Left Opposition was a faction within the
Bolshevik Party from 1923
to 1927, headed de facto by Leon Trotsky. The
Left Opposition formed
as part of the power struggle within the party leadership that began
with the Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin's illness and intensified with
his death in January 1924. Originally, the battle lines were drawn
between Trotsky and his supporters who signed
The Declaration of 46
The Declaration of 46 in
October 1923, on the one hand, and a triumvirate (also known by its
Russian name troika) of
Comintern chairman Grigory Zinoviev, Communist
Party General Secretary
Joseph Stalin and
Politburo chairman Lev
Kamenev on the other hand. There was also the Right Opposition, which
was led by the leading party theoretician and
Pravda editor Nikolai
Bukharin, and supported by
Sovnarkom Chairman (prime minister) Alexei
Rykov. In late 1924, as Stalin proposed his new Socialism in One
Country theory, Stalin drew closer to the
Right Opposition and his
triumvirate with Zinoviev and Kamenev slowly broke up over the next
Right Opposition were allied to Stalin's Centre from late
1924, until their alliance broke up in the years from 1928–1930 over
strategy towards the Kulaks and NEPmen. Trotsky and his supporters in
Left Opposition were joined by the Group of Democratic Centralism.
2 Leading members of the Left Opposition
3 See also
The first confrontation between the
Left Opposition and the
triumvirate occurred from October 1923 to January 1924, over
industrialization policies. The triumvirate won decisively at the XIII
Party Conference in January 1924. Following Lenin's death in January
1924, the confrontation between the
Left Opposition and the
triumvirate expanded more openly into a dispute over Trotsky's
policies, with the triumvirate accusing Trotsky's policies of being
"anti-Leninist". At the XIIIth Party Congress in May 1924, the
triumvirate's position was further strengthened at the Left
Opposition's expense. Another confrontation took place from October to
December 1924, during the so-called "Literary Discussion" and
criticism of Trotsky's
Permanent Revolution policy, as Stalin proposed
Socialism in One Country. This resulted in the removal of Trotsky from
his ministerial post on 6 January 1925, although Stalin opposed
Zinoviev's demand that Trotsky be expelled from the
With Trotsky largely marginalized, Zinoviev and Kamenev had a falling
out with Stalin at the XIVth Party Conference in April 1925, over
Stalin's October 1924 proposal of Socialism in One Country, which
Zinoviev and Kamenev now openly opposed. By this time, the Right
Opposition leader, Bukharin, had elaborated on Stalin's Socialism in
One Country policy, giving it a theoretical justification. This
Right Opposition as Stalin's main allies, as the
triumvirate of Stalin-Zinoviev-Kamenev from recent years broke up.
Soon after the April 1925 Conference, Zinoviev and Kamenev formed the
New Opposition, but they were defeated by Stalin, who was again
supported by Bukharin and Rykov, at the XIVth Party Congress in
December 1925. Soon after their defeat at the Congress, Zinoviev and
Kamenev joined forces with Trotsky's
Left Opposition in early 1926, in
what became known as the United Opposition. From July to October 1926,
United Opposition lost out to Stalin, and its leaders were
expelled from the ruling Politburo.
In October 1927, soon after catastrophic events regarding the Chinese
Revolution of 1925-27, which confirmed the United Opposition's
critical analysis of the
Communist Party's support for the nationalist
Kuomintang, the last
United Opposition members were expelled from the
Communist Party Central Committee; and in November 1927, Trotsky and
Zinoviev were expelled from the
Communist Party itself. In December
1927, the XVth Party Congress declared
Left Opposition and Trotskyist
views to be incompatible with
Communist Party membership and expelled
Left Opposition supporters from the Party.
After their expulsion by the XVth Congress, Zinoviev, Kamenev and
their supporters immediately surrendered to Stalin, "admitted their
mistakes" and were readmitted to the
Communist Party in 1928, although
they never regained their former influence and eventually perished in
the Great Purge. Trotsky and his supporters, on the other hand,
refused to capitulate to Stalin and were exiled to remote areas of the
Soviet Union in early 1928. Trotsky was eventually expelled from the
country in February 1929, sent into exile in Turkey. Trotsky's
supporters remained in exile, but their resolve began to waver in 1929
as Stalin turned against Bukharin and Rykov and adopted the policy of
collectivization, which appeared to be close to the policies that the
Left Opposition had advocated earlier. The
Left Opposition attempted
to field opposition candidates against the official
candidates in the 1929 elections, but to no avail. Most (but not
Left Opposition members recanted between 1929 and 1934,
but they nearly all perished during the
Great Purge of the mid-late
1930s along with the Oppositionists who remained unrepentant.
In the meantime, Trotsky founded the International
Left Opposition in
1930. It was meant to be an opposition group within the Comintern, but
members of the
Comintern were immediately expelled as soon as they
joined (or were suspected of joining) the ILO. The ILO therefore
concluded that opposing
Stalinism from within the communist
organizations controlled by Stalin's supporters had become impossible,
so new organizations had to be formed. In 1933, the ILO was renamed
Communist League (ICL), which formed the basis of
the Fourth International, founded in Paris in 1938.
Leading members of the Left Opposition
Members of the
Left Opposition in 1927
Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronstein) (1879–1940), People's
Commissar for Foreign Affairs, founder and commander of the Red Army
People's Commissar of War during the Russian Civil War, and de
facto leader of the Left Opposition. Expelled from the USSR in 1929,
he went on to found the Fourth International. Murdered by a Soviet
agent in 1940.
Alexander Beloborodov (1891–1938).
Mikhail Boguslavsky (1886–1937).
Andrei Bubnov (1884–1938), signed the Declaration of the 46 in
October 1923, but defected to Stalin soon thereafter. Later head of
Communist Party organization within the
Red Army and then People
Commissar (minister) of Education. Expelled from the Party Central
Committee in November 1937, arrested and perished in the Great Purge.
Chen Duxiu (1879–1942): founder of the Chinese
Communist Party, from
which he was expelled in 1927, and went on to found the Chinese Left
Yakov Drobnis (1890–1937).
Adolph Joffe (1883–1927).
Iosif Kosior (1893–1937).
Nikolai Krestinsky (1883–1938).
Sergei Mrachkovsky (1883–1936).
Nikolai Muralov (1877–1937), a hero of the Civil War, once Deputy
People's Commissar of Agriculture.
Valerian Obolensky (also known as N. Osinsky) (1887–1938), one of
the leaders of the Group of Democratic Centralism.
Georgy Oppokov (also known as A. Lomov) (1888–1937).
Yevgeni Preobrazhensky (1886–1937), the economic theoretician of the
Left Opposition, the author of The New Economics.
Georgy Pyatakov (1890–1937).
Karl Radek (1885–1939).
Christian Rakovsky (1873–1941).
Timofei Sapronov (1887–1939?), one of the leaders of the Group of
Victor Serge (1890–1947), went into exile.
Ivar Smilga (Ivar Tenisovich Smilga) (1892–1937), chairman of the
Regional Committee of the Soviets in
Finland in 1917, chairman of
Tsentrobalt, Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, 1917–1918).
Ivan Nikitich Smirnov
Ivan Nikitich Smirnov (1881–1936).
Vladimir Smirnov (1887–1937), one of the leaders of the Group of
Lev Sosnovsky (1886–1937), a journalist.
International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations
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^ Fitzpatrick, Sheila. 1999. Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in
Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s. New York: Oxford