Justice, 19 June 1924

Trotzky’s memorandum
on the Russian Communist Party

Source: Justice, 19 June 1924, p.1;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

I The Position of the Russian Communist Party.

The extraordinary deterioration in the internal condition of the Party is to be ascribed to two causes:

a) The regime in the Party, false in its core and unhealthy.

b) The discontent of workers and peasants on account of their difficult economic position, which has arisen not only from objective difficulties, but also through obvious basic faults of the economic policy.

The immense disproportion of prices compared with the incidence of the land tax, which is severely felt through its incompatibility with the existing economic relations, has once more created extreme discontent among the peasants. This policy has reacted directly and indirectly upon the disposition and temper of the workers. Finally, the change in the workers’ disposition has now also affected the Party. Opposition groups have come into being, and they are gaining in strength. Their discontent has increased, so that the “close relationship’ with the peasantry has been turned into the contrary.

With regard to appointments and dismissals, members of the Party have hitherto been valued mainly from the point of view of to what extent they were likely to further or to hinder that regime in the Party which is carried out unofficially, but all the more effectively, by the Organisation Bureau and the Secretariat of the Central Committee. In the last eighteen months there has thus arisen, a particular secretarial psychology, the main feature of which is the conviction that a secretary is in a position to decide upon any and every question without knowing anything about the matter. At every step and point we see how comrades who showed no organising or administrative capacities, whilst at the head of a Soviet body (office), decide in a dictatorial manner economic and other questions the moment they are appointed to a secretarial post. By the application of these “secretary method’s” the bureaucratisation of the Party apparatus has developed to an enormous extent.

A fairly strong section of the Party functionaries has been formed constituting part of the State or Party apparatus; who have given up any Party opinion of their own, at least as far as it finds open expression, so that it seems as if they hold that the secretarial hierarchy forms that apparatus by which Party opinions and decisions are produced. Upon this body (or “layer”) there follows the broad mass of Party members who know of a decision only when it reaches them in the shape of a request or command, In this basic section of the Party there exists extraordinary discontent, which in part is entirely justified; in part caused by accidental circumstances.

I must state, in conclusion, that my endeavours during the last eighteen months have had no results. The Party, therefore may be surprised by crises of extraordinary violence. If such occur, the Party would be justified in accusing everyone who saw the danger, but did not did not openly name it, of being guilty of placing the form above the substance.

II The Economic Position and the Communist Party.

The most important feature of the present position is that the monstrous discrepancy between the prices of agricultural produce and the prices of industrial commodities means the breakdown of the New Economic Policy, for to the peasants, who form the basis of that policy, it is a matter of utter indifference what are the reasons that they cannot purchase commodities, whether trading in them is prohibited by decrees or whether they have to face the fact that for two boxes of matches they have to give a pood (4e lbs.) of grain.

It is perfectly clear that a purely mechanical reduction of prices by the State authorities will, in the majority of cases, only enrich the intermediary trades and hardly affect the country markets. Even the creation of a Commission for the reduction of prices is a striking proof of how a policy of ignoring the importance of a properly planned economy is forced, by the influence of the inevitably ensuing consequences, to command prides in military-communistic fashion. One thing completes the other in undermining the economic structure.

A most terrible symptom was the attempt of the Central Committee to build up the State Budget on the sale of vodka. Only an energetic protest within the Central Commitee, as also outside its ranks, stopped this attempt which would have dealt the Party a terrible blow. But the idea of further extension of the legal sales of spirits has even now not been given up. The removal from the body of editors of the central organ of a comrade who demanded a free discussion of this pernicious plan remain for ever one of the midst shameful occurrences in the history of the Party.

In conclusion, Trotzky states that: The most important economic questions are decided in the Central Committee hastily without previous preparation and without any coherent plan. There is no guidance of the economic life: the chaos comes from above.

III The Relations With Lenin.

Trotzky describes in his memorandum the relations of the Central Committee to Lenin during the latter’s illness. This relationship, made up of a mixture of low hyprocisy and deliberate deception, is characteristic of the Communist leaders, who now, after Lenin’s death, make all his utterances into words of holy wisdom, and have described Karl Radek as a “Menshevik” because he allowed himself to speak, quite respectfully, of the “historical development” of Lenin’s opinions.

During his illness Lenin wrote an article on the defects of the Russian State Inspection, this immense bureaucratic apparatus which is incapable of doing any positive work. Lenin proposed in his article to transform this apparatus, but Bucharin, chief editor of the “Pravda,” refused to publish it. Trotzky therefore called a meeting of the “Bureau” of the Central Committee, but the majority also decided not to publish it. As, however, the sick Lenin insisted upon seeing the article (thinking it had been published) one of the leaders proposed to print a single copy of the “Pravda” containing this article therein, so as both to pacify Lenin and yet keep the article a secret. Shortly afterwards the originator of this stroke of genius was made Chief of the State Inspection.

IV. Trotzky’s Position in this Russian Communist Party.

From the letters and the replies of the Central Committee it becomes clear what position inside the Party Trotzky now occupies. Though amongst the mass of the Party he retains immense authority, he has been pushed aside from amongst the leaders and is being fought steadily. Is this connection a remark of Kuibyshev, a member of the Central Committee, is extraordinarily characteristic. At a sitting of the War Council, face to face with Trotzky, he said openly, “We consider it necessary to fight against you, but we cannot openly declare you an enemy therefore we must resort to these methods.”

It is well-known the means the Communist leaders adopted to destroy Trotzky’s influence. True it was not possible to use against him similar means of repression as served for shutting the mouth of the Opposition, but the Central Committee succeeded in eliminating Trotzky from any practical influence on its policy. After his return from the Caucasus it seemed as if peace between him and the present Party leaders had been restored. But the sharp encounters at the recent Party Congress in Moscow show that this belief was erroneous. On the contrary, it is clear that the Central Committee, after the suppression of the Opposition and the temporary retirement of Trotzky, which compromised him in the opinion of his adherents, has taken the opportunity to settle definitely with Trotzky at this Congress, the delegates to which were very carefully selected. The struggle within the Russian Communist Party has thereby entered upon a new phase in which surprises may be expected.

C. V., from Vorwärts.