MISUNDERSTANDING within the Political Bureau grew steadily more acute during the second phase of Lenin's illness in 1923. Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev coalesced to form the dominant triumviratethe troikaand organised in secret a section to oppose Trotsky, to lessen his influence and to isolate him in the machine. Faced with the prospect of the definite disappearance of their master, they already began to reckon on the vacancy and to take the necessary steps to assure the succession, which was virtually theirs. Trotsky might easily have thwarted their plans and cut short their intrigues by a public revelation of the matters in dispute. But he hesitated to move because of the uncertainty about Lenin's health. This is his explanation, made, however, afterwards. He feared a wrong interpretation of the part he would be called upon to playa vulgar parallel with a historic precedent. Their obsession with the French Revolution sometimes misled the Russian revolutionary leaders. For instance, the accusation of Bonapartism had been brought by Lenin against Kerensky, by Martov against Lenin; and Trotsky temporised in order to avoid the same comparison.
The Party knew nothing of these underlying discords, and for a long time Trotsky did nothing to enlighten them. By his silence he played into the hands of the troika, who alone stood to gain by concealment. Lenin's notes on the national question were kept secret, and only communicated to a few initiated persons. Only Krupskaya knew of Lenin's Testament. No one had any ground for suspecting a breach between Lenin and Stalin. The immediate cause of this last complication was Stalin's rudeness to Krupskaya, who, by keeping her husband informed, hindered the General Secretary's operations. That Lenin should act on such a pretext proved that his mind was made up finally with regard to Stalin. The latter extricated himself by sending to Krupskaya, at Trotsky's suggestion, a letter of apology which arrived too late for Lenin to read. By a tacit consent, which was natural, all the principal antagonists admitted the necessity of maintaining secrecy on the real nature of internal discussions tending to discredit the Party. Under cover of this general silence Stalin was able to intrigue unhindered.
At the Congress of Soviets in December 1922 he had reported in favour of a closer union between the various Federated Republics, his reports being based on a pretended initiative of the Transcaucasian delegations. The scheme required a session of the First Congress of the Soviet Union, to sanction the "treaty" concluded between the principal nationalities for the political and economic centralisation of the regime, with a simultaneous assertion of the theoretical right of the contracting parties as free agents, and of their administrative and cultural freedom. In reality everything was regulated, prescribed and ordered by the Political Bureau; neither nations nor parties were consulted at all; the delegates were elected by regional committees nominated from above by other committees in Moscow. As for the Treaty of Union, it was to be, as Lenin had foreseen, merely another "scrap of paper" in the archives dealing with the Constitution; so true is it that the Bolshevist theories on the national question had no relation to facts under the conditions of a terrorist dictatorship indefinitely prolonged.
Stalin deferred his defence of his Caucasian policy for the Twelfth Congress of the Party. It was incontestably a clever one. Trotsky made his task easier by moving an agreed amendment to the resolution. For the first time the deliberations of the Party took place without the participation, direct or indirect, of its founder. Krupskaya abstained from transmitting to the Congress the Testament that Lenin had prepared for them under the modest title of "Notes" (zapiski); she still hoped for his recovery, and for his return to the work of government. The National programme was not divulged either, and Lenin's notes on that subject, communicated in committee, had only a limited and unauthorised circulation among bored officials. Stalin spoke from the tribune as rapporteur for the Political Bureau and the Central Committee combined. He denounced the nationalism of those Georgians who were hostile to Transcaucasian federation from dislike of Armenians and Tartars, a hostility manifested in Mdivani's decree expelling recent immigrants from Tiflis. Thus instructed, the Congress registered approval of the general policy adopted in Georgia by the Party Secretariat, with a mild reproof of the excesses of Ordjonikidze and his friends. In any case the delegates were chosen by the machine, and therefore prepared to vote en bloc for the proposals put forward by the directing organisations. Agreement in the Political Bureau carried with it automatically unanimity in the Congress, led and dominated by a praesidium, just as the Party was by its Central Committeealways under the same triumvirate.
But in 1923 the increasing gravity of the economic situation drove the national question into the background. The country passed through successive crises: scarcity of commodities, industrial products at prices below cost, lack of raw materials, prolonged delays in wage payments, increasing unemployment, currency depreciation, fall in agricultural prices, paralysis of trade, etc. Under the incitement to production provided by the N.E.P., industry fell behind agricultural production, State production below individual and family production. Resources were insufficient to subsidise industry up to the standard of its requirements, to reconstitute working capital and enlarge the basis of operation. Foreign loans were impossible, and the yield of domestic loans inconsiderable. Concessions were negligible, export was hardly beginning to recover. The Party was anxiously Seeking a policy. In these troubles and uncertainties Trotsky alone expressed any clear ideas. The Political Bureau had instructed him to present to Congress an official report on industry, and Stalin had even pretended that he would like to see him entrusted with the report on general policy, formerly assigned to Lenin.
Trotsky found the principal cause of this permanent crisis in Soviet economy in the disparity between the prices of industrial and agricultural products. "The peasant, paying for manufactured goods, coal, petrol, etc., in terms of wheat, is buying two and three-quarter times as dear as in 1913." Graphically expressed, the disproportion was shown by an acute angle like that formed by the blades of a pair of scissors. If the phenomenon is aggravated or persists, the scissors would sever all exchange between town and country. By this metaphor Trotsky clearly indicated the danger, and stressed the urgency of price adjustment.
A rise in the price of cereals was primarily dependent on export; a fall in the price of manufactured articles depended on a more rational utilisation of machinery, materials and labour. It was therefore necessary to reduce overhead costs, to suspend the operation of non-essential undertakings, to concentrate scattered industries, to suppress waste, to establish rigorous calculations and strict accountancyan enormous task to look forward to, and a prosaic one for romantically-minded revolutionaries. "To put it mildly, there is absolute chaos," said Nogin, describing the State economic organisations; and he was confirmed by Trotsky, who said: "There is information in the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection showing that about eighty per cent of our calculations are unfounded." According to him, the other twenty per cent were not much better. For example, a certain State Trust declared a profit of four trillions of paper roubles, when the Inspection u·as able to prove a real loss of 750,000 gold roubles, and this was no exceptional case. With a view to the institution of a new economic order in line with the communist programme, the progressive development of production and the rationalisation of its methods, Trotsky insistently urged the elaboration and application of a general plan, under the direction of a competent "great General Staff," in the shape of the Council of Labour and Defence assisted by the Gosplan (State-Planning Department). He recalled simply a primary truth of socialist theory, one of its fundamental criticisms of capitalist society, providing for the substitution of planned production, distribution and exchange for a free market, competitive rivalry and unregulated supply and demand. But, though by no means new and though approved in principle, his idea was not accepted without scepticism by the bureaucracy, who pretended to applaud it while opposing the force of inertia against its realisation in practice; it was interpreted as a cloak to a secret intention by Trotsky of making himself dictator in economic matters by assuming the direction of the departments concerned.
Where were the indispensable new resources for industry to be found? Some thought by increasing the taxes on agriculture; according to them two years of the N.E.P., one of which was a famine year, would have increased sufficiently the taxable capacity of the peasantry. Against this "Left" point of view, Trotsky recommended that taxation should not exceed limits permitting "peasant economy to be brought to a higher level and greater future wealth for the peasant." This declaration of the necessity of enriching the cultivators was by no means a chance expression on his part, for before the Congress he had already said to the Ukrainian Communist Congress:
Those comrades who, like Larin, maintain that we are not demanding enough from the peasant masses are certainly mistaken. We ought not to exact from the peasant anything more than he can really give. We ought to act so that he will be richer this year than last year. He will understand this formula if we put it as the foundation of our internal policy; it is profoundly different from War Communism. Then we demanded from the peasant the whole surplus Of his production over his immediate needs; but with. no surplus, an enterprise totters and falls. To-day we say to him: a surplus is indispensable to advancement of your business, keep it. For, unless there is advancement in agriculture, we shall have no industry.
In conclusion Trotsky proposed simplification of taxation, that it should be made intelligible to the peasant and easy of payment, and that a money equivalent for the tax in kind should be fixed to improve the peasant's lot. This proposal was adopted at the Moscow Congress as it had been at the Kharkov Congress.
A member of the Political Bureau certainly did not take a step of this kind without the preliminary assent of his colleagues. Their intimate co-operation assured a minimum unanimity in action, if not in opinion. The Bolshevik idea of discipline, reinforced by the administrative methods and organisation of the ruling bureaucracy, presupposed the obligation of unanimity in deliberative assemblies, after debate sometimes impassioned but always reticent; there was also the anxiety not to furnish arguments to the watchful enemy. The average Bolshevik had to reckon with the probable unpleasantnesses consequent: on too crude frankness. What militant from Moscow, Petrograd or Kiev would expose himself with a light heart to transfer to Archangel, Irkutsk or Vladivostok, real exile in accordance with Tsarist tradition, even though the pretext were the necessities of the service? After so many sacrifices, heroism was no longer the fashion, and those who were incapable of adapting themselves fell back on the old practice of subterranean propaganda. At the Party Congress Ossinsky might still throw doubt on the infallibility of Lenin; the very same reflexion uttered outside the Congress would expose an ordinary mortal to the suspicion of counter-revolutionary tendencies. If Kossior permitted himself to allude to the attitude of the triumvirate towards Trotsky, this was only possible within closed doors and then not without risk. So all the decisions of the Twelfth Congress were accepted without subsequent opposition.
Nevertheless the discussion revealed many differences. The open tribune of Pravda, an intermittent survival of democracy reserved for privileged members of the Party, had permitted beforehand the expression of very various opinions following Lenin's articles on the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection. The opposed solutions were the subject of polite and prudent controversy at the Congress, but only among delegates with a consultative status, none of whom could modify any vote by their speeches.
Krassin and Ossinsky criticised Lenin's suggestions, the former raising objections to the "hypertrophy of control" by the inspecting organisations of the Party or the State, the second combating the confusion of functions between the State and the Party. "Our weakness lies in incapacity to organise production, not in insufficient control," said Krassin. "Our aim should be the maximum of production with the minimum of control." Contrary to Lenin, who advised the union of the Soviet Inspection with the Communist Control Commission, Ossinsky desired to separate the functions of the Party from those of the State and to reform the various superior organisations with their overlapping prerogatives and functions. His sensible idea of putting order into the chaos of superior authorities of all sorts, denounced by Lenin, was bound up, however, with a juridical pedantry compromising its scope. On the other hand the importance attached to "bourgeois specialists" seemed to him excessive, while Krassin thought it inadequate. The latter also considered that increase of capital investment in industry inevitably demanded larger concessions to foreign capital. Opposition was raised this time by isolated individuals rather than by groups or sections. There was no looking to the Left or to the Right, as was pretended by Larin, an ex-Menshevik who had gone "Left" and constituted himself the unseasonable defender of the working class against a hypothetical "swamp of the Right" or an indefinable pro-peasant tendency. Larin demanded an increase in wages and the maintenance of unprofitable undertakings at the cost of the rural districts. The Praesidium called on Preobrazhensky, the recognised mouthpiece of the traditional Left, to refute him. This Congress was inspired by optimism to Order, in spite of the atmosphere of uncertainty caused by Lenin's absence, and a subtle malaise due to "the Trotsky question" which was in the air.
In accordance with Lenin's last public suggestions the membership of the Central Committee was increased to 40 members, and that of the Control Commission to 50. The central organisations were henceforward to meet in joint session. Lenin had not foreseen, and no one realised, that this would mean a lessening of their authority in their respective statutory functions, since a governing body of a hundred persons could only meet rarely, and then only to register accomplished facts and to invest with full powers the two supreme Bureaux, consisting now of seven members each with four deputy-members. In practice the triumvirate, surrounded by trusted partisans, maintained the authority they had achieved. Stalin, confirmed in his functions, emerged unscathed from a Congress at which Lenin had intended to turn him out of the Secretariat. Krupskaya had informed no one, and Trotsky, waiting on events, allowed the proceedings to go on without saying anything to clear the atmosphere or prepare for the future.
UNANIMITY was only apparent, at the bottom as at the top of the Party. Various clandestine opposition groups were persecuted by "the machine" and tracked by the G.P.U. Anonymous pamphlets were secretly circulated. Communists expelled for disobedience and militants acting with them immune for the time being because of their obscurity, used conspiratorial devices to counter the Government's police measures, operating now within the only legal political organisation after they had secured the suppression of all opposing parties.
The troika had easily got rid of their first critics by sending them on missions far away from Moscow. in the supposed overriding interests of communism; if the Party was the permanent incarnation of the revolution, if the Political Bureau was the sole qualified Interpreter without appeal of the opinion of the Central Committee, no Bolshevik worthy of the name could raise any objection if he received from the Secretariat marching orders and a new post. In this respect the principal personalities to be removed owed it to discipline to resign themselves, the more so since the Soviet Union, in creating diplomatic relations with various European and Asiatic States, had embassies to fill. Exile under these conditions was endurable, sometimes even attractive, and in some cases corrupting. Thus Krestinsky, Ossinsky, Yurcnev, Lutovinov, Kollontai, Rakovsky and others were to go abroad, where they had been preceded on valid pretexts by Krassin and Joffe. Less prominent objectors were unceremoniously dispatched to Siberia, Mongolia and the Far East.
To isolate Trotsky and make him impotent was the unavowed plan of Stalin and his partners. After sending Krestinsky to Berlin, the change in Rakovsky's position, on the ground of the necessity of having an imposing ambassador in London, tended to deprive Trotsky of his best supporter and to separate him from his closest friend, the President of the Ukrainian Council of Commissars, guilty of the further crime of disapproving Stalin's national policy. The change entailed a complete upheaval of the bureaucracy at Kharkov and Kiev. All the secretaries of the Ukrainian provincial Communist Committees were scattered to the four points of the compass for having demanded the maintenance of Rakovsky at his post in the interest of the common cause.
As for the attempts at resistance against the official policy among the workers by less notorious militants, the triumvirate did not shrink from any method of coercion to break them.
Only small local groups of the old, broken-up Workers' Opposition survived. But a more active section, the Workers' Truth, issued some proclamations from the end of 1922 onwards. It attacked as a "new bourgeoisie" the higher and middle officials Of the Party, of the trade unions and of the State, denounced the political and material advantages they enjoyed, and refused to acknowledge as a dictatorship of the proletariat a regime of tyranny and exploitation." "The gulf between the Party and the workers is steadily deepened," they wrote in their appeals. The workers, subjected to "implacable exploitation," housed in "frightful tenements," were, moveover, "deprived under threat of repression and of unemployment of all possibility of using their votes." The Labour Code was no more effective than other illusory charters. "The dictator class is in fact deprived of the most elementary political rights." This dissident section demanded freedom of the press and freedom of association for "the revolutionary elements of the proletariat."
In 1923 another opposition was secretly organised, the Workers' Group, which expressed similar grievances, undertook the defence of proletarians "absolutely without rights," declared the trade union organisation to be "a blind instrument in the hands of the bureaucracy and a bureaucratic appendage of the Political Bureau," and accused the Party of having established "not the dictatorship of the proletariat, but the dictatorship of the triumvirate." This group took part in increasingly frequent strikes with the intention of giving them a democratic-revolutionary direction, demanded unrestricted freedom of the press, and made preparations for a general strike by way of protest against the abuse of power.
Outside these two secret communist groups of small numerical importance, smaller ones were created here and there without knowledge of one another. All these expressed the same criticisms, but with many differences in theoretical matters, confusion arising on those points in which Bolshevism is tinged with liberal or anarchist ideas. These groups did not produce a single leader capable of guiding them in a tangled situation. But the significance of the movement, parallel with effervescence among the workers themselves, is undoubted. The Party must already have become divorced from its social origins not to be aware of it.
In the course of that year, especially from July onwards, strikes of increasing dimensions broke out, revealing the reality too long unrecognised by the Kremlinthe proletariat, struggling for its morsel of bread, in unconscious rebellion, against the "dictatorship of the triumvirate." Compensation for the intolerable privations inflicted on the workers was not provided by Congress voting one thesis after another, formally satisfactory, but inoperative and rapidly forgotten. There were continuous economic crises, and famine wages, paid after long delays in depreciated currency, did not cover the elementary requirements of the wage-earners. Extended unemployment, reduced production, the high price of commodities beyond the means of working peopleall testified to the blindness of the rulers and explained the exasperation of the ruled. The salutary decisions on economic matters adopted by the last Communist Congressfor the concentration of industry, rationalisation in technical and administrative matterswere not enforced any more than other resolutions, laws and decrees impossible of application; all the evils of the regime grew steadily worse until September 1923, when the workers' demonstrations became so serious as to compel the Political Bureau to carry out the most pressing reforms.
It was not difficult to take penal measures against the so-called fomenters of disturbance, to arrest the leaders, to exclude their followers from the Party, and to deprive the heretics of work and the means of existence. The causes still had to be remedied if a repetition of the trouble was to be avoided.
Although they were consenting parties at the rigorous measures adopted against their comrades, Trotsky at the Political Bureau and his supporters in the Central Committee were not, nevertheless, quite satisfied with this purely repressive policy. A committee of inquiry, presided over by Dzerzhinsky, demanded from communists the immediate denunciation, either to the Control Commission or to the G.P.U., of illegal groups within the Party. Another special committee of the Central Committee, with powers superior to those of the ordinary economic organisations and the regular State Commissariats, took extraordinary measures to stop the crisis, to mitigate it. and to lessen the angle between the blades of the "scissors." Having no illusions as to the efficiency of these various expedients, Trotsky determined to break silence.
In a letter, dated October 8th, to the Central Committee and the Control Commission, he recapitulated his accumulated complaints, his criticisms, and his defence.
Substantially, he blamed the Political Bureau for the "alarmIng symptoms" which had shaken the Party from its torpor. "The best militants," he wrote, "felt anxiety about the methods employed in the arrangements for the Twelfth Congress, and since that time everything had gone from bad to worse." This was a clear allusion to Stalin and to his astute methods of handling and placing obedient officials, and removing the refractory to other posts. The unhealthy internal condition of the Party and the discontent of the workers and peasants provoked by the mistakes made in economic policy were the two essential causes of the new difficulties to be faced. The alliance (smychka) between town and country, insisted on by Lenin, was becoming an empty phrase, instead of a practical effort to reduce costs of State production. Far from assuming increased importance, the Gosplan was neglected and the main economic problems were settled by the Political Bureau without preliminary study or serious method. Thus "chaos began at the top." The disparity between industrial and agricultural prices tended to liquidate the N.E.P., for the peasant could no longer buy when he found that a pood of wheat was worth two boxes of matches. Industry was loaded with unproductive financial charges, as, for example, the useless advertisements imposed by the local committees of the Party to meet the deficit on their publications.
In developing these accusations, Trotsky attacked Stalin without mentioning his name. After the Twelfth Congress the Party Secretariat had nominated officials in economic affairs, on the grounds not of their competence, but of their subservience to the Party. The General Secretary himself selected the secretaries of the provincial committees who, in turn, chose the secretaries of subordinate committees, and so on, down to the smallest "cells." Thus there was a hierarchy of secretaries, a machine of secretaries, a psychology of secretaries. Elections ceased. The workers' democracy talked of in official literature was pure fiction; the dictatorship of the bureaucracy was further from it than War Communism had been. At the worst moments of the Civil War the Party had been able to discuss openly the interests of the revolution; now any exchange of opinion was impossible. A large class of communists no longer took the trouble to think; the masses only learned the decisions that had been taken by the decrees issued, and discontent, deprived of expression, produced internal abscesses, in the form of secret groups.
The Political Bureau, continued Trotsky, had come to the point of balancing the Budget by restoring vodka (spirit made from grain, forbidden under Tsarism in 1914) as a State monopoly. The legislation on alcohol and alcoholism involved, among other things, the danger of making the Soviet revenue independent of the progress of national prosperity, and the bureaucratic hierarchy independent of the Party. The prohibition of any discussion even of this unfortunate scheme was an indication of danger, corrobated by the dismissal of an editor of Pravda for the sole crime of having demanded free examination of the project.
In another connection, the Political Bureau had arranged to make Stalin a member of the Revolutionary Council of War, for considerations other than military. Voroshilov and Lashevich were appointed to it for reasons openly avowed by Kuibyshev, who said to Trotsky: "We think it necessary to combat you, but cannot openly treat you as an enemy; that is why u·e must have recourse to these methods." Identical measures had been employed against Rakovsky in the Ukraine.
In conclusion, Trotsky demanded an end to the bureaucratic rule of the secretaries, and the restoration of the Party democracy within proper limits, to prevent irremediable degeneration. For a year and a half, he said, he had abstained, vainly, from carrying the struggle outside the Central Committee. "I now think it not only my right, but my duty, to tell those members of the Party, who are sufficiently prepared, experienced, politically conscious, and therefore able to help the Party to emerge from the impasse without convulsion or shock."
The Political Bureau felt compelled to reply to this indictment. In a document, a secret one like Trotsky's own, they charged Trotsky with the ambition of an "economic and military dictatorship," reproached him with having declined Lenin's invitation to act as his deputy on the Council of Commissars, of failing to attend either the sittings of that organisation or the Council of Labour and Defence, of taking no initiative in economic, financial or budgetary questions, of acting on the formula of "all or nothing," and of refusing to work in economic matters, contenting himself with constant criticism of the Central Committee. Evading their antagonist's indictment, the Political Bureau recalled earlier disagreements between Lenin and Trotsky, and proceeded to accuse him of repeated imprudences in foreign policy, of rash acts which might have precipitated armed conflicts now with Poland, now with England.
Trotsky replied on October 24th. He referred to the differences which had arisen in the course of a single year between Lenin and those desirous of exploiting the prestige of his name, especially in regard to the monopoly of foreign trade, the national question, and the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection. He emphasised his agreement with Lenin on these various questions as well as on the fundamental question of economic planning. He referred to Lenin's devastating criticism of the Inspection, that is of Stalin, following on the Georgian affair which had been equally awkward for the General Secretary; he revealed the hostility of the Political Bureau to the publication and to the tenor of the last article written by Lenin. Kuibyshev, who had proposed to print a single issue of Pravda containing the article, to deceive Lenin while concealing his ideas from the country, had been placed at the head of the Control Commission, which had been perverted from its proper function and subordinated to the Secretariat, to that bureaucracy which it was its business to supervise....
The Party knew nothing of all this, and, even later, was never to know much about this epistolary controversy, the cautious style of which ill concealed a cold violence restrained with difficulty. Neither side was anxious to shatter popular illusions about the men in power.
Meantime the Central Committee received on October 15th a letter signed by forty-six well-known personages, who expressed themselves in the same sense as Trotsky, some of them with reservations on points of detail. The greater part were former "Left" communists, with some representatives of "Democratic Centralism": Pyatakov, Preobrazhensky, Serebriakov, I. Smirnov, Antonov, Ossinsky, Bubnov, Sapronov, V. Smirnov, Boguslavsky, Stukov, Yakovleva, V. Kossior, Rafail, Maximovsky, and other well-known militants: Byeloborodov, Alsky, Muralov, Rosengoltz, Sosnovsky, Voronsky, Eugenia Bosch, Drobnis, Eltsin, etc. Rakovsky and Krestinsky, on mission abroad, had not been able to sign. Radek, in a separate letter, declared agreement with Trotsky to be indispensable.
The forty-six called for the convocation of a special conference to take the measures dictated by the circumstances, pending a Congress. Radek, on the other hand, urged the settlement of the difference within the Politbureau itself. He was just about to start for Germany, where the economic and political situation indicated the approach of a revolutionary upheaval, in consequence of the French occupation of the Ruhr, passive resistance and a currency catastrophe. He invoked the gravity of these events in support of his opinions.
But the prospects of revolution in Germany, confidently reckoned on by communists in all countries, provided a new motive of discord among Bolsheviks. The German Communist Party, subordinate in principle, like all national Communist sections, to the Executive Committee of the Communist International, was to follow in practice the instructions of the Russian Political Bureau, which exercised the predominant influence in the international Executive, and which alone disposed of the various resources essential to the revolutionary movement. Now there were contradictory opinions in the Political Bureau. Zinoviev, President of the Executive of the International, undecided without Lenin, hesitated and maneuvered, consulted Radek, who had the reputation of an expert, and sought a mean between premature action and sterile delay. Trotsky advocated offensive tactics, advised preparations for insurrection, and even the fixing of a date. Stalin, on the contrary, walked warily in his first essay in world politics. In August, he had written to B Zinoviev and Bukharin as follows:
Should Communists strive, at the present stage, to seize power without the Social Democrats? Are they ripe for that? That is the question, in my opinion. In seizing power we had in Russia certain reserve resources: (a) peace; (b) the land for the peasants; (c) the Support of the immense majority of the working class; and (d) the Sympathy of the peasants. German Communists have nothing like that. They have, indeed, a Soviet country as neighbour, which we had not; but what can we give them at the present moment? If the Government in Germany falls now, so to say, and the communists seize it, they will end in a smash. That, at the best. At the worst, they will be hewn in pieces.... The fascists are certainly not sleeping, but it is to our advantage for them to attack first; that will attract the whole working class to the communists.... Moreover, all our information indicates that fascism is weak in Germany. In my opinion we should restrain and not incite the Germans.
At this time the acute turn of events weakened Stalin's point of view. Secret information from Berlin convinced the Political Bureau of the imminence of social revolution. At the end of September preparations were hurried on for an expected "new October." German communists asked for a leader from Moscow, naming Trotsky. Consternation and annoyance on the part of Zinoviev, who offered himself! The Political Bureau refused both, choosing Radek and Pyatakov, who started in mid-October, when the internal crisis of Bolshevism was acute.
It was not the moment for a war on theories. This had been adjourned by common accord in order to concentrate attention on the new revolution on the march. The truce was short; it ended with the disappointed hopes of communist victory in Germany. On November 7th, on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of the Soviet Republic, Pravda published an article by Zinoviev, who in the name of the leaders and under pressure by Trotsky and the forty-six, announced "workers' democracy" within the Party, and opened a public discussion. Communists were free to speak.
After such a long period of silence the Party felt the need of self-expression, but dare not open their mouths for fear of reprisals. The "workers' democracy" of which Zinoviev spoke, prescribed in its statutes and its programme, and in the decisions of all the Congresses, notably of the Tenth, had for long been an empty phrase. There was no reason to expect a real change.
Outside the communist ranks, nobody was interested in a democracy reserved for privileged persons, for a tiny minority. At that time the Party only numbered 351,000 members, all officials with the exception of 54,000 workers who were favoured in the workshops. In addition there were 93,ooo aspirants on probation, and the Young Communists. The discussion started dully. It was hard to overcome inertia and mistrust, hard to obtain the first articles, the sense of which was contained in the formula, "better late than never." The intervention of Preobrazhensky and Sapronov gave the polemic a start; an opposition of the Left on undetermined lines began to develop against the dictatorship of the triumvirate.
Simultaneously the Political Bureau sought to establish agreement among the leaders, and, on December 5th, they adopted a resolution giving satisfaction to Trotskyon paper. In this document they praised the N.E.P., together with Trotsky's propositions at the Twelfth Congress in regard to the Gosplan, the general staff of the Socialist State, concentration of industry, and general rationalisation. They condemned "excessive material inequality" among communists, the "luxury" of some, the "bureaucratic narrowness" of others, the "demoralisation" of militants with a bourgeois tendency, and the "bureaucratisation'' of the Party machine. Communists were promised workers' democracy, the right of criticism, liberty of investigation, appointment by election of their officials, representatives and committees. This was the "new course" demanded by a Bolshevist elite, by Trotsky and the forty-six, with the intention of applying it to their Party, to the trade unions, and to the Soviets, to the advantage of the whole working population.
There was still time to orient the revolution in the direction of a Soviet democracy, relative only, it is true, but real as far as it went. If the bureaucratic and militaristic tendency of the regime, the product of bitter civil war in an immense undeveloped country, had lasted beyond the conditions which gave it birth, it is certain that no human force would have been capable of bringing it to a full stop. The circumstances, historical and social, incontestably lessened individual responsibility in this matter. Nevertheless, three years of peace with other nations, and two years of comparative calm at home made it Possible to embark upon a new stage. The democratic opposition understood this and worked for it. The triumvirate pretended to understand, but their mental reservations soon hardened. The ill-informed majority gave their approval to both without clearly understanding the divergencies. Clearly the "new course" could only be realised by the collective intelligence and energy of the Party; a handful of well-meaning men would be powerless against the conservatism inherent in the machine. Failing this unanimous effort, the specific characteristics of the former Russia would reappear sooner or later under new forms, for they were inevitable in any autocratic system established in the same barbarous environment.
Evidently the "new course" could not be accomplished in a day. The Party had to be prepared to resume the responsibility for its own fate, together with the future of the revolution, and to effect a fundamental transformation which would affect other Soviet Institutions. The prime movers in this matter must themselves be the active and vigilant agents for carrying into effect the promises of the Political Bureau, and for re-educating the members of the bureaucratised system to carry out the common work. But instead of adopting this point of view, the new opposition decided to demand there and then a radical change in the equipment of the Party, and the immediate election or re-election of all its officials. Fearing that the prospect of democracy would prove as evanescent as former hopes they wanted to secure the destruction of the machine.
The opposition led by Preobrazhensky and Sapronov was doomed in advance by this initial blunder in tactics. The threatened bloc felt it had a good case, and struck unsparingly. The discussion opened quietly, but a storm developed, rousing the 50,000 "cells," the innumerable groups, the many committees and the various higher organs of the Party. As many as thirty columns of Pravda were filled daily with an arbitrary selection of articles, resolutions and reports, misrepresenting the views of the Left, perverting their plans, and spreading inaccurate or tendencious information without giving an opportunity for denial, refutation or explanation. There could be no doubt as to the issue of the unequal struggle between the masters of the machine for the formation of opinion, and a few unarmed militants. At the moment when their ideas were in the ascendant, the impatient "oppositionists" courted the fate of their predecessors by their lack of political tact and their clumsy strategy.
Trotsky, who had been ill since the beginning of November, took no direct part in the debates. Outside a small circle of initiates, he was thought to be a supporter of the Political Bureau and the Central Committee. After one very cautious article, "ideas on the Party," on the occasion of an anniversary, he only published two essays, "On Officialdom in the Army and Elsewhere" and "On the Connection between Town and Country," in the same sense as his earlier interventions in the Central Committee; but the underlying implications were not intelligible to the general public. Suddenly he thought it necessary to define his position with more frankness, and, without abandoning his diplomatic reserve or openly approving the Opposition, he addressed, on December 8th, a letter to the meeting of militants in Moscow, which was published two days later in Pravda.
Under the title of The New Course he commented on the resolution adopted with his support on December 5th, explaining his view of the dangers of bureaucracy and the possible degeneration of the "Old Guard" of Bolshevism. Against those who hoped once more to bury the workers' democracy, he demanded the dismissal of "mummified bureaucrats," and summoned the younger generation to emancipate themselves from passive obedience, servility, and careerism. "The new course Should, as its first result, bring home to all that henceforward no one should dare to terrorise the Party."
This gave a sharp turn to the discussion. Attention was directed to Trotsky, whose attitude seemed to be different from what was commonly supposed; in spite of careful drafting, the letter confirmed the thesis of the malcontents. The triumvirate took fright at the implicit support given to the Opposition of the Left, and, interpreting it as a threat to themselves, resolved to seize the opportunity to discredit the principal adversary. Stalin gave the unexpected signal for personal attacks on Trotsky. The latter was faced with what he would have liked at all costs to avoidan open struggle for the succession to Lenin.
ON DECEMBER 2nd, in the course of the public controversy, Stalin had delivered before the "enlarged assembly of group committees, group organisers, members of discussion clubs and bureaux of cells of the group of Krasnaya Presnia" (the lesser Party officials or candidates for permanent office), an address in his elementary schoolmaster style suited to a childlike audience. For the sake of greater clearness and simplicity and so that nothing might be omitted, he proceeded by way of enumeration of ideas and arguments borrowed from Right and Left, not avoiding detailed repetitions and incontestable truisms. He listed five causes of the "defects in the internal economy of the Party," describing them imperturbably, first, second, third and so on. He then enunciated a series of eight remedies, developing them without haste, first, second, third and so on, down to the eighth. As usual he took pains to stand midway between the extremes, and carefully delivered his well-conned theme which his subordinates were carefully to recite to their subordinates. At the close of his discourse he referred politely, even deferentially, to Trotsky, whose name had been invoked in the press by an opponent. His discourse was only a paraphrase in anticipation of the general ideas embodied in the Resolution adopted by the Political Bureau three days later.
But after Trotsky's letter, there was a change of tone. On December 15th Pravda published an article by Stalin in which the leaders of the Left were taken to task, by insinuation and obscure allusions rather than by direct attack. "Among the Opposition, we see comrades such as Byeloborodov, whose democratism cannot be forgotten by the Rostov workers; Rosengoltz, whose democratism has long excited emotion in the Donetz Basin; Alsky, whose democratism is universally recognised," Etcetera. To sum up, he accused the new champions of workers' democracy of being no more democratic than himself in their current activities. As for Trotsky, he evokes his unorthodox past with an undercurrent of would-be irony.
As is apparent from his letter, Comrade Trotsky counts himself as one of the Bolshevik Old Guard, declaring his readiness to share in the responsibility arising from this fact, if charges of later heresies were brought against the Old Bolsheviks. In expressing his willingness for self-sacrifice, Comrade Trotsky no doubt displays nobility of sentiment. Agreed. But I must undertake the defence of Trotsky against himself, because, for reasons which will be readily understood, he cannot and should not hold himself responsible for any later heresies of the original group of Old Bolsheviks. His offer of sacrifice is no doubt a very noble thing, but do the Old 'Bolsheviks need it? I do not think so.
This reference to the past had no particular inherent interest and does not seem, a posteriori, especially aggressive. But, in the atmosphere of that time, it was understood by "the machine" as indicating a target and as an authorisation to strike; henceforward Trotsky was no longer to be immune from attack as Lenin had been, and ambitious officials would know what was expected of them. Behind the scenes the great leader of yesterday could be secretly disparaged and whispers of Bonapartism were permissible.
The troika did not yet feel strong enough to attack Trotsky openly. It was to be enlarged for the conduct of the campaign into a semiorka, a secret committee of seven members, by the addition of Kalinin, Tomsky and Rykov of the Political Bureau, also of Kuibyshev. They had their agents, emissaries, auxiliaries, their cypher for correspondence, their own sectional discipline. They disposed of considerable State resources, of all sorts of means of persuasion, pressure, intimidation and corruption. Lacking the intellectual resources of their adversaries, they enjoyed the compensating advantage of long experience of internal strife and were not embarrassed by any scruple in attaining their ends. Stalin held the threads of the conspiracy in his hand.
As compared with so formidable a coterie, determined to maintain themselves in power at any cost, the opposition were indefinite, and lacked cohesion and continuity of effort. Far from constituting a fraction, as they had been accused of doing, they acted intermittently, often as occasion offered and with sharp changes of front, and were incapable of pursuing a steady policy. Their spokesmen relied on individual initiative, without unanimity and sometimes in direct contradiction of one another. Instead of confining themselves to the actual question of democracy, a claim in harmony with the interests of the workers and the principles of communism, and the only battlecry which would keep awake the critical consciousness of the PartyPyatakov, Preobrazhensky and I. Smirnov decided to create a diversion by discussing the most difficult problems of finance and industry. Ossinsky defended other ideas on similar subjects. Radek improvised more or less able spoken journalism. Sapronov and his friends fought ardently and rashly for "democratic centralism." Shliapnikov came forward once more, in disagreement with them all, in the cause of the old Workers' Opposition. Trotsky, confined to his bed, committed the irreparable mistake of laying himself open to blows he could not return, and had to endure all the inconvenience of the struggle without being able to hope for the smallest advantage to the cause to be defended.
The troika easily got the better of such opponents. They were able to bribe the least determined, like Bubnov, and to punish the clumsiest, like Antonov, by nominating the one to the other's post as head of the political education department of the army. Others were neutralised by skilful nominations and punishments, some by promises and threats. The remainder were submerged in the sheep-like loyalty of the interested bureaucracy. In the complicated network of the meetings of the bureaux of the cells, enlarged group committees, conferences of responsible militants, etc., the officials, under the authority of the Secretariat, enjoyed an automatic preponderance. Working-class opinion, already misrepresented by open voting, because of the danger of victimisation, hardly penetrated through the six stages of Party organisationcell, group, locality, province, republic, Soviet Unionthe stages below the Central Committee, the seventh rung of the system.
In the last resort the triumvirate only had to diminish the importance of the man who towered above them in prestige, to disparage him sufficiently to destroy too flagrant a disproportion between the members of the Political Bureau. For that purpose Trotsky offered an adequate pretext by his cautious letter on The New Course, which said either too much or not enough. Too much, for a leader accepting responsibility for the regime; too little, for an opponent determined to reinstate forgotten truths and to reanimate a supine movement.
Nevertheless, Stalin's polemic created a very disagreeable impression on Soviet public opinion. No serious revolutionary admitted the suspicion cast on the most eminent personage of the revolution now that Lenin was gone. The triumvirate sensed the breath of general disapproval, and promptly manoeuvred to appease anxiety.
On December 18th Pravda published a reassuring statement from the Political Bureau, briefly defending Stalin and roundly asserting that:
The Political Bureau denounce as malevolent invention the suggestion that there is in the Central Committee of the Party or in its Political Bureau any single comrade who can conceive of the work of the Political Bureau, of the Central Committee or its executive organs without the most active participation of Comrade Trotsky.....Believing friendly co-operation with Comrade Trotsky to be absolutely indispensable in all the executive organs of the Party and the State, the Political Bureau hold themselves bound to do all in their power to assure this friendly co-operation in the future.
As if by chance a Letter from the Petrograd Organisation, remarkably similar in terms, appeared on the same day:
Without concurring in the errors of Comrade Trotsky, the Petrograd organisation declare that, in agreement with the Central Committee of the Party, they naturally consider friendly co-operation with Comrade Trotsky in all the governing institutions of the Party to be indispensable. There has been, and probably will be again, more than one disagreement in the Central Committee. But certainly no comrade conceives of the governing institutions of the Party without the active participation of Comrade Trotsky.
The simultaneous appearance of formulas so closely in agreement leaves no doubt of the origin of these "spontaneous" utterances. Similarly, a flood of resolutions adopted in the most remote provinces and reproducing word for word the Moscow text, condemning the "sectionalism of the Opposition" and the "errors of Comrade Trotsky." The hierarchy of secretaries carried out their functions. Exceptions were not yet impossible, but nothing could alter the rule; when Pravda received from Kiev a resolution favourable to the minority, a certain Nazaretian, Stalin's secretary, falsified it by a stroke of the pen. Trotsky, Pyataltov and Radek, armed with the original document showing the falsification as irrefutable evidence, appealed to the Control Commission, which, in obedience to the all-powerful Secretariat, censured the plaintiffs, not the forger. The machine presented a united front, and the Opposition were much mistaken if they thought it vulnerable.
The triumvirate had no intention of losing Trotsky's collaboration in the Government. They were content with diminishing the prestige of the "organiser of victory" sufficiently to remove him from the plenary succession to Lenin, which they proposed to divide amongst themselves. They were no longer willing to serve in the second rank, and, indeed, they denied Trotsky's possession of the qualities which gave Lenin, the founder of the Party, his unique importance. Trotsky's supremacy would have meant, for them, at an early date, the advent of a new ruling group and the gradual elimination of the Old Guard of which they professed to be the nucleus. Faced with this eventuality they would shrink from no means to wear down Trotsky's influence and to strengthen their own dominance.
In spite of unlimited administrative pressure, the Opposition obtained half the votes in Moscow, because the "new course" expressed the democratic desires of the lower stratum of the Party. The young people in the communist universities, among others, rallied to their side. The revolutionary tradition was still maintained, beneath the cloak of bureaucratic obedience. But the hierarchy of secretaries, though still not perfectly organised, was already strong enough to break any attempt to threaten its existence. Sympathisers with the Left, charged with "deviation from the Right," with semi-Menshevism, with opportunism, and, finally, with "Trotskyism," were prevented, in the interests of the dictatorial demagogy, from sending delegates to the regional conferences supposed to reflect party opinion. Clearly, the course of the central conference arranged for January 1924, at which the Opposition would be reduced, by various artifices, to a minimum, was fixed in advance on the lines laid down in the offices of the Secretariat.
If circumstances as a whole favoured the machine, the Opposition nevertheless owed its defeat primarily to the illusions of its leaders. They need not have provoked a premature shock without counting the consequences, without fixing practicable objectives, or assuring themselves of sufficient chances before running the risk. At the start, they had undertaken the impossible in a frontal assaultwithout any preparation and at a moment of declining revolutionary enthusiasmagainst a position impregnable to all but indirect attack. In no case would the quality of their theories have compensated their strategical blunders in method. At the best, this Party of 351,ooo members, including some 300,000 officials, could not support an imprudent declaration of war against the bureaucracy. The timid action actually taken bore little resemblance to the high-sounding and aggressive phraseology used, which was empty and dangerous if it was not to be translated into effective attack.
But their mistakes in these circumstances were due to the deep-seated cause of their final defeat: the Bolshevist mystical theory of the Party "entirely apart from and above everything else," an abstract identity, essentially invulnerable. The Opposition were lost by their idealisation of the very evil they proposed to attack under another name, and it was in vain that they differentiated between the Party on the one hand and its organisation and leaders on the other, without in fact driving a wedge between them. Since the bureaucratic State and the bureaucratic Party were inextricably bound together and the communist monopoly was declared inviolable, the reform of the regime was only possible by the slow process of evolution or the rapid method of revolution; the Opposition could make up their minds neither for one nor for the other. Alone in complying with the constitutional fiction of the Party, openly mocked by the majority, they wanted to act rapidly without recourse to force, that is to say, with due respect to the forms of the Constitution, which were to be used for their destruction.
Trotsky, their responsible head, could not be ignorant of what his opponents, once aroused, might do. He had had to do with them in similar circumstances when Lenin was there to intervene and to prevent the worst. He had had experience of Stalin from the time of the Civil War onwards, in constant personal contact with him at the Political Bureau; he had known the other two even longer, since the bitter disputes in the emigration. Before the War of 1914 he had clearly seen in the Bolsheviks certain "negative aspects," which he defined as "theoretical formalism, legalist rigidity, a police-officer's distrust of historical evolution, egoism, and conservatism in organisation"faults stereotyped after their accession to power and after the transformation of the Party into the framework of the State. He knew that, with Lenin's disappearance, Bolshevism would lose its great capacity for self-criticism, a source of life-giving energy which attenuated and to some extent compensated the original flaws.
Then, at what he thought the decisive moment, he took action to reinvigorate the Party, without taking into account the circumstances and the state of opinion, as if the Party conformed strictly to its statutes and principles, and its leaders to the laws of fair play. He repeated, in an exaggerated form, the tactical mistake he made in the trade unions discussion of 1921, by raising, indirectly, the question of the supreme power without any chance of settling it, thus arousing the hostility of his rivals without gaining anything by so doing. After having supported unanimity "at the top" and the roughest means of imposing it on the rank and file, he suddenly gave the impression of infringing that unanimity when he was not in a position to undertake the struggle. It is not certain whether he opposed the arbitrary arrest of Bogdanov (who had stood outside the Party since his rupture with Lenin and had devoted himself to scientific studies), who was imprisoned after the 1923 strikes on the bare suspicion of connivance with the Worker's Truth. However that may be, he associated himself with the severe repression of the intrigues of this dissident section and of the Workers' Group. Yet now he condemned police methods and demanded democratic reform in the Party. After the Political Bureau had met his demands, at any rate in theory, he appeared to be taking the offensive against his colleagues, perhaps so as not to leave to its own devices the Opposition, whom he had inspired but had failed to guide and restrain. But, if his published letter provided his supporters with arguments, it also provided the triumvirate with weapons against him and an admirable pretext. The inevitable retort put him on his defence. In the name of the interest of the Party he declined to reply to the campaign of defamation fomented by Stalin. Nevertheless he wrote three articles defining the grounds of his intervention, and, on the eve of the January conference, he collected them under the title of The New Course, with some additional chapters. By this hesitating procedure, he lost the advantages of silence. On the other hand, the lofty ideas, the subtle allusions, and the discreet polemic of the book were comprehensible only to a picked few, who did not weigh heavily in the bureaucratic scale; moreover the little pamphlet, published in a small edition, was very soon unobtainable, owing to precautions taken by Stalin. After this, on medical advice, he left for the Caucasus.....
On this disconcerting line of action, his own memoirs provide valuable comment drawn from the unpublished journal of his wife, N. Sedova.
Trotsky [she writes], was alone and ill, and had to fight them all. Owing to his illness, the meetings [of the Politbureau] were held in our apartment; I was in the adjoining bedroom and heard his speeches. He spoke with his whole being; it seemed as if, with every such speech, he lost some of his strengthhe spoke with so much "blood." And in reply I heard frigid and indifferent replies. Everything had been settled beforehand. Why should they get excited After each meeting of this kind, Leon Davidovich ran up a temperature; he emerged from the room drenched to the bone....
Trotsky exhausted himself utterly in eloquent speeches to an audience of six, from whom he had nothing to expect but implacable hostility. In the meanwhile he was being busily discredited in Party circles. There could be no better proof that intelligence, culture, many-sided talent, powerful temperament and high character are not enough to make a great politician. Outstanding as was his personality, the Trotsky of the October Revolution and the Civil War had only reached his full stature as a man of action owing to his contact with Lenin.
Stalin, "endowed with all the astuteness that Trotsky lacked" notes Max Eastman, the American communist writer and the scrupulously accurate annalist of this crisiswas then entering on the decisive phase of his arid career. The capture of the heritage of October did not demand the qualities of a Lenin and a Trotsky necessary for its achievement. There was no question at all of filling the place of a man who was irreplaceable, for Lenin's eminence arose from his brain, not from his functions. What was required was to have the last word in the Political Bureau, to have practical control of the Central Committee, which could arrange the composition of the Party Congress as it pleased. Stalin was to succeed in this by ranging against Trotsky a sort of syndicate of mediocre Old Bolsheviks, of whose moderate opinions he made himself the spokesman and whose faithful agent he pretended to be. The Political Bureau ordinarily sat once a week, and left the Secretariat, which met daily, a certain margin of initiative and interpretation. For the moment Stalin asked no more.
The Opposition did not have the elementary good sense to absent themselves from the Conference of January 1924, and found themselves reduced to three delegates with voting powers. Stalin played an important part. In his report on the "construction of the Party," he reproached the absent Trotsky with "six serious errors," commenting on these at great length. "First error": the publication of his letter on the "New Course" after the adoption of the official resolution. "Second error": the adoption of an ambiguous standpoint. "Third error": differentiating the Party and its machine. "Fourth error": ranging the younger generation against the older ranks and imputing degeneration to the latter. "Fifth error": describing the students as the most accurate barometer of the Party. "Sixth error": the demand for freedom of grouping within the Party. To the Oppositionists who had invoked an explicit decision on democracy from the Tenth Congress he replied by quoting a secret clause of this decision providing for the exclusion of the recalcitrants in certain cases of indiscipline.
In any case he showed some respect to "Comrade Trotsky, whom I should certainly not put for one moment on the same plane as the Mensheviks," but he consistently decried him. In his concluding speech he said: "We have taken all the necessary measures to ensure friendly co-operation with Trotsky, although I must say that it has not been at all easy to do so."
The troika felt obliged to respect in Trotsky the famous name, which, together with Lenin's, personified the revolution among the Russian people and in international opinion. Zinoviev had declared in a report at Petrograd in December: "Comrade Trotsky's authority is recognised as completely as his merits. Amongst ourselves, there is no need to say more. But error is still error." On the other hand, it was necessary to reckon with the possibility, more and more remote indeed, of Lenin's restoration to health and return to business, and to do nothing Irreparable in view of such an eventuality. In concluding the conference Kamenev announced: "Vladimir Ilyich is better," and he spoke of "the moment when Lenin will return to his post." The Opposition based great hopes on this vague prospect.
On his way to the Caucasian Riviera, Trotsky received a telegram at Tiflis station, on January 21, 1924. Stalin informed him of Lenin's death.
THE event was not unexpected; for more than a year Party members had been growing accustomed to the idea of the master's final disappearance. But the grief of his disciples was none the less poignant, especially after the disappointments of the immediate past. If the people as a whole, weighed down by poverty and weariness, received the news without apparent emotion, it was a hard blow to the communists, the only politically active section of Soviet citizens, and painful even to the most hardened.
Even though Lenin had no longer taken any part in the administration of the Party or of the State, his very existence nevertheless compelled some respect for a certain formal Marxist tradition in Bolshevism; it exercised some restraint over his heirs, too ready to sacrifice principles to the immediate interests of the Government, and over the ambitions centred on the inheritance of the revolution. After his death his successors, liberated from all doctrinal scruples, gave free course to their initiative, and gradually revealed the true nature of their domination.
The first measures taken by the Political Bureau imposed mourning in various forms on the whole population, with the intention of exploiting it for their own ends. At Moscow, the militia ordered flags to be hoisted and draped with crape, under pain of a fine, before any reason was given. Under the pretext of honouring the dead, the machine used the grossest artifices of fetichist religions, modernised by the most trivial advertisement. The press undertook to awaken a fictitious mysticism, to elaborate special ceremonies for the ignorant masses whom it was their mission to enlighten. Embalmed like that of a Pharaoh, the body of the great materialist revolutionary provided interminable spectacular ceremonies, was permanently exposed to the public curiosity, awakened, stimulated and encouraged by all possible means, captured and canalised in a quasi-perpetual file passing beside the corpse. A sanctuary erected outside the wall of the Kremlin commemorated the unconscious outrage of the Leninists on Lenin's memory. The crowd were attracted to it, the workers marched past under orders, children were brought there, until there began the endless procession of superstitious peasants mixed with incredulous tourists.
The tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery is marked by a simple slab of stone. The ashes of Engels were scattered from an urn into the North Sea. But in the twentieth century, in the only country whose Government professed to be inspired by the Communist Manifesto, the corpse of an illustrious man was to be exhibited in great pomp in a funeral monument inspired by the mausoleum of Tamerlane. A contrast significant indeed, and that not only in externals; for the embalming of Lenin's remains found its counterpart in the Communist International in the mummification of its founder's work, the petrifaction of his thought, misunderstood by those who pretended to be its natural inheritors and its qualified interpreters, though they were even incapable of understanding the ancient saying that "Great men have the world for their sepulchre."
It was not enough for Lenin to have been a hero, a superman, a genius; the triumvirs of the troika made him a kind of deity, whose prophets they aspired to be. In deifying him they were preparing their own future beatification. If they were to be believed, Lenin had known, seen, foreseen everything, had said and predicted everything. His portraitfull or half-length, fullface and profile, was modelled in statuettes, struck on medals, painted on signs, woven into handkerchiefs, printed, engraved, embossed, embroidered, reproduced in millions of copiestook the place of the icons, by way of rivalry between creeds. The same effigy was repeated on walls, in stations, on grocers' shops, on plate, ash-trays, cigarette-cases and ordinary household utensils. Pious, unaesthetic pictures illustrated in black and white and in colours a raw mass of pretentious literature in prose and verse. Izvestia published a requiem, between two ecstatic articles, above a drawing in bad taste. Some photographed Lenin's armchair, others collected relies. On all sides his name was given to towns, streets, institutions, factories, clubs, sports-grounds, and to innumerable places and things. Petrograd became Leningrad, and there were Lenino, Leninsk, Leninskaya, Leninakan, Leninsk-Kuznietsky, Ulianovsk, Ulianovka. Feverish zeal inspired the crassest commemorative plans. Under the thin varnish, already disappearing, of imported Marxist theory, there reappeared the familiar face of ancient, barbaric Russia.
In the midst of these noisy manifestations of collective delirium, in which Pharisaism was mixed with natural enthusiasm, Stalin more than anyone else struck the note. On the eve of the funeral, at the Second Congress of the Soviets of the Union, he delivered a strange speech, perhaps the most typical among all his writings, for he left nothing to improvisation, and the text was carefully prepared in advance. Among paragraphs consisting of elementary statements, of well-worn truisms, of tiresome repetitions delivered with the note of absolute certainty which betrays ignoranceare intercalated litanies with Slavonic assonances, in which the former pupil of the Tiflis Seminary addresses the deified Lenin as "thou," and reveals his clerical mentality unabashed. At the end he assembles a series of fervent invocations, detached from their context, to make a sort of creed for the use of aspirants to the Leninist religion. The result is worth quoting:
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin commanded us to hold high and to keep pure the great name of Member of the Party. We swear to thee, Comrade Lenin, to honour thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordered us to conserve the unity of our Party as the, apple of our eye. We swear to thee, Comrade Lenin, to honour thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordered us to maintain and strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat. We swear to thee, Comrade Lenin, to exert our full strength to honour thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordered us to strengthen with all our might the union of workers and peasants. We swear to thee, Comrade Lenin, to honour thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin ordered us to strengthen and enlarge the Union of the Republics. We swear to thee, Comrade Lenin, to honour thy command.
In leaving us, Comrade Lenin enjoined on us fidelity to the Communist International. We swear to thee, Comrade Lenin, to devote our lives to the enlargement and strengthening of the union of the workers of the whole world, the Communist International.
A unique document, but only incomprehensible if one forgets one essential truth, expressed by Lenin: "We took Marxist doctrine ready-made from western Europe." With few exceptions, Bolsheviks in general had not assimilated modern revolutionary thought, whose terminology they had borrowed without being able to modify their inborn mentality as "people of a country doubly backward from the point of view of economy and of culture, people more tortured than any others by the past," as Corky describes them. Thus, even before he was laid in his monumental grave, Lenin had been denied in theological terms, and through him Marxism, even down to the religious homage and solemn oaths of the adepts of State Bolshevism, the ideology of revolutionary decadence.
The six Commandments of the new church, formulated by Stalin in this speech, are prefaced by an exordium--in which the orator exalts the esprit de corps of his comrades in arms. No other document displays so completely what Lenin had denounced under the names of "com-lies" and "com-boasting." We may quote as an example the following passage:
We communists are people of a special type. We are carved out of special matter. We are those who form the army of the great revolutionary strategist, the army of Comrade Lenin. There is no higher honour than to belong to this army. There is no loftier title than member of the Party of which Comrade Lenin was the founder and director. It is not given to everyone to be a member of such a Party. It is not given to everyone to endure the misfortunes and the storms involved in belonging to such a party. The sons of the working classes, sons of poverty and struggle, sons of incredible privations and heroic efforts-they are the men to be members of such a party. That is why the Leninist Party, the Communist Party calls itself the party of the working classes.
The intellectual level of language of this kind makes it unnecessary to report similar remarks of the same tenor by lesser personages. Under the French Revolution, after the assassination of Marat, similar extravagances are recorded. A petition was brought to the bar of the Commune proposing "that the body of Marat should be embalmed and borne through all the departments of France ...so that the whole world might Raze on the remains of the great man"; an orator at the Cordeliers Club recited a canticle, "Heart of Jesus, heart of Marat": some apologists desired to call Montmartre Montmarat to commemorate the Ami du Peuple. It was the naive expression of a spontaneous outburst of popular emotion, not a cynical calculation of the leaders. Moreover the Sansculottes had no pretensions to historical materialism and did not quote Das Kapital. And at that time Robespierre was there to express regret that men were busied with "excessive hyperbole, ridiculous and vain Images, instead of thinking of the remedies required by the state of the country," and to oppose the elevation to the Pantheon of Marat, who had consistently protested beforehand against this "violent insult," and had taken the precaution to write: "I would rather a hundred times never die than have to fear such a cruel outrage." There was a David to declare to the Convention: "His burial should be of the simplicity suitable to an incorruptible Republican who died in honourable poverty." There was an Hebert to say at the Jacobin Club: "There are men who would like us to believe that we should substitute one religion for another. They arrange processions and funeral ceremonies for Marat as was done for the saints. We have prevented that profanation; let us maintain our active vigilance...."
In Soviet Russia, Krupskaya alone had enough conscience and enough true fidelity to Lenin's mind to urge restraint on the sectarists of the Leninist cult:
Do not let your sorrow for Ilyich find expression in outward veneration of his personality. Do not raise monuments to him, or palaces to his name, do not organise pompous ceremonies in his memory.... In his lifetime, he took so little account of that kind of thing, which distressed him. Remember how much poverty and disorder there still is in our country. If you wish to honour the name of Vladimir Ilyich, create creches, children's playgrounds, houses, schools, libraries, ambulances, hospitals, houses of refuge, etc., and, above all, realise his teachings in your lives.
But her honest and timid voice found no hearers in the tumult of official adoration. The Congress of Soviets decided to erect six monuments as a beginning. Riazanov, once scornful of "those who would like to transform the Red Square in Moscow into a cemetery, with funeral monuments into the bargain," would not thenceforward venture on such an allusion. The Society of Old Bolsheviks later on expressed its disapproval of funeral ceremonies with a great orchestra and idolatrous images, demanding for the dead the equality which society refuses to the living, butwith exceptions for such cases as Lenin's, thus admitting opportunist derogations from the principle. Trotsky objected, he says in his My Life, to the erection of the scanadalous mausoleum, but not in public, and no one knew anything about it.
Lenin had unconsciously foretold his own fate in writing of the great revolutionaries persecuted during their lifetime:
After their death, an attempt is made to convert them into inoffensive icons, to canonise them, so to speak, to surround their name with an aureole of glory for the consolation and the deception of the oppressed classes, while the real substance of their revolutionary teaching is emasculated, its incisiveness dulled, and the doctrine debased.
His inheritors very soon fulfilled this clear-sighted judgment. They had good reason to seek a new name for the creed they substituted for the now decadent traditional Bolshevism.
Leninism was now declared to be the legalised and exclusive theoretical basis of the Soviet State. Formerly the term Leninists had been applied to the partisans of Lenin, himself a strict Marxist in theory, who would not have tolerated any other doctrine in his party. Henceforward Leninism was to be the strict retrospective and formal observance of the printed works of Lenin, irrespective of their relative value, their obscurities and contradictions. Lenin's Works became a new Bible, cut up into verses as if they contained definitive answers to all the problems of history.
According to the ideas of Stalin, communists throughout the whole world, in the present and in the future, would only have to repeat immutable, axiomatic phrases learned by heart (more or less correctly interpreted by accredited commentators) to save themselves the trouble of thinking, studying and understanding; they must also beware of any "deviation." The most innocent remark, the smallest chanceword uttered by the great man became gospel for quotation outside the context. A special Institute of Leninology received the task of deciphering the most insignificant scraps of Lenin's writing, and, if any had been thrown in the fire, to collect and scrutinise the tiniest fragments. Instinctively the Leninites respected the letter the better to stifle the spirit.
How many times had not Lenin courageously declared "We have been mistaken," and publicly acknowledged his mistakes, in order to discourage "com-boastfulness" and to encourage healthy self-criticism, at least within the Party ranks. At the last Communist Congress, Ossinsky had been able to observe, without incurring the charge of sacrilege, that even Lenin had at times been mistakena reflection indicating the usefulness of a reaction against sterile mimicry. "We do not desire to exclude the possibility of error in Lenin," Zinoviev had said in his report of the month before. Nevertheless the myth of Lenin's infallibility was created, less out of reverence for Lenin than as an a priori justification of the dangerous policy of his successors. In a quotation, rarely to the point, Stalin and the machine were always to find an effective silencer. And as a decisive argument in reserve for unbelievers, the G.P.U.
Between the old Bolshevism and the new Leninism there was properly speaking no breach of continuity. Lenin's death hastened an evolution already commenced, developing phenomena of which the beginnings were evident during the Civil War. In the tactics and organisation of the Party many Russian elements which had nothing to do with Marxism had for a long time been tending to push into the background ideas acquired in the school of western socialism. The Muscovite past developed into the Soviet present, often under unexpected aspects, in ordinary life. Six years of revolution had not inculcated in a convulsed society either respect for the person, the sense of individual responsibility or consciousness of the rights and duties of the citizen. On the contrary, many Bolsheviks who had been in contact with European mentality before October were to find themselves "Russified" after the Kronstadt mutiny, impregnated with the special psychology of the country in which, formerly, according to Gorky's summary, there flourished "absolute rule, the enslavement of man, cynical falsehood and bestial cruelty." A primitive and ill-digested sociology, gradually reduced to naive schemata, offered no resistance to the inveterate habits of a society more than a century behind the evolution of the civilised world, in which rapid industrial advance here and there contrasted with mediaeval conditions still surviving.
Even in Lenin's lifetime, the combination of imported Marxian and local ideas had yielded strange results: for example, the kind of social alchemy by which the Party expected to raise the general level by fixing the proportions of workers, peasants, and intellectuals; the Leninist prejudice of a new kind of original sin, imputing to individuals as a crime their non-plebeian birth; the habit of leading out the workers in street demonstrations without telling them the reason, of treating them as flocks hemmed in by drivers with the threat of punishment in case of evasion, and of dictating to them regularly, as slogans, stereotyped formulas of approval or blame in the columns of a newspaper. These examples show perasang peasant ignorance beneath the heavy phraseology of so-called determinism.
Bolshevism was a Russian simplification of Marxism, appropriate to the conditions of a vast rural country with clearly divisible classes; it met the necessities of the time and the place for the revolutionary conquest of power. After the victory Lenin had gradually to purge it of its initial programme, under pressure of circumstances, and to abandon for the time being the democratic ideology borrowed from Marx. Excessive schematismg, due mainly to the limitations and Ignorance of his followers, deformed it to the verge of caricature. Leninism was to embody an even narrower version of impoverished post-revolutionary Bolshevism, a fresh step away from authentic Marxism, of which it retained the "straw of words" while losing the "grain of reality"; it was in the end to develop into a complicated theology, with its dogma, its mysticism, and its scholasticism.
Stalin constituted himself its first classical author with his pamphlet, Foundations of Leninism, a collection of lectures delivered to the "red students" of the Communist Sverdlov University at the beginning of April 1924. This laborious compilation, in which plagiarisms alternate with quotations, displays nothing of Lenin's critical faculty. All that is living, apposite, conditional, and dialectical in the work drawn upon becomes passive, absolute, affirmative, imperative and categorical in this manual for use as a catechism, which, moreover, contains misinterpretations. Signed by anyone else the dull little book would have passed unnoticed among many others. But as the Secretary of the Party, Stalin could make its perusal obligatory on candidates for admission, who were subject to periodical weedings out and were compelled to take elementary lessons in theory at which they learned by heart abstract aphorisms. More than two hundred thousand workmen, most of them politically uneducated, were admitted all at once, at the time of national mourning, into the Communist Party to "improve its social composition," and Stalin's lectures were to be used in their education. "A combination of Russian revolutionary inspiration and the practical spirit by the American," was, according to the professor of Leninism, Lenin's "style of work," and should form the "perfect type" of Leninist.
In his final chapter, Stalin could not forego a hit at Trotsky, whom he had already disparaged on the weak pretext of the "permanent revolution." In derision of Trotsky's schemes of state-planning, he said: "Who does not know that disease of 'revolutionary' construction, whose cause is a blind faith in the power of schemes, in the decree that is to create and arrange everything." Perhaps he had forgotten the letter in which Lenin approved Trotsky's "sensible idea" of the State Planning Commission, perhaps he pretended ignorance of it in the interest of his campaign of insinuation. However that may be, vigilant hostility towards Trotsky can be read between the lines, revealing the implacability of the writer.
ON HIS return from the Caucasus, Trotsky had lost none of his prestige outside the Party. On the contrary, the conflict among the leaders rather brought him additional consideration dictated by very various sentiments. The expectation of an indefinable lessening of pressure, aspirations towards greater well-being, desire for change, need of libertyall these were condensed in a vague hope of which he became the incarnation in spite of himself. The applause with which he everywhere received which could not be mistaken for the ovations prescribed for officials, took on the significance of a spontaneous plebiscite. Advanced youth, apparently impermeable to the intrigues of power, hailed him simply as the best man, in spite of the artificial fog created to deceive them.
But, in Party circles, the troika had taken the in his absence further to undermine his position and to continue their disparagement of a non-existent "Trotskyism." A new publication, the Bolshevik, produced especially to tight Trotsky and his supporters, ostensibly for scientific principles, in enormous solid articles, made it its task to preserve "the purity of Leninist principles," evidently threatened by any thinking brain, and proclaimed, in a first combative editorial: "We were, are, and shall be, hard as a rock." Official instructions, whispered from the highest to the lowest in the hierarchy Of secretaries, suggested ways of showing zeal at the expense Of the Opposition. Omission of Trotsky's name from a list of the honorary presidents of a meeting, the removal of his portrait from an office, denunciation on all occasions of his "errors" or "bourgeois heresies," might serve to strengthen a man's position or advance his career. To be suspected of so-called "Trotskyism" was to run the risk of losing livelihood, employment, lodging and daily bread, at a moment of extensive unemployment and a housing crisis, in a State in which the employee is, more than anywhere else, in every respect at the mercy of authority. After Lenin's death, the reactionary selection of officials undertaken by Stalin after his advent to the Secretariat took a rougher turn. The Forty-Six, reduced to silence by administrative measures, more or less scattered and intimidated, had submitted or repented, thanks to the working of the nominations system. The quite recent resolutions on workers' democracy were so many "scraps of paper" to be buried in dusty files. The promised "new course" was a dangerous chimera, soon to become treason against Bolshevism. At the Revolutionary Military Council, on which Unschlicht and Frunze had taken the places of Voroshilov, Lashevich and others, Stalin in person made open preparations for the eviction of Trotsky. The latter did not even attempt to defend himself to safeguard a principle, he neither defended his colleagues nor attempted to state clearly in public the principles at stake. His army colleague, Skliansky, unexpectedly relieved of his post, was replaced by Frunze. In the name of party discipline, Trotsky was silent, and Pyataltov, the principal representative of the Opposition beside him, was the docile instrument of Stalin's manouvres.
The Thirteenth Congress of the Party was to realise to the full the ideal of the triumvirate, a hundred per cent unanimity, at least in appearance, of an organisation seriously described as "monolithic." Trotsky himself was not among the delegates. With some other non-conformers, he only had consultative powers in his capacity of member of a central organisation. Nevertheless that did not decide him to stand apart from these machinations. At the opening session, the Assembly transported itself to Lenin's mausoleum to gaze on the corpse, after a march past of young pioneers (children belonging to communist associations), ready to swear fidelity to "Lenin's will." The customary addresses, congratulations, and the handing-over of flags and presents by so-called workers' delegations, received exaggerated importance, contributing not a little to deprive the Congress of any deliberate character. Last of all a "non-party" worker, sent as if by chance from the "Trotsky factory," urged protection for the Old Guard of Bolshevism. Although not a single spectator was misled by these proceedings, Party loyalty forbade making fun of the spectacle, and even the Opposition treated with respect the new ritual, fully developed for the first time. Four months earlier, it had been possible for Riazanov at the preceding conference to refer to the "Old Bolsheviks, called by Lenin old imbeciles"; such irreverence was henceforward out of the question. In order to combat a ridiculous proposal for the transfer of the remains of Karl Marx from London to Moscow, the old frondeur prudently made some flattering allusions to Stalin.
Interest was concentrated on Trotsky, whose silence was more disquieting than words. To speak before a regimented audience of this kind would have been not only to waste time, but to imply recognition of the sham debate as real and to sanction a huge bureaucratic imposture. After long hesitation, Trotsky was weak enough to yield to the entreaties of his friends and to walk into the snare set for him.
"Received with a storm of applause," according to the official press, he stood on the defensive and, with extreme caution, he cited the excellent but derisory resolution of December 5th, with quotations from his enemies to corroborate his own statements. Bukharin, especially, had described the internal state of the Party in accurate terms, without suspecting the importance of his statements: "In most cases, elections have become pure formalities; not only are votes taken without preliminary discussion, but on the single question of 'Who is against?' And, as a vote against authority puts the delegate in an awkward position, the matter is settled." Bukharin's whole statement corroborated the current accusations of a dictatorship over the Party, following the dictatorship over the proletariat. After quoting from it at length, Trotsky then referred to Kamenev in support of his opinions on state-planning: "We may make many mistakes if we do not set before us the aim of co-ordinating a plan for the whole of our national economy." By this rhetorical method, the triumvirate was refuted by one of its members, especially Stalin by Kamenev, and Trotsky maintained his views intact though with many formal precautions.
But to speak without incurring violent contradiction in the atmosphere of distrust, assurances of loyalty must be given. Trotsky proposed to provide these in two ways. First, by praise of the excellence of Soviet democracy in the recent affiliation Of 240,ooo workers to the Party, "Lenin's levy." This levy, he thought, brought the Party nearer towards being an elected party. I~ad he not just shown, with Bukharin's words in support, the inanity of elections within this privileged party, and still more on its circumference? Could he fail to recognise the real motives of this collective enthusiasm under the regime of which he was beginning to know the disadvantages in his own person? The new adherents joined the Party, not by elective affinity, but as a legitimate measure of defence, on account of a natural anxiety to secure work, some semblance of civic rights, and other moral and material advantages. They were not free to choose or to take a different course. They were far from representing the pick of the working class, and were, for the most part, illiterate; their adhesion did not presage any regeneration of the degenerate Party. Their recent conversion gave them no authority to criticise, still less to oppose. These neo-Bolsheviks had been instructed by the hierarchy of secretaries in catch-words of the worst type of religious Leninism, and could have nothing in common with the communism of Marx and Lenin. In any case, in Russia the word communist does not mean an adept in communism, but a member of the Party, the party in power and the only legal party. That is why the miraculous "push" only took place after the decision to open the doors of this exclusive party, and to close them again after the desired number of recruits had been admitted. In his report on the organisation, Stalin had stated to the Congress that in certain provinces seventy per cent of members were politically illiterate, on a general average fifty-seven per cent, and "Lenin's levy" were drawn from a still lower stratum. (Some days after he admitted to sixty per cent of political illiterates before "Lenin's levy" and eighty per cent afterwards.) Nevertheless, Trotsky entirely concurred in the aberration of the Party, going so far as to put a false interpretation on the accession of members, and thus subscribing in advance to the most reactionary decisions of the "elected Party," the instrument of the dictatorship of the triumvirate.
He added a profession of faith completing his implicit retraction of any critical conception of the Party:
None of us desires or is able to dispute the will of the Party. Clearly, the Party is always right.... We can only be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in the right. The English have a saying, "My country, right or wrong," whether it is in the right or in the wrong, it is my country. We have much better historical justification in saving whether it is right or wrong in certain individual concrete cases, it is my party.... And if the Party adopts a decision which one or other of us thinks unjust, he will say, lust or unjust, it is my party, and I shall support the consequences of the decision to the end.
This abstract reasoning amounted to giving a free hand to Stalin, master of the Party through the machine, master of the State through the Party.
About a dozen suitably chosen speakers undertook to refute Trotsky. With one accord they accused him of parliamentarism and diplomacy, reproached him with lack of frankness and many other things. The 1,164 delegates would perhaps have taken their turn at the tribune in repeating the same lesson, if Krupskaya had not interrupted the tale. Without agreeing with the Opposition, she expressed disapproval of the disloyal attacks of the triumvirate, fearing the consequences for the revolution of a war to the knife between communists. Immediately after Lenin's death, she had written to Trotsky to assure him of "Vladimir Ilyich's" warm regard for him and of her own affection. She spoke at the Congress on the side of the majority, but in order to make it clear that the comedy had lasted too long. With a bad grace, Stalin and Zinoviev decided to end it, though they deplored the "Christian Socialism" of Lenin's widow.
In his concluding speech, Stalin reiterated all that had been said in the course of the exhaustive discussion. He enumerated four points on which the Opposition were in error, and three errors in principle of Trotsky's. Incidentally, he gave a twist to Trotsky's thesis of the final infallibility of the Party: "The Party, says Comrade Trotsky, makes no mistakes. That is not true. The Party often makes mistakes. Ilyich taught us to instruct the Party to learn from its own mistakes." Stalin went on to say: "Our Party has become the elected organ of the working classes. Show me any other party of this kind. You cannot, for there is none in the world. But it is strange that even so powerful a party does not please the Opposition. Where in this world will they find a better? I fear that they will have to look for one in the planet Mars." The rest of the speech is on the same argumentative level. One is tempted not to quote from an author of this kind, whose works provide the reverse of an "embarrassment of choice." Conscious that in his party votes no longer depended on the views expressed, Stalin sought neither to demonstrate nor to convince; he merely affirmed. And behind each affirmation could be felt the threat.
In conformity with the careful arrangements made by the Secretariat, the Congress declared what Zinoviev called a hundred per cent Bolshevist unanimity. Stalin's bureaucratic system was nearing perfection. All that remained to be done was to foresee and to prohibit misunderstandings such as the inopportune storm of applause which had greeted Trotsky's appearance. though this could have no possible effect on the course of events. The new Central Committee had eighty-seven members, including deputy-members, and the Control Commission more than 150. But instead of enlarging the governing oligarchy, as Lenin had mistakenly supposed, this numerical increase reduced still more the importance of the two committees, to the advantage of their small bureaux and, in the last resort, of the General Secretary.
From this new test Stalin emerged with a great advantage. By a decision of the former Central Committee, adopted at his instigation, he had succeeded in avoiding the reading of Lenin's Testament to the Congress, in spite of Krupskaya's belated insistence. it was communicated only to certain selected delegates, at a separate meeting, with explanatory comments to diminish its importance. The "old man" was sick, not au courant, and ill-informed by those around him.... At the first session of the Central Committee Stalin proffered his resignation, which was of course refused under the circumstances; most of the members owed their posts to him, or were afraid to lose them by incurring his hostility. Any opposition would have been useless at the time and would have provoked reprisals; Trotsky dare no more disturb unanimity than anyone else.
"Hundred per cent Bolshevist unanimity" had still to be affirmed by the Communist International. The majority of the International Executive would have taken the side of the Opposition, if the question had been raised. That was clear from the individual opinions of the members. In theory their decision outweighed any contrary opinion of a national section or "fraction." In fact, the Third international, created by the Bolshevik Party, remained subordinate to it. Intellectually it was relatively, and morally, absolutely dependent, and its recent formation on the sole initiative of Lenin made it impossible for it to withdraw itself from the discipline of Moscow, until it attained maturity. Zinoviev took care not to consult the Executive, which had no other channel for expressing its opinion. The Fifth World Congress of Communism was arranged for June 1924. The preliminary work was carried out according to the rules and practices current in the Soviet Union, so as to create a world organisation in the image of the mother section. It was accomplished in less than six months under Zinoviev's direction, simultaneously with operations of the same kind conducted by Stalin in all the Russias in the name of "bolshevisation."
With rare exceptions, the Communist parties of Europe, America and Asia stood in need of subsidies from the Executive, that is to say from the Bolshevik Party. This irresistible pressure induced a kind of solidarity. In the more independent sections, where some resistance was attempted, there were plenty of opportunities of restoring order, if necessary, by surgical operations. If there were neither good nor bad pretexts, they could be invented. The International knew nothing about the realities of the Soviet system, and Trotsky did not feel he had the right or the strength to enlighten it. Nevertheless Zinoviev's emissaries spread treacherous statements about the "new Danton," even the "new Bonaparte." There was even talk of a plot amongst the Kursanti of the Kremlin. A severe crisis in Germany, following on the abortive revolutionary movement, and the general depression, fanned the plans of the triumvirate. Long experience in manipulating internal quarrels and sectional intrigue, in handling money contributed by the liberal bourgeoisie or secured from profitable expropriations before they had had a State Budget at their disposal, and the habit of treating their own militants as mercenaries and of exploiting human credulity, had enabled the inventors of Leninism to secure their own endsdeceiving the simple, neutralising waverers, inspiring mediocre minds with fanaticism, corrupting politicians, and isolating the more honest and thinking men.
The "Congress of Bolshevisation" endorsed the results they had accomplished, enabling them to transfer Leninist methods to the international arena, to generalise throughout the revolutionary movement the topsy-turvy method of selection adopted by Stalin in the Soviet Union. The Soviet method of ceremonies, parades, and endless functions was adopted for the edification of the sceptical and for strengthening the morale of the delegations. The day after the pompous opening at the Grand Theatre, the Congress marched solemnly to music to hold a session in the Red Square around the Lenin mausoleum, to hear and discuss in the open air the report on the first motion in the proceedings, in the presence of hundreds of thousands of workers, also provided with bands, after the inevitable inspiring defile past the corpse. The whole thing had a magic spontaneity, and took place during factory working-hours. The usual "non-party" man and the other inevitable personages to be seen at all the Moscow congresses of that time, appeared to recite their congratulations and to distribute banners in the course of the session to stimulate the fervour of those present. A wave of tense fanaticism prevented any cool or reasoned statement on the Russian question.
On this occasion, Trotsky was wise enough not to be provoked into controversy. He had understood at last. But, to complete the comedy, the assembly which had just disavowed him invited him to draw up its concluding manifesto. It proved to be the last of the great messages, annual events since the foundation of the International, from Trotsky's hand. A year earlier, Clara Zetkin had written of Lenin and Trotsky: "The Congress paid its tribute of gratitude and admiration to the personal, imperishable work of these two illustrious leaders of the Russian Revolution and of the world proletariat." But now the idea of such homage entered nobody's head, though the hurrahs of the crowd for Trotsky are still noted at this date in the Communist Press.
Stalin, present but unobtrusive, took part for the first time in the proceedings of the International. Whether because of ignorance of foreign languages, or unpreparedness on foreign affairs, or for both reasons, and from native caution, he did not ascend the tribune. He was only heard in the Polish Committee, in which Russian was spoken by the delegation directly concerned. Of his speech in committee we must note the retrospective justification of the treacherous attacks on Trotsky and the Opposition during the recent conflict. "First," he said, "history knows no struggle without its victims. Secondly, opposition cannot be defeated without shaking the authority of its leaders. Thirdly, complete victory over opposition is the sole guarantee against schism." He was more concerned with discrediting an opponent than with refuting him. It is not ideas, but individuals, that count. Criticism is a crime against the security of absolute power; it must be stifled, to prevent any ultimate fissure in the dictatorship party.
THE heresy hunt was indeed resumed with greater zest after the "Bolshevisation" Congress of 1924. Taking the utmost advantage of the attitude of obedience and patience imposed on the Opposition parties in all countries by Trotsky's tactics, the ruling section gradually but thoroughly deprived the International of its elite. First in Paris and Berlin, and then from New York to Shanghai, all communists who persisted in distinguishing between discipline and servility, all men capable and guilty of independent or original thinking were henceforth to be treated as suspect, denounced as opportunists, classed with counter-revolutionaries, and expelled, first singly and then in groups. Thus a continuous series of expulsions and splits eliminated, in turn and by differing methods, the initiators of the contemporary communist movement in the two hemispheres. It soon became clear how right Rosa Luxemburg had been in maintaining, in opposition to Lenin, that the foundation of the new International was premature, that it could not live by itself or survive its founder. The Communist parties were transformed into ramifications of the Soviet State, under a common autocracy, with identical structural faults and defects in detail. The troika, determined to deprive Trotsky of all outside support, might have chosen to sacrifice an organisation which was parasitic and had no future; in fact they abandoned the principle, while maintaining the instrument.
In the Soviet Union, to have abstained from denouncing Trotsky was sufficient reason for disgrace, for removal from any political position, and often for the deprivation of work and livelihood. But neither annoyances nor persecution put a stop to the increasing popularity of the hero of October and of the Civil War among the small active portion of the urban population, and especially among revolutionary youth. Special pamphlets, in which hired scribblers sought to revive former controversies and to mystify the reader by overwhelming the living Trotsky with dead quotations from Lenin, were scattered broadcast, but to no effect, for no one took any notice of the spiteful attacks. Neither the History of a Deviation by S. Kanachikov, and its still more insignificant imitations, nor the articles of the numerous writers in the entourage of the troika carried weight against Trotsky's important speeches and memoranda on the principal questions of the day: the hegemony of the United States of America, the decadence of England, the crisis of the German Revolution, the multiple problems of the Far East. Party study-circles had no other new materials for study except these great panoramic dissertations, intellectually far superior to the combined production of ail the brains of the "Leninist" Central Committee. People queued up to hear them, and the verbatim reports in the press were eagerly sought after.
All this exasperated the uneasy inheritors of Lenin's power, on the watch for the slightest blunder on the part of their adversary. But Trotsky took care to avoid occasion for fresh discords, avoiding thorny questions and personal friction. He spoke of all sorts of things except Soviet Russia. Nevertheless, his indomitable verve as a polemist did in some of his writings find expression in allusions in which subtle scorn and implicit irony, too recondite to be understood by his ill-informed hearers, were intelligible enough to the parties concerned. His valuable collection of biographical material, Lenin, conveyed the impression that the peace re-established in the Party was nothing more than a truce, an impression confirmed by the malevolent reviews. For the initiated it was clear that the defeated Opposition did not admit defeat and hoped to reverse it, though they had no very clear idea how; they seemed to hope for a revival of the thought and conscience of the Party, forgetting that the Party, bureaucratised as it was, and hampered now by 24o,ooo ill-informed neophytes, bore little resemblance to the ideal. In spite of his notorious incompetence on the subject, Stalin in September contributed to the "literary campaign" (sic) against Trotsky a long article "On the International Situation"his first essay on this theme. Refuting the thesis of Trotsky and Radek on the delay of world revolution, he affirmed confidently that "the workers are moving towards revolution and demand revolutionary leaders." The proof lay in the "decisive victory of the revolutionary wing of the Communist parties in Germany, in France and in Russia, and in the Increasing activity of the left wing of the English workers' movement... "The pacifism of the democratic governments of Europe "may be expected to lead not to the strengthening but to the weakening of the bourgeois power, not to the adjournment of the revolution to an indefinite period, but to its acceleration." Pacifists and democrats alike were seeking to "deceive the masses by sonorous phrases about peace under cover of which they were preparing for a new war." As for Social-Democracy, it was, objectively considered, "the moderate wing of fascism." Similar statements, more vigorously expressed, adorn Zinoviev's prose at this period.
Thus, once more in 1924, Stalin continued to announce the Imminence of revolution in Europe and to confound dawn with sunset, in spite of the evidence and of the lessons to be learned from the many years of persistent refutation by events of the over-hasty prophecies of Bolshevism. His Leninism consisted in repeating in and out of season what Lenin had said with more or less justification in other circumstances when error was not without excuse. He was under no necessity to reconsider his theses or to give them more profound study, for, in fact if not in Soviet law, no one was permitted to question his assertions, evidently agreed upon in the semiorka. Kamenev, Kalinin, and others besides Zinoviev took them up in their own way, though they were quite ready to say the opposite if the signal were given to do so.
But four months later (January 27, 1925), with the remarkable facility for contradiction which the Bolsheviks regard as transcendental politics, Stalin was to think better of the relative stability of capitalism and the ebb of the revolutionary tide. And at the end of March in the same year, he refuted himself, without ceasing to maintain his own infallibility. "Capitalism has succeeded in recovering from the post-War shock"; the international economic position evidenced the success of capitalistic reconstruction, and, finally, "there is no doubt that in Central Europe, in Germany, the period of the revolutionary tide has closed." The chorus of Leninists followed him as one man in his retractation, maintaining that they had never changed their minds. Eventually the representatives of the so-called revolutionary wing of which Stalin boasted, the "revolutionary leaders" of 1924 in Germany, in France and elsewhere were almost all of them expelled from the International as being unworthy, opportunist or traitors.
Meanwhile, many alarming signs of a new crisis appeared in the "Soviet Fatherland." Absorbed in their pedantic and meaningless controversies, the dictators had neglected the economic situation of the country and the condition of the working classes. Superficial optimism and propaganda, which failed to conceal a policy dictated from day to day, were useless for the solution of the difficult problems confronting the revolution.
The stagnation of industry at a level below the meagre pre-War standard deprived the State of material resources, workmen of the necessaries of life, and peasants of manufactured goods. The monetary reform of 1924, which substituted the gold-chervonetz for the depreciated rouble, was carried out at the cost of the proletariat. Semi-starvation wages were often paid months behind-hand, sometimes in unsaleable goods, sometimes in coupons on almost empty co-operative stores. The troika found no other expedient except the restoration of the State monopoly of alcohol, which had been carried through the Central Committee against the opposition of Trotsky and Krupskaya, the latter invoking in vain Lenin's opinion on the national poison. The only method of covering further deficits was to put further pressure on the workers in town and country.
The wretched wages were reduced in various indirect ways: obligatory deductions under pretext of "voluntary" subscriptions, the extension of the piecework system, lowering of the rates of payment simultaneously with increase of the standards of individual production under a complicated system of coefficients and categories. Increasingly severe police repression, together with the fear of unemployment, imposed silence on the working classes, who had no organisation for self-defence, since the trade unions were annexes of the bureaucratic State. Stalin had confessed in 1923 that the number of trade unionists had decreased from 6,000,000 to 4,800,000, "a smaller but more serious number" which, however, had been "recently swollen by an almost nominal membership." This admission was still relevant to the actual circumstances, for the fictitious character of membership continued with an external increase in membership due to compulsory registration. In 1924, Stalin rectified the statistics, bringing down the figure to 4,300,000, a figure less than the "more serious" one of the year before, without more real significance. On paper the trade unions advanced from 5,000,000 "members" in 1924 to more than 10,000,000 in a few years, the number of trade unionists exceeding at one time those qualified for membership, for the trade unions, like the soviets, had ceased to be realities. The workers looked neither for protection nor for help to the wasteful administration in the hands of a machine of 27,000 officials, strictly subordinate to the Party bureaux. They could hope for nothing better from the privileged communist caste. The result was disaffection directed against the regime.
Discontent was no less serious in the countryside, lacking industrial products, robbed of the fruits of individual labour by low fixed prices for grain, and loaded with taxation collected under inexorable pressure. The official communist documents mention, among other causes of distress, the consequences of the last famine, the insufficient harvest of 1924, agricultural unemployment (Preobrazhensky calculated the surplus agricultural labour at twenty million). To these causes were added abuse of power and denial of justice on the part of the village authorities, illegal action of all kinds by the local pseudo-soviets; requisitions, confiscations, impositions, arbitrary arrests, all these aggravated by mass deception and malversation to the prejudice of the State. In his History of the Communist Party, compounded as it is of the most barefaced falsifications, E. Yaroslavsky, one of Stalin's officials, is compelled to admit the "abstention of the peasants from the elections" in the autumn, and says that "the majority of the population did not take part in them." In fact the minority ceased to vote, for the whole system was reduced to a sham. The peasants, robbed and ill-treated, lost patience and began to meet bureaucratic tyranny by crimes against communists, the assassination of the "rural correspondents" of the press, whom they hated as spies. The Party condemned the action of the kulaks accordingly, but it was too easy to confound under this term anybody and everybody. "We are too apt to call any peasant who has enough to eat a kulak," confessed Zinoviev in June 1924. There was a minor civil war, of which the most acute manifestation was in Georgia (August to September 1924), a real armed insurrection.
If there were any doubt in Moscow of the significance of the phenomenon, Stalin dissipated hesitation by the one word: "Kronstadt." And, just as in 1921, there was an inglorious episode in the history of Bolshevism. Georgian Social-Democracy, profoundly divided in opinion on this question, certainly had something to do with this unhappy attempt at insurrection. But there are many indications that police provocation was the decisive factor, that is to say, that the Tiflis Chelta, well informed of the popular dissatisfaction, and employing secret agents in local socialist circles, urged on the rising at a convenient moment in order to stifle it successfully.
In a fortnight, prompt and brutal repression "liquidated" the bloody insurrection, which had gone further than the police had intended and revealed the full gravity of the situation in the provinces. Action unprecedented even in the most tragic moments of the revolution was taken. Five members of the Social-Democratic Central Committee, among them N. Khomeriki and V. Djugeli (who had nothing to do with the insurrection, for they were imprisoned before it took place), were executed without trial, with some dozens of other persons neither more nor less responsible.
Stalin, at the centre of things, and his accomplice Ordjonikidze on the spot, had coldly designed and carried out the cruel manoeuvre, perhaps taking advantage of the circumstances to avenge personal scores with their former rivals in the Caucasus. Recalling Lenin's indignation against the action of the "Dierjimordes" against their communist comrades at Tiflis, it is easy to see who was responsible for the bloodshed in this affair, without the assistance of the explanations of the vanquished. Moreover, Stalin did not hesitate to make the admission in his own way when he said: "What has happened in Georgia may happen throughout Russia, unless we make a complete change in our attitude to the peasantry." Molotov for his part declared: "Georgia provides a startling example of the breach between the Party and the mass of the peasantry in the country." On another occasion Stalin, in a speech in which he declared the necessity of criticism in words borrowed from Lenin, placed the onus of the errors committed on subordinate officials:
Either non-party peasants and workers must be able to criticise us, or we shall be subjected to criticism in the form of insurrection. The Georgian insurrection was such a criticism. So was the Tambov affair. Kronstadt no less. Of two things one: either we give up our optimism and bureaucratic methods and allow the right of criticism to non-party workers and peasants who suffer front our mistakes, or discontent will accumulate, and we shall have criticism in the form of insurrection.
It is difficult to believe that the same man could use language like this after having ruthlessly ordered directly contrary proceedings. But the Kremlin talked in one way and acted quite otherwise. With a new vocabulary and in spite of the different historical stages of development, the degenerate Bolsheviks were unconsciously renewing the Tsarist Russian tradition in matters of governmental action. "The terrible Russian hypocrisy is no man's doing," wrote Michelet, to whom "the insoluble problem of the Empire" seemed to consist in keeping under a common rule peoples differing as widely as possible in degree of civilisation. Apart from its meaningless verbalism, Stalin's whole policy consisted in imitating absolutist predecessors in the maintenance of power, by a combination of cunning and violence, with opportunist alternations of severity and concession. Neither the privileged Party, for the Opposition represented by Trotsky thought of complaining so long as the blows were not directed against themselves. But when once the dictatorial machine of the new oligarchy was set in motion and perfected, it stopped at nothing, acted according to its own lights in a society in which the habit of subservience had become second nature in the course of centuries.
In the sinister light of the Georgian alarm, Stalin's methods became clear enough; under his instruction the role of the police was continuously extended. If the Cheka was nominally only maintained in the Caucasus, where a war regime was permanent, the G.P.U. was just as powerful in the rest of the Union. Already more numerous, active and powerful than the Okhrana, it was the essential tool of the Political Bureau for the settlement of all problems. It is no fortuitous coincidence that the remodelling of the Supreme Economic Council in 1924 began with the nomination of Dzerzhinsky to its head, and went on to the introduction of certain former "Chekists" as heads of departments. At the Revolutionary Military Council, Unschlicht, another member of the G.P.U. Council, supervised the military personnel suspected of "Trotskyism," and prepared bitter draughts for the unorthodox. For Stalin government meant penalties and terrorism. As for the presidency of the Council of Commissars, it was all very well to appoint a mere Kykov after Lenin's death, but only because little influence was attached to the Ministry; the real power lay elsewhere.
In the Party, police interference became more and more oppressive, creating a painful atmosphere of distrust, espionage and treachery. Inspired by the Central Control Commission, directed by Kuibyshev and a kind of specialised annex to the G.P.U., innumerable committees of local control reinforced by still more numerous temporary disciplinary committees, tracked "deviations" and hunted out all sorts of recalcitrants. The friends, colleagues or supporters of Trotsky, or those supposed to be such, were specially aimed at and gradually eliminated from universities, political institutions and army establishments. These measures facilitated the promotion in the hierarchy of the zealous partisans of the Political Bureau. The ignorant "Lenin recruits" were available to fill gaps at the bottom. Even faithful tools of the caprices of the Secretariat no longer felt safe; as in the Society of Jesus, obedience to the will of superiors was not enough; their wishes had to be anticipated. One of the secretaries of the Moscow Committee, an experienced bureaucrat, made responsible for an ovation given to Trotsky, was dispatched to Turkestan, where he had leisure to consider the art of distributing tickets for a suitably packed audience.
In the course of this "first year without Lenin" the recoil of the spirit of October was shown in disturbing symptoms for the suspect Communist Left. Widespread apathy, weariness and fear everywhere indicated an advanced stage in the process of turning "professional revolutionaries" into regular bureaucrats. In the irremediable confusion after Lenin's disappearance, self-interest caused substantial reductions in the phalanx of dissenters from Leninism. The anxiety of the individual to maintain the minimum of relative well-being reserved for privileged workers generally carried the day over secret conviction. There were exceptions. Some militants, incapable of compromising with their consciences, were driven to misery, sometimes to despair. A series of suicides marked the track of this unexampled moral depression. Among these unfortunate persons, most of them obscure, are the names of Eugenia Bosch, heroine of the Ukrainian Revolution; of Lutovinov, the intractable leader of the Workers' Opposition, on his return from his "mission" of exile in Berlin; of Glazman, Trotsky's secretary, expelled from the Party. In high places the nervous state of the victims was alleged in explanation, but, in order to stop the epidemic, it was deemed expedient to invalidate a number of expulsions likely to cause scandal. For in most of the cases the suicides were the results of so-called party purges.
"In Russia, the final word of reproof is equivalent to-day to the papal excommunication in the middle ages." This observation of Custine's in his remarkable letters On Russia in 1839, is accurate nearly a century later. No salvation outside the Partythis tacit axiom of Leninist dogma reveals a singular slowness of development of civilisation through three revolutions in this country where, according to this discerning author, "the great distances, isolation, marshes, forests and the severe winters serve as conscience in the rulers and patience in the ruled." The basic causes of despotism, still intact under the forms of Sovietism, entail the same consequences as of yore under not very different aspects.
On learning of the death of his close collaborator, Trotsky wrote an obituary article for Pravda. Publication was refused. A member of the Political Bureau and of the Council of Commissars, that is to say, of the sham and of the real Government, could not honour the memory of a dead comrade without giving offence to the machine. Stalin wove his plot with perseverance, with a watchful eye on the movements and the reactions of his opponent. The hostile ring was gradually drawn closer around Trotsky. To all appearance, the troika was ready to enter the arena on the earliest occasion to shake the popularity which they feared. Trotsky was well enough informed of these manoeuvres and preparatory discussions to be on his guard. Nevertheless, under circumstances which his detractors could not have hoped for, he was imprudent enough to give them the desired opportunity.
In October 1924, he published without consulting anyone two volumes under the title 1917, a collection of his writings of the great year of revolution, together with an essay on The Lessons of October by way of introduction. In it he established a parallel between the Bolshevist victory of 1917 in Russia and the communist defeat of 1913 in Germany, preceded by a revolutionary failure in Bulgaria, in order to draw from these examples an historical explanation and strategical lessons. He demonstrated especially the necessity of never letting slip any propitious moment for revolt under penalty of a long period of waiting for another favourable moment, and emphasised the useful lesson to be drawn from Russian experience for the international communist movement. After a sketch of his personal interpretation of the facts of October, he ended by a disparaging summing up of the past of Zinoviev and Kamenev, defining bolshevisation in terms of the education and selection of leaders to preserve them from flinching at the decisive moment. Stalin's name is not mentioned in the text, but the reference to the "defensist" position of Pravda in 1917 up to the time of Lenin's arrival at Leningrad clearly aimed at the General Secretary.
All that Trotsky did was to synthetise ideas collected from here and there from his earlier essays, articles and speeches. But at this juncture and in this aggressive form, publication meant opening a conflict, the issue of which lay entirely with the machine. It meant also consolidating the union against himself of men who, under the dictates of common sense, should have been left to be set at variance among themselves. In June 1924, Stalin had given to Kamenev a lesson in elementary Leninism in the course of a speech to the district secretaries, and had taken the liberty of making some rude remarks about Zinovievvery clear indications of a future conflict. Moreover Trotsky was ill once more, a prey to fever, and unable to fight. Again he exposed himself uselessly to blows which he could not return. The troika, furious, had no scruples on this head; on the contrary, they exploited Trotsky's physical weakness, and replied to The Lessons of October by a declaration of war on Trotskyism, as a pernicious doctrine unknown in Lenin's day and suddenly revealed to the profane. An extraordinary discussion was Opened by an anonymous feuilleton in Pravda entitled "How not to describe the October Revolution." It was a unilateral discussion, in which anyone could take part except Trotsky, who was perforce silent. Leninism was in danger. Meetings of officials, of secretaries, and of militants were summoned to hear long "reports" on the new misfortune threatening the revolution. Lenin's Complete Works, cut up into fragments, were drawn upon to prove the case, and if necessary the contrary. Trotsky "as put on trial before the tribunal of a dumbfounded Soviet opinion. Russia and the Communist International were haunted by a spectrethe spectre of Trotskyism.
In reply to Trotsky's sixty pages, which, be it said, were not to be had at the booksellers, as the edition had been cut down at the astute direction of the Secretariat, the Party and the country were submerged by a flood of diatribes. The note of indignation and the leading ideas were provided by Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev, followed by other members of the Political Bureau and of the Central Committee, then by lesser personages. In this atmosphere of over-excitement Krupskaya herself felt compelled to contribute to the argumentwith courtesy and moderation it is true. Among the most eager assailants were those who had an old grievance against the former head of the Red Army; Yaroslavsky, Lunacharsky, Manuilsky, Raskolnikov, Gusev. All the professed Leninists more or less capable of holding a pen hastened to catalogue Trotsky's "errors" past and present, to refute his "semi-Menshevism," to denounce his indiscipline and his pessimism. Thousands of resolutions demanding severe measures were adopted "spontaneously" from the White Sea to the Black Sea by people who had never read a word of the incriminated text, for good reason, and demanded severe penalties, as in the days of Custine "the immense extent of territory is no barrier to everything being carried out with magical punctuality and co-ordination, from one end of Russia to the other." The press reproduced columns of defamatory harangues delivered from every platform; these were afterwards printed in pamphlet form and distributed by the million. (Money was lacking for schools, for orphanages, for hospitals, paper for school books, but: neither money nor paper was spared in the enterprise.) The printing presses were working night and day to combat Trotskyism.
The main object was to disguise the reasons for the discord, the real stakes in the game. Hence the invention of an imaginary heresy to be placed in antithesis to an unreal Leninism. Who in such circumstances dare speak of rival clans or of individuals? The titles of the polemics: Trotskyism or Leninism (Stalin), Leninism or Trotskyism (Kamenev), Bolshevism or Trotskyism (Zinoviev)were chosen by the troika to represent the eternal antimony between Good and Evil, and the theme was amplified by every variation of their common stock of ideas and by every imaginative device.
Lenin's successors were sufficiently skilled in petty politics to attribute the origins of the conflict to Trotsky alone. Rykov declared on their behalf that the Party was engaged in a new discussion. "Once more it concerns Comrade Trotsky. This is the fourth time since October." In fact the principal theme of the Introduction was rarely mentioned. The essential task of the ruling clique of the moment was to maintain silence on what Trotsky had really written, to impute to him statements he had never made, to recall pre-War dissensions, to revive old forgotten tales, to dig up old quarrels in out-of-date letters. Later on Zinoviev confessed as much. "It was a struggle for power," he said, "the whole art of which consisted in linking old dissensions with new problems."
The Party were somewhat stupefied to hear Trotsky accused of "deviation towards the Right" in his theoretical exposition of the "permanent revolution." Stalin and his auxiliaries maintained that this capital error had as its implication a premature dictatorship of the proletariat, and therefore an "under-estimate of the peasantry." This lucky hit, repeated to satiety, became the main indictment. At a sign from Stalin thousands of Philistines began to conjugate the verb to "under-estimate." The accused was also taxed with individualism and anti-Bolshevism, after being reproved for depreciating the Party by implication. Trotsky neither knew nor understood, had never known nor understood, the Bolshevik Party, according to the defenders of "the machine." This was repeated with variations by the champions of the "machine," among others by Yaroslavsky, who, only a year before, had said that Trotsky "had made clear better than anyone else the role of the Communist Party among the working class." Stalin, who, ever since the Tsaritsyn affair, had harboured obstinate resentment, undertook in collaboration with Gusev a reestimate of Trotsky's military ability.
To this flood of insinuation, reproach and insolence, there was no reply from any quarter. The "discussion" was limited to the ruling clique, amidst the mute consternation of the communist rank and file, the unhealthy curiosity of a public greedy for scandal, and the satisfaction of the counter-revolutionaries. The Opposition, caught unawares and under violent provocation, could do nothing but sit still and allow the storm to pass. Trotsky had been so inconsiderate as to place them in an untenable position by his impolitic initiative. His less firm supporters seized the opportunity to abandon a lost cause and abjure their errors. For, as all the ambitious knew, there were rewards to be had for apostasy and ingratitude.
"The Lessons of October was only a pretext," admitted Zinoviev. But Trotsky had gratuitously supplied a pretext, starting the quarrel with a learned thesis on strategy, very provocative both to friends and rivals, and of no interest to the unhappy people. By his own fault he incurred the danger of ostracism and familiarised public opinion with the idea of his own disfavour. Rumours of his arrest were already current, and were believed even in Party circles. His book was believed to be confiscated and forbidden, and the inculpated Introduction was secretly copied. Panic rumours had to be denied officially: "No member of the Central Committee has raised or will raise the question of any sanctions against Trotsky. Measures of suppression or expulsion would not aid a settlement," said Kamenev at Moscow, and Zinoviev used similar language at Petrograd. Stalin agreed: "I am a declared enemy of sanctions. We do not want sanctions, but a theoretical polemic against the revival of Trotskyism."
But though apparently unfounded, the general suspicions were not without foundation. Resounding accusations of "semi-Menshevism" sometimes, in improvised speeches, of plain "Menshevism" could have no other logical sequel than early expulsion from the Party, and then police measures against the dissidents, whether they were socialists or communists. Two of the three members of the troika did secretly propose the expulsion of Trotsky from the Party, that is, his outlawry. Zinoviev and Kamenev indeed did not shrink from the idea of immediate imprisonment for their adversary. They would probably have attained their object but for Stalin's veto. Now that Trotsky was defeated and reduced to silence, his enemies lost the principal reason for their alliancethe fear of being deprived of the Lenin inheritance.
The artificial and superficial excitement of 1924 ended in January 1925 with the joint session of the Central Committee and the Control Commission. As usual every question was settled in advance. Deprived of his functions at the Revolutionary Military Council, under the form of resignation, Trotsky remained a member of the Political Bureau, in spite of a "categorical admonition" calculated to diminish his prestige. "I yielded up the military post without a fight, with even a sense of relief," he wrote. The decision taken in his case ended in a way that sheds light on a certain aspect of Leninism, both in essence and in forma crude Russo-Asiatic duplicity expressed in a self-styled Marxian terminology.
4. Consider the discussion as ended.
5. Continue and develop the work of the Party so as to explain from begin from 1903 down to The Lessons of October, and charge the Political Bureau to furnish all the propaganda organisations (Party schools and others) with the necessary explanations on the subjects; insert in the curricula of political instruction explanations of the petty-bourgeois nature of Trotskyism, etc.
6. In addition to explanatory propaganda in the Party, the Young Communists, etc., a broad popular explanation of the deviations of Trotskyism is indispensable for the worker and the peasant masses.
Disparagement Of Trotsky thus took a permanent place at the moment when the rulers were pretending to suspend it. Any objection or contradiction, which might be ascribed to Trotskyism by those who monopolised the power of public expression, incurred henceforth the most rigorous Party measures. Like the Russia observed by Custine, the Soviet Union became "a country in which the Government says what it likes, because it alone has the right of speech." In offices, clubs and shops, everywhere, indeed, portraits of Trotsky were hunted out by the machine. Ambitious officials, or the best informed of them, showed their zeal by displaying the portrait of Stalin. Reduced to clandestine communication, the Opposition could only distribute in secret and in small numbers copies of the proscribed writings of Lenin: letters on the desertion of Zinoviev and Kamenev in October, notes on the question of nationalities, and finally the unpublished Testament. The diffusion of this subversive literature, hindered and repressed by the G.P.U., cost those who were found taking part in it exclusion from the Party, that is, the loss of wages and house-room. Denunciations and abjurations decimated the ranks of the demoralised Left. Although the younger supporters gave evidence sometimes of cowardice, sometimes Of ambition, Trotsky had founded his hopes on them.
"The Party was condemned to silence. A regime of pure dictatorship was established in the Party machine. In other words, the Party ceased to be a Party." This retrospective remark of Trotsky's may be supplemented by the statement that the ex-Communist Party, formerly the Social-Democratic Party, emerged from the "discussion" profoundly disunited, much weakened in morale, and politically discredited. No further credence was accorded to the fallacious assertions of the priests of the Leninist cult, whose vocabularyrepublic, democracy, election, party, trade unions, Soviet, discussioncorresponded to nothing generally understood by those terms. Under a superficial "monolithic unity," there was discernible irreducible antagonism and actual schism. The year 1924, beginning with the death of Lenin and ending with the fall of Trotsky, revealed irreparable dissension. Already there were whispers in Moscow behind the scenes of the Central Committeeof a broken triumvirate, of Kamenev and Zinoviev in conflict with Stalin.
THE conflict Of the triumvirs, arising out of differences on the course to be pursued against Trotsky, was soon transformed into a struggle for precedence which became more envenomed in the course of 1925.
Stalin, as against the more rabid Leninists, evidently represented average opinion in the ranks of the higher officials in opposing too violent reprisals. In his own clumsy, rough way, and within the limits of the upper ranks of the Party, he desired no doubt to imitate Lenin, so skilful in conciliating opponents after having put them in the wrong. Anxious to humble Trotsky, while at the same time facilitating the necessary changes and reserving the possibility of future collaboration, he prudently put considerations for and against in his speech in November 1924 on The Lessons of October. "I am far from denying the undoubtedly important role of Comrade Trotsky in the uprising. But I must state that Comrade Trotsky did not and could not have played any special role in the October uprising; that being the president of the Petrograd Soviet, he only carried into effect the will of the respective Party authorities which guided every step of Comrade Trotsky." And a little later in the speech: "... Trotsky, who was a relative newcomer in our Party in the period of October, did not and could not have played any special role either in the Party or in the October uprising. Like all the responsible functionaries, he was only executing the will of the Central Committee and its organs."
Nevertheless it was Stalin who had deliberately written in 1918: "The whole work of the practical organisation of the insurrection was carried out under Trotsky's immediate instructions.... It may be definitely asserted that in the matter of the rapid passage over of the garrison to the side of the Soviet and the skilful organisation of the work of the Military Revolutionary Committee, the Party is primarily indebted to Comrade Trotsky." But respect for the truth, like self-respect, were "middle-class prejudices" in the eyes of the degenerate Leninists. Examination of the documents would have been punished as treason against the revolution; no one dare venture on it.
Stalin did justice in his own way to Trotsky's fighting qualities: "Yes, that is true, Comrade Trotsky really fought well during October. But Comrade Trotsky was not the only one who fought well during the period of October; even such people as the Left Social Revolutionaries, who then stood shoulder to shoulder with the Bolsheviks, did not fight badly, etc." Finally, of the chief of the Red Army he said: "I am far from denying the important role Comrade Trotsky played in the Civil War. But I must declare with the utmost emphasis that the high honour of organising our victories belongs not to any individual person but to the great collective of front-rank workers of our countrythe Russian Communist Party." He then cited a surprising version, according to which Kolchak and Denikin had been put to flight "in spite of the plans of Comrade Trotsky," and defied him to contest it, thanks to the privilege which authorised him to say what he pleased under the shelter of the G.P.U.
When all is said, Stalin had the advantage over his fellow Bolsheviks of knowing in his heart his own shortcomings, a silent modesty which is not incompatible with the self-confidence which he displayed in his actions as dictator. He still attached a certain importance to the benefit to be derived from the ideas, talents and activity of the man he disparaged. Why should it be impossible for him to capture the force which Lenin had been able to employ in the best interests of the Party? All the internal dissensions emphasised Trotsky's incapacity to form a group capable of supplanting the actual people in power. The General Secretary became the more aware of his strong position at the centre of the machine, as it revealed to him the impatience and the powerlessness of his adversaries. This sense of security was confirmed in Stalin by his natural empiricism, a propensity for living from day to day, leaving to their own devices those whose services he might employ.
Zinoviev and Kamenev on the contrary had sufficient faculty for superficial generalisation to fear the consequences of Their too easy success. In declaring their hostility to the repressions, they sought to dissimulate their own real intentions. Inferior to Stalin in many respects in character and temperament, but fortified by a certain amount of western culture and educated under the shadow of Lenin, they were too wary to be satisfied with the result obtained without at any rate seeking for some long-range policy.
Earlier than anyone else except Lenin, Zinoviev had seen the complexity of the problem of the Secretariat as early as 1923, and had hoped to solve it, whether by reducing the powers of the Secretary, or by enlarging them in the hands of a bureau of three membersStalin, Trotsky and Zinoviev or Kamenev. Having himself reason to complain of Stalin's high-handed procedure, he thought the time was ripe to reform the organisation of government. With a little patience and tact, Trotsky would easily have disarmed his most redoubtable rival, and then assured without any great effort his predominance among the others; it was his lack of foresight, his impulsiveness and reticence that consolidated the bloc of the Political Bureau against him. A new phase opened with the disintegration of the so-called Leninist Old Guard, which Stalin had once likened to a "compact wall" without a breach.
Trotsky, even as an object of universal scorn, seemed more dangerous than ever to the "deserters of October," haunted apparently by the Bonapartist danger they had conjured up in imagination, and in a hurry to have done with the man who was irreconcilable in defeat, from whom they feared a fresh offensive. After vainly demanding his expulsion from the Party, and then, in default of this, from the Central Committee, or at least from the Political Bureau, they manoeuvred under cover of various committees to wear out Stalin's resistance, the only serious obstacle to their scheme. The Leningrad "machine" under Zinoviev, part of the Moscow officials under Kamenev, and some provincial militants served them more or less consciously. Reduced to minor tactics, they worked for the removal of Stalin from the Secretariat to the post of Commissar of War and for his replacement by a person named Rudzutak. This manoeuvre only served to unmask their secret intentions, without preventing the nomination of Frunze, which had longs been prearranged by Stalin.
Before the meeting of the Central Committee in January, at which the resolution condemning Trotsky was debated, the governing clique had concerted in private a unanimous line of action. Violent differences emerged. Stalin, sure of his majority, stood firm. Zinoviev, despairing of success, offered his resignation, knowing it could not be accepted. In the end a sham compromise was reached, Stalin agreeing to stiffen the resolution and Zinoviev renouncing the demand for Trotsky's expulsion. But the coalition of the Old Bolsheviks was broken for ever; a merciless struggle for Lenin's heritage had begun.
In fact Stalin had won once more. By his instructions the attacks on Trotsky were sensibly attenuated. He himself set the example by suddenly discovering that Trotskyism, denounced only yesterday as a form of Menshevism, was in reality the "right wing of Communism." Master of the situation at Moscow, he laid a restraining hand on the extreme bolshevisation initiated by Zinoviev in the International and prevented in advance the purging operations contemplated.
In an interview in February with the German Communist writer, Wilhelm Herzoff, implicitly repudiating the supposed "Left" demagogy of Zinoviev, he was lavish in promises of prudence and caution, contrasting it with practice within the Soviet Union, and he constituted himself the protector of the Opposition of the "Right," threatened with exclusion in Germany under the pretext of Trotskyism. This unforeseen interference in Zinoviev's domain constituted a discreet warning to him. Three weeks later, he wrote to the spokesman of the Communist Left in Berlin to reassure him by extolling the "new types" of leader of whom he aspired to be regarded as the model. In his confidential letter he referred to the history of the Bolshevik Party: "With us in Russia, there has always been this process of the waning of the old leaders, generally of the literary type," and went on to mention Lunacharsky, Bogdanov, and Krassin among the decrepit, though having others in mind. He condemned on paper the policy "which creates within the Party a regime of intimidation, of fear, a regime which develops neither self-criticism nor initiative," as if he really had no use for such methods. He formulated an opinion worth noting on these leaders: "It is a bad thing for the leaders of the Party to be feared without being respected. The leaders of a party cannot be real leaders if they and their judgment are not respected as well as feared."
Simultaneously he toned down the prolonged polemic from the January meeting onwards. One of the co-directors of the Bolshevik, Vardin, a converted ex-Menshevik, was dismissed for extreme anti-Trotskyism and then sent to the Caucasus. The blow was indirectly aimed at Zinoviev who persisted secretly in his obstructive tactics. In Pravda, Raskolnikov denounced in unusual terms the pamphlet of a certain Zalutsky on Trotsky as "sickening." It had been inspired by Zinoviev. Through Intermediaries, the Leningrad dictator was already accusing Stalin of opportunism and of "semi-Trotskyism"; at his instigation the ruling committees in the northern capital were demanding a more intransigent policy in Moscow. He also made arrangements for a new publication, the Leninist, as a rival to the Bolshevik, tainted with Trotskyism. The Political Bureau forbade it. Thus gradually enmity within the omnipotent bureaucracy itself was growing up in the name of the "monolithic" front.
With characteristic firmness, Stalin called the bluff. He kept a tight hand on the instrument which his former friends now wished to wrest from himthe Secretariat, gradually transformed from the executive organ into the effective organ of power. In Party circles in touch with the "top," no more was said of the dictatorship of the troika but of the dictatorship of the Secretariat; the dictatorship of the proletariat had long fallen out of the reckoning. The Political Bureau became a consultative committee dominated by a sort of camarilla constituted around Stalin. In this way the formal presence of Trotsky was not in absolute contradiction with the official policy. Of the seven membersnot counting deputy members and leaving aside TrotskyBukharin, Rykov and Tomsky gave Stalin an automatic majority of four votes against Zinoviev and Kamenev. In the absence of Trotsky or anyone else, three deputies were on his side, Kalinin, Molotov and Dzerzhinsky; there was nothing to fear from the fourth, Sokolnikov, a friend of Kamenev's. This balance of forces ensured the stability of the government until the next Party Congress, when the machine, instructed beforehand, would easily re-establish the "hundred per cent monolithism." But an unprecedented thing happened. The annual Congress, punctually assembled in even the worst days of the Civil War, was put off from March to September, then to December, the necessity for consultation of the Party becoming less and less felt, meanwhile, Stalin did not require much imagination to counteract the manoeuvres of his new opponents. As he had acted with their complicity when it was desired to isolate Trotsky, so now he placed, displaced and replaced officials. Playing alone on a gigantic chessboard, he could move the pieces as he wished without hindrance. This time it was the supporters of Zinoviev and Kamenev who sufferedSafarov, Zorin, Kharitonov, Kviring and many others, following Vardin. Under the supreme Secretariat, the principal regional committees would soon be provided with secretaries completely trustworthy Uglanov at Moscow, Kaganovich in the Ukraine, other subalterns in the Urals and at Ivanovo-Vosnessensk, The Caucasus Committee was entirely subservient since the events which had moved Lenin's indignation. All the essential strategical positions were thus occupied in due course by Stalin's fraction except Leningrad, where Zinoviev was surrounded by his bureaucratic tools, but was powerless against the machine as a whole.
In April 1925, a conference of the Party unanimously voted the various resolutions dictated by the Political Bureau, i.e., in the last resort by Stalin. It confirmed and accentuated the policy of conciliation adopted towards the peasants since the Georgian insurrection, and proclaimed in an order repeated a thousand times: "Look to the countryside." Reduction and simplification of the land-tax, the redistribution of land, reestablishment of the wages system, various concessions to cultivators of all kinds, extension of rights of buying and selling, measures "to encourage and guarantee the process of healthy saving," in the rural economy, were calculated to assist a recovery of agriculture. Once more "Bashi-Bazouk outrages," condemned six years earlier by Lenin, were repudiated. A "new rural policy," declared Stalin in his Replies to the Questions enunciated by the students of the Sverdlov University. There appeared to be no divergence of view in the Government. The fractions kept a wary eye on each other and waited patiently. If secret, silent preparations were being made on one side or the other, the Party could not suspect the fact.
In a long report made in May, Stalin strongly emphasised the principal lines of this new policy towards the peasants, regardless of providing arguments for his enemies: "Any party which hides the truth from the people, which fears light and criticism, is not a party, but a clique of imposters doomed to ruin.... We must," he said in a jargon more and more confused, "follow the line of liquidating old administrative and governmental methods, the line of giving life to the soviets, the line of transformation of the soviets into real elective organs, the line of implanting in the countryside bases of soviet democracy." It is essential that "Communists in the rural districts should abandon monstrous forms of administration." In fact the manifold errors of the recent past must be abandoned, and more seriousness and competence must be brought to the work. Platonic assurances for the future corresponded to the revealing admissions on the recent past and the immediate present.
According to Bukharin, the accredited theorist of the fraction of which Stalin styled himself the executant, the intention was really to extend the New Economic Policy to the country districts where it had not yet been possible to apply it. "We must tell the peasants, all the peasants, to enrich themselves, to develop their business and not to fear spoilation," cried the former leader of Left Communism, anxious to stimulate "increase of farms belonging to the more prosperous peasants and kulaks." This was only an emphatic statement of unanimous opinion general in the Central Committee.
In 1924 Chicherin, not without instructions from above, had declared in an interview with foreign concessionaires: "Enrich yourselves! let us say in the words of Guizot. Enrich yourselves!for in this way we enrich ourselves." Beginning from 1925, there was no more talk of the class struggle in the villages, except to forbid any stimulation of it; as for the iniquitous kulaks, they received the less disparaging name of "the more prosperous peasants," in current speech. Zinoviev and Kamenev did not dissent from Stalin and Bukharin, from Molotov and Kalinin on this subject. Far from under-estimating the peasantry, Trotsky himself had two years before anticipated his colleagues in saying of the peasant in general: "We must so act that be will be richer next year than he is this," and, advising against any increase of taxation, "so that peasant prosperity may increase and the peasant grow richer in the future." As early as September 1925, Trotsky proposed to enlarge "the scope of capitalist traders in rural districts," and to reinforce capitalist farming so as to encourage progress in production even with the help of capitalist methods. At the end of November, at Kislovodsk, he was heard to declare: "There is no direct danger in the economic system in the country districts," and to deprecate the "dekulakisation of the kulak." Guizot's famous phrase, transformed by Bukharin, reflected with some exaggeration a collective evolution in the direction of a return to the October programme, which had been changed by War Communism.
Stalin goes still further. Being ready "to change from top to bottom our attitude towards the peasants," he envisages as unavoidable the restoration of the small proprietor, and in consequence the denationalisation of the soil. To prepare public opinion he summons the Soviet journalists and gets this question put to him: "Would it not be necessary in the interests of agriculture, to guarantee to the peasant for ten years the land which he cultivates?" To this Stalin replies: "Even for forty years." At his suggestion the Commissar for Agriculture in Georgia drew up the basis of an ordinance along these lines. The peasant insurrection of the preceding year had therefore not been in vain. But Zinoviev and his supporters, determined to take up a Left position against the Right tendency of the Stalin fraction, guilty of "semi-Trotskyism," found an excellent pretext in a flagrant doctrinal flaw. The "kulakophile" tendency was undeniable, and that was more than enough to afford a decent excuse for personal rivalries. Moreover, Bukharin had some rather extremist disciples, young "Red" professors who in their writings paraphrased the master and compromised him more deeply. Excellent opportunity for denouncing heresy. The fire, latent beneath the cinders of official optimism, was revived in a controversy behind the scenes, Zinoviev having incited Krupskaya to write an article against Bukharin aimed at Stalin through his adviser. Would they dare to impose silence on Lenin's widow? Warned in time, Bukharin refuted the refutation, and this was sufficient to permit of the refusal of the imprimatur to both texts with pretended impartiality. Stalin met the attack skilfully. Foreseeing an incident at the approaching Congress, he anticipated matters and suggested the retraction of the inopportune formula. Bukharin acted accordingly, and admitted his mistake, reserving freedom to justify himself later.
Of this passage of arms the public knew nothing. The little which had been publicly expressed was lost in insipid and unintelligible documents which few had the courage to read, and the underlying meaning of which was impenetrable to ordinary mortals. No more enlightening was the long, mysterious article by Zinoviev in September entitled Philosophy of the Time, with its ambitious and misleading title and its veiled insinuations. Only three months later and thanks to a violent open conflict, the Party learned that Stalin had only consented to the insertion of this article after substantial modifications. All this was made more obscure by the fact that the various writers cited Lenin interminably, were for ever boasting of their Leninism, and, from sheer force of habit, repeated from time to time the same allusions to the shade of Trotskyism.
Stalin, however, no longer limited his activities to the modest role of an executant. His victory over Trotsky and the mathematical certainty of check-mating Zinoviev opened up to him new horizons. He now aspired to be Lenin's spiritual successor, as he was his temporal successor. Even in its degenerate state, the Bolshevist tradition demanded a leader capable of theorising practice, if not of giving effect to theory. Beyond criticism as General Secretary, whose actions were assured of automatic sanction by the Political Bureau, his weak point was exposed when he began to argue doctrinal points. Here Zinoviev thought him vulnerable, and here he sought to get in his blow.
In his polemic against Trotsky and against the theory of "permanent revolution," Stalin could no longer restrain his natural inclination for a national form of socialism, repressed during Lenin's lifetime, but apparent as early as 1917 in his reply to Preobrazhensky: "The possibility is not excluded that Russia may be the country destined to prepare the way for socialism." In his 1924 essay on October and the Theory of the Permanent Revolution Stalin wrote: "The victory of socialism is possible even in a country relatively undeveloped from the capitalist point of view," and he championed "the Leninist theory of revolution and of the victory of socialism in a single country." After the conference of 1925 he said in his report: "Can we construct socialism unaided...? Leninism answers this question in the affirmative." In reality, this meant for communists of this particular brand a breach with Lenin's fundamental internationalism; and the renunciation of Marxism.
Without going back to Marx and Engels, whose thesis, whether valid or not, requires no interpretation as to the international character of the socialist revolution, it is sufficient to refer to the principal writings and speeches of Lenin to establish an insoluble antithesis with the Leninism of Stalin.
As far back as 1906 Lenin looked forward to "the socialist revolution in the west as the sole guarantee against a restoration," laying it down that "the Russian Revolution can conquer by its own strength, but can in no case maintain and consolidate its conquests unaided." Afterwards he consistently affirmed as "an elementary truth of Marxism" the impossibility of establishing "socialism in a single country," down to his last article Better Less, but Better, in which (1923) he recognised that "we are not civilised enough to pass directly to socialism, although we have the political premises for it." His strategy and tactics were invariably supported by considerations connected with the world revolution at every decisive step he had to take. The intellectual and economic backwardness of the Soviet Republic is not the only argument. In 1918 Lenin declared that socialism was inconceivable in a single country, "even in one much less backward than Russia," and, always counting on outside help, he calculated in prudent terms the necessary delays: "It is very doubtful whether the next generation ... can realise socialism in every department." Next year he said: "... We know that we cannot establish a socialist system nowGod grant that it may be established in our children's time or perhaps in our grandchildren's time." His opinion in this matter was consistent and incontestable.
But by ransacking his Complete Works some phrases, more or less explicit, susceptible, when torn from their context, of a different interpretation, may be found. Sometimes he improvised summary formulas, useful at the moment for the point he had to prove, though there was no pretence of incorporating in them the whole of his doctrine. For example, definitions in which words are given a restricted or relative meaning, according to the question under discussion, sometimes expressions intended to cheer up his audience. Just as Napoleon attributed military success, now to artillery, now to the bayonet, now to the commissariat, to morale, to good administration, to the mobility of the army, to the commander-in-chief, to the health of the troops, to disciplineso Lenin emphasised what was important for his argument at the moment. To attribute to his expressions for a particular occasion an absolute interpretation would be to mutilate or to minimise his ideas, often to misunderstand them. But this is what Stalin did with regard to "Socialism in a single country," a statement of the problem as inadequate as the answer to it.
Before the revolution, in 1915, Lenin enunciated in a few lines the mere hypothesis of a socialist victory "first in a few capitalist countries, or even in one alone," but in a very restricted sense and without reference to Russia. Stalin took this hypothesis literally, and transformed it into a dogma. He quotes it again and again, eked out with fragments derived from the imposing text of the Complete Works, which Zinoviev was also to invoke to prove the contrary proposition. In an article on co-operation, appearing after Better Less, but Better, during his illness, Lenin enumerated "the conditions necessary to build up the integral fabric of the socialist societyby means of cooperation and co-operation alone." Stalin confused the abstract with the concrete, and deduced from it a confirmation of his own view. He forgot that at the Thirteenth Congress, in announcing the number of seven million co-operators, he had himself to correct it by saying in euphemistic terms: "I do not believe in these figures, because adhesion to the Consumers' Co-operative Societies is not yet entirely voluntary, and it is certain that it includes 'dead souls.' " In fact the co-operatives, like the trade unions and the soviets, tended to disappear with the principle that co-operative trading became state trading. Lenin was speaking of free and conscious co-operation, not of the deceptive label. In Stalin's language, "not yet completely voluntary" meant obligatory and consequently, in accordance with the authority which he had arrogated, resulting in an imitation completely sterile.
But Lenin also said: "The success of socialism in Russia demands a certain lapse of time, at least several months," and no one thought of repeating that. Again he said: "Socialism is a matter of accounting," which did not prevent Stalin from rightly recognising at the previous Congress: "Our statistics are one-legged." Lenin said further: "Communism means the power of the soviets, plus electrification" ....which neither proves the existence of real soviets, nor of the economic and technical level corresponding to the general use of electricity. He set down the equation: "Soviets + proletarian democracy = dictatorship of the proletariatthe elements of which were still to be created in Soviet life. He even enunciated the aphorism: "Every cook ought to learn to govern the State"; an aphorism easy enough to push to absurdity, but one which was not to prevent him from one day proposing to remove the "head cook," for whose "peppery dishes" he had no taste. Examples might be multiplied.
Suppose for a moment chat Stalin was right to interpret strictly and literally hasty phrases of this kind, closing his eyes to anything which explained, modified, or decreased the importance of their tenor, this would merely have increased the list of the contradictory statements to be found in Lenin's writings. If that was what the pundits of Leninism wanted, that was the way to do it. This, indeed, is the impression left by the laborious compilations of Stalin and Zinoviev, rivals in orthodoxy. The latter, in his book on Leninism, revised by Krupskaya, sets out half a hundred quotations drawn from the Complete Works to embarrass his ex-colleague, who replied with half a dozen extracts. But for those who are able to discern what I. Babel calls the "mysterious curve of Lenin's straight line," Stalin's aberration in time seems obvious; it is due to a reversion to the utopian conceptions of the first half of the nineteenth century, to a method of reasoning outside time and space, the negation of the dialectic only too much insisted on by the Leninists of the decadence. To approve it, in the interests of a fraction, Bukharin would have had to retract his A.B.C. of Communism.
Stalin was not personally able to defend the reactionary idea of "Socialism in a single country" except by retracting his own assertions, copied from Lenin less than a year before. In fact, in The Foundations of Leninism he wrote: "Can we succeed and secure the definitive victory of socialism in one country without the combined efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries? Most certainly not ... For the definitive triumph of socialism, the organisation of socialist production, the efforts of one country alone are not enough, particularly of an essentially rural country like Russia; the efforts of the proletarians of several advanced countries are needed." Under any government with a minimum of democracy, Stalin would have been compelled to have respect for the theory he had recently advanced or to retract plainly. The dictatorship of the Secretariat permitted him to modify the awkward passage of his pamphlet, cut out in new editions, and to get out of the dilemma by an explanation imposed by the G.P.U.: "Socialism realisable in a single country, except in case of aggressive capitalist intervention."
Of the hundred and forty millions of Soviet subjects bowed beneath Stalin's yoke, still anonymous in 1925, there were indeed some who understood the need and the urgency, before proclaiming socialism in words, of accomplishing in fact the first steps in the way of material and moral progress, of giving bread to the legions of abandoned children, work to the millions of unemployed, healthy habitations to the innumerable working class families crowded in hovels, a human level of existence to the mass of wage-earners, and elementary instruction to the illiterate population. Rightly or wrongly, Marxists thought that there were no "Utopias to be introduced ready-made for the workers," and that what was required was not "to realise an ideal but to release the elements of the new society existent in the old bourgeois society itself." Each generation had its own task, determined in the last resort by economic conditions and limited by historical circumstances, on the world scale. Advance in the direction of socialism meant more than indefinite promises of the integral communist programme to the people plunged in ignorance and poverty, subject to inequality and injustice, deprived of rights and liberty, and under a regime which engendered and perpetuated privilege. But in substituting Leninism for Marxism, Stalin's fraction tried more or less consciously to suppress every vestige of imported theory. Only to the members of the Political Bureau was some right of criticism and liberty of opinion permitted, and of that Trotsky prudently did not avail himself, and Zinoviev and Kamenev were not to exercise it for long.
THE Fourteenth Congress of the Party met in December 1925, after being twice deferred. No preparatory discussion preceded it. The traditional "free tribune" of Pravda was not open. Everywhere the plethoric "theses" of the Political Bureau were voted unanimously, under the constant threat of administrative and police repression. Trotsky's fate sufficiently indicated what less highly-placed opponents would have to face. With ordinary men the Government showed little ceremony, having both the power to condemn without appeal to civil death by expulsion from the Party, the means of depriving the "undisciplined" and their families of the means of livelihood by deprivation of work, and finally the resource of turning them out of their homes at any moment by their all-powerful caprice.
There were worse fates. In addition to the communist workers imprisoned and deported by secret procedure for wrong opinions, many modest militants of the minority were incarcerated, accused, condemned without proof, without witnesses, without defence. Every individual guilty of any independence of mind, even if he were a convinced communist, thus risked ruin under an unverifiable pretext, sometimes expiating ostensibly a youthful peccadillo or the venal fault of a distant relative. "In Russia to talk was equivalent to conspiracy, thinking was revolt; alas! thought is not only a crime, it is a calamity," noted Custine under the Iron Tsara saying true to-day. As in former days, Siberia was peopled by exiles of all shades of politics. It is unnecessary to modify the words of F. Lacroix, another contemporary of Nicholas I, who was distressed to observe that "the most innocent might, on the slanderous denunciation of some wretch, be arrested and dispatched, without trial, to that terrible country for the rest of his life." ...With such means of pressure and intimidation, there was no difficulty in securing "hundred per cent unanimity."
Accordingly, great was the surprise at the explosion of a new discord. The Party had had no reason to suspect it. At Leningrad as elsewhere there was complete unanimity on the Government propositions. It was the same everywhere, without knowledge of the case or any liberty of judgment; the proof was to be found in the insuperable antagonism of the fractions which had "voted" the same resolutions. The struggle begun in the high regions at the "summit" was not visible from the plain. After the death of Frunze, the nomination of a Commissar for War gave rise to competition between Voroshilov, Stalin's candidate, and Lashevich, a supporter of Zinoviev. The Central Committee elected them both, the first as chief, the second as deputy. Stalin did not care to force a decision. The public was unaware of the significance of the double choice and of the circumstances of Frunze's death. In the Moscow literary review, Krasnaya Nea, under the mysterious title: History of the Unextinguished Moon, and the more explicit sub-title: The Assassination of the Commandantthe Soviet writer, B. Pilnyak, published an equivocal tale where the allusions to Stalin are precise enough. In it there are two chief characters, a military leader of high rank suffering from an ulcer, which is well on the way to being cured, and an all-powerful politician member of a troika which governs the country; the second has secretly decided on a surgical operation for which the first has no need and which is thought necessary by none of the great doctors called into consultation. The soldier has gloomy forebodings but does not dare to resist the orders of his political superior and dies under chloroform. Stalin had the number of the review confiscated and took sanctions against the editor and the author. But the question remained where it was.
People knew nothing of what underlay certain controversies academic in appearance. "Socialism in a single country" was not the only subject in dispute. Without naming one another, Stalin and Zinoviev were at loggerheads on the question of whether the dictatorship was to be that of their Party or of the proletariat, each of them citing Lenin profusely. But both under different formulas had the same unavowed intentionthe dictatorship of a coterie. For his part, without mentioning names, Kamenev began to explain the difficulties in the way of the advance of the Soviet Republic. These were the formation of a rural bourgeoisie disposing of a third of the crops and of two-thirds of the surplus for sale; the poverty of the mujiks lacking horses and implements; active speculation in goods, and the rapid accumulation of private capital. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, State property was valued at 11 1/2 milliard roubles, private property at 7 1/2 milliards, not including houses. Thus, said Kamenev, co-operation representing only half a milliard "supports especially the most settled classes"; capitalism is developing under the impulse of the majority of the peasants, State production is not yet socialist, since it provides goods partly for the processes of purchase and sale. Confronted with the capitalist danger, concluded the Vice-President of the Council of Commissars, the new regime could only reckon on a working class whose wages were still below the pre-War level and were retarding the progress of industry; a remedy had to be found for this disturbing situation, perhaps by establishing for the workers a sort of collective participation in the returns. This thesis was directed fundamentally against the "kulakophile" tendency of Bukharin, Kalinin and others, including Stalin.
In the course of this year, the latter had several times proposed a "new course in the rural districts," denouncing the "absence of control, the arbitrary procedure of the leaders" in his replies to students and letters to young communists. "A succession of presidents, of district executive committees and members of cells have gone to prison for this reason," wrote Stalin, with regard to administrative abuses. As for concessions to be made to the peasants, they "will certainly be increased as our economic position improves." Later on, "the Constitution will be enlarged to include the whole population, including the bourgeoisie," he affirmed, quoting Lenin (Questions and Answers). The dictatorship of the proletariat is "violence within legal limits towards capitalists and owners of land," not towards the working people. And as if to confirm the veracity of the protests raised in all quarters, he recommended "more attention to the aspirations and needs of the working class....more sensibility and respect for the dignity of the working class." But formal assurances lavished on the disillusioned proletariat had not the same interest as the new promises with regard to the better-off peasants and the bourgeoisie.
The reaction of Zinoviev's fraction to this remarkable development was shown in the theses of the Political Bureau drawn up by Kamenev and passed unanimously, stating the theoretical consequences, three weeks before the Fourteenth Congress. The general trend of this document is to rectify the "Right" orientation with which Stalin was reproached, prescribing the support of "the poor and middle classes of the peasantry," emphasising the importance of the trade unions in production, and of co-operation in socialist competition with the Kulaks, insisting, in agreement with Trotsky, on the necessity of developing industry according to a fixed plan. Stalin had no hesitation in countersigning it, well knowing- that the future did not depend on platonic statements of this kind. A few theses more or less cost him little, provided that his machine was not affected. Every useful precaution had been taken against this. That was clear at the regional congresses preceding the Moscow Congressat Kharkov, at Leningrad, where the new Opposition was subjected to the first shots of the bureaucratic offensive.
Stalin at first abstained from overt intervention. The signal was given to say nothing about Kamenev and Zinoviev, but to attack their supporters, so as to reserve the chance of an oppOrtune compromise between the principal figures. In the same way, when there was conflict among the great boyars, the "small men" had to bear the brunt of the battle, sacrificed to the authority of the supreme oligarchy. But Stalin's new opponents were not yet aware of the transformation of the Party into a social class interested in the preservation of the staus quo and passively solid for the leaders, nor of the degeneration of the regime into the dictatorship of the Bolshevik caste over the working classes. They thought they could amend official policy without attacking the principle of power, by securing internal reforms at the top. In this illusion, shared by the whole Opposition, they advanced to throw themselves against the "steel wall of Leninism," an expression used without irony by the "wall" itself, just as if they had learnt nothing from the experience of the Left Opposition. Incited in the Political Bureau by Bukharin's theses "on the work of Communist Youth," studded with transparent allusions to their critical attitude, Zinoviev and Kamenev voted against them and placed themselves in the position of an intransigent minority. This led to a public discussion, the issue of which was not in doubt.
In a speech aimed at the new Opposition, Bukharin accused his opponents of pessimism, of defeatism, of anti-Leninism for having described State Soviet industry as a form of State capitalism, that is as a system of exploitation of the workers, and accused them of "bringing grist to the Menshevik mill." Kamenev defended himself by extracts from Lenin in exact agreement with his views, and quoted Bukharin, who had admitted in 1925 his consistent disagreement with Lenin on the two questions of "proletarian culture and State capitalism." Molotov riposted with other quotations from the Complete Works, enabling him to condemn without rhyme or reason "every kind of incredulity, and defeatism." On the same note, an address from the Kharkov assembly censured "the panic mentality of certain comrades." Having attributed to the Central Committee "underestimation of the kulak," the Opposition in their turn were confronted with the accusation of "underestimating" the middle peasant.... Moreover, as President of the Council of Labour and Defence, Kamenev saw himself made responsible for all the economic miscalculations of the moment: a wrong estimate of the harvest, the rise in the price of cereals, the fall in the chervonetz. In vain he defended himself by sheltering behind the approval secured from the Political Bureauthe procedure once used against Trotskyism was applied to his Leninism. In addition he laid himself open to easy refutation by proposing the participation of the workers in the returns in a country in which industry was working at a loss. He was accused of demagogy, not without foundation, and not only under this head, for "certain Leningrad comrades" had suggested the augmentation of the membership of the Party by several million units in one year, to bring the number up to go per cent of the proletariat. The most differing themes were therefore mixed in an inextricable confusion, well fitted to mislead opinion for the benefit of the dominant fraction and to facilitate the specific task of the machine.
As was expected, and just as in Trotsky's case in 1924, Kamenev found himself isolated at Moscow, although he was a member of the Political Bureau, President of the Council of Labour and Defence and Vice-President of the Council of Commissars, President of the Moscow Soviet and Director of the Lenin Instituteto mention only his principal titles. Krupskaya was the only one to take his part, without the least chance of influencing a vote. Too late a comer to the Opposition, she had lost the moment for any useful intervention. Stalin did not hesitate to disparage her secretly, having no fear of disagreeable revelations. The zealous hierarchy of secretaries would do the rest, expert in the isolation of awkward personalities.
Among the notorious illusions prevalent in the polemic of that time, one is particularly worth notice, as throwing light on ulterior events. Kamenev based his argument about the "kulak danger" on the figures provided by the Central Statistical Bureau, an institution politically neutral and objective in its methods, if not in its results. Stalin had no difficulty in cutting the knot; under his instructions the Control Commission, an organ of repression whose praesidium, together with the College of the G.P.U., constituted a sort of Star Chamber, annulled the relatively scientific information, and substituted its own statistics faked to suit governmental considerations. The result was a substantial diminution on paper of social antagonisms in the countryside, and harvest returns more favourable to the poor peasants and less abundant for the kulaks. "Access to figures is a privilege of the Russian police," as Custine had already observed under the Iron Tsar.
The paradox was more apparent than real. The Communist organisation of Leningrad had unanimously approved its leaders, exactly as the Party as a whole had done, and thanks to methods very similar, thinking it was sharing the general unanimity and without suspecting any discordant note. Its delegates formed the only opposition at the Congress in which majority and minority were rivals in Leninomania and "monolithism." Suddenly Stalin opened fire, and Zinoviev, at last mentioned by name, was seen to be in a desperate position. President of the Communist International, member of the Central Committee and of the Political Bureau, President of the Leningrad Soviet, he was accused in his turn of all imaginable offences against Leninism in the special jargon of the hour: revisionism, sectionalism, schism, pessimism, defeatism, Menshevism, liquidationism, and panic and hysteria. He had lost all right of reply, all means of defence, except the Leningrad Pravda which he was accused of abusing. At the beginning of the Congress his fate was irrretrievably fixed.
After the report of the Central Committee, which Stalin, now in the forefront, presented, Zinoviev was so imprudent as to ask to speak as joint rappoteur, in order to justify himself, to explain his positionan unheard-of "scandal" as the exasperated majority declared. A hundred and fifty speakers put down their names in a feverish atmosphere. Only half of them could be heard, alternating with the handful of those "in error," Kamenev, Sokolnikov, Krupskaya, Lashevich, Yevdokimov and some others. Thousands of quotations from Lenin were exchanged without any conclusion being reached. The Congress addressed an appeal in grandiloquent terms to the communist workers of Leningrad, over the head of their delegation, to stigmatise the crime of an opponent who had suspected the Central Committee of "degeneration and Thermidorism"; to beware of the error of Zinoviev and Kamenev. "The pronouncements of Zalutsky on the degeneration of the Central Committee and on our Thermidorism reveal, on examination, the whole gamut of the ideology of liquidation." Both sides accused one another, with justice, of stifling working-class opinion and violating democracy; with equal bad faith, they blamed the other party for over-estimating this or under-estimating that, for "Right" heresies or "Left" errors. Zinoviev's Leninism and his History of the Party, works circulated by authority in millions of copies, and only recently obligatory for students, were now denounced as contrary to authentic Bolshevism and held up to ridicule and were declared no longer worthy of the official imprimatur. An ironic comment on "monolithism" was provided by the spectacle of Lashevich and Voroshilov, the two principal army commanders, speaking from the tribune as declared enemies. Zalutsky had already "acknowledged his error" on Thermidor; all the leaders of the new Opposition were summoned to follow his example, under threat of reprisals.
With a speech from Kamenev, the controversy took an extraordinarily virulent turn; for the first time the question of which everyone was thinking but of which no one spoke was plainly stated, the question of Stalin's position. This was the culminating point of the Congress. In a hostile and excited audience, before which the Leningrad fraction put up a hopeless fight, Kamenev explained his grievances in the tumult. The stenographic report is attenuated but revealing:
Kamenev....We object to the creation of a headship theory; to the setting up of a "head." We object to the Secretariat, uniting policy and organisation in itself, being placed above the political organism. We stand for an internal organisation of the supreme power so as to assure full power to the Political Bureau, which contains all the political brains of our Party, and subordinate the Secretariat to it as the technical executant of its decisions.... (Uproar.) We cannot consider normal, and think harmful to the Party, the prolongation of a situation in which the Secretariat unites policy and organisation, and, in fact, predetermines policy. (Uproar.) .... I have become convinced that Comrade Stalin cannot play the part of co-ordinator of the Bolshevik general staff (Various speakers: "A lie! Humbug! That's it, is it? The cards are on the table!" Clamour and cheers from the Leningrad deputation. "We won't give you the commanding positions! Stalin! Stalin!" The delegates rise and cheer Comrade Stalin. Thunders of applause. "That is how to unite the Party! The Bolshevik general staff should be unified!")
Yevdokimov, from his place:long live the Russian Communist Party! Hurrah! Hurrah! (Delegates rise and shout Hurrah. Clamour. Long and loud applause.) Long live the Central Committee of our Party! Hurrah! (Delegates shout Hurrah.) The Party above all! Yes, indeed! (Applause and hurrahs.)
Various voices. Long live Comrade Stalin! (Loud and prolonged cheers. Cries of hurrah. Clamour.)
The situation was thus made clear, but too late to influence the course of events. The force of inertia exerted its irresistible pressure to the advantage of the existing system. Except in the Leningrad fraction, members had been chosen and instructed by the apparatus devoted to Stalin. Special measures were to be taken to bring the new Opposition to their knees; protesting delegates hurried "spontaneously" from Leningrad to the Kremlin, and disavowed the official delegation. Floods of telegrams dictated by Moscow came in as "spontaneously" from the most distant provinces censuring the dissenters and demanding their submission. It was wasted effort for Zinoviev to address the "steel wall" of fanatical Leninists, to demand "internal democracy" in the Party, "real liberty of discussion," collaboration of "all the former groups" (that is of earlier defeated oppositions) in the administration, "election of all committees," and, finally, "limitation of powers" of the bureaux of the Central Committee and especially of the Secretariat. He was reminded of his conduct during the October Revolution. Krupskaya protested in vain against the remarks addressed to a member of the Political Bureau availing himself of his right to speak, an intolerance in contrast to the licence accorded to the "Bukharin school." Other members of the new Opposition succeeded no better, with good reason; when Stalin replied to his critics it was to give the final blow to the vanquished.
He began by revealing Zinoviev's subterranean manoeuvres in the last few months, and complained of the "calumnies" of the minority. Had they not unjustly attributed to him "sympathy with the idea of re-establishing private property in land"? He made a brusque attack on the impotent opposition, described the view of Sokolnikov and Krupskaya on State capitalism as "nonsense," and demonstrated Zinoviev's ignorance of Leninism and of Bolshevisation. As for Kamenev, he was not a Leninist at all but a liberal. Point by point, with the help of quotations from Lenin's Complete Works, he distorted his opponents' theories, before coming to his real subject. "Yes, comrades, I am a frank, rough man. That is true; I don't deny it." He related the efforts of tile new Opposition to exclude Trotsky. "We did not agree with Zinoviev and Kamenev, being fully aware that an amputation policy is full of dangers to the Party, that the amputation method, the method of bleedingthey demanded bloodis dangerous and infections; to-day, one is amputated, another to-morrow, a third the day after. What will be left of the Party in the end.'" Then, a series of differences, ending with the incidents of which Bukharin was the hero. "Now, what do they want to do with Bukharin? They want his blood. That is what Zinoviev demands, in his embittered concluding speech. You demand Bukharin's blood? We will not let you have it; be sure of that." He admitted a difference of views in the Opposition, except on the very problem to he solved:
...Despite this diversity of opinion, they are all united on one point. What is it on which they are all united? What is their platform? Their platform is that there ought to be a reform of the Secretariat of the Central Committee. That is the only point upon which they are fully united. The statement may seem strange, even ludicrous, but it is a fact.
There is a history behind all this. In the year 1923 after the Twelfth Party Congress, these people, assembling in a "cellar" (laughter), elaborated a platform in accordance with which the Political Bureau was to be abolished and the Secretariat was to become the leading political and organisational body. It was to consist of Zinoviev, Trotsky and Stalin. What was the meaning of this platform? It meant that the party was to be led without Rykov, 'without Kalinin, without Tomsky, without Molotov, without Bukharin. The platform came to nothing, not only because it did not represent any principles, but also because the Party cannot be led without the aid of those comrades I have just named. When a written question was addressed to me from the depths at Kislovodsk, I refused to have anything to do with the scheme and said that if the comrades wished it, I was ready to give up my own position quite quietly without either open or hidden discussion and without formulating demands for the protection of the rights of minorities. (Laughter.) Now it seems a new stage is beginning, opposed to the first. Now they are demanding not the politicalisation of the Secretariat, but its technicalisation, not the suppression of the Politbureau, but its omnipotence.... My only ear is that the Party will nor agree. (A voice: Excellent!)
Stalin's game in all its simple astuteness is exposed in this speech. Master of the mechanism of government by the hold of the Party over the State and the absolute prerogative at each stage of each Communist organ over the one below itthe supremacy of the Secretariat crowning the edificethe General Secretary affected to share power with his colleagues on the Political Bureau and the Central Committee, whom he was always able to confront with the fait accompli and, in case of resistance, to eject. He flattered the vanity of secondary personages by affirming the impossibility of directing the Party without themthe same Party which it was possible to conduct without Leninand he granted them nominal authority in consideration of his own omnipotence. In other matters he sought a provisional middle course between opposed radical solutions both in the political and practical, economic domainsa policy dictated by innate prudence, by his desire for stability, and by way of precaution against any eventuality. The only difficulty in sight was that of paralysing any future attempt at opposition before it obtained a footing in the Central Committee or the Political Bureau. In this Stalin succeeded easily as far as Trotsky was concerned, and now carried out the same operation against Zinoviev, with the assurance that he could repeat the measures if necessary.
He concluded his final speech by promises expressed in his monotonous, trivial style. "We are opposed to amputation. That does not mean that leaders may strut about lording it over their comrades. No, not that. We are not going to bow down before our leaders. (Shouts of 'Good!' Cheers.) We stand for unity, we are against amputation. The policy of amputation is hateful to us. The Party desires unity and will accomplish it, with Kamenev and Zinoviev if they so desire, without them if they refuse. (Shouts of 'Good!' Applause.)"
Thereupon the Congress was practically over by its eleventh session, though it went on sitting, without even discussing economic questionsthe most important of allfor the sole purpose of suppressing Kamenev's statement in the Order Paper. The real work was done behind the scenes, where the Opposition wasted their efforts in vain palavers to obtain a last-moment compromise and save their faces. Meanwhile the emissaries of the majority, dispatched to Leningrad, took possession of the local press, and, in one workshop and one quarter after the other, diverted the unanimity of the flock to a course diametrically opposed to what they had voted for before. "Thoroughly perverted by political servility," as Lenin had once said, the rank and file were unaware of the direction in which they were being led. On December 30th, the Leningrad Pravda proclaimed the exact opposite of its recent emphatic statements, under identical headlines evoking "iron unity," the "Leninist line" and other sacramental rubrics. "Hundred per cent monolithism" would soon be restored, at the price of displacing some three thousand communist officials suspected of "deviation." Ordjonikidze was on the spot, intent on reestablishing discipline.
Thus Stalin, having repudiated a "policy of amputation," proceeded from words to action; by a characteristic mental reservation, he preferred to inflict unemployment and hunger on his opponents, an almost infallible procedure, under Soviet conditions, for demoralising the refractory and bringing them back to the paths of wisdom. Even at the Congress he had allowed himself a joke, with a threat behind it, at Riazanov's expense"Riazanov is homesick for Turkestan"because of an irreverent remark of the learned director of the Marx-Engels Institute. A phrase of Glebov-Avilov's, frequently cited in the controversy, threw light on the meaning of the hint: "No one will care to vote against the motion and for that reason find himself sent to Murmansk or Turkestan." The ice of the Arctic Ocean and the burning sands of Central Asia, the scurvy and malaria awaiting dissidents were considerable factors in the calculations of both sides. The hardiest hesitated to expose their relatives and their children to the persecutions of the G.P.U. by persisting in opposition to the point of heroism. "It was current practice in Moscow," wrote the historian, S. Platanov, "in cases of political offences, to prosecute not only the offender, but his whole family." Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov and their successors governed by these means, and Stalin inclined to the same methods.
Stalin's preponderance was more and more obvious from the date of this Congress onwards. Reports in the press laid stress on the violent incidents in which he took part, passing over in silence dangerous revelations. The Party was only just beginning to learn the name already feared in the higher stages of the machine, and the masses, knowing nothing of these Byzantine disputes, were still in ignorance in spite of the multiplication of portraits issued from the State printing-press. But the very fact of his having delivered the political report of the Central Committee brought Stalin notoriety, enhanced by the unexpected disgrace of Zinoviev and Kamenev.
Stalin's clear-sightedness is not revealed in a first reading of this interminable speech, the triviality of which is ill-concealed by its pompous form. He supplements the poverty of its substance by verbiage. It is a succession of analytical resumes of the documents supplied by the Bureaux and Commissariats concerned, with the addition of comments representing average opinion in the ruling clique on current affairs. In foreign policy Stalin predicts definitely that "if the Dawes Plan is pregnant with revolution for Germany, the Locarno Pact is pregnant with a great European war." On internal policy he expresses an optimism reflecting the security of the bureaucratic regime delivered free of all the known oppositions, and now armed to discover and crush any new ones. The only passage in the report which had particular interest at the time referred to the dangers of over-rapid industrialisation in the Soviet State, which might result in irreparable economic disturbance and "certain faldine artificially brought about," but observations of this kind were regarded as commonplaces and received hardly any notice.
Sokolnikov had said at the Congress: "Lenin was neither president of the Political Bureau, nor General Secretary, but, nevertheless, he had the last word in politics.....If Stalin wants to win the same confidence, let him win it." Stalin secured supremacy by other means, of which none as yet knew the secret. All that was known was that he had been able to secure for himself a majority of five against Trotsky in the Political Bureau, then three against the Zinoviev-Kamenev combination, and thus to control the enormous "machine." This gave him control over millions of persons subordinate in different ways to his dictatorship. By a singular inversion, he controlled the composition of the assemblies whose mandatory he was supposed to be. They all, in the last resort, were dependent on him, and did their best to serve him to ensure their own security or for advancement. The numerous malcontents abstained from protest, because the construction of the Party made it possible to intercept communications from top to bottom, to preclude communication between groups, and to suppress it, if desired, right and left.
"From the ordinary bourgeois point of view," wrote Lenin before and during the revolution, "the notions of democracy and dictatorship are mutually exclusive." Stalin thought them incompatible. The tendency under his rule was to efface the remnant of democracy remaining in decadent Bolshevism. It may be said of the Leninists, as their master wrote of the Social-Democrats, that they had denied their own principles, Christians, when once theirs had become a State religion, forgot the simplicities of primitive Christianity and its revolutionary democratic spirit." Under cover of an obsolete vocabulary, the protection of a series of bureaucratic screens, and the aegis of a numerous and varied police, Stalin seized regal prerogatives one by one. In the stern severity of the stage during the terrible years of danger, the General Secretary appeared simply to be the first among the Bolsheviks. But the hour was coming which Plekhanov with his acute vision had foreseen: "In the long run, the whole will revolve around one man who, ex providentia, will hold in his hands all the threads of power."
Under pretext of a considerable numerical increase in the Party, from 735,000 members and probationers to 1,088,000 in the interval between two Congresses, the new Central Committee was to have 106 members, the Control Commission 163, actual members and deputy-members. Most of the Opposition had been expelled, the rest counted for nothing. Chronic hypertrophy of all the higher organisations, at sessions becoming steadily less frequent, reduced their statutory authority to nil as against the permanent executive organs, which could not be prevented from legislating by decree and ruling the country by despotism. Membership of the Political Bureau was increased to nine. Trotsky and Zinoviev remained, as hostages or figureheads. Stalin strengthened his section by adding Kalinin, Molotov and Voroshilov to Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky, whose automatic acquiescence was not guaranteed for ever. Kamenev returned to the rank of deputy-members, from which Sokolnikov disappeared; Dzerzhinsky, Uglanov, Petrovsky and Rudzutak were to constitute the reserve. Thus members, afraid of moving a step down, and deputies hoping for a step up, offered many possibilities of intrigue and manoeuvre to a supple and consummate intriguer. The General Secretary would henceforward have a majority of seven members stable enough to give him time to envisage a coming crisis and make his arrangements accordingly. Except in the event of an unlikely simultaneous attack from five hostile colleagues, Stalin held the equivalent of consulship for life, the permanent Secretaryship. In five years Stalin realised by inches his coup d'etat. He, the cleverest if not the best of all the aspirants, held Lenin's inheritance.