About a Left communist in Russia

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About a Left communist in Russia
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I.K. Dashkovsky was a member of the Social-Democratic movement in
Russia, became a member of the Bolshevik Party in 1917, member of the democratic centralism group in the years 1920-1921. Member of the Joint Opposition 1926-1927 years [source; http://www.eunet.lv/library/win/TROCKIJ/Arhiv_Trotskogo__t1.txt ] There are two articles from Dashkovsky online, which were written somewhere in 1928 [ http://www.eunet.lv/library/win/TROCKIJ/Arhiv_Trotskogo__t2.txt ] called 'The economic conjecture and the "Left" course' and 'On self-criticism'.

In 1956 Dashkovsky was rehabilitated and he started a struggle to bring the historical truth to light. In 1971 he even wrote a letter to the 24th party congress about this.

translated letter

The following letter is a rough translation. There are some points that I didn't manage to convey. There are also a couple of historic and personal references that I'ld love to get your advice on. Question marks were in the original online document of decists texts released in 2007.



Letter from Dashkovskij to Sapronov

Octobre 9th 1929

Dear Timofei,

I intended to sum up, in connection with the near thaw, some political outcomes in a big letter, linking them to the current situation, but your last writings force me to preliminarily dwell on some questions of a semi-personal nature. You try in your last letters, first to "marry" me with Emelyanov, then to accuse me of all sorts of "reformist" sins and, in particular, you represent my spring proposal to the Trotskyists as the main reason for the increase in capitulationist sentiment in our group. I cannot leave all this without response. I'll begin with the latter. A defeatist wave captures our ranks, this is a fact that you tried to deny at first, despite its obviousness. Where is the source of these sentiments? In my opinion where the source of the crisis of the opposition in general is. We are part of the opposition movement and, therefore, subject to the laws of development to which this movement is subordinated as a whole. Trying to come up with recipes that could isolate us from the impact of general processes - well, it is equal to be engaged in alchemy. Therefore, your assertion that the crisis has affected us "thanks" to my proposal to the Trotskyists is simply ridiculous. This is nonsense, here there is the same connection as between the elderberry in a garden and an uncle in Kiev. The roots of the crisis of the opposition lies in the fact that also the country, and the party, and the opposition are at a turning point, and when an abrupt moment comes, social and political regroupings are inevitable at each new stage of struggle, changing the composition of the contending forces; it would seem necessary to remember the aggravation of class struggle in the country, the zigzag of the general policy of the apparatus, plus the repression, plus a variety of personal moments - all these things are far more substantial "in terms of their impact on cadres" than this or that proposal, which Ivanov made to Petrov. A couple of facts are enough, to break up your "theory". You probably know the story of the surrender of the Trotskyist Valentinov. This was a few months ago. This type wrote the theses in which the current regime was declared Bonapartism of the 96th kind. But three days later he moved to "Bonaparte". Or here is a more close example - Ustimchik and Ostroumov, you, probably, already know that these two barnstormers escaped from exile, arrived on August 10th in Leningrad, the 13th filed a statement in which they write, that in three days they have seen the correct lines, etc. And yet they were all the time a terrible "Left" in our ranks, piously professed the theory of petit-bourgeois State and last year "encircled" me for my imaginary passion for the left-course. Finally, take the same Yemelyanova - another candidate for "heroes of our time". The man, until the present, develops "Bonapartist" arguments, and it does not prevent him to dream of "peaceful revolt" and to design all sorts of formulas for the transition to Yaroslavl; as you see, in nature there are no such policy positions that would have saved the people from the clingy disease - defeatism. There are only relative guarantees, but they all ultimately boil down to the fact that the political position must be right, and the people who defend it, - are consistent and combat-ready. This is, of course, little, but more I can not think of.
Turning to your charges in their essence, I must first express complete bewilderment at your lectures about "reformism". It's necessary to say, that I'm straightly bored with vapid talk about reformism and revolution in general, as well as the nature of the state in general, which were the subject of rather tedious discussions in the kolpashevsky colonies. But in this case you simply put the blame on others. About reformism in our ranks, last year I had to raise the issue in connection with the famous letter to you by comrade K., in connection with “the letter to Misha”, wherein the theory of rearguard combat was preached, warnings trotted out against adventurism, and as the latest word of tactical wisdom put forward the minimum program, and restoration of councils and struggle for proletarian dictatorship were postponed until the peasantry finally decomposes into the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Here was a complete reformist stand, to give words their real meaning, [omission] about these positions you still have not articulated a refusal. What kind of value have your fulminations against reformism? None. For me, the essence of "reformism" and "revolutionism" is confined to the question about the purpose of today's struggle. Fighting for the proletarian dictatorship is a revolutionary struggle, the struggle for a “program"-"minimum” - a reformist struggle. If you will object to me that you mean not the goals but the methods of struggle, in this respect you are not in a very "favorable" position. As methods cannot be divorced from the goal, once at this stage the struggle for dictatorship is impossible, then there is of course nothing to rock the boat, it is not necessary to be occupied with "adventurism", etc. In any case, regarding the methods of struggle you have proposed nothing different instead of what is contained in my sentence to the Trotskyists: organization of mass action, including hence the strike, under the slogans of the opposition, or perhaps you suggest barricades and armed insurrection. It would be very interesting and resembles much the idea of "....... reactionary reform", which at one time was popular among the kolpashevsky Trotskyists.
Your third accusation carries a more specific character. You reproach me that in my unifying project, I listed utopian conditions under which it might be possible for the opposition to merge with the VKP and this sowed illusions about the nature of the party and state. In this case I must resolutely respond to these accusations and remind you in this connection, to one fact directly relevant to the matter. In the past year, during the notorious "left course" you in one of your letters wrote as follows (quote from memory): If Stalin began seriously to fight with the Right, then we would offer him an honest block. When one of the Trotskyists asked you, how this position differs from the Trotskyist, you answered: its difference is that you do not believe in the possibility of the fight between Stalin and the right. This episode is quite signifcant in terms of our present-day disputes. You were doubly mistaken. Firstly, the fight against right-wing has become a fact (another question how long it will last). Secondly, even with the presence of this fight against the right we do not propose the block (and we do well), because experience has shown, to which it leads. If we now compare what you have suggested in the past year and what I proposed in the present, it is possible to come to the "unexpected" conclusion that you were an incomparably greater compromiser, than I now, never mind the fact that the current situation differs as much from the previous year, as the 12th party congress does from the famous July plenum. Thus, you in this case changed memory. What remains of my mortal sins? Nothing but the bare fact of trying to come to terms with the Trotskyists on the general platform. I however, in any way can not consider this attempt a sin by my part. More than that: I think that if the current crisis will not be fatal for the opposition, then subsequently we again have to talk with the Trotskyists, on this score I am incorrigible. To hope that we will on our own forces perform the enormous tasks that lie before the opposition movement - this means having an absolutely fantastic idea of its strengths, and in the struggle, even if such a difficult one, with which we are faced, fantasies and illusions are the surest guarantee of defeat. We represent only a tiny part of that revolutionary proletarian movement, which gradually crystallized in further deployment of the class struggle, further regrouping of forces both in the opposition and the VKP. So I see nothing "shameful" in an attempt to negotiate with other groups with whom we will sooner or later have to talk; of course if one does not set for oneselve the task of fighting for the dictatorship, if one puts the revolutionary tasks aside to a distant field, then it will be almost indifferent, in how many groups, circles and sects the general movement is split; in periods of reaction the abundance of circles to some extent even helps the moment of transfusion with the sieve. But however fierce the atmosphere is now, we still live in an era of wars and revolutions, and it is hardly necessary for us to deal with this useful matter.

Since I moved, so to speak, from defense to attack, I cannot bypass in silence another characteristic which you and Voldemar feature, namely that combination of reformism with adventurism which you are accustomed to accuse Trotsky and the Trotskyists of. In his "Letter to Misha”, Vladimir Mikhailovich put forward the idea that we should try to lead any movement of discontent among the working class, even though the sources of this movement were Menshevik and so I think that if this plan was realized in practice, it would be the worst kind of adventurism. In your postcard you write like this: "The workers have terrorist moods. If we will precipitate with reform and do not capture the working-class movement, the tendencies of anarchism, syndicalism, will get the best, and the movement will pass us by, pass by like stinking reformist pile of manure – and only". About reformism I just wrote – you're just playing with words. Essentially it is necessary, first of all, to remember that anarchism as well as syndicalism – are also rather stinking piles, and the movement will not go far, if it goes there. Secondly, without a doubt, if the opposition cannot head the movement, it will pass into the embrace of terrorism, anarchism or, which you forget to mention, the arms of the right Mensheviks, etc. But it is no less clear that we can not lead this movement at a cost of turning ourselves into anarchists, Mensheviks or representatives of the right opposition since it would be fighting hell with the aid of the devil, we must head it, remaining Bolsheviks. But that means we need to struggle not only against the counterrevolution on top, although this struggle is our main task, but we must fight against counter-revolution from below in the person of this anarchism or Mensheviks. The methods of fighting, it is understood, differ here and there. On the other hand, it means that we must have a clear Bolshevik program, instead of simply voice the desire "to lead", yes head hunters there are many without us, but when it comes to a positive program, both from you and from Vladimir Mikhailovich what you hear on this subject are such wild things, that it's necessary to simply throw the hands up. You [together with Vladimir Mikhailovich] see in this demand "reformism" which from your letters is dismissed with a common phrase, that if the proletariat had the possibility to seize power, it probably would have invented a program of action. Such if one may say "stand" indicates one of two things........ You both proceed from the theory of "rearguard battle" and set aside revolutionary tasks until the second coming. Or we have here to deal with belching adventurism, say lead a general discontent, and there'll be, what will be. I strongly reject the one and the other. Lead the movement, without having a program, anyway, beheads it; if we declare the pretention to leader of the working class, it at least has the right to ask us where we are going to lead it, and if we restrict ourselves to answer that we are going to create a party that will fight for wages and working conditions, then here only it will inquire us with passion, why it should go to us, and not to the right-wing opposition, not to the syndicalists, not to the Mensheviks, who will offer it the same thing. There was a time when we felt to some extent a monopoly in the labor question and could ignore the competitors. Now times are different, now all political currents which are not in power flirt with the labor question, and the need to dissociate from these currents becomes every day more and more acute. We must hence solve the labor question in the Bolshevik way i.e. based on the general political and economic program bequeathed by October. I will explain this with the most simple example. Take, for instance, the question of wages. Let us assume that in the coming collective bargaining campaign we put forward the demand: to improve salary at least in those sizes in which this was promised by the five-year plan. If one takes into account that the first year of the Five-Year Plan gave a reduction, and not a wage increase (only a "stone ass" can deny this, like Molotov), even if we remember, that the five-year plan promised to increase the real wage up to 71%, then comes out, that in 29/30, the wages should rise not less than 25-30%, which would cease the decline of last year and would provide the promised increase. The number of workers should increase in 29/30 at 5-6%, therefore the total wage bill should increase by at least 35%. In other words, by about 1/3 should increase the consumption of bread, meat, butter, sugar, textiles, respectively, must be improved housing conditions, etc. (according to different products, differences), consequently, this growth poses problems of labor supply, which are connected to all the fundamental issues of domestic and even foreign policy, and especially the relationship with the peasantry. Judging by Narkom calculations, then this year, in the best case, bread will not be more than in the past, less meat, less sugar, housing conditions will likely deteriorate, since the rate of housing construction lags, manufactured goods for workers' supply, if we consider the increasing transfer of goods to the countryside and a sharp deterioration in quality, also will apparently not increase and so forth. Such are the prospects in terms of dominating policy, which turn even the official promises about 14% increase in salary into deception and lies. Are we obliged in the present agitation and propaganda to consider all these trifles? I believe - yes: one bare increase of wages not only not solves the problem, but rather with the retention of all other conditions, as they are, it will cause such a sharp financial-economic crisis that after two or three months the economic situation will prove to be ten times worse for the workers; to argue from the standpoint of the formula "the worse the better" here is hardly necessary, because it would be "better" not for us, but for someone else. In this way, the question of wages directly runs into the question of bread, but bread is the countryside. From the workers movement – to the peasant question, from which can not get rid by a shrug. In the countryside already now around bread are tied knots of great events, gradually turning into "small" civil wars, like that "small" war which goes on now on the Chinese border. This is evidenced by daily newspaper chronicles, which report of course one 100th of the facts. For me there is no doubt which answer we must give to this question: we are obliged to take the kulak with hands on throat and knee on chest, if we do not want him to do the same with us, the proletariat, but he has already stretched his hands to the throat. The crime of the present regime lies in the fact that it one-handly fights with the kulak, and with the other helps the kulak to knuckle the proletariat, by its policy of increasing bread prices, reduction in the taxes, by the disarmament of the proletariat and rural poor; but mobilising the working class around the slogans of struggle with the kulak and with Stalin's regime, not able to organize the fight at present, we have no right and no need to reject what, for better or for worse, goes along the line of this fight, i.e., collective state farm construction, the forced withdrawal of surpluses etcetera, on the contrary, this it is necessary to hold on to (instead of slander with a contemptuous phrase about convulsions) and make an expansion of the front of the struggle, converting it on to political rails; so for example there is not any doubt that the present condition of the countryside gives a corresponding reflection in the “Red” army, in which “strong middle peasant” have enough imposing cadres. In the presence of Chinese history these moods can acquire especially ominous nature, and, from their side “push” further the course of events. Therefore to me it seems that precisily now among the most urgent tasks proposed in the sphere of military policy is the demand of the armament of the workers and rural poor. In connection with this I must touch on one additional basic problem of our correspondence. I do not know from where you took, that I want to link the interests of workers with the interests of the peasantry for the common struggle against the regime, and demanded of me slogans, that are suitable for this purpose. This is a terrible idea. In my letters I stated that all classes of the country are opposed to Stalin's regime, not finding in it their own interests. But each class is unhappy in its own way. The idea of uniting the workers and peasants to struggle against the regime is counter-revolutionary, rather than revolutionary, because in this struggle, "the peasantry" would have been such an ally, which is a hundred times worse than the enemy. My dispute with Vladimir Mikhailovich on the question of the State had a completely different meaning. It's not so important for me to baptize the bureaucracy a class or not, it is important to establish that the current State does not express a dictatorship of the peasantry over the proletariat, i.e. lacks not only the support of the city but also of the countryside. It is this intermediate situation, as is noted in our platform, which makes our struggle not hopeless. The opposite point of view is at odds with the facts. About the "theory" of Emelyanov it is hardly worth to speak seriously of. Peasant State, terrified of bourgeois restoration, begins feverishly build statefarms and heavyindustrialising plans - it's chickens' laugh, but not theory. And indeed all the arguments about the petty-bourgeois, i.e. peasant, nature of the current state is in its logic reminiscent of an Armenian riddle - green, hangs on the wall, it squeaks, and on checking there turns out a herring. About the same correspondence exists between the peasant interests and Stalin's policy, despite the fact that the village decently heated its hands around the economic crisis of recent years. With regard to the countryside, we must remember that there is a peasant and a peasant. Against the prosperous part of the village, which strangles the city with the bony hand of hunger, we must act together, even with the current state: "march separately, strike together", dragging it along or pushing back, according to circumstances. Who in this "triangle" prefers a block with the kulaks against the state, is not with our way. Rural poor must be involved at our side. It is said that they have kulak sentiment. But here we must proceed not from sentiment which may be present with kulaks and certain parts of workers, but the economic situation of the poor, which determines their enduring interests, this position requires a cheap and not expensive price of bread, a high, rather than low taxation of the wealthy (with the use of taxes give economic assistance to cooperatives for poor), etc. Yes, the sentiments of the poor are not, as they may appear to some; as for the middle peasants, the situation is far more complex and difficult. His bond with the kulak - fact. One can hardly expect that it is possible in the course of an acute period of struggle for bread to win them as allies. To me it seems that to the extent that in the countryside is repeated something like the situation in 1918 (with the "small" difference that the kulak is the advancing side), then for the middle peasants the problem should rather be of neutralization, concentrating all efforts on the organization of the poor; concerning the middle peasants, I must, among other things, remind you that even in the period of 15th congress, I certainly tried to prove his existence in one of our meetings in Moscow. Most, including you and Waldemar, then decided the issue in the sense that the middle peasant is "indistinct", but the middle peasants remained in spite of this decision and, in the opinion of Vladimir Mikhailovich, even now holds power in his hands, is it not strange that now, the same middle peasant mainly serves you and others as a scarecrow, whom you in 1927 hastely buried without much discussion.


I have touched upon only one corner of the economic issues, which with we have to deal, if we finally come close to a concrete analysis of the situation, from which we are all the time distracted by factional bickering with Trotskyites. I'm not going to roughcast the platform in this letter, I only will touch in general characteristics on some other problems. The attitude developed in our group, I think, is that it is necessary to win again for ourself the old platform, not in order to uncritically repeat all the previous slogans, but proceeding from it, to understand the new situation. We joined the opposition struggle in 1927 with the demands of accelerating the rate of industrialization and the creation of large socialized economy in agriculture. As far as I remember, in our theses on the five-year plan, we wrote: "The need to create at the end of the fifth anniversary such an array of socialized economy in agriculture, which would replace the old landlord economy in supplying cities and exports." At this point we naturally stand now. About the rate of industrial development, we wrote: one must ensure such a growth of industry, which would be superior to the rate of industrial development of the capitalist countries during their ascent. These provisions remain entirely faithful to this day. It would be absurd to invent something else just because these demands are included in the the official program of the apparatus. After all, we are not building opposition for the sake of opposition, and don't indulge in politicking, on the other hand, we have more than enough grounds for an uncompromising struggle with the apparatus on every other domain, to have to invent yet some new kind of base. On the contrary, as far as the matter goes on the rate, one must even somewhat support the wild bureaucratic fantasy, for whom today the sea is at the knees. But agreeing with the apparatus on pace, we disagree about methods, i.e. fundamentally on: contruction of state and collective farms without the poor, construction of industry without the proletariat - that could think up only the narrow heads of Stalinist officials, constituting really the very "bottleneck" in the entire system. Concerning the construction of industry our differences now are sharper than ever before, because Stalin builts it on the bones of the workers. Concerning the construction of collective and state farms, we will fight administrative enthusiasm, which replaces the initiative of the poor, with falsified full collectivization, which on checking fully and continuously shows itself full of lies and swindle. These state farms, grown by the pike's wish*, have already shown themselve in the current grain procurement campaign. We will fight against this shameful and unscrupulous policy, because of which the USSR has become ahead of all other capitalist countries in the degree of deterioration of the situation of workers, in the degree of manual labor, we are struggling with this policy not only because it is class-hostile to the proletariat, not only because it discredited in the eyes of the workers the very idea of socialized economy and destroyed the work of many generations of socialists, but also because it serves as a sure way to catastrophic failure of all the industrial plans and programs and prepares in the near future a new triumph of the right reaction. We are against socialist competition, because in its conditions and methods it is the direct opposite of socialist demands. We stand for continuous production, but against the deterioration of working conditions, which very often occur under the pretext of continuous production, against the bureaucratic resolution of the question, which affects the daily interests of millions. Needless to say, we oppose the latest decree "one man management" *, which constitutes a direct provocation in relation to the workers and a brutal challenge to the whole opposition movement. It's easy to imagine a rise in the "enthusiasm" of the workers after this decree. This product of the creativity of the enraged Stalinist apparatchik, the Central Committee is trying to reinforce with references to Lenin. But in 1918, when Lenin put forward one man management, it was a question of the necessary entry in the margin of capacious democracy in the first months of revolution, whereas in 1928 only an idiot or scoundrel can come up with the idea, that our economy suffers from an excess of democracy. You could think that after several years of continuous crackdown masters and directors still haven't enough rights; this decree expresses, however, not only an extreme degree of administrative arbitrariness, but an extreme degree of bureaucratic stupidity. What a brilliant idea! First, to show the working class around the world the amazing picture of the corruption, decay, decomposition, degeneration of the apparatus as a whole and the economic apparatus in particular, and then to entrust to this all-union abscess the reins of one man management, give it uncontrolled despotism over the fate of industry and working class. Doesn't there hide behind this the thought: one man management in the economy to pave the path to one man management (one man dictatorship) also in politics? In case of necessity possible corresponding quotes from Lenin might reinforce this, and even from that same article, to which the decree of one man management refers. True, Lenin had revolutionary dictatorship in mind, and in this case the speach can only go to counter-revolutionary dictatorship, but since then, like the devil learned to calculate with holy scripture, for the new Cavaignacs it's no work to refer to the interests of the revolution.

Disrupting the order a bit, I again return to economic issues. If we stand for the high rate of industrialization and the struggle against the exploitative practices of its implementation, it is quite obvious as a counterweight to it one must nominate other sources and other methods. Our platform's main emphasis lies on price policy. But the question of pricing will now be different than it was in 1927 when there were the notorious campaign of lower prices for industrial goods, although now compared with the agricultural price index, industrial prices remain fixed, and hence private squandering of industry continues, however, significant price increases may at this stage completely push the currency off the cliff and open the floodgates for runaway inflation. In my opinion, while maintaining our position on prices, emphasis must now move to direct enforcement measures on withdrawal of cash surplus in the countryside and the city, either by extraordinary one-time tax, or by forced loan to village and to town. The publication now of materials about the activities of the bodies of Narkomfin illustrate clearly that the orgy of appeasement, which was going on the fiscal front. Why not in a revolutionary way make up the lost?

Another source must be a relentless cost reduction of the apparatus. Only the apparatus of the party, profunion and GPU costs 600-700 million rubles, which could be reduced by half. Here generally the financial side of things is covered in thick fog. In any case, it is clear that at least the problem of improving the material conditions of workers can not be solved without revolutionary incursions into the area of unproductive expenditures. Even the bourgeois government of Germany made surgery on its machine with much greater determination in its time (1925) than the USSR government. I don't speak about the fact yet, that this cut is dictated by the need to trim the material base of the bureaucratic system. Beside other things its useful to recall as well the policy of treasury bonds, which factually transfrom into weapons of wage reduction. With regard to loans, we need to push the demand of a progressive income method layout with a complete exemption on our earnings [of workers]. The abomination of the current system is not only that, under the guise of loans part of salary is confiscated, but also that the subscription to the same loan is obligatory in the same percentage (monthly salary) for all groups and classes. Gentlemen officials of higher classes would not hurt to show correspondingly greater "enthusiasm" and subscribe for example to third monthly earnings, and the most pay compute for the whole total of their income, i.e. including any subsidies, health resort funds, natural privileges and others, etc. I already said that I was not going in this letter to cover all the issues, which must enter into our assessment of the current moment. Along with the economic course today the most important and relevant of the momentary issues of Comintern and international policy is where now the blade cuts Sino-Soviet conflict. Unfortunately, I do not have at present the opportunity to speak on these issues, since I postponed study pertaining to this material for a period of thaw. Yes and the materials I have are such, that the cat cried. The Chinese episode, as far as I can judge (and partly based on the surviving foreign newspapers), is undoubtedly one of links of the imperialist plan against the USSR. But the complexity of the issue is that the USSR itself here is in the role of capitalist with respect to China, because the dispute is about the Chinese Eastern Railway, to which China has all rights from the point of view of the principles of proletarian international politics. Therin lies the "dexterity" of the imperialist backers of China. They beat the USSR with the same weapon that the USSR in 1926-27 sent against them when supporting the national movement against foreigners. The piquancy of the situation furthermore is that the Soviet Union and China signed the Kellogg pact, hence both are in the environmental sphere of American imperialism, but about the political dependence of the USSR on the United States the European press speaks quite definitely. What should be our position in this conflict? It's my understanding that we must continue to stand on the point of view of protecting the USSR against intervention, support them in their struggle against the White Guard provocations and the rest, but at the same time, demand the transfer of the CER to China. This, in particular, would be the best means to disarm the imperialists. With this I'm done and limit my excursion in the domain of international relations.


In my unifying proposal to the Trotskyists I tried in the most general schematic form to outline our line in relation to State and Party. I set myself the question in this way: if we wanted in the most general form express in one slogan our attitude to the current State, then what should that slogan be? I replied. Our goal is not destruction of this state, but to achieve proletarian democracy in it. It goes without saying that the proletariat must not break the state apparatus, but must take control of it. But that does not mean that she has to leave everything in its place. After all, even Stalin was forced under pressure from below to reduce now 8-10% ???? of the state composition, replacing them with new nominees, who under the existing system quickly turn into the same heroes of astrachanschini. The more authentic task of renovating the apparatus from top to bottom stands before us. The mastery of the State from the side of the proletariat must consist in the fact that the proletariat in the first place, produces a massive "revision" of the personnel composition of the state apparatus, and secondly, put their new nominees in such conditions that offer the greatest guarantee from a recurrence of the Stalinist regime. But no matter how deep and wide these changes would be, they would not mean a destruction of the current state. Breaking, "smashing" the state is an indissoluble part of such a social revolution, which fundamentally changes the economic foundations of society. But we do not want to change these foundations. On the contrary we want to strengthen them. In fact, what sort of tasks confront the opposition "on the day after the overthrow of the Politburo". Overthrow the landlords and capitalists is impossible for the reason that they have already been overthrown, and to deal with the remnants of these classes within the country it is hardly necessary to trot out the heavy artillery. The land is nationalized, meaning to nationalize it again makes no sense; industry, transport, trade and credit are nationalized and monopolized, in some places maybe even more than necessary, so there is nothing to do there, what remains only is to confirm the existing decrees. Therefore from those tasks that in generally occupy social revolutionaries of modern times, here drop out such important things as the destruction of socio-economic system of bourgeois private property and socialization the means of production and exchange. What remains to be done in this direction in the countryside can not be done except on those routes which are already practically laid in the form of state farms, collective farms, machine-tractor stations, etc., and here, as far as this discourse is about purely economic activities, from our part, can propose only amendments and not another general line. Therefore it remains only a struggle for the policy of this state, which of course concentrates all the nodes of class relations. And since the policy makes the apparatus, the struggle for the apparatus in broadest sense of the word is the basis of all bases. Fighting for the apparatus from the point view of the proletariat is a struggle for proletarian democracy which is the only means to subordinate the state to the working class. But for the implementation of this democracy it's not enough that a "happy confluence of events put the opposition in power" and give her the opportunity to release a pair or two decrees, whereafter winning democracy would go step by step, as turned out in the hands of the opposition. If the process of ousting the workers from power dragged on 7-8 years (counting from 1921), then the reverse process may take as much time. It's as if you're inclined to read the slogan advanced by me reformist, but did not propose to replace it with anything else. Yes and invent something else is impossible, without embarking on any foibles. A general phrase on reform and revolution in the face of such problems, before which has not yet stood one party in the world, costs little. From this viewpoint also Boris' assertion is absurd, that everything goes "in the family", by peaceful means, and the opposite opinion, which necessarily involves barricades and longs blood. The latter is only more likely, because the struggle for the apparatus is at the same time class struggle, that in a country, which has gone through October and civil war, could easily take military form. But that is in any case not a historical law. We conduct struggle, we know that's hard. We can establish it's specific form at this stage. But a prophesy about what these forms are at the next stage, is quite unnecessary, because to do this one must know in advance, how the present stage of struggle ends.


When I say that it is "only" the conquest of proletarian democracy, I put quotes deliberately, because that slogan does not deminish the scope of our struggle. On the contrary, here is concentrated in one point the whole class program of the proletariat, all of its demands to the existing State. Proletarian democracy is not only politics, but economy, i.e. it includes the question about the share of the proletariat of the national income, in national culture, struggle against the apparatus; the struggle for the apparatus should meanwhile not overshadow the immediate struggle against those classes, which from the opposite side strive for power and, as a variety of affairs and excesses show, have already managed to master the apparatus not for 2/3, not for 3/4, but here and there for the full 100%. If we proceed from the surface impressions, then the current situation is reminiscent of the Kronstadt days. Then, as now, "Soviet power" was in the air, bearing against itelf city as well as countryside. Product shortage, food crisis, etc. in both cases constitute the basic background of the situation. The crisis of the party and revolution, all sorts of "excesses", purges, etc. - all these had some similarities in the time of Kronstadt. If at that time the fighting in the country was often conducted in the language of cannons and machine guns, it's simply because the Kronstadt period is directly related to the completion of the civil war against old classes. And in hands were carried weapons. Finally, then and now, at the heart of the crisis - the relation with the rural peasant question. These are the lines of similarity. It is not surprising that under the influence of these first impressions frequently tend to hasty conclusions about possible outcomes of this crisis. If NEP followed Kronstadt, then a present crisis should end neo-NEP, this conclusion is with many and many in mind, not only in the party but the opposition, not only among the right and centrists, but also among leftists. To overcome this mood, it is useful take a closer look at this Kronstadt analogy. And here some thoughts and observations are enough, for the surface impressions ???? situation.


*B. Emelyanov (Kalin) was a member of the Bolshevik Party since 1910. In 1922 - Secretary of the Cherepovets party committee. From July 1923 - party secretary of the Communist University Y.M. Sverdlov. Together with Dashkovskij, one of the 15 signatories of the 1927 platform. Excluded in December 1927, exiled to Yeniseysk. Further fate unknown.

* http://stpetersburg-guide.com/folk/pike.shtml

* unity of command



 This is a very welcome effort!  Just to be clear: you translated this from Russian?

I will read this and make some comments soon. 


 This is a very welcome effort!  Just to be clear: you translated this from Russian?

I will read this and make some comments soon. 

Dashkovskij's letter

If that is what you can call triangulating google-translate with babelfish and adding lots of articles to nouns, yes, from this doc bataillesocialiste.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/collection-of-documents-on-the-decists.pdf  Afaik, there are no translations of these, except the platform of 15, by the ICC of course.

The unfamiliar terms or references in this letter to me are Bonapartism of the 96th sort, rearguard battle, (same as?=) reactionary reform, kolpashevsky colonnies, Vladimir Mikhailovich, July plenum, comrade K., Letter to Misha (author and addressee)...

Passages where I lose (some of) the theoretical argument, mostly economic; workers (=labor?) supply, agricultural price index, treasury bonds, loans (not sure if this is even the right translation), progressive income method, the debate on the middle peasant...

I look forward to your comments Alf and from others, especially how these positions resemble or differ from Miasnikov and Trotsky at the time, where there are critiques to be made, etc.



discussions among the Democratic Centralists

 It is a difficult discussion to follow because many of the references are also obscure to me. My impression from a quick first read is that this is Dashkovskij responding to Sapranov's charge of reformism, partly because he seems more open to discussing with the Trotskyists. The overall context is the problem posed to the left communists by the adoption by Stalin of the plans for rapid industrialisation, which many oppositionists, blinded by seeing the right wing of the party as the main danger, saw as a move to the left by the Stalinists. This led to numerous capitulations and certainly had an impact on the Democratic Centralism group (decists) as well as the Trotskyists. The exact differences within the decist group as expressed in this letter are not very clear - the general framework of the decists, outlined in the platform of the 15,  seems to have been a position of radical reform of the existing apparatus, not the destruction of the state, a point D makes explicitly - for him the nationalised economy is still seen as in some sense an acquisition of the revolution. . But around this time many left communists were moving towards the view that Stalin represented the counter-revolution and that that there were no longer any gains from October 1917, either political or economic, to defend.  This was proved to be right, but it was not an easy position to arrive at at the time: may of those who saw the USSR as capitalist also started to reject the October revolution and Bolshevism.  

re: Decists

Alf, I don't know where to read the platform of the 15, but e.g. Charetsko (see below), and I think from the above letter it is clear, Dashkovskij as well, explictly oppose the (Trotskyist) position of reform of the existing apparatus. I think Dashkovskij, in a basic marxist sense, understands that in the dictatorship of the proletariat, it makes no sense to speak of 'smashing' the state in general, rather the proletariat must 'master' it. In his point about nationalised economy he is speaking as the professional economy professor that he is; analyzing the situation (an article of his about this is online), not endorsing existing policy. Charetsko mentions that Dashkovskij saw Russia develop state-capitalism à la Hilferding (not Lenin). For Charetsko this was the urban petty bourgeois's response (sort of continuing the bourgeois revolution) against the threat of restoration in the form of kulak counter-revolution (which Bukharin was blind to see).

T. Charetsko wrote this in a letter to Dashkovskij, August 28th 1929. Like Sapronov, he castigates Dashkovskij for his unifying proposal to the (left-)Trotskyists; e.g. that it contains sacrifices of prinicple concering State and Party for the sake of diplomacy, etc. But he doesn't accuse Dashkovskij of reformism (like you seem to do to decists, Alf ), because he agrees with Dashkovskij's critique formulated by him on other occasions. The Trotskyists still rejected the proposal by the way, which confirms their petty-bourgeois bureaucratic nature, so writes Charetsko. Charetsko also agrees with Dashkovksij about the error in Vladimir Mikhailovich (Smirnov)'s analysis of the social base of the state; that it supposedly rests on the petty-bourgeois; peasantry. For Charetsko it's more precise to say that the petty-bourgeoisie consists in an urban-industrial and an agricultural-middle peasant section, who hold positions in army, police and economy. Charetsko strongly rejects that the bureaucracy is a class; he notes that after the world war, from fascist Italy to Hindenburg's Germany, everywhere the state's role (and therefor the bureaucracy's size) has increased. As the above translated letter shows, Dashkovskij is willing to concede this point (in the sense that his main argument stands).

What bares stressing is that Charetsko considers Kronstadt part of a series of petty-bourgeois uprisings after Octobre (Ataman risings, White armies, grainstrikes) -, as does Sapronov (Tambov).


platform of decists in English?

Here is Stalin on the July plenum of 1928.

The platform of the 15 is here (in German), dated 27th of June 1927, but can someone confirm that the ICC translated it into English?

(edit:) When Dashkovskij above makes reference to the 'letter to Misha' he refers to a letter written by Vladimir Mikhailovich Smirnov (also nicknamed Voldemar) likely to Misha Schapiro. This important letter is probably not included among the documents though.

There is a lenghty 36 page letter from Smirnov from 23 April 1929 which mostly exposes the devastating economic situation the workers faced (Smirnov was an economist), entitled 'The crisis of the petty-bourgeois policy'. According to Sapronov, Smirnov's political positions were close to those in the document by the Yeniseyk-ists (a town whereto Emelyanov-Kalin had been exiled - above he's also called comrade K.). Dashkovksij and Sapronov critized Smirnov (Sapronov's letter to Smirnov argues mainly against his talk of Bonapartism and the supposed complete liquidation of the party). Charetsko's letter comments on the polemic Dashkovskij held with Smirnov about this 'letter to Misha'. Smirnov responds to several criticisms in a letter of 16 September 1929. Smirnov there discusses also the views of Osip and Schapiro (these names don't appear as signatures underneath the platform, but that just shows the group was larger than 15 people).

There are many more letters from Smirnov.


On libcom there's a better translation of Dashkovskij' letter. Also, another translated text from the decists here.






decist platform

 Our book on the Russian left communists contains an English translation from the French version of the Decist platform. We haven't got the whole of this book online I am afraid but copies of the book are available

a letter of Sapronov


Letter of T. Sapronov to V.M. Smirnov

Hullo, friend Voldemar. I hope, that you do not seriously declare, that the polemic on fundamental issues burdens you, as though it were a detriment to actual issues of the present day. I am occupied with them also not for the sake of "testing the feather", but only because these same actual issues can be resolved correctly only in the context and in the light of the most appropriate resolution of fundamental issues. From your indirect comments it appears as if that you for yourself consider these fundamental issues finally resolved in the letter to "MISHA", and any revision or discussion on them seems to you to be at most an idle exercise, which can be accepted only as repertoire for slow achievers. If, contrary to expectation, there was such an approach, it would rule out any opportunity to collectively discuss the radical issues of our platform.
This is the miniature preface. Now about the essential. That, which you name a "monstrous lie", you will find not so monstrous, when looking a bit closer. First of all, with anarchism here no business, when I argue that the monopoly position of the ruling party brings her to "spoilage". I did not argue that at all (that would be really pure anarchism), but spoke of the VKP under conditions of the concrete alignment of class forces. Appositely, not in my letter of 18/V, nor in my notes on the VKP there is such an assertion, that under all circumstances the ruling party is immanently doomed to "spoilage". My remark about the point, that also with Lenin already there were present to a certain extent relations between the party and state apparatus, which later bloomed terry flowers, was required merely in order, to refute your fundamental "liquidationist" "cadaverous" premise – as if the essence of the matter was, that the state machinery liquidated, killed the party as the result of the change after 1923 in radical ways of the relations between the party and government. With you it turns out, as if the change in relations - the work of the hands of the present renegades of bolshevism, but the renegades, then from where appeared? Perhaps they came readymade to the party and temporarily obediently fulfilled the will of the majority and Lenin, and with the death of the latter began to strangle the party, until she was a lifeless corpse? With my reminder about the point, that the by you emphasized "relations" already started to form under Lenin, I merely wanted to show, that the crux of the matter is not these seemingly "new relations", but the changes after the victorious 1917-19 proletarian revolution in the alignment of classes, whose product are these "new" relations, the social degeneration of the party and the by her led proletarian dictatorship, as well as the renegades themselves. Now about the "monstrous lie". You ask a dozen questions and answer them negatively. But why do you not try to refute my facts in the notes on the VKP? On your question - "when was the discussion forbidden in the Party?" - I answer: did not Lenin write the resolution of the tenth congress on the prohibition of groups and factions? This is an actual prohibition of discussion. Back then it was still impossible to openly decree "the prohibition of discussion", like Stalin did afterwards based precisely on Lenin's tenth congress resolution. But the secret points of that resolution on the expulsion from the party perhaps they not turn on the same spots? At that time under Lenin's leadership along with that prohibitive resolution

document no. 40, p. 276, date unknown, breaks off.

(The following document, no. 41, is missing)