As part of its centenary celebration of the emergence of Trotskyism, the World Socialist Web Site is publishing the “Declaration of 46 Old Bolsheviks,” which was submitted to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party on October 15, 1923. With this document, 46 of the most eminent leaders of the Bolshevik Party indicated their political support for the positions of Leon Trotsky in the inner-party struggle, initiated with Lenin’s last struggle, against the Stalinist faction in the Politburo.
It is, therefore, considered the founding document of the Left Opposition, which led the struggle by the Marxist and internationalist wing of the Russian Communist Party (RCP) and the Communist International against the Stalinist betrayal of the October Revolution. As the biographical details provided by the WSWS show, almost all of the signatories of this declaration were murdered in Stalin’s Great Terror of 1936-1938.
The “Declaration of the 46” was submitted a week after Trotsky laid out key aspects of his political differences with the majority of the Politburo in a letter dated October 8, 1923 to the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of the RCP. While this letter was not published in full until May 1990, the contents of the “Declaration of the 46” were better known. It was published in full in English but with inaccuracies in E. H. Carr’s The Interregnum 1923-1924 (London, 1954, pp. 367-373).
In Russian, it was first published in full abroad in 1988, in the book Kommunisticheskaia oppozitsiia v SSSR, 1923-1927. Iz arkhivov L’va Trotskogo [Communist Opposition in the USSR, 1923-1927. From the Archive of Leon Trotsky], Volume 1 (1923-1926), compiled by Y. Felshtinsky (pp. 83-88). The original of the document consists of two typewritten texts with minor differences (not altering the meaning). The first text includes 34 signatures, the second includes 12.
This translation was first published on the pages of the International Workers Bulletin of October 25, 1993, as part of the celebration by the International Committee of the Fourth International of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Left Opposition. We are republishing it here with minor edits and a more comprehensive list of biographical notes on the signatories.
Declaration of the 46 to the Politburo of the CC RCP(b)
15 October 1923
TO THE POLITBURO OF THE CC OF THE RCP
The extreme seriousness of the situation forces us (in the interests of our party, in the interests of the working class) to tell you openly that continuation of the policy of the majority of the Politburo threatens the entire party with grave misfortune. The economic and financial crisis beginning at the end of July this year, with all the political consequences flowing from it, including those within the party, has mercilessly revealed the inadequacy of the party leadership, both in the economic realm and especially in the area of inner-party relations.
The haphazard, poorly thought through, and unsystematic decisions of the CC, which has not made ends meet in the economy, have led to a situation where, given the presence of undoubtedly major successes in the realm of industry, agriculture, finances and transport—successes which were achieved by the economy of the nation spontaneously, not thanks to but in spite of the inadequate leadership, or, to be more precise, the absence of any leadership—we are faced not only with the perspective of the halting of these successes but with a severe crisis of the economy as a whole.
We stand before the approaching breakdown of the chervonets currency, which spontaneously turned into the basic currency before the liquidation of the budget deficit; we face a credit crisis in which the State Bank cannot, without the risk of severe shocks, finance not only industry and the trade of industrial goods, but even the purchase of grain for export; we face the cessation of the sale of industrial goods because of high prices, which can be explained, on the one hand, by the complete absence of planned, organizational leadership in industry and, on the other, by incorrect credit policy; we face the impossibility of carrying out the grain export program because of the inability to purchase grain; we face extremely low prices for food products, which are ruinous for the peasantry and which threaten massive cutbacks in agricultural production; we face the interruption of wage payments, which evokes the natural dissatisfaction of the workers; we face budget chaos, which directly creates chaos in the government apparatus; “revolutionary” means of cutbacks in drawing up the budget and new, unplanned cutbacks during its realization have gone from being temporary measures to a permanent phenomenon, which relentlessly jolts the state apparatus and, as a result of the absence of planning in the cutbacks, causes accidental and spontaneous shocks to it.
All these are elements of an economic, credit and financial crisis which has already begun. If we do not immediately take extensive, well thought out, planned and energetic measures, if the present lack of leadership continues, we face the possibility of unusually sharp economic shocks, inevitably bound up with domestic political complications and with the complete paralysis of our foreign activity and capability. And the latter, as everyone understands, is now more necessary than ever before; upon it depends the fate of the world revolution and the working class of all countries.
In precisely the same way, we see in the realm of inner-party relations the same incorrect leadership, paralyzing and demoralizing the party, which is particularly clearly felt during the crisis we are passing through.
We explain this not by the political inability of the present party leaders; on the contrary, no matter how much we differ with them in evaluating the situation and in choosing the methods to change it, we think that today’s leaders under any conditions could not help but be appointed by the party to leading posts in the workers’ dictatorship. Rather, we explain it by the fact that, under the guise of official unity, we actually have a one-sided selection of personnel, who can adapt to the views and sympathies of a narrow circle, and a one-sided direction of activity. As a result of the party leadership being distorted by such narrow considerations, the party to a significant degree is ceasing to be that living, independent collective which is sensitive to the changes in living reality, precisely because it is connected with thousands of threads to this reality. Instead of this, we observe an ever progressing, barely disguised division of the party into a secretarial hierarchy and into “laymen,” into professional party functionaries, chosen from above, and the rest of the party masses, who take no part in social life.
This is a fact which is well known to every member of the party. Members of the party who are dissatisfied with this or that directive from the CC or even a provincial committee, or who are plagued by doubts, or who have noted “to themselves” various mistakes, things out of line or disorder of some sort, are afraid to speak about it at party gatherings; even worse, they are afraid to talk to one another unless they consider their interlocutor to be absolutely reliable, in the sense of not being “talkative;” free discussion within the party has virtually disappeared, party public opinion has been stifled. Now it is not the party, it is not the party’s broad masses who nominate and choose provincial conferences and party congresses, which in turn nominate and choose provincial committees and the Central Committee of the RCP. On the contrary, it is the secretarial hierarchy, the party hierarchy which to an ever greater degree chooses the delegates to the conferences and congresses, which to an ever greater degree are becoming the executive conferences of this hierarchy. The regime which has been established within the party is absolutely intolerable; it is killing the independence of the party, replacing the party with a selected bureaucratic apparatus which functions smoothly during normal times, but which inevitably misfires during moments of crisis, and which threatens to become absolutely helpless when confronted with the serious events which lie ahead.
The situation which has developed is explained by the fact that the regime of fractional dictatorship within the party which unfolded after the Xth Congress [March 1921] has outlived itself. Many of us consciously chose not to resist such a regime. The about-face of 1921 [with the introduction of the New Economic Policy] followed by Comrade Lenin’s illness, demanded, as far as some of us were concerned, a dictatorship within the party as a temporary measure. Other comrades from the very beginning reacted to it skeptically or opposed it. In any case, by the time of the XIIth Party Congress [April 1923] this regime had become obsolete. It began to show the other side of the coin. The inner-party bonds began to weaken. The party began to wither. Extreme oppositional, even openly unhealthy, tendencies within the party began to take on an anti-party character, for there was no inner-party, comradely discussion of the most acute questions. And such a discussion could have revealed, without any difficulty, the unhealthy character of these tendencies, both to the party masses and to the majority of their participants. As a result, we have seen the formation of illegal groupings, which draw party members away from the party, and we have witnessed the party losing contact with the working masses.
If the situation which has developed is not radically changed in the very near future, the economic crisis in Soviet Russia and the crisis of the fractional dictatorship within the party will strike heavy blows to the workers’ dictatorship in Russia and to the Russian Communist Party. With such a burden on its shoulders, the dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia, and its leader, the RCP, cannot enter the field of the impending new international shocks in any other way than with the perspective of failure along the entire front of proletarian struggle. Of course, it would at first glance be easiest of all to resolve the question in the following sense: in view of the situation, there is not and there cannot be any place for raising the questions of changing the party’s course, of placing on the agenda new and complex tasks, etc., etc. But it is absolutely clear that such a point of view would be a position of officially closing one’s eyes to the actual situation, since the entire danger lies in the fact that there is no genuine ideological or practical unity in the face of exceedingly complex domestic and foreign situations. In the party, the more silently and secretly the struggle is waged, the more ferocious it becomes. If we raise this question before the Central Committee, then it is precisely in order to find the swiftest and most painless resolution of the contradictions which are tearing the party apart, and to rapidly place the party on healthy foundations. We need real unity in discussions and in actions. The impending ordeals require the unanimous, fraternal, absolutely conscious, extremely energetic, and extremely unified activity of all the members of our party.
The fractional regime must be eliminated, and this must be done first of all by those who have created it; it must be replaced by a regime of comradely unity and inner-party democracy.
In order to realize all that has been outlined above and to take the necessary measures to extricate ourselves from the economic, political and party crisis, we propose that the CC, as the first and most urgent step, call a conference of members of the CC with the most prominent and active party cadres, in order that the list of those invited include a number of comrades who have views concerning the situation which differ from the views of the majority of the CC.
S. V. Breslav
While not agreeing with certain points in this letter explaining the causes of the situation which has developed, and feeling that the party has come up against problems which cannot fully be resolved by the methods employed up until now, I fully endorse the final conclusion of the present letter.
11 October 1923
I am in complete agreement with the proposals, although I differ with several points concerning motives.
In general, I share the thoughts of this appeal. The need for a direct and open approach to all our sore points is so overdue that I fully support the proposal to call the indicated conference in order to choose the practical ways that can lead us out of the accumulated difficulties.
I. N. Smirnov
V. Obolensky (Osinsky)
The situation in the party and the international situation are such that they demand the extraordinary concentration and unity of party forces more than ever before. While ascribing to the declaration, I view it exclusively as an attempt to create unity in the party and to prepare it for upcoming events. Naturally, at the present moment there can be no talk of inner-party struggle in any form whatsoever. It is necessary for the CC to soberly assess the situation and to adopt urgent measures to eliminate dissatisfaction within the party, as well as within the non-party masses.
12 October 1923. A. Goltsman
11 October 1923. V. Maksimovsky
I do not agree with a number of assessments in the first part of the declaration; I do not agree with a number of characterizations of the inner-party situation. At the same time I am deeply convinced that the state of the party demands the adoption of radical measures, for things are not well in the party at the present time. I fully share the practical proposal.
11 October 1923
I am in complete agreement with the evaluation of the economic situation. I consider the weakening of the political dictatorship at the present moment to be dangerous, but things must be aired out. I find a conference to be absolutely necessary.
A. E. Minkin
I am in complete agreement with the practical proposals.
I sign with the same reservations as Comrade Bubnov.
I sign with the same reservations as Bubnov, sharing neither the form nor the tone, which all the more convinces me to agree with the practical part of the given declaration.
A. Lobanov Rafail
S. Vasilchenko Mikh. Zhakov
Since during recent times I have been somewhat removed from the work of the party centers, I abstain from the judgements of the two leading paragraphs of the introductory part; I agree with the rest.
I am in agreement with the part outlining the economic and political situation of the country. I feel that, in the part which depicts the inner-party situation, a certain exaggeration has been allowed. It is absolutely necessary to immediately take measures to preserve the unity of the party.
I am not fully in agreement with the first part, which speaks about the economic situation of the country; the latter is indeed very serious and demands great attention, but up until now the party has not advanced people who would have been able to lead better than those who have been leading until now. Regarding the question of the inner-party situation, I feel that there is a significant portion of truth in everything which has been said, and I consider it necessary to take emergency measures.
Glossary of Names: Signatories to the “Declaration of the 46”
Averin, Vasily Kuzmich (1885-1945), member of the Bolshevik Party from 1904; Central Committee in Ukraine 1921-23. From 1923, worked in the aviation industry, was then chairman of the board of the Moscow-Kazan railway. Arrested in 1937 and sentenced to 8 years in Corrective Labor Camps [ITL]. Freed in November 1945 but killed in his office by unknown persons on 28 December 1945.
Al’sky, Arkady (M.) Osipovich (1892-1936), member of the party from March 1917; from 1921, Deputy Narkom [People’s Commissar] of Finances of the RSFSR; from 1923, of the USSR. Arrested 4 February 1936; shot 4 November 1936.
Antonov-Ovseenko, Vladimir Aleksandrovich (1883-1938), member of the party from June 1917; in the revolutionary movement from 1901; from 1922, head of the Political Directorate of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA) and member of the Revolutionary Military Council (RVS) of the Republic. Arrested 12 October 1937; shot 10 February 1938.
Beloborodov, Aleksandr Georgievich (1891-1938), member of RSDRP from 1907; Bolshevik Party from 1917; from 1923, Narkom of Internal Affairs of the RSFSR. Arrested 15 August 1936; shot 9 February 1938.
Boguslavsky, Mikhail Solomonovich (1886-1937), member of the Bolshevik Party from 1917; from 1921, deputy chairman of the Moscow Soviet. Arrested 8 August 1936. Defendant at Second Moscow Trial in January 1937. Shot 1 February 1937.
Bosh, Yevgenia Bogdanovna (1879-1925), member of the party from 1901; professional revolutionary; from 1922, in connection with severe illness (cancer), was ordered by the CC to go to Italy and Germany for treatment. Died by suicide 5 January 1925.
Breslav, Boris Abramovich (S. V.) (1882-1938), member of the party from 1903; from 1922, head of the Political Directorate of the Moscow Military District. Arrested 31 October 1937; shot 21 April 1938.
Bubnov, Andrei Sergeevich (1884-1938), member of the party from 1903; from 1922, head of the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the CC RCP(b). Candidate member of the CC RCP(b). Member of the CC, 1924-1937. Arrested 17 October 1937; shot 1 August 1938.
Byk, Iosif Moiseevich (1882-1936), member of the Bolshevik Party from 1918; from 1923, chairman of the Auditing Commission of the Sugar Trust of the Supreme Council of People’s Economy (VSNKh). Arrested 10 July 1936; shot 5 October 1936.
Vaganian, (Ter-Vaganian) Vagarshak Arutiunovich (1893-1936), member of the Bolshevik Party from 1912; 1922-23 editor of the journal Under the Banner of Marxism. Defendant at Trial of the 16, the first Moscow Frame-up Trial; shot 26 August 1936.
Vasilchenko, Semyon Filippovich (1884-1937), member of the party from 1901; from 1920, chairman of the board of the publishing house Moscow Worker. Worked at Gosizdat. Arrested 28 March 1936; shot in 1937.
Venediktov, Aleksandr Georgievich [Abrosimov] (1884-1932), member of the party from 1904; from 1923, headed the editorial section and economic department at the State Publishing House. Died 21 August 1932.
Voronsky, Aleksandr Konstantinovich (1884-1937), member of the party from 1904; from 1921, editor of the journal Krasnaia nov [Red Virgin Soil]; simultaneously from 1922, editor of the journal Prozhektor [Beacon]. Arrested 1 February 1937; shot 13 August 1937.
Goltsman, Abram Zinovievich (1894-1933), member of the party from 1917; from 1922, member of the presidium and head of the Main Electrotechnical Directorate of the VSNKh. Died in an airplane crash.
Danishevsky, Karl Yuli. Khristianovich (Jūlijs Kārlis Daniševskis) (1884-1941), member of the party from 1900; from 1921, head of the Central Directorate of the Timber Industry; chairman of the board of the trust “Northern Forest.” Arrested 16 July 1937; shot 8 January1938.
Drobnis, Yakov Naumovich (1890-1937), member of the party from 1906; from 1923, member of the Administrative-Financial Commission under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. Arrested 6 August 1936. Tried at Second Moscow Trial in January 1937. Shot 1 February 1937.
Dudnik, F. [Akim Minovich] (1881-1934), member of the Bolshevik Party from 1917. In 1923, member of the collegium of the People’s Commissariat for Agriculture in Soviet Ukraine. From 1924, member of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Died 14 March 1934.
Zhakov, Mikhail Petrovich (1893-1936), member of the party from 1911; from 1923, student at the Institute of Red Professors. Taught at Sun Yat Sen University in Moscow, 1925-27. Arrested and shot in 1936.
Kassior, (Kosior) Vladislav Vikentievich (1891-1938), member of the party from 1907; editor of the newspaper Trud [Labor]. In 1921, member of the Democratic Centralism group. In 1925-26, representative of Vneshtorgbank in Paris. Sentenced in 1936 to five years imprisonment at Ukhpechlag in Vorkuta. Sentenced to death on 11 January 1938; shot with other Oppositionists on 30 March 1938.
Kovalenko, P.A. (1889-1937), member of the party from 1911; from 1920, writer for the newspaper Pravda. Arrested and shot in 1937.
Koganovich, Pyotr Kirillovich (1887-1937), member of the party from 1905; from 1921, member of the board of Tsentrosoiuz. Arrested and shot in 1937.
Levitin, Mark Filippovich (1891-1938), member of RSDRP from 1909; member of the Bolshevik Party from 1916; economic work in the agencies of the VSNKh and STO (Council of Labor and Defense). Arrested 10 November 1937; shot 8 February 1938.
Lobanov, Mikhail (A.) Ivanovich (1887-1937), member of the party from 1904; party work in the Moscow Committee of the RCP(b). Shot 9 March 1937.
Lovatskov, Filipp Ivanovich (1881-1937), member of the party from 1904; in 1923, chairman of the Presidium of the Ural Regional Council of the People’s Economy. Arrested 2 July 1937; shot 30 October 1937.
Maksimovsky, Vladimir Nikolaevich (1887-1941), member of the party from 1903; from 1922, deputy narkom of enlightenment of the RSFSR; professor and dean of the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy. Arrested 27 July 1937, sentenced to five years of exile. Died in exile.
Mesyatsev, Pavel Aleksandrovich (1889-1938), member of the party from 1906; from 1921, member of the collegium, then plenipotentiary of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture of the RSFSR. Arrested 21 August 1937; shot 8 February 1938.
Minkin, Aleksandr Eremeevich (1887-1955), member of the party from 1903; from 1922, worked at the Executive Committee of the Comintern; from 1923, member of the collegium of the Narkomtorg. Member of Glavkotsesskom, 1924-26. Sentenced to Corrective Labor Camp [ITL] for eight years in 1939; re-arrested in 1948 and sentenced to 10 years ITL; died while imprisoned on 13 January 1955.
Muralov, Nikolai Ivanovich (1877-1937), member of the party from 1903; from 1921, commander of the Moscow Military District. In presidium of Gosplan 1925-26. Arrested 17 April 1936; defendant at the Second Moscow Trial; shot 1 February 1937.
Nikolaev, Nikolai Ilyich (Bezchetvernoi) (1895-1937), member of the party from 1914; editor of the newspaper Communist. From 1922, deputy chairman of the board of the publishing house Krasnaia nov. Arrested 4 September 1936; shot 29 May 1937.
Osinsky, N. (Obolensky, Valerian Valerianovich) (1887-1938), member of the Bolshevik Party from 1907; in 1920-21, one of leaders of Democratic Centralists; from 1921, deputy narkom of Agriculture RSFSR; deputy chairman of the VSNKh; from 1923, USSR ambassador to Sweden. Arrested 14 October 1937; shot 1 September 1938.
Poliudov, Evgeny Venediktovich (1887-1937), member of the party from 1907; from 1923, member of the collegium of the People’s Commissariat of Finance. Arrested 30 April 1937; shot 9 September 1937.
Preobrazhensky, Evgeny Alekseevich (1886-1937), member of the party from 1903; secretary of the Central Committee 1920-21; editorial boad of Pravda 1921-27; from 1921, chairman of the Finance Committee of the Central Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars; important figure in the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment of the RSFSR. Preobrazhensky was one of the most influential figures in Soviet economics in the 1920s. Arrested in December 1936; shot 13 July 1937.
Puzakov, Aleksei Mikhailovich (1884-1937), member of the party from 1905; from 1922, secretary of the Kursk Regional Committee of the RCP(b); from 1923, secretary, then chairman of the District Control Commission. Arrested 31 May 1934, sentenced to five years ITL. Sentenced to death on 1 October 1937 and shot 8 December 1937.
Piatakov, Yury (G.) Leonidovich (1890-1937), member of the party from 1910; from 1922, deputy chairman of Gosplan; from 1923, deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of the People’s Economy of the USSR. At the time of the “Declaration of the 46,” he was a member of the Central Committee RCP(b). He was one of the most influential figures in the Soviet economy in the 1920s. Arrested 13 September 1936; defendant at Second Moscow Trial; shot 1 February 1937.
Rafail, (Farbman Rafail Borisovich) (1893-1966), member of the party from 1910; from 1922, head of the Moscow Department of People’s Education. Arrested 14 January 1933; sentenced on 16 April to three years ITL. In camps from 1935 to 1956. Several times refused rehabilitation from 1956-66.
Rozengolts, Arkady Pavlovich (1889-1938), member of the party from 1905; from 1922, member of the commission of the People’s Commissariat of Finance of the RSFSR; from 1923, head of the Main Directorate of the Air Force; member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR. Arrested 7 October 1937; defendant at the Third Moscow Trial; shot 15 March 1938.
Sapronov, Timofei Vladimirovich (1887-1938), member of the party from 1911; from 1922, secretary and member of the Presidium of VTsIK [All-Russian Central Executive Committee]. Arrested in 1935, sentenced to ITL. In Verkhne-Uralsk Isolator 1935-August 1937; shot 28 September 1937.
Serebriakov, Leonid Petrovich (1888-1937), member of the party from 1905; member of Central Committee from Eighth Congress; secretary of Central Committee 1919-21; from 1922, deputy narkom of transportation. Arrested 17 August 1936; defendant at Second Moscow Trial; shot 1 February 1937.
Smirnov, Vladimir Mikhailovich (1887-1937), member of the party from 1907; from 1921, member of the collegium and chairman of the finance section of Gosplan of the USSR. Arrested 1930; in Suzdal isolator, then Verkhe-Uralsk isolator 1930-May 1937. Shot 26 May 1937.
Smirnov, Ivan Nikitich (1881-1936), member of the party from 1899; from 1923, narkom of post and telegraph of the USSR. Arrested 1 January 1933. In central OGPU-NKVD prison from 1 January 1933 to August 1936. Defendant at First Moscow Trial; shot 25 August 1936.
Sosnovsky, Lev Semyonovich (1886-1937), member of the party from 1904; from 1918, chief editor of the newspapers Bednota and Kommunar. On editorial board of Pravda 1923-27. Repeated arrests and imprisonment; last arrested 23 October 1936; shot 3 July 1937.
Stukov, Innokenty Nikolaevich (1887-1936), member of the party from 1905; from 1923, chief editor of the publishing house Moskovskii rabochii. Member of Gosplan. Arrested 21 March 1936; shot 4 November 1936.
Kharechko, Taras (G.) Ivanovich (1893-1937), member of the party from 1914; from 1922, member of the board of Leningrad University, head of the regional department for press affairs, member of the collegium of the Leningrad department of Tsentrokhim. Arrested 1936, in ITL 1936-1937. Sentenced to death 18 September 1937; shot 27 November 1937.
Shmidel, Oskar Karlovich (1889-1937), member of the party from 1917; from 1922, secretary of the party cell of the RCP(b) and bursar of the factory “Kauchuk” of the Khamovnichesky region of Moscow. Arrested 17 June 1937; shot 7 October 1937.
Eltsin, Boris Mikhailovich (1875-1937), member of the party from 1897; from 1921, chairman of the collegium and member of the board of Glavpolitprosvet. He was the general secretary of the Soviet Left Opposition in 1928. His three children were members of the Opposition as well. Arrested January 1935, sentenced to five years ITL; shot 27 November 1937.
Yakovleva, Varvara Nikolaevna (1884-1941), member of the party from 1904; from 1920, secretary of the Moscow Committee of the RCP(b); from 1921, secretary of the Siberian Buro of the CC RCP(b); from 1922, Deputy People’s Commissar of Enlightenment in the RSFSR. Arrested 27 September 1937; shot without trial in Orlov NKVD prison, 11 September 1941.