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Since Lenin Died

Max Eastman

Since Lenin Died

Appendix IV:

Trotsky’s Letter to the Central Committee

THE following passages from Trotsky’s letter of October, 1923, to the Central Committee will give the reader a just idea of its tone, and the nature of his demand for a new course.

“One of the proposals of Comrade Djerzhinsky’s commission,” he began, “declares that we must make it obligatory for party members knowing about groupings in the party to communicate the fact to the GPU [the State police], the Central Committee and the Central Control Committee. It would seem that to inform the party organisations of the fact that its branches are being used by elements hostile to the party, is an obligation of party members so elementary that it ought not to be necessary to introduce a special resolution to that effect six years after the October revolution. The very demand for such a resolution is an extremely startling symptom alongside of others no less clear ... The demand for such a resolution means: (a) that illegal oppositional groups have been formed in the party, which may become dangerous to the revolution; (b) that there exist such states of mind in the party as to permit comrades knowing about such groups not to inform the party organisations. Both these facts testify to an extraordinary deterioration of the situation within the party from the time of the 12th convention [six months before] ...

“In the fiercest moment of war Communism, the system of appointment within the party did not have one-tenth of the extent that it has now. Appointment of the secretaries of provincial committees is now the rule. That creates for the secretary a position essentially independent of the local organisation ...

“The twelfth session of the party was conducted under the sign of democracy. Many of the speeches at that time spoken in defence of Workers’ Democracy seemed to me exaggerated, and to a considerable extent demagoguish, in view of the incompatibility of a fully developed Workers’ Democracy with the regime of dictatorship. But it was perfectly clear that the pressure of the period of war communism ought to give place to a more lively and broader party responsibility. However, this present regime, which began to form itself before the twelfth session, and which subsequently received its final reinforcement and formulation – [It all happened, that is to say, after the permanent withdrawal of Lenin. – M.E.] – is much farther from Workers’ Democracy than the regime of the fiercest period of war Communism. The bureaucratisation of the party apparatus has developed to unheard-of proportions by means of the method of secretarial selection ... There has been created a very broad strata of party workers, entering into the apparatus of the government of the party, who completely renounce their own party opinion, at least the open expression of it, as though assuming that the secretarial hierarchy is the apparatus which creates party opinion and party decisions. Beneath this strata, abstaining from their own opinions, there lies the broad mass of the party, before whom every decision stands in the form of a summons or a command. In this foundation-mass of the party there is an unusual amount of dissatisfaction ... This dissatisfaction does not dissipate itself by way of the open exchange of opinions at party meetings and by way of influence of the mass upon the party organisation (election of party committees, secretaries, etc.), but accumulates in secret and thus leads to interior strains.”

Since Lenin Died

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Last updated on: 12 October 2009