DISCUSSION ON THE TRADE UNIONS. TENTH PARTY CONGRESS. DEFEAT OF THE
OPPOSITION. ADOPTION OF THE NEW ECONOMIC POLICY (NEP)
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
1. SOVIET REPUBLIC AFTER THE DEFEAT OF
THE INTERVENTION AND END OF THE CIVIL WAR. DIFFICULTIES OF THE
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
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
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
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,
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.