Letter to All Members of the CC of the AUCP(B), June 27, 1927
|Written||27 June 1927|
The Party Crisis Deepens
To All Members of the Central Committee of the AUCP(B):
For over three years the party has been going through a crisis. The differences around which the discussion turned in 1923 have not been outlived in the slightest. On the contrary, they keep growing wider and deeper. By 1925the very group which until then had played the leading role in the Politburo fell apart completely. From that group there separated the Leningrad Opposition, against which the remainder of the former group has waged just as bitter a fight as against the 1923 Opposition. In 1926 the oppositions of 1923 and 1925 merged. At the same time within the new leading group differences are again making their appearance and a new “schism” is possible. All this shows quite plainly that the party finds itself in the worst crisis it has experienced since the revolution. And now, more than ever, it must be resolved.
In direct conjunction with the recent setbacks in China, which were brought about to a significant extent by incorrect leadership of the Chinese revolution, the international situation has abruptly worsened. The danger of war and intervention is unquestionable. A war against the USSR, a state that is a dictatorship of the proletariat, could not be an ordinary war between states. It could only be a conflict between the world bourgeoisie and the international proletariat. The struggle against international imperialism, to the extent that it assumed military form, would inevitably bring a sharp intensification of the class struggle in the rear areas of each of the contending sides, creating domestic battlefronts as well as foreign ones. A decisive role in this confrontation would be played by our link with the revolutionary movement of the world proletariat. It is superfluous to speak of the fact that in such a struggle, just as in the historic battles of the civil war, that section of the party which now stands in opposition, would not occupy the least important position. But the success of the class struggle of the proletariat, no matter what forms it takes, is only possible if a solid and active party closely tied to the working class stands at its head. This solidity and activity does not now exist. This must be said plainly — so that those things can be achieved.
The party crisis must be resolved.
The Central Committee is trying to resolve it by the mechanical suppression of the Opposition. One spate of “working the Opposition over” follows another; one campaign against the “outbursts of the Opposition” after another. Comrades who hold the viewpoint of the Opposition are removed from the Politburo, and preparations are now under way to exclude them from the ECCI and the CC as well — all a few months before the gathering of the party congress, where a new CC would be established by normal procedure. Toward rank-and-file party members sharing the views of the Opposition, the reprisals are even harsher, up to and including expulsion from the party, regardless of these comrades’ revolutionary service records or the fact that they are workers at the bench. Reprisals have begun against those who signed the Declaration of the Eighty-four, which was addressed to the CC according to completely legal party procedures. Oppositionists have been brought up on charges in the party only because they expressed views at party meetings that did not agree with the standpoint of the CC. Party members are thus being denied their most elementary party rights. Party opinion is being openly prepared for the expulsion of the Opposition from the party.
And that is not all. In the struggle against the Opposition the CC is using non-party means of applying pressure, at the same time building a “case” against Comrade Zinoviev for supposedly “appealing to non-party people.” “You’ll be laughing at the labor exchange” [unemployment office], the Opposition was threatened quite recently at a party meeting in Kharkov by Comrade Postyshev, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Ukraine. “We’ll fire you from your jobs,” was the way Comrade Kotov, a secretary of the Moscow Committee, tried to intimidate the Opposition in Moscow. They wish to force the Opposition into silence with the threat of starvation. The CC is openly turning to the state apparatus for assistance against party members.
One must be blind not to see that to fight the Opposition by such methods is to fight against the party. The CC does not allow the lower ranks of the party a chance to sort out the differences for themselves. The party knows the views of the Opposition only from the distorted way they are relayed by CC supporters. The articles and speeches of comrades who hold the Opposition viewpoint are not published, and sometimes (as at the April plenum of the CC on the China question) they are not even recorded stenographically. Even the proceedings of the ECCI plenum, against all previous tradition, have not been published in the party press, and in the excerpt from these discussions issued recently for party members, Comrade Trotsky’s speech is not printed — under the pretext that he did not correct the stenographic text in time. If the Oppositionists are not allowed to speak, that means the party ranks are not allowed to know what the dispute is about. It means there is a desire to force them to take the official reporters at their word.
At party meetings, party members vote for the CC (if they don’t simply avoid voting) under threat of repression. A much vaunted “unanimity” is introduced, the appearance of unity, having nothing in common with real unity in the party. This appearance of unity is achieved by suppressing the active life of the party. The road that the CC is taking is not the road of unity but the road of destruction of the party. It is also a monstrous perversion of the Leninist methods of party leadership.
“What must be done to achieve the most rapid and reliable cure? All members of the party must begin to study, completely dispassionately and with utmost honesty, first the essence of the differences and second the course of the dispute in the party. … It is necessary to study both the one and the other, unfailingly demanding the most exact, printed documents, open to verification by all sides. Whoever believes things simply on someone else’s say-so is a hopeless idiot, to be dismissed with a wave of the hand. If there are no documents, there must be a ‘cross-examination of witnesses’ on both or on the several sides, and it must be a ‘real third degree’ and be done ‘in the presence of witnesses’” [from Lenin’s article “The Party Crisis,” written January 19, 1921].
That is how Lenin presented the question in 1921 and that is the only way it can be presented now. The ranks of the party and above all the working class ranks are the only judges with the right to decide, and only they can resolve the prolonged party crisis. To surgically remove, behind the backs of the party ranks, the Opposition section of the party, which includes hundreds and thousands of comrades who have passed through the fires of three revolutions, fought on the fronts of the civil war, led the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and stood at the head of the proletarian dictatorship at the most difficult moments — that is not the way out of the situation. Only by the Leninist road can we restore to the party genuine unity, which means above all maximum active participation by the entire mass of the party and its readiness to accept all sacrifices for the sake of the victory of the proletarian revolution and socialism.
The mass of the party has the right to hear a precise and detailed account of the views on all the questions in dispute, and each of the sides has the obligation to present such an account. We are fulfilling our part of that duty with the enclosed document. And the CC should carry out its duty to the party.
It should bring to the knowledge of the party ranks all the documents, including ours, with which the party ranks can orient themselves in the present complex situation. It should print these documents and send them to all party organizations as material for the Fifteenth Congress (with only about four months remaining until the opening of the congress). The coming CC plenum should be devoted to a discussion of the congress agenda, the pre-congress campaign, and the materials to be presented to the congress. We are confident that we will be given the opportunity at the plenum to defend the views we have presented.
The Fifteenth Congress is being called after a two-year interval at a time of extremely severe party crisis. All the more reason, then, that its preparation should be under conditions ruling out any possibility of terrorization of the party, any attempts at administrative pressure. Elections to the congress should be carried out in full accordance with the party rules and Bolshevik traditions, on the basis of broad discussion by the entire party of all the most important questions before it. Only then will the decisions of the congress be correct and carry weight.