(A Letter to Party Meetings)
December 8, 1923
I had confidently hoped to be recovered soon enough to be able to participate in the discussion of the internal situation and the new tasks of the party. But my illness came at a more inopportune time than ever before and proved to be of longer duration than the first forecasts of the doctors. There is nothing left but to expound my view to you in the present letter.
The resolution of the Political Bureau on party organisation bears an exceptional significance. It indicates that the party has arrived at an important turning point in its historical road. At turning points, as has been rightly pointed out at many meetings, prudence is required; but firmness and resoluteness are required too. Hesitancy and amorphousness would be the worst forms of imprudence in this case.
Inclined to overestimate the role of the apparatus and to underestimate the initiative of the party, some conservative minded comrades criticise the resolution of the Political Bureau. The Central Committee, they say, is assuming impossible obligations; the resolution will only engender illusions and produce negative results. It is clear that such an approach reveals a profound bureaucratic distrust of the party.
The centre of gravity, which was mistakenly placed in the apparatus by the “old course,” has now been transferred by the “new course,” proclaimed in the resolution of the Central Committee, to the activity, initiative, and critical spirit of all the party members, as the organised vanguard of the proletariat. The “new course” does not at all signify that the party apparatus is charged with decreeing, creating, or establishing a democratic régime at such and such a date. No. This régime will be realised by the party itself. To put it briefly: the party must subordinate to itself its own apparatus without for a moment ceasing to be a centralised organisation. In the debates and articles of recent times, it has been underlined that “pure,” “complete,” “ideal” democracy is not realisable and that in general for us it is not an end in itself. That is incontestable. But it can be stated with just as much reason that pure, absolute centralism is unrealisable and incompatible with the nature of a mass party, and that it can no more be an end in itself than can the party apparatus. Democracy and centralism are two faces of party organisation. The question is to harmonise them in the most correct manner, that is, the manner best corresponding to the situation. During the last period there was no such equilibrium. The centre of gravity wrongly lodged in the apparatus. The initiative of the party was reduced to the minimum. Thence the habits and procedures of leadership fundamentally contradicting the spirit of a revolutionary proletarian organisation. The excessive centralisation of the apparatus at the expense of initiative engendered a feeling of uneasiness, an uneasiness which, at the extremities of the party, assumed an exceedingly morbid form and was translated, among other ways, in the appearance of illegal groupings directed by elements undeniably hostile to communism. At the same time, the whole of the party disapproved more and more of apparatus methods of solving questions. The idea, or at the very least the feeling, that bureaucratism threatened to get the party into a blind alley, had become quite general. Voices were raised to point out the danger. The resolution on the “new course” is the first official expression of the change that has taken place in the party. It will be realised to the degree that the party, that is, its 400,000 members, want to realise it and succeed in doing so.
In a number of articles, efforts are being made to demonstrate that in order to give life to the party, it is necessary to begin by raising the level of its members, after which everything else, that is, workers’ democracy, will come of its own accord. It is incontestable that we must raise the ideological level of our party in order to enable it to accomplish the gigantic tasks devolving upon it. But precisely because of this, such a purely pedagogical, professorial way of putting the question is insufficient and hence erroneous. To persist in it cannot fail to aggravate the crisis.
The party cannot raise its level except by accomplishing its essential tasks, and by exercising the kind of collective leadership that displays the initiative of the working class and the proletarian state. The question must be approached not from the pedagogical but from the political point of view. The application of workers’ democracy cannot be made dependent upon the degree of “preparation” of the party members for this democracy. A party is a party. We can make stringent demands upon those who want to enter and stay in it; but once they are members, they participate most actively, by that fact, in all the work of the party.
Bureaucratism kills initiative and thus prevents the elevation of the general level of the party. That is its cardinal defect. As the apparatus is made up inevitably of the most experienced and most meritorious comrades, it is upon the political training of the young communist generations that bureaucratism has its most grievous repercussions. Also, it is the youth, the most reliable barometer of the party, that reacts most vigorously against party bureaucratism.
Nevertheless, it should not be thought that our system of solving questions they are settled almost exclusively by the party functionaries has no influence on the older generation, which incarnates the political experience and the revolutionary traditions of the party. There too the danger is very great. It is not necessary to speak of the immense authority of the group of party veterans, not only in Russia but internationally; that is universally recognised. But it would be a crude mistake to regard it as absolute. It is only by a constant active collaboration with the new generation, within the framework of democracy, that the Old Guard will preserve itself as a revolutionary factor. Of course, it may ossify and become unwittingly the most consummate expression of bureaucratism.
History offers us more than one case of degeneration of the “Old Guard.” Let us take the most recent and striking example: that of the leaders of the parties of the Second International. We know that Wilhelm Liebknecht, Bebel, Singer, Victor Adler, Kautsky, Bernstein, Lafargue, Guesde, and many others were the direct pupils of Marx and Engels. Yet we know that in the atmosphere of parliamentarism and under the influence of the automatic development of the party and the trade union apparatus, all these leaders turned, in whole or in part, to opportunism. We saw that, on the eve of the war, the formidable apparatus of the social democracy, covered with the authority of the old generation, had become the most powerful brake upon revolutionary progress. And we, the “elders,” ought to say to ourselves plainly that our generation, which naturally enjoys the leading role in the party, is not absolutely guaranteed against the gradual and imperceptible weakening of the revolutionary and proletarian spirit in its ranks if the party were to tolerate the further growth and stabilisation of bureaucratic methods, which transform the youth into the passive material of education and inevitably create an estrangement between the apparatus and the mass, the old and the young. The party has no other means to employ against this indubitable danger than a serious, profound, radical change of course toward party democracy and an increasingly large flow into its midst of working class elements.
I shall not dwell here upon the juridical definitions of party democracy, nor upon the limits imposed on it by the party statutes. However important they may be, these questions are secondary. We shall examine them in the light of our experience and will introduce into them the necessary modifications. But what must be modified before anything else is the spirit that reigns in our organisations. Every unit of the party must return to collective initiative, to the right of free and comradely criticism without fear and without turning back and to the right of organisational self-determination. It is necessary to regenerate and renovate the party apparatus and to make it feel that it is nothing but the executive mechanism of the collective will.
The party press has recently presented not a few examples that characterise the already ossified bureaucratic degeneration of party morals and relations. The answer to the first word of criticism is: “Let’s have your membership card!” Before the publication of the decision of the Central Committee on the “new course,” merely pointing out the need to modify the internal party régime was regarded by bureaucratised apparatus functionaries as heresy, as factionalism, as an infraction of discipline. And now the bureaucrats are ready formally to “take note” of the “new course,” that is, to nullify it bureaucratically. The renovation of the party apparatus naturally within the clear cut framework of the statutes must aim at replacing the mummified bureaucrats with fresh elements closely linked with the life of the collectivity or capable of assuring such a link. And before anything else, the leading posts must be cleared of those who, at the first word of criticism, of objection, or of protest, brandish the thunderbolts of penalties before the critic. The “new course” must begin by making everyone feel that from now on nobody will dare terrorise the party.
It is entirely insufficient for our youth to repeat our formulas. They must conquer the revolutionary formulas, assimilate them, work out their own opinions, their own character; they must be capable of fighting for their views with the courage which arises out of the depths of conviction and independence of character. Out of the party with passive obedience, with mechanical levelling by the authorities, with suppression of personality, with servility, with careerism! A Bolshevik is not merely a disciplined person; he is a person who in each case and on each question forges a firm opinion of his own arid defends it courageously and independently, not only against his enemies, but inside his own party. Today, perhaps, he will be in the minority in his organisation. He will submit, because it is his party. But this does not always signify that he is in the wrong. Perhaps he saw or understood before the others did a new task or the necessity of a turn. He will persistently raise the question a second, a third, a tenth time, if need be. Thereby he will render his party a service, helping it to meet the new task fully armed or to carry out the necessary turn without organic upheavals, without fractional convulsions.
Yes, our party would be unable to discharge its historic mission if it were chopped up into factions. That should not and will not happen. It will not decompose in this way because, autonomous collectivity that it is, its organism resists it. But it will successfully combat the dangers of factionalism only by developing and consolidating the new course toward workers’ democracy. Bureaucratism of the apparatus is precisely one of the principal sources of factionalism. It ruthlessly represses criticism and drives discontent back into the depths of the organisation. It tends to put the label of factionalism upon any criticism, any warning. Mechanical centralism is necessarily complemented by factionalism, which is at once a malicious caricature of democracy and a potential political danger.
Conscious of the situation, the party will accomplish the necessary turn with the firmness and decisiveness demanded by the tasks devolving upon it. By the same token, it will raise its revolutionary unity to a higher level, as a pledge that it will be able to accomplish its immeasurably significant national and international tasks.
I am far from having exhausted the question. I deliberately refrained from examining here several essential aspects, out of fear of taking up too much of your time. But I hope that I shall soon succeed in recovering from malaria which to judge from myself is in clear opposition to the “new course.” Then I hope to be able to do orally what was not possible in this letter more fully to supplement and elaborate my views.
P.S. – The publication of this letter in Pravda having been postponed for two days, I take advantage of the delay to add a few supplementary remarks.
I have learned from some comrades that during the reading of my letter to the district meetings, certain comrades expressed the fear that my considerations on the relationships between the “Old Guard” and the young generation might be exploited to counterpose (!) the youth to the old. Unquestionably, this apprehension could have assailed only those who, but two or three months ago, rejected with horror the very idea of the necessity of a change in orientation.
At any rate, to place apprehensions of this type in the foreground at the present moment and in the present situation denotes a lack of understanding of the real dangers and of their relative importance. The present mood of the youth, symptomatic to the highest degree, is engendered precisely by the methods employed to maintain “calm” which are formally condemned by the resolution unanimously adopted by the Political Bureau In other words, “calm,” as it was understood, threatened the leading layer with increasing estrangement from the younger communists, that is, from the vast majority of the party.
A certain tendency of the apparatus to think and to decide for the whole organisation leads to seating the authority of the leading circles exclusively upon tradition. Respect for tradition is incontestably a necessary element of communist training and party cohesion, but it can be a vital factor only if it is nurtured and fortified constantly by an active verification of this tradition, that is, by the collective elaboration of the party’s policy for the present moment. Otherwise, it may degenerate into a purely official sentiment, and be nothing more than a hollow form. Such a link between the generations is obviously insufficient and most fragile. It may appear to be solid right up to the moment when it is ready to break. That is precisely the danger of the policy of “calm” in the party.
And, if the veterans who are not yet bureaucratised, who have still kept a revolutionary spirit alive (that is, we are convinced, the vast majority), become clearly aware of the danger pointed out above and help the party with all their strength to apply the resolution of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, every reason for counterposing the generations in the party will disappear. It would then be relatively easy to calm the passions, the possible “excesses,” of the youth. But what is necessary first of all is to act so that the tradition of the party is not concentrated in the leading apparatus, but lives and is constantly renewed in the daily experience of the organisation as a whole. In this way, another danger will be parried: that of the division of the old generation into “functionaries,” charged with maintaining “calm,” and non-functionaries. No longer enclosed within itself, the party apparatus, that is, its organic skeleton, far from being weakened, will find itself growing stronger. And it is beyond dispute that we need in our party a powerful centralised apparatus.
It may perhaps be objected that the example of the degeneration of the social democracy which I cited in my letter is incorrect in view of the profound differences in epochs: yesterday’s stagnant reformism and today’s revolutionary epoch. Naturally, an example is only an example and not at all an identity. Nevertheless, this indiscriminate contrast of epochs does not in itself decide anything. Not for nothing do we point to the dangers of the NEP, which are closely linked with the retardation of the world revolution. Our daily practical state work, which is more and more detailed and specialised, conceals, as the resolution of the Central Committee points out, a danger of the narrowing down of our horizon, that is, of opportunistic degeneration. It is quite plain that these dangers become all the more serious the more bossing by “secretaries” tends to replace the genuine leadership of the party. We would be shabby revolutionists if we were to rely upon the “revolutionary character of the epoch” for the overcoming of our difficulties, and above all of our internal difficulties. This “epoch” must be assisted by the rational realisation of the new orientation unanimously proclaimed by the Political Bureau.
To conclude, one more remark. Two or three months ago, when the questions that are the object of the present discussion had not yet appeared on the party’s agenda, some responsible comrades from the provinces shrugged their shoulders indulgently and told themselves that these are Moscow inventions; in the provinces all goes well. Even now this tone is reflected in certain correspondence from the provinces. To contrast the tranquil and reasonable province to the turbulent and contaminated capital, is to display that same bureaucratic spirit we spoke about above. In reality, the Moscow organisation is the largest, the strongest, the most vital of all our party organisations. Even at the dullest moments of so called “calm” (the word is a very expressive one, and should not fail to enter our party history!), its activity has been more intense than anywhere else. If Moscow is distinguished now from other points in Russia, it is only in that it has taken the initiative in reexamining the course of our party. That’s a merit and not a defect. The whole party will follow in its footsteps and will proceed to the necessary reassessment of certain values of the current period. The less the provincial party apparatus resists this movement, the more easily will the local organisations traverse this inevitable stage of fruitful criticism and self-criticism, whose results will be translated into a growth of the cohesion and an elevation of the ideological level of the party.
(Functionarism in the Army and Elsewhere)
December 3, 1923
In the course of the last year, the military workers and I have on many occasions exchanged opinions, orally and in writing, on the negative phenomena visible in the army stemming from mouldy functionarism. I dealt with this question thoroughly enough at the last congress of political workers in the army and navy. But it is so serious that it seems to me opportune to speak of it in our general press, all the more so because the malady is in no sense confined to the army.
Functionarism is closely related to bureaucratism It might even be said that it is one of its manifestations. When, as a result of being habituated to the same form, people cease to think things through; when they smugly employ conventional phrases without reflecting on what they mean; when they give the customary orders without asking if they are rational; when they take fright at every new word, every criticism, every initiative, every sign of independence – that indicates that they have fallen into the toils of the functionary spirit, dangerous to the highest degree.
At the conference of the military political workers, I cited as an (at first sight) innocent example of functionary ideology some historical sketches of our military units. The publication of these works dealing with the history of our armies, our divisions, our régiments, is a valuable acquisition. It attests that our military units have been constituted in battle and in technical apprenticeship, not only from the standpoint of organisation but also from the spiritual standpoint, as living organisms; and it indicates the interest shown in their past. But most of these historical outlines – there is no reason to hide the sin – are written in a pompous and bombastic tone. Even more, certain of these works make you recall the old historical sketches devoted to the guard régiments of the tsar. This comparison will no doubt provoke gleeful snickers from the White press. But we would be old washrags indeed if we renounced self-criticism out of fear of providing our enemies with a trump. The advantages of a salutary self-criticism are incomparably superior to the harm that may result for us from the fact that Dan or Chernov will repeat our criticism. Yes, let it be known to the pious (and impious!) old ladies who fall into panic (or create panic around themselves) at the first sound of self-criticism.
To be sure, our régiments and our divisions, and with them the country as a whole, have the right to be proud of their victories. But it wasn’t only victories that we had, and we did not attain these victories directly but along very roundabout roads. During the civil war we saw displays of unexampled heroism, all the more worthy because it most often remained anonymous, collective; but we also had cases of weakness, of panic, of pusillanimity, of incompetence, and even of treason. The history of every one of our “old” régiments (four or five years is already old age in times of revolution) is extremely interesting and instructive if told truthfully and vibrantly, that is, the way it unfolded on the battlefield and in the barracks. Instead of that, you often find a heroic legend in the most banal functionary manner. To read it, you would think there are only heroes in our ranks; that every soldier burns with the desire to fight; that the enemy is always superior in numbers; that all our orders are reasonable, appropriate for the occasion; that the execution is brilliant, etc.
To think that by such procedures a military unit can be enhanced in its own eyes, and a happy influence be exerted on the training of the youth, is to be imbued with the moldy spirit of the functionary. In the best of cases, this “history” will leave no impression at all; the Red soldier will read it or listen to it the way his father listened to Lives of the Saints: just as magnificent and uplifting, but not true to life. Those who are older, or who participated in the civil war, or who are simply more intelligent, will say to themselves: the military people too are throwing sand in our eyes; or simpler yet: they’re giving us a lot of hokum. The more naive, those who take everything for good coin, will think: How am I, a weak mortal, to raise myself to the level of those heroes? ... And in this way, this ᰴhistory,” instead of raising their morale, will depress them.
Historical truth does not have a purely historical interest for us. These historical sketches are needed by us in the first place as a means of education. And if, for example, a young commander accustoms himself to the conventional lie about the past, he will speedily reach the point of admitting it into his daily practical and even military activity. If, for example, he happens to commit a blunder, he will ask himself: Ought I report this truthfully? He must! But he has been raised in the functionary spirit; he does not want to derogate the heroes whose exploits he has read in the history of his régiment; or, quite simply, the feeling of responsibility has deadened in him. In that case he trims, that is, he distorts the facts, and deceives his superiors. And false reports of subordinates inevitably produce, in the long run, erroneous orders and dispositions from the superiors. Finally – and this is the worst thing – the commander is simply afraid to report the truth to his chiefs. Functionarism then assumes its most repulsive character: lying to please superiors.
Supreme heroism, in the military art as in the revolution, is veracity and the feeling of responsibility. We speak of veracity not from the standpoint of an abstract morality that teaches that one must never lie or deceive one’s neighbour. These idealistic principles are pure hypocrisy in a class society where antagonistic interests, struggles, and wars exist. The military art in particular necessarily includes ruse, dissimulation, surprise, deception. But it is one thing consciously and deliberately to deceive the enemy in the name of a cause for which life itself is given; and another thing to give out harmful and misleading information, assurances that “all goes well,” out of false modesty or out of fawning or obsequiousness, or simply under the influence of bureaucratic functionarism.
Why do we now deal with the question of functionarism? How was it posed in the first years of the revolution? We have the army in mind here too, but the reader will himself make the necessary analogies in all other fields of our work, for there is a certain parallel in the development of a class, its party, its state, and its army.
The new cadres of our army were supplemented by revolutionists, fighting militants, and partisans, who had made the October Revolution and who had already acquired a certain past and above all character. The characteristic of these commanders is not lack of initiative but rather excess of initiative or, more exactly, an inadequate understanding of the need for coordination in action and firm discipline (“partisanism”). The first period of military organisation was filled with the struggle against all forms of military “independence.” The aim then was the establishment of rational relationships and firm discipline. The years of civil war were a hard school in this respect. In the end, the balance necessary between personal independence and the feeling of discipline was successfully established among the best revolutionary commanders from the first levy.
The development of our young army cadres takes place quite differently during the years of truce. As a young man, the future commander enters military school. He has neither revolutionary past nor war experience. He is a neophyte. He does not build up the Red Army as the old generation did; he enters a ready-made organisation with an internal régime and definite traditions. Here is a clear analogy with the relationships between the young communists and the Old Guard of the party. That is why the means by which the army’s fighting tradition, or the party’s revolutionary tradition, is transmitted to the young people is of vast importance. Without a continuous lineage, and consequently without a tradition, there cannot be stable progress. But tradition is not a rigid canon or an official manual; it cannot be learned by heart or accepted as gospel; not everything the old generation says can be believed merely “on its word of honor.” On the contrary the tradition must, so to speak, be conquered by internal travail; it must be worked out by oneself in a critical manner, and in that way assimilated. Otherwise the whole structure will be built on sand.
I have already spoken of the representatives of the “Old Guard” (ordinarily of the second and third order) who inculcate tradition into the youth after the example of Famusov: “Learn by looking at the elders: us, for example, or our deceased uncle.” But neither from the uncle nor from his nephews is there anything worth learning.
It is incontestable that our old cadres, which have rendered immortal services to the revolution, enjoy very great authority in the eyes of the young military men. And that’s excellent, for it assures the indissoluble bond between the higher and lower commands, and their link with the ranks of the soldiers. But on one condition: that the authority of the old does not exterminate the personality of the young, and most certainly that it does not terrorise them.
It is in the army that it is easiest and most tempting to establish this principle: Keep your mouth shut and don’t think. But in the military field, this “principle” is just as disastrous as in any other. The main task consists not in preventing but in aiding the young commander to work out his own opinion, his own will, his personality, in which independence must join with the feeling of discipline. The commander and, as a rule, anyone trained merely to say: Yes, sir! is a nobody. Of such people, the old satirist Saltykov said: “They keep saying yes, yes, yes, till they get you in a mess.” With such yes-men the military administrative apparatus, that is, the totality of military bureaus, may still function, not without some success, at least seemingly. But what an army, a mass fighting organisation, needs is not sycophantic functionaries but men who are strongly tempered morally, permeated with a feeling of personal responsibility, who on every important question will make it their duty to work out conscientiously their personal opinion and will defend it courageously by every means that does not violate rationally (that is, not bureaucratically) understood discipline and unity of action.
The history of the Red Army, like that of its various units, is one of the most important means of establishing mutual understanding and continuity between the old and the new generation of military cadres. That is why bureaucratic obsequiousness, spurious docility, and all other manners of empty well-wishers who know what side their bread is buttered on, cannot be tolerated. What is needed is criticism, checking of facts, independence of thought, the personal elaboration of the present and the future, independence of character, the feeling of responsibility, truth toward oneself and toward one’s work. However, those are things that find in functionarism their mortal enemy. Let us therefore sweep it out, smoke it out, and smoke it out of every corner!
(On the ‘Smychka’ Between Town and Country –
More Precisely: On the ‘Smychka’ and False Rumours)
December 6, 1923
Several times in these recent months, comrades have asked me just what was my point of view on the peasantry and what distinguished it from Lenin’s. Others have put the question to me in a more precise and more concrete way: Is it true, they have asked, that you underestimated the role of the peasantry in our economic development and, by that token, do not assign sufficient importance to the economic and political alliance between proletariat and peasantry? Such questions have been put to me orally and in writing.
But where did you get that? I asked, astonished. On what facts do you base your question?
That’s just it, they answer, we don’t know; but there are rumours abroad ... At the outset, I attached no great importance to these conversations. But a new letter I have just received on the subject has made me reflect. Where can these rumours come from? And quite by accident, I recalled that rumours of this sort were widespread in Russia four or five years ago.
At that time, it was simply said: Lenin is for the peasant, Trotsky against. I then set out to look into the articles that appeared on this question: mine, in Izvestia, the paper of the All Union Central Executive Committee, of February 7, 1919, and Lenin’s, in Pravda of February 15. Lenin was replying directly to the letter of the peasant G. Gulov, who recounted (I quote Lenin):
“the rumour is spreading that Lenin and Trotsky are not in agreement, that there are strong differences of opinion between them precisely on the subject of the middle peasant.”
In my letter I explained the general character of our peasant policy, our attitude toward the kulaks, the middle peasants, and the poor peasants, and I concluded with this: There have not been and there are not any differences of opinion on this subject in the Soviet power. But the counter-revolutionists, whose business is going from bad to worse, have left as their only resource to fool the toiling masses and to make them believe that the Council of People’s Commissars is torn by internal dissension.
In the article which he published a week after mine, Lenin said, among other things: “Comrade Trotsky says that rumours of differences between him and myself are the most monstrous and shameless lie, spread by the landowners and capitalists, or by their witting and unwitting accomplices. For my part, I entirely confirm Comrade Trotsky’s statement.” [CW, Vol.36, Reply to a Peasant’s Question (February 14, 1919), p.500].
Nevertheless, these rumours, as is seen, are difficult to uproot. Remember the French proverb: “Slander, slander, something will always stick.” Now, to be sure, it is not the landed proprietors and the capitalists whose game would be played by rumours of this sort, for the number of these honourable gentlemen has declined considerably since 1919. On the other hand, we now have the Nepman and, in the countryside, the merchant and the kulak. It is undeniable that it is in their interests to sow trouble and confusion as to the attitude of the Communist Party toward the peasantry.
It is precisely the kulak, the retailer, the new merchant, the urban broker, who seek a market link with the peasant producer of grain and buyer of industrial products, and endeavour to crowd the Soviet state out of this smychka. It is precisely on this field that the main battle is now developing. Here too, politics serves economic interests. Seeking to forge a link with the peasant and to gain his confidence, the private middleman obviously readily welcomes and spreads the old falsehoods of the landlords only with a little more prudence, because since then the Soviet power has become stronger.
The well known article of Lenin entitled Better Fewer, but Better gives a clear, simple, and at the same time conclusive picture of the economic interdependence of the proletariat and the peasantry, or of state industry and agriculture. It is not necessary to recall or to quote this article, which everyone well remembers. Its fundamental thought is the following: During the coming years, we must adapt the Soviet state to the needs and the strength of the peasantry, while preserving its character as a workers’ state; we must adapt Soviet industry to the peasant market, on the one hand, and to the taxable capacity of the peasantry, on the other, while preserving its character as state, that is, socialist industry. Only in this way shall we be able to avoid destroying the equilibrium in our Soviet state until the revolution will have destroyed the equilibrium in the capitalist states. It is not the repetition of the word “smychka” at every turn (although the word itself is a good one), but the effective adaptation of industry to rural economy that can really solve the cardinal question of our economy and our politics.
Here we get to the question of the “scissors.” The adaptation of industry to the peasant market poses before us in the first place the task of lowering the cost price of industrial products in every way. The cost price, however, depends not only on the organisation of the work in a given factory, but also on the organisation of the whole of state industry, state transportation, state finances, and the state trade apparatus.
If there is a disproportion between the different sections of our industry, it is because the state has an enormous unrealisable capital that weighs upon all of industry and raises the price of every yard of calico and every box of matches. If the staves of a barrel are of different length, then you can fill it with water only up to the shortest stave; otherwise, no matter how much water you pour in, it pours out. If the different parts of our state industry (coal, metals, machinery, cotton, cloth, etc.) do not mesh with each other, or with transportation and credit, the costs of production will likewise include the expenditures of the most inflated branches of industry and the final result will be determined by the less developed branches. The present selling crisis is a harsh warning that the peasant market is giving us: Stop jabbering about the smychka; realise it!
In the capitalist régime, the crisis is the natural and, in the long run, the only way of regulating economy, that is, of realising a harmony between the different branches of industry, and between total production and the capacity of the market. But in our Soviet economy intermediate between capitalism and socialism commercial and industrial crises cannot be recognised as the normal or even inevitable way of harmonising the different parts of the national economy. The crisis carries off, annihilates, or disperses a certain portion of the possessions of the state and a part of this falls into the hands of the middlemen, the retailers in general, of private capital. Inasmuch as we have inherited an extremely disorganised industry, the different parts of which, before the war, served each other in entirely different proportions than we must now have, there is great difficulty in harmonising the different parts of industry in such a manner that it can be adapted, through the medium of the market, to the peasant economy. If we resign ourselves to just letting the effect of the crises achieve the necessary reorganisation, we will give all the advantages to private capital, which already interposes itself between us and the countryside, that is, the peasant and the worker.
Private trading capital is now realising considerable profits. It is less and less content with operating as a middleman. It tries to organise the producer and to rent industrial enterprises from the state. In other words, it is recommencing the process of primitive accumulation, first in the commercial field and then in the industrial field. It is plain that every failure, every loss that we experience, is a plus for private capital: first, because it weakens us, and then because a considerable part of this loss falls into the hands of the new capitalist.
What instrument do we have at our disposal to fight successfully against private capital under these conditions? Is there such an instrument? There is a consciously planned approach to the market and to economic tasks in general. The workers’ state has in its hands the fundamental productive forces of industry and the means of transportation and credit. We do not need to wait until a partial or general crisis discloses the lack of coordination of the different elements of our economy. We do not need to grope in the dark, because we have in our hands the principal playing cards of the market. We can and this we must learn! evaluate better and better the fundamental elements of the economy, foresee their future mutual relationships in the process of production and on the market, bring into harmony quantitatively and qualitatively all the branches of the economy, and adapt the whole of industry to rural economy. That is the real way to work for the realisation of the smychka.
To educate the village is an excellent thing. But the foundation of the smychka is the cheap plow and nail, cheap calico, and cheap matches. The way to reduce the price of the products of industry is through correct (i.e., systematised, planned) organisation of the latter in conformity with the development of agriculture.
To say: “Everything depends upon the smychka and not upon industrial planning,” means not to understand the very essence of the question, for the smychka cannot be realised unless industry is rationally organised, managed according to a definite plan. There is no other way and there can be none.
The correct posing of the work of our State Planning Commission is the direct and rational way of approaching successfully the solution of the questions relating to the smychka not by suppressing the market, but on the basis of the market. This the peasant does not yet understand. But we ought to understand it; every communist, every advanced worker, ought to understand it. Sooner or later the peasant will feel the repercussions of the work of Gosplan upon his economy. This task, it goes without saying, is very complicated and extremely difficult. It demands time, a system of increasingly precise and decisive measures. We must emerge from the present crisis as wiser men. The restoration of agriculture is of course no less important.
But it takes place in a much more spontaneous manner, and sometimes depends much less upon the action of the state than upon that of industry. The workers’ state must come to the aid of the peasants (to the degree that its means will permit!) by the institution of agricultural credits and agronomic assistance, so as to lighten the task of exporting their products (grain, meat, butter, etc.) on the world market. Nevertheless, it is mainly through industry that we can act directly, if not indirectly, upon agriculture. It must furnish the countryside with agricultural implements and machines at accessible prices. It must give it artificial fertilisers and cheap domestic articles. In order to organise and develop agricultural credits, the state needs a substantial revolving fund. In order to procure it, its industry must yield profits, which is impossible unless its constituent parts are rationally harmonised among themselves. That is the genuinely practical way of working toward the realisation of the smychka between the working class and the peasantry.
To prepare this alliance politically, and in particular to refute the false rumours and gossip that are spread through the medium of the intermediary trading apparatus, a genuine peasant journal is necessary. What does “genuine” mean in this instance? A journal that would get to the peasants, be comprehensible to them, and bring them closer to the working class. A journal circulating in fifty or a hundred thousand copies will be perhaps a journal in which the peasant is talked to, but not a peasant journal, for it will not get to the peasant; it will be intercepted on the way by our countless “apparatuses,” which will each take a certain number of copies for their own use. We need a weekly peasant journal (a daily paper would be too expensive and our means of communication do not make regular delivery possible), with a circulation in the first year of about two million copies. This journal should not “instruct” the peasants or “launch appeals” at them, but tell them what is happening in Soviet Russia and abroad, principally what affects them and their economy directly. The post-revolution peasants will rapidly acquire a taste for reading it if we know how to give them a journal that suits them. This journal, whose circulation will grow from month to month, will assure for the first period weekly communication at the very least between the Soviet state and the vast rural mass. But the very question of the journal itself brings us back to that of industry. The technical side of the journal must be perfect. The peasant journal should be exemplary, not only from the editorial standpoint but also from the typographical point of view, for it would be a shame to send the peasants specimens of our urban negligence every week.
That is all I can say, at this moment, in reply to the questions that have been put to me on the subject of the peasantry. If these explanations do not satisfy the comrades who addressed themselves to me, I am ready to give them more concrete new ones, with precise data drawn from the experience of our whole last six years of Soviet work. For this question is of capital importance.
The leading circles of the Russian Communist Youth have intervened in the party discussion. In view of the fact that an article signed by nine comrades (Two Generations, Pravda, No.1) and an address to the Petrograd militants pose the questions wrongly and may do harm to the party if a wide discussion follows in the RCY, we deem it necessary to analyse their declarations and the reasons that prompt them.
The Petrograd address and the article by the nine say that the youth must not be flattered, that they are not the comptrollers of the party, that the new generation of the party cannot be counterposed to the old, that no degeneration threatens us, that Trotsky is guilty of all these mortal sins, and that the youth must be put on their guard. Let us see: Is that the situation?
In their article the nine say that Trotsky drags in the question of the youth by the hair (we shall return to this later on), that he adapts himself to the youth, that he flatters it. Let us hear what Lenin says on this score: “Soviet schools, workers’ schools have been founded; hundreds of thousands of young people are learning there. This work will yield its fruit. If we work without too much precipitateness, in a few years we shall have a mass of young people capable of radically modifying our apparatus.”
Why did Lenin speak this way of the youth? What drove him to it? The desire to get in good with the youth, to flatter them, to obtain their applause? Or was it his real understanding of the situation? It is least of all necessary to speak of “flattery” on the part of Trotsky, and there is absolutely no reason to contrast him to other leaders of our party. The nine comrades say that Lenin taught us to have a critical attitude toward the youth, not to encourage their shortcomings. Did not Comrade Trotsky follow this good advice when he said at the Eleventh Congress of the party, as he says now: “... That does not mean, of course, that all the acts and moods of the youth express healthy tendencies,” or elsewhere: “The youth of the schools, recruited from all the layers and strata of Soviet society, reflect in their disparate ranks all our sides, good and defective.” To judge from these quotations, Trotsky, far from flattering, criticises.
The question of degeneration is likewise expounded erroneously. Trotsky speaks of the danger of degeneration both for the youth generation and for the old. To this, the editorial board of Pravda replies: “The theoretical danger of degeneration exists among us. Its sources lie in the possibility of a steady and gradual victory of capitalist economy over socialist economy and in the possibility of a progressive fusion of our administrative cadres with the new bourgeoisie. But there is nobody among us who does not see this danger”
Yet, what the nine comrades say in their article “This danger of political degeneration cannot exist among us” harmonises in no way with this declaration. Consequently, the accusation and the defence are out of whack.
Let us pass to the most serious accusation: Trotsky counterposes the two generations, eggs them on against each other, “wants to undermine the influence of the tested Bolshevik general staff.”
Here is what Trotsky writes: “It would be madness to think of discarding the old generation. What is needed is that precisely this old generation should change its orientation and, by doing so, assure in the future the preponderance of its influence in all the work of the party.”
Where is this counterposing of the youth to the old, this desire to undermine the old cadres, which is at the foundation of the arguments of the two documents? It seems to us that if all the above quoted declarations of Trotsky are quietly and seriously examined, it is impossible to see in them any egging on of the two sections, any intention of animosity. On the contrary, Trotsky understands the “new course” as the best way of consolidating and raising the influence of the Old Bolshevik cadres.
But if all these legends, arbitrary interpretations, and distortions are rejected, and if the essence of the question of how to educate the young communists in the Leninist spirit is studied, it appears clearly that Trotsky is entirely right.
And if the nine militants of the RCY who spoke up take the trouble to examine more closely the situation of the young communist, who is best known to them, they will record the fact that the young communists party members feel not that they are party members in the RCY but “communist youth in the party.” That is a fact pointed out on many occasions by the most esteemed activists.
What is the deep-seated reason for this? It is that in the narrow party régime, the youth do not have the opportunity to partake in the riches accumulated through our party’s long years of work. The best means of transmitting the revolutionary Bolshevik traditions, and all the qualities inherent in the fundamental cadre of the party, is the “new course” of democracy applied “consciously by the old generation in the interest of preserving its leading influence.”
Thus, as to the essence of the question, it is not Trotsky who “dragged in by the hair” the question of the youth (which he connects with all the reasons prompting the “new course” of the party) but the authors of the letters who attribute to him a point of view he has never supported.
In actuality (although involuntarily) the nine comrades who brought the RCY into the discussion have reduced the latter to the question of two generations, without linking it to the totality of the discussion and to all the questions the party is posing at the present time. And when the question of the generations itself is posed wrongly, when it is distorted, all statements on it can only be regrettable; and if they lead to a discussion among the militants of the RCY, this discussion will unfold along a false line and will provoke the dissension Trotsky has spoken out against.
The Central Committee of the RCY has decided not to submit the questions raised in the party discussion to special consideration by the party members working in the RCY. We consider this decision entirely correct. In no case can it legitimise the above-mentioned article. If the decision barring the introduction of the discussion into the RCY is correct and if militants of the Central Committee have deemed it necessary to plunge into this discussion not in order to say anything new, except for a clumsy accusation against Trotsky’s alleged bowing down before some “divine trinity” or other, how else is their action to be explained than as one prompted by the desire to have “the youth” strike a blow at Trotsky?
Nobody (and Trotsky less than anyone) has challenged the need of preserving the preponderant influence, the leadership, of the old cadre of the party. This need is more than obvious to all of us. It is not on this point that our discussion of the article of the nine revolves.
We are against attributing to leading comrades of our party thoughts they have not expressed; by that token, we are against an incorrect and distorted posing of the question, particularly before the young communists. We are against concealing the necessity of creating in the party the kind of situation that will permit the training of genuine Leninists, and not the kind of communists of whom Lenin said at our Third Communist Youth Congress:
“If a Communist took it into his head to boast about his communism because of the cut-and-dried conclusions he had acquired, without putting in a great deal of serious and hard work and without understanding facts he should examine critically, he would be a deplorable Communist indeed.”
[CW, Vol.31, The Tasks of the Youth Leagues (October 2, 1920), p.288].
We are for unity, and for the genuinely Bolshevik leadership of the party. We are far from shutting our eyes to the dangers that threaten the youth. Precisely because we are conscious of these dangers, we do not want to see the question of the “new course” obliterated under the pretext of defending the historic rights of the Old Guard of the party against nonexistent assaults.
V. Dalin, member of the Central Committee of the youth
M. Fedorov, Central Committee of the youth
A. Shokhin, collaborator of the Central Committee
A. Bezymensky, one of the founders of the youth
N. Penkov, one of the founders of the youth, member of the Moscow Committee
F. Delyusin, former secretary of the Moscow Committee
B. Treivas, former secretary of the Moscow Committee
M. Dugachev, activist of the Moscow Committee, one of the founders of the youth