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Since Lenin Died

Max Eastman

Since Lenin Died

Chapter VII:
Zinoviev Creates A Panic

JUST as Stalin fell back upon brutality in order to beat Trotsky’s clear arguments, so Zinoviev fell back upon fear. Zinoviev called together a meeting of the Petrograd officials of the bureaucratised party, and told them to issue a cry of alarm stating that Trotsky had defied Leninism and attacked the unity of the party. In calling them the officials of a bureaucratised party, I am only following the statements of Zinoviev himself, written one month earlier in support of the resolution on Workers’ Democracy. I am only following the statement of that resolution. The one thing I add is that Zinoviev presided over the Petrograd branch of that bureaucratised party, and the only question that can be raised about my statement is to what extent was that party bureaucratised. And the extent of it may be inferred from the following fact: While the Moscow meeting of the same group of officials, presided over by Kamenev – who for some reason had not yet got in on the plan to destroy Trotsky – heard a friendly and temperate speech about Trotsky’s letter, passed a brief resolution supporting the programme of Workers’ Democracy, and went tranquilly home to bed, the Petrograd meeting, under instructions from Zinoviev, put forth a unanimous cry of fright that stampeded the whole Russian Communist Party, and produced a condition of intellectual mob-hysteria that lasted all winter, and went to such lengths that it seemed at times as though there was just one man in all Russia who had retained his emotional equilibrium, and that was Trotsky.

It is noticeable that Zinoviev, like Stalin, was in the beginning a little embarrassed by the facts. He began his speech by saying that he had heard of some “queer guys” who thought that Trotsky’s letter was really written in support of the resolution of the Politburo. And he dismissed these queer guys by telling them that Trotsky’s letter was “not at all clear,” it was “decidedly misty,” its language was “extremely in exact,” and these queer guys evidently did not understand it. A clearer piece of prose was never written. These introductory remarks were simply a confession by Zinoviev of the difficult job he had to do – namely, compel 3,000 people to believe, or pretend to believe, that Trotsky had meant what he had not said. I am not going to analyse the inconsequential old maid’s eloquence with which Zinoviev did this job. [1] The one seizable and unadulterated fact he adduced was that, in the far-off past, Trotsky had opposed the organisational platform of Bolshevism. He had been, to use the very careful words of Lenin, a “non-Bolshevik.” And in order to raise this historic ghost against Trotsky and start the cry of “Menshevik,” Zinoviev had to go back some five years beyond the time when he himself had been – to quote also the careful words of Lenin – a a “strike-breaker,” a “traitor,” a “deserter,” and a surrenderer to the bourgeoisie.

What I want to analyse is the formal indictment of Trotsky, obviously dictated by Zinoviev, and adopted by those 3,000 Petrograd party workers after he got through with his speech. [2] It begins, in substance, as follows:

“If Comrade Trotsky is solidary with the Central Committee – as one might assume on the basis of his voting for the resolution – how then can we understand his violation of its unanimity on the very day after his vote? ... The party can only spread out its hands in bewilderment when it reads in Comrade Trotsky’s letter an attack upon the direct disciples of Comrade Lenin, whom Comrade Trotsky compares with Edward Bernstein, Kautsky, Adler, Guesde and other Social Democratic leaders.”

That is the beginning of the indictment. Now go back and read the passage I quoted from Trotsky’s letter, and see if you can find anything in it about “the direct disciples of Lenin.” And if you want to realise the extent to which Zinoviev manipulated these party workers like automatons, let me tell you that this preposterous statement was adopted by a vote of 3,000 against five, with seven abstaining.

The resolution continues:

“If Comrade Trotsky seriously thus estimates the named (sic) disciples of Comrade Lenin, it was his duty not to adopt a resolution unanimously with them, but openly appear with an indictment before the whole party.”

In other words, the fact which makes it clear to a child’s intelligence that Trotsky did not mean to compare his colleagues in the Central Committee with Bernstein, etc., but that he meant what he said, is used to make his alleged comparison of them with Bernstein, etc., seem more insane and outrageous.

Before proceeding with Zinoviev’s attack, let us pause to consider this one point in isolation. There is no man in the world whose courtesy and delicacy in personal relations with his comrades has always been more striking than that of Trotsky. During the very height of this attack upon him, when wild slanders and abuse were flying about Russia like bombs in a battle, Trotsky sharply reproved a young Communist for speaking of Zinoviev by the name of “Grishka” – which is just equivalent to calling a person named Thomas W. Something-or-Other “Tommy.” That is an example of the almost quixotic delicacy of Trotsky’s conduct in the matter of personal relations with his comrades in the revolution. It has always been so, and it is known to everybody who knows Trotsky. His aesthetic, or, if you will, ethical elevation in such matters is painful. And his books, even the most polemical, are as clear of these dirty under-hints as a stream of spring water. Therefore you have the choice of believing that Stalin and Zinoviev are misrepresenting Trotsky, or that Trotsky has suddenly changed his character completely. And if you will consider all the facts which I have recounted up to this point, beginning with the time when Lenin urged Trotsky to take his place in the Government, and delegated to Trotsky the defence of their common policies against this same opposing group, and ending with the actual words of Trotsky in this very passage, which are as wise and tranquil as any ever written, you will concede, I think, that the former hypothesis is plausible and the latter is absurd.

The resolution of the Petrograd party workers continues:

“With a like heavy feeling we read further the wholesale arraignment against the party apparatus, the summons to dismiss the workers in the apparatus, the laying upon the party apparatus of the blame for the formation of fractions, and so forth.”

Let us ignore the “and so forth,” for Trotsky’s letter is very brief, and he can hardly have committed in that one letter all the sins that a reader might be able to think of. Let us take the first two of these actual accusations. Trotsky is accused of violating the unanimity of the Politburo by writing a “wholesale arraignment of the apparatus” and a “summons to dismiss the party workers.” [3] The unanimous resolution of the Politburo speaks in the following terms of the apparatus: It calls attention to a “noticeable bureaucratisation of the party apparatus and rising out of that the threat of separation of the party from the mass.” As a remedy to these evils, it demands “a serious change of the party course in the sense of an actual and systematic putting into operation of the principles of Workers’ Democracy.” It outlines these principles, and says that in order to guarantee their being carried into action,

“it is necessary to pass from words into action, proposing to the lower branches, the district, branch and provincial party conferences at the coming elections systematically to renew the party apparatus from below, advancing into responsible places such workers as are able to defend intra-party democracy in reality.”

It further states that

“an especially important task of the Control Commissions at the present moment is the struggle with bureaucratic perversions of the party apparatus and the party technique, and the bringing to justice of official persons who hinder the carrying into elect of the principles of Workers’ Democracy.”

Trotsky says in his letter:

“The renewal of the party apparatus – of course, within the strict limits of the constitution – ought to be carried out with a view to replacing the officialised and bureaucratised with fresh elements in close union with the collective life or capable of guaranteeing such a union. And first of all ought to be removed from the party positions those elements who at the first voice of criticism, of objection, of protest, are inclined to demand one’s party ticket for the purpose of repression. The new course ought to begin with this, that in the apparatus all should feel from bottom to top that nobody dares to terrorise the party ... Roughly, the task may be formulated thus: The party should subordinate to itself its apparatus, not ceasing for a moment to be a centralised organisation ... It is not necessary to say that the apparatus of the party, that is, its organisational skeleton, delivered of its self-sufficient narrowness, will not be weakened but strengthened. As to the fact that we need a powerful centralised apparatus in our party there can be no two opinions.”

To what extent has Trotsky violated the unanimity of the Politburo in his letter? The resolution of the Politburo demands the renewal of the apparatus from below, the advancing into responsible places of such workers as are able to defend Party Democracy in reality, the bringing to justice of those who refuse. Trotsky demands the removal of the bureaucratised and officialised, and their replacement by fresh elements from below. Can you advance new workers into responsible places without removing those who now occupy those places ? The whole party was agreed at this time that the apparatus should be, if anything, reduced rather than enlarged. Therefore there is no possible practical interpretation of the alleged difference here, except that Trotsky views the resolution as a thing to be put into operation, while Zinoviev and his obedient officials view it as a formula with which to quiet the rising agitation against their bureaucratic methods of control.

So much for Trotsky’s “wholesale arraignment” of the apparatus, his "summons to a removal” of the party workers. Now as to his “laying the blame on the apparatus for the formation of fractions.” Did he violate here the unanimity of the Politburo? If you will remember what I told you about the origin of this whole discussion – the discovery of two conspirative organisations among the members of the party – you will realise that laying the blame for the formation of fractions upon the bureaucratism of the apparatus, was the whole sense and meaning of the resolution onWorkers’ Democracy. And that sense and meaning was expressed in the resolution itself in the following words:

“Workers’ Democracy means freedom of open discussion by all the members of the party of the most important questions of party life, freedom of discussion upon them, and also the election of the governing official persons and collegiums from top to bottom. However, it does not by any means propose freedom of fractional groupings, which for a governing party are extremely dangerous, for they always threaten a bifurcation or splitting apart of the Government and the State apparatus as a whole ...

Only a continual, lively, intellectual life can preserve the party such as it was formed before and during the revolution, with a continual critical study of its own past, correction of its errors and collective consideration of important questions. Only these methods of work are capable of giving a real guarantee against the danger that passing disagreements will convert themselves into fractional groupings, with all the consequences indicated above[4]

For the prevention of this, it is demanded that the governing party organs listen to the voice of the broad party mass, and that they should not treat every criticism as a manifestation of fractionalism, and thus impel conscientious and disciplined party members along the road of secrecy and fractionalism.”

That is the manner in which the unanimous resolution of the Politburo discusses the relation of the conduct of the “governing party organs” – that is, the apparatus – to the danger of the formation of fractions.

And here is Trotsky’s “violation” of that unanimity:

“Yes, the party could not fulfil its historic mission if it fell apart into fractional groupings. That must not, and will not be. The party as a whole, as a self-active collectivity, will prevent that. But the party can wrestle successfully with the danger of fractions only by developing, strengthening and making durable the course toward Workers’ Democracy. The bureaucratism of the apparatus is one of the chief sources of fractionalism. It suppresses criticism and drives dissatisfaction underground. It is inclined to tack the label of fractionalism upon every individual or collective voice of criticism or warning. Mechanical centralism is inevitablyaccompanied by fractionalism, which is at once a malicious caricature of Workers’ Democracy, and a terrible political danger.”

What is the difference here? The resolution of the Politburo declares that an abandonment of bureaucratic methods and an adoption of Workers’ Democracy is the only thing that can prevent fractions. Trotsky says that bureaucratic methods and the lack of Workers’ Democracy is one of the chief causes of their formation. In other words, there is no difference at all. The statement that Trotsky has violated the unanimity of the resolution of the Politburo under this item is a false statement. Why did 3,000 party workers, agitated by a speech from Zinoviev, put their names to this statement, which is obviously false? Because their excessive and “self-sufficient” power, like his, is bound up in the perpetuation of that bureaucratic regime whichthe resolution of the Politburo, as sincerely interpreted by Trotsky, would abolish.

And yet that bureaucratic regime was already so perfected that in one month after the promulgation of this obviously false statement, a conference of party officials called together by the triumvirate for that purpose, adopted a solemn resolution branding Trotsky’s letter as a “fractionalist manifesto,” and beginning its indictment of him with the statement that “The opposition, [5] with Comrade Trotsky at the head of it, has given the slogan ‘Destruction of the Apparatus of the Party.’” That is the resolution which first placed Trotsky before the party and before the whole world as intrinsically a Menshevik and an enemy of “Leninism.” Lenin died three days after the adoption of that resolution. Do you think it is surprising if Lenin’s wife wrote an affectionate letter to Trotsky, reminding him of his early friendship with Lenin, and assuring him that Lenin’s feeling toward him had never changed to the day of his death?

The reader may find it almost incredible that a conference of grown-up people could adopt such a resolution upon such a basis. He will surely imagine I have omitted, or failed to notice, some factor of importance here. I will give him, therefore, two more examples of the intellectual elevation of the arguments by which the conference was worked up to this action. The first from Bucharin: [6]

“Bolshevism has always valued very highly, and still values very highly, the party apparatus. This does not say that it would be blind to the point of not seeing the weaknesses of the apparatus, including its bureaucratism. However, Bolshevism, that is to say, Leninism, has never contrasted the party with the apparatus. That would be, from the Bolshevik point of view, absolute ignorance, for there is no party without its apparatus. Remove the apparatus, and you will see the party transform itself into an incoherent conglomeration of human masses ...”

Can anything more childish than this be imagined? Is it possible to “see the weaknesses of the apparatus, including its bureaucratisation,” and discuss them, without using sentences in which the apparatus and the party are contrasted? And does not the resolution of the Politburo contrast them in exactly the same way and to the same effect as Trotsky? Trotsky explicitly says in his letter that what he is trying to avoid is “an alienation between the apparatus and the mass.”

Now the argument of Stalin:

“The third mistake committed by Comrade Trotsky consists in the fact that in his writings he contrasted the apparatus with the party, giving the slogan of struggle with the Apparatchiks [the organisation men, as we should say], and the subjection of the apparatus to the party. Bolshevism cannot accept a contrasting of the party and the apparatus. Of what does the apparatus in reality consist? The apparatus of the party – that is the Central Committee, the Regional Committees, the Provincial Committees, and the District Committees. Are these committees subordinated to the party? Of course they are subordinated, for they are 90 per cent, elected by the party. They are wrong who say that the Provincial Committees are appointed. They are wrong. You know, Comrades, that our Provincial Committees are elected, just like the District Committees, just like the Central Committee. They are subordinated to the party, but after they are elected they ought to lead the party – that is the point. Imagine the work of the party if after the Central Committee was elected by the conventions, after the Provincial Committee was elected by the Provincial Conference, the Central Committee and the Provincial Committee did not conduct the work. Why, without that our party work is completely unthinkable!” [7]

Could anything be more obviously disingenuous than this indignant driving home of the obvious? Stalin has signed with Trotsky a resolution demanding that “the district, branch, and provincial party conferences at the coming elections shall systematically renew the party apparatus from below, advancing into responsible places such workers as are able to defend intra-party democracy in reality.” Trotsky, in commenting on that resolution, has declared that “the renewal of the party apparatus – of course, within the strict limits of the constitution – ought to be carried out with the goal of replacing the officialised and bureaucratised with fresh elements in close union with the collective life or capable of guaranteeing such union ... The party ought to subordinate to itself its apparatus, not for a moment ceasing to be a centralised organisation.” And Stalin pretends that Trotsky has attacked the principle of centralisation, has advocated a struggle against the apparatus as such, an attempt of the party membership to defy the leadership of the very men they have elected! Why does Stalin attribute to Trotsky an absurdity that would be rejected by the logical instinct of an unborn child? Because he is driven into a corner from which he cannot get out by any more honest or any more plausible method. He has signed a resolution demanding the renewal of the apparatus from below, and a real renewal of the apparatus from below will take his artificial power out of his hand, and give to Trotsky the influence which belongs to him. It is perfectly obvious that Trotsky is demanding nothing but a real renewal of the apparatus from below. And it is obvious that in defining his demand, he has been extremely prudent and careful to safeguard the organisational principles of Lenin. There is no way to beat him, therefore, except to deliberately and flatly falsify what he has said. And that is what Stalin does, and that is what the resolution of the conference of party officials, called together and whipped into an intellectual panic by Stalin and Zinoviev and Kamenev and their lieutenants, does. That is the only and the whole meaning of the statement of this conference that Trotsky has “given the slogan, ‘Destruction of the Apparatus of theParty.’”


To return to the manifesto issued by the Petrograd party workers. It prolongs its cry of fright as follows:

“We read with alarm the lines of Comrade Trotsky which attempt to set the youth against the fundamental generation of old revolutionist Bolsheviks, the underground workers, the fundamental staff of our party ...”

I will not discuss this point again, for it is exactly the same falsification as that perpetrated by Stalin in his short article in Pravda of the day before, and merely demonstrates the close co-operation between him and Zinoviev. I will merely state, as to this question of ‘’old Bolshevism,” that if you drew up a list of the “Old Bolsheviks” whose names you learned to know and love while Lenin lived, you would find more of them on Trotsky’s side than on the side of the triumvirate. [8]

The manifesto of Zinoviev’s party workers continues, and, so far as the substance of it goes, concludes with the following statement:

“Against fractionalism, against groupings, Comrade Trotsky did not find one clear decisive word. In reality, under the present circumstances and in the present stage of the discussion, such a contribution by Comrade Trotsky is a support to those who demand the legalisation of fractions.”

Read now again the words that Trotsky wrote:

“The party could not fulfil its historic mission if it fell apart into fractional groupings. That must not and will not be. The party as a whole, as a self-active collectivity, will prevent that. But the party can wrestle successfully with the problem of fractions only by developing, strengthening and making durable the course toward Workers’ Democracy ... Mechanical centralism is inevitably accompanied by fractionalism, which is at once a malicious caricature of Workers’ Democracy and a terrible political danger.”

That is what Trotsky says in his letter about fractions, and, as I have already shown you, it is exactly what the unanimous resolution of the Politburo says. Trotsky only adds to that resolution the statement that to interpret its programme as a tolerance of fractionalism would be a “malicious caricature,” and that fractions constitute a “terrible political danger.” He uses the same adjective that is used to describe “Ivan the Terrible.” And upon the basis of this statement Zinoviev’s Petrograd party workers announce, 3,000 strong, that Trotsky has “found no decisive word against fractions,” and that his letter is a support to those who demand the legalisation of fractions. Four days before this the Moscow party workers, 4,000 of them, had met and discussed Trotsky’s letter without excessive emotion, agreeing or disagreeing with the statement that it “needed supplementation or explanation,” and going reasonably home to bed. From this you may infer that Zinoviev is an able agitator, and in that inference you make no mistake.

In order that you may taste the emotional quality of the panic generated in the party by Zinoviev’s agitation, I will quote one additional paragraph from his cry of alarm:

“We do not doubt for a moment that the immense majority of our party will appraise the letter of Comrade Trotsky, just as we, the Petertzi [9] have. The sooner Comrade Trotsky recognises and corrects his mistakes, the better will it be for our party.

We address ourselves to all the organisations of our party with a summons not to let the present discussion take the form taken by that preceding the Tenth Session, when Comrade Lenin had to come out with articles stating that ‘the party is sick,’ ‘the party has a fever,’ etc. Let us not forget, comrades, that the whole international situation, the whole internal situation, obliges us to be more cautious than ever before. And, above all, let us not forget this, that the universally accepted teacher and leader of our party, Vladimir Ilych Lenin, is still unable to take a direct part in the work of the Central Committee, and that this obliges us to observe a still greater solidarity and a still more hearty support of our Central Committee. ... If in the current discussion all kinds of legends have been created, this has been done by the ‘opposition ‘ only for fractional purposes. The unity of the party and the solidarity of its general staff will be protectedwhatever it costs ...”

Is it not strange that this extraordinary caution, and this exaggerated anxiety about the solidarity of the general staff, should not have led any members of that staff to call Trotsky on the telephone before his letter was published, and ask him to correct the statements in it which seemed to overstep their agreement?


1. His speech was printed in Pravda, December 21st, 1923.

2. Their resolution was printed in Pravda, December 18th 1923.

3. I translate as “party worker” the Russian word “rabotnik.” It means those who make a business of work for the party. The French call them “militants.”

4. All italics mine.

5. See Appendix VII.

6. Down with Fractionalism, Pravda, December 25th ff.

7. Pravda, January 20th, 1924.

8. I naturally do not feel justified in publishing such a list. It would include the names of people who, although their opinions are known, have refrained, for one reason or another, from publishing them.

9. Nickname for those living in Petrograd. I have employed the name Petrograd in describing events which happened in Leningrad before the name was changed.

Since Lenin Died

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Last updated on: 12 October 2009