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Discussion Articles

The Double Task of the Left Opposition

(August 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 19, 15 August 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

When the present Left Opposition were still members of the American party, the presentation of a thesis by the Executive Committee always brought out fundamental differences between the embryo three currents, which were more than mere tactical questions or questions of formulations. The difference may have started on tactical questions formulations, but only the blind could not see the deep channels these questions led to. The break-up into three currents is a proof of this. Our thesis presented for discussion gives a Marxian analysis of conditions and in the main is correct. I think our group, not through bureaucratic suppression but through Marxian understanding is the closest knit group of our faction. Because we hold such an unanimous position on the main theoretical questions and don’t have to “waste time” on these issues, we should devote a greater amount of time and discussion on the concretization of our international position for America. Therefore, for this purpose, I raise some tactical questions and questions of formulation of the thesis.

The section presenting the perspective of the Left Opposition, as a faction of the party, and not to build a new party; to win the membership of the Third International to our Marxian position and not to build a fourth international; and a role of reform in relation to the Soviet Union with its opposite in relation to capitalism the theory of the permanent revolution is correct considering all factors of today. How to carry out this perspective is a question the thesis does not handle in all its aspects.

Wrong Views

The ultra-Lefts who desire a new party are wrong, likewise the other extreme of being a tail to the ACTIVITY of the party is wrong. First let us dispose of the question of criticism of the Center and then consider the relation of Marxian criticism to activity. A faster tempo of change from a negative criticism to a positive criticism of Centrism must be made. A turn toward speaking to the class (which includes the party) has been made which has increased our effectiveness in speaking to the party, just like a correct elevation of Centrism has made more effective our struggle against syndicalism and anarchism. This positive approach will accelerate the process of correction through greater pressure and on the other hand help correct our position in relation to party activity.

The line of march laid down in the thesis eliminates the danger of ultra-Leftism in the form of a new party and a fourth international, but it leaves wide open the door for sectarianism and for a “Marxian” retreat for tired radicals because the thesis does not explain our relation to party ACTIVITY, or rather lack of activity, with a Marxian line.

We have a double task in our relation as the Left Opposition. First, in relation to the Party – to correct it and win the members to our position, and second, in relation to the class, where the party has not penetrated or has no influence we must function as Communists. The thesis explains the first point, the relation of the Left Opposition to Centrism, to the party but the thesis does not even raise the second point, the relation to the class where the party’s wrong policy or neglect leaves us to raise the banner of Communism and lash the party into understanding and activity (for example, the Spanish Revolution).

Does the thesis mean we are to be the tail of party activity? Does it mean we are to wait for the party bureaucrats to act? Does it mean we don’t act where Centrism fails to act, but where we are capable of acting? They are strong compared to our forces, but any Marxist knows that numbers and wrong policy cannot correct the non-Marxist position; few in numbers with a correct policy can obtain numbers in activity, in struggle. Our action of the past and present disproves the very questions I raise, but the thesis does not disprove this. Our action disproves this in isolated examples in America to a greater extent in other sections and particularly in the Spanish Revolution.

Because this action is not explained, it results in ACTION on our part which is either tailendism on the one hand and fourth international action on the other hand, where the party fails to act and lead. Only by explaining such can we eliminate both evils.

The Pressure of the Left

Concretely, for America, it means, where the party has failed to act through wrong policies, which results either in wrong action or no action, and where we are able to carry out our Marxian position and are unable to impress the Centrists we must take the initiative and lead, forcing the party into activity and directing the class battles. The more pressure we can bring against the Centrist bureaucrats the more will the program of the Left Opposition become the program of the C.I. But the correct function of our forces, in the party, supporting the party as expelled members and in direct leadership where they fail or are incapable – is the way to increase the pressure of the Left, the party members and the class against the Stalin bureaucrats.

Where the party is leading a struggle or engaged in activity, it is our duty to support them, first with Marxian criticism of their strategy and tactics and second with all the activity possible. This is not tail-endism, if this kind of activity is coordinated with the other phase I refer to, and that is – where the party fails to act and leaves the field open to the reformers or syndicalists it is our duty as Communists and particularly as Left Oppositionists, to fill the gaps left by the Centrists.

One can answer that our forces are too small, we will be lost in mass work, etc., etc. I am not calling for mass work of the Weisbord type. The wrong theoretical position puts Centrism in a position where they are incapable of carrying out many tasks Communists must. Our forces are too limited numerically to carry them out, even though we have a position and understanding of the needs and road to follow. Such on our part, is a good “excuse” for not finishing the activity but it is no excuse for not starting such activity. The Bolshevik party in Russia by itself could not complete the revolution, neither can the Left Opposition by itself complete tasks in America which we are compelled to take up because the theoretical position, which causes wrong tactics and strategy of the Centrists, renders them incapable of taking up. Our Communist duty is this two-fold activity to properly support the party and the Third International.

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