What Next? The Bolshevik Opposition in the CPSU

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Many Oppositionists have rallied, as we know, to the declaration of Rakovsky, Kossior, and Okudzhava. This declaration introduces no change in the fundamental line of the Opposition. On the contrary, the sense of it is a confirmation of this line at a new stage. The declaration rejects the tactic that the Stalinists have so perfidiously and persistently attributed to the Opposition: an armed struggle for power against the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The declaration reiterates that the Opposition remains wholly on the path of internal reform and that, as before, it is prepared to pursue its work within the framework of a single party. This attitude is dictated to it by the unshakable conviction that, under conditions of party democracy, the Opposition by normal methods will win over the proletarian core of the party. But, it will be said, you yourself admit that this is possible only through real party democracy. The complete absence of democracy constitutes the principal characteristic of Stalin’s regime. Under these conditions, doesn’t the declaration become a fiction?

No, the declaration is not a fiction but a new public examination of the party regime. In spite of past experience, is this regime today capable or not of correcting, even only partially, the enormous harm it has caused the party and the revolution? Is it capable or not of some initiative in putting an end to the dangers that only a blind man can fail to see? Is it capable or not — after the events of the last years, the zigzags, the severest losses, and the unrelenting decline in authority suffered by the party leadership — is the apparatus of Stalin capable or not of taking a serious step toward Leninist methods of party life and leadership?

The declaration of the Opposition poses this question again on a new plane. The extremely reserved tone of this document, the absence of indications of the pernicious character of the centrist policy from the international point of view, and the remarks on the evolution of the centrists toward the left on various questions — all this was undoubtedly motivated by the desire to make it easier for the apparatus to take the first steps toward a healthier party regime. Furthermore this tone should once again demonstrate to the party that the Opposition puts essence above form and the interests of the revolution above personal, group ambitions. It is ready to occupy the most modest place in the party. But it is willing to occupy it only by remaining what it is, not only by retaining fully its point of view, which in the course of events has received such striking confirmation, but also by defending its right to internal struggle in order that its point of view may become that of the party. This is the significance of the August 22 declaration.

Now we have a reply to this declaration, an unofficial but quite authentic reply, in the form of an article by Yaroslavsky. For us the matter involves enormously important questions, the future of the CPSU and the revolution. Everyone will understand that for this reason we would have preferred to disregard a dishonest article and its impudent author. But Yaroslavsky is now the guardian of the party apparatus. His article is the document of a responsible person. Because of this it is impossible to ignore it.

Yaroslavsky’s article characterizes the declaration of the Opposition as an attempt to deceive the party. By this evaluation, as we shall demonstrate, Yaroslavsky not only makes a crushing criticism of Stalin’s regime but confirms the tactical correctness of the declaration.

Where and how does the declaration deceive the party? Yaroslavsky gives a policeman’s reply to this, not a political reply. He constructs his “accusation” by tearing quotations out of a letter confiscated from a deported Oppositionist, and by pure fraud. The political significance of our declaration simply does not exist for him. Nevertheless its significance is obvious to those who deceive the party and to those who utilize this deception.

When Radek declares in his conversations and private letters that “the platform of the Opposition is brilliantly vindicated” and then officially disavows this platform as being allegedly false, Radek is deliberately deceiving the party. Yaroslavsky is perfectly informed on such matters, for he lives on the confiscation of Opposition letters. As far as ideological deception of the party is concerned, Yaroslavsky is not only the custodian of the party but also the inspirer of Radek.

When they were part of the Opposition, Zinoviev, Kamenev, etc., related in detail how they, in league with Stalin, Yaroslavsky, etc., had invented the myth of “Trotskyism” in order to conduct a struggle against Trotsky. Now these people abjure Trotskyism at the demand of Yaroslavsky; are they not buying their return to the party at the price of a deception?

When, at the time of the Sixth Congress and afterward in August 1928, Stalin publicly announced that there were no differences in the Central Committee and that rumors of a struggle between the centrists and the right wing were invented by the Trotskyists, Stalin was deceiving the party in order to transform the ideological struggle against the Right Opposition into organizational machinations and to prevent the party from understanding that he quoted only a few scraps and bits from the Opposition platform. The number of these examples could be multiplied without end, for a regime of centrist instability and bureaucratic violence is necessarily a regime of systematic deception of the party.

But where is there deception on the part of the Opposition? It states only what is. It does not disavow its opinions out loud in order to preach them in an undertone. It does not attribute to itself the mistakes committed in fact by the Central Committee. Without sham, without a change in course, without camouflage, it has once again knocked on the door of the party. To the question of the doorkeeper, “Who’s there?” it replies, “The Bolshevik- Leninists (Opposition).” To the question, “Do you renounce your opinions?” it replies, “No, we consider them absolutely correct.” “Then what do you want?” “We want,” replies the Opposition, “to fight with the party against the class enemies and to fight in the party for our opinions with the methods of persuasion of a normal party.” Where is there deception? Where is there the shadow of deception? And what can shabby tricks and quotations from a personal letter change in this clear and direct dialogue?

But the candor with which the Opposition demands its readmission into the party does not appear at all accidental to the guardian of the apparatus, who sees in this itself an attempt at deception. Don’t the Oppositionists know — this is Yaroslavsky’s private but quite obvious idea — that he can only let in people who have broken spines and who declare that white is black? By what right do people who have kept their political spine intact dare to knock on the door and disturb the peace of the doorkeeper? Obviously to deceive the party!

To the proposal of the Opposition to reestablish the unity of the party on a Leninist basis, Yaroslavsky slavishly repeats the answer that the social democrats give to the communists when the latter attempt to establish a united front of struggle against the bourgeoisie. The leaders of the social democracy, we know, invariably declare that the communists do not really desire a united front, that, on the contrary, they aim to divide the working class, and that they propose a united front only to deceive the masses. In doing this, the social democrats don’t refer to confiscated (and distorted) personal letters, but to the articles and speeches of leading communists. The indignation of the social democrats feeds in this case on the knowledge of their impotence in struggle: the communists know that we cannot and do not want to struggle against the bourgeoisie. Why do they offer us a united front? They are deceiving the masses!!! No, reply the communists, it is you, by pretending to be fighters, who deceive the masses and we are unmasking you before them. If you do not want to be unmasked, prepare to fight!

It is by representing Stalin’s faction as the guardian of the unity of the party that Yaroslavsky deceives the party. Not only the CPSU but all the parties of the International are split into three parts. All the organizers and leaders of the Comintern in the epoch of Lenin have been removed, and, in overwhelming number, expelled from the party. The prestige of world communism continues to decline. He who says the contrary deceives the party. The five-year industrial plan, the statistical draft for economic development — that does not settle the question. The party is the historical and fundamental arm of the proletariat. In its present state, with its present programmatic orientation, with its present regime and leadership, the party cannot succeed in its task.

In the Soviet republic, the facade of the government apparatus, heritage of the October Revolution, conceals the real state of the party. This does not happen in the capitalist countries. International communism is suffering losses all along the line and continues to retreat. And without a properly directed International, no five-year plan will lead to socialism. Under these conditions, the Opposition has made an attempt to reestablish the unity of the party. We never doubted for a minute of course that this attempt would be rejected. Now it has been. The reply has been given. The necessary clarity, which some still felt was needed, has been established. Many Oppositionists who signed Rakovsky’s declaration will yet break with the fundamental nucleus. Good riddance! This fundamental nucleus has been able, in these last months, to recover completely from the stab in the back by those who capitulated. The effect at the time was inordinately severe because of the isolation of the Oppositionists. The worst moments were in June and July. It was no accident that Yaroslavsky was obliged to quote from a June letter.[1] The editorial board of the Biulleten is now receiving dozens of letters indicating that the crisis of the Opposition has been overcome. The reply of Yaroslavsky highlights a whole period. The left centrists, who out of necessity were a part of the Opposition up to the split of the Right-centrist bloc, withdrew from it when official centrism turned to the left. That is in the nature of things.

The Leninist Opposition closes ranks again. We must regroup ourselves on a national and on an international scale. Toward the USSR and the CPSU, as toward the International, our line remains as before the line of reform. But we are not ready to fight for these reforms within the limits of legality that Stalin and Yaroslavsky, in their struggle for self-preservation, constantly narrow. We consider it necessary to redouble our efforts to organize the Bolshevik-Leninists as a faction within communism, to publish systematically Biulleten Oppozitsii, to introduce it into the USSR, and to distribute it regularly among the vanguard workers of the Soviet republic. We call upon those who think as we do to resolve to help us in this cause.

  1. In not subjecting Yaroslavsky’s article per se to criticism, we are not refuting the lies it contains. Yaroslavsky has a very consistent reputation on this score, one going far beyond the bounds of the Opposition. While attributing to Comrade Trotsky a program for civil war and toward this end crudely garbling quotes from his 1928 letters, Yaroslavsky in a careless manner cites from these letters some extraneous material that fully undermines the “charge” he is putting forth. We are brushing all this aside as we did in the case of the patent distortions of Comrade Solntsev’s letter.