MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE | History of CP Bolshevik

H I S T O R Y O F  T H E C O M M U N I S T   P A R T Y

O F  T H E

S O V I E T  U N I O N

(B O L S H E V I K S)


C H A P T E R N I N E
THE BOLSHEVIK PARTY IN THE PERIOD OF TRANSITION TO THE PEACEFUL WORK OF ECONOMIC RESTORATION (1921-1925)
1. SOVIET REPUBLIC AFTER THE DEFEAT OF THE INTERVENTION AND END OF THE CIVIL WAR. DIFFICULTIES OF THE RESTORATION PERIOD
2. PARTY DISCUSSION ON THE TRADE UNIONS. TENTH PARTY CONGRESS. DEFEAT OF THE OPPOSITION. ADOPTION OF THE NEW ECONOMIC POLICY (NEP)
3. FIRST RESULTS OF NEP. ELEVENTH PARTY CONGRESS. FORMATION OF THE UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS. LENIN'S ILLNESS. LENIN'S CO-OPERATIVE PLAN. TWELFTH PARTY CONGRESS
4. STRUGGLE AGAINST THE DIFFICULTIES OF ECONOMIC RESTORATION. TROTSKYITES TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LENIN'S ILLNESS TO INCREASE THEIR ACTIVITY. NEW PARTY DISCUSSION. DE FEAT OF THE TROTSKYITES. DEATH OF LENIN. THE LENIN ENROLMENT. THIRTEENTH PARTY CONGRESS
5. THE SOVIET UNION TOWARDS THE END OF THE RESTORATION PERIOD. THE QUESTION OF SOCIALIST CONSTRUCTION AND THE VICTORY OF SOCIALISM IN OUR COUNTRY. ZINOVIEV- KAMENEV "NEW OPPOSITION." FOURTEENTH PARTY CONGRESS. POLICY OF SOCIALIST INDUSTRIALIZATION OF THE
COUNTRY

2. PARTY DISCUSSION ON THE TRADE UNIONS. TENTH PARTY CONGRESS. DEFEAT OF THE OPPOSITION. ADOPTION OF THE NEW ECONOMIC POLICY (NEP)

    The Central Committee of the Party, its Leninist majority, saw clearly that now that the war was over and the country had turned to peaceful economic development, there was no longer any reason for maintaining the rigid regime of War Communism -- the product of war and blockade.

    The Central Committee realized that the need for the surplus-appropriation system had passed, that it was time to supersede it by a tax in kind so as to enable the peasants to use the greater part of their surpluses at their own discretion. The Central Committee realized that this measure would make it possible to revive agriculture, to extend the cultivation of grain and industrial crops required for the development of industry, to revive the circulation of commodities, to improve supplies to the towns, and to create a new foundation, an economic foundation for the alliance of workers and peasants.

    The Central Committee realized also that the prime task was to revive industry, but considered that this could not be done without enlisting the support of the working class and its trade unions; it considered that the workers could be enlisted in this work by showing them that the economic disruption was just as dangerous an enemy of the people as the intervention and the blockade had been, and that the Party and the trade unions could certainly succeed in this work if they exercised their influence on the working class not by military commands, as had been the case at the front, where commands were really essential, but by methods of persuasion, by convincing it.

    But not all members of the Party were of the same mind as the Central Committee. The small opposition groups -- the Trotskyites, "Workers' Opposition," "Left Communists," "Democratic-Centralists," etc. -- wavered and vacillated in face of the difficulties attending the transition to peaceful economic construction. There were in the Party quite a number of ex-members of the Menshevik, Socialist-Revolutionary, Bund and Borotbist parties, and all kinds of semi-nationalists from the border regions of Russia. Most of them allied themselves with one opposition group or another. These people were not real Marxists, they were ignorant of the laws of economic development, and had not had a Leninist-Party schooling, and they only helped to aggravate the confusion and vacillations of the opposition groups. Some of them thought that it would be wrong to relax the rigid regime of War Communism, that, on the contrary, "the screws must be tightened." Others thought that the Party and the state should stand aside from the economic restoration, and that it should be left entirely in the hands of the trade unions.

    It was clear that with such confusion reigning among certain groups in the Party, lovers of controversy, opposition "leaders" of one kind or another were bound to try to force a discussion upon the Party.

    And that is just what happened.

    The discussion started over the role of the trade unions, although the trade unions were not the chief problem of Party policy at the time.

    It was Trotsky who started the discussion and the fight against Lenin, against the Leninist majority of the Central Committee. With the intention of aggravating the situation, he came out at a meeting of Communist delegates to the Fifth All-Russian Trade Union Conference, held at the beginning of November 1920, with the dubious slogans of "tightening the screws" and "shaking up the trade unions." Trotsky demanded that the trade unions be immediately "governmentalized." He was against the use of persuasion in relations with the working class, and was in favour of introducing military methods in the trade unions. Trotsky was against any extension of democracy in the trade unions, against the principle of electing trade union bodies.

    Instead of methods of persuasion, without which the activities of working-class organizations are inconceivable, the Trotskyites proposed methods of sheer compulsion, of dictation. Applying this policy wherever they happened to occupy leading positions in the trade unions, the Trotskyites caused conflicts, disunity and demoralization in the unions. By their policy the Trotskyites were setting the mass of the non-Party workers against the Party, were splitting the working class.

    As a matter of fact, the discussion on the trade unions was of much broader import than the trade union question. As was stated later in the resolution of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) adopted on January 17, 1925, the actual point at issue was "the policy to be adopted towards the peasantry, who were rising against War Communism, the policy to be adopted towards the mass of the non-Party workers, and, in general, what was to be the approach of the Party to the masses in the period when the Civil War was coming to an end." (Resolutions of the C.P.S.U.[B.], Russ ed., Part I, p. 651.)

    Trotsky's lead was followed by other anti-Party groups: the "Workers' Opposition" (Shlyapnikov, Medvedyev, Kollontai and others), the "Democratic-Centralists" (Sapronov, Drobnis, Boguslavsky, Ossinsky, V. Smirnov and others), the "Left Communists" (Bukharin, Preobrazhensky).

    The "Workers' Opposition" put forward a slogan demanding that the administration of the entire national economy be entrusted to an "All-Russian Producers' Congress." They wanted to reduce the role of the Party to nought, and denied the importance of the dictatorship of the proletariat to economic development. The "Workers' Opposition" contended that the interests of the trade unions were opposed to those of the Soviet state and the Communist Party. They held that the trade unions, and not the Party, were the highest form of working-class organization. The "Workers' Opposition" was essentially an anarcho-syndicalist anti-Party group.

    The "Democratic-Centralists" (Decists) demanded complete freedom for factions and groupings. Like the Trotskyites, the "Democratic Centralists" tried to undermine the leadership of the Party in the Soviets and in the trade unions. Lenin spoke of the "Democratic-Centralists" as a faction of "champion shouters," and of their platform as a Socialist Revolutionary-Menshevik platform.

    Trotsky was assisted in his fight against Lenin and the Party by Bukharin. With Preobrazhensky, Serebryakov and Sokolnikov, Bukharin formed a "buffer" group. This group defended and shielded the Trotskyites, the most vicious of all factionalists. Lenin said that Bukharin's behaviour was the "acme of ideological depravity." Very soon, the Bukharinites openly joined forces with the Trotskyites against Lenin.

    Lenin and the Leninists concentrated their fire on the Trotskyites as the backbone of the anti-Party groupings. They condemned the Trotskyites for ignoring the difference between trade unions and military bodies and warned them that military methods could not be applied to the trade unions. Lenin and the Leninists drew up a platform of their own, entirely contrary in spirit to the platforms of the opposition groups. In this platform, the trade unions were defined as a school of administration, a school of management, a school of Communism. The trade unions should base all their activities on methods of persuasion. Only then would the trade unions rouse the workers as a whole to combat the economic disruption and be able to enlist them in the work of Socialist construction.

    In this fight against the opposition groupings, the Party organizations rallied around Lenin. The struggle took an especially acute form in Moscow. Here the opposition concentrated its main forces, with the object of capturing the Party organization of the capital. But these factionalist intrigues were frustrated by the spirited resistance of the Moscow Bolsheviks. An acute struggle broke out in the Ukrainian Party organizations as well. Led by Comrade Molotov, then the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Ukraine, the Ukrainian Bolsheviks routed the Trotskyites and Shlyapnikovites. The Communist Party of the Ukraine remained a loyal support of Lenin's Party. In Baku, the routing of the opposition was led by Comrade Ordjonikidze. In Central Asia, the fight against the anti-Party groupings were headed by Comrade L. Kaganovich.

    All the important local organizations of the Party endorsed Lenin's platform.

    On March 8, 1921, the Tenth Party Congress opened. The congress was attended by 694 delegates with vote, representing 732,521 Party members, and 296 delegates with voice but no vote.

    The congress summed up the discussion on the trade unions and endorsed Lenin's platform by an overwhelming majority.

    In opening the congress, Lenin said that the discussion had been an inexcusable luxury. He declared that the enemies had speculated on the inner Party strife and on a split in the ranks of the Communist Party.

    Realizing how extremely dangerous the existence of factional groups was to the Bolshevik Party and the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Tenth Congress paid special attention to Party unity. The report on this question was made by Lenin. The congress passed condemnation on all the opposition groups and declared that they were "in fact helping the class enemies of the proletarian revolution."

    The congress ordered the immediate dissolution of all factional groups and instructed all Party organizations to keep a strict watch to prevent any outbreaks of factionalism, non-observance of the congress decision to be followed by unconditional and immediate expulsion from the Party. The congress authorized the Central Committee, in the event of members of that body violating discipline, or reviving or tolerating factionalism, to apply to them all Party penalties, including expulsion from the Central Committee and from the Party.

    These decisions were embodied in a special resolution on "Party Unity," moved by Lenin and adopted by the congress.

    In this resolution, the congress reminded all Party members that unity and solidarity of the ranks of the Party, unanimity of will of the vanguard of the proletariat were particularly essential at that juncture, when a number of circumstances had, during the time of the Tenth Congress, increased the vacillation among the petty-bourgeois population of the country.

   "Notwithstanding this," read the resolution, "even before the general Party discussion on the trade unions, certain signs of factionalism had been apparent in the Party, viz., the formation of groups with separate platforms, striving to a certain degree to segregate and create their own group discipline. All class-conscious workers must clearly realize the perniciousness and impermissibility of factionalism of any kind, for in practice factionalism inevitably results in weakening team work. At the same time it inevitably leads to intensified and repeated attempts by the enemies of the Party, who have fastened themselves onto it because it is the governing party, to widen the cleavage (in the Party) and to use it for counter-revolutionary purposes."

    Further, in the same resolution, the congress said:

    "The way the enemies of the proletariat take advantage of every deviation from the thoroughly consistent Communist line was most strikingly shown in the case of the Kronstadt mutiny, when the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries and Whiteguards in all countries of the world immediately expressed their readiness to accept even the slogans of the Soviet system, if only they might thereby secure the overthrow of the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia, and when the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries in general resorted in Kronstadt to slogans calling for an insurrection against the Soviet Government of Russia ostensibly in the interest of Soviet power. These facts fully prove that the Whiteguards strive, and are able to disguise themselves as Communists, and even as people "more Left" than the Communists, solely for the purpose of weakening and overthrowing the bulwark of the proletarian revolution in Russia. Menshevik leaflets distributed in Petrograd on the eve of the Kronstadt mutiny likewise show how the Mensheviks took advantage of the disagreements in the R.C.P. actually in order to egg on and support the Kronstadt mutineers, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Whiteguards, while claiming to be opponents of mutiny and supporters of the Soviet power, only with supposedly slight modifications."

    The resolution declared that in its propaganda the Party must explain in detail the harm and danger of factionalism to Party unity and to the unity of purpose of the vanguard of the proletariat, which is a fundamental condition for the success of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    On the other hand, the congress resolution stated, the Party must explain in its propaganda the peculiarity of the latest tactical methods employed by the enemies of the Soviet power.

    "These enemies," read the resolution, "having realized the hopelessness of counter-revolution under an openly Whiteguard flag, are now doing their utmost to utilize the disagreements within the R.C.P. and to further the counter-revolution in one way or another by transferring the power to the political groupings which outwardly are closest to the recognition of the Soviet power." (Resolutions of the C.P.S.U.[B.], Russ. ed., Part I, pp. 373-74.)

    The resolution further stated that in its propaganda the Party "must also teach the lessons of preceding revolutions in which the counter-revolutionaries usually supported the petty-bourgeois groupings which stood closest to the extreme revolutionary Party, in order to undermine and overthrow the revolutionary dictatorship, and thus pave the way for the subsequent complete victory of the counter-revolution, of the capitalists and landlords.

    Closely allied to the resolution on "Party Unity" was the resolution on "The Syndicalist and Anarchist Deviation in our Party," also moved by Lenin and adopted by the congress. In this resolution the Tenth Congress passed condemnation on the so-called "Workers' Opposition." The congress declared that the propaganda of the ideas of the anarcho-syndicalist deviation was incompatible with membership in the Communist Party, and called upon the Party vigorously to combat this deviation.

    The Tenth Congress passed the highly important decision to replace the surplus-appropriation system by a tax in kind, to adopt the New Economic Policy (NEP).

    This turn from War Communism to NEP is a striking instance of the wisdom and farsightedness of Lenin's policy.

    The resolution of the congress dealt with the substitution of a tax in kind for the surplus-appropriation system. The tax in kind was to be lighter than the assessments under the surplus-appropriation system. The total amount of the tax was to be announced each year before the spring sowing. The dates of delivery under the tax were to be strictly specified. All produce over and above the amount of the tax was to be entirely at the disposal of the peasant, who would be at liberty to sell these surpluses at will. In his speech, Lenin said that freedom of trade would at first lead to a certain revival of capitalism in the country. It would be necessary to permit private trade and to allow private manufacturers to open small businesses. But no fears need be entertained on this score. Lenin considered that a certain freedom of trade would give the peasant an economic incentive, induce him to produce more and would lead to a rapid improvement of agriculture; that, on this basis, the state-owned industries would be restored and private capital displaced; that strength and resources having been accumulated, a powerful industry could be created as the economic foundation of Socialism, and that then a determined offensive could be undertaken to destroy the remnants of capitalism in the country.

    War Communism had been an attempt to take the fortress of the capitalist elements in town and countryside by assault, by a frontal attack. In this offensive the Party had gone too far ahead, and ran the risk of being cut off from its base. Now Lenin proposed to retire a little, to retreat for a while nearer to the base, to change from an assault of the fortress to the slower method of siege, so as to gather strength and resume the offensive.

    The Trotskyites and other oppositionists held that NEP was nothing but a retreat. This interpretation suited their purpose, for their line was to restore capitalism. This was a most harmful, anti-Leninist interpretation of NEP. The fact is that only a year after NEP was introduced Lenin declared at the Eleventh Party Congress that the retreat had come to an end, and he put forward the slogan: "Prepare for an offensive on private capital." (Lenin, Collected Works, Russ. ed., Vol. XXVII (p. 213.)

    The oppositionists, poor Marxists and crass ignoramuses in questions of Bolshevik policy as they were, understood neither the meaning of NEP nor the character of the retreat undertaken at the beginning of NEP. We have dealt with the meaning of NEP above. As for the character of the retreat, there are retreats and retreats. There are times when a party or an army has to retreat because it has suffered defeat. In such cases, the army or party retreats to preserve itself and its ranks for new battles. It was no such retreat that Lenin proposed when NEP was introduced, because, far from having suffered defeat or discomfiture, the Party had itself defeated the interventionists and Whiteguards in the Civil War. But there are other times, when in its advance a victorious party or army runs too far ahead, without providing itself with an adequate base in the rear. This creates a serious danger. So as not to lose connection with its base, an experienced party or army generally finds it necessary in such cases to fall back a little, to draw closer to and establish better contact with its base, in order to provide itself with all it needs, and then resume the offensive more confidently and with guarantee of success. It was this kind of temporary retreat that Lenin effected by the New Economic Policy. Reporting to the Fourth Congress of the Communist International on the reasons that prompted the introduction of NEP, Lenin plainly said, "in our economic offensive we ran too far ahead, we did not provide ourselves with an adequate base," and so it was necessary to make a temporary retreat to a secure rear.

    The misfortune of the opposition was that, in their ignorance, they did not understand, and never understood to the end of their days, this feature of the retreat under NEP.

    The decision of the Tenth Congress on the New Economic Policy ensured a durable economic alliance of the working class and the peasantry for the building of Socialism.

    This prime object was served by yet another decision of the congress -- the decision on the national question. The report on the national question was made by Comrade Stalin. He said that we had abolished national oppression, but that this was not enough. The task was to do away with the evil heritage of the past -- the economic, political and cultural backwardness of the formerly oppressed peoples. They had to be helped to catch up with Central Russia.

    Comrade Stalin further referred to two anti-Party deviations on the national question: dominant-nation (Great-Russian) chauvinism and local nationalism. The congress condemned both deviations as harmful and dangerous to Communism and proletarian internationalism. At the same time, it directed its main blow at the bigger danger, dominant nation chauvinism, i.e., the survivals and hangovers of the attitude towards the nationalities such as the Great-Russian chauvinists had displayed towards the non-Russian peoples under tsardom.