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Maurice Spector: Letter to the
Political Committee (1928)

Maurice Spector was a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Canada from its formation in 1921 until November 1928. For almost all of that time, he was Chairman of the Party and editor of its newspapers, The Communist and The Worker. He was elected to the Executive Committee of the Communist International at its Sixth Congress in 1928.

While at the Sixth Congress, Spector and U.S. Communist leader James Cannon received and read a document by Leon Trotsky that convinced them Trotsky was correct in his criticisms of the Stalin-Bukharin leadership of the International. They resolved to initiate a campaign in support of Trotskyís views when the returned to North America.

On October 27, 1928, James Cannon, Max Shachtman, and Martin Abern were expelled from the Workers Party of America (the CPUSA's name at the time) for Trotskyism. On November 5, Spector refused to vote for resolution supporting the U.S. expulsions, and was immediately suspended from the Canadian party. He wrote the following letter on November 6, and was expelled on November 11.

A shortened version of the letter appeared in The Militant, the newspaper of the U.S. Trotskyists, in 1928. The full text was first published in the first edition of Canadian Bolsheviks, in 1981.


Maurice Spector: Letter to the Political Committee

Toronto, November 6, 1928
To the Political Committee,
Communist Party of Canada

Following upon the motion at yesterdayís session of the Polcom to endorse the expulsion of the three comrades, J.P. Cannon, Max Shachtman, and Martin Abern, from the Workers Party of America for their stand on behalf of the opening of a serious discussion of the fundamental problems of the Communist International, a motion which I was unable to support, certain questions have been directed to me by the Polcom as to my own position. These may be boiled down to the following:

First, whether I believe that the ideological line of "Trotskyism" is correct and whether I am prepared to carry on an aggressive campaign against "Trotskyism" and the comrades who had been expelled from the W.P. for their solidarity with the platform of the Russian Opposition.

In reply, I wish to state that the bureaucratic expulsion of these comrades and the attempt to ratify their expulsion by our own Polcom in mechanical fashion has precipitated [and] crystalized my own stand. Since 1923 I have had reservations about the line of the Communist International, but I have always relegated my own doubts into the background in the interests of Comintern and Party discipline and unity. I was not fully convinced that the discussions of the Lessons of October "catastrophe" in Germany had been carried on in the way it would have been while Lenin was an active participant in the life of our International. I was not satisfied that the estimation of the International situation made by the Fifth Congress was correct. In my view the fight against the Russian opposition dating back from 1923 was confused by the unreal issue of "Trotskyism." The conception of Bolshevization was mechanical. The "discussions" that were carried on on this issue were mostly farcical; a one-sided presentation of the documents of the majority and the systematic suppression of the documents of the Opposition. As an instance of the bureaucratic method of "discussing," there was the demand made for a stand by our Political Committee condemning "Trotskyism" during the period of the discussion of L.D. Trotskyís "Lessons of October," before even any of us here had read the very preface about which the whole controversy raged in the Soviet Union. I believe that our Polcom took a correct stand in the cablegram it sent in reply on this question.

I had always hoped that the "pressure of events," the logic of history in the present period of relative stabilization of Capitalism, would straighten out the official line of the Comintern. It is now clear to me that it is insufficient for a revolutionist to "wait and see." His active ideological intervention is necessary if a correct line, failing which all discipline is hollow, is to be arrived at.

An additional reason for my hesitation was that I, along with hundreds of thousands of other members of the sections of the C.I., had no first hand information as to the position of the Russian Opposition, but only the garbled extracts contained in the official thesis. On my way back from the Sixth Congress, however, I fortunately came into possession of the suppressed documents of the Opposition, which I have carefully studied since and which have resolved all my doubts and brought me to my present unequivocal position.

In reply to the question whether I am prepared "to wage an aggressive campaign against ĎTrotskyism,'" I can assure the Polcom that I am prepared to wage an aggressive campaign for Leninism. Historical Trotskyism was liquidated with the entrance of L.D. Trotsky into the Communist Party and his collaboration with Lenin following his return to Russia in 1917. Trotsky has declared before the Russian Party that in all questions bearing any character of principle at all in which he had differences with Lenin prior to 1917, Lenin was correct. The revival of the issue of so-called "Trotskyism" by the majority in 1924 and 1925 was an attempt to obscure the real issues by an artificial issue. Zinoviev, who was one of the leading comrades in the fight against Trotsky, has not only admitted since that the latter was correct in his fight for internal Party democracy in 1923-4, but also that the issue of "Trotskyism" was then invented by himself and a few other comrades for strategical purposes, to link up the current differences with differences that had long passed into history.

The comrades in the vanguard of the fight against "Trotskyism" were most of them further removed from the position of Lenin on his return to Russia and his presentation of the April Theses of 1917, than L.D. Trotsky. Zinoviev and Kamenev, Rykov, Losovsky, etc., were opposed to the insurrection by which the Bolsheviks conquered power and were for a coalition of all the Socialist parties. Comrade Stalin, prior to Leninís return, had written articles for co-operation with Tseretelli. When so much is made of the differences between Trotsky and Lenin in the course of the revolution itself, it should be borne in mind that all these differences are being exaggerated for factional ends, and that silence is maintained on the differences that other comrades, Bukharin for instance, had with Lenin, but who is nevertheless regarded as a one hundred percent Leninist. Comrade Bukharin not only fought Lenin on the Brest Litovsk issue but also on the Trade Union question and on the question of State Capitalism. On the Peasant question he was the author of one of the most dangerous slogans ever put out by a leading comrade: the slogan of "enrich yourselves," the objective significance of which meant a call on the Kulaks to intensify their exploitation of the poor peasantry. The present leader of the C.I., Bukharin, had to be overruled on the question of the validity of partial demands in the Communist Program by the intervention of Lenin, Trotsky and others at the Fourth Congress.

Not only did Lenin during his lifetime deny all slanderous rumors of any differences between himself and Trotsky on the Peasant Question, but up to his last days he considered L.D. Trotsky his closest collaborator as may be seen by the correspondence which passed between these two leaders of the revolution in the "Letter to the Institute of Party History" by L.D. Trotsky. Lenin called upon the latter to defend his views for him on the following questions: the National Question, the Question of Workers and Peasants Control, the Monopoly of Foreign Trade, the Struggle against Bureaucracy, etc. It is high time that a stop be put to the falsification of Party history that has accompanied the unscrupulous and demagogic campaign against the revolutionist who, next to Lenin, was the most authentic leader and organizer of the October revolution, and was so recognized by Lenin himself. Trotsky today stands foursquare for the maintenance of the principles of Leninism, uncontaminated by the opportunist deviations that have been smuggled into the Comintern and USSR policy by the present Rykov-Stalin-Bukharin regime and to which the lessons of the Chinese revolution, the economic situation in the USSR, the situation within the CPSU, and the experiences of the Anglo-Russian Committee bear eloquent witness.

For these are the real issues. In retrospect it is clear that the Sixth Congress, meeting after a delay of four years, nevertheless failed to measure up to its great tasks. Eclecticism and a zig-zag line replaced a real analysis of the rich treasures of political experience of the past four years. The discussion of the Chinese revolution, the greatest upheaval since the November Revolution, was utterly inadequate. As in the case of the discussion of the failure of October 1923 in Germany, the attempt to throw major responsibility for what happened on the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will not down. The responsibility for the opportunism of our party in China lies in the first place with the ECCI and with the formulation of policy of Stalin, Bukharin, Martynov. Lenin at the II Congress proposed a clear line on the Colonial question, for the independence of the Communist Parties and the working class movement even in embryonic form; against the National bourgeoisie, struggle for proletarian hegemony in the National emancipation movement even when the National Revolution has only bourgeois democratic tasks to solve; constant propaganda of the Soviet idea and creation of Soviets at the earliest moment possible; finally, possibility of the non-capitalist development of backward colonial and semi-colonial countries on condition that they receive support from the USSR and the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries.

Otherwise, Lenin pointed out, the alliance with the national bourgeoisie would be dangerous to the revolution. This alliance could only be effected on the basis that the bourgeoisie carried on an effective struggle against Imperialism and did not prevent the Communist Party from organizing the revolutionary action of the workers and peasants. Failure to exact these guarantees would lead to a repetition of the Kemalism of the Turkish national struggle which has made its peace with Imperialism. Nearly every one of these cardinal points of Leninís revolutionary colonial policy was violated in China. By throwing up the smokescreen that the creation of Soviets would be tantamount to the dictatorship of the proletariat, despite the fact that Lenin proposed the Soviets already as a form of the democratic dictatorship of workers and peasants in the 1905 revolution, the leadership of the Comintern misrepresented the criticism and theses of the Opposition and covered up their own opportunist mistakes.

Our Chinese party was subordinated to the National bourgeoisie in the Kuomintang under the cover of the old Menshevik Martynovís policy of the "Bloc of Four Classes" (renunciation of the right to criticize Sun Yatsenism, renunciation of an illegal fighting apparatus and of the creation of cells in the National Army). The working class movement was subordinated to the Government of the National bourgeoisie (prohibition in certain cases of picketing and strikes, disarmament of the workers, etc.). The CP maintained silence at the beginning of the repression period (coup d'ťtat of Chiang Kai-shek etc.). The Enlarged Executive of the CI did not subsequently straighten out the line. The slogan of Soviets was issued not when the revolutionary movement was at its height but when the bourgeoisie had already betrayed the movement against Imperialism and the workers and peasants were being decimated. Stalin was making a speech still hailing Chiang Kai-shek as a revolutionary warrior only a few days prior to Chiang Kai-shekís coup, in a speech which was criticized at the time by Comrade Radek, and which was of course suppressed to avoid compromising himself.

The opportunist line followed in the Chinese revolution is of course by no means isolated. I have dwelt at some length on the revision of Leninís principles contained in the Stalin-Bukharin policy in China, and one could dwell with equal length on the opportunist line followed in the refusal to break with the traitorous British General Council in the Anglo-Russian Committee. The Anglo-Russian Committee was a political bloc between two trade union centers. The proposal of the Opposition demonstratively to break with the General Council was falsely represented as being parallel to leaving the old unions. Any Communist who reads the resolutions adopted by the Anglo-Russian conferences of Paris, July 1926 and Berlin, August 1926, and finally of the Berlin Conference at the beginning of April 1927 should convince himself that an absolutely impermissible capitulation line was followed. At the latter meeting the Soviet representatives went on record recognizing the General Council "as the sole representative and spokesman" of the British Trade Union movement at a time when the traitors of the General Council were suppressing the Minority Movement. But at the Enlarged Executive of May 1927, Comrade Bukharin sought to justify the Berlin capitulation by the theory of "exceptional circumstances," that is, that it was in the diplomatic interests of the Soviet Union which was under threat of war danger from the provocation of the British Government.

Such an attitude has little in common with the instructions of Lenin to the Soviet delegation that went to the Hague Conference, to ruthlessly unmask the Pacifists and Reformists. By the policy pursued in the Anglo-Russian Committee the British Communist Party developed such a degree of opportunism that it was at first even opposed to the Soviet Trade Union manifesto denouncing the treachery of the Left as well as the Right Labor fakers of the General Council, and wanted to continue a fight for the reestablishment of the moribund Anglo-Russian Committee. The whole line followed in the Anglo-Russian Committee was, like that in the Chinese Revolution, based on maneuvers with the Reformists at the top instead of regard for the unleashing of the mass movement below.

What is the social basis of these opportunist deviations? Unquestionably, the retardation of the World Revolution, the relative stabilization of Capitalism, the defeats in China, Germany, Great Britain, Bulgaria, etc., and the difficulties of socialist construction in the USSR have exercised their telling influence, and have provoked a desire upon the part of certain elements in the RCP to follow the line of lesser resistance, to solve the difficulties, National and International, not by the harder road of hewing to Leninism, but by the apparently easier theory of "socialism in one country."

Up to 1924, Stalin understood "that for the definitive victory of socialism, for the organization of socialist production, the efforts of one country and above all, of an agricultural country such as ours, are not sufficient. For this the efforts of several advanced countries are necessary." But after 1924 a theory was developed based obviously on a conviction that the stabilization of capitalism would last for decades, that the construction of Socialism could be completed within the USSR alone, granted only freedom from military intervention. This theory has nothing in common with Leninís conception of the revolutionary character of the present epoch, and is akin more closely to the theory of Narodnikism (populism). It is a theory which, if its implications are followed is bound to lead to a form of National Socialism. From the economic point of view it is a Utopian mirage for which neither Marx nor Engels nor Lenin are responsible, and the program of the Comintern will never be a completely correct guide to the revolutionary movement unless it breaks with this theory.

The economic analysis of the Opposition on the situation within the USSR, on the danger of the growth of the kulak, the Nep man, and the bureaucrat has been completely vindicated. Undoubtedly there are Thermidorean elements in the country which are striving to bring their class pressure to bear on the Party. The highest duty of a revolutionist is to warn of these dangers and to propose the necessary measures to combat them. That was always the case while Lenin was alive.

The crisis last February in connection with the grain collection proved strikingly the danger of the Kulak. The events in Smolensk, the Don Basin, the Ukraine, etc., proved the absolute necessity not only for such a campaign of self criticism as Comrade Stalin felt the need to initiate, but for effective internal Party democracy. One of the first guarantees of such real Party democracy would be the return of the exiled revolutionary Oppositionists, and their reinstatement with full rights to their former positions in the Party.

In 1921, Lenin wrote the golden words, "It is necessary that every member of the Party should study calmly and with the greatest objectivity, first the substance of the differences of opinion, and then the development of the struggles within the Party. Neither the one nor the other can be done unless the documents of both sides are published. He who takes anybodyís word for it is a hopeless idiot, who can be disposed of with a simple gesture of the hand..." I therefore consider it my duty to call upon the CEC of the Communist Party of Canada to set an example by carrying on a real discussion of the decisions and resolutions of the Sixth Congress and by publishing in the Party Press all the documents, Theses on China, on the Anglo-Russian Committee, etc., of the Opposition which have hitherto been suppressed. I further call upon our Party to take a stand for the unity of the Comintern and all its sections on the basis of Leninism and for the return of L.D. Trotsky and his comrades to their rightful positions in the Party.

I have been a foundation member of the Communist Party of Canada since its organization, in which I took a joint part. I have also been a member of the CEC practically all the time since. Regardless of the immediate organizational consequences, I find myself compelled to make the above statement and to further register the fact that nothing on earth can separate me from the Revolutionary Communist movement. Everything that I have stated flows from my conviction that the deviations from Leninism in the CI can and must be corrected by a struggle within the International and its sections.

Long Live the Communist International!
Long Live the Proletarian Revolution!

(signed)
Maurice Spector
Member CEC, C.P. of C.


 

 


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