Documents of the 1923 opposition

4 The Moscow Provincial Conference January 10-11 1924

The Moscow party meeting of December 11, 1923, had ended by merely passing a formal motion of support for the December 5 resolution on inner-party democracy and party unity. In the same day Trotsky’s letter to party meetings of December 8 was reprinted in Pravda (see The New Course pp. 68-74). Now, however, the leading triumvirate of Zinoviev, Kamenev and Stalin was forced to make a sharp change of tactic in its struggle to defeat the Opposition. Stalin, who hitherto had been occupied principally in backstage moves against supporters of Trotsky and the Opposition, now produced a long Pravda article (December 15) where he claimed that the Opposition was already virtually defeated, He violently condemned the 46 Opposition leaders who, he maintained, had constituted a bloc of ‘Left Communists’ (Bukharin and Pyatakov’s 1918 group which had opposed the Brest peace with Germany) and ‘Democratic Centralists’ (Sapronov’s 1921 group). His most significant move, however, was to make an attempt to discredit Trotsky by exploiting for the first time the fact that the latter had only joined the Bolshevik Party in, August 1917. Zinoviev followed suit and ascribed Trotsky’s attack on the party apparatus to Menshevism and ‘Trotskyism’. The public debate in Pravda was brought to a close while throughout Russia party meetings were staged where Trotsky was openly condemned for supposedly violating the unanimity of the Politburo’s December 5 resolution by forming a bloc with the 46, Nevertheless Trotsky deepened his attack on party bureaucratism in his articles ‘On Groupings and Factional Formations’ and ‘The Question of Party Generations’ which appeared in Pravda at the end of December 1923. (See The New Course , pp. 18-27, 4-11). At the same time Bukharin, who had not so far taken a clear stand in the struggle, openly allied himself with the triumvirate. He published a long article which listed Trotsky’s past differences with Lenin on a number of issues in an attempt to prove Trotsky’s consistent ‘deviation’ from Leninism.

While mouthing these increasingly scurrilous accusations against Trotsky and the Opposition the triumvirate was mobilizing the apparatus for a party conference which would inflict a formal defeat on Trotsky and the Opposition and thereby proscribe their activity in the party. Immediately prior to this all-Russian conference, a Moscow Provincial Party Conference was held on January 10 and 11, 1924. Here the Opposition could, despite the triumvirate’s now hysterical campaign, still count on support from a fifth of the delegates. Preobrazhensky made the leading speech for the Opposition.

Preobrazhensky’s speech

Comrades, from a tactical point of view Comrade Kamenev cast his speech quite correctly. He went over to the attack and thus defended himself by means of an attack. That, of course, is the best means of covering up all the errors committed by the Central Committee over the past year while attempting to put before the party all those alleged errors committed by the opposition. However, I must tell you here and now that you have to look at the Central Committee’s errors in a true light.

Here I shall depict the history of our struggle for workers’ democracy somewhat differently from the way in which Comrade Kamenev depicted it and, above all, I must, and we all must, call on party members to take a most serious and thoughtful attitude towards the central and basic question—the question of what period our party is passing through at the present moment and what stage of development our Soviet economy is passing through. If we flinch from examining this question we shall not understand why our party suddenly found itself during September, November and December of last year in a state of violent internal polemic. Nor shall we understand what is confronting us in the very near future. Comrade Kamenev did flinch from examining this question because such an examination, which is far more important than a load of trifles, would make Comrade Kamenev’s conclusions basically incorrect and his proposals dangerous. What he proposes here on behalf of the Central Committee, what he proposes as fundamental measures, can only break up the party instead of strengthening it and I can demonstrate this to you upon the basis of the facts that we have accumulated over the recent period.

Comrade Kamenev commenced his history of the question from the statement of the 46 and I too shall begin with this proposal of the 46. To assist us to form a judgement as to whether we acted correctly by coming out with this proposal to the Politburo the superficial and absolutely frivolous analysis of the current situation that Comrade Kamenev made is entirely inadequate. We produced a definite proposal addressed to the Central Committee of the party. We are being asked: do you support the accusation presented to the Central Committee or not? We reply to this question: in the first place, in our document of the 46 we pointed to the gradual dying away of the life of our organizations, the separation from the masses and the fact that all this occurred due largely to the faulty course taken by the Central Committee. We demanded a transition to workers’ democracy. That was one point. The second and fundamental point was the lack of planning and system in the Central Committee’s economic policy. On this score the characterization of this policy included in our document was wholly realistic for we advanced the demand for planning and drew attention to the non-implementation of the resolutions of the 12th Party Congress.

So what happened then? I’ve already told you here that while coming out with such (and we completely agree with you on this) weighty accusations against the party’s Central Committee we nevertheless stated from the very outset that as far as we were concerned the question was in no way one of changing individuals, but of changing the line; indeed the document of the 46 ended with roughly the following words: we propose to the Central Committee the healthiest way out of the situation that has arisen. We see such a way out in your (the Politburo) calling a plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission to discuss, together with comrades signing this document, the situation that has developed.

Thus we were not by any means appealing to the party membership. The fact that we addressed the Politburo with a proposal to call a plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission quite plainly testifies to the fact that in that period—the period of the development and broadening of the German revolution, a period of the possibility of imminent battles in Germany—we did not consider it possible to put forward this question for consideration by the whole party. In order to collect the signatures of the 46 it was necessary, of course, for a limited number of comrades to read the document, but there was absolutely nothing wrong in this because the party’s course permits no other outlet or means of expressing one’s opinion. So we turned to the Politburo of the Central Committee; we demanded that it call a plenum of the Central Committee to consider the situation that had arisen. Consequently, in spite of the gravity of the charges made against the Central Committee—but nonetheless quite rightly made—and while taking stock of the whole situation, we addressed ourselves to the same Central Committee with a proposal to resolve the matter by means of a joint comradely discussion so that all this would be settled by the Central Committee itself without bringing it out into a party discussion.

Here the Central Committee made its first mistake besides those it had made previously and which I shall speak about in another connection. This mistake consisted in the fact that at the plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission that we had wanted to be called for a joint comradely discussion, we spoke as if inside a hostile camp in which we were regarded as people spreading disorganization. On behalf of the signatories of the document I made a proposal set out in six points, but it was not even considered. This was the Central Committee’s crassest mistake. I remark on it here because if a policy of such an attitude towards particular layers of our party which express an opinion not in accordance with the Central Committee majority continues any further it will be dangerous for the party and threaten harmful consequences. Today when we do not have Lenin’s leadership this sort of policy aggravates the danger many times.

Now I shall deal with the essence of what Comrade Kamenev said. He said: you represent an unprincipled opposition. Let us see how things stand in actual fact on the transition to workers’ democracy. We put this demand forward in a very sharp form, a form entirely justified by the situation existing inside our party. The Central Committee replied in its document of December 5; none of you think of course, and it would be laughable to think, that this document appeared as a result of the document of October 15 signed by the 46. That document of the 46 was but one of the elements of the manifestation of party and public opinion which exercised a definite pressure on our party’s Central Committee.

But a far stronger impression was made on the Central Committee by the scenes that took place within our party in Moscow and after Central Committee member Comrade Zinoviev at the Sverdlov University, Comrade Stalin at a meeting of Presnya party workers, and Comrade Kamenev at a meeting in the Bauman district (which had submitted its own resolution before the Politburo’s one of December 5) had all seen the mood of these organizations. From all these facts and in the end from what was written in Pravda from the provinces—and you will know that 90 per cent of these articles were directed against the old course —the Central Committee reckoned that the situation was alarming and that a rapid and immediate turn was vital and this was made in the resolution of December 5.

Thus the Central Committee itself had undertaken formally to realize what we in our statement of the 46 had demanded in respect of a transition to workers’ democracy. Therefore when Comrade Kamenev says here: just where are your principles? you are an unprincipled opposition, we reply that it is not we who have renounced our old demands for workers’ democracy but the Central Committee which has renounced the old course of party policy. This is the foundation of what took place and if we really want to look closely into what has taken place can we come forward on to this platform on behalf of the Central Committee and erase this fact that stares us in the face from the party’s history? Surely when any most rank-and-file member of our Communist Party privately ponders what has happened he can understand the situation for himself? Then came the document of December 5. The Central Committee’s abandonment of the old course took place in an atmosphere other than we had proposed to the Central Committee. At the plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission we had proposed that this turn be made from the top without waiting for a party discussion and notwithstanding the developing events in Germany because our party had to achieve the maximum unanimity. The Central Committee had declined to hold talks with us. It had put before us a saccharine resolution of condemnation which was essentially a condemnation of our basic position in relation to workers’ democracy in the party and planning in our economy. Shortly afterwards, however, the Central Committee had to go back on its refusal, but now in a worse situation for the Central Committee when our party had already become uneasy in its most advanced centres. Under pressure from below the Central Committee made certain concessions. And in this state of affairs wise sociologists come out and declare that an opposition has appeared which is stirring up the party.

Thus on the first question—the Central Committee’s renunciation of the old course of party policy—it has to be said that it did this belatedly and that was its mistake. But the Central Committee nevertheless has made this turn and thus made a special platform four-fifths unnecessary for us. For it would have been completely absurd on our part to invent demands which we do not consider can be proposed to the party: that would indeed have been an unprincipled bankrupt opposition. But in this way both the party and ourselves have gained on this fundamental point.

The second question relates to the transition to planning. In our document we very sharply attacked the lack of planning, lack of system and lack of forethought in the measures of the party’s Central Committee. In respect of the past this characterization was absolutely correct. There is no opportunity to prove this correctness in one speech at one meeting. We have yet to produce a series of documents where all this will be fully developed. Nevertheless there is no doubt and it is clear to everyone that the resolution on planning, which was the central question of our state industry during the 12th Congress, had not been implemented and I must say that those of us who read the Central Committee’s document in reply to Comrade Trotsky’s letter will remember one point that engrained itself in my memory as an absolutely inadmissible point. The point was made there that what was essential in the resolution of the 12th Congress was more or less carried out while what was ill-conceived and incorrect was not implemented.

Well what do you think of that? It was, alter all, a resolution of a party congress. In their polemics with Comrade Trotsky the comrades have forgotten that from the moment a resolution is adopted by the Congress it is at once a Congress resolution and a party resolution. You can’t treat it like you can a private individual letter that Comrade Trotsky sends to the Central Committee. Can you really treat party decisions in this? Is suck an attitude by the party towards its highest organ, the party congress, possible? This is what things have come to and largely thanks to the insufficient sense of responsibility on the part of the majority of Central Committee members on a whole number of questions. So on this point we have to reply that we have indicated to the Central Committee a whole number of errors in its past work. They can and in part indeed have already been proved. The crisis now taking place broadly bears out the past errors of the Central Committee. Its theses say on this question that it is going back to the 12th Party Congress resolution without answering the question as to why this resolution had not been carried out. Similarly, on the second point that we raised in making our charges, the Central Committee, while moving in the direction it should—the direction of planning—did so belatedly and gave no formal or any other sort of explanation as to why it had not carried out the 12th Congress resolution.

While frequently mentioning the name of Comrade Lenin and attempting to imitate him, comrades of the Central Committee do not adhere to Lenin’s tactics in this matter. At every congress and every conference Lenin would always speak quite frankly and fearlessly about errors made by the party, sometimes even exaggerating them with the educational purpose of more strongly impressing them and the need for their correction during the year following the congress. Zinoviev, Kamenev and other comrades do not adhere to this rule of Vladimir Ilyich’s. Instead of saying bluntly and boldly that on questions of workers’ democracy and other questions the Central Committee has made a turn and then proceed to admit and correct the mistakes it had made earlier, Comrade Kamenev picks on the opposition as his target and starts to open fire so that everyone can see the shooting, get absorbed in it and not notice the reason why this shooting is taking place, what the essence of the mistakes is and not notice that this turn was in fact made by the Central Committee itself, thus acknowledging the incorrectness of its past policy. Therefore on this point in Comrade Kamenev’s report, I think that he is impermissibly pulling wool over the party’s eyes. We must restore the truth as it is and I maintain that Comrade Lenin would not make his report in such a fashion in such a crucial period as our party is now passing through.

Let me go further. The document of December 5 made its appearance. We acknowledge it to be correct and we write in all our resolutions ‘We welcome the document . . .’ And although we had partial amendments we would not put them forward here, because for us the important thing is to implement what the Politburo has unanimously agreed upon and the whole party has approved; therefore we did not put forward anything here but welcomed this document and said only that we must put it into practice in good faith and to the best of our abilities. That is what our position has been on this question, although, of course, it is clear that while welcoming this document, we cannot, like Ivan Forgetfuls, forget what has been. Nor can we fail to express our fears for the future if the renewal of the party apparatus that will guarantee that this document put into practice does not materialize. For in the same document the necessity is stressed of a systematic renewal of the apparatus and the election of such comrades as can sincerely implement this document. We had put forward this idea, but were subjected to the most furious attacks because we criticized the past work of the Central Committee.

But how could we not criticize? If the Central Committee is answerable for its work from one congress to the next and if there have been mistakes in its past, then we have to criticize them so as to prevent these mistakes in the future.

Now on the question of economic policy. I shall come, on to this question in more detail later when I will deal with the essence of it. Here for the record I must just sketch how the Central Committee has made this turn belatedly too. The Central Committee’s resolution on the economic question was broadly acceptable, but it did not make the turn towards planning sufficiently firm and all the speeches by Central Committee members only confirm our fears that as regards planning everything, by and large, will remain in the old way. The sharpest confirmation of this is provided by Comrade Zinoviev’s speech at Sokolniki where he communicated his completely new discovery to the party. It turns out that to insist on planning, as we are doing at present, is a deviation towards Menshevism and the Second International and he expanded on this idea while maintaining that on all these questions of inner-party policy he was a 96-carat defender of Leninism. Such an attitude towards planning is not 96-carat Leninism but 96-carat trash.

One can be inexpert in economic questions and one can speak in general phrases about the chervonets [The chervonets was a new unit of currency introduced in the Soviet Union in 1922 whose par was ten gold roubles. It was thus an attempt to establish a ‘hard’ gold-backed currency to finance foreign trade. It went out of circulation in the 1930s.] without grasping the essence of the matter, but when we are presented with this sort of thing, which reveals a total ignorance of the nature of our economy and the tendency of its development at the present stage, this gives birth to our fears. What sort of transition to planning that the resolution speaks of is this? For all the contributions made by speakers strike against the bureaucratic and contrived nature of a plan and so on. But not a word has been said in defence of plan which has been proposed. Those then are the conditions in which the Central Committee has made its turn towards planning. This is the principle and central point. When the arguments are set out in this way striking more against a plan in general than the plan in the present conditions; when we hear such speeches, doubts creep naturally into our minds: is this just a formal turn and will things in effect remain in the old way? Therefore it is to this question that the greater part of the amendments we shall propose refer.

That’s our position on the economic question.

Polemicists are coming forward from the Central Committee to devote four-fifths of their speeches to polemics against the Opposition rather than to the Central Committee’s report. When polemicists and publicists come forward here from the Central Committee and say that the Opposition has abandoned its platform, the party and ourselves say: and a good thing too! We do not want a platform. For if some group is forced to present a platform, then it means that all is not well. The normal situation must be: a single line, a single programme, a single tactic and a single set of measures for the immediate future with business-like disagreements only within the bounds of this common line. But when it is a matter of a general turn of the rudder, such disagreements can be very sharp and it is a good thing if comrades accept that three-quarters of the disagreements can be removed. That is a good thing for the party.

Yet now they say to us: Where have you landed yourself? You’ve slipped up by approving the Central Committee’s platform—and so on. But can you really treat the party like this? It would have been a misfortune if the Central Committee document of December 5 had not provided an economic platform. That would indeed have signified the necessity for a struggle by platforms. But instead of correctly setting out the situation, Comrade Kamenev presents a report unworthy of a Central Committee reporter with a malicious polemical glee over the fact that we haven’t a platform. Comrade Lenin would not have allowed this on such occasions and we therefore condemn the Central Committee for this.

And now the next question. When our discussion began, what was the attitude taken by the Central Committee towards it from the very outset until recent times? Here it is very useful to recall how Comrade Lenin behaved in analogous situations.

During the controversies over collegiate management a meeting of leading party workers was convened in Moscow where Comrade Tomsky gained an overwhelming majority and Comrade Lenin, I think, had only six votes. What did Comrade Lenin do then? Did he get into a panic? Did he publicly accuse Tomsky of a Menshevik deviation on this question on the pages of Pravda ? By no means. He knew very well that the party would dispute the question and in the end arrive at a correct opinion. That was the party leader’s attitude to differences; they must be put before the party for consideration so that it can calmly work the whole matter over.

Moreover these are not the only differences that we have had. There were very substantial disagreements over the trade union question (although, as it turned out, we were not arguing about trade unions at all). If you look over again what we wrote, then you will see that we said a great deal and that there were many mistakes on both sides and so on. But even if you take the sharpest outbursts in that controversy you will not find us accusing each other of the things Central Committee representatives accuse the Opposition of at the present moment. Why? Because despite the fact that conditions were then a thousand times harsher—we were changing over from wartime to peacetime work with considerable vacillations among the peasantry—the majority did not permit themselves what they permit today. The Central Committee has now flown into a panic, launching an artillery barrage against us that would only make sense if it was a question of expelling ourselves and Comrade Trotsky from the party. But if this is not the case, it is all the product of a panic and a product of the fact that the Central Committee is extremely fearful of losing Moscow especially and as a result committed the greatest mistakes.

How is the present struggle being conducted? If we look at the tone that Pravda adopted from the very beginning which brought alarm to the provinces and consolation to White Guard circles (doesn’t this have the smell of a split? they must be saying), we have to say: you are not displaying the coolness that Comrade Lenin always exhibited when the party was re-checking any questions. Comrade Lenin would never allow himself to run down comrades who had advocated the solutions some of which have now been adopted and carried out; he would never adopt such a splitting tone towards an Opposition that comprises one-third of the comrades elected in all the districts of Moscow and over a fifth of the voting delegates. You cannot treat such a serious tendency in the party in this way. You are not allowing us to examine calmly the problems that have arisen. I must here point out that the very gravest problems have arisen and that the party is faced with making a significant and important turn in relation to the New Economic Policy; here we have clearly to understand which direction we have to go in. But this discussion has seriously frightened the party which thinks that if we discuss the problems any further party unity may suffer for it fears more for party unity than anything else.

If what Comrade Bukharin said about the danger of a split being true then every party member can say that if the party’s unity is in jeopardy he will agree to renounce his opinions and march together. But if no split threatens, which in actual fact is the case, then the methods of our polemic must be different and Pravda must likewise be run differently for otherwise we have double-entry book-keeping where the accounts don’t tally.

Now to the question of why we are going over to workers’ democracy. Comrade Sokolnikov said at Sokolniki and repeated in the Zamoskvorechie district that the decision was ‘a sign of the worsening of our position just as at the 10th Congress (1921) we had taken such a decision in response to vacillations and so on . . .’ But Comrade Zinoviev says that ‘we can permit ourselves workers’ democracy as both our internal and our international positions have improved both politically and economically’. But you can’t treat the party like this! Such contradictory reports typify the panic and disarray within the Central Committee.

You furthermore take me to task for the fact that before the document of December 5 I spoke in one tone and after in another. That is quite true because when you fight for something and you are given it, then afterwards you take a different attitude. We can see moreover that members of the Central Committee have taken fright and confused the party—which Comrade Lenin never did—and have not allowed the party to get to grips freely with the ultra-complex situation in which those populist speeches of Comrade Kamenev’s about the old peasant and the smychka [link between the countryside and the towns] are inadequate and a sound analysis of the situation is necessary. I therefore consider that this discussion has, thanks to the Central Committee’s policy, fallen apart. By intimidating the party with a danger of Menshevism and such like, the Central Committee wanted to remove an opportunity to understand the situation on the basis of the new course. What does this lead to? It leads to a situation where this policy can be regarded as nothing but a struggle against the new course, at a time when the new course has already been proclaimed and all this polemic has no objective justification.

Now the question of Comrade Trotsky. I should say that Comrade Trotsky can answer and stand up for himself better than anyone speaking here can and in this respect Comrade Kamenev would receive fully what he deserved. But, comrades, I must just say that you exhibit a monstrous ambiguity and inconsistency with regard to Comrade Trotsky.

On the one hand we are political bankrupts, an Opposition headed by Comrade Trotsky—let us note that down in the book. Secondly he has a deviation towards opportunism and Menshevism and thirdly he is fighting against the Bolshevik line within the party, i.e. he is a disorganizer of the Bolshevik ranks. Those are the three accusations made against Comrade Trotsky on the pages of the Press. But after that it is said that Comrade Trotsky is indispen-sable and that we cannot manage without him. Here is double book-keeping. If such accusations are true he must be expelled not only from the Politburo but also from the party, but if your accusations are untrue, then you are deceiving the party over this matter.

I submit that here we have double book-keeping and if Zinoviev and Kamenev come forward and make entirely conflicting speeches in the same cell on factions and the current crisis it simply won’t do. You are employing double book-keeping in front of the whole party and it hits everyone in the face. One thing or the other: either a struggle for a Bolshevik purity of line or not. For you must be consistent to the end.

We proposed that you did not disturb the party but you did not agree and so now you must answer fully for the step you have taken. We had expressed ourselves against the form of polemics that you adopted. Kamenev speaks about what was in Comrade Trotsky’s letter of December 8. There the question is posed ultra-cautiously. So who made this question the sharpest? The Central Committee did! Comrade Trotsky mentioned this twice to me. He said: ‘I can’t understand why, if they took such a serious view of my letter, they didn’t withhold it after it had been read to party meetings so that it wouldn’t be published’. The Politburo could have submitted its formal view on this question and that would have been most expedient from a political stand-point. But they said that an insult had been inflicted upon the old Bolshevik guard: let us allow that this was so, but then surely the Central Committee majority should not have argued like the insulted and injured, as recipients of an insult, but as the leaders of the party., They should have thought: what is the most profitable way out of this situation? It ought to have been seen by the party to have overcome this situation by means of a formal decision on the question by the Central Committee of the party. We have always had differences within the limits of our programme and under a normal regime there will always be an opposition in the party but these controversies are brought out.

All this has taken place spontaneously, the prestige of the Central Committee has diminished and that is the principal capital of our whole party and we would not concern ourselves with fluctuations in the Central Committee’s prestige without good reason.

We accuse the Central Committee of being the first to transplant these questions on to the soil of personalities. If they tell us that this was a tactical measure, then nothing worse could have been conceived because this sort of polemic helps to hamper the party’s understanding of the complexity of the situation that has come about.

Errors have been committed. The first error was made over our course in inner-party policy. Comrade Kamenev says: ‘Yes, I agree that we were a month late.’ We must ask you, Comrade Kamenev: From what point do you count this month? If you are counting from December 5 then such a reckoning blatantly contradicts all the documents you have quoted. If you accept Stalin’s version when he said that the July strike had already shown the loss of contact with the workers you have to count from July, then on your admission you have four months. But if you add on what Comrade Kamenev said it means you are all of five months late.

We maintain that such a crisis could not have matured in the space of a month. Such a process requires a prolonged period. Your error lies in that from the moment that we could have changed our course under the New Economic Policy or at least not harden the old course but remain in the position as it was at the 11th Party Congress (1922), the Central Committee tended towards reinforcing the old course and as a result made a number of mistakes which brought about the crisis. Therefore I categorically reject the assertion that it is a crisis within the party that we have.

We do have a crisis in the economy and that impelled us to give thought to many things, including the Central Committee’s policy. What we see within the party is not a crisis within the party, but a crisis of the old course. The Central Committee itself declares that there has been a delay. Today, then, we can see mistakes on the part of the Central Committee and we can also see there a nervousness and an irritability that Comrade Lenin would never have permitted himself.

Comrade Kamenev quite incorrectly expressed the Central Committee’s standpoint on how the party must deal with its Central Committee and within what limits it can be criticized without changing its majority. This is a highly important question on which 1 shall dwell a little and say that you cannot here make any analogy with a parliamentary government. We are told that if we are dissatisfied with the Central Committee we can replace it and build a completely new cabinet. In our party that is impossible and I shall show you why.

Comrade Kamenev says: ‘Since you make such a grave accusation against us and you adduce the measures of the Central Committee itself, what is the answer then? You consider that the leadership and the line have been wrong, but you don’t talk about personnel.’ Comrade Kamenev evidently does not understand how you can possibly criticize the Central Committee without posing the question of its membership. I beg your pardon, but there is a radical difference between our party which elects its Central Committee, checks on it and replaces and renews it when necessary, and a parliament that throws out a government when it doesn’t win a majority. These bourgeois norms are quite inapplicable to our party because we have leaders of our party who have developed over the course of 20 years and we cannot mix them up: if there are mistakes, we must criticize and correct the line. We used to have the leadership of Comrade Lenin—he played an exceptional role in our party—but if on some major question there was a divergence between Comrade Lenin and the majority of a party congress would there be any question for one moment of the party depriving itself of Comrade Lenin’s leadership? Nor could the congress renounce what it considered to be correct for the party to carry out. If such a situation arose, Comrade Lenin would have submitted because he was the most disciplined member of our party. If we had such a case here, where we were compelled to adopt a certain decision and it had to be carried out by comrades who had disagreed with it, then in our party it could not be any other way. If we found that at one particular moment the Central Committee’s line was wrong, we could not eject the Central Committee for this. We have to subject the Central Committee’s line to criticism and, where necessary, adjust it and establish how to carry out the line that the party congress finds to be correct.

The struggle for the new course inside our party began in the autumn of 1923. You may ask: What do we reflect in this inner-party crisis that the Central Committee is confronted with? What do we reflect in our discussion in which the whole of our party is now occupied? What are we immediately faced with in this respect? That is the basic and fundamental question. I entirely support Comrade Kamenev’s suggestion that a general formulation of the question be made, and although he did not carry through his suggestion on his side, I think that we must answer this basic question as Marxists and communists. What is it that we represent when we pursue this discussion at these meetings, what are we arguing over? I categorically reject the version that emanates from the Central Committee majority and is directed against us. This is to the effect that the Opposition reflects the influence of the NEP upon the youth which is demanding greater democratic freedom; it is also said that in ourselves we reflect a deviation in the party that underestimates the peasantry, and reflects the influence of Kulak (rich peasant) elements. A fourth version was developed by Bukharin who said that we reflect the struggle between two groups within the old Bolsheviks over the question of the education of the youth. We have a mass of different versions which wholly contradict one another and this in itself is proof of the fact that there is no clear understanding in the party itself, for it will never arrive at a correct description of what is taking place with contradictory analyses.

On the other hand we haven’t considered where the obstinate adherence of the Central Committee majority to the old course in inner-party policy and the old course in our social economic policy might lead to. On this question we have to say openly and frankly that great dangers will confront us should the party not make this turn which is now laid down decisively and within the limits dictated by existing conditions.

What then is the question here? In the sphere of economic and social relations we have the following process: our state economy is developing but our capitalist economy is also developing in parallel to this, Social accumulation in our state economy is proceeding less successfully than the accumulation of NEP capital. The latter is developing at such a colossal speed that a conflict ‘between these two forces and a serious struggle between these two formations in our economy is now under way. Thus a situation is being created fraught with great trials for our state economy.

If we are speaking of political lines, then the basic question is this: The line must be towards the development of the state economy, the transition to an organized system of accumulation and to the formation of another basic form of organization to counterpose to NEP (the peasant bloc). Otherwise we shall have an ever-rising development of capitalist tendencies in our state economy, an absorption of the latter into NEP and a growth of NEP accumulation. Here there can only be two lines: either one line towards a greater degree of socialist organization and a consolidation of our organism- relative to NEP, or a second line which will give us all the benefits of capitalist forms of economic organization. Following a period of lack of planning, during which NEP has developed with gigantic success, the Central Committee is making a turn towards the line of the greater planning, the socialist organization and the socialist accumulation that we have been speaking of. But if this turn is inadequate if our party’s recognition of the importance of this turning-point is insufficiently full, if we do not do everything that is ripe to be done in our economy and if we do not clarify everything that has been obscured in the Central Committee’s theses, then we shall have many dangers along this road. Therefore in all the platforms on this question it is this very point that is most fundamental. More socialist organization in the state economy and more stocktaking of what is happening in the sphere of NEP.

For nearly three years we have been living under the conditions of NEP. But only in the crisis that we are now passing through have we finally found time to add up what NEP has accomp-lished and what it has accumulated over this period. We cannot allow ourselves such a luxury in regard to our enemy. Just take a look at our military institutions and see how much effort they devote to studying their enemy. The link between NEP and the peasantry about which Kamenev has spoken and Lenin wrote is most dangerous to us for we have not as yet mana-ged to calculate the forces of NEP. We are doing this only in the course of the crisis and doing it quite haphazardly. This demonstrates that we are putting this problem before the party serious-ly enough and any further procrastination in this matter threatens us with grave dangers.

What then do we see ahead? We see, developing on the basis of NEP, two conflicting forces which have to wage a struggle for existence. In the period of the unplanned development of our forces we did not come into conflict with NEP. Now, when all the relationships in the economy have been stirred up and have settled down again, we can only win what we need by a struggle. We shall never accumulate in our socialist accumulation what NEP has accumu-lated from the workers and peasants of this country.. Thus we can see that contradictions are piling up here and the comrades who spoke for the majority of the Central Committee made no mention of this, the most important question, that in our cities a build-up of social contra-dictions is taking place, the power of the working class along with its initiative and its desire to understand; an anti-NEP mood is growing which reflects a far more important process than what we are depicting. As a result we can see an outgrowth of class contradictions in our cities and the increasing initiative of both classes. And if we are able to see this situation, then it is natural that such a mood passes over into the party.

Why are we unanimous about going over to a regime of workers’ democracy? We, as a party, reflect the processes developing in the working class. The working class feels the strength of the enemy which it can see in the shop windows, an enemy which lives in the same city as ourselves. This is a most important factor and when we speak about workers’ democracy it is a reflection of a process taking place in the working class in the present period of NEP in a situation of sharpening class relations but without a sharpened struggle. What’s the solution? If these contradictions continue to mount and we do not provide an answer through either the state or the party, we will have a spontaneous struggle and this will lead to chaos and so on. We have to reckon with this growth of anti-NEP moods in the working class and lay down a definite line in the economy and workers’ democracy. When we can move against NEP in an organized way we will be able to channel these anti-NEP feelings in the working class into a course of an organized struggle. If we temporize over this, by marking time with our lack of planning, we will allow events to unfold spontaneously at this crucial turning point.

This is how our controversy with the Central Committee stands at the present moment, If the Central Committee were to refuse to go over to workers’ democracy and to greater planning we would indeed have the breaking of a party crisis. It has dropped 80 per cent of the differences, but everything now depends on how correctly and consistently our line towards the planning of a socialist economy, towards a struggle against non-productive consumption by the bourgeoisie, and a greater squeeze on NEP is undertaken. It is from this standpoint too, that we must implement workers’ democracy. The more we draw non-party workers into our ranks, the more we can attract what we can assimilate into the party and the more our cells, which have during the previous course become cut off from the working masses, are welded together with the working class the better we shall be able to organize our apparatus and our state, which is based on this proletariat, and to wage this struggle against NEP. The more we delay with this process and mark time the more acutely an elemental force threatens to break through and what Comrade Lenin most feared will develop.

Therefore the further development of class contradictions that we foresee at present must be anticipated and reckoned with. We must respond to what we have taken account of in both our inner party and our economic policy. The party declares that we are faced with a most serious problem and that it is necessary to ensure that the struggle does not develop entirely spontaneously in forms where the NEP will prove stronger than us. That’s the basic problem and our differences take on a new significance in the light of this problem.

We represent that part of our party which reacted more truly against the old course, demanded a quicker turn and insisted, above all, that once we began to make the turn it had to be made as far as the objective necessity required. Central Committee comrades are both in the sphere of politics and in the sphere of the transition to planning; the future will depend on a solid, organized and unanimous implementation of this turn. Then the 20 per cent of differences that we still have will be removed by the subsequent development of our inner-party life. But if we mark time, both in the inner-party sphere and in the economic sphere and continue with the lack of planning that we have had in the past, these differences will grow because the social contradictions that have produced them inside the party will grow.

Thus we are faced with the task of carrying out the course we have set out fully and to the end. For this reason we are not counterposing any platforms to the Central Committee’s policy: we basically support the point that refers to planning. I do maintain though that we shall be able—and life will prove its necessity to the Central Committee—to implement it more decisively than it has been formulated and hitherto carried out. If this is not done, then we will have before us a struggle for this turn to planning and that would be a very wasteful way for the party to make this turn. When he made a turn, Comrade Lenin would say: ‘Not the second’s delay which will threaten danger; we will make the turn fully’. Now, when we are faced with danger, we must make our turn a full one. For when comrades latch on to the remnants of bureaucratism and the remnants of the old course and defend themselves by reference to the past history of our party they are upholding the automatism of their line, even if resorting to arguments that, taken individually, might ‘be convincing. They use them solely to justify a slower turn to the new course when there is no such justification.

Comrade Kamenev’s proposal which he made at the beginning of his speech to the effect that we must conduct a most tenacious ideological policy with regard to the Opposition, but that at the same time we must undertake virtually draconian measures against groupings, factions and so on, shows that the Central Committee majority, having already made one mistake by not immediately taking the course to workers’ democracy in October, is persisting in the same mistake during the discussion by inspiring panic. Now, when the party intends to come to grips with the crisis in its situation, it wants to go on making this mistake by threatening the party with a crisis, a split and so on (Applause ).

Biographical Notes

Sapronov, Timofei Vladimirovich (1887-1939). A house-painter by trade, Sapronov joined the revolutionary movement in 1911 and the Bolsheviks in 1912. Following the October Revolution he became Chairman of the Moscow Provincial Executive Committee of the Soviets. In 1918 he joined the ‘Left Communist’ group in the Party which was led by Bukharin, Radek, Osinsky and V. M. Smirnov which opposed the Brest-Litovsk peace in favour of a revolutionary war against Germany.

At the Ninth Party Congress in March 1920, Sapronov with Osinsky led the newly formed ‘Democratic Centralism’ group to pursue the opposition to increased power of economic managers and the system of one-man management of industry advocated by Lenin and the majority.

In October 1923, together with other ‘democratic centralists’ like Rafail, V. M. Smirnov, Bubnov, Boguslavsky and Osinsky, he joined forces with some of Trotsky’s close sympathizers (Preobrazhensky, Serebryakov, 1. N. Smirnov, Pyatakov and others) to submit the ‘Platform of the 46’ to the Politburo headed by Kamenev, Stalin and Zinoviev. He went on to play a prominent role in the struggle that this ‘1923 Opposition’ waged over the leadership’s economic policies and the growth of bureaucratism within the party. He supported Zinoviev’s ‘New Opposition’ of 1925, but while a number of former ‘democratic centralists’ subsequently joined the Joint (Trotsky-Zinoviev) Opposition of 19261927, Sapronov and 14 others submitted their own platform to the 15th Party Congress of December 1927. This platform described the Red Army as ‘an instrument for a Bonapartist coup’ and considered the Communist Party to have irreversibly degenerated at the hands of the Stalin leadership. This contrasted with Trotsky’s perspective at this time which was one of building the Left Opposition within the party to fight and overthrow the leading Stalin clique which had bureaucratically imposed centrist policies on the party leading to disastrous defeats and setbacks for the revolution both in the Soviet Union and abroad. At the 15th Congress Sapronov’s ‘Group of Fifteen’ was expelled from the party simultaneously with 75 leading members of the Joint Opposition and Sapronov was banished to the Crimea. He capitulated to the Stalinists only to be expelled again in October 1932. He died in prison in 1939.

Pyatakov, Yurii Leonidovich (1890-1937). Born the son of an engineering manufacturer, as a youth he was a member of various anarchist student circles from 1904 to 1910. He then joined the Bolsheviks being expelled shortly afterwards from St Petersburg University and exiled for revolutionary agitation. In 1912 he took part in re-establishing the Kiev Committee of the Bolsheviks, but was again arrested and exiled. In October 1914 he fled to Japan and from there reached Europe where he attended the Berne Conference of the Bolsheviks in February 1915 together with Lenin, Bukharin, Zinoviev and Krylenko. He supported Lenin on the war question but joined Bukharin in opposing Lenin’s defence of the right of nations to self-determination. He became chairman of the Kiev committee of the Bolsheviks after the February Revolution and during October was chairman of the Revolutionary Committee there. Following the revolution he was Commissar of the State Bank, but then undertook underground work in the Ukraine under German occupation. He supported Bukharin’s ‘left communist’ group which opposed the Brest peace in 1918. With the collapse of the Germans he became chairman of the provisional Ukrainian workers and peasants’ government formed at Kursk in November 1918, but was replaced by Rakovsky in the Kharkov-based Ukrainian Soviet government. He then belonged to the left wing of the Ukrainian Central Committee. From 1919 to 1921 he held various party posts in the Red Army, but after the Civil War was put in charge of the Donbass Coal Industry Board to rehabilitate the mines in the area. In the trade union controversy of 1920-1921 he supported Trotsky and Preobrazhensky favouring a stronger administrative function for the Soviet unions. In 1923 he was made deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of National Economy. The same year he was elected a full member of the Central Committee on which he remained until 1927. He was a leading member of the 1923 Opposition and in 1926 supported Trotsky in the Joint Opposition. During this period he was occupied in various important financial and industrial posts. He was removed from the Central Committee and expelled from the Communist Party at the 15th Congress in December 1927 and was exiled. He capitulated to Stalin in 1929 and was given successive posts in banking and industrial management, becoming deputy People’s Commissar for Heavy Industry in 1933. He was expelled from the party again in 1936, framed at the second Moscow Trial and executed as a ‘Trotskyite’ in January 1937.

Preobrazhensky, Evgenii Alexeevich (1886-1937). Joined the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party as a student in .1903 and soon supported the Bolshevik wing led by Lenin. He was active in party organizations in Moscow, the Urals and Eastern Siberia returning to the Urals during 1917 where he worked during the October Revolution. In 1918 he supported the Left Communist’ group headed by Bukharin and others which opposed the Brest-Litovsk peace and advocated a revolutionary war against Germany. During the Civil War (1918-1920) he was active mainly in party organizations on the Eastern Front. A talented economist and writer he was an editor of Pravda and undertook educational work. He was a member of the Central Committee from 1920 to 1921 and in the latter year he carne out in support of Trotsky and Bukharin’s policy of turning the trade unions into administrative organs in production. As chairman of the Financial Commission he in 1922 made a detailed but abortive plan to curb the rise of the rich peasantry and lay the basis for a socialist agriculture. His book From N.E.P. to Socialism , dates from this time. He was a principal signatory of the Platform of the 46 submitted to the Politburo in October 1923 attacking the leadership’s economic and inner-party policy. In Trotsky’s absence Preobrazhensky was to take the leading role in the 1923 Opposition’s struggle against the leading triumvirate of Kamenev, Stalin and Zinoviev. His book The New Economics (1926) expounds his ideas on the development of a socialist economy in Russia and struck against the ruling policies of Stalin and Bukharin. In 1926 he took a key part in the newly-formed Joint (Trotsky-Zinoviev) Opposition being, in October 1927 one of its first members to be expelled from the party. He ‘capitulated to Stalin in 1929, re-expelled in 1931 and arrested in 1935. He was however never brought to the show trial mounted in 1936 at which he was named as a defendant. He was generally assumed to have been executed in prison in 1937.

Table of Contents
Encyclopedia of Trotskyism |
Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 16 April 2007