J. V. Stalin
Pravda, No. 12,
January 19, 1921
From J. V. Stalin, On the Opposition,
Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1974
Based on J. V. Stalin, Works,
Foreign Languages Publishing House,
Vol. 5, pp. 4-15.
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo,
firstname.lastname@example.org (July 1997)
The articles and speeches by J. V. Stalin contained in
English edition of On the Opposition follow the order of the Russian
edition put out by the State Publishing House of the Soviet Union in 1928. The
English translation, including the notes at the end of the book, is taken from
Stalin's Works, Vols. 5-10, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow,
1953-54, with some technical changes.
References in Roman numerals to Lenin's Works
mentioned in the text are to the third Russian edition. The English references
are indicated by the publisher in footnotes.
Our disagreements on the trade-union question are
not disagreements in principle about appraisal of the trade unions. The
well-known points of our programme on the role of the trade
unions, and the resolution of the Ninth Party Congress on the trade unions,
which Trotsky often quotes, remain (and will remain) in force. Nobody
disputes that the trade unions and the economic organisations ought to and
will permeate each other ("coalescence"). Nobody disputes that the present
period of the country's economic revival dictates the necessity of gradually
transforming the as yet nominal industrial unions into real industrial
unions, capable of putting our basic industries on their feet. In short, our
disagreements are not disagreements about matters of principle.
Nor do we disagree about the necessity of labour discipline in the
trade unions and in the working class generally. The talk about a section of
our Party "letting the reins slip out of its hands," and leaving the masses
to the play of elemental forces, is foolish. The fact that Party elements
play the leading role in the trade unions and that the trade unions play the
leading role in the working class remains indisputable.
Still less do we disagree on the question of the quality of the
membership of the Central Committees of the trade unions, and of the
All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions. All agree that the membership
of these institutions is far from ideal, that the ranks of the trade unions
have been depleted by a number of military and other mobilisations, that the
trade unions must get back their old officials and also get new ones, that
they must be provided with technical resources, and so forth.
No, our disagreements are not in this sphere.
TWO METHODS OF APPROACH TO
THE MASS OF THE WORKERS
Our disagreements are about questions of the means
by which to strengthen labour discipline in the working class, the
methods of approach to the mass of the workers who are being drawn into
the work of reviving industry, the ways of transforming the present
weak trade unions into powerful, genuinely industrial unions, capable of
reviving our industry.
There are two methods: the method of coercion
(the military method), and the method of persuasion (the trade-union
method). The first method by no means precludes elements of persuasion, but
these are subordinate to the requirements of the coercion method and are
auxiliary to the latter. The second method, in turn, does not preclude
elements of coercion, but these are subordinate to the requirements of the
persuasion method and are auxiliary to the latter. It is just as
impermissible to confuse these two methods as it is to confuse the army with
the working class.
A group of Party workers headed by Trotsky, intoxicated
by the successes achieved by military methods in the army, supposes that
those methods can, and must, be adopted among the workers, in the trade
unions, in order to achieve similar successes in strengthening the unions
and in reviving industry. But this group forgets that the army and the
working class are two different spheres, that a method that is suitable for
the army may prove to be unsuitable, harmful, for the working class and its
The army is not a homogeneous mass; it consists of two
main social groups, peasants and workers, the former being several times
more numerous than the latter. In urging the necessity of
employing chiefly methods of coercion in the army, the Eighth Party Congress
based itself on the fact that our army consists mainly of peasants, that the
peasants will not go to fight for socialism, that they can, and must, be
compelled to fight for socialism by employing methods of coercion. This
explains the rise of such purely military methods as the system of
Commissars and Political Departments, Revolutionary Tribunals, disciplinary
measures, appointment and not election to all posts, and so forth.
In contrast to the army, the working class is a homogeneous social
sphere; its economic position disposes it towards socialism, it is easily
influenced by communist agitation, it voluntarily organises in trade unions
and, as a consequence of all this, constitutes the foundation, the salt of
the earth, of the Soviet state. It is not surprising, therefore, that the
practical work of our industrial unions has been based chiefly on methods of
persuasion. This explains the rise of such purely trade-union methods as
explanation, mass propaganda, encouragement of initiative and independent
activity among the mass of the workers, election of officials, and so forth.
The mistake Trotsky makes is that he underrates the difference
between the army and the working class, he puts the trade unions on a par
with the military organisations, and tries, evidently by inertia, to
transfer military methods from the army into the trade unions, into the
working class. Trotsky writes in one of his documents:
"The bare contrasting of military methods (orders,
punishment) with trade-union methods (explanation, propaganda, independent
activity) is a manifestation of Kautskian-Menshevik-Socialist-Revolutionary
prejudices. . . . The very contrasting of labour organisations with military
organisation in a workers' state is shameful surrender to Kautskyism."
That is what Trotsky says.
Disregarding the irrelevant talk about "Kautskyism," "Menshevism,"
and so forth, it is evident that Trotsky fails to understand the difference
between labour organisations and military organisations, that he fails to
understand that in the period of the termination of the war and the
revival of industry it becomes necessary, inevitable, to contrast
military with democratic (trasle-union) methods, and that, therefore, to
transfer military methods into the trade unions is a mistake, is harmful.
Failure to understand that lies at the bottom of the recently
published polemical pamphlets of Trotsky on the trade unions.
Failure to understand that is the source of Trotsky's mistakes.
CONSCIOUS DEMOCRACY AND FORCED
Some think that talk about democracy in the trade unions
is mere declamation, a fashion, called forth by certain phe-
nomena in internal Party life, that, in time, people will
get tired of "chatter" about democracy and everything will go on in the "old
Others believe that democracy in the trade unions is,
essentially, a concession, a forced concession, to the workers' demands,
that it is diplomacy rather than real, serious business.
Needless to say, both groups of comrades are profoundly
mistaken. Democracy in the trade unions, i.e., what is usually called
"normal methods of proletarian democracy in the unions," is the conscious
democracy characteristic of mass working-class organisations, which
presupposes consciousness of the necessity and utility of systematically
employing methods of persuasion among the millions of workers organised in
the trade unions. If that consciousness is absent, democracy be comes
an empty sound.
While war was raging and danger stood at the gates, the
appeals to "aid the front" that were issued by our organisations met with a
ready response from the workers, for the mortal danger we were in was only
too palpable, for that danger had assumed a very concrete form evident to
everyone in the shape of the armies of Kolchak, Yudenich, Denikin, Pilsudski
and Wrangel, which were advancing and restoring the power of the landlords
and capitalists. It was not difficult to rouse the masses at that time. But
today, when the war danger has been overcome and the new, economic danger
(economic ruin) is far from being so palpable to the masses, the broad
masses cannot be roused merely by appeals. Of course, everybody feels the
shortage of bread and textiles; but firstly, people do contrive to obtain
both bread and textiles in one way or another and, consequently, the danger
of a food and goods famine does not spur the masses to the same extent as
the war danger did; secondly, nobody will assert that the masses
are as conscious of the reality of the economic danger
(shortage of locomotives and of machines for agriculture, for textile mills
and iron and steel plants, shortage of equipment for electric power
stations, and so forth) as they were of the war danger in the recent past.
To rouse the millions of the working class for the struggle against economic
ruin it is necessary to heighten their initiative, consciousness and
independent activity; it is necessary by means of concrete facts to
convince them that economic ruin is just as real and mortal a danger as
the war danger was yesterday; it is necessary to draw millions of workers
into the work of reviving industry through the medium of trade unions built
on democratic lines. Only in this way is it possible to make the entire
working class vitally interested in the struggle which the economic
organisations are waging against economic ruin. If this is not done, victory
on the economic front cannot be achieved.
In short, conscious democracy, the method of proletarian
democracy in the unions, is the only correct method for the industrial
Forced "democracy" has nothing in common with this
Reading Trotsky's pamphlet The Role and Tasks of the
Trade Unions, one might think that he, in essence, is "also" in favour
of the "democratic" method. This has caused some comrades to think that we
do not disagree about the methods of work in the trade unions. But that is
absolutely wrong, for Trotsky's "democracy" is forced, half-hearted and
unprincipled, and, as such, merely supplements the military-bureaucratic
method, which is unsuitable for the trade unions.
Judge for yourselves.
At the beginning of November 1920, the Central Committee
adopted, and the Communist group at the Fifth All-Russian
Conference of Trade Unions carried through, a resolution
stating that the "most vigorous and systematic struggle must be waged
against the degeneration of centralism and militarised forms of work into
bureaucracy, tyranny, officialdom and petty tutelage over the trade unions.
. . that also for the Tsektran (the Central Committee of the Transport
Workers Union, led by Trotsky) the time for the specihc methods of
administration for which the Central Political Administration of the
Railways was set up, owing to special circumstances, is beginning to pass
away," that, in view of this, the Communist group at the conference "advises
the Tsektran to strengthen and develop normal methods of proletarian
democracy in the union," and instructs the Tsektran "to take an active part
in the general work of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions and
to be represented in it on an equal footing with other trade-union
associations" (see Pravda, No. 255). In spite of that decision,
however, during the whole of November, Trotsky and the Tsektran continued to
pursue the old, semi-bureaucratic and semi-military line, continued to rely
on the Central Political Administration of the Railways and the Central
Political Administration of Water Transport, strove to "shake up," to blow
up, the A.R.C.C.T.U. and upheld the privileged position of the Tsektran
compared with other trade union associations. More than that. In a letter
"to the members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee," dated
November 30, Trotsky, just as "unexpectedly," stated that "the Central
Political Administration of Water Transport . . . cannot possibly be
dissolved within the next two or three months." But what happened? Six days
after that letter was written (on December 7), the same Trotsky, just as
"unexpectedly," voted in the Central Committee for "the immediate abolition
of the Central Political Administration of the
Railways and the Central Political Administration of Water
Transport, and the transfer of all their staffs and funds to the trade-union
organisation on the basis of normal democracy." And he was one of the eight
members of the Central Committee who voted for this against the seven who
considered that the abolition of these institutions was no longer enough,
and who demanded, in addition, that the existing composition of the Tsektran
be changed. To save the existing composition of the Tsektran, Trotsky voted
for the abolition of the Central Political Administrations in the Tsektran.
What had changed during those six days? Perhaps the
railway and water transport workers had matured so much during those six
days that they no longer needed the Central Political Administration of the
Railways and the Central Political Administration of Water Transport? Or,
perhaps, an important change in the internal or external political situation
had taken place in that short period? Of course not. The fact is that the
water transport workers were vigorously demanding that the Tsektran should
dissolve the Central Political Administrations and that the composition of
the Tsektran itself should be changed; and Trotsky's group, fearing defeat
and wishing at least to retain the existing composition of the Tsektran, was
compelled to retreat, to make partial concessions, which, however, satisfied
Such are the facts.
It scarcely needs proof that this forced, half-hearted,
unprincipled "democracy" has nothing in common with the "normal methods of
proletarian democracy in the unions," which the Central Committee of the
Party had recommended already at the beginning of November, and which are so
essential for the revival of our industrial trade unions.
* * *
In his reply to the discussion at the meeting of the
Communist group at the Congress of Soviets,
Trotsky protested against the introduction of a political element into the
controversy about the trade unions, on the ground that politics had nothing
to do with the matter. It must be said that in this Trotsky is quite wrong.
It scarcely needs proof that in a workers' and peasants' state, not a single
important decision affecting the whole country, and especially if it
directly concerns the working class, can be carried through without in one
way or another affecting the political condition of the country. And, in
general, it is ridiculous and shallow to separate politics from economics.
For that very reason every such decision must be weighed up in advance also
from the political point of view.
Judge for yourselves.
It can be now taken as proved that the methods of the Tsektran, which
is led by Trotsky, have been condemned by the practical experience of the
Tsektran itself. Trotsky's aim in directing the Tsektran and influencing the
other unions through it was to reanimate and revive the unions, to draw the
workers into the task of reviving industry. But what has he actually
achieved? A conflict with the majority of the Communists in the trade
unions, a conflict between the majority of the trade unions and the Tsektran,
a virtual split in the Tsektran, the resentment of the rank-and-file workers
organised in trade unions against the "Commissars." In other words, far from
a revival of the unions taking place, the Tsektran itself is disintegrating.
There can be no doubt that if the methods of the Tsektran were introduced in
the other unions, we would get the same picture of conflict, splits and
disintegration. And the result would be that we would have dissension and a
split in the working class.
Can the political party of the working class ignore these facts? Can
it be asserted that it makes no difference to the political condition of the
country whether we have a working class solidly united in integral trade
unions, or whether it is split up into different, mutually hostile groups?
Can it be said that the political factor ought not to play any role in
appraising the methods of approach to the masses, that politics have nothing
to do with the matter?
The R.S.F.S.R. and its associated republics now have a population of
about 140,000,000. Of this population, 80 per cent are peasants. To be able
to govern such a country, the Soviet power must enjoy the firm confidence of
the working class, for such a country can be directed only through the
medium of the working class and with the forces of the working class. But in
order to retain and strengthen the confidence of the majority of the
workers, it is necessary systematically to develop the consciousness,
independent activity and initiative of the working class, systematically to
educate it in the spirit of communism by organising it in trade unions and
drawing it into the work of building a communist economy.
Obviously, it is impossible to do this by coercive methods and by
"shaking up" the unions from above, for such methods split the working class
(the Tsektran!) and engender distrust of the Soviet power. Moreover, it is
not difficult to understand that, speaking generally, it is inconceivable
that either the consciousness of the masses or their confidence in the
Soviet power can be developed by coercive methods.
Obviously, only "normal methods of proletarian democracy in the
unions," only methods of persuasion, can make it possible to unite the
working class, to stimulate its independent activity and strengthen its
confidence in the Soviet power,
the confidence that is needed so much now in order to rouse the country
for the struggle against economic ruin.
As you see, politics also speak in favour of methods of persuasion.
January 5, 1921
Pravda, No. 12,
January 19, 1921
Signed: J. Stalin