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Since Lenin Died

Max Eastman

Since Lenin Died

Appendix VII:

What Was Meant by “The Opposition”

THE “opposition” alluded to in the resolution of the Party Conference in January 1924, includes the forty-six signers of a letter to the Central Committee in October demanding a change of course, and anybody else who had anything to say in divergence from the course adopted by the Central Committee. To treat this phenomenon of widespread dissatisfaction in the party as though it were an organised body, and to state that Trotsky “stood at the head of it,” was perhaps the most exasperating trick in this whole campaign. Trotsky could not organise an opposition and stand at the head of it, because fractions are prohibited. He could merely define his position, and leave other dissatisfied people, responsible and irresponsible, to define theirs. “The opposition,” therefore, was not a single existent thing, but merely a generalisation. And this very resolution which accuses Trotsky of “standing at the head of” an opposition, and “issuing a fractionalist manifesto” – this same resolution denounces the “criticisms made by the opposition” for their inconsistency. Some of them want to “renounce the New Economic Policy,” it says, and some of them want to make “further concessions to capital.” In short, Trotsky is made responsible for all the opinions of an unorganised opposition, at the same time that he is forbidden to organise an opposition, and accused of organising it!

Stalin stated in a speech of January 20th that one of the “six mistakes of Comrade Trotsky” consisted in his “not stating clearly” for whom he stands – for the Central Committee or the “opposition.” Kamenev at the same time was ridiculing the “opposition” for having no “political line,” “no programme” – nothing but a “many-coloured tail.” It is obvious that the only way in which Trotsky, who was in his own way opposed to the majority of the Central Committee, could possibly make a choice between the Central Committee and an “opposition,” would be to select among the various and many-coloured oppositional groups those who agreed with him, give them a programme, and organise them into a real entity. But that would be fractionalism. Thus, what Stalin was accusing Trotsky of was not forming a fraction. He must have sensed the inconsistency of this accusation with the statement of the resolution that Trotsky “stood at the head of” an existing fraction, for in his speech at the party convention five months later he succeeded in forgetting this point in his indictment. The “six mistakes of Comrade Trotsky” were reduced to five.

Since Lenin Died

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