THE TRADE UNIONS, THE PRESENT SITUATION AND TROTSKY'S MISTAKES
by V. I. Lenin
December 30, 1920
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THE TRADE UNIONS, THE PRESENT SITUATION
AND TROTSKY'S MISTAKES 
SPEECH DELIVERED AT A JOINT MEETING
OF COMMUNIST DELEGATES
TO THE EIGHTH CONGRESS OF SOVIETS, COMMUNIST MEMBERS
OF THE ALL-RUSSIA CENTRAL COUNCIL OF TRADE UNIONS
AND COMMUNIST MEMBERS OF THE MOSCOW CITY COUNCIL
OF TRADE UNIONS
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965
Vol. 32, pp. 19-42.
Translated from the Russian
Edited by Yuri Sdobnikov
Comrades, I must first of all apologise for departing from the rules of procedure, for anyone wishing to take part in the debate should have heard the report, the second report and the speeches. I am so unwell, unfortunately, that I have been unable to do this. But I was able yesterday to read the principal printed documents and to prepare my remarks. This departure from the rules will naturally cause you some inconvenience; not having heard the other speeches, I may go over old ground and leave out what should be dealt with. But I had no choice.
My principal material is Comrade Trotsky 's pamphlet, The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions. When I compare it with the theses he submitted to the Central Committee, and go over it very carefully, I am amazed at the number of theoretical mistakes and glaring blunders it contains. How could anyone starting a big Party discussion on this question produce such a sorry excuse for a carefully thought out statement? Let me go over the main points which, I think, contain the original fundamental theoretical errors.
Trade unions are not just historically necessary; they are historically inevitable as an organisation of the industrial proletariat, and, under the dictatorship of the proletariat, embrace nearly the whole of it. This is basic, but Comrade Trotsky keeps forgetting it; he neither appreciates it nor makes it his point of departure, all this while dealing With "The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions", a subject of infinite compass.
It follows from what I have said that the trade unions have an extremely important part to play at every step of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But what is their part? I find that it is a most unusual one, as soon as I delve into this question, which is one of the most fundamental theoretically. On the one hand, the trade unions, which take in all industrial workers, are an organisation of the ruling, dominant, governing class, which has now set up a dictatorship and is exercising coercion through the state. But it is not a state organisation; nor is it one designed for coercion, but for education. It is an organisation designed to draw in and to train; it is, in fact, a school: a school of administration, a school of economic management, a school of communism. It is a very unusual type of school, because there are no teachers or pupils; this is an extremely unusual combination of what has necessarily come down to us from capitalism, and what comes from the ranks of the advanced revolutionary detachments, which you might call the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat. To talk about the role of the trade unions without taking these truths into account is to fall straight into a number of errors.
Within the system of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the trade unions stand, if I may say so, between the Party and the government. In the transition to socialism the dictatorship of the proletariat is inevitable, but it is not exercised by an organisation which takes in all industrial workers. Why not? The answer is given in the theses of the Second Congress of the Communist International on the role of political parties in general. I will not go into this here. What happens is that the Party, shall we say, absorbs the vanguard of the proletariat, and this vanguard exercises the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship cannot be exercised or the functions of government performed without a foundation such as the trade unions. These functions, however, have to be performed through the medium of special institutions which are also of a new type, namely, the Soviets. What are the practical conclusions to be drawn from this peculiar situation? They are, on the one hand, that the trade unions are a link between the vanguard and the masses, and by their daily work bring conviction to the masses, the masses of the class which alone is capable of taking us from capitalism to communism. On the other hand, the trade unions are a "reservoir" of the state power. This is what the trade unions are in the period of transition from capitalism to communism. In general, this transition cannot be achieved without the leadership of that class which is the only class capitalism has trained for large-scale production and which alone is divorced from the interests of the petty proprietor. But the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts (by imperialism in some countries) that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard that has absorbed the revolutionary energy of the class. The whole is like an arrangement of cogwheels. Such is the basic mechanism of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and of the essentials of transition from capitalism to communism. From this alone it is evident that there is something fundamentally wrong in principle when Comrade Trotsky points, in his first thesis, to "ideological confusion", and speaks of a crisis as existing specifically and particularly in the trade unions. If we are to speak of a crisis, we can do so only after analysing the political situation. It is Trotsky who is in "ideological confusion", because in this key question of the trade unions' role, from the standpoint of transition from capitalism to communism, he has lost sight of the fact that we have here a complex arrangement of cogwheels which cannot be a simple one; for the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised by a mass proletarian organisation. It cannot work without a number of "transmission belts" running from the vanguard to the mass of the advanced class, and from the latter to the mass of the working people. In Russia, this mass is a peasant one. There is no such mass anywhere else, but even in the most advanced countries there is a non-proletarian, or a not entirely proletarian, mass. That is in itself enough to produce ideological confusion. But it's no use Trotsky's pinning it on others.
When I consider the role of the trade unions in production, find that Trotsky 's basic mistake lies in his always dealing with it "in principle ", as a matter of "general principle". All his theses are based on "general principle", an approach which is in itself fundamentally wrong, quite apart from the fact that the Ninth Party Congress said enough and more than enough about the trade unions' role in production,  and quite apart from the fact that in his own theses Trotsky quotes the perfectly clear statements of Lozovsky and Tomsky, who were to be his "whipping boys" and an excuse for an exercise in polemics. It turns out that there is, after all, no clash of principle, and the choice of Tomsky and Lozovsky, who wrote what Trotsky himself quotes, was an unfortunate one indeed. However hard we may look, we shall not find here any serious divergence of principle. In general, Comrade Trotsky's great mistake, his mistake of principle, lies in the fact that by raising the question of "principle" at this time he is dragging back the Party and the Soviet power. We have, thank heaven, done with principles and have gone on to practical business. We chatted about principles -- rather more than we should have -- at the Smolny. Today, three years later, we have decrees on all points of the production problem, and on many of its components; but such is the sad fate of our decrees: they are signed, and then we ourselves forget about them and fail to carry them out. Meanwhile, arguments about principles and differences of principle are invented. I shall later on quote a decree dealing with the trade unions' role in production, a decree all of us, including myself, I confess, have forgotten.
The actual differences, apart from those I have listed, really have nothing to do with general principles. I have had to enumerate my "differences" with Comrade Trotsky because, with such a broad theme as "The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions", he has, I am quite sure, made a number of mistakes bearing on the very essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But, this apart, one may well ask, why is it that we cannot work together, as we so badly need to do? It is because of our different approach to the mass, the different way of winning it over and keeping in touch with it. That is the whole point. And this makes the trade union a very peculiar institution, which is set up under capitalism, which inevitably exists in the transition from capitalism to communism, and whose future is a question mark. The time when the trade unions are actually called into question is a long way off: it will be up to our grandchildren to discuss that. What matters now is how to approach the mass, to establish contact with it and win it over, and how to get the intricate transmission system working (how to run the dictatorship of the proletariat). Note that when I speak of the intricate transmission system I do not mean the machinery of the Soviets. What it may have in the way of intricacy of transmission comes under a special head. I have only been considering, in principle and in the abstract, class relations in capitalist society, which consists of a proletariat, a non-proletarian mass of working people, a petty bourgeoisie and a bourgeoisie. This alone yields an extremely complicated transmission system owing to what has been created by capitalism, quite apart from any red-tape in the Soviet administrative machinery. And that is the main point to be considered in analysing the difficulties of the trade unions' "task". Let me say this again: the actual differences do not lie where Comrade Trotsky sees them but in the question of how to approach the mass, win it over, and keep in touch with it. I must say that had we made a detailed, even if small-scale, study of our own experience and practices, we should have managed to avoid the hundreds of quite unnecessary "differences" and errors of principle in which Comrade Trotsky's pamphlet abounds. Some of his theses, for instance, polemicise against "Soviet trade-unionism". As if we hadn't enough trouble already, a new bogey has been invented. Who do you think it is? Comrade Ryazanov, of all people. I have known him for twenty odd years. You have known him less than that, but equally as well by his work. You are very well aware that assessing slogans is not one of his virtues, which he undoubtedly has. Shall we then produce theses to show that "Soviet trade-unionism" is just something that Comrade Ryazanov happened to say with little relevance? Is that being serious? If it is, we shall end up with having "Soviet trade unionism", "Soviet anti-peace-signing", and what not!
A Soviet "ism" could be invented on every single point. (Ryazanov : "Soviet anti-Brestism.") Exactly, "Soviet anti Brestism".
While betraying this lack of thoughtfulness, Comrade Trotsky falls into error himself. He seems to say that in a workers' state it is not the business of the trade unions to stand up for the material and spiritual interests of the working class. That is a mistake. Comrade Trotsky speaks of a "workers' state". May I say that this is an abstraction. It was natural for us to write about a workers' state in 1917; but it is now a patent error to say: "Since this is a workers' state without any bourgeoisie, against whom then is the working class to be protected, and for what purpose?" The whole point is that it is not quite a workers' state. That is where Comrade Trotsky makes one of his main mistakes. We have got down from general principles to practical discussion and decrees, and here we are being dragged back and prevented from tackling the business at hand. This will not do. For one thing, ours is not actually a workers' state but a workers' and peasants' state. And a lot depends on that. (Bukharin : "What kind of state? A workers' and peasants' state?") Comrade Bukharin back there may well shout "What kind of state? A workers' and peasants' state?" I shall not stop to answer him. Anyone who has a mind to should recall the recent Congress of Soviets,  and that will be answer enough.
But that is not all. Our Party Programme -- a document which the author of the ABC of Communism knows very well -- shows that ours is a workers' state with a bureaucratic twist to it. We have had to mark it with this dismal, shall I say, tag. There you have the reality of the transition. Well, is it right to say that in a state that has taken this shape in practice the trade unions have nothing to protect, or that we can do without them in protecting the material and spiritual interests of the massively organised proletariat? No, this reasoning is theoretically quite wrong. It takes us into the sphere of abstraction or an ideal we shall achieve in 15 or 20 years' time, and I am not so sure that we shall have achieved it even by then. What we actually have before us is a reality of which we have a good deal of knowledge, provided, that is, we keep our heads, and do not let ourselves be carried awav by intellectualist talk or abstract reasoning, or by what may appear to be "theory" but is in fact error and misapprehension of the peculiarities of transition. We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers' organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state. Both forms of protection are achieved through the peculiar interweaving of our state measures and our agreeing or "coalescing" with our trade unions.
I shall have more to say about this coalescing later on. But the word itself shows that it is a mistake to conjure up an enemy in the shape of "Soviet trade-unionism", for "coalescing" implies the existence of distinct things that have yet to be coalesced: "coalescing" implies the need to be able to use measures of the state power to protect the material and spiritual interests of the massively organised proletariat from that very same state power. When the coalescing has produced coalescence and integration, we shall meet in congress for a business-like discussion of actual experience, instead of "disagreements" on principle or theoretical reasoning in the abstract. There is an equally lame attempt to find differences of principle with Comrades Tomsky and Lozovsky, whom Comrade Trotsky treats as trade union "bureaucrats" -- I shall later on say which side in this controversy tends to be bureaucratic. We all know that while Comrade Ryazanov may love a slogan, and must have one which is all but an expression of principle, it is not one of Comrade Tomsky's many vices. I think, therefore, that it would be going a bit too far to challenge Comrade Tomsky to a battle of principles on this score (as Comrade Trotsky has done). I am positively astonished at this. One would have thought that we had grown up since the days when we all sinned a great deal in the way of factional, theoretical and various other disagreements -- although we naturally did some good as well. It is time we stopped inventing and blowing up differences of principle and got down to practical work. I never knew that Tomsky was eminently a theoretician or that he claimed to be one; it may be one of his failings, but that is something else again. Tomsky, who has been working very smoothly with the trade union- movement, must in his position provide a reflection of this complex transition -- whether he should do so consciously or unconsciously is quite another matter and I am not saying that he has always done it consciously -- so that if something is hurting the mass, and they do not know what it is, and he does not know what it is (applause, laughter ) but raises a howl, I say that is not a failing but should be put down to his credit. I am quite sure that Tomsky has many partial theoretical mistakes. And if we all sat down to a table and started thoughtfully writing resolutions or theses, we should correct them all; we might not even bother to do that because production work is more interesting than the rectifying of minute theoretical disagreements.
I come now to "industrial democracy", shall I say, for Bukharin's benefit. We all know that everyone has his weak points, that even big men have little weak spots, and this also goes for Bukharin. He seems to be incapable of resisting any little word with a flourish to it. He seemed to derive an almost sensuous pleasure from writing the resolution on industrial democracy at the Central Committee Plenum on December 7. But the closer I look at this "industrial democracy", the more clearly I see that it is half-baked and theoretically false. It is nothing but a hodge-podge. With this as an example, let me say once again, at a Party meeting at least: "Comrade N. I. Bukharin, the Republic, theory and you yourself will benefit from less verbal extravagance." (Applause.) Industry is indispensable. Democracy is a category proper only to the political sphere. There can be no objection to the use of this word in speeches or articles. An article takes up and clearly expresses one relationship and no more. But it is quite strange to hear you trying to turn this into a thesis, and to see you wanting to coin it into a slogan, uniting the "ayes" and the "nays"; it is strange to hear you say, like Trotsky, that the Party will have "to choose between two trends". I shall deal separately with whether the Party must do any "choosing" and who is to blame for putting the Party in this position of having to "choose". Things being what they are, we say: "At any rate, see that you choose fewer slogans, like 'industrial democracy', which contain nothing but confusion and are theoretically wrong." Both Trotsky and Bukharin failed to think out this term theoretically and ended up in confusion. "Industrial democracy" suggests things well beyond the circle of ideas with which they were carried away. They wanted to lay greater emphasis and focus attention on industry. It is one thing to emphasise something in an article or speech; it is quite another to frame it into a thesis and ask the Party to choose, and so I say: cast your vote against it, because it is confusion. Industry is indispensable, democracy is not. Industrial democracy breeds some utterly false ideas. The idea of one-man management was advocated only a little while ago. We must not make a mess of things and confuse people: how do you expect them to know when you want democracy, when one-man management, and when dictatorship. But on no account must we renounce dictatorship either -- I hear Bukharin behind me growling: "Quite right." (Laughter. Applause.)
But to go on. Since September we have been talking about switching from the principle of priority to that of equalisation, and we have said as much in the resolution of the all-Party conference, which was approved by the Central Committee.  The question is not an easy one, because we find that we have to combine equalisation with priority, which are incompatible. But after all we do have some knowledge of Marxism and have learned how and when opposites can and must be combined; and what is most important is that in the three and a half years of our revolution we have actually combined opposites again and again.
The question obviously requires thoughtfulness and circumspection. After all, we did discuss these questions of principle at those deplorable plenary meetings of the Central Committee [i] -- which yielded the groups of seven and eight, and Comrade Bukharin's celebrated "buffer group"  -- and we did establish that there was no easy transition from the priority principle to that of equalisation. We shall have to put in a bit of effort to implement the decision of the September Conference. After all, these opposite terms can be combined either into a cacophony or a symphony. Priority implies preference for one industry out of a group of vital industries because of its greater urgency. What does such preference entail? How great can it be? This is a difficult question, and I must say that it will take more than zeal to solve it; it may even take more than a heroic effort on the part of a man who is possibly endowed with many excellent qualities and who will do wonders on the right job; this is a very peculiar matter and calls for the correct approach. And so if we are to raise this question of priority and equalisation we must first of all give it some careful thought, but that is just what we fail to find in Comrade Trotsky's work; the further he goes in revising his original theses, the more mistakes he makes. Here is what we fmd in his latest theses:
"The equalisation line should be pursued in the sphere of consumption, that is, the conditions of the working people's existence as individuals. In the sphere of production, the principle of priority will long remain decisive for us". . . (thesis 41, p. 31 of Trotsky's pamphlet).
This is a real theoretical muddle. It is all wrong. Priority is preference, but it is nothing without preference in consumption. If all the preference I get is a couple of ounces of bread a day I am not likely to be very happy. The preference part of priority implies preference in consumption as well. Otherwise, priority is a pipe dream, a fleeting cloud, and we are, after all, materialists. The workers are also materialists; if you say shock work, they say, let's have the bread, and the clothes, and the beef. That is the view we now take, and have always taken, in discussing these questions time without number with reference to various concrete matters in the Council of Defence,  when one would say: "I'm doing shock work", and would clamour for boots, and another: "I get the boots, otherwise your shock workers won't hold out, and all your priority will fizzle out."
We find, therefore, that in the theses the approach to equalisation and priority is basically wrong. What is more, it is a retreat from what has actually been achieved and tested in practice. We can't have that; it will lead to no good.
Then there is the question of "coalescing ". The best thing to do about "coalescing" right now is to keep quiet. Speech is silver, but silence is golden. Why so? It is because we have got down to coalescing in practice; there is not a single large gubernia economic council, no major department of the Supreme Economic Council, the People's Commissariat for Communications, etc., where something is not being coalesced in practice. But are the results all they should be? Ay, there's the rub. Look at the way coalescence has actually been carried out, and what it has produced. There are countless decrees introducing coalescence in the various institutions. But we have yet to make a business-like study of our own practical experience; we have yet to go into the actual results of all this; we have yet to discover what a certain type of coalescence has produced in a particular industry, what happened when member X of the gubernia trade union council held post Y in the gubernia economic council, how many months he was at it, etc. What we have not failed to do is to invent a disagreement on coalescence as a principle, and make a mistake in the process, but then we have always been quick at that sort of thing; but we were not up to the mark when it came to analysing and verifying our own experience. When we have congresses of Soviets with committees not only on the application of the better-farming law in the various agricultural areas but also on coalescence and its results in the Saratov Gubernia flour-milling industry, the Petrograd metal industry, the Donbas coal industry, etc., and when these committees, having mustered the facts, declare: "We have made a study of so and so", then I shall say: "Now we have got down to business, we have finally grown up." But could anything be more erroneous and deplorable than the fact that we are being presented with "theses" splitting hairs over the principle of coalescence, after we have been at it for three years? We have taken the path of coalescence, and I am sure it was the right thing to do, but we have not yet made an adequate study of the results of our experience. That is why keeping quiet is the only common sense tactics on the question of coalescence.
A study must be made of practical experience. I have signed decrees and resolutions containing instructions on practical coalescence, and no theory is half so important as practice. That is why when I hear: "Let's discuss 'coalescence'", I say: "Let's analyse what we have done." There is no doubt that we have made many mistakes. It may well be that a great part of our decrees need amending. I accept that, for I am not in the least enamoured of decrees. But in that case let us have some practical proposals as to what actually has to be altered. That would be a business-like approach. That would not be a waste of time. That would not lead to bureaucratic projecteering But I find that that is exactly what's wrong with Trotsky's "Practical Conclusions", Part VI of his pamphlet. He says that from one-third to one-half of the members of the All Russia Central Council of Trade Unions and the Presidium of the Supreme Economic Council should serve on both bodies, and from one-half to two-thirds, on the collegiums, etc. Why so? No special reason, just "rule of thumb". It is true, of course, that rule of thumb is frequently used to lay down similar proportions in our decrees, but then why is it inevitable in decrees? I hold no brief for all decrees as such and have no intention of making them appear better than they actually are. Quite often rule of thumb is used in them to fix such purely arbitrary proportions as one-half or one-third of the total number of members, etc. When a decree says that, it means: try doing it this way, and later on we shall assess the results of your "try out". We shall later sort out the results. After sorting them out, we shall move on. We are working on coalescence and we expect to improve it because we are becoming more efficient and practical-minded.
But I seem to have lapsed into "production propaganda". That can't be helped. It is a question that needs dealing with in any discussion of the role of the trade unions in production.
My next question will therefore be that of production propaganda. This again is a practical matter and we approach it accordingly. Government agencies have already been set up to conduct production propaganda. I can't tell whether they are good or had; they have to be tested and there's no need for any "theses" on this subject at all.
If we take a general view of the part trade unions have to play in industry, we need not, in this question of democracy, go beyond the usual democratic practices. Nothing will come of such tricky phrases as "industrial democracy", for they are all wrong. That is the first point. The second is production propaganda. The agencies are there. Trotsky's theses deal with production propaganda. That is quite useless, because in this case theses are old hat. We do not know as yet whether the agencies are good or bad. But we can tell after testing them in action. Let us do some studying and polling. Assuming, let us say, that a congress has 10 committees with 10 men on each, let us ask: "You have been dealing with production propaganda, haven 't you? What are the results?" Having made a study of this, we should reward those who have done especially well, and discard what has proved unsuccessful. We do have some practical experience; it may not be much but it is there; yet we are being dragged away from it and back to these "theses on principles". This looks more like a "reactionary" movement than "trade unionism". There is then the third point, that of bonuses. Here is the role and task of the trade unions in production: distribution of bonuses in kind. A start on it has been made. Things have been set in motion. Five hundred thousand pounds of grain had been allocated for the purpose, and one hundred and seventy thousand has been distributed. How well and how correctly, I cannot tell. The Council of People's Commissars was told that they were not making a good job of this distribution, which turned out to be an additional wage rather than a bonus. This was pointed out by officials of the trade unions and the People's Commissariat for Labour. We appointed a commission to look into the matter but that has not yet been done. One hundred and seventy thousand pounds of grain has been given away, but this needs to be done in such a way as to reward those who display the heroism, the zeal, the talent, and the dedication of the thrifty manager, in a word, all the qualities that Trotsky extols. But the task now is not to extol this in theses but to provide the bread and the beef. Wouldn't it be better, for instance, to deprive one category of workers of their beef and give it as a bonus to workers designated as "shock" workers? We do not renounce that kind of priority. That is a priority we need. Let us take a closer look at our practices in the application of priority.
The fourth point is disciplinary courts. I hope Comrade Bukharin will not take offence if I say that without disciplinary courts the role of the trade unions in industry, "industrial democracy ", is a mere trifle. But the fact is that there is nothing at all about this in your theses. "Great grief!" is therefore the only thing that can be said about Trotsky's theses and Bukharin's attitude, from the standpoint of principle, theory and practice.
I am confirmed in this conclusion when I say to myself: yours is not a Marxist approach to the question. This quite apart from the fact that there are a number of theoretical mistakes in the theses It is not a Marxist approach to the evaluation of the "role and tasks of the trade unions", because such a broad subject cannot be tackled without giving thought to the peculiar political aspects of the present situation. After all, Comrade Bukharin and I did say in the resolution of the Ninth Congress of the R.C.P. on trade unions that politics is the most concentrated expression of economics.
If we analysed the current political situation, we might say that we were going through a transition period within a transition period. The whole of the dictatorship of the proletariat is a transition period, but we now have, you might say, a heap of new transition periods: the demobilisation of the army, the end of the war, the possibility of having a much longer breathing space in peace than before, and a more solid transition from the war front to the labour front. This -- and this alone -- is causing a change in the attitude of the proletarian class to the peasant class. What kind of change is it? Now this calls for a close examination, but nothing of the sort follows from your theses. Until we have taken this close look, we must learn to wait. The people are overweary, considerable stocks that had to be used for certain priority industries have been so used; the proletariat's attitude to the peasantry is undergoing a change. The war weariness is terrible, and the needs have increased, but production has increased insufficiently or not at all. On the other hand, as I said in my report to the Eighth Congress of Soviets, our application of coercion was correct and successful whenever we had been able to back it up from the start with persuasion. I must say that Trotsky and Bukharin have entirely failed to take account of this very important consideration.
Have we laid a sufficiently broad and solid base of persuasion for all these new production tasks? No, indeed, we have barely started doing it. We have not yet made the masses a party to them. Now I ask you, can the masses tackle these new assignments right away? No, they cannot, because while there is now no need for special propaganda on the question of, say, whether Wrangel the landowner should be overthrown or whether any sacrifices should be spared for the purpose, we have just started to work on this question of the role of the trade unions in production, and I mean the business aspect of the matter and not the question of "principle", the reasoning about "Soviet trade-unionism" and such like trifles; we have just set up the agency for production propaganda, but we have as yet no experience. We have introduced the payment of bonuses in kind, but we lack the experience. We have set up the disciplinary courts, but we are not yet aware of the results. Still, from the political standpoint it is the preparedness of the masses that is crucial. Has the question been prepared, studied, weighed, and considered from this angle? No, far from it. And that is a basic, deep-going and dangerous political mistake, because if ever there was need to act according to the rule of measuring your cloth seven times before cutting it once, it is in this question. We find instead that the cutting has been started in earnest without a single measure having been taken. We are told that "the Party must choose between two trends", but the false slogan of "industrial democracy " was invented without a single measuring.
We must try to understand the meaning of this slogan, especially in the present political situation, when the masses are confronted with bureaucratic practices in visual form, and when we have the question itself on the agenda. Comrade Trotsky says in his theses that on the question of workers' democracy it remains for the Congress to "enter it unanimously in the record". That is not correct. There is more to it than an entry in the record; an entry in the record fixes what has been fully weighed and measured, whereas the question of industrial democracy is far from having been fully weighed, tried and tested. Just think how the masses may interpret this slogan of "industrial democracy".
"We, the rank and file who work among the masses, say that there is need for new blood, that things must be corrected and the bureaucrats ousted, and here you are beating about the bush, talking about getting on with production and displaying democracy in achieving success in production; we refuse to get on with production under such a bureaucratic set-up of central and other boards, we want a different one." You have not given the masses a chance to discuss things, to see the point, and to think it over; you have not allowed the Party to gain fresh experience but are already acting in haste, overdoing it, and producing formulas which are theoretically false. Just think how this mistake will be further amplified by unduly zealous functionaries! A political leader is responsible not only for the quality of his leadership but also for the acts of those he leads. He may now and again be unaware of what they are about, he may often wish they had not done some thing, but the responsibility still falls on him.
I now come to the November 9 and December 7 plenary meetings of the Central Committee, which gave expression to all these mistakes in action, rather than in logical categories, premises and theoretical reasoning. This threw the Centrai Committee into confusion; it is the first time this has happened in our Party's history, in time of revolution, and it is dangerous. The crux was that there was a division, there was the "buffer" group of Bukharin, Preobrazhensky and Serebryakov, which did the most harm and created the most confusion.
You will recall the story of Glavpolitput  and Tsektran.  The resolution of the Ninth Congress of the R.C.P. in April 1920 said that Glavpolitput was being set up as a "temporary" institution, and that conditions should be brought back to normal "as soon as possible". In September you read, "Return to normal conditions".[ii] The plenary meeting was held in November (November 9), and Trotsky came up with his theses and ideas about trade-unionism. How ever fine some of his points about production propaganda may be, he should have been told that all this was neither here nor there, quite beside the mark, and a step backward it is something the C.C. should not be dealing with at present. Bukharin says: "It is very good." It may be very good, but that is no answer to the question. After a heated debate, a resolution is adopted by 10 to 4 saying in a polite and comradely way that Tsektran has itself "already got down to . . . strengthening and developing methods of proletarian democracy within the union". It adds that Tsektran must "take an active part in the general work of the All-Russia Central Council of Trade Unions, being incorporated in it on an egual footing with other trade union bodies".
What is the gist of the Central Committee's decision? It is obviously this: "Comrades of Tsektran! You must do more than go through the motions of carrying out Congress and C.C. decisions, you must actually do so to help all trade unions by your work, wipe out every trace of red tape, favouritism, arrogance, the we-are-better-than-you attitude, and boasts of being richer and getting more aid."
We then get down to brass tacks. A commission is set up, and the names of its members are published. Trotsky walks out, refuses to serve on the commission, and disrupts its work. What are his reasons? There is only one. Lutovinov is apt to play at opposition. That is true, and that also goes for Osinsky. Frankly speaking, it is not a pleasant game. But do you call that a reason? Osinsky was making an excellent job of the seed campaign. The thing to do was to work with him, in spite of his "opposition campaign", for this business of disrupting the work of a commission is bureaucratic, un-Soviet, un-socialist, incorrect and politically harmful. Such methods are doubly incorrect and politically harmful at a time when there is need to separate the wheat from the chaff within the "opposition". When Osinsky conducts an "opposition campaign", I tell him: "This is a harmful campaign", but it is a pleasure to see him conduct the seed campaign. I shall not deny that, like Ishchenko and Shlyapnikov, Lutovinov is making a mistake in his "opposition campaign", but that is no reason to disrupt the work of a commission.