The Communist Left in Russia: The Manifesto of the Workers' Group of the Russian Communist Party (iv)

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We publish here the fourth and final part of the Manifesto (the first three parts were published in the last three issues of the International Review). This addresses two particular issues: on the one hand, the organisation of workers in councils to take power and transform society; on the other, the nature of oppositional politics in the Bolshevik Party conducted by other groups formed in reaction to its degeneration.

The Manifesto makes a clear distinction between the proletariat organised in councils, and the other non-exploiting strata of society that it leads, “Where were the councils born? In the factories and in the plants. [...] The workers’ councils appeared in 1917 as guides of the revolution, not only in substance but also formally: soldiers, peasants, cossacks subordinate themselves to the organisational form of the proletariat”. Once the civil war against the white international reaction is won, it is still to the proletariat organised on its own foundations that the Manifesto assigns the role of transforming society. In this context, it attaches primary importance to the autonomous organisation of the working class which had been considerably weakened by years of civil war to the point that “We must talk not of the improvement of the soviets, but of their reconstitution. To organise councils in all nationalised plants and factories to solve an immense new task...

The Manifesto is very critical of the activity of other groups opposed to the policy of the Bolshevik Party, particularly the Workers’ Truth and another which can only be identified by the writings cited. The Manifesto denounces the false radicalism of the criticisms leveled by these groups (which it describes as “liberal”) against the Bolshevik Party, to the point where, it says, the latter could use such criticisms for its own purposes as a pretext for its policy of stifling freedom of speech for the proletariat.[1]

Finally, the article recalls the position of the Manifesto towards the Bolshevik Party, whose deficiencies threaten to transform it “into a minority of holders of power and economic resources in the country, which means to set itself up as a bureaucratic caste”: “to exert a decisive influence on the tactics of the RCP, conquering the sympathy of the proletarian masses, so as to compel the party to abandon the broad lines of its policy.”

The New Economic Policy and the management of industry

In fact the New Economic Policy has shared industry between, on one side, the state (trusts, unions, etc.) and, on the other, private capital and cooperatives. Our nationalised industry has taken on the character and appearance of private capitalist industry, in the sense that it operates on the basis of market needs.

Since the Ninth Congress of the RCP(B) the organisation of the management of the economy has been carried out without the direct participation of the working class, but with the help of purely bureaucratic appointments. The trusts are constituted following the same system adopted for the management of the economy and the merging of firms. The working class doesn’t know why such and such a director has been appointed, or on what grounds a factory belongs to this trust rather than another. Thanks to the policy of the leading group of the RCP, it takes no part in these decisions.

It goes without saying that the worker views with concern what is happening. He frequently wonders how he could have got here. He often remembers the time when the council of workers’ deputies appeared and developed in his factory. He asks the question: how can it be that our soviet, the soviet that we ourselves introduced and which neither Marx, nor Engels, nor Lenin, nor anyone else had thought of, how can it be that this soviet is dead? And worried thoughts haunt him... All workers will remember the way in which the councils of workers’ deputies were organised.

In 1905, when no-one in the country was even talking about workers’ councils and when, in books, it was only a question of parties, associations and leagues, the Russian working class created the soviets in the factories.

How were these councils organised? At the height of the revolutionary upsurge, each workshop of the factory elected a deputy to submit its demands to the administration and government. To coordinate the demands, these workshop deputies gathered together in councils and so into the council of deputies.

Where were the councils born? In the factories and in the plants. The workers of the plants and the factories, of any gender, religion, ethnicity or belief, unified themselves in an organisation, where they forged a common will. The council of workers’ deputies is therefore the organisation of the workers in all the enterprises of production.

It is in this way that the councils reappeared in 1917. They are described thus in the programme of the RCP(B): “The electoral district and the main core of the state is the unit of production (the plant, the factory) rather than the district”. Even after taking power, the councils retained the principle that their base is the place of production, and this was their hallmark with respect to any other form of state power, their advantage, because such a state organisation approximates the state apparatus of the proletarian masses.

The councils of workers’ deputies of all the plants and factories come together in general assemblies and form councils of workers’ deputies of the towns led by their executive committees (ECs). The congress of councils of provinces and regions forms the executive committees of provincial and regional councils. Finally, all the councils of factory deputies elect their representatives to the All-Russian Congress of Councils and form an All-Russian organisation of councils of workers’ deputies, their permanent organ being the All-Russian Executive Committee of Councils of Workers’ Deputies.

From the earliest days of the February Revolution, the needs of the civil war demanded the involvement in the revolutionary movement of armed force, by organising councils of soldiers’ deputies. The revolutionary needs of the moment dictated them to unite, which was done. Thus were formed the councils of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies.

Once the councils took power, they brought with them the peasantry represented by the councils of peasants’ deputies, and then the cossacks. Thus was organised the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (CEC), of the councils of workers’, peasants’, soldiers’ and cossacks’ deputies.

The workers’ councils appeared in 1917 as guides of the revolution, not only in substance but also formally: soldiers, peasants, Cossacks subordinated themselves to the organisational form of the proletariat.

During the seizure of power by the councils, it suddenly became clear that these councils, especially those of workers’ deputies, would be forced to occupy themselves almost entirely with a political struggle against the former slaveowners who had risen up, strongly supported by “the bourgeois factions of ambiguous socialist phraseology”. And until the end of 1920, the councils were occupied with the crushing of the resistance of the exploiters.

During this period, the councils lost their character linked to production and already, in 1920, the Ninth Congress of the RCP(B) decreed a single management of plants and factories. For Lenin, this decision was motivated by the fact that the only thing that had been done well was the Red Army with a single leadership.

And where now are the councils of workers’ deputies in the factories and plants? They no longer exist and are completely forgotten (even if we continue to talk about the power of the councils). No, there are no more and our councils today resemble many common houses or zemstvos[2] (with an inscription above the door: “It’s a lion, not a dog”).

Every worker knows that the councils of workers’ deputies organised a political struggle for the conquest of power. After taking power, they crushed the resistance of the exploiters. The civil war that the exploiters waged against the proletariat in power, with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, assumed a character so intense and bitter that it profoundly engaged the entire working class; this is why the workers were as removed from the problems of soviet power as the problems of production for which they had previously fought. They thought: we will manage production later. To reconquer production, it was first necessary to tear out the rebel exploiters. And they were right.

But in late 1920, the resistance of the exploiters was destroyed. The proletariat, covered in wounds, worn out, hungry and cold, would enjoy the fruits of its victories. It resumed production. And before it was the immense new task, namely the organisation of this production, of the country’s economy. It had to produce the maximum of material goods to show the advantage of this proletarian world.

The fate of all the conquests of the proletariat is closely related to the fact of seizing and organising production.

Production is the goal of society and that is why those who run production have governed and still govern society.”

If the proletariat fails to put itself at the head of production and put under its influence the entire petty-bourgeois mass of peasants, artisans and corporate intellectuals, everything will be lost again. The rivers of tears and blood, the piles of corpses, the untold suffering of the proletariat in the revolution will serve only to fertilise the ground on which capitalism restores itself, where a new world of exploitation will arise, of oppression of man by his fellow, if the proletariat does not recover production, does not impose itself on the petty bourgeois element personified by the peasant and the artisan, does not change the material basis of production

The councils of workers’ deputies who had forged the will of the proletariat in the struggle for power, triumphed on the civil war front, on the political front, but their triumph was weakened even to the point that we must talk not of the improvement of the soviets, but of their reconstitution.

We must reconstitute councils in all nationalised plants and factories to solve an immense new task, to create this world of happiness for which much blood was shed.

The proletariat is weakened. The basis of its strength (large industry) is in terrible shape, but the weaker the forces of the proletariat, the more it must have unity, cohesion and organisation. The council of workers’ deputies is a form of organisation that showed its miraculous power and not only overcame the enemies and adversaries of the proletariat in Russia, but also shook the domination of the oppressors in the whole world, the socialist revolution threatening the entire society of capitalist oppression.

These new soviets, if they take the commanding heights of production and the management of factories, will not only be capable of calling on the vast masses of proletarians and semi-proletarians to solve the problems posed to them, but will also directly employ in production the whole state apparatus, not in word, but in deed. When, following that, the proletariat will have organised, for the management of firms and industries, soviets as the basic cells of state power, it will not be able to stop there: it will go on to the organisation of trusts, unions and central directing organs, including the famous supreme soviets for the popular economy, and it will give a new content to the work of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. The soviets will assign as members of the All-Russian Central Committee of Soviets all those who fought on the fronts of the civil war, to the work on the economic front. Naturally all the bureaucrats, all the economists who consider themselves as the saviours of the proletariat (whom they fear above all speech and judgement), similarly the people who occupy the cushy jobs in the various organisms, will scream in protest. They will support what previously meant the ruin of production, the bankruptcy of the social revolution, because many of them know that they owe their posts not to their capacities, but to the protection of their acquaintances, to “who they know”, and in no way to the confidence of the proletariat, in whose name they govern. Of the rest, they have more fear of the proletariat than the specialists, the new leaders of enterprises, the new entrepreneurs and the Slastschows.

The All-Russian comedy with its red directors is orchestrated to push the proletariat to sanctify the bureaucratic management of the economy and praise the bureaucracy; it is a comedy as well because the strongly protected names of the directors of the trusts never appear in the press despite their ardent desire for publicity. All our attempts to unmask a provocateur who, not so long ago, received 80 roubles from the Tsarist police - the highest payment for this type of activity - and who is now found at the head of a rubber trust, have met with an insurmountable resistance. We are talking about the Tsarist provocateur Leschawa-Murat (the brother of the People’s Commissar for Domestic Commerce). This throws sufficient light on the character of the group which devised the campaign for the red directors.

The All-Russian Central Executive Committee of Soviets which is elected for a year and meets for periodic conferences constitutes the germ of the parliamentary rot. And it’s said: comrades, if you go, for example, to a meeting where comrades Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, talk for a couple of hours about the economic situation, what can one do except abstain or quickly approve the resolution proposed by the speaker? Given that the All-Russian Central Committee doesn’t deal with the economy, it listens to some exposés on the subject from time to time and then breaks up with each one going their own way. The same thing happened with the curious case of a project presented by the People’s Commissars being approved without any previous reading of it. Why read it before approving it? Certainly, one cannot be more educated than comrade Kurski (Commissar of Justice). The All-Russian Executive Committee has been transformed into a simple chamber for recording decisions. And its president? It is, with your permission, the supreme organ; but with regard to the tasks imposed on the proletariat, it is occupied with trifles. It seems to us, on the contrary, that the All-Russian Central Executive Committee should be more than any other linked to the masses, and this supreme legislative organ should decide on the most important questions of our economy.

Our Council of the Commissars of the People is, according to the opinion of its chief, comrade Lenin, a veritable bureaucratic apparatus. But he sees the roots of evil in the fact that the people who participate in the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection are corrupt and he simply proposes to change the people occupying the leading posts; after that everything will be better. We have here in front of us the article of comrade Lenin appearing in Pravda, January 15, 1923: it is a good example of “political manoeuvring”. The best among leading comrades confront in reality this question as bureaucrats since they see the evil in the fact that it is Tsiouroupa (Rinz) and not Soltz (Kunz) who chairs the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection. It reminds us of the spirit of a fable: “It is not by being obliging that you become musicians”. They are corrupted under the influence of the milieu; the milieu which has made them bureaucrats. Change the milieu and these people would work well.

The Council of People’s Commissars is organised in the image of a council of ministers and citizens of any bourgeois country and has all its faults. We have to stop to repair its dubious measures or to liquidate it, keeping only the Presidium of the CEC with its various departments, as we do in the provinces, districts and communes. And transform the CEC into a permanent organ with the standing committees that would deal with various issues. But so it does not become a bureaucratic institution, we must change the content of its work and this will be possible only when its base (“the main nucleus of state power”), the councils of workers’ deputies will be restored in all plants and factories, where the trusts, unions, directors of factories will be reorganised on the basis of a proletarian democracy, by the congress of councils, of districts up to the CEC. So we no longer need the chatter about the struggle against bureaucracy and the bickering. Because we know that bureaucrats are the worst critics of bureaucracy.

By reorganising the directing organs, by introducing all the elements really alien to bureaucracy (and this goes without saying), we will actually resolve the question that concerns us in terms of the New Economic Policy. So it will be the working class which leads the economy and the country and not a group of bureaucrats who threaten to turn into an oligarchy.

As for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection (the Rabkrin),[3] it is better to liquidate it than try to improve its functioning by changing its officials. Unions (through their committees) will undertake a review of all production. We (the proletarian state) need not fear proletarian control and here there is no room for any real objection, if this is not the same fear that the proletariat inspires in the bureaucrats of all kinds.

So it must finally be understood that control must be independent of that which is submitted, and to get it, the unions have to play the role of our Rabkrin or former State Control.

Thus the local union nuclei in the plants and factories would be turned into organs of control.

The provincial committees brought together in councils of government trade unions would become organs of control in the provinces and the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions would have such a function at the centre.

The councils direct, the unions control, this is the essence of the relationship between these two organisations in the proletarian state.

In private enterprises (managed through a lease or concession), trade union committees play the role of state control, ensuring compliance with labour laws, payment of commitments made by the manager, the leaseholder , etc., to the proletarian state.

A few words on two groups

Two documents that we have before us, [one] signed by a clandestine group, The central group of the Workers’ Truth, the other bearing no signature, are a striking expression of our political mistakes.

Even the innocent literary entertainments that are still allowed a liberal part of the RCP (the so-called “Democratic Centralism”), simply cannot appear in our press. Such documents, devoid of theoretical and practical foundations, of the liquidator genre like the call of the “Workers’ Truth” group, would carry no weight among the workers if they were issued legally, but otherwise they may attract the sympathies not only of the proletariat, but also of communists.

The unsigned document, produced no doubt by the liberals of the RCP, rightly notes:

1)       The bureaucratism of the council and party apparatus.

2)       The degeneration of the party membership.

3)       The split between the elites and masses, the working class, the militants of the party’s base.

4)       The material differentiation between members of the party.

5)       The existence of nepotism.

How to fight all this? We must, you see:

1)       Reflect on theoretical problems in a strictly proletarian and communist framework.

2)       Ensure, within the same framework, an ideological unity and a class education of the healthy and advanced elements of the party.

3)       Struggle within the party for a principal condition of its internal reorganisation, the abolition of the dictatorship and the putting into practice of freedom of discussion.

4)       Fight within the party in favour of such conditions of development of the councils and the party, thereby facilitating the elimination of the petty bourgeois forces and influence and further consolidating the power and influence of a communist nucleus.

These are the main ideas of these liberals.

But, say then, who of the leading group of the party would object to these proposals? No one. Better yet, it has no equal for this kind of demagoguery.

The liberals have always served the leading party group precisely playing the role of “radical” opponents and thus fooling the working class and many communists who genuinely have good reasons for discontent. And their discontent is so great that to channel it, the bureaucrats of the party and councils need to invent an opposition. But they don’t tire themselves because the liberals help them each time with bombast of their own, by responding to specific questions with general phrases.

Who, among the current personnel of the Central Committee, will protest against the most radical point? “Fighting within the party in favour of such conditions of development of the councils and the party, thereby facilitating the elimination of the petty bourgeois forces and influence and further consolidating the power and influence of a communist nucleus”.

Not only do they not protest, but they make these statements with more vigour. Look at Lenin’s last article and you will see that he said “some very radical things” (from the liberals’ point of view): with the exception of the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, our state apparatus is par excellence a relic of the past which has undergone no serious changes. Then he reaches out to the liberals, promises to bring them into the CC and the expanded Central Control Commission (CCC) - and they would like nothing better. And of course, when they enter the CC, universal peace will be established everywhere. In holding forth about free discussion in the party, they forget one little detail - the proletariat. For without freedom of speech given to the proletariat, no freedom in the party will be possible. It would be strange to have freedom of opinion in the party and at the same time deprive the class whose interests this party represents. Instead of proclaiming the need for the foundations of proletarian democracy according to the party programme, they talk about freedom for the most advanced communists. And there is no doubt that the most advanced are Sapronov, Maximovski and Co and if Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin, Lenin consider themselves the most advanced, then they agree on the fact that they are all “the best”, will increase the membership of the CC and CCC and everything will be fine.

Our liberals are incredibly...liberal, and they require no more than freedom of association. But to do what? What do they want to tell us, explain to us? Only what you have written in two small pages? So good! But if you pretend to be an oppressed innocent, a political refugee, then you need to dupe those who are to be duped.

The conclusion of these arguments is quite “radical”, even “revolutionary”: you see, the authors wish that the Twelfth Party Congress sort out one or two (what audacity!) functionaries who have contributed most to the degeneration of the party membership, to the development of bureaucracy while hiding their intentions behind fine phrases (Zinoviev, Stalin, Kamenev).

It’s stylish! When in the CC Stalin, Zinoviev, Kamenev give way to Maximovski, Sapronov, Obolensky, everything will be fine, really fine. We repeat that you have nothing to fear, fellow liberals, at the Twelfth Congress you will enter the CC and, which will be essential for you, neither Kamenev, Zinoviev nor Stalin will stop you. Good luck!

In their words, the “Workers’ Truth” group is composed of communists.

Like all the proletarians they address, we should believe them willingly, but the problem is that these are communists of a particular type. According to them, the positive significance of the October Russian revolution is that it has opened up to Russia magnificent prospects for a rapid transformation into an advanced capitalist country. As this group argues, it is without doubt a great conquest of the October Revolution.

What does that mean? It is neither more nor less than a call to retreat, to capitalism, abandoning the socialist slogans of the October revolution. Do not consolidate the positions of socialism, of the proletariat as ruling class, but weaken them, leaving the working class only the struggle for wages.

Accordingly, the group claims that classical capitalist relations are already restored. It therefore recommends that the working class rid itself of “communist illusions” and invites it to fight the “monopoly”of the right to vote by workers, which means that they must renounce it. But, gentlemen communists, would you allow us to ask for that?

But these gentlemen are not so foolish as to say openly that they are in favour of the bourgeoisie. What confidence would the proletarians then have in them? The workers would understand immediately that this is the same old refrain of the Mensheviks, the SRs and CDs[4], which is outside the group’s views. Yet it did not let its secret out. Because it claims to be committed to the fight against “administrative arbitrariness” but “with reservations”: “As far as possible in the absence of elected legislative bodies”. The fact that the Russian workers elect their councils and EC, this is not an election, just imagine, for a real election must be conducted with the participation of the bourgeoisie and the communists of The Workers’ Truth, and not that of workers. And all this is (tell me if it is not) “communist “ and “revolutionary”! Why, dear “communists”, do you stop halfway and not explain that this should be the general, equal, direct and secret right to vote, which is characteristic of normal capitalist relations? That it would be a real bourgeois democracy? Do you want to fish in troubled waters?

Gentlemen communists, do you hope to hide your reactionary and counter-revolutionary intentions by constantly repeating the word “revolution”? Over the last six years, the Russian working class has seen enough ultra-revolutionaries to understand your intention to deceive. The only thing that could make you succeed is the absence of a proletarian democracy, the silence imposed on the working class.

We leave aside other demagogic words of this group, noting only that the thinking of this “Workers’ Truth” is borrowed from A. Bogdanov.

The party

There is no doubt that even now, the RCP(B) is the only party that represents the interests of the proletariat and of the Russian working people at its side. There is no other. The programme and statutes of the party are the ultimate expression of communist thinking. From the moment when the RCP organised the proletariat for the insurrection and the seizure of power, from this time it became a party of government and was, during the harsh civil war, the only force capable of confronting the remains of the absolutist and agrarian regime, the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks. During these three years of struggle, the leading organs of the party assimilated the methods of work adapted to a terrible civil war but they now extend these to a whole new phase of the social revolution and in which the proletariat puts forward quite different demands.

From this fundamental contradiction flow all the deficiencies of the party and of the working of the soviets. These deficiencies are so serious that they threaten to cancel out all the good and useful work of the RCP. But even more, they risk destroying this party as a party of the avant-garde of the international proletarian army; they threaten - because of the present relationships with the NEP - to transform the party into a minority of holders of power and economic resources in the country, which conspires to set itself up as a bureaucratic caste.

Only the proletariat itself can repair these defects of its party. It might well be weak and its living conditions might be difficult, but it still has enough forces to repair its wrecked ship (its party) and finally reach the promised land.

Today, one can no longer maintain that it’s really necessary for the internal regime of the party to continue to apply methods valid at the time of civil war. That is why, in order to defend the aims of the party, it is necessary to strive - even if reluctantly - to utilise the methods which are not those of the party.

In the present situation, it is objectively indispensable to constitute a Communist Workers’ Group, which is not organisationally linked to the RCP, but which fully recognises its programme and the statutes. Such a group is about to develop notwithstanding the obstinate opposition of the dominant party, of the soviet bureaucracy and of the unions. The task of this group will be to exert a decisive influence on the tactics of the RCP, conquering the sympathy of the proletarian masses, so as to compel the party to abandon the broad lines of its policy.

Conclusion

1. The movement of the proletariat of all countries, especially those of advanced capitalism, has reached the phase of the struggle to abolish exploitation and oppression, the class struggle for socialism.

Capitalism threatens to plunge all humanity into barbarism. The working class must fulfill its historic mission and save mankind.

2. The history of class struggle shows explicitly that, in different historical situations, the same classes have preached either civil war or civil peace. The propaganda for civil war and civil peace by the same class was either revolutionary and humane, or counter-revolutionary and strictly selfish, defending the interests of a concrete class against the interests of society, the nation, humanity.

Only the proletariat is always revolutionary and humane, whether it advocates civil war or civil peace.

3. The Russian revolution provides striking examples of how different classes were transformed from partisans of civil war in those of civil peace and vice versa.

The history of class struggle in general and the last 20 years in Russia in particular teaches us that the current ruling classes who promote civil peace will advocate civil war, ruthless and bloody, when the proletariat takes power; we can say the same of “bourgeois fractions with an ambiguous socialist phraseology”, the parties of the 2nd International and those of the 2½ International.

In all countries of advanced capitalism, the proletarian party must, with all its strength and vigour, advocate the civil war against the bourgeoisie and their accomplices - and civil peace wherever the proletariat triumphs.

4. In the current conditions, the struggle for wages and a decrease in the working day through strikes, parliament, etc., has lost its former revolutionary scope and only weakens the proletariat, diverting it from its main task, reviving illusions about the possibility of improving its conditions within capitalist society. We must support the strikers, go to parliament, not to advocate a struggle for wages, but to organise the proletarian forces for a decisive and final battle against the world of oppression.

5. The discussion of the question of a “united front” in the military sense (as we discuss all aspects in Russia) and the singular conclusion there has been on it, has failed, so far, to seriously address this problem, because [in the current context] it is quite impossible to criticise anything.

The reference to the experience of the Russian revolution is only for the ignorant and is not confirmed in any way by this same experience as it remains set down in historical documents (resolutions of congresses, conferences, etc.).

The Marxist vision and dialectic of the problems of class struggle is replaced by a dogmatic vision.

The experience of a concrete epoch with goals and tasks is automatically transported to another that has particular features of its own, which leads inevitably to the imposition, on communist parties around the world, of an opportunist tactic of the “united front”. The tactic of a “united front” with the Second International and the 2½ International completely contradicts the experience of the Russian revolution and the programme of the RCP(B). It is a tactic of agreement with the open enemies of the working class.

We must form a united front with all the revolutionary organisations of the working class who are ready (today, not one day or another) to fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat, against the bourgeoisie and its fractions.

6. The theses of the CC of the Communist International are a classic disguise for opportunist tactics in revolutionary phrases.

7. Neither the theses nor the discussions in the congresses of the Communist International have tackled the question of the united front in countries that have completed the socialist revolution and in which the working class exercises its dictatorship. This is due to the role that the Russian Communist Party took in the International and in the internal politics of Russia. The particularity of the question of the “united front” in such countries is that it is resolved in different ways during different phases of the revolutionary process: in the period of the suppression of the resistance of the exploiters and their accomplices, a certain solution is valid, another is needed on the contrary when the exploiters are already defeated and the proletariat has made progress in building the socialist order, yet with the help of the NEP and with weapons in hand.

8. The national question. Many arbitrary appointments, neglect of local experience, the imposition of tutors and exiles (“planned permutations”), all the behaviour of the leading group of the RCP(B) towards the national parties adhering to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, has aggravated in the masses of the many small ethnic groups, chauvinistic tendencies that penetrate the communist parties.

To get rid of these trends once and for all, we must implement the principles of proletarian democracy in the organisation of the national communist parties, each headed by its CC, adhering to the IIIrd Communist International, as well as the RCP(B) and forming an autonomous section of it. To resolve common tasks, the communist parties of the countries of the USSR must convene their periodic congress which elects a standing Executive Committee of the Communist Parties of the USSR.

9. The NEP is a direct consequence of the state of the productive forces of our country. It should be used to maintain the positions of the proletariat conquered in October.

Even in the case of a revolution in one of the advanced capitalist countries, the NEP would be a phase of socialist revolution that it is impossible to pass over. If the revolution had broken out in one of the countries of advanced capitalism, this would have had an influence on the duration and development of the NEP.

But in all countries of advanced capitalism, the need for a New Economic Policy at some stage of the proletarian revolution will depend on the degree of influence of the petty-bourgeois mode of production comapred to that of socialised industry.

10. The extinction of the N.E.P. in Russia is linked to the rapid mechanisation of the country, the victory of tractors over wooden ploughs. On these bases of development of the productive forces is instituted a new reciprocal relationship between cities and countryside. To rely on imports of foreign machinery for the needs of the agricultural economy is not right. This is politically and economically harmful insofar as it links our agricultural economy to foreign capital and weakens Russian industry.

The production of the necessary machines in Russia is possible, that will strengthen industry and bring the city and the countryside closer together in an organic way, will remove the material and ideological gap between them and will soon form the conditions that will allow us to give up the NEP.

11. The New Economic Policy contains terrible threats for the proletariat. Apart from the fact that, through it, the socialist revolution undergoes a test of its economy, besides the fact that we must demonstrate in practice the advantages of socialist forms of economic life in relation to capitalist forms - besides all this, we must stick to socialist positions without becoming an oligarchic caste that would seize all the economic and political power and be afraid of the working class more than anything else.

To prevent the New Economic Policy from turning into the “New Exploitation of the Proletariat”, the proletariat must participate directly in the resolution of the enormous tasks facing it at this time, on the basis of the principles of proletarian democracy; which will give the working class the possibility of protecting its October conquests from all dangers, wherever they come from, and of radically altering the internal regime of the party and its relations with it.

12. The implementation of the principle of proletarian democracy must correspond to the fundamental tasks of the moment.

After the resolution of political-military tasks (seizure of power and suppression of the exploiters’ resistance), the proletariat is led to solve the most difficult and important economic question: the transformation of the old capitalist relations into new socialist relations. Only after the completion of such a task can the proletariat consider itself victorious; if not everything will still have been in vain, and the blood and the dead will serve only to fertilise the land on which will continue to rise the edifice of exploitation and oppression of bourgeois rule.

In order to accomplish this task it is absolutely necessary that the proletariat really participates in the management of the economy: “Whoever finds themselves at the summit of production equally finds themselves at the summit of ‘society’ and of the ‘state’”.

It is thus necessary:

  • that in all the factories and firms councils of workers’ delegates are constituted;
  • that the congresses of the councils elect the leaders of the trusts, the unions and the central authorities;
  • that the All-Russian Executive is transformed into an organ which manages agriculture and industry. The tasks which are imposed on the proletariat must be confronted with a view to turning proletarian democracy into reality. This must be expressed in an organ which works in an assiduous fashion and institutes within itself permanent sections and commissions ready to confront all problems. But the Council of Commissars of the People which apes some bourgeois ministry must be abolished and its work confided to the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets.

It is necessary moreover that the influence of the proletariat is reinforced on other levels. The unions, which must be real proletarian class organs, must be constituted as organs of control having the right and the means for worker and peasant inspection. Factory and firm committees must perform a control function in factories and firms. Leading sections of the unions which are united in the central leading union must control the reins, with the union leaders joining up in an All-Russian central union - these must be the organs of control at the centre.

But today the unions are performing a function which doesn’t belong in a proletarian state, which is an obstacle to their influence and contrasts with the sense of their position within the international movement.

He who is afraid of such a role for the unions shows his fear of the proletariat and loses all links with it. 

13. Upon the terrain of the profound dissatisfaction of the working class, various groups are forming which propose to organise the proletariat. Two currents: the liberal platform of Democratic Centralism and that of “Workers’ Truth” show, on the one hand a lack of political clarity, on the other, an effort to connect with the working class. The working class is looking for a form of expression for its dissatisfaction. 

Both groups, which very probably have honest proletarian elements belonging to them, judging the present situation unsatisfactory, are leading towards erroneous conclusions (of a Menshevik type).

14. There persists in the party a regime which is harmful to the relationship of the party with the proletarian class and which, for the moment, doesn’t allow the raising of questions that are, in any way, embarrassing for the leading group of the RCP(B). From this comes the necessity to constitute the Workers’ Group of the RCP(B) on the basis of the programme and statutes of the RCP, so as to exercise a decisive pressure of the leading group of the party itself.

We are calling on all authentic proletarian elements (including those of “Democratic Centralism” and “Workers’ Truth”, of the “Workers’ Opposition”) and those who find themselves outside as well as inside the party, to unite on the basis of the Manifesto of the Workers’ Group of the RCP(B).

The more quickly that the necessity to self-organise is recognised, the less will be the difficulties that we have to surmount.

Forward, comrades!

The emancipation of the workers is the work of the workers themselves!

 

Moscow, February 1923.

The central provisional organisation bureau of the Workers’ Group of the RCP(B)

 


[1]. For more on the groups criticised by the Manifesto, especially the Workers’ Truth and Democratic Centralism, see the ICC’s book, The Russian Communist Left.

[2]. Zemstvos: provincial assemblies of imperial Russia,representative, prior to their abolition by the soviet authorities, of the local nobility, wealthy artisans and merchants (source Wikipedia) [ICC note]

 

[3]. Rabkrin: the organisation that was in principle responsible for the correct operation of the state and for fightingits bureaucratisation, but became in turn a caricature of bureaucracy

[4]. SR: Socialist Revolutionaries. CD: Constitutional Democrats. [ICC note]