Speech to the Presidium of the ECCI

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1. You accuse me of violating discipline. I have no doubt that your verdict is already prepared. Today there is not one organization that discusses and decides; they only carry out orders. Even the presidium of the Communist International is no exception.

2. What do you call factional work? Anything that is not authorized by the AUCP Secretariat. But the Secretariat tramples the rules underfoot, shatters the very foundations of party discipline, and imposes a ban on what is the inalienable right and primary duty of every party member. …

The Chinese Revolution[edit source]

3. Here is a vivid and burning example. Today’s papers report that the revolutionary army has occupied Shàntóu. It is already several weeks that the armies of Hè Lóng and Yè Tǐng have been advancing. Pravda calls these armies revolutionary armies. Here, at any rate, it is much closer to the truth than in regard to the armies of Jiǎng Jièshí, Féng Yùxiáng, or Táng Shēngzhì.

But I ask you: What prospects does the movement of the revolutionary army that captured Shàntóu raise before the Chinese revolution? What are the slogans of the movement? What is its program? What should be its organizational forms? What has become of the slogan of Chinese soviets, which Pravda suddenly advanced for a single day in July? On this point we hear not one word in the press if we exclude the fundamentally wrong article by Comrade Lozovsky.

Why is the press of the AUCP silent? Why does the Comintern press hold its tongue? After all, the resolution of the last ECCI plenum, approved following the report by Comrade Bukharin, remains in force to this day. That resolution is totally wrong. It helped the Wǔhàn government complete what Jiǎng Jièshí had not yet accomplished.

The opportunist theses and resolutions of Stalin and Bukharin, which have twice led the Chinese revolution to the most severe defeats, are printed without any prohibition. Marxist criticism and Marxist formulations of the problems are placed under a ban. Anyone who circulates our theses is accused of violating discipline and expelled from the party. But we say that every honest party member is duty bound to demand the publication of all the documents on the Chinese question and is duty bound to circulate our criticism of the opportunist line of Stalin-Bukharin, and to do so with all the forces and resources possible. The question of the fate of the Chinese revolution stands immeasurably higher than the bureaucratic orders and bans of the CC Secretariat, which are presented as measures of revolutionary proletarian discipline.

4. I have said that the organs of the Comintern have remained silent in regard to the third stage of the Chinese revolution, which could mark the beginning of a new rise, but which could also — with incorrect policies — prepare the way for a third defeat that would be the most severe and the most devastating, that would enfeeble the revolution for a number of years to come.

While the entire press remains silent and the Comintern says nothing, a new opportunist combination is all the while being quietly prepared, entirely in the spirit of the Chinese policy of Stalin-Bukharin. In Moscow a new and ever-so-modern Guómíndǎng is in formation, centering around the widow of Sūn Zhōngshān and a comrade-in-arms of Jiǎng Jièshí, Eugene Chen. The first stage was Jiǎng Jièshí; the second stage, Wāng Jīngwèi; the third stage is Eugene Chen and Company. The first two stages ended with the workers and peasants being crushed and shot down. The third stage will lead to the same thing. Instead of assuring the full independence of the Chinese Communist Party, raising its self-esteem, broadening its outlook, confronting it with the tasks of a dictatorship of the soviets that would unite the proletariat and the many millions of poor peasants in China — instead of that, Stalin-Bukharin are preparing a new inspectorate to be placed over the Chinese Communist Party, a new petty-bourgeois compromiser form of supervision over it, that is, new shackles to bind the proletarian vanguard hand and foot. We say to you: This will end in a third catastrophe. And do you really think we are going to keep quiet?

5. Since 1925 we have been carrying on a struggle for the independence of the Chinese Communist Party, for its emancipation from the discipline of Jiǎng Jièshí. This crucial, fundamental slogan of Bolshevism was called Trotskyism. In China, the agents of the Comintern used the term “Trotskyist” for those genuine proletarian revolutionists who upheld the fundamental precondition of Bolshevik politics: the independence of the proletarian party. Against them, the Comintern agents supported Chén Dúxiù, who translated the politics of Martynov into Chinese.

What is the Opposition guilty of? Only that it paid too much attention to the prohibitions of the Stalinist Secretariat, which have been fatal to the revolution, and that it did not immediately and publicly place before the entire Comintern, with full firmness and determination, the call for the complete independence of the Chinese Communist Party.

6. In May of this year, during the ECCI plenum, we proposed a briefly worded motion in opposition to the thoroughly opportunist resolution of Bukharin. Our motion was as follows:

“The plenum would do well to bury Bukharin's resolution, replacing it with a resolution of a few lines:

In the first place, peasants and workers should place no faith in the leaders of the left Guómíndǎng but they should instead build-their soviets jointly with the soldiers. In the second place, the soviets should arm the workers and the advanced peasants. In the third place, the Communist Party must assure its complete independence, create a daily press, and assume the leadership in creating the soviets. Fourth, the land must be immediately taken away from the landlords. Fifth, the reactionary bureaucracy must be immediately dismissed. Sixth, perfidious generals and other counterrevolutionists must be summarily dealt with. And finally, the general course must be toward the establishment of a revolutionary dictatorship through the soviets of workers’ and peasants’ deputies.”

These lines are the voice of genuine Bolshevism, temporarily stifled by the bureaucratic apparatus in service to opportunist policies. And do you really think we will fail to make these lines known to the Chinese and world proletariat? Whoever thinks that is no revolutionist.

7. To this day the China resolution of the last ECCI plenum has not been withdrawn. To this day the position of Stalin, who at first called for confidence in Jiǎng Jièshí and then proclaimed the Wǔhàn government the leading center of the agrarian revolution, has not been condemned.

Isn’t Comrade Treint correct when he says that the Stalin-Bukharin policy — given the organized silence of the entire Comintern — led the vanguard of the international proletariat astray? Didn’t l'Humanité send a telegram greeting the butcher Jiǎng Jièshí as the hero of the Shànghǎi Commune? Isn’t a policy that loses sight of the deep abyss between the proletarian Communard and the general Galliffet — isn’t this a criminal policy that must not only be condemned but branded criminal?

8. Even worse, the Guómíndǎng, to this day, remains a member of the Comintern. Which Guómíndǎng? The Guómíndǎng of Jiǎng Jièshí or that of Wāng Jīngwèi? But now they have united. Thus the united Guómíndǎng of Jiǎng Jièshí and Wāng Jīngwèi still belongs to the Comintern. You are in a hurry to expel Vujović and myself. But you have forgotten to expel the comrades-in-arms Jiǎng Jièshí and Wāng Jīngwèi. Perhaps you will agree to place this question on the agenda today as well.

9. The fight for the independence of the Communist Party, the fight of the proletariat for the peasantry and against the bourgeoisie, the fight for soviets of workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ deputies is called by the opportunists Trotskyism. Why? In order the more surely to fight against Leninism. Trotskyism is an epithet the bankrupt hide behind when they have nothing to say. The silence of the Comintern in regard to the new stage of the Chinese revolution, unfolding before our eyes, is evidence of unparalleled confusion. The right road and destination must be pointed out clearly. We cannot be silent. We will not be silent, because we are revolutionists and not bureaucrats.

The Struggle Against War[edit source]

10. Are things any better with regard to the second question on the agenda of the last ECCI plenum, the question of the struggle against war? Comrade Vujović and I placed the question of the Anglo-Russian Committee at the center of the discussion on war. Partial, tactical questions cannot be decided without a basic strategic orientation. In reply to us the argument was made that the Anglo-Russian Committee is the road of linking up with the masses. As though strikebreaking could be a road for linking up with strikers. Against us they argued that the Anglo-Russian Committee could improve the USSR’s international position. As though agents of imperialism could protect the revolution against imperialism. This was a policy of rotten illusions. The Heinz Neumanns, Šmerals, Martynovs, and Kuusinens said that we, the Opposition, did not hold the defense of the USSR dear to our hearts. Stalin, rude and disloyal as ever, spoke of a united front from Chamberlain to Trotsky.

In theses we submitted at the last ECCI plenum we said: “The more acute the international situation becomes, the more the Anglo-Russian Committee will be transformed into an instrument of British and international imperialism against us. After all that has happened, only he can fail to understand who does not want to understand. We have already wasted too much time. It would be a crime to lose even another day”.

Now several months have passed — and the proof is before us. We did not break with the traitors and strikebreakers in full view of the masses in order thereby to clarify the situation and aid the General Strike, the miners’ strike, and the Chinese revolution. Instead the strikebreakers of the General Council broke relations with us, in order thereby to help Chamberlain against us more effectively. We covered up for the General Council by blocking with it during the months that were most critical for the General Council, after May 1926. By our radically wrong policy we helped Thomas and Purcell maintain all their positions and to convene the recent trade union congress in Edinburgh.

The entire official policy toward the Anglo-Russian Committee was a rude defiance of Bolshevism by opportunism. The international proletariat has been given a great lesson by this example. It should absorb the lesson. But to do that, it must know about it. That is why we cannot remain silent. At issue here are the fundamental interests of the international proletariat. This is something higher and more compelling than the orders of the Secretariat, which has shamefully led the international proletarian vanguard astray and created more and more obstacles to its development.

Questions of Discipline and Organizational Rules[edit source]

11. Discipline is a very important tool of the revolution. But it is not the only one. Discipline cannot substitute for the correct line or for working it out collectively. The attempt to maintain discipline by mechanical means alone is hopeless and reactionary. The more mistaken the line, the more repression is needed to maintain formal discipline. Bureaucratic discipline, on the basis of a wrong political line, is a tool not for consolidating the party but for disorganizing and destroying it. These words describe the Stalinist regime, which has now been transplanted in its entirety into the Comintern.

12. In a recent letter by the Central Committee of our party, and in a number of other documents, the assertion is made that inour statement of August 8 we “acknowledged a number of errors” and made a commitment not to engage in factional work. In fact there is no mention of any errors of ours in the statement. When we declared on August 8 that we were for the unconditional defense of the USSR, against a split, against the course toward two parties, and against a system of permanent factionalism, we were not! talking about mistakes of ours but were referring to the slander which had been and still is being systematically heaped upon us. We explained factionalism in terms of the bureaucratic regime, in full consistency with the resolution of December 5, 1923. Factionalism can be fought only by fighting bureaucratism. We are waging this fight and will continue to do so.

13. You try to pose the question of the Opposition on the plane of pure discipline. But in order to demand discipline, you yourselves must abide by the basic norms of party democracy and rules of the organization. But these norms are being trampled upon more and more coarsely and rudely.

14. Let us begin with the simplest examples. The stenographic record of the session which discussed the Opposition at the last ECCI plenum was published with extraordinary speed. My speech was left out of the record, with a note claiming that I had not corrected the text. But the text was delivered to me at the very time when the report as a whole was coming off the presses. I submitted a complaint to you about that. What steps have you taken against this disgraceful violation of elementary rights and actual deception of the party? No decisive ones.

15. Comrade Vujović is a member of the ECCI, elected by the last Comintern congress. The Orgburo of the AUCP Central Committee has ordered Comrade Vujović sent to the provinces to deny him the possibility of carrying out the functions entrusted to him by the world congress. What is this if not a flagrant infringement of the rules and of discipline? Did you intervene in behalf of the rights of this member of the ECCI? Not at all. Today you wish to remove Vujović from the ECCI in order to cover up, after the fact, for the Orgburo’s order violating the rules.

16. Soon after the last ECCI plenum, the Central Control Commission of the AUCP brought me up on charges for my conduct on the ECCI. Again this was a flagrant violation of the rules and discipline of the organization. This is the same as if a provincial Control Commission were to try me for my conduct at a Central Committee plenum. The ECCI itself passed a judgment on this question. Even though the matter was absolutely clear-cut, the Central Control Commission of the AUCP found it possible to condemn me for my speeches at the plenum of the ECCI.

Whoever fights against Stalin’s course within the European Communist parties is expelled. More and more Bolsheviks are being expelled, both in the European parties and in the AUCP, because they share the viewpoint of the Opposition in the AUCP. Those who are expelled are declared renegades, and then we are accused of solidarizing ourselves with renegades. The word “renegade” has thus been cheapened in its meaning.

Jiǎng Jièshí until yesterday was proclaimed an ally; Wāng Jīngwèi a reliable revolutionary; Purcell a friend. By the same logic, revolutionaries expelled for defending Leninism are proclaimed renegades. This abuse discredits the accusers, not the accused.

17. The presidium as well as the Executive Committee as a whole derives its powers from the Comintern congress. According to the rules, Comintern congresses must be held annually. That means that the powers vested in the Executive Committee and its presidium are of only one year’s duration. The arbitrary prolongation of these powers is a violation of the rules. Of course, if a war, blockade, or the like prevented a congress from being called, it would be absurd to make an issue of the formal aspect of the question. But it was precisely during wars and blockades that the world congresses were held relatively regularly. Now, when absolutely nothing interferes with the convening of a properly organized congress, you are only getting around to calling a new one four years after the Fifth Congress; that is, for three years and more you have assumed powers that do not belong to you.

On what basis? The Chinese revolution alone would have justified the calling of two emergency congresses during the past year. Congresses of the Second International and of the Amsterdam group have been held during this time. Only the Third International — in a period of tremendous worldwide upheavals and a growing danger of war — has not come together in a congress for four years. And whether it will be convened next year is not at all certain, Isn’t this a flagrant violation of rules and discipline? Isn’t this outright usurpation?

18. And the congress of the AUCP? It has not been called for two years. What has prevented the congress from being called normally? Nothing but the intention of the Stalin faction to deal with the Opposition behind the back of the party, before a congress, and without a congress. The same consideration has led to another postponement of the Sixth Comintern Congress. Above all other questions there stands the question of the organizational self-preservation of the Stalin group. One cannot speak about the Chinese revolution, the Anglo-Russian Committee, our policy in Persia, Mongolia, Afghanistan, the class differentiation in the countryside, industrialization, price policy, or even Dneprostroi — because on all these questions Stalin’s activity has shown only mistakes, wavering, opportunist blunders, and defeats. Today we cannot talk about matters of international politics, in particular the negotiations with France about recognition of the tsarist debts. On these questions no fewer mistakes have been made than on others. And these questions have been decided behind the back of the party and dumped on its head as faits aceomplis. The party knew less about these things than the international bourgeoisie. The inability of the leadership to orient itself in the international situation, to correctly assess the relations between classes and between states, has led and continues to lead to policies that are inane and out of place. This will cost us dearly and already is doing so. And it is obvious that we are now about to pay even more dearly for our mistakes and delays than would have seemed possible — and that in exchange for highly dubious results. It is particularly forbidden to discuss the regime within the party, although here all the other mistakes, all the political backsliding, find their most vivid expression, The party is ordered to remain silent because the policies of Stalin are the policies of bankruptcy. But that is the very reason why the party must speak. And that is precisely why the Opposition will speak.

19. The preparations for the Fifteenth Congress are a link in the chain of high-handed abuse of the party. The Central Committee, which has pursued a radically wrong line on all fundamental questions, bans any criticism of itself on the eve of the congress. Party members have been granted the kind permission to present their counter-theses after Stalin and Bukharin have written their theses. As if in fact the problem were the written theses of Stalin. The real problem is his policies as a whole over the past two years. These policies lead into a blind alley. These policies have produced a series of defeats and are paving the way for even bigger defeats to come. But no. No one may dare to speak of these real, actual policies put into practice over the past two years. The Platform of the Opposition provides a thorough assessment of these policies. Precisely for that reason the Platform is declared an illegal document. Party members are subjected to searches, expulsions, and all kinds of physical repressive measures for circulating a Platform which criticizes the Central Committee two months before the congress.

The arbitrary postponement of the congress for a year, the ban on discussion, the use of administrative measures by the state to pressure party members, depriving Leninists of their daily bread because they do not wish to become Stalinists — none of that constitutes a violation of discipline; all that is the normal course of events. And to protest against that, to fight against those infamies, is to violate discipline and persist in factional activity. No, you cannot frighten us with such miserable, contemptible bureaucratic threats.

20. The party regime is the greatest of all dangers — because it paralyzes the vanguard of the proletariat, the main force for resisting the enemy.

If a soldier’s hands have been tied, the main danger is not the enemy but the rope which binds the soldier’s hands. The present regime ties down the initiative and independent activity of the party. That is the most immediate and most serious danger because it weakens the party in the face of the enemy.

21. Party members are magnanimously given the right to present their counter-theses After they are submitted they will be printed in the discussion bulletin. In the best of cases this would be three to four weeks before the congress. Then the discussion bulletin will be sent where the Secretariat deems it advisable. Meanwhile, preparations for local conferences, which will decide the composition of the congress, are under way. The so-called “discussion” will be opened after the congress has actually been elected — consisting of secretaries appointed by Stalin. It is hard to imagine a more disgusting way of playing with the party! All these machinations are permeated through and through with the spirit of usurpationism. Whoever does not fight against them is not worthy of the name Bolshevik. We will fight them to the very end.

Yesterday Comrades Okhotnikov, Gutman, Dvores, Kaplunskaya, Karin, Maksimov, Vladimirov, Rabinovich, Gerdovsky, and Vorobev were expelled for reproducing and distributing the Platform of the Opposition. They are all outstanding party members; most of them were tempered in battle despite their youth; they are devoted revolutionaries. Not careerists looking out for their own skins, but genuine Bolsheviks. The majority of Oppositionists who have been expelled are far superior to those who expelled them. But these ten comrades were not only expelled from the party; a vile attempt was also made to slander them by dragging some unknown, nameless “Wrangel officer” into this affair — through the GPU.

Something further must be added on this point. Today, after Zinoviev, Smilga, and Peterson wrote a protest, which I did not sign only because I was away — after that Menzhinsky stated that the so-called Wrangel officer, this supposed counterrevolutionary, is in fact an agent of the GPU who helps uncover conspiracies. I do not know if our comrades encountered this man in their work or not, but if they did, they encountered a GPU agent, not a Wrangel officer.

Whoever knows history knows that every step on the road to usurpation has always been accompanied by such denunciatory frame-ups Comrades Serebryakov, Preobrazhensky, and Sharov, in a letter to the Central Committee, have stated that they were the organizers of the printing of the Platform. A letter of the Politburo calls the statement by the three comrades “renegade.” The authors of this abuse only discredit themselves. Serebryakov, Preobrazhensky, and Sharov stand two heads taller politically and morally than any of those who cover their own crimes with insults.

Pitiful, triply pitiful, are the political bankrupts who have to hide from the Platform of the Bolshevik-Leninists (Opposition) behind the backs of the Wrangel officer. This will do them no good. Neither threats nor repression nor Thermidorian slander nor Bonapartist frame-ups will prevent us from carrying on the work of preserving the revolutionary traditions of the party and ensuring its revolutionary future.

What Is the Way Out?[edit source]

22. Stalin whispers a solution in your ear: expel Trotsky and Vujović from the ECCI. I think you will carry out this suggestion. But what will be changed by that? Nothing. Or almost nothing. The main questions are decided outside the Executive Committee and outside of the presidium anyway. You know this no less than I. Like any measure which is abused, expulsions have lost their bite. Just in the last few days Stalin and Bukharin demanded that the French CC expel Treint from its ranks only because Treint spoke some bitter words of truth about Stalin and Bukharin’s China policy. And Comrade Nin, one of the best staff workers of the international proletarian vanguard, a central staff member of the trade union International, what are you going to do with him? He too has openly declared his full solidarity with the Opposition. What fate are you preparing for him? What measures are you going to adopt in his case? In the German party, Comrade Thälmann, as the appointed chief, retains his hold — despite all his frightful political helplessness — only because anyone who criticizes him is recalled from Germany or expelled. In fact, behind Thälmann's back stands the opportunist Ernst Meyer. Revolutionary leaders are not made by apparatus appointment. People who are agreeable to anything in advance never become real revolutionaries, much less revolutionary leaders. I do not mean any personal offense to Šmeral, Pepper, Kuusinen, and others. But these are not comrades who can take initiative in the proletariat’s struggle for power. The term Bolshevik applies not to people who subordinate themselves to every order from the Secretariat of the AUCP but to those who know how to fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

23. Expulsions will do no good. There are too many of them. There are getting to be more and more. The Stalin regime is convulsing the party with one-sided discussions, expulsions, and all kinds of repression generally. The party never manages to emerge from these feverish discussions imposed from above: the apparatus starts a new discussion every month, the apparatus sets the theme, feeds the debate with false materials, sums up the results, holds trials and takes reprisals, postpones the congress for a year, and now is preparing a congress made up of its own apparatus personnel, people appointed in advance who are sure to authorize the gang at the top to carry the same work further. The Stalin regime is becoming more and more costly for the party and for the international revolution.

24. You will say, Does this mean a break, a split? To that I reply, Stalin’s entire policy is aimed at a split; or more precisely, at a series of successive slices which are intended to become more and more frequent and go deeper and deeper. These results can be prevented only by a party which has regained its own rights. In order to do this, it must understand the dangers threatening it. Our Platform is entirely subordinated to that aim. Everyone who distributes our Platform is serving the unity of the party on the revolutionary basis of Leninism. There is only one way out — an honest congress. The same goes for the Comintern. First, the publication of all the documents. Then a discussion. And then an international congress.

25. You will say, Does this mean the Opposition is seeking a break with Stalin and Bukharin? No. We are talking about the line of the party and not about Stalin, Bukharin, or other personalities.

The personal misfortune of Stalin, which more and more is becoming the misfortune of the party, consists in the colossal disproportion between Stalin’s theoretical resources and the power the state apparatus has concentrated in his hands. In his Testament, weighing every word, Lenin gave his assessment of the leading elements of the party. With especially great care he warned the party about Stalin — about his rudeness and disloyalty and his abuse of power — and about Bukharin, his scholasticism and his inability to master Marxism. Lenin wrote this assessment at a time when he wrote other wise counsel to the party. There is no need to point out that Lenin’s comments did not contain one ounce of bias, ill-will, or the like. In that document, more than ever, he was guided by political and party considerations — and nothing else. In his comments on Stalin and Bukharin, very mild in form but very harsh in content, Lenin had no intention at all of branding or isolating them. He wished only to warn the party in regard to the position they might hold in the collective leadership.

One central idea pervades the whole of Lenin’s letter: that under existing conditions and with the existing forces the party leadership can only be collective. The bureaucratic regime unalterably leads to one-man rule. Collective leadership is conceivable only on the basis of party democracy. We believe that on the question of the leadership it is still not too late to return to the advice Lenin gave in his Testament. But however important this question is, another more important question stands above it: The party must be placed back on the track of Leninist policies and a Leninist regime. And the Comintern must be returned to that road as well.

All our efforts are devoted to this aim. We presented our views in the Platform, in the drafting of which no less than two hundred Old Bolshevik party members participated, in full or in part. No fewer than a thousand party members have already added their signatures to this Platform. And all of them, together with us, have made it their task to present this Platform for open discussion before the party and the Comintern. We will achieve this aim no matter what.