Right-Wing Deviation in the All-Union Communist Party Bolshevik
Right-Wing Deviation in the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik)
an opportunist tendency in 1928–30, headed by N. I. Bukharin, A. I. Rykov, and M. P. Tomskii.
Socialist construction in the USSR faced a complex domestic and international situation. The imperialists were trying to disrupt the movement toward socialism in the USSR. Inside the country, capitalist elements—the kulaks and the nepmen—were stubbornly resisting the measures taken by Soviet power. To carry out industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture, great difficulties had to be surmounted. The establishment of socialist forms in the economy under these conditions and the exacerbation of the class struggle resulted in an intensification of vacillations among the petit bourgeois strata of the population. These vacillating attitudes penetrated the working class and through it, the party. Consequently, a right-wing deviation took shape in the party, manifesting itself in “a desire to reduce the rate of large-scale industrial construction and postpone further industrial construction, a scornful or negative attitude toward the kolkhozes and sovkhozes, and an underestimation of and a desire to suppress the class struggle, especially the struggle against the kulak” (KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh …, 8th ed., vol. 4, 1970, p. 136).
It was not by chance that the leaders of the right-wing deviation adopted an opportunistic position. They had vacillated before, both theoretically and politically, opposing V. I. Lenin’s basic propositions on the revolution and socialist construction in the USSR several times in the pre-October period and after the October Revolution of 1917. The right-wing deviationists believed that socialist construction could be successful only if an alliance was maintained between the working class and the entire peasantry, including the kulaks. Moreover, the right-wing deviationists claimed that only a backward type of socialism could be built in the USSR and that building even this backward form would take place at an extremely slow pace over a long period of time. Distorting Lenin’s cooperative plan, the right-wing deviationists contended that the peasants would reach socialism not through the organization of kolkhozes but through supply-and-marketing cooperatives. According to the right-wing deviationists, the main task of the dictatorship of the proletariat was reducible to the regulation of the relations between different classes and social groups that were supposedly coexisting peacefully, including classes and groups hostile to socialism. The right-wing deviationists asserted that the class struggle was coming to nil and that the capitalist elements could “slide” into socialism.
The theoretical views of the right-wing deviationists constituted the foundation for their political views. They believed that the party’s main task was the development of agriculture, and to attain this goal, they demanded the lowering of the rate of industrialization and the reduction of the sums allocated to capital construction. In their opinion, the backwardness of agriculture could be overcome not through technical modernization and socialist transformation but through the comprehensive development and strengthening of individual peasant farms, especially the kulaks’ farms. The right-wing deviationists undervalued and openly disregarded the task of building the sovkhozes and kolkhozes, and they resisted the practical implementation of this task. They favored an end to the policy of putting pressure on the kulaks during the grain procurement campaigns, and they advocated taxing the kulaks on an individual basis. The right-wing deviationists advocated free market relations and the highest possible increase in grain prices. Their political platform, which objectively represented a surrender of socialist positions under pressure from the petit bourgeois element, would have led to the disruption of industrialization and collectivization.
Early in 1928 the right-wing deviationists launched an open struggle against the party line developed by the Fifteenth Congress of the ACP (Bolshevik) in December 1927. The political views of the right-wing deviationists were formulated in a letter addressed in June 1928 to the Central Committee of the ACP(B) by M. I. Frumkin, deputy people’s commissar of finance of the USSR. The July (1928) Plenum of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) set the task of intensifying the struggle against the growing danger posed by the right-wing opportunists. Ignoring the decisions of the Plenum, the right-wing elements adopted factional methods of struggle. In July 1928, Bukharin held negotiations with L. B. Kamenev, one of the leaders of the “new opposition,” which had already been defeated. They discussed the possibility of pooling their efforts in the struggle against the Central Committee and against party policies. Bukharin attempted to discredit the party’s political line in the article “Notes of an Economist,” which was published in Pravda in September 1928.
The leaders of the right-wing deviation tried to use the Moscow committee of the party, which was headed by their supporter, N. A. Uglanov, as a counterweight to the Central Committee of the ACP(B). On Oct. 18, 1928, the Central Committee of the ACP(B) condemned the actions of the right-wing deviationists in the appeal “To All Members of the Moscow Organization of the ACP(B).” The Plenum of the Moscow committee and the Moscow control commission of the ACP(B), which was held in October, expressed firm support for the party’s political line. Bukharin and Rykov, who were members of the Central Committee’s commission for drafting theses on the control figures for the development of the economy in 1928–29, openly opposed the line adopted by the Central Committee, but they were rebuffed. As a token of protest and an attempt to put pressure on the Central Committee to change its policies, the three leaders of the right-wing deviation submitted a joint statement of resignation. (Bukharin was the editor of Pravda and the secretary of the Executive Committee of the Comintern, Rykov was chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, and Tomskii was chairman of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions.) During discussions held at sessions of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the ACP(B), the majority of Politburo members recognized that the motives for the resignations were unfounded. Although they retracted their resignation statement, the right-wing deviationist leaders insisted that the party must end its struggle against the right-wing deviation and provide it with the opportunity to freely disseminate its views.
At the November 1928 Plenum of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) the right-wing deviationists continued their efforts to impose an anti-Leninist policy on the party. The Plenum found these views untenable and indicated that the right-wing deviation had become the main danger to the party. At the Eighth Congress of Trade Unions in December 1928 the right-wing deviationists tried to counterpose the trade unions to the party and enlist the support of the congress for their political views. (The right-wing deviationists tried to inculcate the trade unions with trade unionism, flagrantly disregarding the principle of party leadership of the trade union movement.) However, the Congress of Trade Unions rejected the false assertions of the right-wing deviationists and expressed support for the party’s political line. At joint sessions of the Politburo of the Central Committee and the Presidium of the Central Control Commission of the ACP(B), which were held on January 30 and Feb. 9, 1929, the leaders of the right-wing deviation issued a statement officially counterposing their opposition platform to the line adopted by the Central Committee.
The joint Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission (April 1929) declared the views of the right-wing deviation to be in contradiction to the general line of the party and demanded that the right-wing deviationist leaders abandon their factional struggle. In April 1929 the decision of the Plenum was confirmed by the Sixteenth All-Union Conference of the ACP(B). Bukharin was removed from his post as editor in chief of Pravda, and Tomskii from his post as chairman of the trade unions. Later, Rykov was ousted as chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars.
In the Comintern the right-wing deviationists supported the opportunists in foreign Communist parties. Bukharin again presented his theory of “organized capitalism,” which Lenin had criticized in 1916 as unfounded and antirevolutionary. The right-wing deviation was condemned by the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928. In July 1929 the Tenth Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern relieved Bukharin of his duties on the committee and dropped him from the Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Comintern.
However, the right-wing deviationists continued their struggle. In November 1929 the Plenum of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) announced that adherence to the views of the right-wing deviation was incompatible with party membership. Bukharin was dropped from the Politburo, and Rykov and Tomskii received stern warnings. The leaders of the right-wing deviation submitted a statement to the Central Committee acknowledging their errors. In 1930 the Sixteenth Congress of the ACP(B) confirmed the decision of the Plenum of the Central Committee concerning the right-wing deviation and warned the leaders of the right-wing deviation that only an active struggle for the party line would prove that they had been sincere in acknowledging the erroneousness of their views. At plenums of the Central Committee of the ACP(B) and in the Comintern the right-wing deviationists were denounced as kulak agents in the party.
Among those whose speeches at plenums of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission played a major role in the theoretical and organizational struggle against the right-wing deviation were J. V. Stalin (general secretary of the Central Committee), A. A. Andreev, M. I. Kalinin, S. M. Kirov, S. V. Kosior, V. V. Kuibyshev, A. I. Mikoyan, G. K. Ordzhonikidze, P. P. Postyshev, and Ia. E. Rudzutak.
The organizational and political defeat of the right-wing deviation was very important for the successful realization of Lenin’s plan for the construction of socialism in the USSR.
REFERENCESKPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii iplenumov TsK, 8th ed., vol. 4. Moscow, 1970.
XVIs”ezd VKP(b), 26 iiunia—13 iiulia 1930 g.:Stenograficheskii otchet, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1931.
Stalin, J. V. O pravom uklone v VKP(b). Soch. vol. 12. Moscow, 1955. Pages 1–107.
Vaganov, F. M. Pravyi uklon v VKP(b) i ego razgrom (1928–1930 gg.). Moscow, 1970.
Istoriia KPSS. vol. 4, books 1–2. Moscow, 1970–71.
F. M. VAGANOV