The ‘Testament’ of Lenin and the XIII Congress of the Party

Lazar Kaganovich

Despite the fact that, between the XII and the XIII Party Congress, as also between the XIII and the XIV Congress, a lot of time, effort and energy was spent on repulsing the Trotskyite opposition and defending the theory and the politics of Lenin, the Party and the Central Committee did a lot of organisational work on the improvement of the party’s supervision of the state and economic affairs as well as on strengthening the Party. The discussion itself with Trotsky was conducted by the Central Committee and the Party in great depth and at a fundamental level, thwarting the efforts of the opposition to narrow down the discussions to petty issues and that the discussion itself enlightened and strengthened the Party’s Bolshevist’s ranks.

In the Report of the General Secretary of the Central Committee Comrade Stalin at the XIII Congress it was clearly demonstrated, how broadly the Party and its Central Committee conducted the Party’s political and organisational work, strengthened the ties between the working class and peasants and above all strengthened the Party itself.

The Congress entrusted the Central Committee to decisively and firmly, as it has done hitherto, safeguard the unity of the Party and its Bolshevist line from any deviations. After the Party lost Comrade Lenin, the work for party unity has become more important than ever before. The smallest of factionalism had to be dealt with strongly.

The Congress heard the Report and examined the following questions: its work in the countryside, about domestic trade and co-operation, the work of the Control Commission, about the work of the Congress of Youth, about the work amongst the working class women, the peasant women and other issues.

On all such questions, the Congress took decisions charting out concrete tasks and measures. I, of course, took part in the working out of projects like ones on the work in the villages, amongst the youth, amongst the working class and peasant women, but, certainly, I took the most active part in the formulation of the decisions on the ‘Immediate Tasks of Party Construction’. A large commission of the Congress worked on this issue and introduced a number of corrections to the draft resolution on this issue. One must state that not only the grass root workers, but also we from the Central Committee, including the authors of the draft Comrade Molotov, and Kaganovich and others during the working of the commission, made additions and corrections to the draft resolution taking into account the suggestions and desires of the delegates to the Congress.

As Party construction is associated with the general economic and political situation of the country and with the status of the party, so the resolution of the Congress, as also the Report, starts with the planned economic upsurge in the country and a corresponding political surge, specially amongst the class of workers, the rural poor and the progressive middle peasant in the countryside. On the other hand, the inevitable process of the strengthening under the NEP of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois sections was also underway.

The Congress stressed that the party should take into account the increase in the activities of the kulaks in the countryside and the Nepmen in the towns. To do so is all the more important and necessary as this process affects the party because the petty bourgeois sentiments have crept into the party.

The growth of the working class, its culture, certain improvements in the economic condition of the workers, the undermining and decline in the influence and authority of the anti-Soviet parties of Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries create conducive conditions not only for overcoming petty bourgeois deviations among the workers and in the party, but also for drawing broad sections of progressive workers into the party ranks.

The experience of enlisting people has shown that those workers join the party who know the workings of the party better but the workers less engaged in social work, say for example working class women, are not adequately enlisted. The Congress has given practical directives on this account. In its resolution the Congress pointed out that on Lenin’s call more than 200,000 workers joined the party and this leads to a substantial reinforcement of its ranks. The Congress specially stressed the importance and urgency of a persistent Communist education of those admitted in the party and the party youth as a whole that will strengthen and reinforce the party cadre and the state apparatus. One should not delay putting the workers who have been admitted into practical state jobs.

The Congress emphasised the importance of qualified and well presented information for which the corresponding information cell was established earlier. Once again, emphasising the importance of drawing workers from the factory bench into the party, the Congress said that it is necessary to organise the admission of progressive farmers, the student youth, the Red Army men and students and even highly recommended office employees, while strictly following the orders and rules established by the Party regulations with some concessions for the peasants and the landless peasants in the Eastern national republics.

The XIII Congress elected a new composition of the Central Committee, expanding it by admitting new young members of the Party. Before discussing the question of the composition of the Central Committee, the letter written by Lenin to the Congress that has become a part of Lenin’s testament was read out to and discussed with the delegates.

In the ‘Letter to the Congress’, Lenin started with the question of increasing the number of the members of the Central Committee, and writes that this is necessary for strengthening the authority of the Party, for serious work regarding the improvement in our apparatus and for avoiding situations where a conflict among a small part of the C.C. might acquire exaggerated significance for the party’s destiny. He co-related the reforms with the existence of hostile states surrounding the Soviet Union. ‘Such a reform – he states – would considerably increase the stability of our Party and ease its struggle in the encirclement of hostile states, which, in my opinion, is likely to, and must, become much more acute in the next few years. I think that the stability of our Party would gain a thousandfold by such a measure.’(V.I. Lenin, ‘Collected Works’, Volume 36, Moscow, 1971, pp. 593-4 – ed. R.D.) The party accepted this reform fully: in the XIII Congress 55 members of the Central Committee and 35 candidates, amongst whom many were workers were elected. In the Central Control Commission of the Congress 150 members, amongst whom a majority were workers, were elected.

Further, Lenin in his second half of the letter writes, ‘By stability of the Central Committee, of which I spoke above, I mean measures against a split, as far as such measures can at all be taken. … I think that from this standpoint the prime factors in the question of stability are such members of the C.C. as Stalin and Trotsky. I think relations between them make up the greater part of the danger of a split, which could be avoided, and this purpose, in my opinion, would be served, among other things, by increasing the number of C.C. members to 50 or 100.’(ibid., p. 594 – ed. R.D.) So, firstly, Lenin placed Stalin very high as one of the two foremost members of the Central Committee. And secondly, the facts of the history of the Party show that it was precisely Trotsky who was the initiator of the attack on the party, on the Central Committee and on Stalin, who, in order to defend the Party headed the counter attack on Trotsky and relying on the Party’s strength defeated Trotskyism that has been opposing Leninism. This is not new, as even when Lenin was alive, Trotsky would keep coming up with anti-Party petty bourgeois attacks on the Party and Lenin. This was so not only before the revolution when he was a Menshevik, but also after the revolution, when he became a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee. This happened, for example, during the discussion on trade unions when he put the party in a critical situation and only due to Lenin’s extraordinary self-control a crisis could be avoided.

Lenin further, characterising Stalin and Trotsky, writes:

‘Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, as his struggle against the C.C. on the question of the People’s Commissariat for Communications has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C., but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.

‘These two qualities of the two outstanding leaders of the present C.C. can inadvertently lead to a split, and if our Party does not take steps to avert this, the split may come unexpectedly’ (ibid., pp. 594-595).

This split did not happen because the party, rallying around the Central Committee, saw through the un-Bolshevik tactics and manoeuvres of the factional struggle of Trotsky against the Party and Lenin and defeated Trotskyism. In this fight, Stalin played a major role. Lenin, in the same letter, warned the Party about the conduct of Trotsky.

Lenin writes, ‘I shall not give any further appraisals of the personal qualities of other members of the C.C. I shall just recall that the October episode with Zinoviev and Kamenev was, of course no accident, but neither can the blame for it be laid upon them personally, any more than non-Bolshevism can upon Trotsky’ (ibid., p. 595).

Thus, Zinoviev and Kamenev did not commit their October mistake accidentally and as far as Trotsky is concerned, who is not a Bolshevik and whose non-Bolshevism, generally speaking, is as much related to the past, as it is to the present, can be understood to be a permanent feature with Trotsky. On the other hand, in assessing Stalin there is not a word on any deviation from the principles of Bolshevism. Lenin considers Stalin as an unyielding Bolshevik but has some additional comments regarding Stalin. Lenin adds in the letter dated 24th October 1922, ‘Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealings among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc.’ (ibid., p. 596).

Although, even here there are no charges of a principled political nature and Stalin is considered by Lenin as one of the two foremost leaders of the present Central Committee, the critical comments addressed to Stalin are certainly very serious, and therefore all of us, the delegates at the Congress, took a very serious view of these. I know this not only as a delegate of the Congress, as a worker in the C.C. and also as a party worker who is closely associated with the delegates. When Lenin’s letter was read out and discussed among the delegates, all members, despite all our love, respect for and loyalty to Lenin, asked the same question: is it possible to find a person who had all the qualities of Stalin, as Lenin himself points out, but would differ in the sense of being more tolerant, supportive, sensitive etc. If Lenin was convinced that it could be done easily i.e. find a replacement for one of the two foremost members of the Central Committee, he would have with inherent straightforwardness proposed the removal of Stalin and put another person in his place. But he was very careful and even ambiguous: ‘I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post’ (loc. cit.).

It is known, that Lenin while criticising, at times in very strong terms, educated the cadres and close associates hoping that it would help them rectify their mistakes. It is plausible that Lenin even here by putting the matter in this manner expected that Stalin would rectify the shortcomings pointed out by him. And Stalin during the XIII Congress promised that he will listen to the critical remarks of his teacher Lenin and overcome his weaknesses. We, who worked with Stalin, can say that immediately after the XIII Congress Stalin observed the collegiate principle, and was loyal and polite in his work as was demanded by Lenin.

All delegates of the Congress and the party itself knew that Stalin played an important role in the Leninist core of the C.C. in the struggle against the factional-splitting attacks of Trotskyism, of the so-called ‘Workers’ Opposition’ and other opposition groups against the Party and Leninism. In this struggle Stalin showed courage, theoretical and political foresight and Leninist consistency and uncompromising attitude. It should be noted that Stalin, as all other Leninists, showed exceptional tolerance towards the leaders of the opposition, including personally Trotsky, just as much towards Zinoviev and Kamenev. Just see the facts: How many times the C.C. warned them and tolerated their indiscipline letting them be a part of the Politburo during so many years of their anti-Party activities. And only in 1927 when they organised their own anti-Soviet demonstration during the days of the festivities of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution, did the Central Committee finally adopt more severe steps. Stalin, as the General Secretary of the Central Committee during Lenin’s absence, organised the cadres for fulfilling the decisions of the C.C. and the Politburo thus contributing in overcoming a dangerous crisis in the Party brought about by the Trotskyites. Thus the Party preserved its unity and strengthened the external political position of USSR in its struggle against the imperialists who still wanted the restoration of capitalism in USSR.

The delegates to the Party Congress, reflecting the mood of the party, said that removing Stalin can damage the internal and external position of the Party and USSR.

They said that Stalin, even during Lenin’s life time was an authoritative member of the Politburo, in a short period of Lenin’s absence due to illness and after his death he has earned even greater authority in the Party and the country, and that they in the present circumstances cannot identify another person in the C.C. who can replace Stalin. The delegates of the Congress expressed their confidence that Stalin, obviously, will take into account the observation of Lenin and will prove to be a worthy General Secretary of the C.C. Thus the delegates of the XIII Congress, as also the Plenum of the C.C., voted for re-electing Stalin as the General Secretary of the C.C.

Even Trotsky did not oppose this decision and both Zinoviev and Kamenev supported and cast their vote for this decision. Everyone agreed that only such a decision will result in furthering the cause of the unity of the Party, the Soviet State, of the unity of the proletariat and the peasants and the international Communist movement.

Courtesy, Lazar Kaganovich, Pamyatnye zapiski, Vagrius, Moscow, 1996, pp. 356-361. With acknowledgements to Igor Minervin.

Translated from the Russian by Meeta Narain.

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