November 24, 2017

With Reference to the Opposition's "Declaration" of August 8, 1927

Speech Delivered on August 9

Comrades, what the opposition is offering us cannot be regarded as peace in the Party. We must not harbour any illusions. What the opposition is offering us is a temporary armistice. (A voice: "Not even temporary!") It is a temporary armistice, which may be something of a step forward under certain circumstances, but on the other hand it may not. That must be borne in mind once and for all. That must be borne in mind, whether or not the opposition agrees to yield further.

It is a step forward for the Party that the opposition has retreated to some extent on all the three questions we put to it. It has retreated to some extent, but with such reservations as may create grounds for an even sharper struggle in the future. (Voices: "Quite right!" "Quite right, that's true!")

The question of the defence of the U.S.S.R. is a fundamental one for us in view of the threat of war that has arisen. In its declaration the opposition states in a positive form that it stands for the unqualified and unreserved defence of the U.S.S.R., but it refuses to condemn Trotsky's well-known formula, his well-known slogan about Clemenceau. Trotsky must have the courage to admit facts.

I think that the entire plenum of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission is unanimously of the opinion that a man who in his heart, who in deed and not only in word, stands for the unqualified defence of our country would not write what Trotsky wrote in his letter to the Central Control Commission addressed to Comrade Orjonikidze.

I think that the entire plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C. is convinced that this slogan, this formula, of Trotsky's about Clemenceau can only raise doubts of Trotsky's sincerity in regard to the defence of the U.S.S.R. More than that, it creates the impression that Trotsky adopts a negative attitude towards the questions of the unqualified defence of our country. (Voices: "Quite right, absolutely right!")

I think that the entire plenum of the C.C. and C.C.C. is profoundly convinced that in issuing this slogan, this formula, about Clemenceau, Trotsky made the defence of the U.S.S.R. depend on the condition contained in the point about changing the leadership of our Party and the leadership of the Soviet Government. Only those who are blind can fail to see that. If Trotsky lacks the courage, the elementary courage, to admit his mistake, he himself will be to blame.

Since the opposition in its document does not condemn this mistake of Trotsky's, it means that the opposition wants to keep a weapon in reserve for future attacks on the Party in regard to the defence of the country, in regard to the line that the Party is pursuing. It means that the opposition is keeping a weapon in reserve with the intention of using it.

Hence, on this fundamental question, the opposition seeks not peace, but a temporary armistice, with a reservation that may still further intensify the struggle in the future. (A voice:"We don't need an armistice, we need peace.")

No, comrades, you are mistaken, we do need an armistice. If we were to take an example, it would be best to take that of Gogol's Ossip, who said: "A piece of string? Give it here, even a piece of string will come in handy." It will indeed be best to act like Gogol's Ossip. We are not so rich in resources and so strong that we can afford to reject a piece of string. We must not reject even a piece of string. Think well and you will understand that our arsenal must include even a piece of string.

On the second question, the question of Thermidor, the opposition has undoubtedly retreated; on this score it has retreated to some extent from its previous stand, for after such a retreat there cannot (to be logical, of course) be any more of that stupid agitation about a "Thermidor degeneration" of the Party which has been conducted by certain members of the opposition, particularly by some of its semi-Menshevik members.

The opposition, however, has accompanied this concession with a reservation that may, in future, remove all possibility of an armistice and peace. They say that there are certain elements in the country who betray tendencies towards a restoration, towards a Thermidor. But nobody has ever denied that. Since antagonistic classes exist, since classes have not been abolished, attempts will always, of course, be made to restore the old order. But that was not the point of our dispute. The point of the dispute is that in its documents the opposition makes thrusts at the Central Committee, and hence at the Party, concerning Thermidor tendencies. The Central Committee cannot be separated from the Party. It cannot. That is nonsense. Only anti-Party people who fail to understand the basic elementary premises of Lenin's organisational structure can assume that the Central Committee, particularly our Central Committee, can be separated from the Party.

The opposition, however, accompanies its concessions with the reservations I have mentioned. But such reservations provide the opposition with a weapon in reserve with which to attack the Party again when the opportunity occurs.

Of course, it is ludicrous to speak of Thermidor tendencies of the Central Committee. I will say more: it is nonsense. I don't think that the opposition itself believes that nonsense, but it needs it as a bogey. For if the opposition really believed that, then, of course, it should have declared open war on our Party and on our Central Committee; but it assures us that it wants peace in the Party.

And so, on the second point also, the opposition is keeping a weapon in reserve with which to attack the Central Committee again later on. That, too, must be borne in mind comrades, under all circumstances. Whether we remove the leaders of the opposition from the Central Committee or not on the fundamental question of Thermidor they will have a weapon in reserve, and the Party must take now all measures so as to eliminate the opposition if it takes up this anti-Party weapon again.

The third question is that of the split in the Communist Party of Germany, of the anti-Leninist and splitting group of Ruth Fischer and Maslow.

We had a strange talk in the commission yesterday. With great, very great, difficulty, after a number of speeches, the oppositionists found the courage to say that, in obedience to the decision of the Comintern — not because they were convinced, but in obedience to the decision of the Comintern — they agreed to admit that organisational contact with this anti-Party group is impermissible. I proposed: "organisational contact with and support of this group." Trotsky said: "No, that is not necessary, we cannot accept that. The Comintern's decision to expel them was wrong. I shall try to get those people—Ruth Fischer and Maslow—reinstated."

What does that show? Judge for yourselves. How completely the elementary notion of the Party principle has disappeared from the minds of these people!

Let us suppose that, today, the C.P.S.U.(B.) expels Myasnikov, about whose anti-Party activities you all know. Tomorrow, Trotsky will come along and say: "I cannot refrain from supporting Myasnikov, because the Central Committee's decision was wrong, but I am willing to break off organisational contact with him in obedience to your orders."

Tomorrow we expel the "Workers' Truth" group, 36 about whose anti-Party activities you also know. Trotsky will come forward and say: "I cannot refrain from supporting this anti-Party group, because you were wrong in expelling it."

The day after tomorrow the Central Committee expels Ossovsky, because he is an enemy of the Party, as you know very well. Trotsky will tell us that it was wrong to expel Ossovsky, and that he cannot refrain from supporting him.

But if the Party, if the Comintern, after a detailed discussion of the conduct of certain people, including that of Ruth Fischer and Maslow, if these high proletarian bodies decide that such people must be expelled, and if, in spite of that, Trotsky persists in supporting these expelled people, what is the position then? What becomes of our Party, of the Comintern? Do they exist for us? It turns out that for Trotsky neither the Party nor the Comintern exists, there exists only Trotsky's personal opinion.

But what if not only Trotsky but also other members of the Party want to behave as Trotsky does? Obviously, this guerrilla mentality, this hetman mentality, can only lead to the destruction of the Party principle. There will no longer be a party; instead there will be the personal opinion of each hetman. That is what Trotsky refuses to understand.

Why did the opposition refuse to refrain from supporting the anti-communist Maslow-Ruth Fischer group? Why did the leaders of the opposition refuse to accept our amendment on that point? Because they want to keep a third weapon in reserve with which to attack the Comintern. That must also be borne in mind.

Whether we reach agreement with them or not, whether they are removed from the Central Committee or not, they will have this weapon in reserve for a future attack on the Comintern.

The fourth question is that of the dissolution of factions. We propose that it be said honestly and straightforwardly: "The faction must be dissolved without fail." The leaders of the opposition refuse to say that. Instead, they say: "The elements of factionalism must be eliminated"; but they add: "the elements of factionalism engendered by the inner-Party regime."

Here you have the fourth little reservation. That is also a weapon held in reserve against our Party and its unity.

What was the intention of the oppositionists in refusing to accept the formulation proposing the immediate dissolution of the faction, which they have, and which intends to hold an illegal conference here in Moscow in a day or two? It means that they want to retain the right to go on organising demonstrations at railway stations, as much as to say: the regime is to blame, we were compelled to organise yet another demonstration. It means that they want to retain the right to go on attacking the Party, as much as to say: the regime compels us to attack. Here you have yet another weapon which they are keeping in reserve.

The joint plenum of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission should know and remember all this.



J. Stalin, On the Opposition, Articles and Speeches (1921-27), Moscow and Leningrad, 1928