Lenin Outlaws the Party Opposition

Vladimir Lenin, On the Syndicalist and Anarchist Deviation in our Party. March 16, 1921


Original Source: KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, Vol. I (Moscow, 1954), p. 530.

1. A syndicalist and anarchist deviation has been definitely revealed in our Party in the past few months. It calls for the most resolute measures of ideological struggle and also for purging the Party and restoring its health.

2. The said deviation is due partly to the influx into the Party of elements who have not yet fully assimilated the communist world outlook. Mainly, however, this deviation is due to the influence exercised upon the proletariat and on the Russian Communist Party by the petty-bourgeois element, which is exceptionally strong in our country, and which inevitably engenders vacillation towards anarchism, particularly at a time when the condition of the masses has greatly deteriorated as a consequence of the crop failure and the devastating effects of war, and when the demobilization of the army numbering millions sets loose hundreds and hundreds of thousands of peasants and workers unable immediately to find regular means of livelihood.

3. One of the most theoretically complete and clearly defined expressions of this deviation are the theses and other literary productions of the so-called Workers’ Opposition group. Sufficiently illustrative of this is, for example, the following thesis propounded by this group: ‘The organization of the management of the national economy is the function of an All-Russia Congress of Producers organized in industrial unions which shall elect a central body to run the whole of the national economy of the Republic.’

The ideas at the bottom of this and numerous similar statements are radically wrong in theory, and represent a complete break with Marxism and communism, with the practical experience of all semi-proletarian revolutions and of the present proletarian revolution.

First, the concept ‘producer’ combines proletarians with semi-proletarians and small commodity producers, thus radically departing from the fundamental concept of the class struggle and from the fundamental demand that a precise distinction be drawn between classes.

Secondly, the incorrect framing of the question of the relationship between the Party and the broad non-party masses, which leads to the subordination of the Party to a non-party milieu, as given in this thesis, is an equally radical departure from Marxism.

Marxism teaches-and this tenet has not only been formally endorsed by the whole of the Communist International in the decisions of the Second (1920) Congress of the Comintern on the role of the political party of the proletariat, but has also been confirmed in practice by our revolution-that only the political party of the working class, i.e., the Communist Party, is capable of uniting, training and organizing a vanguard of the proletariat and of the whole mass of the working people that alone will be capable of withstanding the inevitable petty-bourgeois vacillations of this mass and the inevitable traditions and relapses of narrow craft unionism or craft prejudices among the proletariat, and of guiding all aspects of the proletarian movement, which means of all the working masses. Without this the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible.

The wrong understanding of the role of the Communist Party in its relation to the non-party working masses on the one hand, and an equally wrong understanding of the role of the working class in its relationship to the whole mass of the toilers on the other, are a radical theoretical departure from communism and a deviation towards syndicalism and anarchism, and this deviation permeates all the views of the Workers’ Opposition group.

4. The Tenth Congress of the Russian Communist Party declares that it also regards as radically wrong all attempts on the part of the said group and of other persons to defend their fallacious views by referring to Paragraph 5 of the economic section of the Program of the Russian Communist Party, which deals with the role of the trade unions. This paragraph says that ‘the trade unions should eventually arrive at a de facto concentration in their hands of the whole administration of the whole national economy as a single economic entity’ and that they will ‘ensure in this way indissoluble ties between the central state administration, the national economy and the broad masses of working people’, ‘drawing’ these masses ‘into direct economic management’.

This paragraph in the Program of the Russian Communist Party also says that a prerequisite for the state at which the trade unions ‘should eventually arrive’ is the process whereby they increasingly ‘divest themselves of the narrow craft-union spirit’ and embrace the majority ‘and eventually all’ of the working people.

Lastly, this paragraph in the Program of the Russian Communist Party emphasizes that ‘on the strength of the laws of the RSFSR, and established practice, the trade unions participate in all the local and central organs of industrial management’.

Instead of studying the practical experience of participation in administration, and instead of developing this experience further, strictly in conformity with successes achieved and mistakes rectified, the syndicalists: and anarchists advance as an immediate slogan ‘congresses or a congress of producers’ ‘to elect’ the organs of economic management. Thus, the leading, educational and organizing role of the Party in relation to the trade unions of the proletariat, and of the latter to the semi-petty-bourgeois and even wholly petty-bourgeois masses of working people, is completely evaded and eliminated, and instead of continuing and correcting the practical work of building new forms of economy already begun by the Soviet state, we get petty-bourgeois-anarchist disruption of this work, which can only lead to the triumph of the bourgeois counter-revolution.

5. In addition to the theoretical fallacies and a radically wrong attitude towards the practical experience of economic organization already begun by the Soviet government, the Congress of the Russian Communist Party discerns in the views of this and similar groups and persons a gross political mistake and a direct political danger to the very existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

In a country like Russia, the overwhelming preponderance of the petty-bourgeois element and the devastation, impoverishment, epidemics, crop failures, extreme want and hardship inevitably resulting from the war, engender particularly sharp vacillations in the temper of the petty-bourgeois and semi-proletarian masses. First they incline towards a strengthening of the alliance between these masses and the proletariat, and then towards bourgeois restoration. The experience of all revolutions in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries shows most clearly and convincingly that the only possible result of these vacillations-if the unity, strength and influence of the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat is weakened in the slightest degree-will be the restoration of the power and property of the capitalists and landowners.

Hence, the views of the Workers’ Opposition and of like-minded elements are not only wrong in theory, but are an expression of petty-bourgeois and anarchist wavering in practice, and actually weaken the consistency of the leading line of the Communist Party and help the class enemies of the proletarian revolution.

6. In view of all this, the Congress of the RCP, emphatically rejecting the said ideas, as being expressive of a syndicalist and anarchist deviation, decrees that:

First, it be considered necessary to wage an unswerving and systematic struggle against these ideas;

Secondly, the congress recognizes the propaganda of these ideas as being incompatible with membership of the Russian Communist Party.

Instructing the CC of the Party strictly to enforce these decisions, the Congress at the same time points out that special publications, symposiums, etc., can and should provide space for a most comprehensive exchange of opinion between Party members on all the questions herein indicated.

Source: V. I. Lenin, Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), Vol. XXXII, p. 245.

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