The resolution of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission on internal Party democracy, published on December 7, was adopted unanimously. Trotsky voted for this resolution. It might have been expected, therefore, that the members of the Central Committee, including Trotsky, would come forward in a united front with a call to Party members for unanimous support of the Central Committee and its resolution. This expectation, however, has not been realised. The other day Trotsky issued a letter to the Party conferences which cannot be interpreted otherwise than as an attempt to weaken the will of the Party membership for unity in supporting the Central Committee and its position.
Judge for yourselves.
After referring to bureaucracy in the Party apparatus and the danger of degeneration of the old guard, i.e., the Leninists, the main core of our Party, Trotsky writes:
“The degeneration of the ‘old guard’ has been observed in history more than once. Let us take the latest and most glaring historical example: the leaders and the parties of the Second International. We know that Wilhelm Liebknecht, Bebel, Singer, Victor Adler, Kautsky, Bernstein, Lafargue, Guesde, and others, were the immediate and direct pupils of Marx and Engels. We know, however, that all those leaders—some partly, and others wholly—degenerated into opportunism.”. . . “We, that is, we ‘old ones,’ must say that our generation, which naturally plays a leading role in the Party, has no self-sufficient guarantee against the gradual and imperceptible weakening of the proletarian and revolutionary spirit, assuming that the Party tolerates a further growth and consolidation of the bureaucratic-apparatus methods of policy which are transforming the younger generation into passive educational material and are inevitably creating estrangement between the apparatus and the membership, between the old and the young.”. . . “The youth—the Party’s truest barometer—react most sharply of all against Party bureaucracy.”. . . “The youth must capture the revolutionary formulas by storm. . .
First, I must dispel a possible misunderstanding. As is evident from his letter, Trotsky includes himself among the Bolshevik old guard, thereby showing readiness to take upon himself the charges that may be hurled at the old guard if it does indeed take the path of degeneration. It must be admitted that this readiness for self-sacrifice is undoubtedly a noble trait. But I must protect Trotsky from Trotsky, because, for obvious reasons, he cannot, and should not, bear responsibility for the possible degeneration of the principal cadres of the Bolshevik old guard. Sacrifice is a good thing, of course, but do the old Bolsheviks need it? I think that they do not.
Secondly, it is impossible to understand how opportunists and Mensheviks like Bernstein, Adler, Kautsky, Guesde, and the others, can be put on a par with the Bolshevik old guard, which has always fought, and I hope will continue to fight with honour, against opportunism, the Mensheviks and the Second International. What is the cause of this muddle and confusion? Who needs it, bearing in mind the interests of the Party and not ulterior motives that by no means aim at defence of the old guard? How is one to interpret these insinuations about opportunism in relation to the old Bolsheviks, who matured in the struggle against opportunism?
Thirdly, I do not by any means think that the old Bolsheviks are absolutely guaranteed against the danger of degeneration any more than I have grounds for asserting that we are absolutely guaranteed against, say, an earthquake. As a possibility, such a danger can and should be assumed. But does this mean that such a danger is real, that it exists? I think that it does not. Trotsky himself has adduced no evidence to show that the danger of degeneration is a real danger. Nevertheless, there are a number of elements within our Party who are capable of giving rise to a real danger of degeneration of certain ranks of our Party. I have in mind that section of the Mensheviks who joined our Party unwillingly, and who have not yet got rid of their old opportunist habits. The following is what Comrade Lenin wrote about these Mensheviks, and about this danger, at the time of the Party purge:
“Every opportunist is distinguished for his adaptability . . . and the Mensheviks, as opportunists, adapt themselves ‘on principle,’ so to speak, to the prevailing trend among the workers and assume a protective colouring, just as a hare’s coat turns white in the winter. It is necessary to know this specific feature of the Mensheviks and take it into account. And taking it into account means purging the Party of approximately ninety-nine out of every hundred of the Mensheviks who joined the Russian Communist Party after 1918, i.e., when the victory of the Bolsheviks first became probable and then certain.” (see Vol. XXVII, p. 13.)
How could it happen that Trotsky, who lost sight of this and similar, really existing dangers, pushed into the foreground a possible danger, the danger of the degeneration of the Bolshevik old guard? How can one shut one’s eyes to a real danger and push into the foreground an unreal, possible danger, if one has the interests of the Party in view and not the object of undermining the prestige of the majority in the Central Committee, the leading core of the Bolshevik old guard? Is it not obvious that “approaches” of this kind can only bring grist to the mill of the opposition?
Fourthly, what reasons did Trotsky have for contrasting the “old ones,” who may degenerate, to the “youth,” the Party’s “truest barometer”; for contrasting the “old guard,” who may become bureaucratic, to the “young guard,” which must “capture the revolutionary formulas by storm”? What grounds had he for drawing this contrast, and what did he need it for? Have not the youth and the old guard always marched in a united front against internal and external enemies? Is not the unity between the “old ones” and the “young ones” the basic strength of our revolution? What was the object of this attempt to discredit the old guard and demagogically to flatter the youth if not to cause and widen a fissure between these principal detachments of our Party? Who needs all this, if one has the interests of the Party
in view, its unity and solidarity, and not an attempt to shake this unity for the benefit of the opposition?
Is that the way to defend the Central Committee and its resolution on internal Party democracy, which, moreover, was adopted unanimously?
But evidently, that was not Trotsky’s object in issuing his letter to the Party conferences. Evidently there was a different intention here, namely: diplomatically to support the opposition in its struggle against the Central Committee of the Party while pretending to support the Central Committee’s resolution.
That, in fact, explains the stamp of duplicity that Trotsky’s letter bears.
Trotsky is in a bloc with the Democratic Centralists and with a section of the “Left” Communists—therein lies the political significance of Trotsky’s action.
Pravda, No. 285, December 15, 1923