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The Chimes at Midnight: Trotskyism in the USSR 1926-1938

 

 

To the memory of my grandparents, Dorothy and Charlie, who probably wouldn't have approved of the content of this essay, but hopefully I still made them proud.

 

By Doug Enaa Greene

 

I. Midnight in the Century

 

October 13, 2017
— Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal  In Victor Serge's novel, Midnight in the Century, set in the 1930s, two members of the Trotskyist Opposition ponder their fate in exile. The Russian Revolution has seemingly grown cold both at home and abroad. There appears to be little hope of a thaw. When reflecting on this moment, one of exile asks: “What’s to be done if it’s midnight in the century?” To which the other responds: “Midnight’s where we have to live then.”[1] And despite the fact that they ultimately lost, through a combination of unfavorable objective circumstances, their own mistakes and poor strategy, the Trotskyist Opposition[2] managed to fight on against impossible odds for a renewal of the ideals of the Russian Revolution, internationalism and Soviet democracy.

 

II. The United Opposition

 

a. Program of Trotsky and the United Opposition

 

By late 1926, the inner-party struggle within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was heating up. The previous year, two prominent party leaders, Grigorii Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, previously supporters of Stalin and Bukharin, then leading the party and country, broke with them. Zinoviev and Kamenev believed that the rich peasants or kulaks in the countryside represented a danger which threatened industrialization and socialist construction. Zinoviev also criticized the theory of socialism in one country, promoted by Stalin and Bukharin stating: “The final victory of socialism is impossible in one country. The victory of the socialist order over the capitalist will be decided on an international scale.”[3] Furthermore, both had grown concerned with the growth of the bureaucratic apparatus within the party that they believed threatened to strangle inner-party democracy. The differences came into the open in September 1925 during a meeting of the Central Committee. Later, at the Fourteenth Party Congress in December, Zinoviev and Kamenev found themselves in a minority and were defeated.

 

Despite the fact that both Zinoviev and Kamenev had previously been part of the ruling troika and led the charge against “Trotskyism,” they now found it necessary to turn to Trotsky. Ironically, they now found that their criticisms of Party policy overlapped with those of Trotsky and the Left Opposition, who had been defeated in 1925 (signified by Trotsky's removal from the post of Commissar of War). After several meetings with Zinoviev and Kamenev, Trotsky agreed to join forces with them. As part of the new alliance, Zinoviev and Kamenev agreed to admit that Trotsky was correct in his criticisms of 1923 and that they had fabricated “Trotskyism” to bar Trotsky from power. In return, Trotsky agreed not to defend the theses of “permanent revolution.”[4] The following year, in preparation for the Fifteenth Party Congress, the United Opposition (despite the formal ban on factions) prepared its own platform. It is worth looking at the Platform and some of Trotsky's proposals to see what program the Opposition envisioned for the USSR. Although the Platform and Trotsky's ideas were not in full agreement, due to programmatic compromises with Zinoviev and Kamenev, his ideas were clearly reflected in it. The Platform developed ideas which Trotsky had been advocated since the early 1920s, such as the creation of a central economic plan (the section of the Platform dealing with industry was written by Trotsky). While the NEP had restored Russian agriculture to its prewar level, industry had lagged behind. This caused conflict between industry and agriculture, which manifested itself in the “scissors crisis” where the peasants, who produced a great deal of grain, could only sell to the towns at high prices due to the backwardness of industry. To solve this problem, and maintain the worker-peasant alliance (or smychka), Trotsky argued that industry needed to adapt itself to the needs of the peasantry by reducing production costs and increasing labor productivity. All of this required a central plan and industrialization.[5] However, Trotsky and the Opposition warned that without the development of industry, crisis loomed in the Soviet Union, principally from the kulaks: “The smychka is threatened at this moment by the lag in industry, on the one hand, and by the growth of the kulak, on the other.”[6] Class differentiation in the countryside threatened to grow acute if it was not managed. Although there were dangers that came from rapid industrialization, there were even greater dangers that could result if nothing was done. To finance his industrialization plan, Trotsky realized that the peasantry (and the proletariat) needed to be taxed. Trotsky also argued that the USSR could not develop its economy in isolation from the rest of the world, but needed to foster proper foreign trade relations with the capitalist west. According to Richard Day, in his studies of Trotsky's economic proposals of the 1920s, Trotsky's plan involved a system of comparative coefficients

 

which would compare the efficiency of Soviet production in terms of price and quality with that of other countries. These coefficients would then serve as a guide to both to the import plan and new investments. Domestic production would be rationalized and standardized in order to lengthen runs and reduce costs. In the meantime he urged that 'commodity intervention' be undertaken in those areas where the coefficient was least satisfactory. Inexpensive foreign goods were to be sold in the Soviet market the profits being uses to subsidize retail prices of the corresponding domestic commodity. The proposal for commodity intervention was designed to provide a short-run solution to the scissors. Trotsky's longer-run intention was to use the grain thus brought to market in order to finance the import of new industrial equipment.”[7]

 

Thus, Trotsky argued that the Soviet Union could begin the construction of socialism (although could not complete it) by developing links with the world economy as opposed to isolation. The Platform of the Joint Opposition did not have a plan for the whole-scale collectivization of agriculture (although they wanted to encourage collective farms), but they understood that small-scale farming would continue to exist for the foreseeable future until the appropriate material base had been created for it: “The growth of land-renting must be offset by a more rapid development of collective farming. It is necessary systematically and from year to year to subsidize largely the efforts of the poor peasants to organize in collectives. At the same time, we must give more systematic help to poor peasants not included in the collectives, by freeing them entirely from taxation, by a corresponding land policy, by credits for agricultural implements, and by bringing them into the agricultural co-operatives.”[8] The Opposition envisioned gradualism and strictly voluntary measures in the development of cooperatives for agriculture: “A successful co-operative structure is conceivable only upon condition of a maximum activity by the co-operating population. A true union of the co-operatives with large-scale industry and the proletarian state assumes a normal regime in the co-operative organizations, excluding bureaucratic methods of regulation.”[9] The kulaks were not to be expropriated, but they were to be heavily taxed.

 

However, Trotsky did not believe that the proletariat would respond to this plan unless their standards of living were raised. “The decisive factor in appraising the movement of our country forward along the road of socialist reconstruction, must be the growth of our productive forces and the dominance of the socialist elements over the capitalist — together with an improvement of all the conditions of existence of the working class.”[10] By raising the living conditions of the workers, and through the expansion of industry, the weight of the proletariat in Soviet society would be increased. The development of industry (and culture) would ultimately free the proletariat from the shackles of feudalism, making them fit to rule. Therefore, bureaucracy needed to be reduced and the workers needed to be in firm control of the Soviets, trade unions and the Party:

 

(1) To adopt a firm policy of struggle with officialism to wage this struggle as Lenin would, on the basis of a real fight to check the exploiting tendencies of the new bourgeoisie and the kulaks, by way of a consistent development of workers democracy in the party, the trade unions, and the Soviets. (2) To apply the slogan of bringing the worker, the farm-hand, the poor peasant and the middle peasant against the kulak into close contact with the State, and unconditionally subordinating the State apparatus to the essential interests of the toiling masses. (3) As the basis for reviving the Soviets, to heighten the class activity of the workers, farm-hands, and poor and middle peasants. (4) To convert the town Soviets into real organs of proletarian power and instruments for drawing the broad mass of the working people into the task of administering socialist construction to realize, not in words but in deeds, the control of the town Soviets over the work of the regional executive Committees Platform of the Joint Opposition-Chapter 5: The Soviets and the organs subject to these committees. (5) To put a complete stop to the removal of elected Soviet officials, except in case of real and absolute necessity, in which cases the causes should be made clear to the electors. (6) We must bring it about that the most backward unskilled worker and the most ignorant peasant woman are convinced by experience that in any state institution whatever they will find attention, counsel, and all possible support.[11]

 

The Platform pointed out some of the noxious effects from the growth of bureaucracy and changes in the make-up of the Party, demanding changes: “Not only have careerism, bureaucratism and inequality grown in the party in recent years, but muddy streams from alien and class-hostile sources are flowing into it for example, anti-Semitism. The mere self-preservation of the party demands a merciless struggle against such defilement.”[12] The Joint Opposition stressed the necessity of a single party and the need for strengthening that party: “We will struggle with all our force against the formation of two parties, for the dictatorship of the proletariat demands as its very core a single proletarian party. It demands a single party. It demands a proletarian party that is, a party whose policy is determined by the interests of the proletariat and carried out by a proletarian nucleus.”[13]

 

The international section of the platform, written by Zinoviev, does not include a defense of permanent revolution (since Trotsky had renounced it); rather it deals with Comintern policy in China and Britain. According to Trotsky's later remarks, “In the Platform, the question of the Chinese revolution is dealt with very insufficiently, incompletely, and in part positively falsely by Zinoviev.”[14]

 

Trotsky's ideas and those of the Platform of the Joint Opposition were not pessimistic about beginning the construction of socialism in the USSR. Nor was a forced march to industrialization projected (that was a smear of Bukharin) or the abolition of NEP at a stroke. Rather, market and plan were to coexist. The NEP was seen as continuing for some time, while the development of industry was encouraged and the poorer peasants were aided by the state along with lower prices from goods and foreign trade that would fill gaps in the Soviet economy. The Party and state were to be democratized. The USSR could not build socialism in isolation, but it could begin that process, but ultimately they needed the aid of revolutions from abroad.

 

b. An Alternative?

 

Richard Day has postulated that if Trotsky's proposals had been implemented as early as 1925-6, then “the final collapse of the smychka and forced collectivization might not have occurred. There can be little doubt that the principal error of the party leadership was to commit excessive resources to heavy industry during the period of goods famine.”[15] However, the policy of import-dependency would have run into difficulties with the onset of the Great Depression when the conditions of trade turned against the USSR.[16] Yet socialist historian John Eric Marot argues that Trotsky's plan was not feasible since the “collapse of grain-exports at the outbreak of World-War One persisted throughout the NEP and cut off the possibility of significant trade relations with the West, as the tsarist state had once enjoyed; trade-relations that had provided late-Imperial Russia the economic wherewithal to industrialize and to enhance its military power. The loss of the Russian market caused barely a ripple in the capitalist economies of Western Europe, let alone America.”[17] In the end, without a marketable surplus and no foreign revolutions to come to their aid, this left the Soviet Union isolated and forced to industrialize only with their own resources.

 

Marot goes on and says that Trotsky mischaracterized the peasantry as a nascent capitalist class, which meant that he was hostile to the pro-peasant line championed by Nikolai Bukharin,[18] whom he saw as representing capitalist elements among the peasantry. This misunderstanding ultimately led Trotsky to reject any effort to form an alliance with Bukharin and his forces that could have driven Stalin from power. Marot further argues that both Trotsky and Bukharin believed in the myth of growing class differentiation in the countryside and did not see the unity among all strata of the peasantry to defending their way of life. Rather, Marot says that the Trotskyists did not present an alternative to Stalin, but that only Bukharin did because he was “prepared to subordinate the development of the forces of production to the more important goal of preserving the NEP, preserving the smychka, respecting the self-determination of the immediate producers at the point of production, even if this meant not developing the forces of production at all. In contrast, the Left Opposition was not prepared to sacrifice economic development to the political necessities of maintaining the NEP, and ended up, willy-nilly, ‘critically’ supporting what it characterized as Stalin’s ‘left’ turn.”[19]

 

While it is true that the bulk of the Joint Opposition would later go over to Stalin (as we shall discuss), it is also true that both Trotsky and Bukharin's programs were concerned with preserving the worker-peasant alliance. Bukharin slandered Trotsky as a super-industrializer and a threat to the peasantry, while Trotsky did not support Bukharin's embrace of socialism in one country or his slow industrial development strategy.[20] Yet in actuality, there was a certain degree of convergence between Trotsky and Bukharin's positions on a number of issues. By the late 1920s, Trotsky's collaborators such as Preobrazhensky were arguing for lower rates of industrial growth while Bukharin seemed to be open to a quicker rate of industrialization and the inevitably of disharmonious growth.[21]

 

While Trotsky supported the first five year plan and the turn to the left by Stalin, over time he came to see the validity of many of Bukharin's points about the dangers of prematurely abolishing the NEP and the market, arguing in 1932 that, when Stalin allowed private plots on collective farms, “all around collectivization ... extraordinarily lowered the labor incentives available to the peasantry...The answer to this was the legalization of trade. In other words ... it was partially necessary to restore the NEP, or the free market, which was abolished too soon and too definitely.”[22] In his 1932 work, The Soviet Economy in Danger, Trotsky said that planning needed to make use of the market:

 

The innumerable living participants in the economy, state and private, collective and individual, must serve notice of their needs and of their relative strength not only through the statistical determinations of plan commissions but by the direct pressure of supply and demand. The plan is checked and, to a considerable degree, realized through the market. The regulation of the market itself must depend upon the tendencies that are brought out through its mechanism. The blueprints produced by the departments must demonstrate their economic efficacy through commercial calculation.[23]

 

So there was a chance, if more time had passed, that a joining could have occurred between the views of Trotsky and Bukharin. Whether Trotsky's plan or a combination of his ideas with those of Bukharin could have successfully led to the industrial development of the USSR without the immense costs and dislocations that actually occurred is something we will never know. Whoever was in charge of the USSR would have faced the immense task of industrializing in an isolated, largely uneducated and backward country surrounded by hostile capitalist states. And it is one thing to develop a good plan, which Trotsky did, but as Moltke warned, no plan of battle survives first contact with the enemy. Reality always overtakes our plans. As it was, Trotsky and the Joint Opposition did not possess the power to put their ideas into action, since they were soon outmaneuvered, isolated and expelled from the party. It is to that struggle which we now turn.

 

c. End of the United Opposition

 

After a lull in activities from 1926-7, the defeat of the Chinese Revolution and the massacre of thousands of workers by Chang Kai-shek breathed life into the now-United Opposition. Eighty-four members of Opposition signed the Declaration of the Eighty Four that condemned the policies of the Comintern (then headed by Bukharin) and the CPSU which had contributed to this disaster. However, neither the Comintern nor the CPSU were willing to face criticism for the failed line. Instead, both Stalin and Bukharin covered up what had happened.[24] The Declaration also connected the failed Comintern line in China with the internal policies of the CPSU and to overcome them, demanded “the revival of democracy within the party and reinforcement of the real, living, and effective links between the party and the working class.”[25] In July 1927, as the danger of war threatened the USSR, Trotsky refused to back down from his criticisms, stating in his famous “Clemenceau Declaration,” that criticism of the Party leadership could serve the needs of defense. The Party leadership denounced Trotsky as a counterrevolutionary, who threatened a coup when the country was under attack. The previous muted Opposition was now going on the attack.

 

Needless to say, the official leadership of Stalin and Bukharin along with their partisans went on the offensive. According to Victor Serge, a member of the Opposition, their meetings were attacked and broken up with the sanction of the Central Committee.[26] At political meetings, the time given to members of the Opposition to speak was also limited in contrast to those supporting the leadership. When the Opposition speakers were finally able to speak, they were met with “interruptions and shouts, mingled with insults, would burst out at once: “Traitors! Mensheviks! Tools of the bourgeoisie!"[27] Trotsky and other members of the Opposition thus found themselves unable to speak to cells of workers. In one ugly episode, agitators used anti-Semitic slurs, they “hinted darkly that it was no matter of chance that the leaders of both were Jews-this was, they Suggested, a struggle between native and genuine Russian socialism and aliens who sought to pervert it.”[28] In response, Trotsky wrote an angry leader to Bukharin denouncing the use of anti-Semitic slurs by party activists who operated with impunity. It was unconscionable to Trotsky that a party founded on internationalist principles would resort to such depths. The Party leadership claimed ignorance and the matter was dropped.

 

By September 1927, the United Opposition had written its Platform in order to present their views to the forthcoming 15th Party Congress. A decisive was taken by the Opposition to reach beyond the Party and spread their program publicly with the masses by collecting signatures in its support and holding meetings to discuss their views (despite official prohibition on them). Things got off to a rocky start when the first printer of the Platform was arrested as an agent of the White General Wrangel. Still, the Opposition managed to get its Platform printed by a state printing press, whose director was also arrested. The print run, according to the Trotskyist historian Pierre Broué, was “thirty thousand copies, according to the Politburo, and 12,000 according to the Opposition, of which the greatest part were seized. Under the cover of a literary work, The Road of the Struggle, by Furmanov, it began to circulate. Zinoviev and Kamenev counted on 20,000 to 30,000 signatures to make Stalin retreat. But after the first thousand progress was slow.”[29]

 

The adoption of this new strategy meant the Opposition was now breaking Party discipline by reaching out to the workers in their homes and factories. Trotsky describes the atmosphere at these meetings as follows in his autobiography,

 

In spite of a monstrous terror, the desire to hear the opposition awoke in the party. This could be achieved only by illegal means. Secret meetings were held in various parts of Moscow and Leningrad, attended by workers and students of both sexes, who gathered in groups of from twenty to one hundred and two hundred to hear some representative of the opposition. In one day I would visit two, three, and sometimes four of such meetings. They were usually held in some worker’s apartment. Two small rooms would be packed with people, and the speaker would stand at the door between the two rooms. Sometimes everyone would sit on the floor; more often the discussion had to be carried on stand big, for lack of space. Occasionally representatives of the Control Commission would appear at such meetings and demand that everyone leave. They were invited to take part in the discussion. If they caused any disturbance they were put out. In all, about 20,000 people attended such meetings in Moscow and Leningrad. The number was growing.[30]

 

For Victor Serge, when the Opposition decided to appeal directly to the masses, this was the return of the Party back to its revolutionary roots, “It was a simple, reassuring sight: the men of the proletarian dictatorship, who had yesterday been the greatest in the land, coming back like this to the districts of the poor, there to seek support from man to man.”[31]

 

Sympathy for the Opposition was on display at a meeting of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets held in October in Leningrad. According to Serge, when Trotsky and Zinoviev were seen on the platform by those present, the “crowd had eyes only for them.... this point the demonstrators made a silent gesture by lingering on the spot, and thousands of hands were outstretched, waving handkerchiefs or caps. It was a dumb acclamation, futile but still overwhelming.”[32] Although Zinoviev was enthusiastic at their reception, Trotsky was more cautious, remembering later that “The working masses of Leningrad demonstrated their dissatisfaction in the form of platonic sympathy for the leaders of the opposition, but they were still unable to prevent the apparatus from making short work of us. On this score I had no illusions.”[33]

 

The Opposition planned a further demonstration on November 7, which was the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, to present its ideas and slogans before the masses. There were official parades and marches planned in major cities, where the Opposition planned to march in separate contingents and unfurl their own banners with the following slogans “'Strike against the kulak, the N.E.P.-man, and the bureaucrat!', 'Down with opportunism!', 'Carry out Lenin's testament!', 'Beware of a split in the party!', 'Preserve Bolshevik unity!'”[34] Yet the party leadership, according to Trotsky had “learned their lesson in the Leningrad demonstration, and this time their preparations were much more efficient.”[35] When the Opposition marched, they were isolated. In Leningrad, there were “fraternal” clashes between the militia and the demonstrators. The situation in Moscow was different, “the disturbances and fights had a far less 'good humored' and 'comradely' aspect. Commandos of activists and police struck with cold and swift brutality.”[36]

 

The events of the day showed that the Opposition was isolated amongst both the Party and the working class. Isaac Deutscher, biographer of Trotsky says of the demonstrators that “they marched obediently along the prescribed routes, shouted the prescribed slogans, and observed mechanically the prescribed discipline, without betraying their thoughts or venting their feelings in a single flash of spontaneity.... Ten years ago the workers of the two capitals were ready to give their lives at Trotsky's word of command. Now they would not even turn their heads to listen to him.”[37] A week later, at an extraordinary meeting of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission decided to expel Trotsky and Zinoviev from the Central Committee for organizing a counterrevolutionary demonstration.

 

Only two days later, Trotsky's longtime comrade and fellow oppositionist, Adolfe Joffe, who was gravely ill, committed suicide. In his suicide note, addressed Trotsky, he made the following pertinent observations on his friend's political weaknesses in comparison to those of Lenin:

 

I have always believed that you lacked Lenin’s unbending will, his unwillingness to yield, his readiness even to remain alone on the path that he thought right in anticipation of a future majority, of a future recognition by everyone of the rightness of his path. Politically, you were always right, beginning with 1905, and I told you repeatedly that with my own ears 1 had heard Lenin admit that even in 1905, you, and not he, were right. One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you ... But you have often abandoned your rightness for the sake of an overvalued agreement, or compromise. This is a mistake ... the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise; in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin’s victories.[38]

 

Three days later, there was a public procession and funeral for Joffe in Moscow attended by several thousand workers. At the cemetery, Trotsky delivered the eulogy for his friend. This was Trotsky's last public appearance and speech in the Soviet Union.[39]

 

In December, the 15th Party Congress convened, and Stalin, speaking for the Party, made it clear what he expected from the Opposition: “The Opposition must surrender unconditionally and totally, both on the political and the organizational level… They must renounce their anti-Bolshevik views, openly and before the whole world. They must denounce the crimes which they have committed against the party, openly and before the whole world.”[40] In his biography of Trotsky, Tony Cliff states that there were no Opposition members among the 1,600 delegates present.[41] The Opposition also issued a new statement, The Statement of the 121, which showed the divided tendencies within their ranks. On the one hand, the Opposition stated that “The unity of the Communist Party is the highest principle in the epoch of the proletarian dictatorship ... we have taken the path of factionalism, which at times took extremely sharp forms; and on several occasions we resorted to methods which go against party discipline ... There are no programmatic differences between us and the party.” Yet this was contradicted by the following remark: “We are convinced that we express the views of all those who share our ways of thinking who have been expelled from the party, and that, on the basis of this declaration, the party should take the first step toward restoring a normal party life, by readmitting those who have been expelled, releasing from prison those who have been arrested for Oppositional activities, and giving each of us the opportunity to demonstrate the firmness of our resolve by our work in the party.” Yet the whole statement ended with the Opposition declaring that they “have decided to submit to the congress...”[42] The Opposition wanted it both ways, to submit and to fight on. A split was inevitable.

 

Zinoviev and Kamenev capitulated and renounced their positions, asking to be let back into the Party. They also urged their followers to do likewise. Trotsky had nothing but contempt for their craven behavior and surrender as demonstrated by the following exchange between him and Zinoviev. "Leon Davidovich, the hour has come when we should have the courage to capitulate. . . ” Trotsky: “if that kind of courage were enough, the revolution would have been won all over the world by now...”[43] Zinoviev and Kamenev believed that they could not be right against the party, whereas Trotsky was determined to struggle, even against the party (although he didn't believe a new party was needed). Zinoviev and Kamenev would eventually be readmitted into the party (only to be expelled several years later), whereas Trotsky and his followers were expelled. In the end, the Fifteenth Congress expelled 75 Oppositionists, followed shortly thereafter with a further 1,500 Oppositionists expelled, but 2,500 signed statements of recantation (mainly Zinovievists).[44]

 

Despite the fact that the Left Opposition had included in its ranks a number of stellar Marxist theorists and prominent Bolshevik leaders, such as Trotsky, Evgeny Preobrazhensky, Christian Rakovsky, Grigorii Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, and Karl Radek - they totally failed to capture leadership of the CPSU. The Opposition was small, as Tony Cliff puts it, “even if we accept the highest estimate – 10,000 who voted for the Opposition and 20,000 who were sympathetic – it was still a tiny proportion of all party members. In 1927 the party had 724,000 members.”[45] Secondly, the leaders of the Opposition, such as Trotsky, were ill-suited for inner-party politics and had made a number of tactical blunders going back to the early 1920s. Trotsky also had a repeated habit of striking his opponents at the wrong time. By contrast, Stalin was an exceptionally skilled politician. Trotsky was also hampered by the fact that he was a late-comer to the CPSU (despite playing a predominant role in both the Revolution and Civil War) whereas Stalin had been in the party from the beginning. And Trotsky's arrogant, administrative and charismatic nature (for some his Jewish roots were also a problem) alienated many party members, who feared that he was a potential Bonaparte whereas Stalin appeared to respect the norms of collective leadership.

 

Furthermore, the Opposition had no formal leader and was not a united or cohesive movement. As Victor Serge put it: “Our Oppositional movement in Russia had not been Trotskyist, since we had no intention of attaching it to a personality, rebels as we ourselves were against the cult of the Leader. We regarded the Old Man only as one of our greatest comrades, an elder member of the family over whose ideas we argued freely.”[46] The Opposition also tied its own hands in advance, by accepting the 1921 ban on factions and tried to present their own ideas the right Party line (as opposed to the current leadership). The line of “party patriotism” was tortuously described by Trotsky as follows: “Comrades, none of us wants to be or can be right against the party. In the last analysis, the party is always right, because the party is the sole historical instrument that the working class possesses for the solution of its fundamental tasks. I have already said that nothing would be simpler than to say before the party that all these criticisms, all these declarations, warnings, and protests – all were mistaken from beginning to end.”[47] Only in 1927, to a limited degree, did the Opposition agitate outside the Party, and by then it was too late. Lastly, the slogan of “socialism in one country” appeared as a concrete mission for the USSR that appealed to party cadre and workers who were exhausted by years of war and revolution. “Socialism in one country” also seemed to promise that Russia could build socialism and raise the standard of living without the aid of revolutions from the rest of the world. And the cadre of CPSU and the wider population of the USSR had certainly grown receptive to this message as opposed to trusting in the distant prospects of world revolution or the wars that would accompany “permanent revolution” (certainly this was a caricature of Trotsky's views) that would risk the defeat of socialism in the USSR.[48]

 

d. Why Stalin?

 

Yet the question of why Trotsky lost the challenge for power is not fully answered just by highlighting the weaknesses of the Joint Opposition. What exactly were the material conditions that made it possible for Stalin to rise to power? This takes us to the “Russian Question” which has been one of the most hotly debated questions on the revolutionary left for the past century, producing libraries of books, polemics, newspapers ranging from the good, the bad, and the ridiculous which have dealt with every angle of the issue. It is not the goal here to give a final verdict on this question, but to offer some sketches of the material conditions in the USSR that contributed to the rise of Stalin.

 

In a speech delivered in 1920, Trotsky had said that “Our Position is in the Highest Degree Tragic.”[49] This was no exaggeration on his part. When the Bolsheviks had seized power in 1917, they not only became rulers of a devastated and backward country, that was falling apart after years of world war and millions dead, but they were immediately set upon by invasion from fourteen hostile states and several counterrevolutionary white armies. What followed were three more years of civil war and terror, both red and white, where no quarter was given because none was to be expected. The Bolshevik government instituted the policy of war communism to manage a crumbling nationalized industry, feed starving cities by requisitioning grain and build an effective army.[50]

 

However, war communism concentrated enormous powers in the party and state alongside the development of authoritarianism and a siege mentality, since the Bolsheviks correctly saw the whole capitalist world against them. As a result, the soviets broke down and power was increasingly concentrated within the Bolshevik Party and state. According to Isaac Deutscher, the Bolshevik Party had the “usurper's role thrust upon it,” but he asks “What could or should the party have done under these circumstances? Should it have thrown up its hands and surrendered power? A revolutionary government which has waged a cruel and devastating civil war does not abdicate on the day after its victory and does not surrender to its defeated enemies and to their revenge even if it discovers that it cannot rule in accordance with its own ideas and that it no longer enjoys the support it commanded when it entered the civil war.”[51] Indeed, the Bolsheviks had “substituted” themselves for the proletariat because it no longer existed as a cohesive social force.

 

The working class was effectively declassed in Soviet Russia by the time the civil war was over. The working class had dropped from 2.6 million in 1917 to 1.2 million in 1920. The population in cities such as Moscow and Petrograd had dropped by half. Industry had fallen from a 1913 gross output of 100 in 1913 to 31 in 1921. Pierre Broué gives the following bleak picture of the Soviet economy:

 

The whole economic structure seemed to have collapsed. Industry produced 20% in quantity of its prewar production, and 13% in value. The output of iron represented 1.6% and that of steel 2.4%. The production of oil and of coal, sectors least affected, represented only 41% and 27% of that of pre-war; in other sectors, the percentage varied between zero and 20%. Capital equipment was wearing out: 60% of locomotives were out of action and 63% of the railway tracks could not be used. Agricultural production had fallen in quantity and value alike. The area under cultivation was down by 16%.[52]

 

The peasantry had supported the Bolsheviks during the war because they had promised land, but now the countryside was gripped with famine and revolts were spreading. The black market had also developed as living standards plummeted.[53]

 

Following the victorious conclusion of the civil war and the Kronstadt naval revolt, the Bolsheviks changed course and implemented the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP was instituted in order to provide breathing space for the Bolsheviks and to restore production. The NEP relaxed state control over the economy – allowing for the creation of small businesses and private trade, ended requisitions and permitted the development of a money economy. By 1927, the NEP had restored Soviet industry and agriculture to its pre-war levels, but it also led to the growth of the class of rich peasants and the private traders known as the NEP-men.

 

However, the Bolshevik victory in the civil war had left them alone and isolated in Russia, without aid from the international revolution, particularly in Germany. Now, the unforeseen prospect of having to develop socialism, alone in a backward country, confronted the Bolsheviks. In a situation where revolution was not on the immediate agenda, many party members came to accept the promise of developing socialism in one country, which was put forth by Stalin and Bukharin.[54]

 

The Bolsheviks emerged victorious as the sole ruling party in Russia; all other parties had opposed the revolution. Yet at the moment of victory it was seen as necessary for the Party to close their ranks. In 1921 at the Tenth Party Congress, the previously open atmosphere of the party ended as factions were banned. This reinforced the siege mentality within the party and made any criticism appear as potentially “counterrevolutionary.”

 

While the soviets had lost their influence and the social base for the Bolsheviks had disappeared, the most politically conscious and courageous workers had entered the party, government and the army. Yet according to Isaac Deutscher, they “did not in fact belong to the working class any longer. With the passage of time many of them became estranged from the workers and assimilated with the bureaucratic environment.”[55] At the same time, the Bolshevik Party expanded enormously. From 23,000 members in 1917, it had grown to 700,000 in 1922, but it now was filled not just with dedicated revolutionary militants, but Tsarist bureaucrats since it fell to the Party to run the government, industry, and the army. It would soon become clear to many communists, such as Lenin, that alien elements had entered the Bolshevik Party and that many communists were becoming infected with bureaucratism, careerism, and national chauvinism.[56]

 

In order to administer the Soviet state and economy, the party needed expand to its apparatus, “in the month of August 1922, there was a count of 15,325 full-time officials of the party, 5,000 of whom were employed at the level of districts or factories.”[57] This new apparatus of party and state grew more elaborate with Stalin at the summit as General Secretary. And without a working class capable of ruling, the social and political weight of functionaries correspondingly increased. Naturally, this layer enjoyed greater material privileges than the average worker, which affected not only their outlook, but was reflected by how both the party and state operated.

 

By the 1920s, the USSR was a ruined and devastated country with a declassed working class, a hostile peasantry, and a merged party and state, which were increasingly separated from the masses. International revolution was not on the horizon. Both the Party and the people were exhausted from years of struggle. This made the prospect of “socialism in one country,” appear as both realistic and desirable, where the USSR would develop a modern industrial socialist society to not only face the dangers of capitalist encirclement, but deliver the people from backwardness by creating a higher standard of living and a radiant future which would allow Russia to serve as a beacon to humanity.[58]

 

As Deutscher says,

 

Socialism in one country also stirred the people's national pride, while Trotsky's pleas for internationalism suggested to the simple-minded that he held that Russia could not rely on herself and so he maintained that her salvation would ultimately have to come from a revolutionized West. This could not but hurt the self-confidence of a people that had achieved the greatest of revolutions-a self-confidence which, despite all the miseries of daily life, was real enough even though it was curiously blended with political apathy.[59]

 

Stalin lambasted the disbelief of the Opposition in the ability of Russia to build socialism, stating:

 

Well, as the victory of the revolution in the West is rather late in coming, nothing remains for us to do, apparently, but to loaf around. The congress held, and said so in its resolution on the report of the Central Committee, that these views of the opposition implied disbelief in victory over our capitalists....But from the support of the workers of the West to the victory of the revolution in the West is a long, long way... The opposition, however, affirms that we cannot finish off our capitalists by our own efforts....

 

It follows that we are capable of completely building a socialist society by our own efforts and without the victory of the revolution in the West, but that, by itself alone, our country cannot guarantee itself against encroachments by international capital—for that the victory of the revolution in several Western countries is needed. The possibility of completely building socialism in our country is one thing, the possibility of guaranteeing our country against encroachments by international capital is another.

 

In my opinion, your mistake and that of your comrades is that you have not yet found your way in this matter and have confused these two questions.[60]

 

Whereas Trotsky appealed to internationalism, this call did not fall on receptive ears, since Deutscher says, for “many rank and file Bolsheviks world revolution had become a lamentable myth by 1924, while the building of socialism in Russia was the exacting and exhilarating experience of their generation. Despite all his verbal tributes to Leninist internationalism, Stalin became the chief mouthpiece of this sentiment. He elevated the sacred egoism of the Russian revolution to a supreme principle — this was the real meaning of his idea of ‘socialism in one country.’”[61] An unfortunate outcome of this outlook was that the USSR often placed their own national interests above those of the world revolution and many foreign communists found themselves embracing “sacred egoism” of the USSR by subordinating their own activities to the dictates of Soviet policy (largely to their detriment).

 

III. Revolution From Above: The First Five Year Plan

 

a. The Interval

 

Following the expulsion of the Opposition from the CPSU, Trotsky was exiled to Alma Ata in early 1928 (where he would remain for the next year). During that time, while Trotsky was under surveillance, he managed to remain in contact with his followers.[62] According to Pierre Broué, the Oppositionists consisted of three groups, first were those in exile, deportation, or in colonies in Siberia and Central Asia. Secondly, those who were free and active in clandestinely (such as Trotsky's first wife Aleksandra Sokolovskaya and Victor Serge). Lastly, those in prison called “isolators” whom Broué says “we know very little...about the fate of the arrested oppositionists.”[63]

 

On the other hand, there is far more information available in regards to the Oppositionists who remained at liberty. Some were active in Moscow, publishing leaflets and statements, who stayed close contact with Trotsky throughout 1928. The Moscow Opposition managed to produce 10,000 copies of a leaflet for May Day 1928. Broué lists other cities where Oppositionists remained active - Leningrad, Kiev and Kharkov, Baku and Tiflis, in Odessa, Dniepropetrovsk, Nikolaev, Saratov, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Krasnoyarsk, Ekaterinoslav, Kremenchug, Rostov, Tula, Kostroma, Briansk, Nizhni Novgorod, Tver, Zaporozhe, etc.[64] Some Oppositionists were able to gain a hearing in open meetings, elected in unions or factory committees and were involved working class mobilization.[65]

 

However, the Oppositionists were also subjected to repeated waves of arrest, deportation and imprisonment throughout the year with their numbers reaching approximately 8,000. Yet there was an ebb and flow to their activity as older members dropped out or capitulated and new recruits joined from the prisoners. The active cadre of the Opposition probably never totally more than 1,000 and 2,000. Most of them were deported to distant portions of the USSR. Deutscher describes the lives of the deportees as follows:

 

the conditions in which they found themselves, though painful and humiliating, were not yet crushingly oppressive, the Oppositionists reverted to a manner of existence which had been familiar to them before the revolution. The job of the political prisoners and exiles was to use enforced idleness in order to clear their thoughts, learn, and prepare for the day when they would once again have to shoulder the burdens of direct struggle or the responsibilities of government. For this kind of work the conditions seemed propitious. In many colonies there were educated men, brilliant theorists, and gifted writers whom their comrades provided with a choice audience. An intensive exchange of ideas helped to keep up self-discipline and self-respect.[66]

 

The exchange of ideas or “literary activity” amongst the exiles kept them intellectually active. Trotsky distributed his own letters and essays to the various colonies of exiles, who also exchanged information with one another. Many prominent Oppositionists such as Preobrazhensky, Radek and Rakovsky (whom we shall discuss presently) wrote substantial theoretical works during their enforced idleness.

 

Christian Rakovsky was one of Trotsky's closest comrades in the Opposition. He had a long career of revolutionary activism spanning several countries – Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and the Ukraine (where he was head of the government from 1919-23). He also was a skilled diplomat, representing the USSR at the Genoa Conference in 1922 and served as the Soviet ambassador to France from 1925-7.[67] According to Deutscher, Rakovsky “a had a very clear and penetrating mind; and perhaps also a greater capacity for philosophical detachment.”[68] In this moment of defeat, Rakovsky asked what had brought about the passivity of the working class and the abuse of power within the Bolshevik Party, which had originally been composed of dedicated and honest revolutionaries.

 

Rakovsky shared with Trotsky a belief that the cause for the degeneration of the Russian Revolution and Bolshevik Party could be traced back to the country's backwardness, isolation and the small size of the working class. Yet Rakovsky went further than Trotsky, arguing that even in an advanced capitalist country the workers could succumb to passivity, and that a bureaucracy could usurp their power. A similar phenomena had occurred during the earlier English and French Revolutions. Rakovsky summed up the problem of bureaucracy as follows:

 

This political position (of directing class) is not without its dangers: on the contrary, the dangers are very great. I do not refer here to the objective difficulties due to the whole complex of historical conditions, to the capitalist encirclement on the outside, and the pressure of the petty bourgeois inside the country. No, I refer to the inherent difficulties of any new directing class, consequent on the taking and on the exercise of power itself, on the ability or inability to make use of it. You will understand that these difficulties would continue to exist up to a certain point, even if we allowed, for a moment, that the country was inhabited only by proletarian masses and the exterior was made up solely of proletarian states. These difficulties might be called the “professional dangers” of power...

 

When a class takes power, one of its parts becomes the agent of that power. Thus arises bureaucracy. In a socialist state, where capitalist accumulation is forbidden by members of the directing party, this differentiation begins as a functional one; it later becomes a social one. I am thinking here of the social position of a communist who has at his disposal a car, a nice apartment, regular holidays, and receiving the maximum salary authorized by the party; a position which differs from that of the communist working in the coal mines and receiving a salary of fifty or sixty rubles per month. As regards workers and employees, you know that they are divided into eighteen different categories ...

 

The unity and cohesion which formerly were the natural consequences of the struggle of the revolutionary class cannot now be maintained but by the application of the whole system of measures which have for their aim the preservation of the equilibrium between the different groups of this class and of this party, and to subordinate these groups to the fundamental goal.[69]

 

As opposed to Trotsky, Rakovsky was far more pessimistic about the future political prospects of the Opposition. He believed that “all party reform which is based on the bureaucracy is utopian” and that the Opposition needed to set itself the mission of “educating the party and the working class was a long and difficult task, and that it was that much more so because the minds have first of all to be cleansed of all the impurities introduced into by them the practices of the soviets and of the party and by the bureaucratization of these institutions.”[70] Considering that Rakovsky believed that the working class had been corrupted by the bureaucracy, he did not advocate in appealing to them for change. Due to the passivity of the proletariat, only the bureaucracy held initiative in society. Deutscher says Rakovsky's conclusion was that the Opposition “could only hope to work for the future mainly in the field of ideas” away from the centers of power.[71] For radical Trotskyists, this was anathema since they expected and hoped for the masses to rise against the bureaucracy. On the other hand, there was a growing group of Oppositionists, known as conciliators who saw the bureaucracy itself in ferment and turning “left” by adopting their program. They did not want to be on the wayside as their ideas were seemingly implemented.

 

Before discussing Stalin's “Revolution From Above” and the response of the Opposition to it, we need to clarify Trotsky's relation to Rakovsky's theories of the bureaucracy. Although Trotsky praised Rakovsky's work (which would be extensively quoted in his 1936 Revolution Betrayed),[72] he still believed that the bureaucracy was capable of being reformed. In fact, Trotsky argued that the Stalinist “center” was an ally of the Opposition against the Bukharinist “right.” Trotsky condemned the center for failing to adequately defend the dictatorship of the proletariat and opening the way to Thermidor (discussed further below). As he put it in 1933, “Through all its zig-zags, its delays, its forward-leaps, bureaucratic Centrism has not strengthened the dictatorship of the proletariat, but on the contrary, has increased the danger of Thermidor. Only cowards can fear to name this result out loud, Facts are stronger than words. In order to struggle against inimical facts, we must call them by their right names. We must also call those responsible by their names; Stalin and his clique.”[73] In other words, while Rakvosky saw the Thermidor as basically accomplished, Trotsky still saw it as a future danger.

 

When Stalin went after the Right Opposition, Trotsky said “he does not devise his own powder, but uses the weapons forged in the arsenals of the Opposition, breaking off as much as he can of the Marxist point.”[74] Trotsky ruled out any support for the right-wing, since he believed that “the victory of the Right deviation would unleash the forces of capitalism, would undermine the revolutionary positions of the proletariat and increase the chances for the restoration of capitalism in our country.”[75] However, as events were later to prove, Trotsky would look to Bukharin as a possible ally against Stalin.

 

While Trotsky accepted a great deal of Rakovsky's analysis, he would not allow himself to believe that the Thermidor had already occurred. He was not willing to believe that there was no room for political action or chance of victory by the Opposition. He was determined to fight on, even if hope was fleeting.

 

b. The Left Turn

 

By late 1927 and early 1928, the alliance between Stalin and Bukharin was fracturing. The policies previously advocated by Bukharin of developing socialism at a “snail's pace,” delaying industrialization and supporting the kulaks had produced an acute crisis. Workers in the city had to endure higher food prices. The production of grain had also fallen anywhere between a third and a half. All of this threatened to not only to starve the cities, but to reduce the funds available for industrial expansion. Stalin and the Party concluded that the kulaks were holding the country to ransom by withholding grain. In response to the “grain strike”, the party instituted extraordinary measures across the countryside with activists, volunteers and the GPU [intelligence service] sent to collect grain.

 

This use of coercion against the peasantry managed to collect grain, but it inevitably led to the development of class war in the countryside as the party embarked on a campaign of collectivization and liquidating the kulaks as a class - ultimately causing Stalin to break with both Bukharin and the NEP. It seemed that Trotsky and the Opposition had been vindicated in regards to the kulak danger, although no one in the Opposition had even contemplated forced collectivization. Furthermore, Stalin began a campaign of industrialization and the Five Year Plans to provide machinery for the collective farms to develop the Soviet economy.

 

Yet industrialization and planning was done at an accelerated rate and breakneck speeds, beyond anything proposed by either Trotsky or Preobrazhensky. The goal was on achieving accelerated growth and developing heavy industry without the balanced approach which Bukharin had championed. Bukharin was horrified at this turn, believing that the campaign of collectivization would alienate the peasantry and ruin the revolution. All of this led Bukharin into conflict with the party line and Stalin. One of the most famous of Bukharin's writings opposed to collectivization was the Notes of an Economist,[76] while seemingly criticizing Trotsky's policies was actually a veiled attack on Stalin. He warned of disaster for the USSR if Stalin's line was pursued. However, Bukharin kept most of his criticisms veiled using Aesopian language and behind closed doors inside the Party, not daring to openly oppose Stalin.

 

Even though Bukharin was deeply opposed to Trotsky and the defeated Left Opposition, he was willing to ally with them against Stalin. Kamenev, who remained at liberty, met with Bukharin, and passed details of their meeting and the possibilities of an alliance to the Opposition in Moscow. Trotsky still saw Bukharin as his main enemy, declaring “With Stalin against Bukharin? Yes. With Bukharin against Stalin? Never.”[77] Despite this, Trotsky was willing to make a limited pact with Bukharin to restore inner party democracy, but he would not compromise his fundamental ideas. However, the alliance between the former Left and Right oppositions fell through before it even began because the rank-and-file followers in both camps were too distrustful of each other.

 

While Trotsky was willing to consider an alliance with Bukharin, this went against the whole grain of his thinking. The Right Opposition was seen by him as the greater danger and he welcomed its defeat. As Deutscher points out, “Trotsky's many anxious alarms about the 'danger from the right', i.e. from Bukharin's faction, and his evident underestimation of Stalin's power, one may marvel at the short-sightedness or blindness which in this instance characterized the man so often distinguished by prophetic foresight.”[78] Yet Trotsky was still viewing events within the prism of NEP where the possibilities of capitalist restoration were quite real. Now the “revolution from above” had completely altered the terrain.

 

As Broué points out, Trotsky viewed the situation in Russia in 1928 as fluid and open with different outcomes possible: “the response to the offensive by the rich peasants and the reflection in Russia of the intensifying class struggle in Europe. The “left turn” could rapidly come to an end, which would not be very likely, because it would then be necessary to go much further to the right than the right-wing advocates of a new NEP could even dream about.”[79] Therefore, Trotsky saw the turn to the left as confirming his analysis of Stalin's faction as centrist, zig-zagging from right to left (something also seen in the ultra-revolutionary line adopted by the Comintern's 6th Congress).

 

In the previous year, there had been tension brewing within the Opposition as two opposing camps emerged. The first were the “Irreconcilables” (who tended to be younger) included Trotsky and Rakovsky who opposed to Stalin and wanted to fight for their program to the bitter end. The others were the “Conciliators,” who included Radek and Preobrazhensky, whom did not advocating outright surrender to Stalin, but wanted to reconcile with the Party on the basis of the new line. Preobrazhensky said that the Opposition should “be based on the zigzag to the left and on the workers’ activity to turn this zigzag into real left policy.”[80] For the Conciliators, it appeared that their program was finally being carried out and they finally vindicated. The Conciliators were more interested in industrialization and economic development as opposed to restoring proletarian democracy and combating the bureaucracy. No doubt, the strains of exile and being cut off from political life took their toll.[81] Despite the intense debate within the Opposition in 1928, most followed Trotsky's course and stayed outside the CPSU.

 

In 1929, the divisions within the Opposition resurfaced again. By now, Trotsky had been exiled to Turkey and was no longer able to directly exercise leadership over his compatriots. The first five year plan and collectivization were moving into high gear. The voice of conciliation was raised once again by Radek and Preobrazhensky who acknowledged that while Stalin was not restoring inner party democracy, “he was carrying out so much of the Opposition's program there was reason to hope that he would eventually carry out the rest of it as well. In any case, Oppositionists would be better able to further the cause of inner-party freedom if they returned to the ranks than if they remained in the punitive colonies, from where they could exercise no practical influence.”[82] For committed communists, who were cut off from political life and straining under exile, this must have appeared as a very compelling argument.

 

However, Irreconcilables such as Rakovsky argued that the left course of Stalin was temporary and that he would soon follow it up by making concessions to the right and the kulaks. For the irreconcilables, their program still remained valid. Yet the irrelevance of the Opposition's program was something that both the conciliators were coming to accept and those to the left of the irreconcilables who believed that the USSR was “no longer a workers' state; that the party had betrayed the revolution; and that the hope to reform it being futile, the Opposition should constitute itself into a new party and preach and prepare, a new revolution.”[83] Yet the tensions were growing as both sides saw the other as traitors and renegades. Three months after Trotsky's exile, the Opposition's unity finally shattered.

 

The Party used a mixture of the carrot and the stick to foster division within the Opposition. For the conciliators, terror served to frighten and soften them, it also drove a wedge between them and the irreconcilables, who were driven further into isolation. Deutscher says that “The terror was selective: the G.P.U. spared the conciliators but combed the punitive colonies, picking out the most stubborn Oppositionists and transferring them to jails, where they were subjected to the harshest treatment: placed under military guards; crowded in damp and dark cells unheated in the Siberian winter; kept on a meager diet of rotten food; and denied reading matter, light, and facilities for communication with their families.”[84] For the Conciliators, it was not so much terror that softened them, but the left course of Stalin. By April 1929, he was openly attacking Bukharin and pushing ahead with industrialization and collectivization. The situation in the country was the most dire it had been since the civil war. The revolution was seemingly in peril. It seemed impossible to hold onto old slogans now. A choice had to be made.

 

In April, Preobrazhensky appealed to the Opposition to accept the new course, entering into “negotiations” with the Party in Moscow.[85] By July, Preobrazhensky, Radek and 400 other Oppositionists announced their capitulation. They would be followed by a stampede of others. This was just at the climax of the inner party struggle with Bukharin. Strangely, Trotsky's prediction that the left would unite with the center against the right had proven to be right, albeit not in the way he expected. Not only had Stalin managed to neutralize the Opposition, but he had “won over “many valuable cadre who “were men of high talent and experience with whom he would fill industrial and administrative posts from which the Bukharinists were being squeezed out. He knew that the capitulators would throw themselves heart and soul into the industrial drive...”[86] Many of these former Oppositionists would later find themselves annihilated during the Purges.

 

Trotsky, who was cut off from communication in the USSR, was only able to restore contacts in the autumn, but by then he could do little. In response to the capitulations, the ailing Rakovsky circulated a declaration of more than 500 signatures (which was published abroad by Trotsky's Bulletin of the Opposition). The declaration, although remaining defiant did not meet with the approval of the extreme Irreconcilables. Rakovsky

 

appealed to the Central Committee to “make it easy for us to return to the party”, and he repudiated “factional means of struggle”. However, he demanded also the right of the opposition to defend its views within the party and that party democracy “be implemented in its entirety”, with the election of all officials and the possibility of removing them. The declaration also reaffirms that “the complete organization of socialist production is possible only on an international scale”. Finally, the declaration demands that Trotsky be brought back from exile.[87]

 

Trotsky was contemptuous of the capitulations, stating “Some of the isolated and weaker elements do not withstand this pressure. But the majority of the capitulations are obviously simulated. Broken and exhausted, they sign what they do not believe.”[88] On the other hand, he praised Rakovsky's stand as supported by the stalwarts of the Opposition and showing the application of the united front. Yet the ambivalence of the Trotsky's position remained, even here, he proclaimed loyalty to the Party, but also that “We must explain the meaning of our proposal, name those responsible for its rejection, and proclaim our indestructible determination to fight for our opinion and to increase twofold, fivefold, tenfold our efforts to consolidate the Bolshevik-Leninist faction.”[89] However, Rakovsky's declaration ensured him further exile and imprisonment, but even he too would finally capitulate and return to the Party in 1934.[90]

 

By the end of 1929, the Opposition had crumbled from a total of 8,000 to less than a thousand. Trotsky and Rakovsky remained the only prominent members who were still unbowed. The others were in exile or prison.[91] The Opposition as a major force had effectively been marginalized and broken. Yet not completely. Trotsky, with his boundless energy, was determined to continue fighting onward. The upheavals and social disruptions of the revolution from above offered the hope or the fear (for some) that it could be revived. And furthermore, thousands of capitulators (along with the Zinovievists) were now back in the Party. Although holding no positions of prominence, but they were still “administrators, the economists, and the educationists were assigned to posts on all rungs of the government, where they were bound to exercise an influence. Although Stalin could not doubt their zeal for the left course, especially for industrialization, he knew what value to attach to the recantations he had extracted from them. They remained Oppositionists at heart.”[92] Despite their signed statements, they had not given up all their ideas and could now influence Soviet policy. As time went on, Stalin feared the possibility that they were still in league with Trotsky and in light of the convulsions of the “Revolution From Above,” he believed there was a chance that they planned to replace him with an alternative leadership. Some ex-Oppositionists still argued for Trotsky's return and took his ideas seriously, as avid readers of his Bulletin of the Opposition.[93] Thus, the possibility remained, increasingly remote, that changes in the CPSU leadership could bring Trotsky back from exile.

 

In assessing the failure of Trotsky and the Opposition during this period, Marot says that despite their criticism of the Stalin leadership's methods, “they were ‘full of praise for the collectivization and industrialization, although very critical of the methods Stalin used to carry it out’.”[94] And in their enthusiasm to follow the new course of socialism in one country, the Opposition tossed aside the other aspects of their program such as restoring inner-party democracy. Yet even for the Irreconcilables, such as Rakovsky, advocated that the Opposition needed “to give the party and the Central Committee full and unconditional assistance in carrying out the plan for socialist construction by participating directly in the construction and by helping the party overcome the difficulties that are in the way.”'[95] Rakovsky also supported the return to labor discipline imposed as part of the Five Year Plan and opposed factional activity within the CPSU, let alone outside it, since “the unity of the Communist Party had to be preserved because only through the Communist Party could the dictatorship of the proletariat be preserved, and so democracy was to be reserved to those who agreed with the party-line, set by the Central Committee.”[96] Indeed, this ensured the political paralysis of the Opposition. As Marot points out and we have already discussed, the irreconcilables believed that “Stalin’s policies were still

 

uncertain, unstable; they might not weaken the power of the kulaks enough or implement industrialization full-blast.”[97] This whole approach stemmed from the conception shared by both Trotsky and the Opposition's “substitutionalist” view (as Marot puts it) that there could be no independent political activity outside of the CPSU and that it could still be reformed. It would only be in 1933 that Trotsky would break with this whole approach.

 

c. Transformation of the USSR

 

Within ten years, Stalin's “Revolution from Above,” that officially began in 1929 with the first Five Year Plan, completely transformed the USSR from a backward peasant country into a modern industrial and military power, independent and capable of standing against the capitalist states. Whole new industrial cities such as Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk were built. According to Robert Tucker, the USSR “had been transformed from an agrarian country whose industrial output was 48 percent of the total in 1928 into an industrial one for the comparable figure was 70 percent in 1932. The five year industrial plan had been had been fulfilled by 93.7 percent in four years; the heavy industrial part of it, by 108 percent.”[98] The focus of the Five Year Plan was overwhelmingly upon heavy industry, which meant that light industry and consumer goods, not to mention agriculture, were neglected.[99]

 

However, the collective farms faced many problems since the drive for collectivization and securing a reliable base for agriculture was a cornerstone of the Five Year Plan. From a country composed overwhelmingly of small peasant farms in the mid-1920s, by 1936 at least 90 percent of the peasantry lived on collective farms and 94 percent of crops were cultivated there. This was achieved through a combination of government persuasion, tax incentives and force. However, many peasants lacked experience with livestock, which when combined with combined with poor planning, and a lack of modern farm equipment, ultimately meant that socialized agriculture did not show its superiority over individual production for many years. Furthermore, many peasants, particularly the rich kulaks resisted collectivization and grain procurement by slaughtering their livestock and refusing to farm. In 1932-3, a combination of mismanagement by the government, overzealous party activists, kulak resistance and poor weather had brought about a famine that disrupted the food supply and cost at least three to four million lives.[100] As a result, the number of livestock plummeted and the grain harvest declined from 73 million tons in 1928 to 68 million in 1933, only recovering in 1935 to 75 million tons. Soviet agriculture would remain the weak link in the economy and the embitterment of the peasantry would last for decades to come.[101]

 

The working class also increased in size from 11.3 million in 1927-8 to 22.8 million in 1932, and in 1939 it had reached 39 million. According to the historian Moshe Lewin, urban workers now constituted at least half of the national labor force. There were also massive shifts within the working class as women entered in large numbers, jumping up to 43 percent of the total in industry by 1940. Education had expanded to keep up with the demands of industrialization and room was open on an unprecedented scale for social advancement in all areas of society. However, the focus on heavy industry meant that there was not enough housing in the cities, the service sector was overburdened, and the economy was ravaged by all kinds of shortages. Furthermore, due to famine in 1932-3, rationing was introduced in the cities and the morality rate shot up. The consumption of meat and lard per capita in the cities dropped by two thirds between 1928 and 1933. Despite the harsh working and living conditions, there was no unemployment, in contrast to the capitalist world, which was then in the depths of the Great Depression.[102]

 

A whole new working class had now been created, drawn largely from the peasantry. Overnight, this peasantry moved out of a rural world that was still within living memory of feudalism and into a modern industrial society where they were expected to learn and adapt to overnight. This movement of the peasantry into the cities came as a result partly due to the violence of collectivization, but for many there were also the real opportunities for social advance in the cities compared to the new collective farms.

 

Yet the working class did not rule in the USSR. According to Deutscher, “The working class could not at first derive strength from its own growth in numbers. That growth became, on the contrary, a new source of weakness. Most of the new workers were peasants, forcibly uprooted from the country, bewildered, lacking habits of industrial life, capacity for organization, political tradition, and self-confidence.”[103] This is not to say that the working class accepted their fate and was completely passive. As we shall see, there was resistance and sympathy for the Opposition among a minority of workers. Overall, power within in the USSR became ever more concentrated within the Communist Party and the state bureaucracy.

 

In order to plan the economy and allocate resources, the Soviet state and the CPSU needed to greatly expand its powers. The party could not rely solely upon the genuine and overzealous enthusiasm felt by many communists and workers to build a new world. They needed administrators, managers, engineers, and a whole array of professionals. The central leadership also lacked effective control over the vast new apparatus that expanded too quickly and as a result, this meant that power was too decentralized and meant that many potentially “undesirable” elements were flocking to the party.[104] Naturally, the effect of transforming the USSR so quickly brought breakdowns, bottlenecks, shortages, and other disruptions. Many of these mistakes were blamed on wreckers and agents of foreign powers, leading to the first show trials such as that of the “Industrial Party” in 1931. The powers of the NKVD (as the Soviet Secret Police was called in the mid-1930s) increased as evidenced by the growth of labor camps and those in exile, whose prisoners swelled with mass arrests following collectivization (and later the purges) and numbered close to 3.5 million by the late 1930s.[105]

 

The beginning of the Five Year Plan saw revolutionary fervor evident in multiple ways: the workers and party activists who built new cities and went out to the countryside to requisition grain. Communist millennialism was also expressed in the “cultural revolution” that attacked bureaucracy, privilege, promoted class war militancy, rejected the traditional education and the family, and called for a break with bourgeois cultural norms. However, as the 1930s wore on, this ultra-revolutionary militancy was in retreat, replaced by “respectability.” According to the historian Sheila Fitzpatrick, “respectability meant new cultural and moral values, reflecting the metaphorical transition from proletarian youth to middle-class middle age; a striving for order and manageable routine; and acceptance of a social hierarchy based on education, occupation, and status. Authority was to be obeyed rather than challenged. Tradition was to be respected rather than flouted.”[106] This conservative turn was manifested with a return to traditional modes of education, a glorification of the family and motherhood, the outlawing of homosexuality and abortion, a rewriting of history to promote the current party line, and a more positive view of Russian nationalism.[107] Needless to say, Marxism was reduced from a revolutionary theory to a dogma that was used to legitimize the policies of the Communist Party.

 

The conservative wind was also manifested in the defense of privilege in a speech delivered by Stalin in late 1931 where he launched a polemic against “''leftist' egalitarianism in the sphere of pay.” Stalin's point was to attack the system of Soviet wages and advocate a different wage scale in order to give workers greater incentives to stay at their jobs and reduce turnover. This was an open disavowal of the values of the revolution. The following year, alongside a new wage scale, piece work was reintroduced, which increased inequality by widening the gap between skilled and unskilled workers, and “made the pay ratio between the least and most skilled labor, which had been two to one, as high as 3.7 to one.”[108] The conservative turn in labor relations, masked under a leftist guise, was seen in the Stakhanovite movement which encouraged workers to exceed production quotas, but also opposed conservatism in the trade unions and management.

 

This was an open disavowal of the values of the revolution. The Party maximum, which had limited the amount of pay of all party members to that of a skilled worker was formally abolished in 1932, allowing members of the CPSU to enjoy greater material benefits. Party members and government officials could shop at special shops, they lived in better homes, dachas and apartments, had access to chauffeurs and cars that created a social distance between them and ordinary people. At the same time, the manners and dress of the Party, industrial managers and government leaders changed, becoming more refined and presentable. Yet Moshe Lewin observed that as these “social and ideological divisions kept widening” within Soviet society, they “were concealed for ideological reasons. This policy was deemed indispensable for normalizing the social climate and imparting stability to the regime. None of those selected for preferential treatment had an easy time of it in these years. Their relations with the top leadership were, to say the least, bumpy. Whenever official policy and ideology suffered setbacks, the higher and lower strata of officialdom served as scapegoats and were sacrificed to popular indignation. This was easy to do, given the gulf between ordinary citizens and these privileged officials, especially when they were in positions of political or economic responsibility. Thus, 'privileges', much coveted by those seeking to climb the social ladder, were also a dangerous trap in the political conditions of the period.”[109] Indeed, during the Purges of the later 1930s, many workers used the opportunity to express discontent and denounce those seen as privileged bureaucrats and “enemies” and causing sabotage to the economy.[110]

 

d. Glimmers of Life

 

In Soviet society, there was sympathy for the Opposition (sometimes expressed vaguely) among a minority of the population. Despite the isolation of the Opposition, these expressions of sympathy and support were enough to cause the Party leadership to worry. As the situation in the USSR became critical in 1928-1929, Stalin, according to Michal Reiman, “could not ignore the fact that the left opposition still remained a potential nest of serious resistance. The overall deterioration of urban conditions had led to a growth in political activism. Once again, opposition leaflets were being distributed widely, and members of the opposition had penetrated the workers' ranks, helping to organize their social struggle. Trotsky's articles, letters, and notes, illegally obtained from Alma Ata, were circulating among party member.”[111] Furthermore, according to GPU reports (arguably exaggerated), the Opposition possessed sectors of strength in the Ukraine, the army, and navy. Still, repression by the GPU, the fragmentation of the Opposition, and the adoption of the left course by the Soviet leadership - which saw most of the Opposition return to the Party – destroyed the Opposition as a coherent political force.[112]

 

In 1927-1928, among a small minority of the working class, there was support for the ideas of the Opposition. Kevin Murphy, in his study on the Hammer and Sickle factory in Moscow provides some examples of their activity. As the Five Year Plans began, labor discipline, repression and co-option were employed, that either won over or silenced the majority of workers. Yet discontent remained. There were strikes at the factory in 1926-7, often led by party members (caught between their loyalty to their fellow workers and party policy).[113] In 1928, when wages were lowered, workers at the factory shouted down Party loyalists and Oppositionist activity was noticeable. As we mentioned earlier, Opposition activity was actually quite strong in Moscow, with their leaflets distributed in the tens of thousands.[114] Through 1929, Oppositionist activity at the factory managed to attract enough support that the Party leadership denounced “Trotskyist activity.” Yet as Murphy observes, due to the repression, “Trotskyism in Moscow persisted only as a symbol of resistance rather than as an organized activist current with a presence in the factories.”[115]

 

Oppositionists at liberty had to operate carefully, otherwise they faced prison and exile. For instance, Victor Serge lived a precarious existence in Leningrad from 1928-33 feverishly writing and working as a translator until he was arrested and sent into exile in the desolate city of Orenberg near the Ural Mountains, along with other members of defeated Party Oppositions. While there, he was denied work and nearly starved to death. Serge's international reputation as a writer helped to ensure his release after an international campaign was launched on his behalf in France, he managed to leave the USSR in 1936 just before the first Moscow Trial.[116]

 

Serge wrote on the lives of the Oppositionists during this period in his book, Russia Twenty Years After and his novel Midnight in the Century.[117] Although Midnight in the Century was a fictionalized portrayal of Oppositionists in both exile and prison, but he insisted that it was “truthful” in explaining the political and historical context of the period.[118] Despite the cautions that come from using a novel of historical evidence, Serge does portray the debates, mood and the hopes and fears of the Oppositionists.

 

Serge describes the international context in which the Opposition is living in when the revolution at home and abroad has stalled, with the triumph of Stalin and Hitler, resulting in “midnight in the century”:

 

There are singular congruencies between the two dictatorships. Stalin gave Hitler his strength by driving the middle classes away from Communism with the nightmare of forced collectivization, famine, and terror against the technicians. Hitler, by making Europe abandon the hope of socialism, will strengthen Stalin. These grave-diggers were born to understand each other. Enemies and brothers. In Germany, one is burying an aborted democracy, the child of an aborted revolution. In Russia, the other is burying a victorious revolution born of a weak proletariat and left on its own by the rest of the world. Both of them are leading those they serve—the bourgeoisie in Germany, the bureaucracy here at home—toward a catastrophe.[119]

 

Serge goes on and describes the harsh living conditions of the Oppositionists in exile:

 

The clandestine pages murmured: prison, prison, prison, prison, endless prison. Bars, fences, windows sealed with iron mesh. Regulations, barracks, conflicts, hunger strikes. Mail passed through toilet pipes, through holes pierced in walls, from window to window hanging by a thread over the sentry’s head. (And the condemned men awaiting death in the room below, carefully keep it for a while. They’re good lads, you can trust them.) Mail written while your ears are cocked and you pretend to read. Then you get a migraine. You despair because of the disagreements, the irreducibly opposed viewpoints. Splits are ripening. You can see repudiations coming. Years pass. You wrench yourself away from the barracks, the bars, the comrades. You’re free, yet it’s another form of captivity.[120]

 

The way Serge tells it, the Oppositionists seem to be resigned to their fate, accepting their defeat, in the Marxist fashion as part of the dialectic of history: “there is nothing left but our defeat, firmly accepted since it must be. For we can neither separate ourselves from the proletariat, nor disobey the truth, nor ignore the course of history. And for the moment the dialectic of history has placed us under the wheel. Life goes on, thanks to us.”[121] Despite this resignation, Serge says that the Oppositionists remained determined to fight on, regardless of the cost or the impossible odds: “History moves slowly, it only produces hurricanes every hundred and twenty years or so. Kropotkin gave that approximate figure for the periodic cycle of great revolutions, but that old Utopian didn’t understand anything about Marxism. In any case, decades will pass before our Russia starts to move again. Think of this old agricultural country, of its old, exhausted, depleted proletariat devoured by new ideas and new machines, of its young peasant proletariat which knows nothing about itself yet . . .”[122]

 

In fact, if Serge's account is correct, the Opposition seemed to be questioning their ideas of critical support for the CPSU and their refusal to operate politically outside of the Party, even though cadre remained attached to old formula that the USSR was still a proletarian dictatorship: “This dictatorship which is no longer anything but violence and lies directed against the proletariat, is still proletarian, in spite of itself, because it maintains the property-relations established by the October Revolution . . .”[123] Yet others amongst the exiles considered that the time had come to recognize that “the old bureaucratized Party is finished for the Revolution and that the moment has come to consider starting everything over again.”[124] Indeed, if the Opposition concluded that the USSR was no longer a proletarian dictatorship, this would mean asking who ruled society? Serge stakes out the various positions as follows (these debates would find their way into the larger Trotskyist movement): “We no longer have Soviets, we don’t have socialism because . . . Is the bureaucracy a class? A subclass? A caste? A corrupted element of the conscious proletarian vanguard? A fraction of the middle classes? The involuntary instrument of international capitalism? Is it . . .”[125] In 1933, as we shall see, Trotsky himself would finally break with the idea that the USSR could be reformed, and declare that a new bureaucratic caste ruled society that needed to be overthrown by a political revolution.

 

The Oppositionists are coming to the realization, as time goes by, that while the “essential thing is to remain true,”[126] they also knew that “Only a few thousand of us were left who wanted to continue the Revolution, which everyone had had enough of. The world was subsiding into inertia and nothing was finished.”[127] Indeed, among the exiles, as opposed to the capitulators, their resistance to the ruling party and government was growing firmer and intransigent. One Oppositionist warns that

 

There’s no group more practical, more cynical, more inclined to resolve everything by murder than the privileged plebeians who float to the surface at the end of revolutions, when the lava has hardened over the fire, when everybody’s revolution turns into the counter-revolution of a few against everybody. It forms a new petty-bourgeoisie with itching palms which doesn’t know the meaning of the word conscience, doesn’t give a damn about what it doesn’t know, lives on steel springs and steel slogans, and knows perfectly well it stole the old flags from us. It is ferocious and base. We were implacable in order to change the world; they will be implacable in order to hold onto their loot. We gave everything, even what wasn’t ours—the blood of others with our own—for an unknown future. They say that everything has been achieved so that no one will ask them for anything. And for them, everything has been achieved since they have everything. They will be inhuman out of cowardice.[128]

 

Through it all, Serge shows that the exiles hoped to keep the torch of revolution blazing, even in the darkest night as the chimes at midnight struck.

 

Serge's novelistic account of the Opposition was written while he was still an adherent to the Trotskyist movement (he left in 1938). A less flattering account of the Opposition is provided in the Russian Enigma, by Ante Ciliga, who was a Croatian imprisoned in the USSR during the 1930s. Ciliga's work details the conditions inside the prisons, the resistance by the inmates, and their many political debates. Although Ciliga was initially a supporter of the Trotskyists, he politically broke with them after questioning the ideas of both Lenin and Bolshevism. In comparison to the other leftist opposition currents, Ciliga declares that “Trotskyism was the only Opposition grouping that carried any weight in Soviet society, the others being practically negligible.”[129] Yet he came to conclude that the “Trotskyist majority had no great program to oppose to Stalin's official policy...Their outlook was not very different from that of the Stalinist bureaucracy; they were slightly more polite and human, that was all.”[130]

 

While the Opposition in the USSR was driven underground, Trotsky lived abroad in Turkey from 1929-1933. While there, Trotsky not only worked on major historical and theoretical works, such as The History of the Russian Revolution, but received visitors from oppositional communist currents throughout the world, including the USSR. For instance in 1929, Trotsky met with Jacob Blumkin, a high official of the G.P.U.'s foreign department. Blumkin sympathized with the Opposition, but had never partaken in any of its activities and remained a member of the GPU. Blumkin volunteered to pass on some general messages to Oppositionists still at large within the USSR. However, Blumkin had been watched and was arrested and executed upon his return to the USSR. Something like this had never happened before. Although members of the Opposition had died from hunger and imprisonment, as Deutscher said this “the first party member on whom capital punishment was inflicted for an inner party offence, an offence no graver than being in contact with Trotsky.”[131] It was a practice that would become routine by 1937 within the Soviet Union.

 

Trotsky's major link with the movement in the USSR was writing articles for the Bulletin of the Opposition on Soviet and international affairs that was first published in Paris, then in Berlin and back to Paris (in 1933). The publication of the Bulletin was handled chiefly by his son, Leon Sedov. The royalties from his other writings helped to fund the publication costs.[132] According to Deutscher, the Bulletin never printed more than one thousand copies, but it “circulated in Moscow-party men returning from assignments abroad, especially members of embassies, smuggled it home and passed it on to friends...comments and forecasts and the choice morsels of his invective spread quickly by word of mouth.”[133]

 

What would the readers of the Bulletin of the Opposition have found within its pages? For one, articles by Oppositionists such as Rakovsky would be prominently placed. Other articles contained defenses of Trotsky's views from official communist slanders, denunciations of the capitulators, and a defense of the larger Opposition movement from persecution and their right to speak (although he accepted the accusations leveled against the Industrial Party in 1931). The Bulletin also contained essays devoted to Stalin, the class nature of his “Bonapartist usurpation” and the zig-zag nature of the “left course.” Trotsky was also without mercy in his condemnation of the Comintern's third period, which he saw as ultra-leftist in their condemnation of social democracy as “social fascist” which he believed was leading the Comintern to disaster in places such as Germany.[134] The overall perspective that of Trotsky and the Bulletin, until 1933, was critical support for the USSR and the possibility for reform.[135]

 

However, Trotsky and the Opposition were extremely isolated during this period. Most of the Opposition within the USSR had capitulated, those who were not in prison and exile, operated without any cohesion or direction. By contrast, the Soviet Union was seemingly going from success to success. Yet this was not to say that Trotsky and the Opposition were totally finished. Trotsky himself remained ever defiant and as Deutscher says, he

 

stood alone as the proxy of Bolshevism in opposition. His name, like Stalin's, became something of a myth; but whereas Stalin's was the myth of power sponsored by power, his was the legend of resistance and martyrdom cherished by the martyred. The young people who in the nineteen-thirties faced executioners with the cry 'Long Live Trotsky!' often had no more than a mere inkling of his ideas. They identified themselves with a symbol rather than a program, the symbol of their own anger with all the misery and oppression that surrounded them, of their own harking back to the great promise of October and of their own, rather vague, hope for a 'renascence' of the revolution.[136]

 

Within a few short years, for the Soviet leadership, the symbol of Trotsky would be transformed into a demon who was in league with foreign powers directing wrecking, sabotage and terror inside the USSR to overthrow Stalin and restore capitalism.

 

IV. Bloc and Break[137]

 

a. The Riutin Platform

 

No organized political opposition existed within the CPSU by 1932, since the majority of right and left oppositionists had capitulated. While there had been widespread support for Stalin's policies of industrialization and collectivization, a change of mood was beginning to manifest itself within the party. Former oppositionists and high level officials believed that the country was heading for ruin. This mood can be traced to the famine of 1932, hunger in the cities, rising prices, and scarce goods – all of which served to produce doubts and opposition to the official line. By the end of the year, this nebulous opposition began to coalesce into three groups.

 

The first group consisted of Martemyan Riutin, an old Bolshevik, an ex-member of the Right Opposition and formerly a district organizer in Moscow. Worried about the situation in the USSR, in August 1932, Riutin met with a dozen or so other party members to discuss nearly 200 page document entitled “Stalin and the Crisis of the Proletarian Dictatorship” that criticized Stalin for breaking with Leninism, establishing a personal dictatorship, disastrous economic policies, undermining socialism, and ending with a provocative call: “The mistakes of Stalin and his clique have turned into crimes. . . . Elimination of Stalin's dictatorship may be fulfilled only by the party and the working class, and they will fulfill it, whatever the difficulties to be overcome and whatever the sacrifices it will require...”[138] The members of the group decided to distribute the platform secretly in Moscow and Kharkov.

 

Although no solid evidence exists on how far the Platform spread or its influence within the Party, Stalin and the leadership quickly learned of its existence. The open call to overthrow the “Stalin dictatorship” did not merit a gentle response. It turned out that one of those who received the Platform was an agent of the secret police. On September 30, 1932, the police raided the apartment that contained the original document. Subsequently, all of the writers of the Platform were arrested, expelled from the party and thrown into prison for being members of a "counterrevolutionary organization." Riutin himself would be executed in 1937. Following their arrest, other former oppositionists such as Zinoviev, Kamenev and Radek were interrogated by party disciplinary bodies about their connections with the group. Many of them were expelled from the Party just for possessing knowledge of the existence of the Platform (regardless of whether they had read it).

 

Many of the criticisms raised by Riutin dovetailed with those of Trotsky, who also believed that the USSR under Stalin was in crisis and on the road to ruin. Trotsky had called for a change in course and democratization inside the Party. Despite the capitulation of most of the Left Opposition, Trotsky still possessed contacts inside the USSR, through the intermediary of Lev Sedov. Despite his condemnation of capitulators such as Karl Radek, Sokolnikov, and Preobrazhenskv, Trotsky maintained contact with them. One of his contacts was the ex-Left Oppositionist I. N. Smirnov whom in late 1932 Trotsky convinced to return to active opposition by forming an underground organization of “Bolshevik-Leninists.”[139] The Bolshevik-Leninist organization was quickly smashed by the police and its members arrested. Despite this setback, Trotsky also let it be known in letters to the Politburo that he was willing to appeal to rank-and-file party members. All of Trotsky's activity was bound to antagonize the leadership of the CPSU.

 

In October 1932, before Smirnov's arrest, Trotsky had sent a contact E. S. Goltsman, a former Trotskyist and current Soviet official to meet with Sedov in Berlin with a proposal about forming a united oppositional bloc. The proposed bloc would be composed of Trotskyists, Zinovievists, the Right Opposition, and others. Trotsky voiced cautious approval, not wanting capitulators to be involved and stressing: “The bloc does not exclude reciprocal criticism. Any propaganda by our allies in favor of capitulations (such as Grünstein, etc.) will be inexorably and pitilessly resisted by us.”[140] Trotsky saw the bloc functioning primarily as a means “of exchange of information. The allies keep us informed about what concerns the Soviet Union, while we do the same for them as far as the Communist International is concerned. We should reach an agreement about very exact means of corresponding.”[141] Therefore, based on the evidence, there was no terrorist or wrecking role for the Bloc whatsoever (as was alleged at the Moscow Trials). The Bloc was able never able to get off the ground since its leading participants were soon arrested. The USSR almost certainly knew about the existence of the Bloc from its formation, as the historian J. Arch Getty observes, “Trotsky's and Sedov's staffs were thoroughly infiltrated, and Sedov's closest collaborator in 1936, Mark Zborowski, is said to have been an NKVD agent.”[142]

 

Although this repression seemingly put a stop to Trotsky's efforts, there still appeared to be hope for him to return to the USSR. Most of the Oppositionists were either imprisoned or deported, but the execution of party members still lay in the future. Yet the situation changed in early 1933 when Hitler came to power in Germany. Until this moment, Trotsky had refused to contemplate a break with the Comintern or the CPSU, since the vast majority of revolutionary workers remained loyal to both. Yet the defeat in March 1933 of the world's largest Communist Party (outside of the USSR), without a struggle caused him to announce a break with the Third International in July.[143]

 

Trotsky had hoped that the majority of Communist Parties would realize the bankruptcy of Comintern policies and break with it as well. They did not. Furthermore, Trotsky made one final effort to be allowed to legally return to the USSR by addressing a letter to the Politburo on March 15. According to J. Arch Getty,

 

Trotsky's letter was based on his perception that economic catastrophe was overwhelming the party leadership which now needed the support and participation of all factions in order to rebuild the party and maintain power....Trotsky thus proposed that the Left Opposition be allowed to return to the leadership as a 'tendency' within the party, and insisted that his group would not publicly renounce its critique and program. He was, however, leaving the door open for a deal under which agitation for this program could be held in abeyance for an indefinite period. Trotsky was willing to re-enter the leadership without the usual recantation but with the suggestion that for the sake of party unity he would refrain from criticism. This was a new proposal. Previously, he had demanded unlimited freedom of criticism for the opposition within the party, but now he was making oppositional criticism conditional on an 'agreement' to be worked out. The contradiction with Trotsky's previous conditions and demands explains the secrecy of the letter.[144]

 

There was no response from Moscow, so six weeks later Trotsky followed up with another letter. Yet just as that letter was sent, Trotsky learned that Zinoviev and Kamenev had recanted and pledged their loyalty to the Stalin leadership.

 

This put an end to any prospect for a Bloc with other oppositionists in the USSR. Trotsky had kept his options open until the end, but on July 15, he finally crossed the Rubicon and broke with the CPSU and the Comintern. Now Trotsky was outside of the official communist movement and had no chance of returning to the Moscow leadership. And the rise of Hitler had caused whatever remnants of the Opposition remained in the USSR to rally around the leadership, since they now feared that a political crisis would expose the country to the Nazi threat.

 

The possibility of Trotsky returning to the USSR in 1932-33 or the Bloc becoming a political force may seem slim in retrospect, but at the time, these appeared to be very real possibilities. The USSR was in a state of extreme crisis and it seemed that the country was on the verge of coming apart. The criticisms of both Trotsky and Riutin coincided on many points which appeared to threaten the besieged party. Stalin and the CPSU responded with panic and fear to these dissidents who threatened the unity of the party at a crucial moment. And even more so, the actions of both the Riutin Platform and especially of Trotsky, showed the threat of carrying political disagreements outside of the party in order to agitate not only at the lower levels, but potentially politicize the masses in a way that could threaten the regime itself.

 

b. The New Line

 

For years, Trotsky had been warning of the dangers of Nazism and the need for the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) to form a united front with the Social Democrats (SPD) to fight them. However, the Comintern, then following the theses of the 6th Congress in 1928, believed that the SPD were social fascists and would only support a united front “from below,” which meant no united front at all. As the Nazis went from strength to strength in the elections, their storm troopers murdered workers in the streets, and the Weimar Republic fell apart, Trotsky desperately repeated his call for united resistance. He stated that a dire fate awaited the left should the Nazis triumph:

 

Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left![145]

 

In March 1933, Hitler and the Nazis seized full dictatorial power in Germany. What little democratic liberties remained in Weimar were smashed. Labor unions were replaced by the Nazi-run German Labor Front. The Communists and Social Democrats were now in exile, underground, or in prison. Not only had Hitler smashed the crushed the largest working class movement in Europe, but the Nazis were virulently anti-communist and expansionist, meaning that the USSR was now threatened with war.

 

For Trotsky, the defeat in Germany was comparable to the collapse of the Second International in 1914. In July 1933, Trotsky made his break with the Comintern complete, stating that “Only the creation of the Marxist International, completely independent of the Stalinist bureaucracy and counterposed politically to it, can save the USSR from collapse by binding its destiny with the destiny of the world proletarian revolution.”[146] Trotsky also cut his last ties with the CPSU and the possibilities for reform:

 

For a long time we had calculated that we would succeed in reforming the CPSU itself, and through its mediation, in regenerating the Soviet regime. But the present official party now bears much less resemblance to a party than two years ago or even a year ago. The party congress has not taken place for more than three years, and nobody talks about it. The Stalinist clique is now whittling down and reconstructing its “party,” as if it were a disciplinary battalion. The purges and expulsions were at first intended to disorganize the party, to terrorize it, to deprive it of the possibility of thinking and acting; now the repressions are aimed at preventing the reorganization of the party. Yet the proletarian party is indispensable if the Soviet state is not to perish. There are many elements in favor of it but only in a struggle against the Stalinist bureaucracy can they be brought to the surface and united. To speak now of the “reform” of the CPSU would mean to look backward and not forward, to soothe one’s mind with empty formulas. In the USSR, it is necessary to build a Bolshevik party again.[147]

 

Whereas before 1933, Trotsky had warned of the dangers of Thermidor due to the policies of Stalin. Now he stated that the Thermidor had already occurred, stating: “The smashing of the Left Opposition implied in the most direct and immediate sense the transfer of power from the hands of the revolutionary vanguard into the hands of the more conservative elements among the bureaucracy and the upper crust of the working class. The year 1924 – that was the beginning of the Soviet Thermidor.”[148] Trotsky admitted that the original definition of Thermidor that he had been using until 1933 was imprecise. Thermidor is a term that originated from the Great French Revolution of the 1790s. It connotes a reaction within the revolution or the onset of a conservative phase. For instance, in 1794, the radical Jacobins were overthrown and a reaction came upon the French Republic, leading eventually to the creation of Napoleon’s Empire. The Russian counterpart to the Thermidor, according to Trotsky, could be traced to 1923 and Stalin’s initial victories over Trotsky’s Left Opposition. At this point, there was an ebb in revolutionary energy as Stalin gave concessions to the bureaucracy against the interests of the masses. The Soviet bureaucracy eventually developed the productive forces of the country which “provided an outlet for the energies of active and capable organizers, administrators and technicians. Their material and moral position improved rapidly. A broad, privileged stratum was created, closely linked to the ruling upper crust. The toiling masses lived on hopes or fell into apathy.”[149]

 

Trotsky fully developed his analysis of the Soviet bureaucracy and Thermidor in his 1936 work, The Revolution Betrayed, which also serves as his political testament.[150] The Revolution Betrayed was part a theoretical treatise and polemic. By 1936, the USSR had claimed to have achieved socialism with the successes of industrialization and collectivization. A new constitution had been implemented in the USSR, that claimed to be the ‘most democratic in the world.’ This was also a time when material and social inequality was growing throughout Russia. A new hierarchy was coming into place. Tsarist ranks were being restored in the army. Bureaucratic conservatism was evident in the sciences, family life, education and the arts. There was also competition of laborers for the privileges and necessities of life. Was this really the society which Marx and Lenin had set out to build as the slogans claimed? Trotsky’s answer was an emphatic no.

 

Trotsky set out to refute the claim that Stalin’s Russia was socialist. He believed (in line with classical Marxist thought), that social forms of ownership was not necessarily socialism (although it was essential). To Trotsky, socialism entailed a society of abundance, not want and poverty. In the USSR, want and poverty had produced not socialism but a new hierarchy. Stalin was using Marxism, particularly the phrase ‘to each according to his labor’ (from Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program) to justify inequality. To Stalin, Marx had said that there would be inequality in socialism, whereby each would be rewarded according to their labor, meaning some would get more than others. This seemed to justify the socialism that Stalin was promoting, whereby inequality was growing. Yet Trotsky pointed out that Marx believed that whatever inequalities existed in socialism would diminish, not grow, as that society transitioned toward socialism. This inequality in the USSR meant that Trotsky believed that it had not reached socialism, but rather was a society in transition.

 

Furthermore, Trotsky believed (again as a classical Marxist) that socialism would entail the withering away of the state. This was because the need for the state had originally come from class conflicts and the need to maintain a particular mode of production and the dominance of a ruling class. With the onset of socialism, class antagonisms and inequality were supposed to disappear (in the USSR inequality remained). Trotsky believed that the state, in the lower stage of socialism, would move progressively to administer things and not people. What Trotsky advocated was a state in the process of withering away in the manner of the Paris Commune (also touched on by Lenin in the State and the Revolution), which would be democratic and non-coercive in regards to the people.

 

In the USSR, the state was clearly an instrument of coercion and its role in society was growing. Trotsky believed that the dangers of capitalist encirclement were not wholly to blame for the need of a powerful state (although they were certainly real). Trotsky argued that the state in the USSR was needed to protect the privileges of the ruling elite from the workers and peasants.

 

Trotsky’s position on the state in Soviet society leads naturally to his theory of the bureaucracy. Trotsky believed that the Soviet system could be defined as the defense of privileges. The rulers protect their interests against workers and other sources of discontent. The rulers don’t want revolutionary adventurers abroad because that could also threaten to bring the whole structure down upon them. The USSR abroad thus relied on traditional diplomacy and was interested in great power politics to solidify itself than revolutionary advances (ex. Soviet policy in China and France).

 

Who made up this elite? Trotsky says that the rulers (or the bureaucracy) were composed of administrators, high ranking party officials, the general staff of the Red Army and civil servants. This stratum of Soviet society made up 10-15% of the population.

 

Was the bureaucracy inevitable under socialism? Trotsky says no (as opposed to Rakvosky) but looks at the unique characteristics in Soviet history that made it possible. The bureaucracy in the USSR grew due to the want and poverty that was found in the country. Trotsky says that no revolution can abolish inequalities immediately upon taking power, differentials would remain (even in an advanced capitalist nation). The revolutionary state (in this case the USSR) would have to provide for skilled workers and technicians, and administrators to help develop the economy, while at the same time attempting to abolish privileges. The development of the economy was necessary in order to increase the social wealth and education of society. This would help reduce the gap between mental and manual labor (which was endemic to capitalism).

 

However, the USSR was a contradiction. On the one hand, it had to develop and defend social property but also bourgeois wage differentials. Trotsky argued that due to this contradiction, the socialist elements in Soviet society had declined and bourgeois elements were gaining the upper hand especially in the bureaucracy. The bourgeois elements could be seen in the policemen keeping order amidst a shortage of goods. Although the bureaucracy was ruling and developing the USSR, in Trotsky’s view it was not a new class (a controversial statement amongst his followers ever since).[151]

 

For Trotsky, the bureaucracy possesses managerial functions. It acts like owns the state and society, but it doesn’t legally own it. Unlike capitalists in the west (or other ruling classes), the bureaucracy can’t appropriate the means of production and pass it on to their children. The ownership of the bureaucracy was bound up to state ownership of the means of production. In order to continue reaping the benefits of state property, the bureaucracy has to defend it. In Trotsky’s view, the bureaucracy’s defense of that ownership was progressive (in his view the USSR remained a degenerated workers’ state).

 

Yet the bureaucracy’s defense of state property and its rule was unstable in Trotsky’s view. It could not last forever. To him, either capitalism or socialism would ultimately prevail. Trotsky posed the outcomes before the Soviet society as follows: the bureaucracy could form a new class which would expropriate state property. This would lead the USSR back to capitalism. Or the workers would overthrow the bureaucracy and build socialism (more below). Trotsky believed that Stalin’s rule was leading to the first outcome.

 

Stalin was encouraging bureaucracy in their acquisition of wealth and power, which would ultimately threaten the achievements of the revolution. Yet Stalin’s position was also contradictory. He was constantly purging the bureaucracy, keeping it in a state of flux and preventing it from forming a new stable class. It was hard for the bureaucrats to become a full-fledged capitalist class when they could be sent to prison at a moment’s notice. This state of flux (absolutist or totalitarian during Stalin’s tenure) seemed to grow stable under Khrushchev and Brezhnev. Ultimately there was a full-fledged capitalist restoration under Gorbachev. So in a sense, Trotsky was right that the Soviet rulers would seek to become a new ruling class in the manner of the capitalist west, although his timing was far off.

 

What about the second option? To Trotsky, Soviet workers recognized that the bureaucracy defended state property. Yet he believed that the proletariat would drive them out if they had the chance. He thought that would happen when the Soviet workers rose up and in a violent political revolution, not through peaceful reform. This political revolution would seek to defend state property, but would not be a social revolution in changing the mode of production (ex. moving from capitalism to socialism). The new workers’ state would be democratic and bring about greater equality. Even though this was to be a political revolution, it would have great social consequences (i.e. French Revolution in 1848 moved from a monarchy to republic, but remained capitalist).

 

Trotsky also laid out his own program for the Bolshevik-Leninists, whom he hoped were going to lead the political revolution to overthrow Stalin and the bureaucracy. As he put it: the Bolshevik-Leninists “ would introduce profound changes in the distribution of the national income in correspondence with the interests and will of the worker and peasant masses. But so far as concerns property relations, the new power would not have to resort to revolutionary measures. It would retain and further develop the experiment of planned economy. After the political revolution-that is, the deposing of the bureaucracy-the proletariat would have to introduce in the economy a series of very important reforms, but not another social revolution.”[152] In other words, the political revolution would “have deep social consequences, but in itself it will be confined within the limits of political revolution.”[153]

 

How did Trotsky sum up the USSR? To him, Stalin’s regime was one of a Bonapartist character, which meant it was unstable. Stalin’s system was defending state property, which meant he periodically purged the bureaucrats to prevent the crystallization of a new class. On the other hand, Stalin also encouraged bureaucratic privileges while curtailing Soviet democracy, all of which could lead to a capitalist restoration if not halted by the workers. This was an unstable system that Trotsky didn’t believe would outlast another world war (which he clearly foresaw). Trotsky could see that if the workers of Europe didn’t rise up, then imperialism would defeat the USSR and restore capitalism.

 

So what was the proposed program of Trotsky's political revolution? Trotsky laid them out as follows:

 

The fundamental elements of the program are already clear, and have been given throughout the course of this book as an objective inference from an analysis of the contradictions of the Soviet regime. It is not a question of substituting one ruling clique for another, but of changing the very methods of administering the economy and guiding the culture of the country. Bureaucratic auto('lacy must give place to Soviet democracy. A restoration of the right of criticism, and a genuine freedom of elections, are necessary conditions for the further development of the country. This assumes a revival of freedom of Soviet parties, beginning with the party of Bolsheviks, and a resurrection of the trade unions. The bringing of democracy into industry means a radical revision of plans in the interests of the toilers. Free discussion of economic problems will decrease the overhead expense of bureaucratic mistakes and zigzags. Expensive playthings-palaces of the Soviets, new theaters, show-off subways-will be crowded out in favor of workers' dwellings. "Bourgeois norms of distribution" will be confined within the limits of strict necessity, and, in step with the growth of social wealth, will give way to socialist equality. Ranks will be immediately abolished. The tinsel of decorations will g o into the melting pot. The youth will receive the opportunity to breathe freely, criticize, make mistakes, and grow up. Science and art will be freed of their chains. And, finally, foreign policy will return to the traditions of revolutionary internationalism.[154]

 

Here was Trotsky's final assessment of the post-revolutionary regime which had emerged in the USSR after years of struggle and deep thinking. Despite its flaws and contradictions, The Revolution Betrayed was to prove to be an essential text for all subsequent critiques of the USSR. Yet the political revolution which Trotsky had hoped for would never come to pass. As this work was published, the last remnants of the Opposition within the USSR were about to be wiped out.

 

V. Purges

 

a. The Great Terror[155]

 

In late January and early February 1934, the Soviet Communist Party held its Seventeenth Congress, called “The Congress of Victors.” The Congress celebrated the triumph of the First Five Year Plan of industrialization and the transformation of the USSR. The country had weathered the storms of 1932 and 1933, that had threatened its survival, but now they were securely on the march to socialism. Amidst the public acclamations for Stalin by the Party (including former Oppositionists), there was discontent underneath and a failed effort to replace him with the Leningrad Party leader Sergei Kirov.

 

Despite the failed party shake-up, there was a feeling of normalcy returning to the USSR with rationing was lifted in 1935 and the media celebrated the achievements of socialist construction. That same year, the USSR and the Comintern dropped talk of revolutionary offensives in favor of popular fronts and collective security with the bourgeois democracies to meet the growing fascist threat. This new liberal mood was crowned with the introduction of a new Constitution in 1936. Another wind was blowing though, one that promised a storm. On December 1, 1934, a lone man named Leonid Nikolayev (whose precise motivations remain unclear) assassinated Kirov in his Leningrad office. Mass arrests followed in Leningrad. Yet this was just a drop in the bucket to what was coming.

 

Concurrently, from 1933-6, the CPSU was undertaking a routine purge to update their records and “uncover local corruption, bureaucratism, and malfeasance, they encouraged lower-level mass input as a check against entrenched local party machines.”[156] However, this encouraged decentralization by the local and regional party leaders, who used the purges to develop their own networks and loosen their dependence upon Moscow. As Getty notes, “The party in the thirties was neither monolithic nor disciplined, its upper ranks were divided, and its lower organizations were disorganized, chaotic, and undisciplined. Moscow leaders were divided on policy issues, and central leaders were at odds with territorial secretaries whose organizations suffered from internal disorder and conflict.”[157] To Stalin and the leadership in Moscow, this was hardly satisfactory and they wanted to rectify it. Soon, the need to centralize control would overlap with the hunt for enemies, spies and traitors, assuming monstrous proportions.

 

On 29 July 1936, the Central Committee sent a secret letter to all local party organizations “Concerning the terroristic activity of the Trotskyist-Zinovievist counterrevolutionary bloc”[158] stating that the former Oppositionists were behind the Kirov assassination and actively plotting against Soviet power. Shortly thereafter, the first Show Trial of Zinoviev and Kamenev was conducted in Moscow, where the two old Bolsheviks were convicted of Kirov's murder and quickly executed. This was followed by two more major show trials in 1937 and 1938, that also contained other major party leaders and former Oppositionists such as Pyatakov, Rykov, Rakovsky, and (most famously) Bukharin. The charges at the trials ranged from wrecking, terrorism and sabotage to collusion disloyal elements in the Red Army and foreign powers to overthrow the Soviet leadership and restore capitalism. All the defendants were convicted and most were summarily shot. At the center of this vast conspiracy was Trotsky, who was supposedly an agent of Britain and Nazi Germany and directing conspiratorial operations from abroad. No corroborating evidence existed to prove the charges, only the coerced confessions of the defendants.[159]

 

Although there had been other instances of terror in the Soviet Union, before most of them had been directed against class enemies and had occurred during wartime. The Great Purge, reaching its high point in 1937 was directed at Communists, elites, intellectuals, and people in all walks of society. According to Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech of 1956, “Of 1,966 delegates [to the Congress of Victors] with either voting or advisory rights, 1,108 persons were arrested on charges of anti-revolutionary crimes.”[160] The Purges decimated the Old Bolsheviks of Lenin's generation, the civil war, and collectivization. The continuity of leadership was practically broken and by the end of the decade, according to Sheila Fitzpatrick, “only twenty-four members of the Central Committee elected at the Eighteenth Party Congress in 1939 had been members of the previous Central Committee, elected five years earlier.”[161] The army, leaders of industry, intelligence services and the intelligentsia (even members of foreign communist parties) were also ravaged by purges with lasting damage to the USSR. New and inexperienced people were promoted to jobs for which they had little training. For example, the military genius Marshal Marshal Tukhachevsky was executed on the frame-up of being in league with German intelligence. As Moshe Lewin points out, the purge of the Red Army left the country severely under-prepared for war with Germany: “In the summer of 1941, 75 per cent of field officers and 70 per cent of political commissars had been in post for less than a year, so that the core of the army lacked the requisite experience in commanding larger units.”[162]

 

Some brief figures will show the scale of the purges. The latest records show that at the height of the Terror, according to Getty, “681,692 people were shot in 1937-38.”[163] Furthermore, “the population of all labor camps, labor colonies, and prisons on 1 January 1939, near the end of the Great Purges, was 2,022,976.”[164] Finally, the total number of “excess deaths” due to the repression of the 1930s was in the range of 2 million.[165] Although this far below the 20 million number given by anti-communists such as Robert Conquest, it is still horrendous.

 

There was also a “popular element” to the purges. Ordinary people complained about the abuses of power by local officials and party leaders by denouncing them. And certainly real grievances were involved, but in an atmosphere of rampant paranoia, many of these denunciations had little to do with justice, and more to do with revenge and self-interest. This mania to undercover spies and wreckers caught hold amongst the population, propelling the terror forward. As Fitzpatrick observes “the Great Purges could not have snowballed as they did without popular participation.”[166] Yet the terror of 1937 was primarily state terror, where the most prominent victims were not the bourgeoisie, but members of the Communist Party.

 

There was no grand master plan by Stalin to launch the terror, as evidenced by various changes in policy, twists and turn by party leaders. Yet Getty concludes, the terror was “a joint project of a power-hungry Stalin and an insecure elite to centralize power, protect the regime, and clean up the party. Stalin certainly had a drive constantly to prepare his positions and to increase his personal power and authority.”[167] And while Stalin was a skilled operator, the momentum for the terror came from other sources as well – the secret police, local party leaders, ordinary citizens - and threatened to escape his control, so it ultimately had to be reined in after 1938. Yet in the end, the power of the party was crushed, the atmosphere within the USSR was chilled, and Stalin emerged as an unchallenged autocrat.

 

b. Rivers of Blood

 

Shortly after Victor Serge was exiled to Belgium in1936, he established contact with Trotsky. The two men corresponded throughout the summer of 1936 in lively exchange. Not only had both escaped from the terror in the USSR, but the international situation was heating up – France had seen massive strikes and the election of the Popular Front, Spain was drifting towards war and revolution, and the first Show Trials were due to begin in Moscow. Both Serge and Trotsky would also find themselves having to refute the mountain of slanders being heaped on the Old Bolsheviks (and Trotsky) as traitors to the revolution.

 

Serge's letters to Trotsky give some detail of the state of the Opposition. In a letter dated May 27, 1936, Serge states that there were approximately 500 Trotskyists in the USSR. Despite their small numbers, Serge praised these comrades, since they “will not give way, they are tempered characters who have learnt to think and feel for themselves and who accept calmly the prospect of a persecution without end.”[168] Serge also mentioned that the Trotskyists had “no great unity of viewpoints.”[169] There were divisions among them on questions ranging from the dictatorship of the proletariat, Soviet democracy, and the nature of the USSR (some isolators believed it was state capitalist). The Soviet Trotskyists, according to Serge, took a great interest in the tactics of the International Left Opposition (there was debate as to whether founding a Fourth International was more useful as agitation as opposed to a real possibility). Due to the capitulations of Opposition leaders such as Rakovsky, this left Trotsky as the acknowledged leader: “In Russia you have an incomparable moral standing and an absolute devotion.”[170] Serge also says that the mass arrests of “Trotskyists” following Kirov assassination was done indiscriminately and of the arrested, the “mass majority...are absolutely worthless: informers, alcoholics, part-philistine.”[171] Serge ends his letter optimistically, declaring: “We certainly have genuine reserves as big or even bigger elsewhere in the party and even outside the party.”[172]

 

Trotsky was optimistic about the Soviet section of the Fourth International, believing that the repression it endured was only effective against a class disappearing from the scene not the proletariat. He argued that the bureaucracy's violence against the Fourth International could not save “a caste which, if the Soviet Union is destined in general to further development, has outlived itself.”[173] However, even Trotsky was forced to admit that the conditions that his followers endured were undeniably harsh: “Today it is still weak and driven underground. But the illegal existence of a party is not nonexistence. It is only a difficult form of existence.”[174] Trotsky held out hope to the very end that the Opposition within the USSR would lead the forthcoming political revolution against the bureaucracy.

 

However, it was a forlorn hope. By 1934, the unrepentant Trotskyists were not only few in number, as Trotsky and Serge recognized, but scattered in prisons across the USSR where they endured persecution and suffering. They were totally isolated from society. Yet the mania of the purges made it seem as if Trotskyists were everywhere within the USSR, wrecking the economy and actively plotting to overthrow Stalin in collusion with capitalist powers. Soon hundreds of thousands of suspected Trotskyists were thrown into prison, swelling the ranks of those already there.

 

The regime in the camps was harsh, as Deutscher recounts, with long hours and little food, but the Trotskyists led resistance by the prisoners:

 

Yet the camps were once again becoming schools and training grounds of the opposition, with the Trotskyists as the unrivaled tutors. It was they who were at the head of the deportees in nearly all the strikes and hunger strikes, who confronted the administration with demands for improvements in camp conditions, and who by their defiant, often heroic behavior, inspired others to hold out. Tightly organized, self-disciplined, and politically well informed, they were the real elite of that huge segment of the nation that had been cast behind the barbed wire.[175]

 

The last stand of the Trotskyists occurred in the prisons of Vorkuta and Ukhta-Pechora and was recounted in a remarkable document with the author identified only as “M.B.” that was published by the Socialist Messenger in 1961.[176] The Trotskyists numbered approximately 500 at Vortuka, 1,000 at the camp of Ukhta-Pechora, and several thousand in the whole district. The Trotskyists were brought to work at the Vortuka mines in 1936. The whole camp numbered around 100,000 prisoners, but many of these prisoners were other capitulators who had recanted or had belonged to other Oppositional groupings. And there were many who had never been Trotskyists or belonged to any Oppositional groups, but willingly tied their fate to the Trotskyists.

 

Within the ranks of the Trotskyists there were several different groupings: partisans of Bukharin, Trotsky, the Workers' Opposition (from the early 1920s), the “Democratic Centralists” who believed that the USSR had already undergone bourgeois degeneration in the 1920s. Yet as M.B. states, “In spite of their differences, all of these groups at the mine lived in a friendly enough fashion under one common denominator, “the Trotskyists.” Their leaders were Socrates Gevorkian, Vladimir Ivanov, Melnais, VV Kossior and Trotsky’s ex-secretary, Poznansky.”[177] Some of these men had long records of distinguished party activity and more than ten years in prison behind them.

 

The Trotskyists lived in two barracks where they refused to work underground and demanded an 8 hour day as opposed to the 10-12 hour day then practiced in the camps. Despite the risk, the Trotskyist prisoners disobeyed the camp regulations. Within time, their disorganized resistance became more organized.

 

Following the executions of Zinoviev and Kamenev in 1936, the orthodox Trotskyists held a meeting to honor them as martyrs. The meeting was quite short, but the prisoners declared their clear opposition to Stalin and the threat he posed to the gains of the revolution:

 

It is now evident that the group of Stalinist adventurers have completed their counter-revolutionary coup d'etat in our country. All the progressive conquests of our revolution are in mortal danger. Not twilight shadows, but those of deep black night envelop our country. No Cavaignac spilled as much working class blood as has Stalin. Physically annihilating all the opposition groups within the party, he aims at total personal dictatorship. The party and the whole people are subjected to surveillance and to summary justice by the police apparatus. The predictions and the direst fears of our Opposition are fully confirmed. The nation slides irresistibly into the Thermidorian swamp. This is the triumph of the centrist petty-bourgeois forces, of which Stalin is the interpreter, the spokesman, and the apostle. No compromise is possible with the Stalinist traitors and hangmen of the revolution. Remaining proletarian revolutionaries to the very end, we should not entertain any illusion about the fate waiting us. But before destroying us, Stalin will try to humiliate us much as he can. By throwing political prisoners in with common criminals, he strives to scatter us among the criminals and to incite them against us. We are left with only one means of struggle in this unequal battle: the hunger strike. With a group of comrades, we have already drawn up a list of our demands of which many of you are already informed. Therefore, I now propose to you that we discuss them together and make a decision.[178]

 

On October 27, they began a hunger strike (in which Trotsky's younger son Sergei took part in) to protest their conditions and make the following concrete demands (which were adopted unanimously):

 

1.Abrogation of the illegal decision of the NKVD, concerning the transfer of all Trotskyists from administrative camps to concentration camps. Affairs relating to political opposition to the regime must not be judged by special NKVD tribunals, but in public judicial assemblies.

 

2.The workday in the camp must not exceed eight hours.

 

3.The food quota of the prisoners should not depend on their norm of output. A cash bonus, not the food ration, should be used as a production incentive.

 

4.Separation, at work as well as in the barracks, of political prisoners and common criminals.

 

5.The old, the ill, and women prisoners should be moved from the polar camps to camps where the climatic conditions were more favorable.[179]

 

The strike, which had 1,000 members at its height, spread to every barracks, with all the Trotskyists participating and many non-Trotskyists following the call as well. The prison administration feared that the strike would spread, transferred some of the Trotskyists to away from the camp and in March 1937, and they accepted all the demands. In the end, the strike lasted 132 days with minimal deaths and only two inmates breaking (neither were Trotskyists). The Trotskyists had seemingly won a great victory and their spirits were elated. Yet the terror was reaching its height in 1937. Food rations were cut and prisoners were summarily shot. Criminal gangs were set upon the Oppositionists like rabid dogs. Political prisoners were isolated and guarded by the soldiers, who relentlessly tormented them.

 

Then in March 1938, the final Cavalry began. A list of twenty-five prisoners was announced and they were told to prepare themselves for transfer. Within fifteen minutes of leaving, they were executed. Two days later, there was another call up of forty names. They too were shot. The executions continued through May with a few called in intervals of a day or two. The Trotskyists went to their end with dignity and bravery, defiant to the end, which is recounted in one moving episode: “One time, a group of nearly a hundred, composed mainly of Trotskyists, was led away to be shot. As they marched away, the condemned sang the “Internationale,” joined by the voices of hundreds of prisoners remaining in camp.”[180] By the end of May, fewer than a hundred remained. Few actual Trotskyists remained among the living in the USSR. It would be years before the truth would be leaked out.

 

As Deutscher concluded:

 

During the remaining fifteen years of Stalin's rule no group was left in Soviet society, not even in the prisons and camps, capable of challenging him. No centre of independent political thinking had been allowed to survive. A tremendous gap had been torn in the nation's consciousness; its collective memory was shattered; the continuity of its revolutionary traditions was broken; and its capacity to form and crystallize any non-conformist notions was destroyed. The Soviet Union was finally left, not merely in its practical politics, but even in its hidden mental processes, without any alternative to Stalinism.[181]

 

None of those in the great show trials were unrepentant Trotskyists, since their cooperation with the confessional script could not be guaranteed. Rather, only former Trotskyists were placed in the dock. The bravery of those who refused to confess at the height of the Terror was recognized by those beyond their ranks such as Leopold Trepper, the legendary anti-fascist intelligence agent:

 

But who then, at that time, protested? Who stood up to shout his disgust?

 

The Trotskyites can lay claim to this honor. Following the example of their leader, who was rewarded for his obstinacy with the end of an ice-axe, they fought Stalinism to the death, and they were the only ones who did....

 

Today, the Trotskyites have a right to accuse those who once howled along with the wolves. Let them not forget, however, that they had the enormous advantage over us of having a coherent political system capable of replacing Stalinism. They had something to cling to in the midst of their profound distress at seeing the revolution betrayed. They did not ‘confess,’ for they knew that their confession would serve neither the party nor socialism.[182]

 

However, the hunting of Trotskyists was not limited to just the USSR. In Spain, then in the middle of Civil War, Soviet aid was not just used to arm the Republican army against Franco, but to wipe out “Trotskyist-fascists” such as the POUM (including killing their leader Andres Nin).[183]

 

In the atmosphere of the purges, no one was safe, not even members of the secret police. Foreign gents abroad were often imprisoned upon their return. Ignace Reiss, chief of a network of Soviet intelligence in Europe, resigned from his post in protest against the purges in July 1937. In Reiss' final letter of resignation to the Central Committee of the CPSU, he returned his Order of the Red Banner refusing to wear the medal "simultaneously with the hangmen of the best representatives of the Russian worker." Reiss declared: “the day is not far when international socialism will sit in judgment over all the crimes committed in the last ten years. Nothing will be forgotten, nothing forgiven. History is harsh....For the Fourth International!”[184] Six weeks later, Reiss was dead in Switzerland, killed by GPU assassins.[185] Trotsky penned an obituary that declared that “by breaking with the Comintern and the G.P.U. Reiss gave proof of his courage as a revolutionist. He knew better than anybody else the danger that threatened his transfer of allegiance from the camp of the Thermidorian hellhounds to the camp of revolution.”[186]

 

The GPU had also infiltrated the ranks of the Left Opposition in France, in the person of Mark Zborowski, who ensured that he died during a routine medical operation in February 1938.[187] Trotsky himself was not safe from assassins, ultimately being struck by an ice axe in his Mexican exile on August 20, 1940. He died the next day.

 

It was not without exaggeration that Trotsky viewed what the purges as showing a break between Bolshevism and Stalinism, viewing the latter as counter-revolutionary and covered in blood: “The present purge draws between Bolshevism and Stalinism not simply a bloody line but a whole river of blood. The annihilation of all the older generation of Bolsheviks, an important part of the middle generation which participated in the civil war, and that part of the youth that took up most seriously the Bolshevik traditions, shows not only a political but a thoroughly physical incompatibility between Bolshevism and Stalinism.”[188]

 

VI. Conclusion

 

In September 1938, thirty delegates from Europe and the United States attended the founding conference for the Fourth International in Paris. The Fourth International was founded as an alternative to the Second and Third Internationals, both of which were seen as incapable of leading the proletariat to socialism. The Fourth International declared that “the world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat”[189] which they naturally planned to fill.

 

In regards to the USSR, the Fourth International reiterated Trotsky's call for a political revolution against Stalin and the bureaucracy: “Only the victorious revolutionary uprising of the oppressed masses can revive the Soviet regime and guarantee its further development toward socialism. There is but one party capable of leading the Soviet masses to insurrection – the party of the Fourth International!” Yet the International's boast that “It is the banner of ...approaching victory” turned out to be ill-founded and premature.

 

Yet within the USSR, the last remnants of the Left Opposition were dead or numb. Throughout Europe, fascist and right-wing authoritarian regimes held sway with the labor movement crushed. In Spain, the Republic was losing the war. Darkness had cast a long shadow. Soon the Second World War would begin, raising the working class from apathy and defeat. Yet they would turn to the Communist Parties allied to Moscow as their instruments, not the Fourth International. No echoes of Fourth International would be felt in the USSR. It had come too late. Yet the militants who founded the Fourth International followed the path begun by their brave comrades who had stayed true to the revolutionary banner when the chimes struck midnight in the Soviet Union.

 

Notes

 

[1] Victor Serge, Midnight in the Century (London: Writers and Readers, 1982), 118.

 

[2] The generic terms of Oppositionist and Trotskyist will be used throughout this essay, but the Opposition also went by several names during the different phases of its existence: Left Opposition (1923-1925), United (or Joint) Opposition (1926-1927), and Bolshevik-Leninist (mainly used by Trotsky in exile).

 

[3] Quoted in Tony Cliff, Trotsky 1923-1927: Fighting the Rising Stalinist Bureaucracy (London: Bookmarks, 1991), 131.

 

[4] Cliff 1991, 147-8.

 

[5] See Moshe Lewin, Russian Peasants and Soviet Power: A Study of Collectivization (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1968), 143-4; Leon Trotsky, The Platform of the Opposition: The Party Crisis and How to Overcome It, in The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1926-27) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1980), 301-394.

 

[6] Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970), 270.

 

[7] Richard B. Day, “Leon Trotsky on the problems of the smychka and forced collectivization,” Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory 13:1 (1982): 59-60. Earlier, in his 1925 essay, Towards Capitalism or Socialism, Trotsky had described the links between the USSR and the world economy as follows (translation is modified): “Our economy has now entered the world system. This has resulted in the forging of a new link in the union of town and country. Peasant grain is now being exchanged for foreign gold. Gold is exchanged for machines, implements and the various other articles required by town and village. Textile machinery obtained in exchange for the gold received from the export of grain re-equips the textile industry, and thereby reduces the price of cloth sent into the villages. The general process of circulation has become much more complex, but the basis of it remains as before the definite economic relation between town and village.” See Leon Trotsky, Towards Capitalism or Socialism, in The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1923-25) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1975), 381-2. This is also quoted in Day 1982, 60 and is discussed in relation to Trotsky's developmental strategy by Richard B. Day in Leon Trotsky and the Politics of Economic Isolation (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1973), 138-42. It is also worth comparing Trotsky's 1925 remarks with what he said following expulsion from the party in 1928: “Like the wise owl which comes flying only in the dusk, the theory of socialism in one country pops up at the moment when our industry, which exhausts ever greater proportions of the old fixed capital, in two-thirds of which there is crystallized the dependence of our industry on world industry, has given indication of its urgent need to renew and extend its ties with the world market, and at a moment when the problems of foreign trade have arisen in their full scope before our economic directors.” See Trotsky 1970, 46.

 

[8] Trotsky 1980, 326.

 

[9] Ibid. 329. The Left Opposition economist, Evgeny Preobrazhensky was often accused of wanting to apply the methods of primitive capitalist accumulation in the development of socialism. Yet he explicitly ruled them out in his major theoretical work, The New Economics: "Let us now dwell upon the methods of primitive accumulation which we have enumerated, based mainly on plundering of small-scale production and non-economic pressure upon it, and let us see how matters stand in this connection in the period of primitive socialist accumulation. As regard colonial plundering, a socialist state, carrying out a policy of equality between nationalities and voluntary entry by them into one kind or another of union of nations, repudiates on principle all the forcible methods of capital in this sphere. This source of primitive accumulation is closed to it from the very start and forever." See Evgeny Preobrazhensky, The New Economics (London, Oxford University Press, 1965), 88.

 

[10] Trotsky 1980, 311.

 

[11] Ibid. 344. Trotsky's views on bureaucracy in the CPSU and his proposals on restoring inner-party democracy during this period are covered well by Paul Le Blanc, Leon Trotsky and the Organizational Principles of the Revolutionary Party, (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014), 26-40.

 

[12] Trotsky 1980, 354.

 

[13] Ibid. 394.

 

[14] Trotsky 1970,128.

 

[15] Day 1982, 65.

 

[16] Ibid. 65-6.

 

[17] John Eric Marot, The October Revolution in Prospect and Retrospect (Boston: Brill, 2012), 24.

 

[18] See my take on Bukharin, see “Bukharin: Favorite of the Whole Party,” LINKS International Journal of Socialist Renewal. http://links.org.au/node/4291

 

[19] Marot 2012, 13. This argument is developed throughout the first chapter.

 

[20] Day 1982, 57.

 

[21] Alexander Erlich, The Soviet Industrialization Debate, 1924-8 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 83-9 and 146-64.

 

[22] Quoted in Day 1973, 182.

 

[23] Leon Trotsky, “The Soviet Economy in Danger,” Marxists Internet Archive. http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1932/10/sovecon.htm

 

[24] Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Unarmed, Trotsky 1921-1929 (New York: Verso Books, 2003a), 265. For more on Trotsky and Opposition on China see Leon Trotsky, Problems of the Chinese Revolution (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967); “The Class Struggle in the Chinese Revolution” in Victor Serge: The Century of the Unexpected, Essays on Revolution and Counterrevolution. Edited by Al Richardson. (London: Socialist Platform, 1994), 54-141. The Opposition also criticized Comintern policy in Britain, see Leon Trotsky, “Where is Britain Going?” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/britain/wibg/ and Deutscher 2003a, 182-88, 224-5, 279.

 

[25] Leon Trotsky, Declaration of the Eighty-four, in The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1926-27) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1980), 224-239.

 

[26] Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary (New York: New York Review of Books, 2012), 259.

 

[27] Ibid. 252.

 

[28] Deutscher 2003a, 217.

 

[29] Pierre Broué, “The History of the Bolshevik Party (CP) of the USSR: Chapter X. The Struggle of the Unified Opposition,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/Broué/1971/ussr/ch10.htm

 

[30] Leon Trotsky, My Life (New York: Pathfinder Press, 2001), 608-9.

 

[31] Serge 2012, 256.

 

[32] Ibid. 255.

 

[33] Trotsky 2001, 610.

 

[34] Deutscher 2003a, 313.

 

[35] Trotsky 2001, 611.

 

[36] Deutscher 2003a, 315.

 

[37] Ibid. 316

 

[38] Quoted in Trotsky 2001, 614-5.

 

[39] Deutscher 2003a, 321-2. The last public demonstration of the Opposition was in January 1928, where thousands came to see Trotsky before his exile to Alm-Ata. Ibid. 329-331.

 

[40] Quoted in “The History of the Bolshevik Party (CP) of the USSR: Chapter X. The Struggle of the Unified Opposition,” (note 29).

 

[41] Cliff 1991, 269.

 

[42] The Declaration of the 121, in The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1926-27) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1980), 481-3.

 

[43] Serge 2012, 271.

 

[44] Cliff 1991, 273-4.

 

[45] Ibid. 267-8. Robert C. Tucker gives different figures on the strength of the Opposition. According to him, 4,000 Party members out of 854,000 voted for the Trotskyists in 1927. He also says that at most, the Trotskyists had 12,000 sympathizers within the Party, many of whom later left. See Stalin in Power: Revolution from Above, 1928-1941 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990), 431.

 

[46] Serge 2012, 408.

 

[47] Leon Trotsky, Speech to the Thirteenth Congress in Trotsky 1975, 178-9.

 

[48] Robert C. Tucker, Stalin as a Revolutionary 1879-1929 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1973), 377-90.

 

[49] Quoted in Mike Haynes and Jim Wolfreys, ed., History and Revolution: Refuting Revisionism (New York: Verso Books, 2007), 118.

 

[50] For background on the Russian Civil War see: W. Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory: A History Of The Russian Civil War, 1918-1921 (New York: Da Capo Press, 1989); Victor Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972); Alexander Rabinowitch, Bolsheviks in Power: The First Year of Soviet Rule in Petrograd (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2007): Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1994), 68-92; Arno J. Mayer, The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

 

[51] Deutscher 2003a, 9.

 

[52] Pierre Broué, “The History of the Bolshevik Party (CP) of the USSR: Chapter VII. The Crisis of 1921: The Beginnings of the N.E.P. and the Rise of the Apparatus,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/Broué/1971/ussr/ch07.htm

 

[53] Alec Nove, An Economic History of the USSR (New York: Penguin Books, 1982), 63-82.

 

[54] See “Bukharin: Favorite of the Whole Party,” (note 18).

 

[55] Deutscher 2003a, 5.

 

[56] For background on Lenin's last struggles within the USSR in regards to the growing bureaucracy see Moshe Lewin, Lenin's Last Struggle (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005); Moshe Lewin, The Soviet Century (New York: Verso, 2005), 32-43.

 

[57] “The History of the Bolshevik Party (CP) of the USSR: Chapter VII. The Crisis of 1921: The Beginnings of the N.E.P. and the Rise of the Apparatus,” (note 52).

 

[58] Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 8-11.

 

[59] Deutscher 2003a, 241.

 

[60] J. V. Stalin, “The Possibility of Building Socialism in our Country,” Marx2Mao.com. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1926/02/10.htm

 

[61] Isaac Deutscher, Russia After Stalin (London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1953), 31.

 

[62] Deutscher 2003a, 332-38.

 

[63] This section draws heavily upon Pierre Broué, “Bolshevik-Leninist Faction,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/Broué/1988/xx/blf.html

 

[64] Ibid.

 

[65] Ibid.

 

[66] Deutscher 2003a, 338.

 

[67] For more background on Christian Rakovsky see Gus Fagan, “Biographical Introduction to Christian Rakovsky,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/rakovsky/biog/index.htm

 

[68] Deutscher 2003a, 366.

 

[69] Christian Rakovsky, “The “Professional Dangers” of Power,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/rakovsky/1928/08/prodanger.htm

 

[70] Ibid.

 

[71] Deutscher 2003a, 368.

 

[72] Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What is the Soviet Union and Where Is It Going? (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972a), 88, 100, 101-102, 141, 271 .

 

[73] Leon Trotsky, The Danger of Thermidor, in Writings of Leon Trotsky (1932-33) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972b), 76.

 

[74] Leon Trotsky, Crisis in the Right-Center Bloc, in The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1928-29) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1981), 321

 

[75] Ibid.

 

[76] Nikolai Bukharin, Notes of an Economist in Selected Writings on the State and the Transition to Socialism (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1972), 301-330.

 

[77] Deutscher 2003a, 264 and 370-9. See also, Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution. A Political Biography 1888–1938 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973, and London: Wildwood House, 1974), 290-1.

 

[78] Deutscher 2003a, 264.

 

[79] “Bolshevik-Leninist Faction,” (note 63)

 

[80] “Bolshevik-Leninist Faction,” (note 63)

 

[81] Ibid. and Deutscher 2003a, 37-8.

 

[82] Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Outcast, Trotsky 1929-1940 (New York: Verso, 2003b), 50.

 

[83] Ibid. 50-1.

 

[84] Ibid. 51-2.

 

[85] As we mentioned, Preobrazhensky had never considered forced collectivization in his New Economics, rather he admitted that Stalin had, which he admitted at the 17th Party Congress in 1934: “Collectivization, that is the essential point. Did I foresee collectivization? I did not...What was needed was Stalin's remarkable far-sightedness, his great courage in facing the problems, the greatest hardness in applying policies.” Quoted in Preobrazhensky 1965, xv. According to Richard Day, Preobrazhensky's theory of primitive socialist accumulation actually dovetailed with socialism in one country, since he “interpreted the problem of the peasant, of the relation between industry and agriculture, almost exclusively with reference to Russia's internal economy. Trotsky viewed the same question in a larger international context, relating it to the danger of contraband and to forces operating on Russia from beyond her own frontiers....Preobrazhensky's narrow attachment to industry and his virtually total commitment to internal accumulation made Trotsky's behavior seem increasingly inscrutable, if not perverse. When Stalin finally recognized that high industrial prices should be viewed as a major instrument of socialist accumulation, Preobrazhensky deserted the opposition.” Day 1973, 148. For more on Preobrazhensky's theories within the debates of the 1920s, see Maurice Dobb, “The Discussions of the Twenties on Planning and Economic Growth,” Soviet Studies 17:1 (October 1965): 198-208.

 

[86] Deutscher 2003b, 58-9.

 

[87] “Biographical Introduction to Christian Rakovsky,” (note 67) See also Christian Rakovsky, “The Russian Opposition Replies to the Capitulators,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/rakovsky/1929/xx/capitulators.htm

 

[88] Leon Trotsky, Open Letter to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union: The State of the Party and the Tasks of the Left Opposition, in Writings of Leon Trotsky (1930) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1975), 146.

 

[89] Ibid. See also Deutscher 2003b, 64.

 

[90] Ibid. 225-6.

 

[91] Ibid. 65.

 

[92] Ibid. 365.

 

[93] Ibid. 365-7.

 

[94] Marot 2012, 104.

 

[95] Ibid. 101.

 

[96] Ibid. 102.

 

[97] Ibid.

 

[98] Tucker 1990, 200.

 

[99] Information on the five year plans was also drawn from Ernest Mandel, Marxist Economic Theory Volume II (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1968), 548-604; Nove 1982, 160-268; Isaac Deutscher, Stalin (New York: Penguin Books, 1977), 296-342; Maurice Dobb, Soviet Economic Development Since 1917 (New York: International Publishers, 1968), 230-290; Moshe Lewin, Political Undercurrents in Soviet Economic Debates, From Bukharin to the Modern Reformers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), 97-124.

 

[100] Fitzpatrick 1994, 139.

 

[101] Nove 1982, 160-88.

 

[102] See Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), 121; Lewin 2005, 53-4; Fitzpatrick 1999, 40-2.

 

[103] Isaac Deutscher, Russia in Transition (New York: Grove Press, 1960), 56.

 

[104] See J. Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 21-37.

 

[105] J Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov, ed., The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the Bolsheviks, 1932-1939 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 589 and Lewin 2005, 113-26.

 

[106] Fitzpatrick 1994, 157.

 

[107] Ibid. 156-63.

 

[108] Tucker 1990, 111.

 

[109] Lewin 2005, 53.

 

[110] See Robert Thurston. Life and Terror in Stalin's Russia, 1934-1941 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996).

 

[111] Michal Reiman, The Birth of Stalinism: The USSR on the Eve of the 'Second Revolution'(Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987), 97.

 

[112] Ibid. 47 and 55.

 

[113] Kevin Murphy, Revolution and Counterrevolution: Class Struggle in a Moscow Metal Factory (Chicago: Haymarket, 2007), 105-7.

 

[114] Ibid. 110-1.

 

[115] Ibid. 209. Sheila Fitzpatrick also notes the presence of Trotskyist and other oppositionist currents in Moscow in 1929, stating: “The 1929 elections were noisy and tumultuous, with many “anti-Soviet” statements and attempts at organized opposition from religious and party Opposition groups. More people were disfranchised in this election than in any previous one, and the onset of collectivization and the drive against religion generated an exceptionally tense atmosphere. In addition, members of the defeated Left Oppositions (Trotskyite and Zinovievite) were still active and made their voices heard during the election campaign. In Slavgorod, for example, Trotskyites put out statements saying “the existing system of party dictatorship suffocates everything vital,” while in Moscow Trotskyite groups in factories tried to nominate their own candidates to run against the official ones.” Fitzpatrick 1999, 181.

 

[116] See Serge 2012 344-75; Richard Greeman, “The Victor Serge Affair and the French Literary Left,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/revhist/backiss/vol5/no3/greeman.html

 

[117] Victor Serge, Russia Twenty Years After (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1996), 103-115.

 

[118] Victor Serge, Midnight in the Century (New York: New York Review of Books, 2015), vii. (Different edition from footnote 1)

 

[119] Serge 1982, 76.

 

[120] Ibid. 121-2.

 

[121] Ibid.

 

[122] Ibid. 168-9.

 

[123] Ibid. 179.

 

[124] Ibid. 139.

 

[125] Ibid. 83-4.

 

[126] Ibid. 79.

 

[127] Ibid. 46.

 

[128] Ibid. 169.

 

[129] Ante Ciliga, “The Russian Enigma,” libcom. https://libcom.org/library/russian-enigma-ante-ciliga (file accessed through site).

 

[130] Ibid.

 

[131] Deutscher 2003b, 67-72.

 

[132] Pierre Broué, “In Germany for the International: Excerpt from Leon Sedov,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/Broué/1993/xx/sedov.html See also Deutscher 2003b, 174.

 

[133] Deutscher 2003b, 67. Serge gives a fictional description of how a Soviet engineer in London finds the Bulletin and how it winds up getting him arrested. See Serge 1982, 93-103.

 

[134] See also Trotsky's diagnosis of the USSR's economy during this period which is quite nuanced and could almost be described as “market socialist” or Bukharinist: “In this connection three systems must be subjected to a brief analysis: (1) special state departments, that is, the hierarchical system of plan commissions, in the centre and locally; (2) trade, as a system of market regulation; (3) Soviet democracy, as a system for the living regulation by the masses of the structure of the economy. If a universal mind existed, of the kind that projected itself into the scientific fancy of Laplace – a mind that could register simultaneously all the processes of nature and society, that could measure the dynamics of their motion, that could forecast the results of their inter-reactions – such a mind, of course, could a priori draw up a faultless and exhaustive economic plan, beginning with the number of acres of wheat down to the last button for a vest. The bureaucracy often imagines that just such a mind is at its disposal; that is why it so easily frees itself from the control of the market and of Soviet democracy. But, in reality, the bureaucracy errs frightfully in its estimate of its spiritual resources. In its projections it is necessarily obliged, in actual performance, to depend upon the proportions (and with equal justice one may say the disproportions) it has inherited from capitalist Russia, upon the data of the economic structure of contemporary capitalist nations, and finally upon the experience of successes and mistakes of the Soviet economy itself. But even the most correct combination of all these elements will allow only a most imperfect framework of a plan, not more.” “The Soviet Economy in Danger,” (note 23).

 

[135] Alec Nove, “A Note on Trotsky and the 'Left Opposition', 1929-31,” Soviet Studies, 29: 4 (Oct., 1977): 576-589.

 

[136] Deutscher 2003b, 100.

 

[137] Sources for this section are following: Getty and Naumov 1999, 52-67; Getty 1985, 119-128; J. Arch Getty, “Trotsky in Exile: The Founding of the Fourth International,” Soviet Studies, 38: 1 (Jan., 1986): 24-35; Pierre Broué, “The “Bloc” of the Oppositions against Stalin in the USSR in 1932,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/Broué/1980/01/bloc.html; Tucker 1990, 209-12.

 

[138] Getty and Naumov 1999, 54.

 

[139] Leon Trotsky, On the State of the Left Opposition, in Writings of Leon Trotsky (1932-1933) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1972b), 34.

 

[140] “The “Bloc” of the Oppositions against Stalin in the USSR in 1932” (note 137).

 

[141] Ibid.

 

[142] Getty 1986121.

 

[143] See my “Communist Resistance in Nazi Germany,” LINKS International Journal of Socialist Renewal. http://links.org.au/node/4122

 

[144] Getty 4th International 30. Thomas Twiss argues contrary to Getty that Trotsky's delay in breaking with the Comintern were not based on opportunistic reasons, but political ones. Firstly, Trotsky wanted to explain to his own supporters the need for a break after Hitler's triumph. Secondly, Trotsky's letter actually contained no major concessions of his program, rather it was a proposal for a preliminary agreement to negotiate. Thirdly, Trotsky's support for the Bloc was not motivated by personal ambition, but in the hopes that the Bloc could become a force for reform within the Party that could have supported the return of all Oppositionists. Lastly, Trotsky hoped that the disaster in Germany would have caused the USSR to change course. By the summer of 1933, even his optimistic hopes were completely dashed. See Thomas Twiss, “Trotsky's Break with the Comintern: A Comment on J. Arch Getty,” Soviet Studies 39: 1 (Jan., 1987): 131-137.

 

[145] Leon Trotsky, “For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm

 

[146] Leon Trotsky, “To Build Communist Parties and an International Anew,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1933/330715.htm

 

[147] Leon Trotsky, “It is Impossible to Remain in the Same International with the Stalins, Manuilskys, Lozovskys & Co.,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1933/330720.htm

 

[148] Leon Trotsky, “The Workers’ State, Thermidor and Bonapartism,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1935/02/ws-therm-bon.htm

 

[149] Ibid.

 

[150] See Trotsky 1972a.

 

[151] For a summary of Trotsky's Revolution Betrayed and objections to it, see Marcel van der Linden, Western Marxism and the Soviet Union: A Survey of Critical Theories and Debates Since 1917 (Boston: Brill, 2007), 63-9.

 

[152] Trotsky 1972a, 252-3.

 

[153] Ibid. 288.

 

[154] Ibid. 289.

 

[155] This section draws heavily on Getty 1985; Getty and Naumov 1999; Thurston 1996.

 

[156] Getty 1985, 43.

 

[157] Ibid. 43.

 

[158] Getty and Naumov 1999, 250-255.

 

[159] For my take on “sophisticated apologetics” for the Moscow Trials, see “On Grover Furr and the Moscow Trials,” The Blanquist. http://blanquist.blogspot.com/2017/05/on-grover-furr-and-moscow-trials.html

 

[160] Nikita Khrushchev, “Speech to 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U.,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/khrushchev/1956/02/24.htm

 

[161] Fitzpatrick 1994, 165.

 

[162] Lewin 2005, 110.

 

[163] Getty and Naumov 1999, 591.

 

[164] Ibid. 90.

 

[165] Ibid. 592. For a summary of the costs of the terror see Lewin 2005, 106-112.

 

[166] See especially Fitzpatrick 1994, 168; Fitzpatrick 1999 190-217; Thurston 1996, 170-194.

 

[167] Getty and Naumov 1999, 581.

 

[168] David Cotterill ed., Serge-Trotsky Papers (London: Pluto Press, 1994), 60.

 

[169] Ibid.

 

[170] Ibid. 61.

 

[171] Ibid.

 

[172] Ibid.

 

[173] Trotsky 1972a, 288.

 

[174] Ibid.

 

[175] Deutscher 2003b, 335-6.

 

[176] See George Saunders, Samizdat: Voices of the Soviet Opposition (New York: Monad Press, 1975), 206-17; Vadim Z. Rogovin, 1937: Stalin’s Year of Terror (Greenfield Park: Mehring Books, 1998), 374-92; Deutscher 2003b, 336-40; Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Volume II (New York: Harper & Row, 1992) 134, 315, 317-21, 387-90, 442.

 

[177] Saunders 1975, 208.

 

[178] Ibid. 210-1.

 

[179] Ibid. 211.

 

[180] Ibid. 216.

 

[181] Deutscher 2003b, 340.

 

[182] Leopold Trepper, The Great Game: The Memoirs of the Spy Hitler Couldn't Silence (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1977), 55-6.

 

[183] For background on the Spanish Civil War, see my “The POUM: Those Who Would?” LINKS International Journal of Socialist Renewal. http://links.org.au/node/4229 On the repression in Spain: “Stalin had sent Alexander Orlov [Soviet Secret Police agent-DEG] to the country and had given him the task of purging the revolutionary Marxist opposition to the Communists, the POUM.” Ronald Radosh and Mary R. Habeck and Grigory Sevostianov, ed., Spain Betrayed: The Soviet Union in the Spanish Civil War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 106. For more on Soviet involvement in the suppression of the POUM following the May Days see ibid. 121-2. See also document 33 on ibid. 129-33. For a Trotskyist perspective on the repression of the POUM and the Revolution see Rogovin 1998, 335-373.

 

[184] The full resignation letter of Ignace Reiss can be found in Elisabeth K. Poretsky, Our Own People: A Memoir of 'Ignace Reiss' and His Friends (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969), 1-3.

 

[185] For more on the circumstances surrounding the death of Reiss see Poretsky 1969; Deutscher 2003b, 315-318, 320-321, 329-330; Susan Weissman, Victor Serge: The Course Set On Hope (New York: Verso, 2001) 210-3; Vadim Z. Rogovin, Stalin’s Terror of 1937-8: Political Genocide in the USSR (Greenfield Park: Mehring Books, 2009), 321-6.

 

[186] Leon Trotsky, A Tragic Lesson , in Writings of Leon Trotsky (1936-1937) (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1978), 448

 

[187] Rogovin 2009, 391-6.

 

[188] Leon Trotsky, “Stalinism and Bolshevism,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1937/08/stalinism.htm

 

[189] Leon Trotsky, “The Transitional Program,” Marxists Internet Archive. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/tp/

 

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