J. V. Stalin

The Political Complexion
of the Russian Opposition

Excerpt from a Speech Delivered at a Joint Meeting of the Presidium of the
utive Committee of the Comintern and the International Control Commission
September 27, 1927

Source : Works, Vol. 10, August - December, 1927
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

Comrades, the speakers here have spoken so well and they have discussed the subject so thoroughly that there is little left for me to say.

I did not hear Vuiovich's speech as I was not in the hall; I caught only the end of his speech. From that end I gathered that he accuses the C.P.S.U.(B.) of opportunism, that he regards himself as a Bolshevik and undertakes to teach the C.P.S.U.(B.) Leninism.

What can one say to that? Unfortunately, we have a certain number of people in our Party who call themselves Bolsheviks but actually have nothing in common with Leninism. I think that Vuiovich is one of their number. When people like that undertake to teach the C.P.S.U.(B.) Leninism it is easy to understand that nothing can come of it. I think that Vuiovich's criticism is not worth answering.

I recall an anecdote about the German poet Heine. Permit me to tell it to you. Among the various critics who opposed Heine in the press was a most unfortunate and rather untalented literary critic named Auffenberg. The chief characteristic of this writer was that he tirelessly kept on "criticising" and impertinently attacking Heine in the press. Evidently, Heine did not think it worth while reacting to this "criticism" and maintained a stubborn silence. This surprised Heine's friends and so they wrote to him asking how it was that the writer Auffen-berg had written a heap of critical articles against him and that he did not think it worth while replying. Heine was obliged to answer his friends. What did he say? He answered in the press in these few words: "Auffen-berg the writer I do not know; I believe he is something like Arlincourt, whom I do not know either."

Paraphrasing Heine, the Russian Bolsheviks could say about Vuiovich's exercises in criticism: "Vuiovich the Bolshevik we do not know; we believe he is something like Ali Baba, whom we do not know either."

About Trotsky and the opposition. The opposition's chief misfortune is that it does not know what it is talking about. In his speech Trotsky spoke of policy in China; but he refuses to admit that the opposition has never had any line, any policy in relation to China. The opposition has wobbled, has marked time, has swung to and fro, but it has never had a line. The controversy between us revolved around three questions relating to China: the question of the Communists' participation in the Kuomintang, the question of Soviets, and the question of the character of the Chinese revolution. On all three questions the opposition proved to be bankrupt because it had no line.

The question of taking part in the Kuomintang. In April 1926, that is, a month after the Sixth Plenum of the E.C.C.I., at which a decision was taken in favour of Communists belonging to the Kuomintang, the opposition demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Communists from the Kuomintang. Why? Because, frightened by Chiang Kai-shek's first onslaught (March 1926), the opposition in effect demanded submission to Chiang Kai-shek, it wanted to withdraw the Communists from the play of revolutionary forces in China.

The formal grounds, however, on which the opposition based its demand for withdrawal from the Kuomin-tang were that Communists cannot take part in bourgeois-revolutionary organisations, and the Kuomintang was certainly such an organisation. A year later, in April 1927, the opposition demanded that the Communists should take part in the Wuhan Kuomintang. Why? On what grounds? Had the Kuomintang ceased to be a bourgeois organisation in 1927? Is there a line here, even the shadow of a line?

The question of Soviets. Here, too, the opposition had no definite line. In April 1927, one part of the opposition demanded immediate organisation of Soviets in China for the purpose of overthrowing the Kuomintang in Wuhan (Trotsky). At the same time the other part of the opposition also demanded immediate organisation of Soviets, but for the purpose of supporting the Kuomintang in Wuhan, and not of overthrowing it (Zinoviev). And that is what they call a line! Moreover, both parts of the opposition, both Trotsky and Zinoviev, while demanding the organisation of Soviets, at the same time demanded participation of the Communists in the Kuomintang, participation of the Communists in the ruling party. Make head or tail of that, if you can! Organise Soviets and at the same time demand participation of the Communists in the ruling party, that is, in the Kuomintang—not everybody is capable of such a stupidity. And that is called a line!

The question of the character of the Chinese revolution. The Comintern was and still is of the opinion that the basis of the revolution in China in the present period is the agrarian peasant revolution. What is the opposition's opinion on this subject? It never has had any definite opinion on it. At one time it asserted that there cannot be an agrarian revolution in China since there is no feudalism there. At another time it declared that an agrarian revolution is possible and necessary in China, although it did not attach serious significance to the survivals of feudalism there, which made it difficult to understand what could give rise to an agrarian revolution. At yet another time it asserted that the chief thing in the Chinese revolution is not an agrarian revolution, but a revolution for customs autonomy. Make head or tail of that, if you can!

Such is the opposition's so-called "line" on the controversial questions of the Chinese revolution.

That is not a line, but marking time, confusion, complete absence of a line.

And these people undertake to criticise the Leninist position of the Comintern! Is that not ridiculous, comrades?

Trotsky spoke here about the revolutionary movement in Kwangtung, about the troops of Ho Lung and Yeh Ting, and he accused us of creating a new Kuomin-tang here to head this movement. I shall not attempt to refute this story, which Trotsky has simply invented. All I want to say is that the whole business of the southern revolutionary movement, the departure of the troops of

Yeh Ting and Ho Lung from Wuhan, their march into Kwangtung, their joining the peasant revolutionary movement and so forth—I want to say that all this was undertaken on the initiative of the Chinese Communist Party. Does Trotsky know that? He ought to, if he knows anything at all.

Who will head this movement if it gains successes, if there is a new upsurge of the revolution in China? Soviets, of course. Before, in the hey-day of the Kuomin-tang, conditions were unfavourable for the immediate organisation of Soviets. Now, however, that the Kuo-mintangists have disgraced and discredited themselves by their connection with the counter-revolution, now, if the movement gains success, Soviets can become and actually will become, the main force that will rally around itself the workers and peasants of China. And who will be at the head of the Soviets? The Communists, of course. But the Communists will no longer take part in the Kuomintang if a revolutionary Kuomintang appears upon the scene again. Only ignoramuses can combine the existence of Soviets with the possibility of Communists belonging to the Kuomintang party. To combine these two incompatible things means failure to understand the nature and purpose of Soviets.

The same must be said about the Anglo-Russian Committee. Here we have the same wobbling and absence of a line on the part of the opposition. At first the opposition was enchanted by the Anglo-Russian Committee. It even asserted that the Anglo-Russian Committee was a means of "making reformism in Europe harmless" (Zinoviev), evidently forgetting that the British half of the Anglo-Russian Committee consisted precisely of reformists.

Later, when the opposition realised at last that Pur-cell and his friends are reformists, its enchantment gave way to disenchantment, more than that, to desperation, and it demanded an immediate rupture as a means of overthrowing the General Council, failing to understand that the General Council cannot be overthrown from Moscow. Swinging from one piece of stupidity to another — such was the opposition's so-called "line" on the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee.

Trotsky is incapable of understanding that when things are ripe for a rupture, the main thing is not the rupture as such, but the question on which the rupture takes place, the idea that is demonstrated by the rupture. What idea is demonstrated by the rupture that has already taken place? The idea of the threat of war, the idea of the need to combat the war danger. Who can deny that it is precisely this idea that is now the main question of the day all over Europe? From this it follows, however, that it was precisely on this major question that we had to bring the masses of the workers up against the treachery of the General Council, and that is what we did. The fact that the General Council found itself compelled to take the initiative in the rupture and bear the odium of it at a time of the threat of a new war — this fact is the best possible exposure in the eyes of the masses of the workers of the General Council's treacherous and social-imperialist "nature" on the basic question of war. But the opposition asserts that it would have been better had we taken the initiative in the rupture and borne the odium of it!

And that is what they call a line! And these muddle-heads undertake to criticise the Leninist position of the Comintern! Is that not ridiculous, comrades?

The opposition is in an even worse plight on the question of our Party, on the question of the C.P.S.U.(B.). Trotsky does not understand our Party. He has a wrong conception of our Party. He regards our Party in the same way as an aristocrat regards the "rabble," or a bureaucrat his subordinates. If that were not so, he would not assert that it is possible in a party a million strong, in the C.P.S.U.(B.), for individuals, for individual leaders, to "seize," to "usurp" power. To talk about "seizing" power in a party a million strong, a party that has made three revolutions and is now shaking the foundations of world imperialism—such is the depth of stupidity to which Trotsky has sunk!

Is it at all possible to "seize" power in a party a million strong, a party rich in revolutionary traditions? If it is, why has Trotsky failed to "seize" power in the Party, to force his way to leadership of the Party? How is that to be explained? Does Trotsky lack the will and the desire to lead? Is it not a fact that for more than two decades already Trotsky has been fighting the Bolsheviks for leadership in the Party? Why has he failed to "seize" power in the Party? Is he a less powerful orator than the present leaders of our Party? Would it not be truer to say that as an orator Trotsky is superior to many of the present leaders of our Party? How, then, are we to explain the fact that notwithstanding his oratorical skill, notwithstanding his will to lead, notwithstanding his abilities, Trotsky was thrown out of the leadership of the great party which is called the C.P.S.U.(B.)? The explanation that Trotsky is inclined to offer is that our Party, in his opinion, is a voting herd, which blindly follows the Central Committee of the Party. But only people who despise the Party and regard it as rabble can speak of it in that way. Only a down-at-heel party aristocrat can regard the Party as a voting herd. It is a sign that Trotsky has lost the sense of Party principle, has lost the ability to discern the real reasons why the Party distrusts the opposition.

Indeed, why does the C.P.S.U.(B.) express utter distrust of the opposition? The reason is that the opposition intended to replace Leninism by Trotskyism, to supplement Leninism with Trotskyism, to "improve" Leninism by means of Trotskyism. But the Party wants to remain faithful to Leninism in spite of all the various artifices of the down-at-heel aristocrats in the Party. That is the root cause why the Party, which has made three revolutions, found it necessary to turn its back on Trotsky and on the opposition as a whole.

And the Party will behave in a similar way towards all "leaders" and "guides" who intend to embellish Leninism with Trotskyism or any other variety of opportunism.

By depicting our Party as a voting herd, Trotsky expresses contempt for the mass of the C.P.S.U.(B.) membership. Is it surprising that the Party reciprocates this contempt and expresses utter distrust of Trotsky?

The opposition is in the same plight on the question of the regime in our Party. Trotsky tries to make it appear that the present regime in the Party, which is opposed by the entire opposition, is something fundamentally different from the regime that was established inthe Party in Lenin's time. He wants to make it appear that he has no objection to the regime established by Lenin after the Tenth Congress, but that, strictly speaking, he is fighting the present regime in the Party, which, he claims, has nothing in common with the regime established by Lenin.

I assert that here Trotsky is uttering a plain untruth.

I assert that the present regime in the Party is an exact expression of the regime that was established in the Party in Lenin's time, at the Tenth and Eleventh Congresses of our Party.

I assert that Trotsky is fighting the Leninist regime in the Party, the regime that was established in Lenin's time, and under Lenin's guidance.

I assert that the Trotskyists had already started their fight against the Leninist regime in the Party in Lenin's time, and that the fight the Trotskyists are now waging is a continuation of the fight against the regime in the Party which they were already waging in Lenin's time.

What are the underlying principles of that regime? They are that while inner-Party democracy is operated and business like criticism of the Party's defects and mistakes is permitted, no factionalism whatsoever can be permitted, and all factionalism must be abandoned on pain of expulsion from the Party.

When was this regime established in the Party? At the Tenth and Eleventh Congresses of our Party, that is, in Lenin's time.

I assert that Trotsky and the opposition are fighting this very same regime in the Party.

We have a document like the "Declaration of the Forty Six," signed by Trotskyists like Pyatakov, Preobrazhensky, Serebryakov, Alsky, and others, which definitely said that the regime established in the Party after the Tenth Congress was now obsolete and had become intolerable for the Party.

What did those people demand? They demanded that factional groups be permitted in the Party and that the corresponding decision of the Tenth Congress be rescinded. That was in 1923. I declare that Trotsky has wholly and entirely identified himself with the stand of the "Forty-Six" and is waging a fight against the regime that was established in the Party after the Tenth Congress. There you have the beginning of the Trotskyists' fight against the Leninist regime in the Party. (Trotsky: "I did not speak about the Tenth Congress. You are inventing.") Trotsky must surely know that I can bring documentary proof. The documents have remained in tact; I shall distribute them among the comrades and it will then be clear which of us is speaking the truth. 1

I assert that the Trotskyists who signed the "Declaration of the Forty-Six" were already waging a fight against the Leninist regime in the Party in Lenin's time.

I assert that Trotsky supported this fight against the Leninist regime all the time, inspiring the opposition and egging it on.

I assert that Trotsky's present fight against the regime in our Party is a continuation of the anti-Leninist fight I have just spoken about.

The question of the Trotskyists' illegal, anti-Party printing press. Trotsky constructed his written speech in such a way that he barely mentioned the illegal printing press, evidently considering that he was not obliged to deal with such a "trifle" as the Trotskyists' illegal, anti-Party printing press. It was not the speech of an accused person, but a declaration of the opposition levelling charges against the Comintern and the C.P.S.U.(B.). It is obvious, however, that the question of the Trotskyists' illegal, anti-Party printing press wholly and completely exposes both Trotsky and his supporters in the opposition as enemies of the Party principle, as splitters and disrupters of the proletarian cause.

Indeed, Trotsky thinks that the opposition is right — and therefore it has a right to set up its illegal printing press.

In addition to Trotsky's group, however, there are other opposition groups in the C.P.S.U.(B.): the "Workers' Opposition," the Sapronovites, and so forth. Each of these small groups believes it is right. If we follow in Trotsky's footsteps we must grant that each of these groups has a right to set up its illegal printing press. Let us suppose that they do set up their illegal printing presses and that the Party takes no steps to combat this evil—what will then be left of the Party?

What would it mean to permit all the various groups in the Party to have their illegal printing presses? It would mean permitting the existence of a number of centres in the Party, each having its "programme," its "platform," its "line." What will then be left of the iron discipline in our Party, the discipline which Lenin regarded as the foundation of the proletarian dictatorship? Is such discipline possible unless there is a single, united leading centre? Does Trotsky realise what a quagmire he is slipping into by advocating the right of opposition groups to have illegal, anti-Party printing presses?

The question of Bonapartism. On this question the opposition betrays utter ignorance. By accusing the overwhelming majority in our Party of making attempts at Bonapartism, Trotsky demonstrates his utter ignorance and failure to understand the roots of Bona-partism.

What is Bonapartism? Bonapartism is an attempt to impose the will of the minority upon the majority by the use of force. Bonapartism is the forcible seizure of power in a party, or in a country, by the minority in opposition to the majority. But since the supporters of the line of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.) constitute the overwhelming majority both in the Party and in the Soviets, how can any body be so silly as to say that the majority is trying to impose its own will upon itself by the use of force? Has there ever been a case in history when the majority has imposed its own will upon itself by the use of force? Who but lunatics would believe that such an inconceivable thing is possible?

Is it not a fact that the supporters of the line of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.) constitute the overwhelming majority in the Party and in the country? Is it not a fact that the opposition is merely a tiny handful? One can conceive of the majority in our Party imposing its will upon the minority, i.e., the opposition; and that is quite lawful in the Party sense of the term. But how can one conceive of the majority imposing its will upon itself, and by the use of force at that? How can there be any question of Bonapartism here? Would it not be truer to say that a tendency may arise among the minority, that is, among the opposition, to impose its will upon the majority? It would not be surprising if such a tendency did arise, for the minority, that is, the Trotsky-ist opposition, has now no other means of capturing the leadership except by resorting to force against the majority. So that, if we are to speak of Bonapartism, let Trotsky look for Bonaparte candidates in his group.

A few words about degeneration and Thermidor tendencies. I shall not analyse here the foolish and ignorant charges about degeneration and Thermidor tendencies which the oppositionists sometimes advance against the Party. I shall not deal with them because they are not worth analysing. I should like to present the question from the purely practical point of view.

Let us assume for a moment that the Trotskyist opposition is pursuing a genuinely revolutionary policy and not a Social Democratic deviation—if that is the case, how are we to explain the fact that all the degenerate opportunist elements who have been expelled from the Party and from the Comintern gather around the Trotskyist opposition, find shelter and protection there?

How are we to explain the fact that Ruth Fischer and Maslow, Scholem and Urbahns, who have been expelled from the Comintern and from the Communist Party of Germany as degenerate and renegade elements, find protection and a hearty welcome precisely in the Trotskyist opposition?

How are we to account for the fact that opportunists and real degenerates like Souvarine and Rosmer in France, and Ossovsky and Dashkovsky in the U.S.S.R., find shelter precisely in the Trotskyist opposition?

Can it be called an accident that the Comintern and the C.P.S.U.(B.) expel these degenerates and really Ther-midor minded people from their ranks, whereas Trotsky and Zinoviev welcome them with open arms and afford them shelter and protection?

Do not these facts show that the "revolutionary" phrases of the Trotskyist opposition remain mere phrases, while, in actual fact, the opposition is the rallying centre of the degenerate elements?

Does not all this show that the Trotskyist opposition is a hotbed and nursery of degeneration and Thermidor tendencies?

At any rate among us in the C.P.S.U.(B.), there is one and only one group that rallies around itself all sorts of scoundrels, such as Maslow and Ruth Fischer, Souvarine and Ossovsky. That group is the Trotsky group.

Such, in general, comrades, is the political complexion of the opposition.

You will ask: What conclusion is to be drawn?

There is only one conclusion. The opposition has got itself into such a muddle, it has so agilely landed in an impasse from which there is no escape, that it is faced with the alternative: either the Comintern and the C.P.S.U.(B.), or Maslow, Ruth Fischer, and the renegades of the illegal, anti-Party press.

It cannot go on swinging between these two camps forever. The time has come to choose. Either with the Comintern and the C.P.S.U.(B.), and then—war against Maslow and Ruth Fischer, against all the renegades. Or against the C.P.S.U.(B.) and the Comintern, and then—a good riddance of them to the Maslow and Ruth Fischer group, to all the renegades and degenerates, to all the Shcherbakovs and other scum. (Applause.)


Published in the magazine Kommunistichesky Internatsional, No. 41, October 14, 1927


1. Note of the Editorial Board of "The Communist International": On October 3, Comrade Stalin submitted to the Political Secretariat of the E.C.C.I., as an appendix to the minutes of the joint meeting of the Presidium of the E.C.C.I. and the International Control Commission, the documentary proofs he had referred to in his speech, namely:

1) An excerpt from the "Declaration of the Forty-Six" (October 15, 1923), signed by Pyatakov, Preobrazhensky, Serebryakov, Alsky, and others, which states: "The regime which has been established in the Party is absolutely intolerable. It kills the Party's independent activity and substitutes for the Party a picked, bureaucratic apparatus, which operates without a hitch in normal times, but which inevitably misfires in moments of crisis, and which is in danger of proving utterly bankrupt in face of impending grave events. The present situation is due to the fact that the regime of factional dictatorship within the Party that objectively arose after the Tenth Congress is now obsolete."

2) An excerpt from Trotsky's statement to the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission (October 8, 1923), which states: " The regime which, in the main, had already arisen before the Twelfth Congress and was definitely established and given shape after it, is far more remote from workers' democracy than the regime that existed in the severest periods of war communism."

In explanation of these excerpts it must be said that before the Twelfth ongress we had the Eleventh Congress (in the spring of 1922) and the Tenth Congress (in the spring of 1921), the proceedings of which were directed by Lenin, and the resolutions of which gave definite shape to the very regime in the Party which is attacked in the "Declaration of the Forty-Six" (Trotskyists) and in the above-mentioned statement by Trotsky.