Presents a historical document.
ON THE LENINGRAD OPPOSITION
by Lev Davidovich Trotsky
22 December 1925
Pravda and the speakers for the congress majority characterize the Leningrad Opposition as the continuation and development of the 1923-24 Opposition. We must admit frankly that this equation is not merely a polemical device but contains an element of truth. It is only necessary to correctly specify what that element is.
The central theme of the Leningrad Opposition is to blame the official policy, or its right-wing manifestation, for the fact that the peasantry is beginning to push the proletariat into the background, and for the fact that within the ranks of the peasantry the kulak is edging out the middle peasant and the middle peasant is edging out the poor peasant.
At the present time there can be no doubt that the so-called pro-kulak deviation has received a very big push forward since the Twelfth and, particularly, the Thirteenth Congress. The main line pursued in the struggle against Trotskyism has been the charge of underestimating the peasantry. What was this charge based on? On the fact that the Opposition considers industry and its development to be of paramount importance and demands that the tempo of industrial development be accelerated, i.e., demands the corresponding reallocation of industrial capital, the introduction of the planning principle in industry, etc. This position was declared to be a revision of Leninism, and the principal elements of the latter were proclaimed to be the smychka, the alliance of the workers with the peasants, etc. Among the older generation, which had not forgotten the experience of past decades, these simplified formulas at least came on top of the experience accumulated in the struggle against the Narodnik movement and for a proletarian class policy. But as for the broad layers of the youth who--have not been tempered in the class struggle--in their eyes the discussion of recent years, minus all the intricacies and distortions, appeared as follows: On the one hand, recognition of the "dictatorship of industry" and the uninterrupted development of the international revolution; on the other, the smychka with the peasantry, the alliance with the middle peasant, the cooperatives as an alternative course for development, etc.
In essence, the young generation, which has not been tempered in the class struggle, has been molded on the basis of this polemic. It is safe to say that by such a process a very wide and fertile base was created for the development of a peasant deviation. That the country's entire public life, given the delay in the world revolution and the lag in industrial development, has created favorable material preconditions for this deviation--of this there cannot be the slightest doubt. Thus, under the banner of a struggle against the Opposition, elements of a Soviet Narodnik movement were taking shape especially within the younger generation of the party and in the Communist Youth. This elemental movement only awaited its official theoretical expression. Bukharin's school, albeit in a very timid and half-hearted fashion, provided this.
It is not at all accidental that the Leningrad organization turned out to be the most sensitive to the voices of warning, just as it is no accident that the leaders of that opposition were forced, in the struggle for self-preservation, to adapt themselves to the class sensitivity of the Leningrad proletariat. The result of this is a paradox, quite shocking on the surface but at the same time totally in accord with the underlying forces at work: The Leningrad organization--having gone to the farthest extent in its struggle against the Opposition, having inveighed against the underestimation of the peasantry, and having raised the slogan "Face to the countryside" loudest of all--was the first to recoil from the consequences of the noticeable turnabout that has occurred in the party, the ideological source of which was the struggle against so-called Trotskyism.
As for the incessant cries about underestimating the peasantry, the demand to turn our "Face to the countryside," the advancement of the idea of a closed national economy and a closed construction of socialism--as early as 1923-24 the Opposition warned that such an ideological orientation in the party could lay the groundwork for and facilitate a gradual backsliding into a Thermidor of a peasant variety. And now we hear the Leningraders warn of that very same danger, although their leaders played a key role in paving the way for it ideologically.
That the Leningrad methods of party and economic leadership, the shrill agitational style, the regional arrogance, etc., built up an enormous amount of dissatisfaction with the ruling group in Leningrad; and that the intense resentment against the Leningrad regime felt by many, many hundreds of workers who have at one time or another been thrown out of Leningrad and dispersed throughout the country, has added to this dissatisfaction--these facts are absolutely incontestable and their importance must not be underestimated. In this sense, the replacement of the top ranks in Leningrad and the Leningrad organization's adoption of a less arrogant tone toward the party as a whole are unquestionably positive factors.
But it would be blindness to overlook the fact that at the Fourteenth Congress, behind the hostility toward the specific features and manners of the Leningrad leaders, appeared sentiments of hostility toward the ideological dictatorship of the city over the countryside. The centers have too large a budget, they have the industry, the press, the strongest organizations, and ideological supremacy; they don't give up enough for the good of the countryside, instead deafening it with empty slogans--these are the themes that in a very, very faint way were echoed in many of the speeches at the congress. Today it is Leningrad's turn; tomorrow it may be Moscow's. Moscow and Leningrad's attacks on one another facilitate the possibility. The provinces have grabbed Leningrad by the throat for its opposition to Moscow in order to prepare a blow against the cities in general. Of course, what we have here only foreshadows a process that as it develops can become fatal for the role of the proletariat.
The fact that today Sokolnikov appears as one of the leaders of the Leningrad Opposition is unprincipled politics of a purely personal kind and at the same time it is a great curiosity. He was and remains the theoretician of the economic disarmament of the proletariat in relation to the countryside.
One cannot fail to take into account the provinces of Tambov or Voronezh, or Georgia. The peasant deviation results from the objective necessity for the party to pay attention to the peasantry. But it is entirely a matter of degree and of having an active counterweight. The most effective possible counterweight to the countryside would be to have energetic and powerful proletarian organizations in the industrial centers, i.e., in Leningrad and Moscow. Democratization of the internal life of these organizations is a necessary precondition if they are to energetically and successfully counteract the peasant deviation. In fact, we have seen the opposite happen. The apparatus regime has been deadening the consciousness of both these organizations. Any demand for a relaxation of regimentation is branded as a capitulation to petty-bourgeois amorphousness, etc., etc. Held tightly in the grip of the apparatus regime, Leningrad served the cause of the struggle against the Opposition 100 percent under the slogan "Face to the countryside" and thus helped the tendencies toward a national and rural perspective to develop and gain sufficiently vivid expression even at the present party congress. Although formally no one agrees with the "extremes" of the Bukharin school of thought, actually all the "fire" is being directed the other way--at Leningrad.
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