On the Syndicalist and Anarchist Deviation in our Party

16 March 1921

1. In recent months a syndicalist and anarchist deviation has emerged in party ranks. This deviation requires the most resolute measures of ideological struggle, as well as a purge of the party and restoration of it to a condition of soundness.

2. The deviation in question has been caused in part by the entrance into the party of elements that have not yet fully assimilated the communist world view, but in major part this deviation has been caused by the influence on the proletariat and on the RKP of the petty bourgeois elements that are exceptionally strong in our country and that inevitably cause waverings in the direction of anarchism, particularly at moments when the situation of the masses has taken a sharp turn for the worse as a result of a poor harvest and the extremely destructive consequences of war, and when demobilization of a millions-strong army turns loose hundreds and hundreds of thousands of peasants and workers who are unable to find work and the means to support themselves.

3. One of the most complete and best-formulated expressions of this deviation are the theses and other printed works of the group known as the so-called 'Workers' Opposition.' The following thesis, for example, is rather indicative: 'Organization of the management of the economy belongs to an all-Russian congress of producers, who are organized in production trade unions that elect the central agency that directs the republic's entire economy.'

The ideas behind this and other, similar statements are fundamentally incorrect in theory and represent a complete break with marxism and communism, as well as with the results of the practical experience of all semi-proletarian revolutions and of the present proletarian revolution.

In the first place, the concept of 'producer' lumps together the proletarian with the semi-proletarian and with the small commodity producer, thus deviating in a fundamental fashion from the basic concept of class struggle and from the basic requirement that a clear distinction be made between the classes.

In the second place, the incorrect formulation of the question of relations between the party and the broad non-party masses - a formulation that results in subordination of the party to non-party elements - as contained in the thesis in question, is not any less a fundamental divergence from marxism.

Marxism teaches - and these teachings are not only formally confirmed by the entire Comintern in a decision of the II Comintern Congress on the role of the political party of the proletariat, but also proven in practice by the entire experience of our revolution - that only the political party of the working class, i.e., the Communist Party, is capable of unifying, teaching, and organizing a vanguard of the proletariat and of the entire mass of working people, a vanguard capable of countering the inevitable petty bourgeois waverings of this mass, of countering the traditions of, and inevitable backsliding to, a narrow trade-unionism or trade union prejudices among the proletariat, and of guiding all aspects of the proletarian movement or, in other words, all the labouring masses. Without this, the dictatorship of the proletariat is unthinkable. The incorrect understanding of the role of the Communist Party in its relations to the non-party working masses, on the one hand, and the equally incorrect understanding of the role of the working class in its relationship to the entire mass of working people, on the other hand, are a fundamental theoretical divergence from communism and a deviation in the direction of syndicalism and anarchism, a deviation that pervades all the views of the 'Workers' Opposition.'

4. The X Congress of the RKP declares that it also considers fundamentally incorrect all attempts by the group in question and by individuals to defend their mistaken views by citing paragraph 5. of the economic section of the RKP Programme, which is devoted to the role of the trade unions. This paragraph states that the trade unions 'must actually concentrate in their hands the entire administration of the whole economy as a single economic unit,' and that in this way they provide an unbroken link between central state management, the economy, and the broad masses of the working people, 'attract' these masses 'to the direct management of the economy.'.

In the very same paragraph the RKP Programme considers a preliminary condition for the situation at which the trade unions 'are to arrive,' to be the process of 'freeing themselves from a narrow guild outlook' and the enlistment in their ranks of the majority of workers, 'and gradually all workers.'

Finally, in the very same paragraph the RKP Programme stresses the fact that the trade unions are already, 'according to the laws of the Soviet republic and established practice, participants in all local and central organs for the administration of industry.'

Instead of taking account of precisely this practical experience of participation in administration, instead of developing this experience further, in strict accord with achieved successes and corrected mistakes, the syndicalists and anarchists declare outright the slogan of 'congresses or a congress of producers,' who 'are to elect' the bodies which manage the economy. The leading educational and organizing role of the party with respect to the trade unions of the proletariat, and of the latter with respect to the semi-Philistine and outright petty bourgeois masses of the working people, is, consequently, completely by-passed and eliminated, and instead of a continuation and correction of the practical work of building new economic forms -work which was already begun by the Soviet system we find a petty bourgeois and anarchist destruction of this work, a destruction that can only lead to a triumph of the bourgeois counter-revolution.

5. Apart from their incorrectness from a theoretical point of view and their fundamentally erroneous approach to the practical experience of the economic construction already launched by the Soviet system, the views of the group in question and of similar groups and persons are, in the view of the IOth Congress, an immense political error and an immediate political danger to the maintenance of power in the hands of the proletariat.

In a country like Russia, the immense preponderance of petty bourgeois elements and the inevitable destruction, impoverishment, epidemics, poor harvest, and extreme cases of need and human calamity that resulted from the war, give rise to particularly grave manifestations of waverings in the state of mind of the petty bourgeois and semi-proletarian masses. These waverings lean now to the side of strengthening the union of these masses with the proletariat, now to the side of a bourgeois restoration. The entire experience of all revolutions of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries shows with the most categorical clarity and conviction that these waverings - given the slightest weakening in the unity, strength, and influence of the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat can only lead to a restoration of the power and property of the capitalists and landowners. -

Therefore, the views of the 'Workers' Opposition' and similar elements are not only theoretically false, but serve in practice as the expression of petty bourgeois and anarchist vacillations; in practice, they weaken the steadfast guiding line of the Communist Party and in fact aid the class enemies of the proletarian revolution.

6. On the basis of all the foregoing, the RKP Congress - resolutely rejecting the above-mentioned ideas, expressive of the syndicalist and anarchist deviation - resolves:

1. to recognize the necessity for a determined and systematic struggle against these ideas;

2. to consider propagation of these ideas as incompatible with membership in the Russian Communist Party.

While instructing the Central Committee to implement these decisions in the strictest fashion, the Congress also points out that space can and must be made in special editions, anthologies, etc., for a more detailed exchange of opinions among party members on all the above questions.

Resolved: 16 March 1921
First Published: Spravochnik partiinogo rabotnika 2. (7-19)
Source: KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh 2, 206-66
Transcription/Markup: Brian Baggins
Copyleft: Soviet History Archive (marxists.org) 2002. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.