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Vol. 78/No. 16      April 28, 2014

Trotsky-led Opposition fought
Stalinism, Russian chauvinism
(Books of the Month column)
Below is an excerpt from The Challenge of the Left Opposition (1926-27) by Leon Trotsky, one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for April. Trotsky documents the struggle by the Opposition to defend V.I. Lenin’s revolutionary course in response to the bureaucratic degeneration of the Russian Communist Party and Soviet government under Joseph Stalin. The Opposition fought to advance the proletarian and revolutionary internationalist course of Lenin, including strengthening the worker-peasant alliance and combating national oppression. This section titled “The National Question” is from “Platform of the Opposition: The Party Crisis.” Copyright ©1980 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

In the sphere of our national policy, just as in other spheres, it is necessary to return to Leninist positions:

1. To carry out an incomparably more systematic, more consistent, more vigorous, effort to overcome national divisions among workers of different nationalities — especially by an attitude of consideration toward newly recruited “national” workers, training them in skilled trades and improving their living and cultural conditions; to firmly remember that the real lever for bringing the backward national countryside into the work of Soviet construction is the creation and development of proletarian cadres in the local population.

2. To reconsider the five-year economic plan with a view to increasing the rate of industrialization in the backward periphery, and to work out a fifteen-year plan which shall take into consideration the interests of the national republics and regions; to adapt our state purchasing policy to the development of special crops among the poor and middle peasants (cotton in Central Asia, tobacco in the Crimea, Abkhazia, etc.). The cooperative credit policy and also the policy of land improvement (in Central Asia, Transcaucasia, etc.) ought to be carried out strictly on class lines, in keeping with the fundamental tasks of socialist construction; to give greater attention to the development of cattle-raising cooperatives, to carry out industrialization in the processing of agricultural raw materials in a manner adapted to local conditions. To revise our policy of settling new inhabitants in more backward regions to conform to the aim of a correct policy on the national question.

3. To carry out conscientiously the policy of nationalization of the soviet apparatus, as well as the party, trade union, and cooperative apparatuses, with genuine consideration for the relations between classes and between nationalities; to wage a real struggle against “colonialist” deviations in the activities of government, cooperative, and other agencies; to reduce bureaucratic mediation between the center and the periphery; to study the experience of the Transcaucasian Federation from the standpoint of its promoting or failing to promote the industrial and cultural development of the nationalities concerned.

4. Systematically to remove every obstacle to the fullest possible union and cooperation of the working people of different nationalities in the Soviet Union, on the basis of socialist construction and international revolution; to wage a determined struggle against the mechanical imposition upon the workers and peasants of other nationalities of the predominant national language. In this matter the laboring masses should have full freedom of choice. The real rights of every national minority within the boundaries of every national republic and region must be guaranteed. In all this work special attention must be given to those exceptional conditions arising between formerly oppressed nationalities and nationalities who were formerly their oppressors.

5. A consistent implementation of inner-party democracy in all the national republics and regions; an absolute repudiation of the attitude of command toward non-Russians, of appointment and transfer from above; a repudiation of the policy of arbitrary division of non-Russian Communists into “rights” and “lefts”; a most attentive promotion and training of local proletarian, semiproletarian, agricultural proletarian and (anti-kulak) peasant activists.

6. A repudiation of the Ustryalov* tendency, and of all kinds of great-power tendencies — especially in the central commissariats and in the state apparatus in general. An educational struggle against local nationalism upon the basis of a clear and consistent class policy on the national question.

7. Transformation of the Soviet of Nationalities into a really functioning institution bound up with the life of the national republics and regions, and really capable of defending their interests.

8. Adequate attention to the national problem in the work of the trade unions and to the task of forming national proletarian cadres. Business in these unions to be transacted in the local language; the interests of all nationalities and national minorities to be protected.

9. No franchise under any circumstances for exploiting elements.

10. A fifth conference on nationality questions to be called on a basis of real representation of the rank and file.

11. Publication in the press of Lenin’s letter on the national question, which contains a criticism of Stalin’s line on this question.

* N. Ustryalov was a member of the Cadet Party who fought in the White Army, a loose confederation of monarchist and other pro-imperialist forces, in the civil war following the 1917 Russian Revolution. After the victory of the Bolsheviks, he went to work for the Soviet government believing that capitalism could be restored gradually. He supported Stalin as a step toward this goal.
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