Bob Gould, 2004
Source: Ozleft, Green Left Weekly discussion list, March 31, 2004
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter
Michael or Dennis Berrell, or whoever he is today (just so the rest of us aren’t terminally confused he should consider using one or another name consistently), has put up a post about the Left Opposition that is almost entirely inaccurate and false.
He repeats the Stalinist accusation of the time that the Left Opposition wanted to prematurely abolish the New Economic Policy in the mid-1920s. That was always a Stalinist falsification. It’s not defensible to make that kind of assertion without citing some sources. There’s a fairly substantial literature on the Soviet economic debates of the 1920s, among Marxists and serious bourgeois academics, and some documents from those debates are available on the web.
Richard Day, Moshe Lewin, Alec Nove and R.V. Daniels have published books and articles of considerable length on those Soviet economic debates. Those three scholars are, in fact, the major authorities. On Ozleft are a couple of articles from the Slavic Review, one about the Left Oppositionist Preobrazhensky, and the other about the Bukharin associate Sokolnikov.
None of the authorities who’ve studied the literature accuse Trotsky and the Left Opposition of campaigning for the premature abolition of the NEP.
All the books and documents of the struggle underline that the economic debate took place within the framework of accepting the NEP but struggling to modify or improve it in various ways. The argument between the Left and Right Oppositions was about allocating resources within the NEP framework.
It was the gravedigger of the revolution, Stalin, who emerged from the shadows to smash the NEP, abolish the market and introduce forced collectivisation. Berrell seems to be so ignorant that he’s not aware that Trotsky attacked forced collectivisation and the abolition of the NEP in The Revolution Betrayed.
He seems unaware that Christian Rakovsky attacked the abolition of the NEP on behalf of the Left Opposition in his three Letters to the Party in successive years in the early 1930s, sent from the Stalinist prison in which he was confined.
Berrell has a bee in his bonnet about justifying the capitalist restoration in China and he tries to fit past socialist history into that framework, but he should do us the courtesy of at least treating the history with respect and care. It seems pretty clear that Berrell is working his way towards developing a justification of Stalin’s policies.
There’s nothing in the work of any of the serious scholars in this field that justifies the proposition that the Left Opposition wanted to abolish the NEP.
We’re all pretty busy, and more immediate political arguments often seem more pressing than historical questions, but people should not be allowed to get away with perpetuating total myths about socialist and communist history by reviving hoary and discredited Stalinist lies.