll destroy the Party. This secretary has settled comfortably in the locality, possibly he’s bought a goat, and doesn’t want to move. And then they say, don’t touch the apparatus. You cannot approach the question like this. They further attempt to prove that a Party purge is also a limitation of democracy. Comrades, in a petty-bourgeois country where our Party is far from a purely workers’ one and the workers are a minority in the Party we undertake a purge of the Party not by democratic but bureaucratic methods, a purge from above. This is admittedly a purge but of quite a different nature. This is a purge of non-Party elements from our Party, embezzlers, careerists, petty-bourgeois elements and to purge them we do not need democratic methods. Thus we need to strike from both sides, with democratism and bureaucratism, the elective principle and the apparatus. We still have elements who should not be in the Party and whom we still have to purge. But there must also be a purge within our apparatus. Comrade Kamenev wants to purge the apparatus by bureaucratic means. But please tell me who has ever purged himself? (Voice: So what do you order?) This is what I propose: I do not order for I cannot, but I propose to purge the Party apparatus not bureaucratically from above but democratically from below. Elect without ‘recommendations’, without ‘urgent recommendations’ and without ‘prior agreements’ and the cell must elect its bureau without any pressure, any pushing, or any cajoling. That’s what should be done. Zelensky has more than once declared to me at meetings: ‘Here in Moscow all the secretaries are elective and few are not elected.’ But I know of cases in Moscow where the bureau discusses the question of its own successor, so to speak, and this question is passed on for consideration by the cell; the cell meets, the secretary arrives and begins to read out a list on behalf of the bureau but the eyes of the bureau members open wide and they say: ‘Excuse me but what bureau list is this, we didn’t consider that list but quite a different one.’ And the secretary answers: ‘This list has been agreed with the district committee’. (Applause .) Then the cell or a cell member asks: ‘With respect, but why do we meet if it has already been agreed with the district committee?’ The secretary replies: ‘You can register dissent.’ Elections start, dissensions are made, but the secretary declares: ‘I beg your pardon but how can you dissent from them if they have been agreed in the district committee?’ This, comrades, is not a democratic method, it is the bureaucratic pressure of our Party apparatus. Here cell secretaries are endorsed by the district committee, but not all. Some of them are endorsed by the Moscow Committee. The cell must elect a secretary, then take him along wrapped up in paper to the district committee where he is endorsed and then take him off in the same paper to the Moscow Committee to be finally endorsed and then they say: ‘We have a regime and a pressure against petty-bourgeois organizations.’ But in Moscow the bigger the cell the more endorsements are necessary for the secretary. This is a pressure against a working-class organization. The basic cell elects a secretary, takes him to the district committee for endorsement, and from there to the Moscow Committee for final endorsement: to have him confirmed once and for all. A democracy is a completely elective system. But if we were to call this a democracy we would not in the end know when we really were democrats. The cries of Party apparatus men, which reach almost hysterics and terrify us with a split in the party, must be rejected. There is no split nor any sign of one, but the brains of members of the Party are just being racked. At not a single meeting, and I have happened to be present at many, did we see anything threatening: but we do see unanimous protests against the existing régime. Comrade Kamenev was wrong when he tried to discredit this or that; comrade, who spoke at such and such a time and in such and such a place. On the one hand the ‘notorious Democratic Centralism’ and on the other not a ‘notorious’ but a real bureaucratic centralism.

All the accusations of factionalism are unfounded. We have no factionalism, but there is an upwards movement inside the Party and Kamenev might have been convinced of this at meetings and should have come to the conclusion that such arguments are irrelevant. In the Rogozh-Simonov District, Zinoviev maintained that this was not a movement but that only a little seam in Moscow was beginning to stir, while over in Petrograd and throughout Russia everything was calm. You are too good diplomats simply to ignore directives. For over in Petrograd you have apparatus men who go to district committees and say: ‘The province has already considered that question.’ Under the pretext of factionalism the apparatus suppresses any thought, begins to stifle any awakening of thought and throws out those whom it finds undesirable. But Kamenev says: ‘If you go beyond the cell that is factionalism and we have a resolution against factionalism.’ So then everything must remain in the old way. We declare that nothing must stay the old way. We can see a turn in the Party which has decided in the most determined way to leave its dead point and revive itself with all its energy. We can see a movement of the whole Party and a movement of all the organizations which want to realize their internal fights. That is why it would be laughable to demand guarantees. The Party must not demand any guarantees, but point out the mistakes made by the Central Committee, which consist in that up to now it has attempted to hold back the development of the Party and not give scope to collective creativity and collective thought or worked to realize these guarantees by the most democratic means, by means of inner-Party workers’ democracy. We have to invigorate our Party apparatus by means of elections from the top to bottom. (Applause .)

Preobrazhensky’s speech

Sapronov’s bitter attack on bureaucratism in the Party provoked a sharp debate. Preohrazhensky took up the triumvirate’s allegation that the Opposition was encouraging illegal ”groupings” in the Party.

COMRADES, Comrade Kamenev in his report dwelt primarily on the question of groupings and therefore I wish to use my brief time for this question alone. I consider that as the party has run up against this question it must express its opinion quite unequivocally because until we come to an agreement over this problem we cannot leave it and pass on to other, non-constitutional questions which are more important and more crucial.

I think that Comrade Kamenev permitted a major incorrectness in his formulation of the question and just as incorrectly presented the history of the origin of this question. Therefore although this is not a meeting of Istpart , I must still make a few corrections. To the essential question of whether we permit groupings let me answer: be so good as to define from the outset, what are groupings? If you do not give a definition but quote the resolution of the Tenth Congress which was carried in a situation about which I shall say a few words later on and which requires amplification, modification and adaptation to our new conditions; if you simply quote it or, as Comrade Zelensky proposed at one cell, adhere to what was adopted in 1921 that does not solve the newly-arisen problems that confront the party in this sphere and to which we must expect quite a different answer.

It would be absurd and dangerous for the Party if, on the question of groupings, we were to answer with a bald reference to the resolution of the Tenth Congress or completely forget the history of the Party since the time of the Tenth Party Congress. The first groupings in the ruling party which represented the embryoes of a party of an alien class deep down in our party had to be excised by us as soon as we had established their social nature. We had to take the most severe measures against them. But ideological groupings form themselves in the party in order to persuade the party that the measures they propose on the economy, finance, inner-Party building and so on are more correct and more appropriate than those proposed by its official majority represented by its Central Committee—or any other grouping—so who can say that such groupings are impermissible? Why are groupings impermissible which are preparing for the Congress and want to convince the majority of the party on this or that question—a procedure which is fully allowed for by our Statutes? We did not depart from this even in the worst days of the Civil War or if we did begin to depart from this then it could only have been in violation of the party Statutes.

We have certain groups which originated from the special conditions in which the comrades work, either conditions which bring them into close contact with the masses at the moment when the change in the party’s course is due, or else thanks to their greater far-sightedness, sensitivity and so on, they can formulate the necessary alterations sooner than the official part of our party can. This is a manifestation of the inner work of the party’s collective thought which is necessary to the party. So that if now in the name of eliminating various factional groupings as groupings of another class within our party, a prohibition is placed on criticism and you are scared by the fact that these groups of critics will create a danger of disintegration in the party then we will have to defend the Politburo’s resolution from some members of the Politburo.

We have clearly to determine what groups are impermissible. And when we are told that Comrade Lenin himself wrote the Tenth Congress resolution on factional groupings, then I am reminded of the occasions when old Bolsheviks carried out early decisions bookishly and pedantically like the ancient scribes and stuck to them, he would call them old fools. I think no one wishes that tag to be pinned on him, which is by no means a factional tag. It was directed at those who do not know how to change or correctly apply a resolution at the necessary moment and cannot change their tactic within 24 hours when circumstances require. When this resolution is brought up here and comrades want to apply it literally to the new situation which has been created in the party, then I greatly fear that the accusation of bookishness which Lenin taught us to fight politically, largely fits such people.

We can have not only progressive, but also regressive, reactionary and backward ideological groupings. For example, some layers in the working class might not be capable under the conditions of the inequalities of the NEP, of grasping the complexity of the present situation and may press for a firmer struggle against inequalities and so on. Such groupings would represent formless manifestations of the discontent of an insufficiently conscious part of our party which is not fully clear about the inevitability of inequality under certain conditions and within certain limits and so on. Can we really apply the Tenth Congress resolution to such workers and drive such deviations underground when we could disperse them within a few months by means of discussion, and moreover raise the consciousness of the comrades to a higher level. For we shall have such manifestations of discontent and I can safely predict them.

To insist on the stifling of groupings which can be easily outgrown would mean to understand nothing about the nature of NEP and the methods of struggle against its influence on our party and it would be a highly reckless and destructive policy. We must fight them ideologically and only when they acquire a dangerous anarchistic deviation as a reflection of petty-bourgeois influence; only then can, and must we adopt the means of expulsions, bans and so on. If you have formulae on the questions of groupings acceptable to the party then be so kind as to submit them and the congress will not object to the formula which is at present most correct. I fear that if we were now to take Kamenev’s viewpoint then we would get the picture which we have in effect observed in our party over the last three years—though to be sure not through any fault of the Central Committee, or at least only one per cent through its fault. But this picture did exist and it was a misfortune for the party. When we were obliged to tighten the ring of our party discipline and adopt the resolution of the Tenth Congress on party unity then under the conditions of the bureaucratization of the apparatus it reached a point where the majority of the Central Committee itself revealed a tendency to turn willy-nilly and spontaneously into a grouping of its own.

The Central Committee carried out a line whereby public criticism of it was driven into the framework of groupings. When representatives of the Central Committee speak about the danger of any sort of groupings then you have to understand that these groupings in the party are groundless groupings created only by dint of the fact that certain Central Committee comrades take upon themselves a monopoly of the defence of Bolshevism. Other comrades are also old Bolsheviks and no less so than Comrade Kamenev. Why is it only Comrade Kamenev and some others who have this monopoly? There must not be such a monopoly in the party. And such a monopoly would signify but one form of converting the majority of our Party’s Central Committee into a grouping of its own.

At the Twelfth Party Congress Comrade Stalin said that in his opinion the congress had expressed its approval of the leading triumvirate in the Politburo. What is this triumvirate? The Party knows only the Central Committee and the Politburo; the party knows nothing about triumvirates. We have official organs of the party. So when some comrades add up the surnames of other comrades who two or three years ago voted for one and the same resolution and then find it possible to say they have found a grouping, what is this? I categorically maintain that if the party were to live under the conditions of even minimally democratic centralism and not under the conditions of a distortion of such centralism, then we would not have the groupings which have stood still like photographs since 1921. We would then have a situation today where Sapronov and myself would say, group with Comrade Stalin or Zinoviev over the question of the State Planning Commission, tomorrow with Comrade Trotsky over the question of war and so on. Then a year of conscientious work would pass and groupings would again occur out of completely new people. That would be normal party life for us. I do not lose hope that it will become like that. But when we have a position where members of ideological groupings formed in the past are removed from party work—I shall not quote examples—I am the first—when they are not given the opportunity for resolving temporary alliances then this drives them into a grouping. This forcing of groupings takes place artificially and is dangerous.

The next question. Comrade Zinoviev in his report at Presnya and in his speech here gave for 15 minutes with an exceptionally feminine logic—with apologies to the female section of my audience —two entirely contradictory formulations of the manner in which one can criticise the Central Committee. He said that, of course, the Central Committee is not afraid of being criticized and that it will find the means to reply since it feels sure of its correctness. But then he said: ‘Yes, the Central Committee has begun to be criticized, it is said that things are OK with foreign policy, bad in the economy while the course inside the party has been taken wrongly.’ Well, what’s all this? If we find that errors have been made in the economy—and that’s a fact—and that there has been a mistake in the sphere of the inner-party course that the Central Committee itself admits, then why can one not speak about it? But when we do speak about it then it turns out that this is supposedly undermining the foundations of the Central Committee and even threatening Soviet power.

On the third day following the appearance of the Politburo document we saw such a nervousness on the part of Central Committee members almost as if they could not endure such criticism. So that it now appears that this document has to be defended from themselves. I agree that we can specify precisely the permissible range of our criticism. We are also agreeable to greater restrictions in the tone. Comrade Zinoviev says that the tone must be appropriate without being too high-pitched. I doubt whether Comrade Zinoviev’s tone has ever been more subdued than ours. This we well know from 1921 when Comrade Zinoviev was defending democracy. We can agree that the tone must be calmer and that we must not return to the manners of the trade union discussion of 1921. But it is quite impossible to settle such a serious matter without precise definitions of what we are talking about and by making some insinuations against someone without mentioning names, playing hide-and-seek with the party, And all this in order to prevent groupings in the party!

The party fears above all not a crisis in marketing, nor a sharpening of the economic situation; it fears above all a violation of its unity, so of course to intimidate it with this prospect sometimes means to gain by making a speech in defence of the Central Committee. But as the party comes to understand better what the question is, it will not allow itself to be frightened by spectres. We have a right to demand specific indications—whom are you accusing and what are you accusing them of (Voice: ‘But whom are you accusing?’). I am accusing all the comrades on the Central Committee who frighten the party with the possibility of a split and factional groupings which do not exist. They do not and will not exist under a normal régime in our party. (Applause .) Comrade Kamenev said here that it was impermissible to set one section of the party against another. But isn’t he setting one section of the party against another for didn’t he say that there were people undermining the foundation stone of the party edifice. But who is doing this? You must speak concretely. Who and when? I do not belong to the Democratic Centralism group and never have done. But if comrades speak out publicly before the party and defend their viewpoint what is the result? The party has rejected and will continue to reject resolutions which do not suit it. So why conduct a system of incitement and intimidation in relation to those comrades who merged with the minority at the congress. The party must move away from this regime as soon as possible. On this point we must deal a decisive rebuff quite calmly and firmly. There are no conflagrations and no one proposes any destruction of the apparatus.

Re-elections are proposed when appointed officers do not respond to the moods and desires of the masses and do not enjoy the confidence of the electors. There is no need to scare people that we are smashing the apparatus or that we are going our own way and forming some group. I was recently talking to one member of the Politburo—I don’t want to mention his name—who in answer to my question, why scare us with factions, expressed his apprehension that one day in the future a faction could be formed which would take shape out of such and such elements. Let me ask: if you think that a faction might take shape in 1933 then surely in 1923, now that the Politburo document has been published, you must raise a shout about this.

We today have a definite right to criticism of the Central Committee. It is subject to criticism and we must discuss it and criticize it in a calm and business-like way. If we are intimidated y the prospect of a split, we cannot discuss in a business-like way but only transfer the question to the sterile soil of a defence of the right to discussion. I agree with Comrade Radek that the fundamental questions of the future will be economic questions: the party line with regard to the New Economic Policy, the regulations of trade, planned economy and the level of wages.

These problems are surfacing before us and we have to consider them cooly and calmly, bearing in mind the predicament we find ourselves in. I consider that as long as Comrade Kamenev can give a lecture where he said that Leninism was menaced with some danger (for which Comrade Radek quite rightly put Comrade Kamenev in his place, which was his service to this meeting), and as long as Comrade Kamenev forgets about the shortcomings of the apparatus but concentrates everything on his first point, I have to say that we will not begin to implement his Politburo resolution but will in effect mark time and just have a fresh discussion on groupings and the bounds of criticism. But meanwhile we have to pass from consideration of the question of workers’ democracy to the urgent tasks among which are problems that in some instances worry communist workers in close contact with the masses far more than the discussion on workers’ democracy that we have started. (Applause .)

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Last updated on 16 April 2007