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Leon Trotsky 19301004 Letter to the Bulgarian Comrades

Leon Trotsky: Letter to the Bulgarian Comrades

Extract, October 4, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 3, 1930-1931, New York 1973, p. 44-46]

What constitutes the basis of the regime in the USSR? Let us recount the essential elements: (a) the Soviet system as the state form; (b) the dictatorship of the proletariat as the class content of this state form; (c) the leading role of the party, in whose hands all the threads of the dictatorship are united; (d) the economic content of the proletarian dictatorship: nationalization of the land, the banks, the factories, the transport system, etc., and the foreign-trade monopoly; (e) the military support of the dictatorship: the Red Army.

All these are closely connected with one another and the elimination of one of them may mean the collapse of the entire system. The weakest link in the chain at present is undoubtedly the party, the cornerstone of the entire system.

Does the proletarian dictatorship still exist in the USSR? Yes, despite everything, it still exists. In spite of all the disastrous policies, in spite of all the turns in the economy toward the right and toward the left, the government continues to defend the nationalization of the means of production and the foreign-trade monopoly. The transition of power into the hands of the bourgeoisie can take place only by means of a counterrevolutionary insurrection. In the meantime, the regeneration of the proletarian dictatorship is still possible by peaceful means. The probability of a peaceful regeneration of the dictatorship cannot be determined in advance, a priori It is necessary to await the test of experience. The power of the proletariat must be manifested in action, must be tested in life, in struggle Such a test can present itself through a growth of the inner contradictions as well as through an attack from without (blockade war).

It has been said above that the weakest link in the chain is at present the party. We speak of the party as a party, that is, as a free selection of the proletarian vanguard, and as an apparatus merged in one system with the state. One could say with a certain justification that the party as a party does not exist today. The essential functions of the party: collective elaboration of views and decisions, free election of functionaries and control over them — all these have definitely been liquidated. If the party were excluded from the Soviet system, then the whole system would soon collapse. Freed from the control of the party, the trusts would immediately be converted into, first, state capitalist, then, private capitalist enterprises. The conflicts between the trade unions and the trusts would very quickly become transformed into class struggles. The state would become an organ of the trusts and the banks. The foreign-trade monopoly would be broken in several places even before its abolition. The Red Army would go through a similar process of evolution. All this would probably be accompanied by a whole series of convulsions and outbreaks of civil war.

Since the party as a party does not exist, isn't the process of degeneration described above and the decline of the regime inevitable, and in the shortest time at that? The fact is that in this official "party" — which together with the youth embraces more them four million people, in order to confound them to silence and obedience — that in this enormous, scattered mass, held together by the bureaucratic apparatus, there are dispersed the elements of two parties. The Bessedovskys, the Kajurovs, the Agabekovs, show that from the official party there is emerging a party of the counterrevolution, whose elements exist at various stages of maturity. A symmetrical process is taking place at the opposite, at the proletarian pole of the party, above all, in the form of the Left Opposition. The loose mass held together by the apparatus is becoming differentiated in two directions. While the apparatus carries on its bitter struggle against the Left Opposition, which has been and remains its chief enemy, it gives direct support to the Thermidoreans. The main question is: who will prevail It will be immediately decided, not by the economic statistics of the socialist and capitalist economic tendencies, but by the relation of forces between the proletarian and Thermidorean flanks of the present so-called party.

The axis in the process of crystallization of the proletarian elements of the party is the Left Opposition. At present it is weak, in the sense that the connections between its cadres and the elements tending toward it have been broken. The struggle for the reestablishment of these connections, that is, the patient, illegal work for the reconstitution of the Bolshevik Party, is the fundamental, the most important, and the most urgent task of every Bolshevik.

The first great test of events will show that the Stalinist bureaucracy has no social basis. It will be suspended in mid-air between the Thermidorean elements and the Bolsheviks. The crystallization of the left wing will take place all the more rapidly the better its cadres are prepared, the wider its connections with the working class become Under similar conditions (international situation, internal conditions) the fate of the proletarian dictatorship will depend upon the relation of forces between the proletarian and Thermidorean wings of the present official party. The results cannot be foretold. We must do everything now to see that it turns out favorably.

Let us, however, assume for a moment that the Thermidorean wing is victorious. That will mean the liquidation of the proletarian dictatorship and a precipitate 180-degree turn toward capitalism. Even in such a hypothetical case the work of the Opposition retains its full force, for it will defend the heritage of the revolutionary party. With the aid of the Soviet state one cannot create the party. With the aid of the revolutionary party one can, however, create a second Soviet state when the first has collapsed.

However, the tasks of the Opposition are not determined by the situation in the USSR alone. The Comintern in its entirety has become a weapon of the centrist bureaucracy, which undermines and destroys communism and by that alone worsens the conditions in the USSR. The Opposition has finally become an international factor and from this perspective we must also regard the work inside the USSR.