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Leon Trotsky 19280114 Letter

Leon Trotsky: Letter

[Leon Trotsky, The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1928-1929), New York 1981, p. 39-42]

1. We must understand clearly that the breaking away of the capitulators (Zinoviev and Kamenev) from the Opposition puts all the members of the International Opposition to the test. The question is, "With the Opposition in the AUCP or with the capitulators?" This question must be faced squarely, and only in this way, by every single Opposition group in Europe and every single Oppositionist. We must break unconditionally with the capitulators; we must dissociate ourselves openly from the vacillating and the temporizing elements.

2. The treason of Zinoviev and Kamenev is a historical fact. We must immediately draw from this fact all the necessary lessons for the future.

3. The behavior of M. and R. [Maslow and Ruth Fischer] in this regard seems ambiguous. M. actually shields Zinoviev and Kamenev, contending that they are little worse than the others, i.e., trying to erase the lines of demarcation between revolutionaries and capitulators. This actual support of the capitulators tries to base itself on the first and second declarations of the left wing. These two declarations make really extraordinary concessions. But they are concessions to Zinoviev and Kamenev. This was the last attempt to avoid a split. (Some comrades in our own midst hoped it would be possible to maintain unity at the price of concessions to Zinoviev and Kamenev.) As soon as the break occurred, the Opposition issued the declaration of Smilga, Muralov, Rakovsky, and Radek to counterbalance the capitulators. After that, to make no distinction between the Opposition and the capitulators implies nothing less than support to the capitulators.

4. The enclosed declaration of the leaders of the Opposition to the Executive Committee of the Comintern (ECCI) cannot leave any more room for doubts and vacillations. If even after this, M. lumps us together with Z. and K., we will have to treat M. as a conscious opponent.

5. We must distribute as widely as possible the declaration to the ECCI, along with the enclosed short biographies of the signers. We must confront every Opposition group with the question: Who is for it and who against? We must expose the masquerade by which some Oppositionists will try to join the capitulators under the pretext of combating "Trotskyism."

6. We must now define our relation to Wedding, Pfalz, Suhl, etc., exactly along these lines. Now we must finally expose the charlatanism of the struggle against "Trotskyism" as a cover for opportunism (Stalin) and for centrist capitulation (Zinoviev).

7. We must apply the same criteria in regard to the French groupings. If Treint and Suzanne Girault are going to vacillate between capitulation and so-called Trotskyism, it will be necessary to leave them to their fate. In any case, we can go hand in hand with this group only if it clearly, precisely, and ruthlessly dissociates itself from the capitulators.

8. We can be sure that the Contre le courant group will go with us. If Treint and Girault also go with us, then pending unification, we must share all materials with both groups. If Treint and Girault are going to vacillate under the pretext of the struggle against "Trotskyism," then we must firmly bank on the Contre le courant group as the only group that truly holds our views. In that event the viable elements in the Treint and Girault group will come to us sooner or later.

9. In the event that the Treint-Girault group has a correct position, the merging of both groups is desirable as soon as possible. If this happens, from our point of view there can be no talk of a one-sided demand by the 1926 group that the 1923 group recognize its mistakes, as S. has proposed. It is extremely desirable to draw Rosmer into the work of the magazine Contre le courant.

10. A correct relation to Monatte's group is necessary. We must form a bloc with the revolutionary anarcho-syndicalists. The criminally absurd struggle against "Trotskyism" (1923-24) repelled them from the party. We cannot mix ranks with the anarcho-syndicalists. But they are our allies, not our enemies.

11. We have not yet seen a single issue of the journal of Treint and Girault. Therefore we cannot comment on it. Please regularize the sending of all publications. We have not yet seen the latest publications [of Souvarine's group. Their differences] with us are serious, to judge by the first number of their bulletin. On a number of questions (especially the Anglo-Russian Committee) Souvarine took a fundamentally incorrect, rightist position. Souvarine's approach to the English workers' movement is often erroneous. Souvarine is inclined to replace a class analysis of politics with a psychological one. But he is a gifted historian and a revolutionary. We do not lose hope that his path will merge with ours for the greater gain of the French workers' movement.

12. It is necessary quickly to attain clarity regarding the Czechoslovakian Opposition. Here too it is better to have a smaller but tightly united leading group than a formless bloc with the right wing, staggering back and forth. Your report that N. [Neurath] is guided by selfish considerations more than by political ones (assuming you are not exaggerating) suggests that he and we are not traveling the same road. It is criminal to break without good reason from anyone, no matter who, but it is even more criminal to cling to individuals if even now, after the capitulation of Z. and K., they are still going to waver and equivocate.

13. Isn't it possible to get the Belgian Central Committee to publish our materials for the information of the [Belgian] party? As far as we know, this CC is vaguely inclined toward a "buffer" position. Isn't it possible to pressure the CC from below, finding a point of support there? It is necessary to pay special attention to Belgium, without, however, relying on the buffer CC, but trying to create for ourselves the necessary support from below. This task must be entrusted to our French co-thinkers

14. In Holland our documents were published earlier. How are things going now?

15. In conclusion, once again on the question: one or two parties? M. and R. think, evidently, that we are against a split in view of the specific conditions of the USSR. This is not true. We are opposed to a second party or a Fourth International – most intransigently opposed. Here we proceed from the interests of international Bolshevism. We also evaluate the specific conditions of the USSR from the international point of view. From the point of view of the international working class as a whole the Opposition would put itself in the hopeless position of a sect if it allowed itself to move toward the position of a Fourth International, which would be counterposed in a hostile manner to everything connected with the USSR and the Comintern. The task is to win over the Comintern. The differences are sufficiently deep to justify the constitution of a left faction. But the faction is, in the present period, an instrument for influencing the Communist Party, i.e., its proletarian core.