Ritual of Liquidation: The Case of the Moscow Trials

By Nathan C. Leites; Elsa Bernaut | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 4 The Rescue that Destroys

The third major belief fostering the capitulation of former oppositionists was their very high assessment of the damage to the Party which tends to result from the presence of "oppositions" within it. To understand this more fully, we must deal with certain aspects of Bolshevik doctrine.

Except for small groups, the oppositions had by no means broken with the conception of the Party which they held in common with its leadership; that is, the belief that the only sacred object in the world is the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks).

Lenin had repeatedly shown his capacity to say: the Party is dead; long live the Party. Until the Second Party Congress in 1903, he had believed that the Party still was to be created; a few months later he began to wonder --and continued to do so until the Prague Conference in 1912--whether it had not already ceased to exist. When, after the Second Party Congress of 1903, the Mensheviks seized control of Iskra, the central organ of the Party (according to Lenin, on behalf of "a circle of editors rejected by our congress"), Lenin wrote, the following:

"One of two things; Either we have no Party and are utterly in the power . . . of a circle of editors which was rejected by our Congress--in that case, down with this hypocritical talk about a party, down with the false headings on 'Party' publications . . . and institutions! We are not Social-Revolutionaries, we have no use for painted scenery. . . . Let us have the courage to admit that there is no Party and set to work to make and strengthen a real party from the beginning, from the very beginning. We shall not be deterred by the temporary victory the circle spirit, we . . . know that the . . . Russian proletariat will succeed in building . . . a real party and not a party in name only. . . ." ( Letter to Members of the Party, January 1904.)1

Lenin criticized the current behavior of the Central Committee in Russia and predicted that if it continued:

". . . the Central Committee will be a worthless rag fit only for the dust heap." ( Letter to the Central Committee, February 1904)2

In a letter of August 18, 1904 to Central Committee agents, Lenin addressed them as those

". . . who in deeds and not only in words have declared war on the old parish- pump circles abroad in the name of the new, growing, young Party. . . .


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