Stalin's Writings - notes regarding
the use of the word "sectarianism"
Alliance Notation January 2003
So far, I have been able to trace only two clear uses of the term 'sectarianism'
in the work of J.V.Stalin. Although to my mind, his practice was
non-sectarian, his writings do not dwell on this very much. The points that
I think Stalin makes on this matter, are as follows:
1) The need for "flexibility"
In text one, he is in discussion with party officials on how to combat
illusions regarding nationalism, that in 1923, many still had in the state
of the USSR. When Stalin talks of the manner of work required, he talks of a
need for 'flexibility'. Only by being 'flexible', can the cadre rally
around themselves the "majority of the working people".
Stalin Text 1
"But no less, if not more, sinful are the "Lefts" in the border regions. If
the communist organisations in the border regions cannot grow strong and
develop into genuinely Marxist cadres unless they overcome nationalism,
these cadres themselves will be able to become mass organisations, to rally
the majority of the working people around themselves, only if they learn to
be flexible enough to draw into our state institutions all the national
elements that are at all loyal, by making concessions to them, and if they
learn to manoeuvre between a resolute fight against nationalism in the Party
and an equally resolute fight to draw into Soviet work all the more or less
loyal elements among the local people, the intelligentsia, and so on. The
"Lefts" in the border regions are more or less free from the sceptical
attitude towards the Party, from the tendency to yield to the influence of
nationalism. But the sins of the "Lefts" lie in the fact that they are
incapable of flexibility in relation to the bourgeois-democratic and the
simply loyal elements of the population, they are unable and unwilling to
manoeuvre in order to attract these elements, they distort the Party's line
of winning over the majority of the toiling population of the country. But
this flexibility and ability to manoeuvre between the fight against
nationalism and the drawing of all the elements that are at all loyal into
our state institutions must be
created and developed at all costs. It can be created and developed only if
we take into account the entire complexity and the specific nature of the
situation encountered in our regions and republics; if we do not simply
engage in transplanting the models that are being created in the central
industrial districts, which cannot be transplanted mechanically to the
border regions; if we do not brush aside the nationalist-minded elements of
the population, the nationalist-minded petty bourgeois; and if we learn to
draw these elements into the general work of state administration. The sin
of the "Lefts" is that they are infected with sectarianism and fail to
understand the paramount importance of the Party's complex tasks in the
national republics and regions."
J. V. Stalin June 9-12, 1923.
"Fourth Conference of the Central Committee of the R.C.P. With Responsible
Workers of the National Republics and Regions. Verbatim Report Moscow, 1923
J. V. Stalin, Works Moscow, 1953
Vol. 5, pp. 297-348.
(2) But "flexibility" is not the same as having no principles. And the
commmunists must find the dialectical balance between "strict adherence to
principle" - and "sectarianism"
Yet it is not the case that 'flexibility' is 'opportunism' or an
un-principled loss of "adherence to principle". There is a dialectical
balance that must be found - between "strict adherence to principle" -
and "sectarianism". This is taken from his discussion with the CPG member,
Herzog, in 1925:
"In its work the Party must be able to combine the strictest adherence to
principle (not to be confused with sectarianism!) with the maximum of ties
and contacts with the masses (not to be confused with khvostism!); without
this, the Party will be unable not only to teach the masses but also to
learn from them, it will be unable not only to lead the masses and raise
them to its own level but also to heed their voice and anticipate their
J. V. Stalin: "The Prospects of the Communist Party of Germany and the
Question of Bolshevisation". Interview with Herzog, Member of the C.P.G.
February 3, 1925; in Works; Moscow, 1954, Vol. 7, pp. 34-41; or at:
The Prospects of the C.P.G. and Bolshevisation