XV Defeat in Victory

1 Short-cuts to Communism

After his adventures in the civil war Dmitry Os'kin took over the command of the Second Labour Army in February 1920. Formed from the surplus troops of the Second Red Army after Denikin's defeat, it was set the task of restoring the devastated railways on the Southern Front. Instead of rifles the soldiers carried spades. 'There was a general feeling of anti-climax not to be involved in the fighting any more,' Os'kin later wrote. 'It was a dull life in the railway sidings.' The only compensation for the commissar was the knowledge that the work was essential for the restoration of the economy after the ravages of the revolution and the civil war. The southern railways carried vital supplies of grain and oil to the industrial cities of the north. During the civil war some 3,000 miles of track had been destroyed. There were huge cemeteries of broken-down engines. Travelling from Balashov to Voronezh, Os'kin noted the general ruination: 'The stations were dead, trains rarely passed through, at night there was no lighting, only a candle in the telegraph office. Buildings were half-destroyed, windows broken, everywhere the dirt and rubbish was piled high.' It was a symbol of Russia's devastation. Os'kin's soldiers cleared up the mess, and rebuilt tracks and bridges. Military engineers repaired the trains. By the summer the railways began to function again and the operation was declared a great success. There was talk of using the troops to run other sectors of the economy.1 Trotsky was the champion of militarization. On his orders the First Labour Army had been organized from the remnants of the Third Red Army in January 1920. After the defeat of Kolchak, the soldiers had been kept in their battle units and deployed on the 'economic front' — procuring food, felling timber and manufacturing simple goods, as well as repairing the railways. The plan was in part pragmatic. The Bolsheviks were afraid to demobilize the army in the midst of the economic crisis. If millions of unemployed soldiers were allowed to congregate in the cities, or join the ranks of the disenchanted peasants, there could be a nationwide revolt (as there was in 1921). Moreover, it was clear that drastic measures were needed to restore the railways, which Trotsky, for one, saw as the key to the country's recovery after the devastations of the civil war. In January 1920 he became the Commissar for Transport: it was the first post he had actually requested. Apart from their chronic disrepair, the railways were dogged by corrupt officials, who were like a broken dam to the flood of bagmen who brought such chaos to the system. Petty localism also paralysed the railways. Every separate branch line formed its own committee and there were dozens of district rail authorities competing with each other for scarce rolling stock. Rather than lose 'their' locomotives to the neighbouring authority they would uncouple them before the train left their jurisdiction, so trains would be held up for hours, sometimes even days, while new locomotives were brought up from the depot of the next authority. Despite the best efforts of the railway staff, it took a whole week for one of Trotsky's senior officials to travel the 300 miles from Odessa to Kromenchug.2

But at the heart of Trotsky's plans there was also a broader vision of the whole of society being run on military lines. Like many Bolsheviks in 1920, Trotsky envisaged the state as the commander of society — mobilizing its resources in accordance with the Plan — just as a General Staff commanded the army. He wanted the economy to be run with military-style discipline and precision. The whole population was to be conscripted into labour regiments and brigades and despatched like soldiers to carry out production orders (couched in terms of 'battles' and 'campaigns') on the economic front. Here was the prototype of the Stalinist command economy. Both were driven by the notion that in a backward peasant country such as Russia state coercion could be used to provide a short-cut to Communism, thus eliminating the need for a long NEP-type stage of capital accumulation through the market. Both were based on the bureaucratic fantasy of imposing Communism by decree (although in each case the result was more akin to feudalism than anything to be found in Marx). As the Mensheviks had once warned, it was impossible to complete the transition towards a socialist economy by using the methods that had been used to build the pyramids.

After its triumphs in the civil war it was no doubt tempting for the Bolsheviks to view the Red Army as a model for the organization of the rest of society. Po voennomy — 'in the army way' — became synonymous with efficiency in the Bolshevik lexicology. If military methods had defeated the Whites, why could they not be used to construct socialism? All that had to be done was to turn around the army so that it marched on the economic front, so every worker became a foot soldier of the planned economy. Trotsky had always argued that factories should be run on military lines.* Now, in the spring of 1920, he outlined this brave new world of Communist labour, where the 'headquarters' of the planned economy would 'send out orders to the labour front' and 'every evening thousands of telephones would ring at headquarters to report conquests on the labour front.' Trotsky argued that the ability of socialism to conscript forced labour was its main advantage over capitalism. What Soviet Russia lacked in economic development it could make up through the coercive power of the state. It was more effective to compel the workers than it was to stimulate them through the market. Where free labour led to strikes and chaos, state control of the labour market would create discipline and order. This argument was based on the view, which Trotsky shared with Lenin, that the Russians were bad and lazy workers, that they would not work unless driven by the whip. The same view had been held by the Russian gentry under serfdom, a system with which the Soviet regime had much in common. Trotsky extolled the achievements of serf labour and used them to justify his economic plans. He would have no truck with the warnings of his critics that the use of forced labour would be unproductive. 'If this is so,' he told the Congress of Trade Unions in April 1920, 'then you can put a cross over Socialism.'3

* The same idea was expressed at this same time by Gastev and the other pioneers of the Taylor movement in Soviet Russia (see pages 744—5).

At the heart of this 'barracks communism' was the Bolsheviks' fear of the working class as an independent and increasingly rebellious force. Significantly from about this time the Bolsheviks began to talk of the 'workforce' (rabochaia sila or rabsila for short) rather than of the 'working class' (rabocbii klass). The shift implied the transformation of the workers from an active agent of the revolution into a passive object of the party-state. The rabsila was not a class, nor even an assortment of individuals, but simply a mass. The word for a worker (rabochii) was returning to its origins: the word for a slave (rah). Here was the root of the Gulag system — the mentality of dragooning long lines of half-starved and ragged peasants onto building sites and into factories. Trotsky epitomized this when he said that the labour armies were made up from a 'peasant raw material' (muzhitskoe syr'ie). It was the idea that human labour, far from being the creative force which Marx had extolled, was in fact no more than a raw commodity which the state could use up to 'build socialism'. This perversion was implicit in the system from the start. Gorky had foreseen this in 1917 when he wrote that 'the working class is for a Lenin what ore is for a metalworker'.4

The experience of the civil war had done nothing to boost the confidence of the Bolshevik leaders in their relationship with the working class. Shortages of food had turned the workers into petty traders and part-time peasants, shuffling between factory and farm. The working class had become nomadic. Industry was reduced to chaos by the constant absence of half the workers on trips to buy food from the countryside. Those in the factories spent most of their time making simple goods to barter with the peasants. Skilled technicians, in high demand, roamed from factory to factory in search of better conditions. Productivity fell to a tiny fraction of pre-revolutionary levels. Even vital munitions plants were brought to a virtual standstill. As the living standards of the workers fell, strikes and go-slows became common. During the spring of 1919 there was a nationwide outbreak of strikes. Hardly a city was left untouched. Everywhere better food supplies topped the list of strikers' demands. The Bolsheviks answered with repression, arresting and shooting the strikers in their thousands, many of them on suspicion of supporting the Mensheviks.5

Without the stimulus of the market, which they still rejected on ideological grounds,* the Bolsheviks had no means to influence the workers apart from the threat of force. They tried to stimulate production by offering key workers high wage bonuses, often linked to piece rates, thus going back on the egalitarian promise of the revolution to eliminate pay differentials. But since the workers could not buy much with paper money this had not given them much incentive. To keep the workers in the factories the Bolsheviks were forced to pay them in kind — either in foodstuffs or in a share of the factory's production which the workers could then use to barter with the peasants. Local Soviets, trade unions and factory boards had bombarded Moscow with requests for permission to pay their workers in this way, and many had done so on their own authority. By 1920 the majority of factory workers were being partly paid in a share of their production. Instead of paper money they were taking home a bag of nails, or a yard of cloth, which they then exchanged for food. Willy-nilly, the primitive market was slowly reappearing at the heart of the planned economy. If this spontaneous movement had been left unchecked, the central administration would have lost its control of the country's resources and thus the power to influence production. So rather than trying to stop the movement, which it had tried but failed to do in 1918—19, it sought instead from 1920 to organize these natural payments, if only to make sure that they went first to the workers in vital industries. This was the basis of the militarization of heavy industry: strategic factories would be placed under martial law, with military discipline on the shopfloor and persistent absentees shot for desertion on the 'industrial front', in exchange for which the workers would be guaranteed a Red Army ration. By the end of the year 3,000 enterprises, mainly in munitions and the mining industry, had been militarized in this way. While soldiers were being turned into workers, workers were being turned into soldiers.

Linked with this was a general shift of power in the factory from the collegiate management boards, which had been partly elected by the workers, to the system of one-man management with managers increasingly appointed by the party hierarchy. Trotsky justified this by comparing it to the transition from elected to appointed military commanders, claiming that this had been the root of the Red Army's success in the civil war. The new managers thought of themselves as commanders of an industrial army. They saw trade union rights as a nuisance, an unnecessary hindrance to industrial discipline and efficiency, just as the soldiers' committees had been in the army. Trotsky even went so far as to advocate the complete subordination of the trade unions to the party-state apparatus: since this was a 'workers' state' there was no longer any need for the workers to have their own independent organizations.6

* Trotsky did put forward tentative proposals for an NEP-like market reform in February 1920, but these were turned down by the Central Committee. He swung back at once to the policy of militarization: radical reforms, whether by free trade or coercion, were needed to restore the economy.

During 1920 the principle of forced labour was applied in other fields. Millions of peasants were drafted into labour teams to fell and transport timber, to build roads and railways and to collect the harvest. Trotsky envisaged the whole population being mobilized into labour regiments which would double up as a standing army or militia. It was similar to the military feudalism of Count Arakcheyev, the War Minister of the 1820s, who had established a network of colonies combining serf labour with army service on Russia's western borders. Trotsky's plan was the heir to a long line of tsarist 'administrative Utopias', stretching back to Peter the Great, which had all looked to the methods of the army to rationalize the irrational Russians, to regimentalize the anarchic peasants, to dress them, drill them and dragoon them for the needs of the absolutist state. Os'kin, like Trotsky, looked forward to the day when 'no foreign power would dare to invade Russia because the whole of its population would be ready, some at the Front with arms in hand, others in industry and agriculture, to defend the Fatherland. The whole country would be one armed camp.' All this was nothing but a bureaucratic dream. The peasant labour teams, like the labour armies, proved fantastically inefficient. It took fifty conscripts one whole day, on average, to cut down and chop up a single tree. Roads built by labour teams were so uneven that, in the words of one observer, they 'looked like frozen ocean waves' and to travel on them was 'worse than an amusement ride'. Desertion from labour duty was so common that in many districts there were more people engaged in chasing the deserters than in performing the duty itself. Villages were occupied, fines were imposed and hostages shot, including the leaders of the Soviet, if they were suspected of hiding deserters. Thousands of peasants were sent to labour camps, set up in every province as 'corrective institutions' for those workers who had been found guilty of violating labour discipline.7

Equally ineffective were the subbotniki, Saturday labour campaigns, when workers and students were dragooned as 'volunteers' into such noble socialist duties as clearing rubbish from the streets and squares. During the May Day week of 1920 over a million Moscow residents were involved in this 'festival of labour'. From then on it became a permanent feature of the Soviet way of life: not only days but whole weeks were set aside when people were called on to work without pay. The Bolsheviks hailed the subbotnik as the crowning achievement of Soviet collectivism. Politically, it probably helped to enforce a sense of discipline, conformity and obedience in the urban population. Not to 'volunteer' for the subbotnik was, after all, to invite suspicion and perhaps persecution as a 'counter-revolutionary'. But economically it achieved very little. Professor Vodo-vozov records his impressions of the mass subbotnik held in Petrograd on I May:

On the square between the Winter Palace and the Admiralty there was a hive of activity. There were really an awful lot of workers, much more than required by the work in hand: they were clearing away the iron railings and piles of bricks that had been lying around for eighteen months since the [palace] fence was broken. Rosta [the Russian Telegraph Agency] proclaimed that at last the ugly fence was gone. But not quite: the bricks were indeed gone but the iron railings had merely been piled up at the far end of the square. And there they remain today. The whole square is still a pile of rubbish. No doubt it cost ten times more to dismantle the fence, albeit incompletely, than it cost to build it in the first place.8

One of the effects of the civil war was to depreciate the value of money. During 1918—19 the Bolsheviks were caught in two minds over this. Should they try to maintain the value of the rouble or abolish it? On the one hand, they recognized the need to continue printing money to pay for goods and services. They also knew that the mass of the population would judge their regime by the value of its money. On the other hand, there were some Bolsheviks on the extreme Left who thought that inflation should be encouraged in order to phase out money altogether. They wanted to replace the money system with a universal system of goods allocation on the basis of coupons from the state. They assumed (erroneously) that by getting rid of money they would automatically destroy the market system and with it capitalism, so that socialism would result. The economist Preobrazhensky dedicated one of his books: 'To the printing presses of the Commissariat of Finance — that machine-gun which shot the bourgeois regime in its arse, the monetary system'. By 1920 the left-wingers had got their way: money was being printed at such a furious rate that it was pointless to defend it any longer. The Mint was employing 13,000 workers and, quite absurdly, using up a large amount of Russia's gold reserves to import the dyes and paper needed to print money. It was costing more to print the rouble than the rouble was actually worth. Public services, such as the post and telegraph, transport and electricity, had to be made free because the state was losing money by printing and charging rouble notes for them.9 The situation was surreal — but then this was Russia.

Left-wing Bolsheviks saw the ration coupon as the founding deed of the Communist order. The class of one's ration defined one's place in the new social hierarchy. People were classed by their use to the state. Thus Red Army soldiers, bureaucrats and vital workers were rewarded with the first-class ration (which was meagre but adequate); other workers received the second-class ration (which was rather less than adequate); while the burzhoois, at the bottom of the pile, had to make do with the third-class ration (which, in Zinoviev's memorable phrase, was 'just enough bread so as not to forget the smell of it'). In fact by the end of 1920 there was so little food left in the state depots — and so many people on the rations system — that even those on the first-class ration were receiving only just enough to slow down the rate of their starvation. Thirty million people were being fed, or rather underfed, by the state system. Most of the urban population depended largely on work-place canteens, where the daily fare was gruel and gristle. Yet such were the trials of finding a canteen that was open, and then of standing in line for its meagre offerings, that more energy was probably wasted doing all this than was gained from the actual meal. This was not the only absurdity. In almost every field where rationing was introduced, from food and tobacco to clothing, fuel and books, more time and energy were wasted distributing the product than that product was actually worth. Factories and offices were brought to a standstill while workers stood in line to receive their rations. The average person spent several hours every day traipsing from one Soviet office to another trying to exchange well-thumbed coupons for the goods they promised to deliver but which were so seldom to be found. No doubt they noticed the well-fed and well-clothed appearance of the bureaucrats with whom they had to plead.

The Petrograd professor, Vasilii Vodovozov, a leading liberal of the 1900s and a friend of Lenin's in his youth, describes a typical day in his diary. Readers acquainted with the Soviet Union may find his observations familiar:

3 December 1920

I shall describe my day — not because the minor details are of interest in themselves but because they are typical of the lives of nearly everyone — with the exception of a few bosses.

Today I got up at 9 a.m. There is no point getting up before since it is dark and the house lights are not working. There is a shortage of fuel. I have no servant (why is another story) and have to do the samovar, care for my sick wife (down with Spanish 'flu) and fetch the wood for the stove alone. I drank some coffee (made from oats) without milk or sugar, of course, and ate a piece of bread from a loaf bought two weeks ago for 1,500 roubles. There was even a little butter and in this respect I am better off than most. By eleven I was ready to go out. But after such a breakfast I was still hungry and decided to eat in the vegetarian canteen. It is frightfully expensive but the only place in Petrograd I know where one can eat with relative ease and without registration or the permission of some commissar. It turned out that even this canteen was closed, and would not be open for another hour, so I went on to the Third Petrograd University, in fact now closed as a university but where there is still a cafeteria in which I am registered to eat. There I hoped to get something to eat for myself, my wife and our friends, the Vvedenskys, who are also registered to eat there. But here too I had no luck: there was a long queue of hopeful eaters, tedium and vexation written on their faces; the queue was not moving at all. What was the problem? The boiler had broken down and there would be a delay of at least an hour.

Anyone reading this in the distant future may suppose that these people were expecting a banquet. But the whole meal was a single dish — usually a thin soup with a potato or cabbage in it. There is no question of any meat. Only the privileged few ever get that — i.e. the people who work in the kitchens.

I decided to leave and put off eating until after work. By I p.m. the tram had still not come so I returned to the canteen: there was still no food and no prospect of it for at least another half an hour. There was no choice but to go to work hungry.

At the Nikolaev Bridge I finally caught up with a No. 4 tram. There was no current on the line and the tram was stationary. I still don't understand this. All the trams had stopped but why had they started out if they knew that there was not enough fuel to complete their journeys? People remained seated — some at last gave up and got off to walk towards their destinations, while others sat there with Sisyphean patience. Two hours later I saw the trams were running but by 5 p.m. they had all stopped again.

By 2 p.m. I had reached the archive by foot. I stayed for half an hour and then went on to the University, where there was supposed to be a ration of cabbage handed out at 3 p.m. To whom I did not know. Perhaps to professors — it was worth the chance. But again I was out of luck: it turned out that the cabbage had not been delivered and would be given out tomorrow. And not to professors but only to students.

I also found out that there would be no bread ration for a week: some people said that all the bread had already been given out to the Communists who run all the committees.

From the University I went home, saw to my wife, did what was needed and went back to the vegetarian canteen with the hope of eating. Again out of luck: all the food was gone and there would be no more for at least an hour. I decided not to wait but went to the Vvedenskys to ask them if they could queue there later. From there I went back home at 5 p.m. And there I had my first piece of luck of the day: the lights in our sector were switched on [Petrograd was divided into sectors for electricity and because of the power shortage each took its turn to have light in the evening]. That gave me one precious hour to read — the first hour of the day free from running around for meals, bread, or cabbage, or fetching wood. At six I went to the Vvedenskys to eat (at last!), and came back to write these lines. At nine it went dark. Luckily a friend of ours came to look after my wife for a couple of hours in the evening and that gave me more precious time. After nine I lit a candle, put on the samovar, drank tea with my wife, and at eleven went to bed.10

The key to this Communist Utopia was the control of the food supply: without that the government had no means of controlling the economy and society. The Bolsheviks were painfully aware of the fact that their regime lay at the mercy of a largely hostile peasantry. Their smallholding farms produced little for the market, and in the present climate, when there were no consumer goods to buy and any food surplus was claimed by the state, withdrew further into subsistence production and the autarkic nexus of the village. Lacking goods to trade with the peasants, the Bolsheviks resorted to brute force in the 'battle for grain', sending in armed squads to seize their foodstuffs and sparking peasant revolts across the country. This was another hidden civil war. Although the Bolsheviks were careful to pay lip-service to the smallholding peasant system consecrated by their own Decree on Land — this, after all, was what had brought them the support of so many peasants in the civil war against the Whites — they believed that the future of Soviet agriculture lay in gigantic collective and Soviet farms, kolkhozy and sovkhozy, producing directly for the state. The troublesome peasant — with his petty proprietary instincts, his superstitions and his attachment to tradition — would be abolished by these socialist farms since all those who worked in them would be recast as kolkhoz or sovkhoz 'workers'. Miliutin dreamed of 'agricultural factories producing grain, meat, milk and fodder, which will free the socialist order from its economic dependence on the petty-proprietary farms'. Here again the Bolsheviks were carried away by their utopianism, believing that they could create socialism by decree. The Russian peasant was cautious by nature: it would take decades of gentle education, backed up by visible agronomic proof, to persuade him that large-scale farming with modern technology and collective labour teams was really so advantageous for him that it warranted a break with the traditions — the family farm, the commune and the village — which had sustained his father and grandfather. Yet in February 1919 the Bolsheviks passed a Statute on Socialist Land Organization which, at one stroke, declared all peasant farming 'obsolescent'. All unfarmed land which had belonged to the gentry was now to be turned over to the new collectives, much to the annoyance of the peasantry, which saw its claim to the gentry's estates as a sacrosanct achievement of the revolution. By December 1920 there were over 16,000 collective and state farms with nearly ten million acres of land and a million employees — many of them immigrant townsmen — between them. The largest, the sovkhozy, set up by the state, had over 100,000 acres; while the smallest, the various kolkhozy, set up by collectives of local peasants, could have fewer than fifty.

Many of the larger collective farms saw themselves as a microcosm of the experimental communistic lifestyle. Families pooled their possessions and lived together in dormitories. People ate and worked in their collective teams. Women did heavy field work alongside the men, and sometimes nurseries were set up for the children. There was also an absence of religious practice. This essentially urban lifestyle, modelled on the factory artel, did much to alienate the local peasantry, who believed that in the collectives not only the land and tools were shared but also wives and daughters; that everyone slept together under one huge blanket.

Even more scandalous to the peasants was the fact that most of the collectives were run by people who knew nothing about agriculture. The sovkhozy were largely made up of unemployed workers who had fled the towns; the kolkhozy of landless labourers, rural artisans, and the poorest peasants, who through misfortune, too much drinking, or simple laziness, had never made a success of their own farms. Peasant congresses were inundated with complaints about the poor way the collective farms were run. 'They have got the land but they don't know how to farm it,' complained the peasants of Tambov province. Even the Bolsheviks were forced to concede that the collective farms had become 'refuges for slackers' who could not 'stand up to the carping criticism of individual peasant farmers'. Despite their exemption from the food levy and generous state grants of tools and livestock, very few collectives ran at a profit, and many of them ran at a heavy loss. Less than a third of their total income was derived from their own production, the rest coming mainly from the state. Some collectives were so badly run that they had to conscript the local peasants for labour duty on their fields. The peasants saw this as a new form of serfdom and took up arms against the collectives. Half of them were destroyed in the peasant wars of 1921.11

* * * It was not just the peasantry who rebelled against these Communist experiments. In industry too the policies of militarization gave rise to growing strikes and protests, passive resistance and go-slows by the workers. Policies designed to tighten discipline merely gave way to more indiscipline. Three-quarters of Russia's factories were hit by strikes during the first six months of 1920. Despite threat of arrests and execution, workers in cities across the country marched and shouted in defiance, 'Down with the Commissars!' There was a general sense of anger that, long after the end of the civil war, the Bolsheviks were persevering with their warlike policies towards the working class. It was as if the whole industrial system had become trapped in a permanent state of emergency, that even in peace it was placed on a war footing, and that this state was being used to exploit and suppress the working class.12

Within the party too Trotsky's policies were meeting with growing opposition from the rank and file. His high-handed efforts to break up the railway union, which he blamed for the chaos on the railways, and to replace it with a general transport union (Tsektran) subordinated to the state apparatus, enraged Bolshevik trade-union leaders, who saw it as part of a broader campaign to end all independent union rights. The controversy over the role of the unions had been building up since the start of 1919. The party programme of that year had set out the ideal that the trade unions should directly manage the industrial economy — but only when the working class had been educated for this task. Until then, the role of the unions was to be limited to the fields of workers' education and discipline at work. As the trend towards one-man management continued, a growing number of union leaders became concerned that the promise of direct union management was being put off to the distant future. They managed to defeat the efforts of party leaders to impose the principle of one-man management at the Third Trade Union Congress in January 1920. At the Ninth Party Congress in April they forced the leadership to compromise and offer them a share of the managerial appointments in exchange for their acceptance of the principle.

This delicate balance — between the trade unions and the party-state — was upset by Trotsky's plans, put forward in the summer of 1920, to transform the transport unions into a branch of the state bureaucracy. The whole principle of union autonomy was now seen to be at stake. Nor were the union leaders alone in opposing Trotsky; much of the party leadership itself backed them. Zinoviev, a personal rival of Trotsky, denounced his 'police methods of dragooning workers'. Shliapnikov — joined in January by Kollontai — established the so-called Workers' Opposition to defend the rights of the trade unions and, more generally, to resist the spread of 'bureaucratism' which they said was stifling the 'spontaneous self-creativity' of the working class. The Workers' Opposition enjoyed widespread union support, especially from the metalworkers, among whom the sentiments of class solidarity — expressed both in the ideal of workers' control and in the hatred of the 'bourgeois specialists' — were most firmly rooted. It gave voice to widespread class hatred of factory managers and bureaucrats, whom the workers denounced as the 'new ruling class' and the 'new bourgeoisie'. Many of these sentiments were also expressed by the other major opposition faction in the party, the Democratic Centralists. This group of mostly intellectual Bolsheviks was opposed to the bureaucratic centralism of the party and to the demise of the Soviets as organs of direct worker-rule. Some of their more radical comrades in Moscow, where their base was strongest, even opened the doors of the district party executives to the Bolshevik rank and file in an effort to promote glasnost, or openness, in local government. They were the first to use the term.

These two controversies — over the unions and the party-state — merged and developed into a general crisis during the autumn of 1920. At a Special Party Conference in September the two opposition factions combined to force through a series of resolutions whose aim was to promote democracy and glasnost in the party: all party meetings were to be opened up to the rank and file; the lower party organs were to have more say in the appointment of higher officials; and the higher organs were to be made more accountable to the rank and file. Strengthened by this victory, the opposition factions prepared for battle over the trade unions. At the Fifth Trade Union Congress in November Trotsky threw down the gauntlet by proposing that all union officials should be appointed by the state. This sparked a bitter conflict within the party, with Trotsky pushing for the immediate and, if necessary, forcible merger of the unions with the state apparatus and the opposition factions fighting tooth and nail for the independence of the unions. Lenin supported Trotsky's goal but advocated a less high-handed approach towards its implementation in order to avoid a damaging split within the regime. 'If the party quarrels with the trade unions,' Lenin warned, 'then this will certainly be the end of Soviet power.' The Central Committee was hopelessly divided on the issue, and for the next three months the conflict raged in the party press as each faction tried to mobilize support for the decisive battle which would surely come at the Tenth Party Congress the following March.13 With the government so patently in crisis, and the whole of the country engulfed by revolts and strikes, Russia was on the verge of a new revolution.

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