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The pre-Congress discussion is in full swing. Minor differences and disagreements have grown into big ones, which always happens when someone persists in a minor mistake and balks at its correction, or when those who are making a big mistake seize on the minor mistake of one or more persons.

That is how disagreements and splits always grow. That is how we “grew up” from minor disagreements to syndicalism, which means a complete break with communism and an inevitable split in the Party if it is not healthy and strong enough to purge itself of the malaise.

We must have the courage to face the bitter truth. The Party is sick. The Party is down with  the fever. The whole point is whether the malaise has affected only the “feverish upper ranks”, and perhaps only those in Moscow, or the whole organism. And if the latter is the case, is it capable of healing itself completely within the next few weeks, before the Party Congress and at the Party Congress, making a relapse impossible, or will the malaise linger and become dangerous?

What is it that needs to be done for a rapid and certain cure? All members of the Party must make a calm and painstaking study of (1) the essence of the disagreements and (2) the development of the Party struggle. A study must be made of both, because the essence of the disagreements  is revealed, clarified and specified (and very often transformed as well) in the course of the struggle, which, passing through its various stages, always shows, at every stage, a different line-up and  number of combatants, different positions in the struggle, etc. A study must be made of both, and a demand made for the most exact, printed documents that can be thoroughly verified. Only a hopeless idiot will believe oral statements. If no documents are available, there must be an examination of witnesses on both or several sides and the grilling must take place in the presence of witnesses.

Let me outline the essence of the disagreements and the successive stages in the struggle, as I see them.

Stage one. The Fifth All-Russia Trade Union Conference, November 2-6. The battle is joined. Trotsky and Tomsky are the only Central Committee “combatants”. Trotsky lets drop a “catchy phrase” about “shaking up” the trade unions. Tomsky argues very heatedly. The majority of the Central Committee members are on the fence. The serious mistake they (and I above all) made was that we “overlooked” Rudzutak’s theses, The Tasks of the Trade Unions in Production, adopted by the Fifth Conference. 

That is the most important document in the whole of the controversy.

Stage two. The Central Committee Plenum of November 9. Trotsky submits his “draft theses”, The Trade Unions and Their Future Role, advocating the “shake-up” policy, camouflaged or adorned with 
talk of a “severe crisis” gripping the trade unions, and their new tasks and methods. Tomsky, strongly supported by Lenin, considers that in view of Tsektran’s irregularities and bureaucratic excesses it is the “shake-up” that is the crux of the whole controversy. In the course of it, Lenin makes a number of obviously exaggerated and therefore mistaken “attacks”, which produces the need for a “buffer group”, and this is made up of ten members of the Central Committee (the group includes Bukharin and Zinoviev, but neither Trotsky nor Lenin). It resolves “not to put the disagreements up for broad discussion”, and, cancelling Lenin’s report (to the trade unions), appoints Zinoviev as the rapporteur and instructs him to “present a business-like and non-controversial report”.

Trotsky’s theses are rejected. Lenin’s theses are adopted. In its final form, the resolution is adopted by ten votes to four (Trotsky, Andreyev, Krestinsky and Rykov). And this resolution advocates “sound forms of the militarisation of labour”, condemns “the  degeneration of centralism and militarised forms of work into bureaucratic practices, petty tyranny, red-tape”, etc. Tsektran is instructed to “take a more active part in the general work of the All-Russia Central Council of TradeUnions, being incorporated in it on an equal footing with other trade union bodies”.

The Central Committee sets up a trade union commission and elects Comrade Trotsky to it.  He refuses to work on the commission, magnifying by this step alone his original mistake, which subsequently leads to factionalism. Without that step, his mistake (in submitting incorrect theses) remained a very minor one, such as every member of the Central Committee, without exception, has had occasion to make.

Stage three. The conflict between the water transport workers and Tsektran in December. The Central 
Committee Plenary Meeting of December 7. It is no longer Trotsky and Lenin, but Trotsky and Zinoviev who are the chief “combatants”. As chairman of the trade union commission, Zinoviev inquires into the December dispute between the water transport workers and Tsektran. The Central Committee Plenary Meeting of December 7. Zinoviev makes a practical proposal for an immediate change in the composition of Tsektran. This is opposed by a majority of the Central Committee. Rykov goes over to Zinoviev’s side. Bukharin’s resolution—the substantive part of which is three- quarters in favour of the water transport workers, while the preamble, rejecting the proposal to “reconstruct” the trade unions “from above” (§ 3), approves of the celebrated “industrial democracy” (§ 5)—is adopted. Our group of Central Committee members is in the minority, being opposed to Bukharin’s resolution chiefly because we consider the “buffer” a paper one; for Trotsky’s non- participation in the trade union commission’s work actually implies a continuation of the struggle and its transfer outside the Central Committee. We propose that the Party Congress be convened on February 6, 1921. That is adopted. The postponement to March 6 was agreed to later, on the demand of the outlying areas.

Stage four. The Eighth Congress of Soviets. On December 25, Trotsky issues his “platform pamphlet”,

The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions. From the standpoint of formal democracy, Trotsky had an uncontested right to issue his platform, for on December 24 the Central Committee  had permitted free discussion. From the standpoint of revolutionary interest, this was blowing up the mistake out of all proportion and creating a faction on a faulty platform. The pamphlet quotes from the Central Committee resolution of December 7 only that part which refers to “industrial democracy” but does not quote what was said against “reconstruction from above”. The buffer created by  Bukharin on December 7 with Trotsky’s aid was wrecked by Trotsky on December 25. The pamphlet from beginning to end is shot through with the “shake-up” spirit. Apart from its intellectualist flourishes (“production atmosphere”, “industrial democracy”), which are wrong in theory and in practice fall within the concept, ambit and tasks of production propaganda, it fails to indicate any “new” “tasks or methods” that were to gild or camouflage or justify the “shake-up”.

Stage five. The discussion before thousands of responsible Party workers from all over Russia at the RCP group of the Eighth Congress of Soviets122 on December 30. The controversy flares up to full blast. Zinoviev and Lenin on one side, Trotsky and Bukharin on the other. Bukharin wants to play the “buffer”, but speaks only against Lenin and Zinoviev, and not a word against Trotsky. Bukharin reads out an excerpt from his theses (published on January 16), but only that part which says nothing about the rupture with communism and the switch to syndicalism. Shlyapnikov (on behalf of the Workers’ Opposition reads out the syndicalist platform, which Trotsky had demolished beforehand (thesis 16 of his platform) and which (partly, perhaps, for that reason) no one is inclined to take seriously.

In my opinion, the climax of the whole discussion of December 30 was the reading of Comrade Rudzutak’s theses. Indeed, Comrades Trotsky and Bukharin, far from being able to object to them, even invented the legend that the “best part” of the theses had been drawn up by members of Tsektran—Holtzmann, Andreyev and Lyubimov. And that is why Trotsky humorously and amiably twitted Lenin on his unsuccessful “diplomacy”, by which, he said, Lenin had wanted to “call off or disrupt” the discussion, and find a “lightning conductor”, “accidentally catching hold of Tsektran instead of the lightning conductor”.

The legend was exploded that very day, December 30, by Rudzutak, who pointed out thatLyubimov “did not exist” on the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions, that in its presidium Holtzmann had voted against these theses, and that they had been drawn up by a commission consisting of Andreyev, Tsiperovich and himself.124

But let us for a moment assume that Comrades Trotsky and Bukharin’s legend is  true. Nothing so completely defeats them as such an assumption. For what is the conclusion if the “Tsektranites” had inserted their “new” ideas into Rudzutak’s resolution, if Rudzutak had accepted them, if all the trade unions had adopted this resolution (November 2-6!), and if Bukharin and Trotsky have nothing to say against it.

It is that all of Trotsky’s disagreements are artificial, that neither he nor the “Tsektranites” have any “new tasks or methods”, and that everything practical and substantive had been said,  adopted and decided upon by the trade unions, even before the question was raised in the Central Committee.

If anyone ought to be taken thoroughly to task and “shaken up”, it is not the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions but the Central Committee of the RCP, for having “overlooked” Rudzutak’s theses, a mistake which allowed an altogether empty discussion to flare up. There is nothing to cover up the mistake of the Tsektranites (which is not an excessive one but is, in essence, a very common one, consisting in some exaggeration of bureaucracy). What is more, it needs to be rectified, and not covered up, toned down or justified. That’s all there is to it.

I summed up the substance of Rudzutak’s theses on December 30 in four points*: (1) ordinary democracy (without any exaggerations, without denying the Central Committee’s right of “appointment”, etc., but also without any obstinate defence of the mistakes and excesses of certain “appointees”, which need to be rectified); (2) production propaganda (this includes all that is practical in clumsy, absurd, theoretically wrong “formulas” like “industrial democracy”, “production atmosphere”, etc.). We have established a Soviet institution, the All-Russia Production Propaganda Bureau. We must do everything to support it and not spoil production work by producing . . . bad theses. That’s all there is to it; (3) bonuses in kind and (4) disciplinary comrades’ courts. Without Points 3 and 4, all talk about “the role and tasks in production”, etc., is empty, highbrow chatter; and  it is these two points hat are omitted from Trotsky’s “platform pamphlet”. But they are in Rudzutak’s theses.

While dealing with the December 30 discussion, I must correct another mistake of mine. I said: “Ours is not actually a workers’ state but a workers’ and peasants’ state.” Comrade Bukharin immediately exclaimed: “What kind of a state?” In reply I referred him to the Eighth Congress of Soviets, which had just closed. I went back to the report of that discussion and found that I was wrong and Comrade Bukharin was right. What I should have said is: “A workers’ state is an abstraction. What we actually have is a workers’ state, with this peculiarity, firstly, that it is not the working class but the peasant population that predominates in the country, and, secondly, that it is a workers’ state with bureaucratic distortions.” Anyone who reads the whole of my speech will see that this correction makes no difference to my reasoning or conclusions.

Stage six. The Petrograd organisation issues an “Appeal to the Party” against Trotsky’s platform, and the Moscow Committee issues a counter-statement (Pravda, January 13)125

This is a transition from the struggle between factions, formed from above, to the intervention of lower organisations. It is a big step towards recovery. Curiously enough, the Moscow Committee noticed the “dangerous” side of the Petrograd organisation’s issuing a platform, but refused to notice the dangerous side of Comrade Trotsky’s forming a faction on December 25! Some wags have saider” (one-eyed) blindness.

Stage seven. The trade union commission concludes its work and issues a platform (a pamphlet, entitled Draft Decision of the Tenth Congress of the RCP on the Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions,126 dated January 14 and signed by nine members of the Central Committee—Zinoviev, Stalin, Tomsky, Rudzutak, Kalinin, Kamenev, Petrovsky, Artyom and Lenin, and also by Lozovsky, a member of the trade union commission; Comrades Shlyapnikov and Lutovinov seem to have “fled” to the Workers’ Opposition). It was published in Pravda on January 18, with the following additional signatures: Schmidt, Tsiperovich and Milyutin.

On January 16, Pravda carries the Bukharin platform (signed: “On behalf of a group of comrades, Bukharin, Larin, Preobrazhensky, Serebryakov, Sokolnikov, Yakovleva”)  and  the Sapronov platform (signed: “A group of comrades standing for democratic centralism”, Bubnov, Boguslavsky, Kamensky, Maximovsky, Osinsky, Rafail, Sapronov)!127 The enlarged meeting of the Moscow Committee on January 17 was addressed by spokesmen for these platforms, and also by the “Ignatovites”128 (theses published in Pravda on January l9 and signed by Ignatov, Orekhov, Korzinov, Kuranova, Burovtsev, Maslov).*

What we find here is, on the one hand, increased solidarity (for the platform of the nine Central Committee members is in complete accord with the decision of the Fifth All-Russia Conference of Trade Unions); and, on the other, confusion and disintegration, with Bukharin and  Co.’s theses being an all-time low in ideological disintegration. We have here one of those “turns” which in the old days Marxists used to call “not so much historical as hysterical”. Thesis 17 says: “At the present time, these nominations must be made mandatory” (that is, the trade unions’ nominations to the respective “chief administrations and central boards”).

This is a clean break with communism and a transition to syndicalism. It is, in essence, a repetition of Shlyapnikov’s “unionise the state” slogan, and means transferring the Supreme  Economic Council apparatus piecemeal to the respective trade unions. To say, “I propose mandatory nominations”, is exactly the same as saying, “I appoint”.

Communism says: The Communist Party, the vanguard of the proletariat, leads the non-Party workers’ masses, educating, preparing, teaching and training the masses (“school” of communism)— first the workers and then the peasants—to enable them eventually to concentrate in their hands the administration of the whole national economy.

Syndicalism hands over to the mass of non-Party workers, who are compartmentalised in the industries, the management of their industries (“the chief administrations and central  boards”), thereby making the Party superfluous, and failing to carry on a sustained campaign either in training the masses or in actually concentrating in their hands the management of the whole national economy.

The Programme of the RCP says: “The trade unions should eventually arrive” (which means that they are not yet there or even on the way) “at a de facto concentration in their hands” (in their, that is, the hands of the trade unions, that is, the hands of the fully organised masses; anyone will see how far we have still to go even to the very first approaches to this de facto concentration) . . . concentration of what? “of the whole administration of the whole national economy, as a single economic entity” (hence, not branches of industry, or even industry as a whole, but industry plus agriculture, etc. Are we anywhere near to actually concentrating the management of agriculture in the hands of the trade unions?). The RCP Programme then speaks of the “ties” between the “central state administration” and the “broad masses of toilers”, and of the “participation of the trade unions in running the economy”.129

Why have a Party, if industrial management is to be appointed (“mandatory nomination”) by the trade unions nine-tenths of whose members are non-Party workers? Bukharin has talked himself into a logical, theoretical and practical implication of a split in the Party, or, rather, a breakaway of the syndicalists from the Party.

Trotsky, who had been “chief” in the struggle, has now been “outstripped” and entirely “eclipsed” by Bukharin, who has thrown the struggle into an altogether new balance by talking himself into a mistake that is much more serious than all of Trotsky’s put together.

How could Bukharin talk himself into a break with communism? We know how  soft  Comrade Bukharin is; it is one of the qualities which endears him to people, who cannot help liking him. We know that he has been ribbed for being as “soft as wax”. It turns out that any “unprincipled” person, any “demagogue” can leave any mark he likes on this “soft wax”. The sharp words in quotation marks were used by Comrade Kamenev, during the January 17 discussion, and he had a perfect right to do so. But, of course, neither Kamenev nor anyone else would dream of attributing or reducing it all to unprincipled demagogy.

On the contrary, there is an objective logic in factional struggles which inevitably leads even the best of men—if they persist in their mistaken attitude—into a state which differs little if at all  from unprincipled demagogy. That is the lesson of the entire history of factional wars (for example, the alliance of the Vperyodists and the Mensheviks against the Bolsheviksm130). That is why we must make a study not only of the nature of the disagreements in the abstract, but also of their concrete development and change at the various stages of the struggle. This development was summed up in the January 17 discussion.131 Neither the “shake-up” nor the “new production tasks” can any longer be advocated (because all the efficient and sensible ideas went into Rudzutak’s theses). The alternative then is to find what Lassalle called “the physical strength of mind” (and character) to admit the mistake, rectify it and turn over this page of the history of the RCP, or—to cling to the remaining allies, no matter who they are, and “ignore” the principles altogether. There remain only the adherents of “democracy” ad nauseam. And Bukharin is sliding down towards them and syndicalism.

While we are slowly absorbing what was sound in the “democratic” Workers’ Opposition, Bukharin has to cling to what is unsound. On January 17, Comrade Bumazhny, a prominent Tsektranite, or Trotskyite, expressed his readiness to accept Bukharin’s syndicalist proposals. The “Sapronovites” have gone so far as to insist in the same thesis (3) on a “profound crisis” and a “bureaucratic necrosis” of the trade unions, while proposing, as being “absolutely” necessary, the “extension of the trade unions’ rights in production” . . . probably because of their “bureaucratic necrosis”? Can this group be taken seriously? They had heard the talk about the role of the trade unions in production, and wishing to outshout the others, blurted out: “extension of rights” on the occasion of “bureaucratic necrosis”. You need read no more than the first few lines of their “practical” proposals: “The presidium of the Supreme Economic Council shall be nominated at a plenary meeting of the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions and confirmed by the All-Russia Central Executive Committee.” And what is their democratic position in “principle”? Listen to this (thesis 2): “They [Zinoviev and Trotsky] in fact express two trends within the same group of ex-militarisers of the economy.”

Taken seriously, this is Menshevism and Socialist-Revolutionarism at their worst. But Sapronov, Osinsky and Co. should not be taken seriously, when, before every Party congress (“every blessed time on this very same spot”), these, I believe, superlative workers have a sort of paroxysmal seizure and try to outshout the others (the “champion shouter” faction) and solemnly make a hash of things. The “Ignatovites” try to keep up with the “Sapronovites”. It is, of course, quite permissible (specially before a congress) for various groups to form blocs (and also to go vote chasing). But this should be done within the framework of communism and not syndicalism) and in such a way as to avoid being ridiculous. Who is the highest bidder? Promisers of more “rights” to non-Party people,unite on the occasion of the congress of the Russian Communist Party!. .

Our platform up to now has been: Do not defend but rectify the bureaucratic excesses. The fight against bureaucracy is a long and arduous one. Excesses can and must be rectified at once. It is not those who point out harmful excesses and strive to rectify them but those who resist rectification that undermine the prestige of the military workers and appointees. Such were the excesses of certain Tsektranites who, however, will continue to be (and have been) valuable workers. There is no need to harass the trade unions by inventing disagreements with them, when they themselves have decided upon and accepted all that is new, business-like and practical in the tasks of the trade unions in production. On this basis, let us vigorously work together for practical results.

We have now added to our platform the following: We must combat the ideological discord and the unsound elements of the opposition who talk themselves into repudiating all “militarisation of industry”, and not only the “appointments method”, which has been the prevailing one up to now, but all “appointments”, that is, in the last analysis, repudiating the Party’s leading role in relation to the non-Party masses. We must combat the syndicalist deviation, which will kill the Party unless it is entirely cured of it.

The Entente capitalists will surely try to take advantage of our Party’s malaise to mount another invasion, and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, to organise plots and rebellions. We need have no fear of this because we shall all unite as one man, without being afraid to admit the malaise, but recognising that it demands from all of us a greater discipline, tenacity and firmness at every post. By the time the Tenth Congress of the RCP meets in March, and after the Congress, the Party will not be weaker, but stronger.
January 19, 1921

V. I. Lenin, Collected Works,
Vol. 32, pp. 43-53

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