Several considerations – democratic centralist

Trotsky in exile in Alma-Ata with his family and his dog

Two articles from the Decist dissident faction within the Bolshevik party on the expulsion of Trotsky.

apropos letters of group ''13" (Trotsky 21/10-28, Radek 15/10-28
"Granny took graybeard'' etc., Smilga "Anniversary of the platform" and others)

The original source for this translation is the upload on scribd by Stephen Shenfield: Collection of documents on the Decists)

1. Short introduction.
The dispersion of comrades to the distant outskirts of the USSR where by the will of the rulers of fate of the present period, the bolshevik revolutionaries are exiled for their struggle for the working class' cause, extremely hampers the rapid exchange of thoughts in general, and the "blockade", conducted by the very diligent performers of the GPU, frequently renders us very late in responding and making proper assessment of the documents and statements of our neighbors to the right.
The statements of our neighbors to the right, especially from the last months of 1928, differ from previous statements in two respects on the entire front of conducted campaigns: 1) an attempt to give the essence of centrism such an interpretation that would to a certain extent prepare the minds and moods of the oppositional mass to a possible bloc with the so-called center (in reality, with Stalin), and 2) as follows from this prospect of the bloc, the need to dissociate as sharply as possible from the most revolutionary proletarian part of the opposition - the group of ''15''.
It is not subject to any doubt, that the various "proofs" of the leaders of group ''13", that centrism "grabs our (i.e. the opposition – V.R.) proposals" (Ivan Nikitich Smirnov 9/XII-28), that the leftist chatter of the party officialdom (both stalinists and rykovists) supposedly means a sort of turning onto the leninist path, stories about the ongoing and escalating fight between center and rightists, taking place on a class basis, and calling group ''15" adventurists and ascribing to it unprincipled blocs (here too, in fact, putting the blame on others) with the Korschists (Trotsky 21/10-28)... All this, certainly, is a fiber in one cobweb, the name of which is – bloc with the stalinists.

II. Centrism in the depiction of group ''13".
It is not subject to any doubt, that every member of the opposition, every thinking party member, every conscious worker tries to answer the question - what is centrism, what is its essence, and whose class interests does it protect and represent.
How then to these questions answers group ''13"?
It would be vain to search in the numerous documents of this group for a single clear answer to these questions. Each leader answers in his own way to each of them, and the mass of this group, in accordance with the same answers, has by far not a single clear conception of the essence of centrism, its class base and where it leads.
But if each leader of group"13" answers in his own way to these questions, which, of course, by itself introduces confusion in its understanding, there is nevertheless one common trait in all these answers. That is the general confusion and contradiction, badly concealing the desire to depict centrism as an independent class movement, with which, say, in the future a bloc will be possible.
The theorists of group "13" sketch approximately this diagram: a) centrists, heading the party-apparat, based on the party-bureaucracy, on the fearful part of the party (afraid of new tribulations) and the backward layers of the working class (well-paid and recently arrived from the countryside) and c) on the basis of these class interests a fight is conducted - all escalating - between the rightists and centrists and d) [sic] the fight must increasingly push the rightist onto the path of counterrevolution, and the centrists, on the contrary, it must increasingly bring together with the opposition.
That the struggle between rightist and centrists really is conducted - this can deny only patent fools or those, who are interested, that this struggle for the time being does not come outside. But is this struggle conducted on the basis of class principal disagreements or is it just an unprincipled chair fight for power – that's the heart of the matter. On that, perhaps, better than anyone replies Trotsky himself. Here is what L.D. writes on this issue: "How Stalin argues, is not hard to surmise. If I get out of trouble with the aid of centrist measures (haphazardly), then I will declare the right as panic-mongers, capitulators and push them one two steps down in the apparatus. If, on the contrary, the situation deteriorates, I will take the right course, i.e., I will exhaust the right faction, having robbed it politically, declare that they invented disagreements, behave divisive, I will chafe them to a step down. If the right's measures do not help, I will lay on the right allies the responsibility for (their) failure, kick their feet and try again the left course, slightly lower the lasso to Zinoviev and Kamenev, who humbly wait in the position of readiness, as people [illegible] defeated, "the tamed" will not dare to go with the jabberer [Bukharin]. And there it will be evident, what this definition of centrism means." It means, which LD proves, that the centrists are fighting with the right not on the basis of principled class disagreements, but are conducting an unprincipled struggle for power (ready to go both to the right and the left, only to hold out and shove the right one two steps down). And if LD wonderfully proves the unscrupulousness of centrism (i.e. stalinism), no less clearly LD defines the class essence of centrism, calling it "kerenskyism in reverse". And so that this definition is not interpreted incorrectly, LD immediately explains, what "kerenskyism in reverse" means: "The historical role of stalinism is that behind its back power slips and slides from the proletariat to the bourgeoisie". And that no one was left in the slightest doubts about the true essence of centrism, and that to all was clear, where centrism leads, a few lines below LD adds: "The victory of the rightists would lead straight, while "victory" of the centrists by zigzags to the[i] thermidorian bonapartist pathway" (my emphasis – V.R.).
Clear and precise language. If LD would have stayed here, then to everyone would be clear the real essence, class base and where centrism leads. All would see and understand such a clear straight line, and many comrades would cease to flounder with guesses, and would know, that centrism - the same but not better, i.e., the same rightists, but more cautious, wishing to pursue the same rykov-bukharin line, but without Rykov and Bukharin. LD, of course, could have stopped here, and, probably, continued a series of examples to specify further the essence of centrism, if he had set himself the task to only give the bolshevik definition of the essence. But the trouble is that, along with this task the prospect looms of a possible bloc with centrists. Such same prospect requires some or certain loopholes (completely discredit the same future ally is not allowed). And here then appears the famous "but".
Though centrism represents "a variety of compromise (in this case, with the new owners, with the attempted reviving of bourgeois society). But (listen – V.R.) this is only in the ultimate historical [light]. At the present stage the centrists reflect to a much larger degree the broad layer of "nominees" of the working class, whereas the right takes roots – in new, mostly, rural property''.
If above we have a sufficiently clear and correct definition of the essence of centrism, then in this last quotation so much contradiction is heaped, that one downright in bewilderment asks oneself – why was it required to prove, that "the victory of centrists leads by zigzags to the thermidorian bonapartist pathway", that "centrism - kerenskyism in reverse" etc., etc.? Does LD really want to say that "the broad layer of "nominees" of the working class" is bearer of bonapartism? But that would be utter heresy. Hence, what required making-up a proletarian class basis underneath centrism?
In the same letter we find the answer to this question: "To tell, - says L.D. - that a bloc with this or that part of the centrists is impossible forever under whatever circumstances, - would be ridiculous doctrinairism. Many current centrists still will shuffle to the left".
The bloc with centrists, looming before the eyes of the accustomed to bloc-forming L.D., forces a "supplement" of the most terrible confusion to the sufficiently clear definition of centrism. Stay even with shuffling centrists, but is it necessary, say, to tell the centrists, that bloc-forming is ever ready.
Radek is quite more frank. He is not averse to conclude a bloc even with centrists not shuffling [to the left ...]. Not for nothing he in his letter bitterly complains about the lack of reciprocity with the centrists. Radek writes: "Does anyone offer a bloc with the centre now, i.e. in the period, that began after the July plenum. No, no one offers that. In any case, I did not offer that. Why? For the simple reason, in love, so that she would not be platonic, there should be, at least, the presence of two". True, LD lathers the head of the excessively frank Radek, yearning for centrist love. LD writes: "But one must have completely lost his mind, in order to hold course for a bloc with the current centrists". But with tomorrow's centrists, it means, it will be possible. And in what, may I ask, dear comrades, can tomorrow's centrists differ from the current or yesterday's? You yourself in your paper argue, that the centrists - ''kerenskyism in reverse", that "victory of the centrists leads to the thermidorian bonapartist pathway". Or are these alleged shuffling to the left centrists [people] of another breed? But we know, that the shuffle can only be of an unprincipled wheeler-dealer, who under the influence of circumstances the next day may shuffle back to the right. How then are you, dear comrades, going to form a bloc with unscrupulous wheeler-dealers? No, something with you is amiss. Something poorly connected the ends with ends.

III. The tactics of group "13".
From this incorrect and muddled definition of centrism, it is clear, follow incorrect and muddled tactics.
"It wants and screams, but mommy will not allow it". Such are, in short, all tactics of our dear neighbors to the right.
The prospect of the possibility of a bloc with the centrists necessitates conducting politics, of support. But how can we support a clear kulak, anti-proletarian politics?
After all if it was possible to sow illusions, that the "left course'' was almost an implementation of the platform of "13", if apropos the heart of the target figures for 1928-29 I.N. Smirnov in his letter to Preobrazhensky said, that: "Stalin grabbed our proposals'' (i.e. the proposals of group "13"), - that even somebody of our neighbors could say this in relation to the current pressure on the working class, which in the present year is held particularly, deserves a better use of energy. The deteriorating position of the working class is so obvious and blatant, that even group "13" forced not only to stop its accusations towards group "15" for the protection, allegedly, of "shop" interests, the sort of accusations in which group "13" always excelled; but were forced themselves to take the path of group "15", i.e. the path protecting the vital interests of the working class (on which path group "15" always stood and continues to stand). If Radek in his letter lists a whole series of "leftist" acts of the centrists, bringing them, in his view, close to his group, will he unlikely be able then to say, that the February law on agricultural tax (''Pravda'' from 9/II-1929) is not clearly a kulak anti-proletarian law (after all the law was issued, when the centrists engaged a ''terrible struggle'' with the rightists)?
How is it possible to carry out a policy of support of the centrists, when they not only within the country lead anti-proletarian politics, but also in the international arena enter into contact with the capitalist governments regarding the expulsion there of bolshevik revolutionaries (the negotiations with Turkey, Latvia and Germany on the expulsion of L.D. Trotsky)? And here, of course, in all clarity appear all the contradictions and all the confusion of this tactic.
Radek attacks Eltsin, Nechaev and Beloborodov for the fact that they have the courage to reconsider their previous incorrect stance on the question of thermidor, while Trotsky finds elements of bonapartism (and completely correctly) in the speeches of Stalin, Voroshilov and Rykov.
Radek tears and throws at these comrades for the fact that they dare recognize, that the thermidor took place, while Trotsky, without leaving the idea of support of centrists, throws forth the slogan of the secret ballot. It's impossible to argue that the government is still in the hands of working class, as Radek does, and at the same time draw up the slogan of secret ballot - as Trotsky does. Or it's necessary to say, that Trotsky and Radek have nothing in common with each other.
Insomuch L.D. finds - and rightly so - in the current state of affairs elements of bonapartism, there can be no talk about power still being in the hands of the proletariat. After all, it is possible to detect elements of bonapartism only in thermidorians, but not in the dictatorship of the proletariat.
That which L.D. said about elements of bonapartism is not incidentally evident from the fact that on the basis of the discussion of these elements L.D. draws the conclusion, that it is necessary now to put forward the slogan of the secret ballot.
To the ballot has to be admitted only the worker. But for these workers L.D. demands a secret ballot. Hence, they must be guarded from someone. From whom? It is clear, from the bonapartist elements. Hence, these elements are already so strong, that the workers need protection from them. Who has the power then? The workers or these bonapartist elements? It is quite clear, that if the authority continued to be in the hands of the proletariat, even in the presence of bureaucratic distortions the worker need not resort to the secret ballot. Because under the dictatorship of the proletariat, even with bureaucratic distortions, the worker - master of the situation. Hence, if the slogan is correct, and it really is a correct slogan, then it may be inferred from this stipulation, that the proletariat is no longer in power, that another class is in power, from which the worker must be sheltered from "class pressure" on him. But if the situation is that the existing power produces "class pressure'' on workers, and there are "elements of bonapartism", from which workers need protection, it is necessary to frankly and openly declare that the thermidor took place and that bonapartism approaches. And then, from one side, one cannot already admit, while from the other, not acknowledge. From one side, discover bonapartism, but from the other, fiercely attack on those comrades, who make the absolutely correct conclusion from the fact, that the thermidor took place and that with the government, shooting hungry workers, we can have only struggle. (You, comrade Radek, do not want to fight against such a government, that shoots hungry workers for the fact that they demand bread and work? If you do not want to, then declare it openly and publicly.)
It would, of course, be absurd to think, that when we (to them) state, that the thermidor took place, then by this we imply, that in 1928 exactly is repeated everything, that happened in 1794 in France. I do not know, who Radek has in mind, when he writes: "Is it possible in connection to Ust-Vymsky compare to decapitation?" I strongly doubt, that anyone resorted to a similar simplification. Possibly, [...] in connection to Ust-Vymsky cannot be equated to decapitation, but that the violence toward the vanguard of the working class, the opposition, meant a shift from one class to another – this is not subject to any doubt, and this confirms L.D., noting the presence of elements of bonapartism. (After all not in the working class L.D. sees these elements of bonapartism.)

IV. The real essence of centrism.
If we follow the way in which centrism manifests itself in all times and under all conditions, and on the basis of this give it an appropriate definition, then it – the definition - expressed in one sole word - swamp.
History knows no such examples, where centrism represented a fundamentally steadfast and sustainable movement. Centrism is always under the effect of the winds acting on it. But at the same time it is possible to firmly establish, that, as a pattern, centrism constantly shows more sensitivity to the winds, blowing from the right, and a special persistence to winds, blowing from the left.
This is understandable: in their nature centrists always can be at the rightists' tail. Centrism is afraid of sharp turns. As a representative of the petitbourgeoisie layers, it is always drawn to the bourgeoisie, afraid of large proletarian masses, though always trying to flirt with these masses, yet also afraid to openly take the side of the bourgeoisie, as it knows, that, having taken openly the side of the bourgeoisie, the latter immediately gobbles it up.
As a rule, centrism always appears an appendage of the right.
Is this historical depiction of centrism applicable to our centrism, to stalinism?
No, it is not applicable.
Our centrists, just like the rightists, to begin with, rose from the depths of social-democracy. They are the offspring, mainly, of bureaucratic distortions of this dictatorship. Wrong are those, who try (and unsuccessfully) to prove that the centrists and rightists are representatives of different classes. This is not true. The rightists, and the so-called centrists – are representatives of the same class - the new soviet bourgeoisie. Grown during the years of NEP and strengthened over the past 5 years the new soviet bourgeoisie, by cowardly indulgence of bureaucratic distortions and penetrating into the different slots of soviet, party and trade union apparatuses, began to conduct neo-bourgeois, anti-proletarian politics.
Opportunism, which roamed earlier in our party, came to life and with the help of these alien to the working class elements wove itself a solid nest in the party and in the apparatuses of soviet and trade union bodies.
This new soviet bourgeoisie is the class basis of the rightists and the so-called centrists. One has only to look carefully at the ongoing rightist, and as so-called centrists policy, to immediately verify, that, despite all the sensation, which Stalin raised around the struggle against the rightist danger, the policy of Rykov cannot be distinguished from Stalin's policy even under a microscope. The difference between them can be found only in tactics. While Rykov and co. straight through directly try to settle in the neo-bourgeois seat, Stalin prefers to reach this same seat by zig-zags. Certainly, L.D. is right, when he says that "the victory of the right would lead straight to, while "victory" of the centrist by zigzags to the thermidorian bonapartist pathway''. Here only a small correction must be introduced - instead of "would lead", it should, in my opinion, say – leads.
And what in this case indicates the struggle, which in fact is conducted between Stalin and Rykov and co?
Here I, very likely, can fully agree with the response of L.D. (''how Stalin argues'' etc.). This struggle is nothing other than an unprincipled struggle for power. This is confirmed not only by the July talks of Bukharin with Kamenev, by the definition of L.D., but it is confirmed by the whole current politics.
Conducting the struggle allegedly against the rightist danger, Stalin has a majority in the Politburo (after the "betrayal" - Bukharin's expression – of Voroshilov and Kalinin) and in the CC. Hence, Stalin was able to implement his politics, of course, if... if he had his own politics. In fact, despite the full support of the whole "monolithic" party in the struggle with the rightist danger, Stalin carries out arch-rightist, kulak and anti-proletarian politics: collective agreement campaign, the new law on agricultural tax, carry out the Bukharinist slogan "get rich!" etc. Finally, these so-called centrists entered into contact with the capitalist powers, which, at the suggestion of the same centrists, act the international policeman (I have in mind Turkey, agreeing on the proposal of the USSR to assume the role of policeman in relation to the thereto expelled opposition).
From this, of course, follows, that tactics should be different.
The course to the bloc with centrists in general or only with shuffling centrists, besides harm, brings nothing. To the workers' part of the party and the working class as a whole such a course introduces cruel fraud. This course, not to even mention, that it is completely useless for those, who carry it out, generates illusions in the working class and weakens its will and determination to fight for the restoration of the proletarian dictatorship.
In vain our neighbors to the right talk about passivity of the working class. Have a look at the daily press. Is there not heard the tread of the awakening working masses? Not for nothing "Trade-industry newspaper" in almost all of its issues over the past few months sheds bitter (crocodile) tears and does not stop blaming executives for too large acquiescence to "excessive" demands of the workers at the conclusion of collective agreements. Here quite a few even of the trade-unionists are struck about the fact that the latter are often forced under pressure of workers to take the side of the interests of the working class (as not to antagonize against themselves the workers). In "Results of collective agreement campaign" (posted in "Trade-industry newspaper" of 24/II-29) the author of the theses truly sheds crocodile tears, that, say, the workers forced the executives to make to them a number of significant concessions - in everyday, material and even legal affairs. This does not speak in favor of the theory of passivity of the working class. The proletariat will, undoubtedly, be activated. It keenly listens to what its vanguard does and says - the opposition. Let it be the case that it still cannot free us, let it be the case that it can not yet stop the rampant counter-revolution, but it already rises. Its activity will, undoubtedly, increase. And precisely because its activity is now in the stage of growth, any illusion is 10, a 100 times more harmful, than it would ever be, in particular, when passivity prevails among workers. Each step, directed against the proletariat, must be energetically decoded by us. The crackling leftist phrases, with which the leadership surrounds their anti-proletarian counter-revolutionary activities, must be unmasked by us. These activities we must present to the workers in their naked impropriety and counter-revolutionary form. Finally, all activity of the working class, designed to protect its class interests, must [...] find with us every kind of support. At present, when the activity of the working class certainly grows, we must concentrate all our efforts so that this activity is guided in the leninist channel. Otherwise - this activity, undoubtedly, will be seized by all sorts of mensheviks, anarcho-syndicalists, etc.
The opposition should now not discuss about a possible bloc, discarding all these very harmful conversations, it must stand at the head of the working class and lead its struggle for the restoration of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

V. The attack on group "15".
There is not the slightest doubt, that broad opposition masses, especially, the workers opposition, sense all this perfectly. In spite of all theoretical and often very angry "proofs" of the leaders, the opposition mass at its most bolshevik instinctively feels the wrongness of all these "proofs" and it is natural, that, having before its eyes, on one side, vacillating contradictory tactics, designed for the bloc with the centrists in general (Radek) or just with the shuffling centrists (Trotsky), it turns to the side of those, who consistently conducted the strictly sustained straight fundamental proletarian line and tactics - to the group of "15".
Radek gets a strong uneasiness about that, which Eltsin writes: "Concerning thermidor, I believe, that it occurred". And Nechaev adds to this: "When the present rykov-stalin government starts shooting at workers and by the hundreds arrests them (Moscow Labour Exchange), with such a government nothing remains with us in common, with it we only have struggle". How in fact not to get into uneasiness at this straight bolshevik way of putting the question? Here not only Radek, but with sustained persistence - Trotsky - lose composure and simply start to scold words like adventurism, etc., at the address of those, to whose point of view came and come Eltsin, Nechaev, Beoloborodov and many other comrades - at the address of group "15".
The cup is finally filled by comrade Belbej, who reports: "I have a series of letters (of some of our best comrade workers), demanding a bloc with the D.C., since these comrades see no difference between our current and the decists" (must be, that these comrades are more under the influence of the real state of things in the country, than under the influence of the contradicting theories of the leaders. Otherwise (under the influence), they, certainly, would see the difference between our clear and consistent position and the confusing position of group "13").
Radek simply writes all these comrades, to group "15", declaring, that they went to the "decists''. (On this, of course, Radek is not right. These comrades, unfortunately, still tenaciously hold the contradictory and confusing theory of group "13".)
Trotsky already directly passes to the attack; as a dialectician, he decides to immediately hit on the reason, leaving aside for now consequences.
L.D. does not attack comrades, who declare, that the thermidor occurred, that "with the current government, we have only struggle'', and those workers, who see no difference between us and the group "13''. L.D. assigns the very "laudable" goal - to pull out with the roots the cause of these "deviations" in the ranks of "13".
Remarking perkily, as if in passing, on the "political botching" of the decists, L.D. a few lines later with the same perkiness writes: "No matter how annoying to waste time on secondary matters (it turns out, for LD establishing correct tactics is listed under secondary matters), nevertheless, it is necessary to study the decists, in the sense of explaining the circles' parasitic nature, their politics and the inherent adventurism in them". One of two - either parasitism or adventurism. It is impossible at one and the same time to have an adventurous, and parasitic nature. I, of course, understand, that L.D. very unpleasantly watches, how the best comrade workers of his group move to the position of group "15", but why lose composure and instead of precise and clear answers to them, the best workers, which they are entitled to expect from him, start to scold, and even so poorly.
First of all, any abuse - poor proof of its rightness. On the contrary, when a person, especially a political figure, especially a leader, by way of evidence starts to scold, then [unintelligible] exactly works counter to his desires, because it proves his lack of good arguments. In addition, when a political figure, especially a leader, starts to swear, you can be sure in advance, that he will finish with false accusations against his political opponents and boastful assurances at their address of his strengths and capabilities.
That precisely happened with LD. Having proved the possibility of peaceful cohabitation of parasitism and adventurism, L.D. moves to false accusations to group "15''. "The theorists of decism, - says LD, - absolutely do not understand this connection (international and domestic affairs – V.R.), but [illegible] not a line on international affairs is not accidental, but purely adventurist blocs with people, completely having broken with marxism, like Korsch and co. In his most recent constructions V. Smirnov appears just a caricature of Stalin''. Here navorocheno so much "consternation", that not only the going toward us best comrade workers, but even die-hard supporters of group "15" must, according to L.D., be thoughtful. Whether group "15" has a line on international affairs and whether that group understands the connection between domestic and international affairs, about this hardly worth talking. L.D., obviously, forgot, that our platform, before its release on [illegible], copied with [?] workers by hand, and that our platform not only was read aloud by our workers and the workers of group "13" verbatim to the miners (remember the resolution adopted in Zamoskvorechye at joint meeting of group "15" and group "13"). And in this platform clearly, as usual, is spoken of both our line in international affairs, and the connection between these affairs to domestic affairs. Hence, the shot is wide of the mark. Regarding the "adventurist bloc with Korsch and co'', then here comes the observation, that Smirnov is a caricature of Stalin.. , but deeply respected L.D. took this argument straight-away from stalin's box. How long have we heard, how Stalin with all his choirs of venal letters accused Trotsky of a bloc with Souvarine and even with the same Korsch?
It would seem, that the leader of group "13" it befits not to borrow similar "arguments" of the stalinist arsenal. The fact is that we all well know, that all these stalinist-bukharinist accusations about imaginary bloc of trotskyists with Souvarine and others are just vile insinuations, created, in the main fashion, on personal acquaintance and the existence even of personal sympathy of L.D. with these renegades of socialism.
What required L.D. to resort to such arguments against us? It must be highly unpleasant to watch, how the best comrade workers turn away from muddled tactics and come to the consistent proletarian position of group "15".
Does this fabrication about a bloc with Korsch have any basis?
Even less, than the insinuation of Stalin and Bukharin in relation to a bloc of the "13" with Souvarine and others. If in relation to Souvarine L.D. nonetheless after all then played the role of his "godfather'', then none of our group brings Korsch into the party. We do not at all deny our proximity to the Leninbund, but the Leninbund is not Korsch and co.
Having finished with inventions against us, L.D. straightly passes to boastful assurances of his strength: "The best elements - says LD - we wrest from them" (i.e., from group "15"; incidentally, this boastful assurance, essentially, is a repetition of what has been said by the same L.D. one and a half year ago in Moscow: say, the workers we wrest from you – V.R.), and further: we wrest from you workers with bold and decisive policy on the basic questions, from the one side, with explanatory campaigns, on the other.
As for the "explanatory campaigns", this only can mean new confusing contradictory definitions, that not only cannot defeat our workers, but on the contrary, no doubt wins over not only the best, i.e., the most conscious, but all the workers from group "13" to us (such as, by the way, we see in practice).
Regarding the bold and resolute policy, then ... if it at all becomes possible in group "13", then it is hardly necessary to win over workers from each other. For bold and resolute policy we, group "15", constantly call, not ceasing all the time to implement it in the life of all our actions.
Group "15" as the most consistent part of the proletarian opposition could only support bold and decisive policy on the side of group "13", [and] by no means the reverse.
We welcome in advance even the intention to move to bold and decisive policy, which we urge not only of all the opposition, but the entire working class as well.

VIII. The case for the initiative of the proletariat.

On the pace of social stratification of the countryside, on the degree of organization, awareness, the preparedness for struggle of the proletariat, the rate of decomposition of the very bonapartist state - will depend basically the rate of escalation of the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie (and the other way around) from the economic into the political. The latter in both cases can mean only the struggle for power.
It is impossible today to foresee in all concreteness the possible forms of the results of the contradictions of the bonapartist period. On this it will be possible to speak then, when the proletariat comes closer to these outcomes.
In the possible case, when the initiative of the struggle for power will belong to the bourgeoisie and its bloc, for the working class will stand the dilemma: either retreat without a fight or enter the struggle with the slogan of restoring the dictatorship of the proletariat. Objectively there is no third way and there cannot be - the proletariat cannot speak out in defense of bonapartism against the bourgeoisie. In this prospect of the situation, when the bourgeoisie will take power, as one cannot think it really feasible for the proletariat – the "preparatory period" is a transition to the offensive for the "around the corner" bourgeois restoration (''having removed the head, no cry for the hair"). Clearly, in this case the proletariat will have minimal chances to win.
If the initiative in this struggle for power will belong to the proletariat, then - in contrast to its situation outlined in the first case – the bourgeoisie, "at worst", could withdraw the slogan of the seizure of power and support bonapartism, if it still at this point would represent a real force.
Initiative of the outcome in the hands of the proletariat assumes that it tries to prevent capitalist restoration. If we take an artificial, not real prospect, in which the proletariat will be passive, counting themselves isolated, and therefore refuses to fight for power, the victory of the bourgeoisie will already today be decided beforehand; therefore to restrict ourselves only to rearguard battles, etc., etc., the formal collapse of the bonapartism and its actual collapse may differ in time, in the sense, that the formal collapse happens in the course of a certain time when bonapartism factually already will be a bourgeois government.
In an extremely difficult situation, which characterizes the current moment, it is indisputably necessary to recognize the following: firstly, in so far as the proletariat in its struggle may have around it a "choir", i.e. is not isolated, secondly, in so far as bonapartism, dithers increasingly will shift to the right - the question of timely seizure of the the initiative in the hands of the proletariat becomes one of the critical issues of struggle questions. The proletariat must overthrow bonapartism earlier than the bourgeoisie turns capable of doing that.

IX. Is a new civil war inevitable?
Whether there will be or not a new civil war in the development of class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie – this question as such can not be considered objectively predetermined, just as the question whether there will be a dictatorship of the proletariat or a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie the day after the foregone collapse of soviet bonapartism.
Today the relation of class forces and the political position in the country are such, that a new civil war can not be acknowledged as inevitable for the next day.
Hamstrung in contradictory vises between the major classes of society, the petit bourgeoisie can take part - and decisive - in the civil war, but not as self-sufficient force, but under the banner of one of the main classes.
The kulak-nepman bourgeoisie, despite its enormous growth in conditions of petitbourgeois counter-revolution, delays the policy of soviet bonapartism with its development of big-capitalist bourgeoisie, and therefore is not yet capable to come out as an independent decisive political force.
The working class preserves and develops its combat capability. The growing mass activity in its economic defense against the bourgeoisie, and against soviet bonapartism, clearly, indicate that it moves by itself and brings after itself its allies in the political offensive under the leadership of the reconstituted bolshevik party.
This balance of force – as long as it has not changed – is one of the main factors which can ensure peaceful development of the second proletarian revolution.
Engels in his time thought it possible for England then to move to socialism without civil war. He substantied this possibilty with, that in the England of his time there was no bureaucracy and standing army. The specific situation of soviet bonapartism is such, that both of these factors,
in all likelihood, will not be able to be used against the working class. For this speak the following considerations: 1) bonapartism pushes not only the poor masses of the peasantry, but also the ruined middle peasants to a strengthening and resumption of the revolutionary alliance with the proletariat - against the bourgeois counter-revolution, as well as against the bonapartist power. Strengthening and renewal of this alliance reduces to a minimum the possibility of using the workers-peasant army against the proletariat and its allies. 2) Servile army of officials and agents of the bonapartist power in case of its decomposition and discrediting among all classes of society – is not capable to resist the more or less powerful pressure of the proletariat; the bolshevik vanguard of the proletariat will find itself some slack and in the very citadel of bonapartism - in the VKP, in the workers' part of its members, still has not lost the connection with the proletariat and is capable to struggle under the leadership of its vanguard.
The years of the dictatorship of the proletariat were not in vain. They left in the minds of all workers a deep impression. Still fresh in the memory of the masses the bloody struggle for power, for factory, for land.
The fact, finally, that the prestige of the name of the VKP(b), under the sign of which bonapartism is compelled to act, represents for it a significant impediment, to openly, without cover march out armed against the workers, acting in this very direction.
The strategy and tactics of the proletarian party must, therefore, be constructed such, that the proletariat's fight still (and precisely) within the bonapartist period consistently would exclude the possibility of a new civil war.

X. According to... "If you want peace - prepare for war''.
The possibility of a peaceful development of second proletarian revolution will be reduced to a minimum, if the proletariat is not able to seize in its hand the initiative in the fight, i.e., already during the preparatory period partly goes from defense to attack.
The initiative in the hands of the bourgeoisie means: 1) provoking bonapartism into a civil war with the proletariat; 2) in case of its victorious result for the bourgeois – such a terror against the for the second time defeated proletariat, which for long years will disorganize and weaken it. On this it is necessary to give oneself an entirely clear account. With a victorious bonapartism the bourgeoisie will bring down on the proletariat such repression, economic as well as political, in comparison with which the crushing of the working class of France after the defeat of the Paris Commune will be "with flowers". The bourgeoisie carries this out that more easily, that such a state of affairs is excluded, with which arise in the USSR the civil war on the initiative of the bourgeoisie that will not be immediately and actively supported by international capital.
Hence the possibility is quite unlikely, that the bourgeoisie would come to power and began to peacefully exploit the proletariat, and the petitbourgeoisie without first running them through a "blood bath''.
The proletariat must not for a single moment lose sight of this prospect – especially, in order, to prevent it, and in case of failure in this - to be armed against this possibility.

XI. Necessity to prepare the proletariat to struggle and victory.
The basic conditions for the victory of the revolution LENIN formulated as follows: it is possible, "only when the "lower classes" do not want the old way, and the "upper classes" cannot carry on in the old way" ("lower classes", i.e., the exploited, the "upper classes", i.e., the ruling and their government. Cit. from memory).
To assert, that today these conditions are present - would be, objectively, an attempt to involve the proletariat into adventure; to assert, that these conditions are in an indefinitely distant future, excluding for the proletariat even the possibility today to answer the question, who are its allies – would be, objectively, an attempt to incapacitate the proletariat right at that time, when its fate will be determined.
The objective situation now creates these indications of LENIN of the prerequisites for the victory of the proletariat.
Bonapartism as a system, pervaded through and through with contradictions, all the time located "between the hammer and anvil" of class antagonisms, more organically characteristic than whatever state system permanently is faced with the inability to continue "as usual". Its policy - a policy, rushing from side to side. Article 107 and 58, recurrence of methods of war communism and increase of grain prices. KONDRATIEV in the Politburo with the face of shakhty's heroes on the bench defendants, etc., etc.
An expression of the same inability of bonapartism to continue "as usual'' is the fledgling power. Continuous political squabbling from top to bottom - the inevitable destiny of petitbourgeois government.
In governmental crises Lenin saw, among other things, indicators of the inability of the upper classes to continue "as usual". The state of chronic government crisis (not in the sense of people, but in terms of lines: petitbourgeois people can at present do one thing, tomorrow - something quite different) have been characteristic of the bonapartism of today. Appositely, from all this follows, that those comrades are wrong, who define the modern "soviet" state as a "dictatorship of the petitbourgeoisie'': it is not a dictatorship, but "a sack of potatoes".
All these and similar phenomena will increasingly grow. Bonapartism has not the means, to prevent their development.
On the other hand, argue today, that the "lower classes" want the usual, would be a direct lie. This fully applies to the poor. The truth is that the majority of the population has not yet fully realized the situation, and therefore the will to act ("desire") is weak. But the clearer, brighter will emerge the prospect of the figure of the old bourgeois, the more clearer in the consciousness of the masses will be the idea, that the victory of the bourgeoisie – this new bloodletting (not figuratively) of the workers and the poor, the clearer before the middle peasants will appear the figure of the new landlord, the brighter it will become, that "the upper classes" ever more cannot go on "as usual", - the faster will increase the second prerequisite for the victory of the proletariat.
With the growth of these two conditions, the proletariat - as the leader of all exploited, i.e., the majority of the population – will pass from defense to the attack, from the offensive to the immediate struggle for power.
In anticipation of this prospect, the vanguard of the proletariat must prepare these (according to Lenin) prerequisites of the proletariat's victory. Thus, the coming period – is a period of preparation.

XII. On the slogan for the restoration of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In the era of wars and revolutions it can not be removed from the proletariat under whatever conditions. The bolshevik party precisely under "uncut slogans" of the uncompleted 1905 revolution prepared the proletariat in the years of reaction for the October revolution.
Today the slogan of restoration of the dictatorship of the proletariat - the slogan of revolutionary mobilization of the mass, but not for defense "without end", but for preparation for the attack, to organize the victorious struggle for power and for implementing the very dictatorship, which by no means is "far away".
However it would be naive to believe, that the specific content of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which the program of the VKP holds (and must be saved) or of the platform "15" (which also must be retained) – can be considered today exhaustive. The monstrous perversion, which the dictatorship of the proletariat has undergone, both in theory and in practice already in pre-bonapartist period, inflicts on the proletariat now direct harm with the trotskyist political stance, which puts an equal sign between dictatorship of the proletariat and undisguised bonapartism, spearheading against the proletariat, a poisonous and despicable deception of the working masses, spread by soviet bonapartism both orally and in writing with the help of thousands of hired agitators, propagandists, writers - all this signifies the most urgent practical need to give the proletariat a response to the imperative question: what specifically should express its very same revolution and dictatorship in relation to its material and social position, in relation to its responsibilities to the international proletariat (as Lenin put the question).
Excavation of Marx and Lenin can solve only half this task. Remaining always on the ground of scientific foresight, they did not have the historical experience, which we have now.
The underestimation of this task can cause great harm to the cause of the proletariat – both ours and the international.
Thus: 1) From the slogan of restoration of the dictatorship as a slogan of daily struggle the proletariat cannot be stepped away – just as, from oneself. 2) The task of the proletarian vanguard is to study the experience of proletarian revolution and petitbourgeois counterrevolution. Before we fight for restoration of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the proletariat must know, what is the dictatorship of the proletariat, what it means for the same proletariat as a class, what it means as a political transition period in the domain of social-economic relations.

XIII. Reconstruction of the bolshevik party.
The main instrument of the proletarian struggle is, of course, the bolshevik party. The situation today absolutely precludes any oscillations on this question. The proletariat needs a reconstituted party. For this cry the stones.
Only recidivating (not by Stalin and co., but "selfmade'') historical trotskyism still can – in the image and likeness of its wretched fuss with the old liquidators - huddle now with the new liquidators. The VKP – an organization, located outside the worker movement: it is now no more, no less, like a professional organization of bonapartist bureaucracy, having nothing in common with the working class. The trotskyites' course to "reform the party" talks about developing towards proletariat trends in that perfidious group.
Ruthlessly exposing trotskyists - responsibility of bolsheviks. Only in struggle against that group succeeds the preserving for the movement those truly proletarian elements, which are still, certainly, in it.
An even bigger danger represent those using the defeat of revolution, to disavow the October victory in the eyes of the workers, the mensheviks, the struggle with whom and exposing of whom as straight agents of capital - the most important task of the bolshevik party.
In the situation of today it would not at all be surprising that, if, along with recidivating political conciliatoriness of the trotskyist type, would come to light some kind of variation of liquidationism, which, in its modern revision, obviously, would advance its slogan of legalization of the workers party, after removing as practically useless for the present day the slogan of the restoration of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But a legal "workers'' party, renouncing the slogan of restorating the dictatorship of the proletariat, would not be needed for the proletariat. Only under the leadership of the party can the proletariat express its combat effectiveness and expand the power of millions of proletarians in alliance with tens of millions of poor peasants. Who does not understand this, he has nothing in common with the leninist teachings on the role of the party.
The proletariat needs a party, that can lead it in alliance with the poor peasantry against soviet bonapartism under the slogan of restoration of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This party must itself continue the by bonapartist renegades interrupted history of the party of bolsheviks.

XIV. Basic demands of the working class.
Resulting from the assessment of the prospects of soviet bonapartism, and as closer specification of the slogan of restoration of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the reconstituted bolshevik party must immediately give the masses the following basic demands:
1. Arming of the workers against upcoming bourgeois counter-revolution.
We are experiencing a stage to a certain extent similar to the period of the Kornilov offensive. Not by chance LENIN identified that moment of pre-October history as "the beginning of bonapartism''. The conduct at the time of the petitbourgeois Kerensky government reminded Lenin of the worst times of impotence of the first cadet Duma in the face of tsarism. Now we we have a still more bitter impotence of stalino-rykov bonapartism in the face of upcoming bourgeois counter-revolution.
2. Organizing the association of the poor as combat class body.
This is not about trotskyist association of the poor with unknown targets, methods of struggle and perspectives. We are talking about an association, which should put as its task organizing the class struggle in the countryside, which it should pour into the general movement of the struggle of the proletariat with bonapartism and the upcoming bourgeois

*Trotsky's letter (in French); folk tale reference of Radek; sections VI and VII, probably dealing with Smilga's letter, are missing.


Feb 18 2011 10:10

Hey, what's the background of this text?

Noa Rodman
Feb 18 2011 13:47

The collection from which this is translated is raw material, mostly from the late 20s (but one document dates from early 1932, by Sapronov). Hence, lots of questions about chronology, address and classification of these documents.

This particular text seems to be two documents (they are put together as one in the collection); section 1 to 5 is written in first person by someone, a democratic centralist evidently, with initials V.R. (though none of the 15 democrat centralists have these initials). After missing sections 6-7, the titles of the following sections were in italic. Their content and style is different, and it breaks off at the end. But I guess there was a reason to place them together.

From the first part you can gather it's written around or just after Trotsky's expulsion from the USSR.

Noa Rodman
Feb 18 2011 20:17

Thanks for editing. On second thought, it does constitute one text, but because the transition from the first to second part is missing, and the above reasons, it feels like two articles, or maybe it's two authors, I don't know!

Also, the subject-matter is mostly the nature of centrism and the establishment of correct tactics (written late February or early March 1929).

Noa Rodman
May 6 2011 19:11

About that photo, here's an even better photo (copyrighted) of this extraordinary scene, with Trotsky in fact holding cartridges and placing them in a belt, beside his wife, Natalia Sedova, and son, Leon Sedov.