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Leon Trotsky 19300000 The Three Factions in the Comintern

Leon Trotsky: The Three Factions in the Comintern


[Writing of Leon Trotsky, Vol. 2, 1930, New York 1975, p. 15-19]

3. Stalinist centrism is no doubt heading toward a new differentiation. Where Stalin himself will go, I do not know; he has shown that he is capable of going both far to the right and far to the left. Experience serves as evidence that every one of centrism's new zigzags is deeper and more decisive than the one preceding it. However, I will not undertake on the basis of this to forecast whether or not a new swerve to the right will be "the last." And in essence it is not so much a question of prognosis as of active struggle. Centrism's new differentiation very much strengthens the Left Oppositions and makes it an important political factor in determining the future course of the revolution.

4. The present right wing of the Communist Party can only play the role of a screen behind which the Bessedovskys and the Ustryalovs in general — patient and impatient — are grouping themselves. If things were to come to a Thermidorean head, the leaders would prove to be very "unique." It is not precluded, of course, that at the first stage, as I have already written before, one of the secondary figures from the right wing can wind up as leader.

5. Guessing the fortunes of the top right-wingers can only be of psychological interest. The more down-to-earth right-wing elements are in the second, third, and fifth ranks, closely linked with the conservative philistines. They are the real Thermidoreans of the party.

6. The Communist Party is not a party in the literal sense of the word, for its composition and life are regulated by methods that are of a purely administrative nature. But it formally encompasses the overwhelming majority of the proletarian vanguard elements whom we are looking for a way to reach. We are for a united party so long as power has not passed into the hands of the bourgeoisie, i.e., so long as the Opposition can — given the right circumstances — fulfill its tasks by means of reform. A second party would shift the problem to the level of civil war.

7. The emergence of factions was inextricably linked with die course of the class struggle. Bolshevism originated as a faction and developed through the internal struggle carried on by the faction. The resolution of the Tenth Congress of the party banning factions was merely an experiment that could have been successful to one degree or another only if there were a farsighted leadership and a healthy regime. ? The necessity for the experiment of the formal ban on factions was dictated by the exceptional circumstances facing the ruling party in a peasant country encircled by capitalists.

Extension of this ban to the Comintern was one of the most disastrous measures of the Zinoviev-Stalin policy. Without a bitter ideological and, consequently, factional struggle, young Communist parties, often having a social democratic past, cannot ripen for their historical role. A correct, intelligent, and tactful intervention by the Comintern could alleviate the sharpness of factional struggle and expedite the process of the Communist parties' formation. But no more than this.

The centrist blindness of the all-powerful leadership has, on the contrary, given the factions and their struggle an especially unhealthy character. With political leadership virtually absent, the factions become the sole organs for political orientation and for adaptation of slogans to the changing conditions.

At its inception the right-wing faction aspired to meet the real needs of the working class in the form of so-called transitional demands. This aim in itself was correct. Under a Leninist leadership, with a correct evaluation of the situation and a correct combination of transitional demands with revolutionary tasks, it is possible that we would not have seen the formation of an independent right-wing organization; certain right-wing elements might have been forced out, others absorbed into the party. By not providing leadership while banning factions, bureaucratic centrism gave the development a convulsive character, weakening the Communist parties and slowing down their growth.

8. The Right Opposition cannot play an independent historical role. However, the possibility is not excluded that episodically it can experience rather significant growth as did, for example, independent social democracy, although in all likelihood not nearly to the same degree. Everything depends on the conditions and tempo of growth of the mass revolutionary movement. In an epoch of demoralization the right-wing factions are channels to social democracy. In an epoch of upsurge they can become throughways for a section of the social democratic elements on their way to the left, towards communism. But, I repeat, it will not play an independent role.

9. Under present conditions, the Left Opposition plays mainly a propagandists role. Criticism of the Comintern's program and its political practice occupy the foremost place in our arsenal. Such has always been the lot of the left wing when there is an ebb in the revolutionary movement. The Opposition takes part in all of the party's activities that the masses have become involved in and braves the enemies' blows. Otherwise it would be worthless. The Opposition is no place for kibitzers.

In addition, the Opposition must be an organ for reliable and correct information for the workers about the workers' movement, and its genuine successes and failures. This function is very important in the class struggle In the Comintern press, information has been replaced by the falsification that is inseparably linked with the false political line upheld and implemented by the measures of the state apparatus.

Finally, the Opposition can and must be an organ for correct political orientation. This is its most important and at the same time most difficult function. In the official parties, political analysis and discussion are totally suppressed by bureaucratic command. But how is it possible to maintain a correct orientation in changing circumstances without the freedom to analyze and discuss? The right wing is absolutely incapable of examining the present-day situation in light of a great perspective. The Left Opposition has demonstrated by its entire past that it poses questions in an overall historical context, singles out the fundamental developmental factors, and is capable of making a historical prognosis. This is as much connected with its revolutionary character as myopic empiricism is with the centrist bureaucracy.

But it is not enough to give a correct general evaluation of the situation and the trends of its development and to project the correct prognosis. It is necessary on the basis of this work (with the correct information, the correct orientation, and the correct foresight) to simultaneously advance timely political slogans. This task is realizable only provided there is close theoretical and political collaboration among the national sections of the Opposition.

The decisive role here falls on our press. The most natural form of publication for the Left Opposition at the present stage of its development is a theoretical and political weekly. The American Opposition is transforming its organ into a weekly publication. The Belgian organization will in the very near future, we hope, be reestablishing its weekly newspaper. In France we are witnessing the initial successes of the weekly La Vérité. The Russian Opposition, in view of the peculiar circumstances it has been placed in, must still confine itself to a monthly. If the Opposition is able to set up a weekly publication in Germany and Austria in the immediate future, a genuine basis for ideological and political work on an international scale would be established.

10. At this time, I repeat, the Opposition is a propaganda group (not in the narrow technical but in the broader historical sense). But, of course, it strives to and is fully entitled to become a mass movement. The history of revolutionary politics is in a certain sense a history of the transformation of small minorities into decisive majorities, after which from the latter a minority is again singled out — the revolutionary leaven.

11. I will not undertake here to provide a categorical answer to the question of the concrete stages and forms of development the Comintern will experience. There will be more than a few splits and regroupments. The extent to which continuity will be maintained during these processes depends above all on the objective conditions, and to some degree — for the time being not as yet a very large one — on the Communist Opposition. We do not intend to build a fourth international. We stand firmly on the traditions of the Third International which grew out of the October Revolution under Lenin's leadership.

12. Within the official confines of the present Comintern the formation of a "new left wing" is not only likely but inevitable Within the Soviet Communist Party some of its elements are already present. They cannot play an independent leading ideological role just as the Leningrad Opposition of 1926 could not. But they can, nevertheless, play an objective role of great importance — by acting as channels of access for centrist workers to left-wing positions.

That the left-wing elements are not an unprecedented phenomenon is already being emphasized by the fact that they have been labeled "Trotskyists" of the new levy, or "semi-Trotskyists." After the Left Opposition was declared liquidated once and for all at the Tenth Plenum of the EC Cl, Pravda finds itself again compelled to advance the call for a struggle on two fronts. This shows the ineradicable vitality of the Opposition's ideas (and is, in particular, a confirmation of the tactical correctness of the declaration of Rakovsky and others).

13. The danger of becoming isolated from the communist masses is surely a threat when implementing the tactics of Urbahns, who is permeated with the spirit not of Marxism but of naked "anti-Thälmannism." But if the Opposition, while completely retaining its independence, participates in all the activities of the communist masses, sharing with them both successes and defeats (while not sharing their mistaken views and analyses), no bureaucracy will be able to cut the Opposition off from the masses. Of course, the task of winning over the masses is still totally ahead of us.

15. The fighting presently going on inside China is undeniably an expression of the inability of the "national" bourgeoisie to resolve China's fundamental national problems. The feuding of the generals provided a stimulus for the Chinese revolution. The victory of the bourgeois counterrevolution has seen the renewal of skirmishes among them. Whether or not these latter events will provide the stimulus for a new revolution, I hesitate to say at this time because essential information is lacking. We are awaiting information from our Chinese cothinkers. I will say, by the way, that in China the experiences of the gigantic mass movements that ended with the crushing of the revolution have paved the way for the development and, literally, for the burgeoning of Marxist thought. To assist our Chinese cothinkers in setting up their press is one of the most important duties of the International Opposition.