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The Communist Party (USSR) Quarrels

According to Party statute, the supreme ruling body of the Communist Party was the Party Congress, which in the early twenties was meeting once per year. The Party Congress elected members of Central Committee and the Central Committee had its offices, including the office General Secretary held by Stalin. There was also the Politburo, said to be the highest policy-making government authority under the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, a body also founded by the Party Congress. It was the Politburo that was running the Soviet Union, and among its seven members were Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky. Meanwhile, only Stalin and Trotsky were allowed access to Lenin without an appointment.

With Lenin's death in January 1924, differences of opinion in the Politburo intensified, and every move was being supported ideologically. To keep up with Party polemics and to put an end to a reputation among his colleagues that he was weak in theory, Stalin began taking private bi-weekly lessons on Marxism, taught by a Party philosopher, Yan Sten. Stalin has been described as finding some of it hard going, especially the writings of the philosopher Hegel, whose turgid sentences were difficult for the brightest of people.

An at the top of the Communist Party was the note that Lenin criticizing Stalin for rudeness and abuse of power. To members of the Central Committee, Stalin appeared to have mended his ways with proper humility and manners, and the Central Committee voted that Lenin's note should be revealed to Communist Party members in general.

Members of the Politburo were growing impatient with Lenin's compromise with capitalism: his New Economic Policy of 1921. Trotsky was advocating more socialist manufacturing, while taxes on private enterprise were providing the government with some of its needed revenues. It was the surpluses produced on the more successful farms that were providing the Soviet Union with sales abroad, giving the Soviet Union hard currency with which to buy machinery with which to advance industry, and there were those in the Party who favored letting farms prosper for the sake of more food. Stalin listened to the debates without committing himself.

Stalin didn't like Trotsky considered as Lenin's successor, and he didn't like what he and some other Bolsheviks took as Trotksy's intellectual posturing and arrogant elitism. Eventually, Stalin clashed openly with Trotsky. Stalin enunciated a position that became known as "Socialism in One Country," a position that appealed to rank and file Bolsheviks and their greater interest in matters at home (make the Soviet Union great) rather than revolution abroad. Stalin said that by now, five years after World War I had ended, the capitalist nations had stabilized, revolution abroad was not imminent and the Soviet Union would need to live among the capitalist powers and maintain good relations with them for the sake of the trade and economic growth. Stalin presented his views as orthodox Leninism, employing quotes from Engels and Lenin.

Trotsky was for emphasizing revolution in other countries, and he favored support for the Soviet Union's numerous poor farmers at the expense of its more successful farmers. The conflict between the two became vitriolic, with Stalin boasting about his past as an old Bolshevik while using petty falsehoods to denigrate Trotsky's role in the revolution.

Two members of the Politburo, Zinoviev and Kamenev were close to Trotsky in their advocacy of world revolution and their eagerness to do away with the New Economic Policy. And they were eager for the Soviet Union to do away with free enterprise farming. But they remained opposed to Trotsky and his criticism of Party organization as insufficiently democratic. Trotsky disliked Zinoviev and Kamenev, and these two sided with Stalin. They called for Trotsky's expulsion from the Politburo. Stalin opposed this, posing as the man for Party unity and comity. But Trotsky was removed as head of the Red Army, and he was succeeded by a Stalin supporter: Kliment Voroshilov.

Stalin his allies laid plans for the building of socialist industries alongside some free enterprise. Supporting Stalin in this move was the member of the Politburo who had filled the space on that body vacated by Lenin: Nikolai Bukharin. Bukharin, thirty-six years old, was a native of Moscow and he had been a Bolshevik since at least 1908. He was concerned about peasant incentives and Party harassment of farmers holding back progress in agricultural production. He was aware, for example, of peasants hiding a newly purchased machine to avoid being considered rich and a class enemy. Bukharin declared that the peasants should feel free to enrich themselves and develop their holdings, and he pushed the Soviet government into lifting restrictions on more wealthy farmers hiring people to help them work their farms.

In the Politburo, Zinoviev and Kamenev favored extending socialism to farming and repeatedly attacked Bukharin. The conflict extended into the 14th Party Congress in December 1925. Zinoviev and Kamenev worried about Stalin's influence and at the Congress they spoke against Stalin, attacking what they called "one man rule." Lenin's widow, Krupskaya, sided with Zinoviev and Kamenev, noting that the majority is not always right. To the rank and file, which Krupskaya had just insulted, Zinoviev and Kamenev appeared quarrelsome, factional and disruptive. Amid the acrimony, Stalin again appeared as the man of reason and Party unity. When Stalin rose to speak after the verbal attacks upon him, the hall gave him thunderous applause and prolonged cheers.

Kamenev and Zinoviev had not been on speaking terms with Trotsky since opposing him in 1923, but in 1926 they tried to enlist Trotsky on their side against Stalin and Bukharin. They mimicked Stalin's Georgian accent and his body movements. The three formed what was called a "United Opposition" and rallied what little rank and file support they could. They spoke for a more vigorous industrialization, for planned industrial development, and less free enterprise in farming. And now that Kamenev and Zinoviev held minority opinions within the Party they went along with Trotsky's call for greater democracy.

Trotsky complained that he and others with him had no opportunity to state their case to the public. Stalin and his allies launched an open offensive against the Kamanev, Zinoviev and Trotsky, describing the three as guilty of a "Social Democratic deviation" — an accusation taken seriously by many Party members. Meetings of the "Opposition" were broken up. Its members were forced to meet in secret in a forest. Fighting back, Trotsky in front of members of the Central Committee decried what he said would be an end to sincere disagreement in the Party and the Party's eventual ruin. He pointed a finger at Stalin and called him a candidate for the "post of gravedigger of the Revolution." The following day Trotsky was removed from the Politburo, soon Zinoviev and Kamenev were also removed.

On the tenth anniversary of the revolution (7 November 1927) supporters of the Opposition demonstrated in the streets, with banners reading down with NEP men, the kulak and bureaucrats, and "Long live the leaders of the World Revolution, Trotsky and Zinoviev." They were attacked by agents of the police and others. No backing for the "Opposition" developed. Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky were expelled from the Party and Trotsky was exiled to a remote part of the Soviet Union: Turkestan. Party members who supported the Opposition were expelled from the Party. Former comrades, they were now seen as traitors and threats to the development of proper ideas. Toleration not being one of the characteristics of the Bolshevik regime, dissident Bolsheviks were fired from their regular jobs and their families were hounded.


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