One of the major factors which led former oppositionists to capitulate to the Stalin regime was their belief that certain forecasts of theirs--forecasts concerning the unfavorable consequences of Stalin's policies--had proved false. In order to understand this more fully, we must now concern ourselves with certain aspects of Bolshevik doctrine.
Bolsheviks believe that there is in any situation just one "correct line" of policy, and that all others tend to lead to "ruin." While all groups within the Party took this for granted in the twenties and thirties, each group ("opposition") denied the claim of the "Party leadership" and of every other group to have the correct line, and made this claim for itself. That is, every opposition was disposed to assert that any line other than its own would lead (was leading) to catastrophe. The Party leadership reciprocated with similar assertions.
These feelings and beliefs had coexisted with less apprehensive ones up to the end of the period of civil war and intervention. Thus, in 1903 Lenin discussed in the following terms a suggestion to adopt, for the Party statutes, a compromise between his proposed definition of the term "Party member" in the Party statutes and the definition proposed by Martov:
". . . on the subject of Axelrod's kindly proposal (I am not speaking ironically) to 'strike a bargain.' I would willingly respond to this appeal, because I do not consider our differences to be so vital as to be a matter of life or death to the Party. We certainly will not perish because of a bad clause in the rules! But since it has come to the point of choosing between two formulae, I simply cannot abandon my firm conviction that Martov's formula is worse than the original draft and may in certain conditions cause considerable harm to the Party." (Speech at the 2nd Party Congress, August 11 (July 29), 1903.)1
However, when military victory brought the regime not relative safety, but the crisis of the winter of 1921, it became a dogma that if the line of the Party is not absolutely correct, catastrophe will ensue. To "place a stake incorrectly" is "to perish." At that time, Lenin said:
"Nobody can make us perish except our own mistakes. In this 'if' lies the whole issue." (Speech at a Trade Union Conference, January 23, 1921.)2
Earlier, the belief that any deviation from complete correctness of con-