Letters to Smirnov - Timofei Sapronov

Letters to Smirnov - Timofei Sapronov

Two undated letters of Sapronov to fellow decist leader Vladimir Smirnov.
Source used for this translation was Stephen Shenfield's upload: Collection of documents on the Decists

Hullo, friend Voldemar! I received your letter to Musa. It does not so much elaborate
"to Misha"*, as change the posing of the question of slogans and tactics in a more acceptable direction. The assessment of your Misha and the work of the "yeniseysk-ists"* I sent to you end January or early February. This is quite a lengthy critical exercise. If it did not arrive, I will try to find a way to forward it. In the meantime I'll scribble in brief swiftly about my (fundamental) disagreements with "to Misha".
First. Your assessment of the present soviet state as bonapartist, in the image of the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, in my opinion, is wrong. For greater comparison you even equate "artemivskists-smolenskists" with the gang of Napoleon III. Taking the same steps, the "yeniseysk-ists" made an even more "bold" conclusion: the present soviet state represents the classic type of "soviet bonapartism". You must get for this discovery a friendly pat on the shoulder from them. It seems to me, that it was possible not to mess with "bonapartism" of the louis-bonapartist variant, having before oneself the more understandable to the masses modern variant - fascism. This is in general. To speak on the essential however, the present soviet state is not yet bonapartist, and neither fascist. I do not know of any precedents, where on the initiative (in the broadest sense) of the petty bourgeoisie a bonapartist form of government was created. "Bonapartism" (now also fascism) has now became the real religion of the modern bourgeoisie"- Engels wrote in 1866 to Marx. Yes. "Bonapartism" and fascism – these are forms of government, created by the big bourgeoisie for the defense from proletarian uprisings in the period of aggravating class struggle and the more "oscillating" petty bourgeoisie to the side of the big. In our country there is a very significant "oscillating'' of the petty bourgeoisie from the proletariat. And in this part your analysis of the passage from the uniting in to the block and to the collapse of the block - is undeniable. But there is presently as of yet not that force, i.e., full-blooded bourgeoisie, which could use this "oscillating" in the bonapartist direction. Severe oscillations of the petty bourgeoisie began in late 1918, resulting in an "alliance of the proletariat and poor peasantry''. The III Party Congress included the middle peasants. Since that time, fluctuations are amplified, at times calming down for the realization of sequential concessions, in order to re-emerge again on an extended basis. In the environment of these fluctuations the sliding of the party policy on to petty bourgeois rails happened and the growth of the bourgeoisie. But the bourgeoisie and the landlords were so thoroughly trimmed economically and politically by the October revolution, that the restoration of these classes was difficult to the extreme.
And even now, for 1927-29, when the oscillations of the petty bourgeoisie took a particularly threatening character to the proletariat and friendly to the bourgeoisie, the latter (neither inside nor outside) openly endeavors to politically use them for Bonapartism. You will say after the yeniseyk-ists, that there is no need, as the government of Rykov and Stalin is the classical type of "bonapartist government". But this is simply because a little too brisk passion for bonapartist analogies, which leads you to skip over a stage. In the present circumstances bonapartist government - a government of bourgeois restoration. Appears the government of Rykov and Stalin such? No and it will not. This does, of course, not at all mean that this government in their petty bourgeois politics is not preparing "all necessary and suitable" to the coming to power of a government of bourgeois restoration. The government of Rykov and Stalin appears a petty-bourgeois (middle peasants and bureaucratic) government in transiting passage from proletarian to bourgeois dictatorship (to bonapartism-fascism). From this different evaluation of power follows also a different approach to some questions of tactics.
The second basic issue is the evaluation of the VKP. You say, that the VKP no longer exists - even as a non-proletarian party it – is a corpse, buried at the XV Congress, liquidated, strangled by the renegades ("top") of Bolshevism. In another place (letter to Sotnikov) you say that the VKP - an organization supporting this government, but in the letter to Musa you think the VKP already the same bureaucratic organization, as any commissariat. This resembles much the yeniseysk-ist statement: "the VKP- a professional organization of bonapartist bureaucracy ", i.e. something like a louis-bonapartist "Society of December 10". And indeed this "society", as is known, was the organization supporting the presidential power of Louis Bonaparte. Hence, here too, follows your categorical emphasis, that the VKP has not degenerated, but eliminated. Neither with the "corpse", nor with the denial of degeneration I can agree at all. That the VKP exists, and exists as a political party, dear Voldemar, you will not refute with the most skilful sophistry. Yes there's no need for such denial, only why did you try? On checking it still appears that the VKP remains a "corpse". In your opinion the VKP did not degenerate, but was eliminated. Of course, once it is strangled, died, became a corpse and no longer exists as a party, this means, elimination. Degeneration involves a passage of a different quality, than to non-existence. "Elimination or degeneration" - is your present invention. Such opposition is not in our platform. As far as I can remember, we then reasoned so: existing inner-party regime can lead to the elimination of the VKP as a proletarian party. Then, why would your theory of "liquidation" also not be extended to the proletarian dictatorship – is it also "strangled" by the same "top"? But do you not overestimate, yes even excessively, the role of this same "top"? I think that basically there was a process of degeneration (socio-political) and not only of the VKP, but the entire system of proletarian dictatorship, on the basis of which alone the rule of the elite was possible. And in connection with this, not simply the exclusion of the opposition from the party, as the renegades and the Trotskyists assert, but a split of the VKP happened at the XV Congress, as a result of which the majority converted the XV Congress in to the founding congress of another, non-proletarian, petty-bourgeois party. My formulation of the question in one of my letters last year about the transformation of the VKP "in to a bourgeois workers' party" in the style of the postwar German social-democratic one was wrong. Apropos this I agree with your
objections. It would be correct to say with a proper analogy, that the VKP transformed roughly in such a party, which the Socialist-Revolutionary Party was in 1917 – a petty-bourgeois party with a very solid [percentage] of workers. So, if the VKP is not dead, but a political party headed (precisely so) by petty-bourgeois government renegades of bolshevism and retaining in "opportunistic grip" hundreds of thousands of workers, from this also follows a slightly different approach to questions of tactics. First of all, my assessment, fitting for the actual alignment of class forces of the present moment, underlines the complexity of the situation. Would it really not have been easier to organize a party and the labor movement for the fight for a dictatorship of the proletariat with the existence of an obvious to the masses Bonapartist government and with the elimination of the VKP as a political Party? This means that the tasks of the bolshevik party, lies not only in pushing the right and revolutionary slogans, for example, our basic slogan of the conquest of the proletarian dictatorship can be mastered by broad masses of workers only in the case, that they are personally convinced that the current SNK and the VKP no longer represent a proletarian dictatorship. Before us the most difficult of exposing to the working class and poor peasants both the petty-bourgeois renegade nature of government and the party, disguised with attributes of the proletarian dictatorship and bolshevik phraseology. This task is immeasurably more complex and difficult than the similar problem in 1917 of exposing the counter-revolutionary nature of the temporary government and its supporting socialist parties. Then the imperatives of the carnage of June 18 at the front, the shooting of the proletariat – July 5, the introduction of [death] penalty and, finally, only the speech of bonapart Kornilov contributed to the final unmasking of socialist windbags. Such damning facts would be required for a revolutionary upsurge in the present conditions. But are there such imperative facts now? So I do not understand why you are trying in every possible way to say that if the VKP is not a corpse, then, at best, a commissariat for promotion of government measures. It means sowing harmful illusions, for which will be dearly paid. The plan of "clarification" in the letter to Musa on the part of the slogans and the understanding of "rearguard actions" are more acceptable, than that which you wrote "to Misha" still earlier, in the July 1928 letter to me. In the latter at the time you still answered criticism of your defeatist slogans of the capitulationist fraction of rearguard actions. Now your corrections and clarifications bring us closer to common understanding.
Appositely, in the letter to Musa you claim, that you "protested not against the slogan of proletarian dictatorship, but against the slogan of overthrowing the government''. But before the publication of your "to Misha", no one, as far as I remember, had raised such a slogan. Only in the document of the yeniseysk-ists, appearing after "to Misha", this slogan was disguisedly proclaimed. There still are set forth such remarkable reasoning of an entirely Trotskyist manner, that the possibility was not to be excluded of overthrowing "soviet bonapartism" (yes even of the classic type), without civil war. How strange this "soviet bonapartism" in the conception of the yeniseysk-ist, as long as the opportunity is not excluded to eliminate it along the reformist path. I believe that the yeniseysk-ists simply engage in harmful juggling of the word "bonapartism". As though the fact that they added "soviet", changes the aggressive counter-revolutionary character of bonapartism. There can hardly exist a nature of such Bonapartism, even if it were soviet, which lost power to the proletariat without civil war. Or this is it not bonapartism, but something else.

*Misha Shapiro
*Yeniseysk , where Boris Emelyanov(-Kalin) had been exiled to.

Hullo, friend Voldemar. I hope, that you do not seriously declare, that the polemic on fundamental issues burdens you, as though it were a detriment to actual issues of the present day. I am occupied with them also not for the sake of "testing the feather", but only because these same actual issues can be resolved correctly only in the context and in the light of the most appropriate resolution of fundamental issues. From your indirect comments it appears as if that you for yourself consider these fundamental issues finally resolved in the letter to "MISHA", and any revision or discussion on them seems to you to be at most an idle exercise, which can be accepted only as repertoire for slow achievers. If, contrary to expectation, there was such an approach, it would rule out any opportunity to collectively discuss the radical issues of our platform.
This is the miniature preface. Now about the essential. That, which you name a "monstrous lie", you will find not so monstrous, when looking a bit closer. First of all, with anarchism there is no business, when I argue that the monopoly position of the ruling party brings her to "spoilage". I did not argue that at all (that would be really pure anarchism), but spoke of the VKP under conditions of the concrete alignment of class forces. Appositely, not in my letter of May 18, nor in my notes on the VKP there is such an assertion, that under all circumstances the ruling party is immanently doomed to "spoilage". My remark about the point, that also with Lenin already there were present to a certain extent relations between the party and state apparatus, which later bloomed terry flowers, was required merely in order, to refute your fundamental "liquidationist" "cadaverous" premise – as if the essence of the matter was, that the state machinery liquidated, killed the party as the result of the change after 1923 in radical ways of the relations between the party and government. With you it turns out, as if the change in relations - the work of the hands of the present renegades of bolshevism, but the renegades, then from where appeared? Did they really came ready-made to the party and temporarily fulfilled the will obediently of the majority and of Lenin, and with the death of the latter began to strangle the party, until she was a lifeless corpse? With my reminder about the point, that the by you emphasized "relations" already started to form under Lenin, I merely wanted to show, that the crux of the matter is not these seemingly "new relations", but the changes after the victorious 1917-19 proletarian revolution in the alignment of classes, whose product are these "new" relations, the social degeneration of the party and the by her headed proletarian dictatorship, as well as the renegades themselves. Now about the "monstrous lie". You ask a dozen questions and answer them negatively. But why do you not try to refute my facts in the notes on the VKP? On your question - "when was the discussion forbidden in the Party?" - I answer: did not Lenin write the resolution of the tenth congress on the prohibition of groups and factions? This is an actual prohibition of discussion. Back then it was still impossible to openly decree "the prohibition of discussion", like Stalin did afterwards based precisely on Lenin's tenth congress resolution. But did the secret points of that resolution on expulsion from the party really strike with that same purpose? At that time under Lenin's leadership along with that prohibitive resolution [breaks off]