Date: May 1925
Source: The Errors of Trotskyism
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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.
[On the action of Comrade Trotsky Passed at the Joint Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (two against) and the Central Control Commission (one abstained from voting).]
The fundamental basis of all the successes of the Bolshevik Party has always been the steel-like, unity and iron discipline, genuine unanimity of views on the basis of Leninism. Comrade Trotsky’s unceasing attacks against Bolshevism confronts the Party with the necessity either to abandon this fundamental condition or once and for all to put an end to these attacks.
On an international scale, Comrade Trotsky’s attacks against the Party are regarded by the bourgeoisie and the Social-Democrats as a precursor of a split in the Russian Communist Party and, therefore, of the collapse of the proletarian dictatorship generally. It is from this partly that international imperialism draws its practical conclusions with regard to the U.S.S.R. in spite of the fact that the objective position of the U.S.S.R. is stronger now than it has even been before.
Within the country, Comrade Trotsky’s opposition is regarded by all anti-soviet and wavering elements as a signal to combine against the policy of the Party for the purpose of influencing the regime of the proletarian dictatorship towards making concessions to bourgeois democracy.
The anti-proletarian elements in the State apparatus are striving to “emancipate” themselves from Party guidance and see in Comrade Trotsky’s fight against the Central Committee of the Party their hope. The dictatorship of the proletariat and particularly one of the most important teachings of Comrade Lenin concerning the necessity of transforming the whole of the State apparatus in the spirit of a workers’ and peasants’ government, is being threatened by enormous damage.
In the Party and around the Party, Comrade Trotsky’s opposition has made his name the banner around which are rallying all the non-Bolshevist, non-Communist, anti-proletarian deviations and groupings.
In the most general form Comrade Trotsky’s actions against the Party as a whole can now be described as an attempt to convert the ideology of the Russian Communist Party into a sort of “modernised” (by Comrade Trotsky) “Bolshevism” without Leninism. This is not Bolshevism. This is a revision of Bolshevism. This is an attempt to substitute Leninism by Trotskysm, i.e., an attempt to substitute for the Leninist theory and tactics of international proletarian revolution that variety of Menshevism which the old Trotskyism represented and which is represented to-day by the resurrected “modern” Trotskyism. Essentially, modern Trotskyism is a counterfeit of Communism approaching the “European” model of pseudo-Marxism, i.e., in the last resort, to “European” social-democracy.
During the course of the few years that Comrade Trotsky has been in the Russian Communist Party, our Party has had to conduct against him four discussions on a national scale not including less important controversies on extremely important questions.
The first discussion was that over the Brest Peace. Comrade Trotsky failed to understand that the peasantry did not wish to fight any more, and he conducted a policy which nearly cost the revolution its head it required the threat on the part of Comrade Lenin to leave the Government, it required an intense struggle at the Seventh Congress of the Party to rectify the error and secure—although on worse terms—the Brest “respite.”
The second discussion was on the Trade Unions. As a matter of fact, this was a discussion concerning the attitude towards the peasantry raised against war-Communism, concerning the attitude towards the non-party masses of the workers and generally concerning the Party’s approach to the masses in the period when the civil war had come to an end. An acute controversy over the whole country, an intense campaign conducted by the whole nucleus of the Party, headed by Comrade Lenin against the “feverish heights” of Trotskyism were required in order to save the Party from mistakes which threatened all the gains of the revolution.
The third discussion was over the “Party apparatus” plan, over the alleged “inclination towards the peasantry” on the part of the Central Committee, over “the conflict between two generations,” etc. As a matter of fact, this too was a question of the economic alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry; the question of the policy of prices, of currency reform, of the necessity for steering the policy of the Party by the workers’ compass of maintaining the leadership of the Party in the economic and State apparatus, concerning the fight against “freedom” to form fractions and groupings within the Party, the maintenance of the leadership in the hands of the Bolshevik cadres of the Party, it a word, of keeping to the Leninist Policy of the Party in the period of NEP. In this discussion, Comrade Trotsky became the mouthpiece of petty bourgeois deviations. Again he urged the Party to adopt the policy which might have led to the collapse of the revolution, for this policy would have crushed the economic successes of the Party in their embryo.
The petty bourgeois opposition, headed by Comrade Trotsky, forced themselves into a position, in which, refusing to admit their radical errors, they were compelled to adopt the attitude of “the worst the better,” i.e., to stake their case on the failure of the Party and of the Soviet Government.
It was necessary to put up an intense fight to resist this petty bourgeois attack upon the fortress of Bolshevism. It is now clear to all that the Trotskyist talk of the “ruin of the country” in the autumn of 1923, was merely an expression of petty bourgeois fear, of lack of confidence in the forces of our revolution, and complete failure to understand our economics. The reform of the currency in opposition to which Comrade Trotsky proposed his “plan” and the failure of which was prophesied, restored the economic position and proved a tremendous step forward on the road towards the economic revival of the country. Industry is reviving in spite of the bad harvest in 1924. The economic conditions of the workers are improving. The Party emerged from the trial, stronger than ever. The Lenin enrolment strengthened the Party by infusing fresh proletarian forces into it. But had not the Bolshevik Party so sharply and unanimously resisted the semi-Menshevist relapse of Comrade Trotsky, the genuine dangers for the country, for the working class and for our Party would indeed be innumerable.
All the actions of Comrade Trotsky against the general Party policy from 1918 to 1924 in their last resort, had their source in the semi-Menshevist failure to understand the role of the proletariat in relation to the non-proletarian and semi-proletarian sections of the working class, in minimising the role of the Party in the revolution and in Socialist construction, and the failure to understand that the Bolshevist Party can fulfil its historic mission only if it is really unanimous in opinions and monolithic in character.
The Fourth and present discussion still more revealed the serious and all-embracing differences between Comrade Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party. The matter now stands clearly as two fundamentally opposite systems of politics and tactics. In the present discussion, Comrade Trotsky commenced a direct attack upon the basis of Bolshevist philosophy. Comrade Trotsky (1) completely denies the doctrine of the driving forces of the Russian revolution outlined by Comrade Lenin in 1904, and upon which has been based the tactics of Bolshevism in the course of three Russian revolutions: (2) puts forward against the Bolshevik estimation of the driving forces of the Russian revolution and against the Leninist doctrine of the world proletarian revolution his old “theory of permanent revolution,” which was utterly discredited in three Russian revolutions (and also in Poland and in Germany) and was described by Comrade Lenin more than once as an eclectical attempt to combine petty bourgeois Menshevist opportunism with “left” phrases and as an attempt to leap over the peasantry; (3) tries to convince the Party that before Bolshevism adopted the path of the dictatorship of the proletariat, it was obliged “intellectually to re-arm itself,” i.e., it was obliged to abandon Leninism and adopt Trotskyism; (4) advocates the theory of “bisecting” Bolshevism, viz., (a) Bolshevism prior to the October Revolution of 1917, which is alleged to be of secondary importance and; (b) Bolshevism, commencing from October, 1917, which it is alleged, had to grow into Trotskyism before it could fulfil its historic mission; (5) “interprets” the history of October in such a manner that the role of the Bolshevik Party disappears altogether and first place is taken by the personality of Comrade Trotsky himself, according to the formula of “the hero in the crowd” and his version of the “peaceful revolt” which is alleged to have taken place on the 10th of October, 1917, had nothing in common with the Bolshevist views concerning armed uprising; (6) describes the role of Comrade Lenin in the October Revolution very ambiguously. Lenin is made to appear as if advocating the seizure of power by conspirative methods behind the back of the Soviets, and that the practical proposals made by Comrade Lenin arose from his failure to under stand the conditions prevailing; (7) radically distorts the relations between Comrade Lenin and the Central Committee of the Party and represents them as an unceasing war between two “powers.” Comrade Trotsky endeavours to convince his readers of the truth of his “version” by publishing (without consent of the Central Committee) extracts from certain documents presented in a false light and in a connection distorting the truth; (8) describes the role of the whole of the Central Committee which led the revolt in such a light as to sow the most profound distrust towards the kernel of the present Party Staff; (9) distorts the most important episodes of the revolution in the period between February and October. 1917 (the April and June demonstrations, the July days, the preliminary parliament, etc.); (10) distorts the tactics of the Executive Committee of the Comintern and endeavours to throw the responsibility for the failures in Germany, Bulgaria, etc., upon the kernel of the E.C.C.I., thus sowing distrust towards the Central Committee of the R.C.P. and the E.C.C.I.
Thus the differences that divide Comrade Trotsky from the Bolshevik Party from year to year and lately from month to month, increase. These differences concern not only questions of the past; the past is being “reviewed” in order to “prepare” a platform for the present real political difficulties. The retrospective exposure of the “Right-wing” in the old Bolshevik Party is necessary for Comrade Trotsky to use as a screen under cover of which to win for himself the right to form a rightwing in the Russian Communist Party and the Comintern are in evidence.
The “revision” of Leninism on the question of the driving forces of the revolution, i.e., principally the question of the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry is the “justification” of Comrade Trotsky’s non-bolshevik views concerning the present policy of the Party with regard to the peasantry. The incorrect anti-Leninist estimation of the role of the peasantry in the revolution made by Comrade Trotsky, is the subject to which the discussion between the Party and Comrade Trotsky brings us back again and again. Mistakes on this question become particularly dangerous at this time when the Party, carrying out the slogan of “face the village,” is working intensely to strengthen the ties between the city industry and peasant agriculture, to enlist the broad masses of the peasantry into the work of Soviet administration, to revive the Soviets, etc., and when the future success or failure of the revolution is being determined precisely by the correct or incorrect relations between the proletariat and the peasantry.
On fundamental questions of international politics (the role of fascism and social-democracy, the role of America in Europe, the length and character of the “democratic-pacifist” era, in the estimation of which his views in many ways coincided with the Social-Democratic “centre,” etc.), Comrade Trotsky occupied a different position from that of the Russian Communist Party and the whole of the Comintern without troubling first of all, to explain his point of view to the Central Committee or to the E.C.C.I. The Delegation of the Russian Communist Party at the Fifth Congress of the Comintern, in complete agreement with the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party proposed to Comrade Trotsky that he explain his views on international questions to the Congress of the Communist International. Comrade Trotsky refused to do this at the Congress, but considered it expedient to do so a little while after at a gathering of veterinary surgeons over the heads of the Comintern and the R.C.P. In recent times, there has not been a single important question upon which Comrade Trotsky has acted with the Party, but more frequently has acted against the views of the Party.
The Party is confronted by a most important and immediate political task, viz., to take a determined course towards overcoming the elements, dividing the town from the country, i.e., to take up in its full scope the question of further lowering prices on manufactures, to create conditions for a real revival in agriculture (land re-distribution and land utilisation) to devote concentrated attention upon developing agricultural co-operation (genuine voluntary membership, election of officers, credit) bring up and solve the question of easing the burden of taxation for the peasantry and reforming the system of taxation and also to exert all the efforts of the Party towards the solution of the question of improving political conditions in the villages (proper conduct of elections, enlisting non-party peasants, etc.).
This policy alone, in the main outlined by Comrade Lenin, can lead to the real consolidation of State industry, secure further development and lead to the growth and concentration of the social power of the industrial proletariat, i.e., not in mere. words, but in fact, to consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat under the existence of the NEP.
The primary condition enabling this policy to be carried out is the absolute maintenance of the leading role of our Party in State and economic organs, and genuine unity of the Party on the basis of Leninism.
It is precisely this decisive (in the present circumstances) relation between the Party, the working class and the peasantry that Comrade Trotsky fails to understand.
This situation inevitably led to all the non-Bolshevist and anti-Bolshevist elements in the country and outside of the country placing their own construction upon the position taken up by Comrade Trotsky, and to their supporting Comrade Trotsky precisely because he was being condemned by the R.C.P. and the Comintern. A party leading the dictatorship of the proletariat in circumstances in which all anti-proletarian parties and groups are deprived of “liberties” must inevitably make enemies. All these enemies, particularly the well-to-do petty bourgeois desire to see in the present Comrade Trotsky the individual who could shake the iron dictatorship of the proletariat, split the Party and divert the Soviet Government to other lines.
All the leaders of the Second International, the most dangerous lackeys of the bourgeoisie, strive to make use of Comrade Trotsky’s intellectual “revolt” against the basis of Leninism, in order to discredit Leninism, the Russian revolution, and the Comintern in the eyes of the masses of Europe, and in this way to bind the social-democratic workers to be a chariot of capitalism. The renegade Paul Levi, published Comrade Trotsky’s “Lessons of October” in German, with his own introduction, and German social-democracy has undertaken to spread this book broadcast. It is widely advertising it as a book directed against Communism. Souvarine, who was expelled from the Comintern is trying to cause a split in the French Communist Party by spreading counter revolutionary lies about the Russian Communist Party. Balabanova, Hoeglund and other renegades from Communism act in a similar manner. The Italian social fascists of Avanti, the hirelings of German bourgeoisie from Vorwaerts, Renaudel and Grumbach of the Quotidien, etc., etc., all these elements endeavour to associate themselves with Comrade Trotsky, because of his opposition to the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party and the E.C.C.I.
The non-Party workers who should see in this prominent Party worker a model of solidarity for the whole Party, as a matter of fact, for the last few years, have seen Comrade Trotsky shaking the unity of the Party with impunity. Such a situation undermines elementary class discipline without which victorious proletarian dictatorship is impossible.
The peasantry should be able to see that on the question of unity between the working class and the peasantry, there is not the slightest hesitation in the Russian Communist Party and that on this question the Party is more united than on any other. But the conduct of Comrade Trotsky causes the peasantry to believe the very opposite, and this important question becomes the subject of all kinds of legends. This represents extreme danger to the workers’ and peasants’ bloc. Our Party has to conduct the dictatorship of the proletariat in a peasant country. To carry out this dictatorship while Comrade Trotsky continues to affront the peasantry is impossible.
The youth who formerly saw in Comrade Trotsky, one of the greatest leaders of the Party, now see that leader is dragging the youth into “a war between generations” on anti-Leninist lines.
The red army and the red fleet who should see in the leader of the army a model of Party discipline and of correct understanding of the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry (our army in the main is a peasant army) is now presented with a spectacle of the very opposite in Comrade Trotsky. Such a situation is pregnant with enormous dangers for the internal state of the army.
The whole Party is convinced that in such a state of affairs, there could be no talk of preserving a genuine, Bolshevist, monolithic Russian Communist Party and is coming to the conclusion that our Party would be faced by a tremendous intellectual and organisational danger if it permitted Comrade Trotsky to continue his fight against the Bolshevik Party. The Lenin enrolment which is sincerely striving to imbibe genuine Leninism is be, coming convinced that Trotsky is striving to-introduce Trotskyism in the place of Leninism and demand that the Party bring this to the light of day.
The whole Comintern observes how one of the most prominent members of the Russian Communist Party hampers the work of Bolshevising the sections of the Comintern and is in fact rendering intellectual political support to the enemies of Bolshevism in the camp of the Second International.
Under these circumstances the joint Plenum of the Central Committee and of the Central Control Committee is of the opinion that to leave things in a position when the Party decides on one thing and Comrade Trotsky continues to act against the Party would mean the beginning of the abandonment of the Bolshevik character of the Party and the beginning of its collapse. With the controversy over Trotskyism is closely connected the question as to what does the Russian Communist Party represent in 1925—a Bolshevik Party hewn out of a single piece and standing on the lasting foundation of Leninism, or a Party in which semi-Menshevik views may become a “Legitimate” shade of view.
Having read Comrade Trotsky’s declaration to the Central Committee, dated the 15th of January, 1925, the Plenum of the Central Committee, and the Central Control Committee notes Comrade Trotsky’s readiness to carry out any work entrusted to him by the Party, under the control of the Party and declares that Comrade Trotsky has not uttered a single word in his declaration indicating that he recognises his errors, but on the contrary, in fact strives to defend his anti-Bolshevik platform and limits himself merely to formal expressions of loyalty.
Following from what has been said above and particularly from the fact that in spite of the well-known decisions of the Thirteenth Congress, Comrade Trotsky is again raising the question of the fundamental alteration of the leadership of the Party and is advocating views which have been categorically condemned by that Congress, the plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Committee.
1. Most categorically to warn Comrade Trotsky that membership of a Bolshevik Party demands real and not mere verbal subordination to Party discipline and complete and unreserved abandonment of opposition to Leninism in any form.
2. In view of the fact that leadership of the army is impossible unless the leadership is backed by the authority of the whole Party, that without this support, the danger of breaking the iron discipline in the army arises; in view of the fact that the Conference of political workers and the fraction of the Revolutionary Military Council of the U.S.S.R. have already passed resolutions calling for the removal of Comrade Trotsky from army work and in view of the fact that Comrade Trotsky himself in his declaration to the Central Committee dated 15th of January, 1925, admits that “The interests of the cause demands” his speedy release from the duties of the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council—that Comrade Trotsky’s continued work on the Revolutionary Military Council of the U.S.S.R. be regarded as impossible.
3. That the question of Comrade Trotsky’s work in the future be postponed to the next Party Congress and that Comrade Trotsky be warned that in the event of any fresh attempt on his part to violate or refuse to carry out Party decisions, the Central Committee will be compelled, without waiting for the Congress to be convened, to deem it impossible for Comrade Trotsky to continue further on the Politbureau and will raise the question at the joint meeting of the Central Committee and the Central Control Committee of removing him from work in the Central Committee.
4. To regard the discussion as closed.
5. To continue and develop the work of the Party in explaining throughout all the ranks of the Party the anti-Bolshevik character of Trotskyism—from 1903 to “Lessons of October”—and instruct the Politbureau to convey to all the organs of propaganda, (Party schools, etc.), proper instructions on this matter and to include in the programmes of political instruction an explanation of the petty bourgeois character of Trotskyism, etc.
6. Simultaneously with the explanatory propaganda conducted within the Party, and the Young Communist League, etc., it is necessary to explain in a popular manner to the non-Party masses of workers and peasants the meaning of the deviations of Trotskyism and reveal its false paths leading to the break-up of the alliance between the working class and the peasantry.