Left Communists

Left Communists

 

a left-opportunist group formed in January 1918 within the RCP(Bolshevik) that adopted petit bourgeois revolutionary views on questions concerning the foreign and domestic policy of the Soviet government and Communist Party.

The group’s leaders were N. I. Bukharin, A. S. Bubnov,

A. Lomov (G. I. Oppokov), V. V. Obolenskii (N. Osinskii), E. A. Preobrazhenskii, G. L. Piatakov, and K. B. Radek. Prominent members included N. M. Antonov (Lukin), I. Armand, G. I. Bokii, M. I. Vasil’ev (Saratovskii), I. V. VardinMgeladze, R. S. Zemliachka, A. M. Kollontai, S. V. Kosior, V. V. Kuibyshev, lu. M. Lenskii, N. I. Muralov, G. I. Miasnikov, M. N. Pokrovskii, S. N. Ravich, M. A. Savel’ev, T. V. Sapronov, G. I. Safarov, V. M. Smirnov, VI. Sorin, I. N. Stukov, I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov, A. A. Sol’ts, M. S. Uritskii, I. S. Unshlikht, G. A. Usievich, M. V. Frunze, P. K. Shternberg, B. Z. Shumiatskii, V. N. Iakovleva, and Em. Yaroslavskii.

The Left Communists held important posts in the Moscow, Petrograd, Urals, and other major party organizations. The party’s Moscow Regional Bureau was the group’s center. From Mar. 5 to 18, 1918, the Left Communists published in Petrograd the newspaper Kommunist, issued as the organ of the St. Petersburg Committee and the Petrograd District Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik). From April 20 to June 1918 their magazine Kommunist appeared in Moscow (four issues).

In 1918, when the relatively easy victory over the domestic bourgeoisie and the triumphant success of the Soviets had created the illusion among some party members that all foreign policy problems and domestic economic problems could be solved just as quickly and easily, “the majority of the party functionaries, proceeding from the very best revolutionary motives and the best party traditions,” wrote Lenin, “allow themselves to be carried away by a ‘flash’ slogan and do not grasp the new socioeconomic and political situation, do not take into consideration the change in the conditions that demands a speedy and abrupt change in tactics” (Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed., vol. 35, p. 253).

Failing to accurately assess the real situation, the Left Communists urged that the revolution “be made” immediately in other countries, thinking that all the difficulties of bringing about a worldwide revolution would be resolved by a simultaneous battle with imperialism and asserting that without the immediate support of a West European revolution the socialist revolution in Russia would perish. They advocated the adventuristic idea that it was imperative to “spur” the development of the world revolutionary process by a “revolutionary war” against the bourgeoisie of the world. Lenin regarded as nonsense the Left Communists’ hope of overthrowing imperialism by outside intervention, without considering the internal conditions and degree of maturity of the class struggle in a particular country (ibid., vol. 36, pp. 252–57, 290–91). He called people who believe that “revolution can break out in a foreign country to order” madmen and provocateurs (ibid., p. 457). In terms of their class content the speeches of the Left Communists reflected the pressure of the chaotic and elemental mass of the petite bourgeoisie on the proletariat and its party.

The conflict with the Left Communists over the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and over Russia’s withdrawal from the imperialist war was especially sharp. The Left Communists regarded peace with the imperialist countries as fundamentally inadmissible. Lenin pointed out that the Left Communists had completely lost touch with reality, since from that point of view a socialist republic surrounded by imperialist powers “could not exist at all, without flying to the moon” (ibid., p. 402). The Left Communists proclaimed that it was better to die “with honor and with the banner raised on high” than to submit to signing an extortionate peace with Germany. In its resolution of Feb. 24, 1918, the Moscow Regional Bureau of the RSDLP(B) even stated that “losing Soviet power” might be expedient “in the interests of the world revolution” (ibid., p. 400). Lenin called this proposition strange and monstrous and showed that the Left Communists’ behavior was caused by confusion and fear in the face of imperialism and by lack of confidence in the victory of the proletarian revolution. He demonstrated that they were in fact helping the German imperialists crush the young Soviet republic, which had not yet gained strength.

After initiating the conflict in the Central Committee and being defeated there, the Left Communists spoke out in the local party organizations against Lenin’s peace policy. But on the eve of the Seventh Party Congress (March 1918) the majority of party organizations expressed support for the Leninist position of the Central Committee. In early March 1918, Bukharin, Smirnov, Osinskii, and Iakovleva resigned from their party and government posts. On March 6, Bukharin, Lomov, Uritskii, and Bubnov published their appeal “To All Party Members,” which became the platform of the Left Communists on the peace question. At the Seventh Congress a heated debate broke out over the fundamental principles of the Soviet government’s foreign policy. The Congress adopted Lenin’s resolution approving the conclusion of peace with Germany.

Defeated at the Congress, the Left Communists continued their struggle. In April 1918 they issued their “Theses on the Present Situation” in opposition to Lenin’s “Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government.” Denying the need for a transitional period, the Left Communists argued for the immediate “introduction” of socialism by “a cavalry charge against capitalism,” by the publication of decrees to that effect, and by the “communization of everyday life.” They opposed the Soviet government’s use of state capitalism, believing that this would lead to the establishment of a capitalist system. The Left Communists proposed that the banking apparatus be totally eliminated and that money be abolished. Distorting the Leninist principle of democratic centralism, they insisted on separatism, defended decentralization of the state and economic management, and opposed the employment of bourgeois specialists. In May and June 1918 the Left Communists lost the confidence of the party organizations that had previously supported them. In their conflict with the Left Communists, which was exceptionally sharp, Lenin and the party strictly adhered to the method of persuasion and party criticism. Late in the summer of 1918 the Left Communists openly acknowledged their errors and actively joined in the work of the party and government. In its uncompromising struggle against the Left Communists, the party, under the leadership of Lenin, pursued a scientifically based foreign and domestic policy and strengthened its unity.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “K istorii voprosa o neschastnom mire.” Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed., vol. 35.
Lenin, V. I. “O chesotke.” Ibid., vol. 35.
Lenin, V. I. “O revoliutsionnoi fraze. Ibid., vol. 35.
Lenin, V. I. “Strannoe i chudovishchnoe.” Ibid., vol. 35.
Lenin, V. I. “O ‘levom’ rebiachestve i o melkoburzhuaznosti.” Ibid., vol.36.
Sed’moi ekstrennyis’ezd RKP(b): Stenografich. otchet. Moscow, 1962.
KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov Tsk, 8th ed., vol. 2. Moscow, 1970.
Istorila KPSS, vol. 3., book 1. Moscow, 1967.
Iz istorii bor’by leninskoi partii protiv opportunizma. Moscow, 1966.

B. M. MOROZOV

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