Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials

By Nathan C. Leites; Elsa Bernaut | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3 The Impact of Powerlessness

Besides their belief that the Stalin regime was leading the Party and the country to "ruin," the oppositionists held another, closely related, conviction, on which they had based their lines: that it would be possible to re-establish unity in the Party after a brief period of conflict. The crisis induced by the Party line would make the Stalin group co-opt oppositionists into the leadership, or make the Party supplant the "bankrupt" Stalin group by another.

The characteristic belief of almost every opposition in a future coalition between itself and the Stalin group arose out of a variety of factors. The relative slowness, moderation and reversibility of the early punitive measures of the Party leadership against an opposition were interpreted--following an over-all Bolshevik pattern--as an acknowledgment of the strength of its position. The fact that the Party leadership sometimes appropriated without acknowledgment courses of action advocated by an opposition was apt to reinforce this point of view. Also, Party history contained notable episodes in which the leadership had given representation, or even insisted on representation, in the top Party bodies, to opposition groups which could have been excluded.

Thus, according to Ciliga, "most of the prisoners, whatever shade of opinion they professed," at Verkhne-Uralsk in the early thirties expected

"At every moment . . . a catastrophe to happen, followed by a complete change in the directing personnel. . . ."1

and

"Most of the Opposition personalities believed that the difficulties to come would force the Party to come to terms with the Opposition. . . ."2

In the late twenties, every opposition group had been apt to predict a coalition between itself and the Stalin group, which would be directed against the other oppositions. Ciliga paraphrased as follows the beliefs of Leningrad Zinovievite leaders during the fall of 1929 and the spring of 1930:

" Stalin's men are not prepared for a fight against the Right-wing. In the course of the struggle, we shall take charge. . . . In Leningrad the Stalinists have to call on our men to draw up a simple resolution against the Right-wing."3

But in the early thirties, with the rapprochement between the various oppo-

-42-

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