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Leon Trotsky 19300725 Preliminary Comments on the Sixteenth Congress

Leon Trotsky: Preliminary Comments on the Sixteenth Congress

July 25, 1930

[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 335 f.]

Here in rough outline Eire some preliminary comments on the Sixteenth Congress, although my familiarity with the proceedings is still quite insufficient.

1. In the party, the plebiscite regime has been established conclusively. The bureaucracy, not daring to bring questions up for decision by the masses, is forced to find a "boss" in order to sustain its own monolithic unity — without which it would be doomed to collapse. The preparatory work within the party for Bonapartism has been completed.

2. In the realm of industrialization, the bureaucracy, to the crash and roar of ever so left-sounding phrases, has completely abandoned class criteria, Marxist criteria. The scissors between industrial and agricultural prices are proclaimed a bourgeois prejudice. Not a word is said about the scissors between domestic industrial prices and those on the world market. No matter that these are two vitally important measures for determining the relative weight of socialism both at home and abroad. Not a word about inflation either — that is, about the monetary system, which is a vital index of economic equilibrium or disequilibrium. Industrialization is proceeding with all the lights turned out, now as never before.

3. The raising of collectivization to the status of socialism means in fact the prohibition of any study of differentiation within or between collective farms. The countryside will again be painted over, by the statistics of Yakovlev, in a single, solid "socialist middle peasant's" color. Here too the lamps of Marxism are snuffed out.

4. The plebiscitary dictatorship in the Communist Party, now officially authorized, means the same kind of dictatorship in the Comintern, if only through the agency of proconsul Molotov. A dictatorship by plebiscite cannot endure even simple doubts about the infallibility of the leadership, never mind opposition. In the USSR this means that the official party has been delivered into the hands of the government apparatus once and for all. In the capitalist countries this dooms the Communist parties to unending splits and sectarian-bureaucratic degeneration.

5. The very same kind of regime based on plebiscite is now carried over bodily into the trade-union organizations linked with the Communist parties. The Communist bureaucrats inside the trade unions cannot permit (or are not allowed to permit) contact with people who do not believe absolutely in the infallibility of the leadership endorsed by plebiscite.

6. One may live for a long time off the political capital of the victorious proletarian revolution, especially on the basis of economic successes assured by the revolution itself — as long as there is no big new crisis. But it is impossible to accumulate political capital by such methods. This means that the present regime and the policies connected with it are sure to be the source of ever new crises in the Comintern.


Since the ranks of the party have been atomized completely, the only way to preserve the possibility, or increase the likelihood, of a development toward reform of the October Revolution and the party of Lenin is to build a properly functioning, centralized Bolshevik-Leninist organization, armed with sufficient technical means to systematically influence the body of opinion within the atomized party.

Of no less importance is the further development of a centralized international faction of the Left Opposition.

The most dangerous thing would be to lull oneself to sleep with false Manilov-like hopes that somehow everything will turn out right, all by itself. Any further semi-passive policies would mean, besides everything else, the gradual physical destruction of our best cadres. A political offensive is the best defense. But here again, such an offensive requires proper organization, aimed at systematic work within the party.